The uncomfortable truth about leading diversity and inclusion.

If there is one thing about diversity and inclusion that is often taken for granted, it’s the fact that it requires people, all of us, to get comfortable being uncomfortable. From being open-minded to perspectives and ways of thinking that are completely different from our own, to being a disrupter that constantly challenges the status quo, it’s work that can be as exhausting as it is rewarding.

Leading diversity and inclusion is not for the faint of heart. It’s not for the passive. And it surely isn’t for the indifferent. It’s work that requires patience, commitment and most importantly, passion. All of which will be tested. Every. Single. Day.

As a practitioner of diversity and inclusion, moving people out of their comfort zone is par for the course. It’s critical to achieving cultural and behavioral change, which is ultimately the essence of the work. It is also the very thing that many are triggered by and/or take personally, which often shows up as skepticism, resistance and in some cases, defensiveness, leaving diversity and inclusion leaders to straddle a fine line between making people comfortable or making a difference.

The reality of it is, that the work of diversity and inclusion leaves little room for comfortability. Getting used to being uncomfortable is something both individuals and organizations must embrace if they are truly committed to change. Be it a work style, way of thinking, communication style or an occasional difference in opinion, understanding what makes you uncomfortable is just as important as understanding why it makes you uncomfortable. And that is where the real work begins.

From executives to front line staff, stepping out of our comfort zones is an area of opportunity for all of us, no matter where we are in the corporate hierarchy. As leaders, we must walk the talk and set an example for others to follow. As employees, we must evolve and be resilient during times of change. As human beings, we must encourage and inspire those around us to be the very best they can be. We must welcome the difficult conversations. We must create safe spaces for authenticity. And we must be intentional in our efforts to be inclusive.

As they say, nothing great ever happens within our comfort zone. When it comes to diversity and inclusion, everything great happens outside of it. And that is the uncomfortable truth.

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