Back to our ghettos: Why leaders should change first.


Arun Gandhi, the grandson of Mahatma Gandhi once told me: “At the end of the day, we all get back to our ghettos…the white ghettos, the brown ghettos, the black ghettos…” Gandhi was talking about how our rugged individualistic culture takes us back to our own isolated spaces, the ghettos we’ve built for ourselves.

Meanwhile, corporate America is investing billions in promoting Diversity, Equity & Inclusion (DE&I) without understanding that a 400-year-old problem cannot be solved overnight.

The historical trauma of racism and systemic inequality cannot be wiped off with a magic eraser.

“The only way leaders are going to combat racism in their organizations is if they literally make combatting racism a lifestyle —as habitual as a morning cup of coffee,” says Andre’s Tapia, Senior Client Partner, Global DE&I Strategist at Korn Ferry.

Tapia makes a valid point. Few corporate leaders know where the inner city is, and very few have taken the time to understand people from different cultures. However, their companies have invested in anything from backpacks to painting walls to show feel-good corporate social responsibility initiatives.

The old saying: “People, Planet and Profits” could now add DE&I in the mix as it has outpaced sustainability as a key goal for corporations.

Yet, knowing about nan & curry doesn’t let you understand the underpinnings of the world’s largest democracy, India, and neither does eating falafel make you feel the richness of Middle Eastern culture.

“When leaders make combatting racism part of their lifestyle, they’ll never lose focus on creating an inclusive organization. It will define their philosophy on how to approach revenues, innovation, marketing, finance, developing talent, and everything else. It will shape the way they lead,” Tapias says.

How many leaders are doing that? How many are making concerted efforts to spend time and understand the experiences of their employees from people of color to LGBTQ employees?

The lingo of DE&I is alien to many corporate leaders in America but the DE&I checkbox has been in existence for several decades. After all, don’t we invest in political correctness every day?

Leaders must invest time in learning, understanding and building relationships with people of color and marginalized groups. Otherwise, companies will be investing in more DE&I consultants showing more PowerPoints about unconscious bias.

It’s time leaders understand their cultural identity first and start leading with empathy and humility. And, the time is now.

Disclaimer

The views, thoughts, and opinions expressed in this article are my own and do not represent the opinions of any entity with which I have been, am now, or will be affiliated. Further, I make no warranty regarding the accuracy or effectiveness of my recommendations, and readers are advised to consult other advisors as well as their own judgments in making decisions.

9 tips to transition from home to office


You are going to transition from working from home to getting back to the office. Here are tips to make this transition easy.

  1. 1. Know that you are adaptable

Human beings are resilient and we can adapt to changing environmental conditions. We can work from home, from the office and anywhere in between. Our bodies and minds will adjust to changing circumstances and adaptability has been a key to our success. So, don’t worry and you will soon get used to your old circumstances.

2. Ease your transition and create a feeling that you are at home

Over the last 18 months, we have enjoyed the comforts of home, missed water cooler conversations, gossip, and frequent interruptions from annoying colleagues. So, how do we adjust to the comeback? Well, creating an ambience similar to your home office can help even though you will never be able to replace that. Use another study lamp, have a cozy sweater behind your chair, get soothing music you can listen to and of course bring some small paintings and memorabilia that will make you feel at home. And, remember that leg rest you had as it will be really useful and give you a feeling you are still there!

3. The dreaded commute is back but take it easy

Yes, the dreaded commute is back. I live in Houston and I can feel the discomfort of sitting in traffic and dealing with grumpy drivers! The average commute for me is around 45 minutes door to door and I listen to podcasts and audio books just to keep my mind away from the polluted, maddening traffic that can wear us all down. Just relax, occupy your mind with distractions like serene music, a comical podcast or learn something new.

4. You will miss the morning walk around the block

Yes, we will all miss the walk around the block and the opportunity to meet neighbors who you thought were dead and gone. You will miss the camaraderie of folks wishing you good morning, and instead will have to return to sullen-faced bosses and their antics. Know that they might have been transformed too and let’s hope that they return smiling to a new workplace.

5. Love thyself

Always, love thyself. There is no substitute for that and this a good time for us to recharge, and rethink our priorities in life. What is my purpose in life? What am I uniquely talented in? Should I just be answering calls and pushing files all my life? Opportunities are endless and if you love yourself you will find a career that is meaningful to you. Take care of your happiness, be a little self-centered and there is nothing wrong with it. Everything begins with loving oneself.

6. Are you a leader? Show empathy and overcommunicate.

If you are a leader, expect shock and awe. The days of running an office like the Mughal empire will no longer work because your underlings have learned a lot of new tricks staying at home over the last 18 months. Empathy and trust have become new key words replacing metrics and goals. So, just relax your suits, be a little bit more empathetic and throw your jelly bean counters over the window. Millennials are going to make you work differently and you will soon learn how to be human and efficient at the same time.

7. Some of us may never return and it’s okay

Life has been good for some of us working from home. We’ve reached that point of serenity that missing it is like not attaining nirvana after having been so close to it. If you’ve re-careered or decided to stop working full-time, it’s okay. Some of you may not miss the office at all. The choice between serenity and a sense of bewilderment is yours, after all!

8. The pandemic has not gone anywhere

Don’t think that the pandemic has gone anywhere. The virus might be clinging on to your cubicle, or floating around you, so just take all the safety precautions you can. And, offices will have lots of disinfectants and new measures to keep you safe.

9. The hybrid workplace is here to stay

The lone benefit of the pandemic has been the global ratification for a hybrid workplace. The old factory model of running organizations has been disrupted and despite the absence of Karl Marx, we’ve all started to unionize. We want to enrich our lives other than just being focused on work all the time. Well, the suits will make strategies to go back to the barking order days but they themselves have realized that its not possible. Employees are seeking newer ways to work and sprawling workplaces will need to reconfigure spaces to make things work.

The office as the center of the community and prime driver of tax revenue is dead.