Empowering Leaders to Embrace Diversity & Inclusion

As we look ahead into the next century, leaders will be those who empower others. —Bill Gates

If you’re reading this post, chances are you’re a business leader who understands the power of building diverse teams inclusive of LGBTQ talent. You also may recognize the incredible value of diverse talent when it comes to leveraging different ideas, experiences, and perspectives, which often yields innovative products and access to emerging markets. While you understand these truths, you may encounter some degree of resistance in motivating other executive team members that simply “don’t get it,” or worse, resist the idea of including LGBTQ employees at the leadership table. Some of these folks may believe that LGBTQ diversity & inclusion efforts are unnecessary given certain myths that include: 1) all LGBTQ people are affluent, 2) marriage equality extends equal workplace protections to LGBTQ employees nationwide, and 3) LGBTQ employees are already out and thriving in the workplace.

To help cultivate more LGBTQ allies on the executive team, it’s important to first start by dispelling these dangerous myths. To dismantle the first myth that all LGBTQ people are affluent, consider sharing research from the UCLA Williams Institute. This research examined 2010 US census data, and found that LGBTQ people are more likely to be poor than non-LGBTQ people. Also, contrary to the Supreme Court’s historic ruling extending federal marriage recognition to LGBTQ people, the reality is that 52% of LGBTQ people living in the United States can still be fired from their jobs simply for who they love, or who they are. Given this reality, it’s no surprise that just over a quarter of LGBTQ staff feel comfortable being out in the workplace. The stress of “covering,” or intentionally not disclosing one’s sexual orientation or gender identity due to job insecurity results in a loss of productivity, commitment, and professional advancement.

So how exactly do you empower your leadership team once you dispel these common myths? First, read through my previous post describing the process of fine tuning your LGBTQ diversity & inclusion vision. This post outlines the first stage of my consultancy’s TEAMS Transformation Method™. After you’ve looked within yourself and have done the personal work to clarify your LGBTQ diversity & inclusion vision, you can advance to the second stage of the method, which offers five strategies to empower your leadership team included below:

1. Leverage Your Power Map. In my previous post, I described what a power map is, and how it can offer a means to analyze relationships you have with other key decision-makers within your organization. The map helps cultivate a strategy for introducing and implementing your LGBTQ diversity & inclusion vision. Once you have the map, work with those key decision-makers identified who are natural allies to your vision. These allies include both LGBTQ leaders on your team, and those leaders with LGBTQ family and friends. These folks are your natural ambassadors who will help make the case for weaving LGBTQ diversity & inclusion into your organization’s DNA.

2. Create a Leadership Advisory Council. In collaboration with your leadership ambassadors (and with the endorsement of your chief executive if that’s not you), create a leadership advisory team charged with developing the LGBTQ diversity & inclusion strategy for your organization, which should be defined as a broader business strategy. Through a formal announcement, the creation of this council demonstrates your organization’s commitment to dedicating staff time and resources to fully execute on the plan. All employees will recognize your organization’s efforts to customize a LGBTQ diversity & inclusion strategy that will further help transform your organization’s talent, culture, and customers.

3. Incentivize Accountability Measures. With a clear LGBTQ diversity & inclusion business strategy in hand, members of the advisory team are encouraged to incentivize accountability systems to seamlessly implement culture change efforts. Without taking this step, many of the good intentions envisioned in the planning stage are likely to lose momentum and stall out completely. Breaking up the business strategy into categories relevant to transforming talent, workplace culture, and exploring new and emerging markets will identify core business functions necessary to establish a performance baseline. This process will be detailed in my next blog post describing the third stage of the TEAMS Transformation Method™.

4. Empower Managers & Supervisors. For larger organizations, especially those with field offices, empowering managers and supervisors to implement your LGBTQ diversity & inclusion business strategy is a critical step for success. Middle management either serve as the catalyst, or the impediment to executing an organization’s broader diversity and inclusion business strategy. Similar to winning over members on the executive team, you’ll want to identify both the champions for change, along with those colleagues who may obstruct such changes. You’ll need your champions to help dismantle myths, and share the broader vision for why such changes are necessary to compete in the global marketplace. 

5. Know When You’re Done. The second step of the TEAMS Transformation Method™ is complete when you are able to walk away from the process with a motivated leadership team inspired to introduce a new business strategy across your organization. You’ll also have incentivized accountability measures that will clarify areas of responsibility essential for a smooth implementation process. Most importantly, your leadership team will have the knowledge, skills, and confidence to leverage their positions to empower managers and supervisors to embrace the organizational changes that come when trying to welcome new talent and ideas.  

If you’re interested in learning more about the TEAMS Transformation Method™, please be sure to save the date for Thursday, September 22 at 11 am PT/ 2 pm ET. I’ll be hosting a Q&A webinar focused on engaging LGBTQ employees. During the webinar, participants will have the opportunity to share comments and questions related to the topic. In advance of the webinar, interested participants may  share their opinions on the subject, all of which will help inform the webinar discussion. Save your seat today by visiting: http://www.rhodesperry.com/register.


Rhodes Perry

Rhodes Perry is a nationally recognized expert on LGBTQ and social justice public policy matters, with two decades of leadership experience innovating strategy management, policy and program solutions for corporations, government agencies, and non-profit organizations. At his core, Rhodes is an entrepreneur, where he most recently established Rhodes Perry Consulting, LLC, a national diversity and inclusion consulting firm that uses an intersectional approach to collaborate with leaders on creating solutions in the practice areas of strategy management, issue advocacy, and stakeholder engagement. Previously, Rhodes founded the Office of LGBTQ Policy & Practice at the New York City Administration for Children’s Services, and prior to this assignment he served as the founding Director of Policy at PFLAG National where he led the policy strategy and advocacy efforts for the organization’s 350 chapters. He cut his teeth serving as a Program Examiner at the White House Office of Management & Budget, where he improved upon federal benefit programs designed to provide assistance to low-income communities. Rhodes earned a Bachelor of Arts in Economics and Gender Studies from the University of Notre Dame, and obtained a Master of Public Administration from New York University.