Resolve Problems Before They Begin

Succession planning is not simply having the right formula of males to females, people of color or even in-country managers. It’s having leaders who allow organizations to flourish and evolve in a global, dynamic and diverse environment. It is growing and enhancing a brand and meeting current and future consumers’ needs.

The CDO’s role is to help organizations understand that:

• Both traditional leaders and leaders who traditionally have not been in positions of power are needed.

• Nontraditional leaders are needed at the inception of critical strategies, policies and communications.

• Leaders must appreciate the power and privilege of the dominant group because it can be costly and tolerant of bullies.

June 11 marked the 15th anniversary of the largest sexual harassment settlement in U.S. history. It required Mitsubishi Motor Manufacturing of America to pay $34 million to more than 400 female employees and to have mandatory sexual harassment prevention training.

According to court documents, the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission, or EEOC, alleged:
“A working environment conducive to sexual harassment began at Mitsubishi at the time of hire when employees were told that the Japanese did not believe women should work in factories and that female employees should not make eye contact with Japanese managers.”

The EEOC said it developed with management whose training in Japan included visits to bars where the audience engaged in sexual acts, management participation in sex parties and circulation of pornographic pictures on the plant floor.

Mitsubishi’s official company values were as pristine as any company’s. However, what impacts employee engagement, synergy and innovation are not the written values, but the values practiced.
Culturally competent leaders respect and value employees. If respect is absent, employee engagement, productivity and innovation will be diminished. With limited innovation, customers do not receive the best the company can give. Without culturally competent leaders, power and privilege can run amok. To be a respectful leader requires several competencies, but diversity executives also must consider the employee pipeline. For instance:

• If only candidates who echo the opinions of the dominant group are in the mix, the slate is not diverse.

• Dominant group candidates must be open to ideas different from their own, and ensure women and non-dominant group colleagues’ ideas are given serious consideration.

• If female and non-dominant group candidates linger in the “ready for advancement in two years” stage for more than three years, reassess the company’s climate.

Remember, leaders dictate the climate. Imagine Mitsubishi if leadership included a critical mass of women who were agents of change, and Japanese and American men who were culturally competent, cultivated a respectful environment and elicited employee engagement, synergy and innovation.
Executives’ skills and competencies build upon those needed for middle management, and middle management on those needed for supervisors.

Supervisors embrace the company’s values. They value their culture and others’; are aware of and manage their biases; challenge others’ biases and solicit diverse viewpoints; create synergy through inclusive management; and collaborate with others across diverse backgrounds for business success.

Middle management sustains corporate values while adjusting to different cultures’ relationships to people and attitudes. They solve problems in the context of cultural diversity, incorporate diverse views and talents and coach others.

Executives are capable of unlearning assumptions and engaging in flexible thinking. They build globally competent organizations, create new rules, develop systems and processes that leverage diversity for business success, and champion diversity through accountability, recognition and rewards.

Succession planning and leadership development need to groom culturally competent leaders who respect customers and employees. This allows a brand to flourish and employees to contribute to their full potential. Problem solving 101 is preventing the root cause of a problem from gaining footing.