To be a CEO, competitiveness must be a big part of your character. That’s especially the case when you lead a fast growing company. That drive is what gets you up in the morning. And keeps you at it late at night. But don’t be so naïve as to think that your efforts, and yours alone, will result in winning. It’s like volleyball. The hitter will never hit the ball without the libero and the setter
Make no mistake, all CEOs need teams. And the more diverse, the better. A group of people with different skills and experiences who come together from different places, different orientations, and different backgrounds to drive toward a common goal.
By putting that into practice, Comparably named me the #1 CEO for Diversity this year among small and mid-sized companies, as reported in USA Today. Without question, it is humbling. But as the head of a company, it is also very reassuring.
It says we – as a company – are doing things the right way. As the expression goes, we talk the talk and walk the walk. To be sure, that isn’t easy. It requires a desire to be aware every moment of every day. To not let walls get built. And to tear down others that have stood in the way of understanding for far too long.
To be clear, tension is often in the air at our company. Sometimes it’s palpable. It’s the kind that comes from healthy disagreements. Not about a person’s race or ethnicity. In fact, growth has frequently resulted from such positive conflict. And it’s often occurred during a crisis. Let me explain.
As the seriousness of the COVID-19 pandemic set in, our customers needed a way for to have bi-directional communications with their now-working-from-home employees. They needed a way for those employees to hone their skills, even learn new ones as they did their jobs from a spare bedroom or the kitchen table. And, they needed to help their team leaders manage performance on a remote basis.
We needed to move quickly. To make this a real solution, not merely a concept, we took the posture that a good idea to advance this could come from anyone within our organization. Anyone. Regardless of department, location in the world, level, you name it. The idea mattered.
If race affected the reaction to an idea put forward by someone, it would have derailed the effort and destroyed any chance to address a pressing customer need in a timely manner. An opportunity to grow would have been lost.
We were able to meet this challenge in amazing fashion because the focus was where it needed to be – on the problem. Not what those engaged in solving it were trained to do, how long they were at their jobs, where they came from or, importantly, what they looked like.
Interestingly, the solution we devised and delivered in less than three weeks is called Centrical Connect. As the name suggests, its purpose is to connect suddenly-isolated employees. To foster communications. And convey a sense of inclusiveness. That we’re in this together. And we can get through it together.
The renewed efforts to remove systemic oppression suggests we‘re in the middle of a process. To get society to focus on the idea being expressed. Not the person expressing it. Like that product created in a crisis, all of us must work hard to solve this problem. Together.
The diversity award from Comparably serves to remind that as a leader you set the tone for your organization. If, as a CEO, you want to win, want your organization to succeed, then strive to instill a genuine support for inclusiveness, in word and deed, with every member of your team. And to create an environment that will encourage honest criticism, healthy conflicts, productive efforts, and great communications.