Diversity: It’s Not What You Think

August 10, 2017

When I start talking to the mostly white male audiences about diversity, many think the following:

  1.  I’m calling them racists and misogynists.
  2.  I want them to blindly hire more women and minorities with no regard to talent or skill.
  3.  I want them to admit their sins and repent.

None of these are true.  In fact, my focus on diversity has very little to do with women and minorities.  Don’t get me wrong, the AEC industry needs more women and minorities.  It not only will make us stronger and better with more diverse ideas, it will go a long way to solve the current workforce development crisis.  We’re currently driving away millions of women and minorities because they don’t see the opportunities.  Take a look at most boards and C suites.  It’s mostly white males.  Take a look at middle and top managers.  Again, mostly white males.  There are few women and minorities coming into the industry and many of the ones who enter don’t stay.

My focus is more about embracing differences of all types.  The lack of women and minorities are just a symptom of a much larger issue.  We are not good at disruptive change and embracing new ways of working.  It shows up in the typical emotional profile for the industry.  As a group, we have high problem solving skills and reality testing (right/wrong thinking) and low flexibility.  This profile indicates a tendency toward control and perfectionism.  Great for specifications and processes.  Not great for innovation, creativity and diversity.

So when you hear the word “diversity”, check it out.  This concept of embracing new ways of doing things and new ideas will propel us into the next decade, and the industry will become stronger, more resilient, more agile, and more innovative.  And the by product of more women and minorities will be icing on the cake.

Our course on diversity and inclusion explores these mental models and biases and gives you tools to be able to overcome them. And our course on innovation and creativity explores how to break down the barriers to innovation in yourself and your company.  And if you want even more resources on emotional intelligence and all of the critical people skills your folks need to succeed, click here  for information on our online courses called The Total Leadership Library.

If you want more free information and resources, download my white paper that includes two of my bestselling books and another white paper on how to build the people before you build the project.  It will give you the tools you need to make your next project a huge success!  Click here to download the white paper.  

 


Stereotype or Generalization?

August 3, 2017

 

Let’s discuss the difference between stereotype and generalization.  Stereotype is when you react to an individual or group in a certain way based on your values, how you were raised, or your association with a particular group based on education, geographical area, or socio-economic background among others.  A generalization is your reaction to an individual or group based on your past experience with an individual or group.

A few weeks back, we viewed the clip from Up in the Air:

Click here to view

Is George Clooney’s character racist as his young traveling companion expresses?  He says he learned from his mother to stereotype.  He says, “It’s faster”.  His response to the various people in the security line were generalizations.  They was likely based on his past experience.  He likely noticed that many times, the line with mostly Asians tended to go faster.  So he generalized.  Generalizations can help us.  They can protect us.  But they can also set us up to distance ourselves from people or groups that we don’t need to distance ourselves from.

If you were in line at an ATM and the following people were behind you, how would you react to each?

The first one is a Caucasian, male, biker in full regalia, covered with tattoos, wearing dark sunglasses and has a scowl on his face.  The second is a well-groomed, middle-aged, African American man in a suit on a phone call.  The third person is a young, Caucasian man listening to music in headphones, dressed in the latest Hip Hop fashion, baggy pants, ball cap, sunglasses, and lots of bling.  The fourth person is an elegant Hispanic woman in a business suit.  The fifth person is a Caucasian woman dressed in a maid uniform.

What if you changed their race, age, ethnicity, gender, or clothing?  Would your reaction be different?

What comes into your mind when I say the following?:

Female project manager

Minority Contractor

African American Male Project Executive

Indian Female Structural Engineer

Chinese Male Plumbing Contractor

Female Engineer

Pakistani Male Estimator

Grey-haired Engineer

Are there positive and negative generalizations and stereotypes that come into your mind?

How do these mental models affect your interactions with these folks?  Have you generalized to the point where you don’t give the individual a fair shake?

Our course on diversity and inclusion explores these mental models and biases and gives you tools to be able to overcome them. And if you want even more resources on emotional intelligence and all of the critical people skills your folks need to succeed, click here  for information on our online courses called The Total Leadership Library.

If you want more free information and resources, download my white paper that includes two of my bestselling books and another white paper on how to build the people before you build the project.  It will give you the tools you need to make your next project a huge success!  Click here to download the white paper.  

 


Are You a Racist?

July 19, 2017

When I made a lunch date with an African American friend of mine, she told me to meet her at 12:00 noon CPT.  For those of you who don’t know what CPT is, you can Google it.  This refers to the cultural stereotype that African Americans tend to show up late.  Is this racist?  I submit to you that it is not.  First, let’s go through some definitions.  Stereotypes are assumptions made about a group of people that is not based on personal experience.  Generalizations are assumptions made about a group of people that is based on personal experience.  Because you have that experience, you have a tendency to generalize a certain characteristic about everyone in that group.  Take a look at the following clip from the movie, Up in the Air:

From the movie, Up in the Air

The young person in the clip tells George Clooney’s character that his stereotyping of people in line for airport screenings is “racist”.  He says he learned from his mother to stereotype because it is “faster”.  Is he racist?  Would the line with people with children, older people, and people who look Middle Eastern have moved slower?  Does this justify his stereotyping? He doesn’t hate these people because of who they are, he has simply learned from past experience which line usually moves the quickest.

I have been exploring these issues over the past year during the creation of my latest online course on diversity and inclusion in the AEC (Architecture/Engineering/Construction) industry.  The basis of this course is that we all have biases.  All of us.  Without exceptions.  Based on our past experiences, our upbringing, where we are from, our social networks, our religious background, and our world view, we all have biases.  The course focuses on recognizing those biases and doing our best to overcome them. And having biases does not necessarily make you racist or misogynist or misandrist or homophobic.

You can determine your unconscious biases by taking various IATs (Implicit Association Test).  It’s available online for many different groups including African American, Muslims, and women.  Through your response times for incongruent photos and associations, the test determines if you have unconscious bias.  Google Project Implicit IAT to take these tests.  It is a good place to start recognizing your unconscious biases.  This is the first step.

The second step is to start having these meaningful discussions around race and gender and other stereotypes and generalizations.  I have been teaching these diversity and inclusion classes in a live format and one common response from the mostly white male audience is that they “don’t see color”.  I’m sure they are trying to be nice and I’m sure they are sincere.  The only issue is that this type of response shuts down the dialogue that needs to be spoken.  A young African American male in the AEC industry can have a very different experience than a young Caucasian male. A female project manager can have a very different experience than a male.  We need to explore these experiences, better understand them, and have some of those difficult discussions about race and gender.  If you are offended by something or having a difficult time because of another’s bias, it is your duty to let this person know, allow them to correct the behavior, move on, and continue to grow through these experiences.

Stay tuned for more discussion on diversity and inclusion in future blogs.

If you want to take a look at this course and the other courses in our Total Leadership Library, click here or email me and I will send you some free demo license keys.

Also, for a free white paper on project success that includes two of my books and another white paper, go to brentdarnell.com/whitepaper