I was inspired last week after facilitating a workshop on “Diversity and Inclusion on Teams” for a class of engineering students at the University of Toronto. As part of the university’s Leaders of Tomorrow program, students can obtain a certificate in Team Skills. Engineering. Leadership. Team Skills. Diversity and Inclusion. How remarkable! All these critical competencies offered in one program.
Times have changed from when I worked in the tech industry. Learning about this program, which has been around since 2002, buoys me with optimism for the future.
For almost two decades I worked in a global technology company. In my early years I was responsible for recruiting new grad engineers and technical staff. While of course we wanted people who demonstrated leadership and showed potential for advancement, our primary focus was technical competency. Team and diversity education wasn’t on our radar.
These same engineers are still in the workforce today and I hear continually from clients and colleagues about the challenges of working effectively on teams – silo mentality, lack of trust, and high levels of stress and anxiety from the pressure to produce results. Diversity and inclusion are topics that are rarely addressed directly. In fact, when I ask colleagues how they deal with diversity and inclusion challenges on teams and in organizations, they often respond saying “That’s your thing. I don’t talk about it.” Ugh.
Research shows positive relationships have a direct positive impact on the performance of teams and their ability to innovate, problem solve and produce results. So with this knowledge, I am frustrated by the reluctance to talk about diversity on teams by my colleagues. Developing inclusive teams and workplaces must be integrated into the leadership and team development work we do in organizations.
Now you can understand my excitement at discovering a terrific program like the Leaders of Tomorrow at the University of Toronto. Their vision is as bold as the projects their students will create in the future: “An engineering education that is a lifelong foundation for transformational leaders and outstanding citizens.” Things really are changing.
Let’s celebrate inclusive leadership efforts like these by sharing them publicly. What innovative, integrated programs for ‘developing leaders of tomorrow’ can you tell us about?