How To Embrace Diversity Inclusion In Your Network

Diversity inclusion is a big media topic. Acceptance of people across all human categories is expected. Diversity inclusion in your career is not just something you should do, it’s a necessity for advancement and good business. Particularly for internal networking. How so?

In a corporation environment aligning yourself with diverse people, and thus different ways of thinking will expand your abilities and understanding of others. And as a Deloitte Australia research study shows, companies embracing diversity considerably outperform their peers.

How To Diversify Your Internal Network

kelly_meerbott_pa_conference_for_women_croppedRecently I was invited to moderate a panel interview session on diversifying your internal network at the Pennsylvania Conference for Women. In my opening statement, I shared the following four points – based on experiences from my career – I’ve leveraged to help diversify my internal network.

Know Yourself — Self Awareness

Knowing yourself goes beyond personal preference of chocolate vs. vanilla. It’s knowing what are your triggers personally and professionally, knowing what emotions and physical sensations come up when you are triggered and how you react from that situation. It’s knowing your underdeveloped strengths. Being aware of your gaps and blind spots helps you spot the right people who can help fill in those gaps personally and professionally.

Have people in your boat who will help you row not poke holes in it

You don’t want people in your life that are going to sabotage you on any level. If you spend time with people who are morally and emotionally bankrupt, you will begin to assimilate those qualities within yourself simply by association. So be selective with the people who you invite into your boat, which requires you to diversify who you think  is acceptable.

You want people who are going to enhance your life mentally, physically, spiritually and emotionally. People who will hold you accountable to the best version of yourself. These are the humans who will pick up an oar and row for you when your back is sore; when you’re tired; when you’re emotionally spent and can’t go on. These are the ones who are going to give you a hand up regardless of whether or not they benefit.

It pays off! As a result of setting and holding tighter boundaries, my business exploded, my marriage improved and I released 30 lbs. All because I began to redirect the energy I used on deflecting negativity to improving myself.

Expand Your Horizon – Diversify the people you spend time with

Pennsylvania Conference for WomenI gravitate towards people who don’t think like me, don’t look like me, come from different backgrounds and grew up in experiencing life from a perspective that I cannot often relate to. From this, I’ve learned the more diversity I have in my life and business, the richer my experience becomes.

I look at people as various species of flowers in a garden. Not all look the same, not all flowers offer the same bloom but every flower is valuable and necessary in the garden of life. And together we are a beautiful landscape. I encourage you to step outside your comfort zone and become genuinely interested in ALL people around you. You never know what you can learn or how your horizon can expand.

Drop Your Ego — Be an eternal student

Epictetus said: “It is impossible for a woman to learn what she thinks she already knows.” You cannot learn if you think you already know. You cannot get better if you consistently try to prove to everyone that you are the smartest kid in the room. And you definitely cannot find the answers if you are too arrogant and operate from an “I know” mind because it prevents you from asking questions in the first place. The “I know” mind, which is another term for the ego, is a constricted and restrictive place. When you drop the belief of “I already know this,” your world, your knowledge and your network expands.

Treat life like a classroom. Enter into every situation with the thought: what can I learn from this person? this situation? And practice taking harsh and critical feedback. It’s an art and a crucial skill in life and career. Actively solicit the negative feedback especially when your friends, loved ones, and brain are telling you that you’re doing a great job. Your ego will avoid this feedback at all costs because it’s a defense mechanism that is in place to protect you, to keep you safe and to force you to play small. This is something that is a constant practice for myself and the work I do with executives. Be gentle with yourself as you get comfortable with what may be uncomfortable feedback. Feedback leads to mass improvement.

These steps are not a short road to success. It takes time and emotional energy to become self-aware and set standards and boundaries to keep the right diversified group of people in or out of your life. But soon it pays off huge both in and out of your career. I saw that firsthand at the conference where nine-thousand women from various backgrounds gathered and networked. Try it today. Add someone to your network that you normally wouldn’t include and then be open to the possibilities.