'How Do You Build An Inclusive Culture Beyond Wine And Beer And Ping Pong Day?'
The Cavu Group's Leslie Short Explains How to Create an Inclusive Culture
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Devin: What is your superpower?
Leslie: Well, I don’t think there’s one superpower. I think I have a lot of little superpowers that, when you put them all together, they’re what people see as a superpower. I have my chaplaincy, am a certified mediator, have traveled and lived out of the country for 13 and a half years, and was a classical dancer and corporate operations strategist. I have all these little things that I have built that are my lived experience and trained experience, and certified experience. That’s my superpower because I get to sit in conversations and have had experience with someone there because of a past piece of my life.
“We are stuck within our own culture because that’s where we are comfortable, and our comfort can sometimes lead to discomfort of others,” says Leslie Short, founder, president and CEO of The Cavu Group, a diversity, equity and inclusion firm that helps clients expand beyond their current culture. She is also the author of Expand Beyond Your Current Culture.
At her firm and in her book, she helps businesses build cultures that go beyond ping pong day.
She caught me off guard with one part of her message. “I’m going to say to you, ‘Please do not hire any black or brown folks. Please do not bring in anyone with a disability—unless you are ready to build an inclusive and equitable company culture. Otherwise, you’re not doing anything.’”
Her message is clear. To create an inclusive culture, you must do much more than include a diverse headcount.
That work can be challenging. Helping employees see how their words can exclude or offend a colleague with a different lived experience is the essence of the work. The Cavu Group helps companies train employees to demonstrate respect toward their teammates.
Leslie says, “I don’t live and walk by my color, but it is part of my identity. So, if you do not see it, then that means you don’t see a piece of me. You see what you want to see that makes you comfortable.”
This is why creating space for all employees to bring their full selves to work is essential. The goal should be an inclusive environment that allows everyone’s voice and perspective to be heard, respected, and incorporated into the company culture. It takes careful planning and active engagement from both management and employees alike.
Strictly speaking, Leslie notes that this doesn’t require empathy, but it does require a level of understanding, hence the value of training.
In all her work, Leslie leverages her superpower, which is her unique portfolio of lived, trained and certified experiences.
How to Develop Your Portfolio of Experiences As a Superpower
Leslie says she draws on her portfolio of experiences every single day. “That’s how I live my life.”
She often coaches people and offers this advice for building your portfolio:
I always ask, '“What are your transferable skills?” I'm going to go, “I don't have any.” I go, “You're a mother or a father. So that means you have time management. That means you're a fashion designer because you're pulling out clothes like all of it.”
I break it down, honestly, that simple. What do you want in your everyday life? And then what have you done in your work life or your studies? What are the pieces of the transferable skills we can take out to build where you want to go next?
Leslie helps people see today as a step toward an ultimate objective.
I always ask a client, “What if you could do anything, forget money, forget bills, forget family? What would it be?” Then, “Is that where you really want to go?” And if they say “yes” to whatever that big dream is, then, “Let’s start building the road to a bridge to get there. Because whatever you do now will not be the last thing that you do to get there.” So I make it feel much more attainable than that big thing out there.
By following Leslie’s example and counsel, you can make your portfolio of lived, trained and certified experiences into a superpower that enables you to do more good in the world.