Equity in Leadership
By Mike Matarazzo, Founder - Be Better Life & Leadership Coaching
The word 'Equity' can be quite triggering to many people. Most people hear the word and immediately start associating it with society or politics. While that is understandable, it's important that I start by pointing out, that this article is referring to the word only as it relates to leadership in business. Most leaders believe that they run an equitable operation, when, in fact, they often misunderstand the true concept of equity in leadership.
When I ask leaders if everyone in their operation has the same opportunity for success and advancement, the majority respond with statements like, "Of course! As long as you work hard, keep your head down, and do what is expected, you have the same opportunity to succeed as anyone else!" This is what people say and believe, but is it true? Is providing everyone with the "same" opportunity to succeed, really an equitable gesture? My simple answer to that is no.
Equity is not providing everyone with the same opportunity for success. The reason this doesn't work is because everyone has different circumstances that will dictate whether or not those opportunities are ones that they can utilize. True equity in leadership is providing each individual with the tools they need based on their individual circumstances.
Here's the best way that I have seen to explain the difference. Imagine that there are five kids in a back yard. All of them would like to see over the fence into the next yard, but they are not tall enough. So, by conventional logic, you want to provide them with the same opportunity for success. So maybe you provide them with a bench that they can all stand on to see over the fence. Well, that's it! Your job is done now right? You have, after all, provided them with the same opportunity for success, right? The problem with this is that the kids are all different heights. And even with the opportunity you provided, only two out of the five are actually able to see over the fence.
What if you provided each one of them with their own ladder? This way they can all step up as high as necessary based on their individual height. Now you have provided a tool that ensures the potential for success. Sure, the shorter kids may have to take an extra step up or two and that requires a bit more effort, but there is only so much we can do to help the individual circumstances of our team. But, at least you can say that, without a doubt, they are all able to reach the same level of success if they truly want it. That is Equity in leadership.
The opportunities that you make available for your team cannot be accurately measured by your assessment of their performance alone. You also need to asses your willingness to provide the right tools. Sometimes those tools are unconventional and unique for your business. Can a single parent with a need for a very specific schedule be successful in your operation? And if not, can anything be adjusted to provide that opportunity to them?
The current industry wide staffing shortage is real and is significantly affecting most operations. Maybe the individuals that are willing to work don't fit the description of those we would have hired in the past. I'm not suggesting that we lower our standards with regard to the character or work ethic of an applicant. The trending statement today that says "nobody wants to work anymore" is just not true. There are plenty of people who want to work and will work. The shift we are seeing is that job seekers are beginning to set higher standards for their own life balance and the quality of their work environment.
Listening to what our people want and need to be happy and productive is the most valuable tool we have when it comes to building a more equitable work environment. The only thing to do once you get a hold of that, is to figure out which tools need to be available for the entire team to thrive.
To learn more about how to create a more equitable work environment, get in touch by clicking the link below!
Be Better Life & Leadership Coaching