Leaders can often by reluctant to use emotional language, making communications around diversity and inclusion seem like “corporate speak”. So, how can leaders be convinced to “talk from the heart” and create a real sense of inclusion and belonging?
Changing the norm
A senior executive enters a room. The room is packed with staff ready to hear about a company update. They speak to the merits of diversity and inclusion in their office, using phrases such as “quotas”, “social landscape”, “corporate culture”. The crowd is lost and disinterested. These are buzzwords they’ve heard before but don’t resonate. The crowd files out and there’s a murmur, “that was a waste of time.”
Josh Bersin, HR specialist and industry analyst, referred to diversity and inclusion as one of the hottest topics of 2019. “Companies that embrace diversity and inclusion in all aspects of their business statistically outperform their peers.” Diversity should be a top-to-bottom business strategy and not just a HR program, it should be about leading this from the top.
Words are some of the most important part of the implementation and perceived changes in diversity and inclusion. Historically, words lead social change. But day-to-day, the way words are used when not making grandiose statements will be the real test, and is a key part to changing language.
We are witnessing a change in the way leaders are able to talk to their teams and there is becoming a shift toward more emotional language being used. Leaders craft such a solid professional persona that they fail to be themselves, unintentionally quashing the emotional qualities that build followership, and leaving their peers and direct reports scratching their heads. It’s easy to see how this happens, as leaders traditionally have qualities that mark professionalism, being unflappable, separating emotional ties to important and necessary business decisions.
Linking this back to diversity, it’s hard to communicate diversity whilst using traditionally, “corporate speak”. Inclusion in the office isn’t done through the furrows of meetings or in boardrooms, it’s done with open arms and two-way conversations. One of the most important things about being a manager is that discussions don’t fall on deaf ears. But there’s no point in ignoring that there is a difference between authentic emotions and box-ticking when it comes to emotional connections. The best way to connect on a deeper level is to be transparent regarding emotions, and stripping back corporate speak that can make so many people freeze up and disregard.
The problem with corporate speak is the predictability of it. The words and phrases used aren’t original and so therefore lack merit when being said. Inclusion cannot succeed if it is weighted in the box-ticking narrative of so many companies. In fact, according to Princeton philosopher Harry Frankfurt, corporate speak is “talking without respect to the truth.” Leaders should be encouraged to shoot from the hip when speaking about inclusion. When topics that are driven by emotion are broached in office places, using emotional language is no longer taboo, but should be encouraged. This will be a driver of inclusivity.