Backstage with Cheree Aspelin: Q&A with a 2020 Inclusive Diversity Conference Speaker
Would you consider inclusive diversity to be a core value of your organization? What does that look like in practice?
When organizations establish a clear set of core values, employees are better equipped to balance tensions between what is right for themselves, customers, colleagues, and the organization. Our research shows that leaders play a critical role in reinforcing values by speaking openly about them and setting an example of expected behaviors. They talk the talk and walk the walk.
But first, they build the mindset.
On April 27-28, HCI will virtually host the 2020 Inclusive Diversity Conference online. We'll explore how manager participation and leadership buy-in can help drive success in diversity initiatives. To give you a head start, we caught up with conference keynote speaker Cheree Aspelin, Director of Culture and Inclusion at The Lubrizol Corporation, to talk about inclusive mindsets and what you can expect from the event.
At the upcoming 2020 Inclusive Diversity Conference, you’ll be presenting Growing an Inclusive Mindset in Leaders. Can you share what you mean by an inclusive mindset, and why it’s important for leadership?
CHEREE: We’re probably all familiar with the word mindset. Putting the word inclusive in front of it doesn’t really change things. It’s really about what we think or believe. Some might say, “I want to be inclusive, therefore, I am inclusive.” Yes, a mindset shows up there. But the challenge is if I said, “I want to be healthy, therefore, I am healthy.”
There has to be a second step—behavior. I can say I want to be healthy, but do I eat right and exercise?
When it comes to being a leader, we want to be inclusive. But we have to evaluate how to put that mindset into action. We have to ask ourselves, “How am I behaving?” That’s an uncomfortable place. At the conference, we’re going to take it beyond just what we think and believe. We’ll ask ourselves what we want to do, and what we can put into place to actually make it happen.
Why is this topic so important to you?
CHEREE: It’s my day job! But it’s also a life passion for me. I want to foster an inclusive mindset through my own awareness and actions, and it’s really exciting to be a part of a leadership team that is absolutely committed to those same things. At Lubrizol, part of our work is to improve lives through the products we offer. In order to be innovative, get the results we want, impact the success of our business, and impact the success of our customers, we have to step outside of what we’ve always known and be curious.
What do we know? What do we not know? What have we never done? It’s making itself evident in our needs as a business. Throughout my career, I’ve seen that when people do not have a strong sense of belonging in an organization, they feel like they don’t have a voice. That can be detrimental to safety, performance, and innovation. Formalizing my personal passion through work by building inclusive leadership is really a dream come true.
What can our conference attendees expect from your presentation? What will they learn?
CHEREE: Inclusion can be a very floaty concept—we’re in the clouds, and it sounds soft. What does inclusive really mean?
I want conference attendees to walk away knowing two things:
First, there are skills and competencies related to inclusive leadership. They don’t have to be additive—you don’t have to work on leadership first, then do something else about inclusive leadership. Many things organizations are already doing to build leadership skills are likely tied to inclusion. It’s just drawing those connections and applying those skills.
Second, I’m also attending this event to learn! I want to connect with attendees during the event and keep the conversation going. I want to learn some best practices from others. Let’s talk about how we might be able to re-engineer the systems in an organization for success.
As a leader, if I really intend to be more inclusive in my hiring and I want different outcomes in terms of who is represented on my team, there are things we can do. We can reset the systems in which we operate, and I want to talk with folks about doing that.
I’ve attended HCI events in the past, and I am continually impressed with the caliber of attendees. I feel like I get to meet and talk with others who are just as passionate as I am and really want to stretch themselves and their organizations.
Inclusion, I think, plays itself out in what HCI does overall—being curious, seeking external perspectives, stepping outside of our everyday worlds to go connect with other people. Those are behaviors that lead to inclusive leadership. The experiences HCI offers are self-fulfilling in that respect.