How do you view others in your office? Do you see black employees, white employees, etc.? Do you see gender in the workplace? Do you see male employees, female employees, etc.?
Throughout my life, I’ve heard some say they don’t see color. They explain how they treat everyone the same; they are colorblind and don’t view people as black, white or any other ethnicity. They just view everyone as people because we are all the same on the inside.
I believe these comments are rooted in positive sentiments that aim to build bridges across ethnic communities, but this view can also be problematic.
I caution leaders to be careful when dismissing various characteristics about their team members. While we should not stereotype certain genders, ethnicities or age groups, we should seek to embrace the unique value each of these groups add to our teams.
The question of whether or not we see color isn’t nearly as important as how we see color. I see color, but I do not see it as a negative, as a defining characteristic or as a metric for evaluating ethnic superiority.
In my organization, I have the privilege of working with individuals from various gender, ethnic and age groups. Having this type of diversity within our team enables us to consider multiple perspectives on various projects and initiatives we are exploring.
From a practical application standpoint, leaders don’t have to do anything extra or play into any stereotypes in order to embrace the unique perspectives of each team member. Leaders don’t have say “As a member of the baby boomer generation, do you think this marketing brochure will be effective for our audience?” Instead, they can simply show the brochure to their team members and request their input on the potential effectiveness of the brochure as the company promotes its products and services. The unique perspectives of each team member will be revealed naturally, if leaders promote an open communication culture that encourages people to share their opinions without negative repercussions.
Leaders must have the courage, cultural sensitivity and emotional intelligence to see various characteristics about their team members, without negatively discriminating against those individuals because of those characteristics.
As America places an extra emphasis on highlighting the accomplishments of African-Americans throughout February, I hope you will join me in seeing color, seeing gender and seeing all of the beautiful differences that enhance our teams and empower us to achieve greater success in business.
Always remember, Leadership is a Lifestyle.
— Ryan W. Hirsch
Operations Director, NASBA Center for the Public Trust (CPT)