Headlines such as “Diversity still Matters in Times of COVID-19” are disappointing. From my perspective, diversity “still” matters to the same degree that the rights and liberties bestowed upon us by the U.S. Constitution still matter. The need for such headlines in this day and age is disheartening. Are these headlines necessary to justify the protests taking place across America’s large metropolitan cities, suburbs and bedroom communities?
COVID-19 and Today’s Call for Social Justice
Forced isolation created feelings of isolation and a sense of hopelessness that sparked a passionate response as social and racial injustice played out across social media.
On the other hand, a study of executives across the country produced positive data supporting the fact that the shelter-in-place requirement resulted in benefits including psychological “flexibility”. The psychological benefits experienced by leaders and employees will not only improve work-life but will set the stage for individuals to work together to mitigate social and racial injustice both inside and outside of the work setting.
We Might Want to Change, But Change is Difficult
In light of today’s social unrest, personal opinions about diversity and inclusion are no longer relevant. Meaningful change must take place across our landscape, and each of us must do our part in bringing significant change to our small corner of the world. We must take steps to address deeply-ingrained biases, let go of long-held assumptions and expectations about how things should or should not be. We must become psychologically flexible enough to try new ways of thinking and behaving; we must be courageous enough to begin moving forward—one step at a time—trying, learning, developing and adjusting to new ways of communicating, interacting and managing disagreement and conflict.
Based on my experience as an executive coach, I know that real change may be aided by good intentions, but good intentions are not sufficient. Our intending to change is simply not enough. We become distracted, we lose focus, we unknowingly slide back to seeing things the way we have always seen them and doing things the way they have always been done. We must become vulnerable enough to try new ways of thinking and behaving; we must be courageous enough to learn, listen, develop and adjust to new ways of collaborating and managing conflict.
Study Results: COVID-19 Related Changes Will Support Social Transformation
B. Keith Simerson, Ed.D. (a Chicago-based consultant, advisor, and author) and I recently conducted a study of 128 CEOs, Presidents, COOs, and senior-level executives spanning 50 industries with many in the Chicagoland area having national and global reach.
We conducted interviews of a select group of executives and then followed-up with a survey to the larger group. We learned that the COVID-19 crisis and the shift to working from home has led to deep—and surprisingly positive—adaptations to management policies, practices and priorities that can change how we relate to one another.
Communication during the COVID-19 crisis has been more open and inclusive than before. Information we received from our survey indicate that today’s leaders recognize the importance of establishing trust. Managers told us that they see their colleagues working more productively which in addition to a shift in transparency has led to higher level of mutual respect.
The results of our study suggest that COVID-19 has helped set the stage for more open communication, frank and honest dialogue, and a kind of transparency not previously seen in organizations.
Next Article: Four elements of change—drawn from our study—that will impact social & racial injustice.