Valentina Dolciotti

We recently spoke with Rose Cartolari, a Columbia Business School trained Leadership Advisor and Executive Coach, about the challenges and opportunities that organizations have in creating and building effective Diversity and Inclusion programs. Having lived and been educated in India, Indonesia, Somalia, the United States, and Italy, Rose has an unique perspective about what it means to be different and yet be at home in many cultures.  She has an active international practice and is a professionally fluid and experienced creator and facilitator of strategy-based leadership development programs across diverse cultures andnationalities.  Rose is an active member of the Forbes Coaches Council, and regularly writes for on issues related to leadership strategy, culture change and business transformation.  Here is an abstract of our discussion with her.

The million dollar question: Why should a company invest in something so long term, which involves a lot of effort, requires collective and personal changes and that apparently has nothing to do with its business?

“Because the world is changing at such a rapid pace, and uncertainty and instability are now part of the business landscape. Today company leaders need to be able to do two things. One: manage and maximize profits and results today. Two: create a sustainable and viable future for the long term. It’s no longer an option to do one or the other. We have to do both. The only way we can make sure we can innovate for the future, grow in the future, find ideas in the future, is to create a pipeline of talents and ideas that are able to envision different types of future scenarios and come up with solutions that may fit those potential developments.  And so we need to have a diverse workforce. Then…”- adds Rose with a smile – “if they also want to have a positive impact to the world, because is the right thing to do…no one will complain”. Rose goes on further to discuss how, at its purest form, Diversity and Inclusion is about maximizing the ROI on an organization’s key asset – their people’s brains. If a company wants high-performance and sustainable growth, it must be great at attracting, and more importantly, ENGAGING, a highly diverse workforce. In a world that is increasingly global, increasingly fast paced, multi-functional, multi-generational leaders and organizations are looking for ways to create a culture that where people bring their best and whole selves and can collaborate, engage and perform with an increasingly diverse work teams at the highest levels. While the fastest, easiest and most measurable way the we know,to bring diversity into the spot light, is to start with moving numbers and statistics to get representation and give voice to people who are under-represented or ignored, exclusively focusing on moving numbers becomes formulaic – and can feel to people as inauthentic, an empty gesture.   It is critical to move past the numbers, that is just Diversity (statistical representation of everyone), to Inclusion – BENEFITTING from that diversity.  The challenge is building a culture where each and every employee feels valued, has the opportunity to grow, and is empowered to fulfill their own sense of purpose.

Rose Cartolari

Neuroscience teaches us that if we are not actively reaching out to,including and engaging people, you might as well be excluding them.   Yet to activate and sustain this culture, we need to determine ourpriorities, build systems to support those priorities (for example, our recruitment, performance evaluation and professional development programs) and then, we have to work to change the everyday habits at the individual level, starting with senior leadership teams, who must model the culture the company aspires to.  They need to drive the momentum and challenge employees to embrace changes, at both the macro and micro levels.    The truth is that despite investment and effort in this area, and in some cases, the huge strides that are being made, many individuals are still left at the margins.  Biases are persistent, changing habits is excruciatingly difficult and embedding new behaviors is tough.  The cost of this silent non-participation is huge – in creativity, productivity and performance.  The goal is to not stop and be content because target populations are increasing, but in ensuring that they are being given what they need to blossom in and contribute to everyday life.  In other words, not just stop because everyone is “invited to the party” but to ensure that everyone is also “being asked to dance”.