Diversity. What does this really mean to you? To me it means leadership positions are and should be a reflection of the diversity in our ranks. We should take into consideration that we are promoting and assigning someone based on their merit, fitness and the capability to lead others in stressful and non-stressful times. It also means allowing for and giving everyone the same opportunities for these positions, in both the short term and long term.
But diversity is not enough. Without inclusion, diversity fails. So, what is inclusion? Face value; inclusion is participation of any leader (potentially) both operationally and during the decision-making processes.
To be successful you need both, and it is a challenge to try to do both equally, but by doing so you do increase your talent pool and by being more diverse and inclusive you improve moral (climate), trust, and Esprit de corps.
For me, after 32 years of experience, the takeaways are to listen and be approachable as a leader. Be present for training, all training! Learn who is on your team, and do not jump to conclusions. Have private conversations behind closed doors, and reward in public. One small item we started to do as a First Sergeant with my company – Birthdays. We always have troops report for birth month audits, so during first formation we would identify who was due their birth month audit, and the company would sing happy birthday to them. For some of our Soldiers, this was the only time someone said happy birthday to them.
We also did Hero for the day, celebrating areas like highest PT score, or the highest scores on the range that day. I also made APFT certificates for the 290 and above. Small easy to do things, but we saw a huge improvement in morale, which impacted our overall readiness in a positive way. Lastly, I always thanked our Soldiers and thanked their families at closing formations.
Celebrating Soldiers allows them to know they matter to you, but paying attention to your own skill sets is also critical.
Be present for all EO training, and understand diversity and inclusion by taking part in this training and challenging yourself to attend observances or events for MLK Day, Hispanic Heritage month, Native American Heritage month and others. Maybe get out of your comfort zone and go to a holocaust museum, live in the lives of those unlike yourself. Then take what you have learned from some of these events and do some research to learn about our history and the history of others. By understanding yourself and your heritage, you might be in a better place to understand how others pushed through discrimination, and how they still served our nation honorably, with conviction, even when faced with these challenges. Ask your Soldiers “tell me a little about how you grew up”
As I set to retire next year, I know our Army is in a good place, and I know the changes that I have seen in the last 32 years have made the Army more diverse and inclusive.