It’s not that business leaders are uncaring, it’s just that their job is to focus on one thing: profit. Diversity may be a good thing for the world, but let’s face it, for-profit companies are not social-service agencies. For them there are two primary questions about diversity. Does increasing workplace diversity affect my bottom line? And if so, how?

Greg Jones, Chief Diversity Office of United Airlines, started his career as an electrical engineer, so it’s not surprising that he takes a hard-headed approach to questions about effective business leadership. As he put it while speaking at the Executive’s Club of Chicago this September, there’s no guarantee that hiring a bunch more women or people of color will make your profit skyrocket in the next quarter.

It’s not a simple formula of “Increase Diversity and Inclusion → Improve Business Outcomes.” Instead, Greg inserted an intermediate element into the formula: “Increase Diversity and Inclusion → Change Mindset → Improve Business Outcomes.”

What might that mindset change look like? I know of six cognitive, emotional, and behavioral skills that grow when working with people who are different from us:

  • Listening skills – being quiet and really hearing what others are saying
  • Openness to different perspectives and experiences – not assuming everyone is just like me
  • Humility – recognizing that my way of seeing the world is not the only right way
  • Curiosity – becoming fascinated by the differences and similarities between diverse groups
  • Self-awareness – getting more in touch with my own biases and limitations
  • Tolerance of discomfort – moving out of my comfort zone of only associating with people just like me, handling conflict and misunderstandings

Anyone who’s tried to hire a C-level executive will recognize that the list above contains many of the leadership qualities in high demand. Greg’s model predicts that driving diversity and inclusion will have a positive impact on employees’ mindset far beyond their attitudes toward working with a variety of people. It will help them become better leaders in general, which will drive business success. Sounds like a winning formula!

Want to know how you can improve your diversity and inclusion strategies? Email me.

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