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How to Bridge from Diversity to Inclusion

In this podcast Tim and Junior discuss the importance of bridging the gap between diversity and inclusion in the workplace. Diversity alone is not enough, and true progress comes from creating a culture of inclusion. To do that we must "cross the lines of natural affinity," or find common ground and build relationships with coworkers who may be different from ourselves.

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Episode Show Notes

In this podcast Tim and Junior discuss the importance of bridging the gap between diversity and inclusion in the workplace. Diversity alone is not enough, and true progress comes from creating a culture of inclusion. To do that we must "cross the lines of natural affinity," or find common ground and build relationships with coworkers who may be different from ourselves.

DE&I spending is projected to reach 15.4 billion by 2026 (02:05). There are questions that come with increased spending such as, "Are these dollars effective? Are they working? Are we learning how to do this better than we have in the past?" The results are mixed at best.

You cannot command and control your way to diversity and inclusion (06:58). You cannot declare your way to an inclusive culture, and awareness campaigns are not enough. You'll need parallel tracks of awareness and behaviors to make a difference. The real question to answer is, "are you modeling inclusive behaviors day in and day out, or not?"

The importance of bonding and bridging (10:34). Bonding is creating connections with people like you or those inside your natural affinity groups. Bridging is connecting with people who are not like you or outside your natural affinity groups. To create inclusion you need both. Organizations can assist in the process with discussion guides.

Interaction is not connection (19:43). In order to form a genuine connection you must be willing to engage in inquiry with the other person and be willing to share yourself. The right intent combined with those two elements will help you move from interaction to connection.

Commit to practicing inclusive behavior (35:53). There are many opportunities for inclusive behavior. They usually fall into one of these seven categories. 1) Greeting, 2)Asking, 3) Listening, 4) Sharing, 5) Inviting, 6) Helping, and 7) Protecting. Chose one of these categories of behaviors to practice over the next week.

We need accountability to succeed (41:22). If we want to move through cycles of improvement we need to practice behaviors and reflect on how we've done. We need to build psychological safety into our behavior.

Additional Resources
How to Bridge from Diversity to Inclusion: Helping Employees Cross the Lines of Natural Affinity
5 Ways to Create Inclusion Safety
Diversity is a Fact, Inclusion is a Choice
The 4 Stages Behavior Guide

Additional Resources

Episode Transcript

0:00:02.4 Producer: Welcome back Culture by Design listeners, it's Freddy, one of the producers of the podcast and today's episode is on bridging from diversity to inclusion. This episode is packed with practical tips on how to actually be more inclusive through real behaviors. As Timmy Jr. Will state in the podcast, interaction is not connection. And this episode is about how to bridge that gap and make real connections, not just individually, but in your organization's diversity and inclusion efforts as well. Important links to this episode can be found in the show notes or at Thanks again for listening and thank you for your reviews. Enjoy today's episode on bridging from diversity to inclusion. 

0:00:58.4 Junior: Welcome back everyone to Culture by Design. I'm here with Dr. Tim Clark and today we'll be discussing bridging from diversity to inclusion. Tim, how are you doing?

0:01:03.9 Tim: Doing well, thanks. Good to be with you.

0:01:06.1 Junior: Me too. I'm excited about this episode. Today we're going to be talking about an issue that Aristotle observed about 2500 years ago. Here's what he said. People love those who are like themselves. Now Aristotle knew that 2500 years ago. Things have not changed since then. Two episodes back, we talked about why most diversity initiatives fail. Today we're going to be talking through a four step process to help us not fail, to move from theory to practice. And this is applicable for individuals and organizations. So whether you lead a function at a big multinational or you're an individual contributor that's just starting your career, I'm confident that you'll find value in today's episode. So here's the setup. Organizations are trying to become more inclusive. They are seeing the causal chain as we talked about a couple episodes back from diversity to inclusion and innovation. Here's a number for you. A new market study published by Global Industry Analyst shows D&I spending at 7.5 billion in 2020, projected to reach 15.4 billion by 2026, growing at a CAGR of 12.6%. So Tim, we've got ourselves a compound annual growth rate of 12.5% in spending just in D&I. What do you make of that?

0:02:29.6 Tim: Yeah, spending is going to basically double in five years. That's pretty incredible. So massive momentum. Question is, are these dollars effective? Are the campaigns effective? Are they working? Are we learning how to do this better than we have in the past? I think the results are mixed at best, Junior. Do you think that's fair?

0:02:55.8 Junior: I do think that's fair. Mixed at best. We've got a trail of data for decades now that's littered with failure stories. There are some success stories along the way. But many organizations have had trouble, not just in the last six months, 12 months, but in previous decades, moving the needle. Now historically, this has not been an industry that's spending $7 to $15 billion. It is now. But many organizations have made attempts and they have made concerted efforts to become more diverse, to become more inclusive. But regardless of their spending, many of those organizations have had a hard time. And the pattern is that the journey from diversity to inclusion is a journey, as you say, from awareness to action. Most of the campaigns in years past have been focused on awareness and have rarely moved to action. Organizations want to change, but they do not know how. And so launching a campaign focused on awareness, on understanding and appreciating differences is helpful. We need to do it, but it will never be enough. Some of these organizations are striving to become more diverse and they're trying to be more inclusive. They're having a hard time getting there.

0:04:17.5 Junior: Isn't that right?

0:04:18.6 Tim: It is. And let me go back to what you just said, Junior. So the journey from diversity to inclusion is a journey from awareness to action. That's true. But it's also misleading because we think in our heads, I'm going to start with awareness. The end of the journey is action. Well, actually the end of the journey is action anchored in culture, anchored in norms, anchored in beliefs. So the deception in that statement is that action is the result that comes after everything that you've done. Actually what we're going to talk about today is that you jump into action right away.

0:05:06.8 Junior: So the time between awareness and action should be five minutes.

0:05:10.6 Tim: That's right. Do you see the confusion or the ambiguity here? People think, oh, we're taking this journey and it's going from awareness to action. And at the end of this journey, however long it takes, we're going to be acting. No, no, no. That's not correct. It's misleading. You're going to jump into action right now. As soon as you begin to increase awareness, you're going to try to focus on action at the same time. We're going to talk about these parallel paths, aren't we, Junior, and how important this is. And people get it wrong so often. We'll explain how that works.

0:05:48.1 Junior: Well, I appreciate the clarification because the way that I stated it also implies that the relationship between awareness and action is causal. And that is not true. And that's the crux of the issue is that many organizations assume that it's a causal relationship and that it's an iron link. That once you achieve a threshold level of awareness, that the action is of consequence. It just follows. And that's not true. So they are parallel paths. It's probably a journey of awareness and action. We should probably change it. I should change the way that I'm speaking about it. So I appreciate that. One of the things that I was thinking about as I was just pondering the topic is that I was thinking about those numbers, the billions of dollars that are being spent and the organizations that are spending those billions of dollars. The delta between seven and a half billion and 15.4 billion is not going to be SMB spending. It's going to be enterprise spending. And most of that enterprise spending comes from organizations that historically have been very command and control. And this is not a judgment. It's an observation. But most of the money and the discretionary dollars at that type of scale are only available at the enterprise level from organizations that have historically been command and control.

0:07:12.3 Junior: And so what do they attempt to do when they spend that money? They attempt to command and control their way to diversity and inclusion. How do they do that? Through requirements, through declarations, through the way that they've operated for the last hundred years, let's say, to get to where they are today. And so there's this interesting irony that I found as I was pondering this topic that these command and control organizations are the one with access to the dollars to try and move the needle from diversity to inclusion. Yet they're often not well-equipped culturally to do that type of an implementation. You think that's irony or is that just me?

0:07:55.4 Tim: No, it's true. I think that's true. We're talking about legacy cultures that are authoritarian. So when they launch a big DEI initiative, they do what they know how to do. So they may launch an awareness campaign and that's fantastic and they communicate and they train. There's a lot of training that goes on. There could be some policy changes. That's not wrong. So there's nothing wrong with that. But if you put the organization on a compliance track and not a commitment track, you're not going anywhere. Compliance, can you create? Let me ask this question, Junior. Is there one single example of an organization that's created a deeply inclusive culture out of compliance? I can't point to one. I've never seen one. You can't outlaw bias. Compliance is not going to get you there.

0:08:49.3 Junior: Yeah, you can't declare your organization inclusive and then sit back and watch it happen.

0:08:56.9 Junior: No, and you can't do it out of mandatory compulsory training. That's not going to work. Now, the training may be necessary and there are components here. These components are not wrong. They're important. What we're mainly going to talk about today, Junior, is what's missing. What's missing? I think that's really what we need to focus on. If we go back to what you said though with large enterprises, the other key factor is what is the modeling behavior of those that are at the top of the organization? Are they consistently modeling inclusive behavior day in and day out? Again, if they're not, then all bets are off. There's nothing that can compensate for a lack of modeling behavior from the top because the modeling behavior actually reflects the commitment of the organization. You can't say we're committed to an inclusive culture and an inclusive environment, but there's a disconnect with the modeling behavior of those who lead the organization. That's a very serious dissonance, which you cannot overcome with other measures. You can't compensate for that gap, for that incongruity. There's nothing that you can do that's going to fix that problem. You got to come back and the leaders have to lead the way through their own modeling behavior.

0:10:29.0 Tim: That's another thing that I wanted to point out.

0:10:31.5 Junior: I appreciate the observation. What needs to happen? We need buy-in at the top and we need buy-in at the bottom and all of that happens at an individual level. People need to understand for themselves why this is important and how to do it, its awareness and its action. Here are some of our recommendations. We're going to be talking about bridging. Can you give us a recap, Tim, on bridging and bonding? I think that that's helpful context.

0:11:00.7 Junior: We talked a little bit about this before. Bonding is the act of connecting with someone like you, someone with whom you share natural affinity. Bonding is connecting with someone who's not like you, with whom you do not share natural affinity. The hypothesis is, well, it's really not a hypothesis anymore. It's really a thesis that's been confirmed again and again and again. You cannot create a deeply inclusive environment unless you have bridging going on along with the bonding. The bonding is great, but it happens within natural affinity groups. If you look at an organization and they have this default pattern where they are rigidly self-segregating based on the lines of natural affinity, then your inclusion is only taking place within those lines of natural affinity. What are you going to do between or across those lines of natural affinity? You have to bridge. That's what bridging is all about. Bridging is, again, being able to connect with people that are not like you. To create a deeply inclusive culture, we need bridging in addition to the bonding. There's no other way to get there. We can look at this institutionally and we can look at this individually.

0:12:24.3 Tim: As we go through these recommendations, I want you to assume both lenses and move back and forth between them. Even if you're responsible for the organization, you need to behave the same way. As Tim mentioned, the tone at the top is very, very important. If you don't embody these principles, regardless of the policies you put in place, regardless of the programs, the training, it will only go so far. Most people, when it comes to bridging, they fear differences. That's why we bond. They recoil from extending themselves to people that are dissimilar. What does this mean for us as organizations? It's going to be more difficult for us to get people to bridge than it is for us to see people bond. Our recommendation is that these discussions, we call them bridging discussions, be formally assigned. That we give institutional permission to people to start to bridge.

0:13:25.6 Junior: These bridging discussions are what exactly, Tim? How would you describe them?

0:13:30.3 Tim: Well, it's a 30-minute, it's an assigned discussion. So you're assigned to someone that is not like you, demographically, psychographically. You're going to have a 30-minute discussion with them.

0:13:44.5 Junior: The purpose of bridging is to formalize this process. Is that true?

0:13:49.1 Tim: That's right, because it doesn't happen fast enough or completely enough on its own. So we're trying to accelerate that process.

0:13:58.2 Junior: So if left to ourselves, it's unlikely that we'll do this.

0:14:01.7 Junior: Some people will, but many, many people won't. Why? Because it's an act of vulnerability to bridge. It takes both motivation and it takes some skill to be able to do it. If you have a bad experience, if you reach out and you try to bridge and it doesn't go well, then you'll tend not to want to do that again. You'll have an awkward transactional experience and you'll come back from that and say, oh, that wasn't so great. Those that are incredibly talented, they're boundary spanning individuals who can do this naturally. They just seem to be able to move across differences very fluidly and that's fantastic. But most people don't do that and they need a little bit of help. So if we systematize the process, formalize the process, and as you say, give them institutional permission to substitute for the personal fear or inhibition that they feel, then we really give them a head start. That's what we're talking about. So this is something that we can do institutionally to help people behave while we're working on awareness. So this can be a parallel path to whatever awareness campaign we have going on in tandem. So hold bridging discussions.

0:15:22.8 Tim: We're assigning people to pair off. Normally this is done in twos for 30 minutes to have a discussion. And this discussion is not something that we give a tremendous amount of discretion to. It's something that requires a guide. So this is something that we've done with organizations and part of our recommendation for you is to hold these bridging discussions and we're going to teach you how to do that. So this slices through lines, as you've said before, of natural affinity related to age, race, gender, rank in a way that otherwise would be improbable. So when we go into the discussion guide, we are keeping a few things top of mind. The first is that interaction is not connection. So Tim, let's talk about this for a minute. I think this is an important point. It is.

0:16:12.2 Junior: Interaction is all about exchange. Think about the word interaction. If you're interacting with someone, to me, when I think about just interaction, I'm thinking about myself in a place. There are other people and we're exchanging information, we're talking, but it seems to be pretty surface level. At least that's the connotation of the word to me. There's nothing inherently meaningful about what we're doing. We just happen to be in the same place at the same time or for the purposes of utility, we find ourselves together.

0:16:49.1 Tim: Yeah, or it's just purely a business transaction and you're not connecting at a human level. People do this all the time. People interact with the same people again and again and again and they never have a human connection. Even people that they interact with over a period of years. Now, it seems strange because you'd think there would be some connection that is built over time, but that's not necessarily the case. Just think about the interactions that you have, some of which are on a regular basis and you're not making a human connection. They're transactional in nature and yet you keep doing it because it's part of your job. It may be a partner, a stakeholder, someone that you're working with in some capacity and you just interact with them, but it never seems to move beyond the superficial level of business. That's what we're talking about.

0:17:40.3 Junior: You posted in our team channel a few weeks ago and asked members of the team their perception of the differences between these two words. It was really interesting. The patterns were very clear and the patterns were exactly what you and I are saying. Interaction seems to be utilitarian. Connection is very different. The way you put it, I loved. Connection is satisfying each other's needs to matter. It's very different. Satisfying each other's needs to matter. Connection is not utilitarian. It's fundamentally different. It's also discretionary. You don't find yourself most often, at least in connection. If you look at the ratio of interactions that you have that fall between interaction and connection, chances are interaction is going to be pegged out. Connection will exist, but it's going to be a very small portion of the exchanges that you have with other humans. I thought that that was pretty interesting looking at the team's responses about connection. There's some sort of meaningful exchange. The other thing that came up when we were talking about connection is that connection is a two-way street. It's really difficult to connect with someone in a one-sided way. Maybe in that case, it's not connection.

0:19:07.4 Junior: It's impossible to do that. That's probably true. I'm giving something to you. You're giving something to me that's meaningful, that's satisfying each other's needs to matter. I'm not just satisfying the need that you have to matter. You're satisfying my need to matter. It's mutual. It's symbiotic. I don't mean to belabor the point, but the difference between these two words is very important when it comes to bridging.

0:19:36.8 Junior: That means that you have to be willing, if you're going to bridge effectively, you have to be willing to do two things. Number one, to inquire, to engage in inquiry with the other person empathically. That's number one requirement, to inquire. I am willing to inquire of you, ask you questions, do some discovery, some inquiry to understand you better, to get to know you. That's number one. Number two, I have to be willing to share myself. I have to be willing to share some of who and what I am. If we're willing to do those two things, to inquire and then to share, then we have the possibility of connection. But then we have the intent that goes behind it, the good faith, the genuine intent to share and to connect with the other person. Those elements have to be present. If not, we may have what we call obligatory surface acting. What does that mean? That means I'm going through the motions. I'm trying to manufacture emotions that should be a part of the experience, but I don't actually feel those emotions. That's what surface acting is all about. There's a great sociologist from UC Berkeley, Arlie Hochschild, that has done some incredible research in this area.

0:21:07.1 Tim: Have you ever felt that you're interacting, you're communicating with someone, but your heart's not in it? Oh, yeah. But you're still trying? That's the obligatory surface acting that we're talking about. There's no true human connection that will come from that experience. You got to put your heart into it.

0:21:25.9 Junior: I'm sure everyone can relate to that. It happens to all of us. There are two examples that come to mind when we're talking about interaction and connection. Part of what we're talking about now is we give people a discussion guide for these bridging discussions and we give them questions or at least a question set that they can pull on to ask each other meaningful things. That prompts some of the connection. Currently to my example, we do peer coaching inside our team. I've had the opportunity over the last while to do some of this peer coaching. We've been talking about interactions. One of the topics that came up in one of our recent conversations was that there's an opportunity for us to improve the quality of the interactions that we're having with people, even when those interactions aren't or especially when they're not based around utility or some sort of business interaction. It could be that you're meeting someone new. It could be that you are at the grocery store and you're bumping into the cashier. The person that I was doing coaching with said, sometimes it's really difficult to connect. The interactions just seem to be really brief.

0:22:48.2 Junior: They're not very meaningful. Then when we run out of things to say, that's that. It gets a little bit awkward. We talked about questions that we can use as icebreakers and conversation starters to help improve that process. This is something that we can think about when we're talking about bridging discussions. One of the questions that we came up with was, what's been on your mind lately? This is a question that I've been using recently in the last, let's say, four or five weeks in between our coaching sessions. It's really helped me. If I find myself with another person instead of saying, hey, how are you doing? Because the answer to that is always, oh, I'm fine. I'm busy. Instead, ask, what's been on your mind lately? That's opened the doors for some really interesting conversations that I've had. The second example is, recently we had a team dinner. One of the team members at the dinner asked me, what is something that you wish people asked you more about that you would love to talk about?

0:23:58.7 Tim: That's a great question. Oh, I just love that question.

0:24:02.1 Tim: I wonder if I don't... That really strikes me. I don't know that I've ever asked anyone that question. I don't know if anyone's ever asked me that question, but that is an incredible question.

0:24:14.3 Junior: No, it was an incredible question. Shout out Jillian. She's a copywriter on our team and is in charge of the newsletter. If you have not subscribed to the newsletter, do that.

0:24:25.5 Tim: Jillian asked that question.

0:24:27.0 Junior: Yeah. Then we went around the table, at our table, and answered. It was fascinating to me, the answers to that question, because people started talking about things that they were passionate about, that they wish people would ask them about, but you don't normally get an opportunity to talk about something that might be esoteric or really left field, because people don't know. We had conversations about origami, about cooking, about swing dancing. She asked me, and I said, well, I used to do debate. We had this really interesting conversation about debate and the culture that surrounds debate and just a whole bunch of interesting stuff. I just wanted to point that out, that sometimes the difference between effective or ineffective bridging is just a good question at the front end of a conversation. The way that we stack these questions in the discussion guide is geared towards that. Here are a few that we've used. When did you feel included at work? When did you feel excluded at work? What makes you feel most vulnerable at work? What would you like others to know and appreciate about you? Whom do you know that is skilled at modeling inclusion?

0:25:57.5 Junior: What do they do? Think about yourself in a situation. You're in a bridging discussion with another person, and you're asking them that question. What would you like others to know and appreciate about you? That creates some real interesting conversation, some really good raw material to be able to connect with another person. If they answer that question and you answer that question, chances are you're going to find yourself connecting.

0:26:24.0 Junior: I want to come back to the importance of having an effective question ready. If we go to people and we say, here's bonding, here's bridging, here's the importance of bridging, everyone will shake their heads. They will nod in agreement and they'll say, great, let's do it. But they will then go out and make bids for connection with other people through trying to bridge. Again, it's not going to go well. Often, it doesn't go well. I just want to come back to the importance of having an effective question to catalyze that bridging process. All you need is one. You just need one to catalyze that process. If it's a good question and the person is willing to share on the other end, you have ignited that process and it's going to be a good experience. It's not going to be another situation where you walk away and say, well, I just tolerated that ritual one more time. No. You will come away and say, I had a deeply human experience. I connected with someone that is very different than I am. But what happens when you do that, the natural fruit of that bridging process and that connecting with someone that's not like you is appreciation and affection.

0:27:49.9 Tim: These are natural fruits, natural consequences of that process. You can't walk away and feel or think otherwise.

0:28:00.4 Junior: Well, it speaks to the empathic inquiry that you mentioned a few minutes ago. That's what we're doing here. It's loaded with curiosity and we're really curious about what the response is going to be. A huge piece of the intent of getting the right question at the beginning is to bump people out of their talk track. That's what I have found to be most effective because we each have these talk tracks when someone says, how have you been? Oh, really busy. Things have been great. How many times have you heard that? Because it's the same question every time. We've got the response preloaded. It's ready to go.

0:28:38.6 Tim: Let's get off script. Let's knock them off script.

0:28:41.8 Junior: Exactly. Just last night, last night, I kid you not, I met a social gathering and I asked a woman that was next to me, what's been on your mind lately? She said, it took her a second too. It was a pause because she couldn't say busy. You could see her want to say, oh, I've been great. I've been busy, but it didn't answer the question.

0:29:05.1 Tim: You threw her off.

0:29:06.1 Junior: Bumped out of her talk track and says, actually, my husband had an accident two weeks ago and is having some real trouble walking and then launches into this entire story about what's been on her mind and what she's been having to do and how her life has been difficult and how she's had to ask for help and how the plumber needed to help with this thing. The kids came over and had this conversation. I just asked one question. I hadn't even said anything after that first question before she launches into this amazing story.

0:29:44.9 Tim: It only took one.

0:29:46.1 Junior: It only took one. I was able to share some experiences from my life and injuries and rehabilitation. We were able to connect on a real human level just as consequence of that single question. I can't overemphasize just how important that is, that empathic inquiry. It's okay to come with these questions. I think as you said, preloaded, that's okay and perhaps even preferable. You don't need to come up with something witty or really creative on the spot. This is a question that I've just had tucked in my back pocket the last little while that's been incredibly useful and it spurred some really great conversation. That's the first piece of the bridging discussion is to go through the questions.

0:30:39.1 Junior: Let's just mention a couple of things. One is in an organizational setting, if you want to do this, you can do it two ways. You can randomize the assignments for bridging discussions or you can make assignments. Both approaches have their advantages. Think about that. Then I think it might be good to talk about guidelines, just some real basic guidelines that help. Now, you might think, well, those go without saying, but a lot of people don't observe these basic guidelines. For example, hold eye contact. Physically or virtually face the person. Facing the person, you're physically facing the person even if it's virtually. It communicates respect, it communicates interest, it communicates curiosity. Learn to pronounce the person's name properly. Now you may not get it the first time if it's someone you don't know, but make sure you get it right. That's the most beautiful word to them, their name. Ask questions with genuine intent. We talked about that. Listen without interrupting. That's hard for a lot of people. Listen for comprehension and maybe listen and then pause for just a moment to make sure that the person understands that you are absorbing that. Then summarize what you learn.

0:32:13.1 Tim: That can be helpful too. These are basic guidelines, but they're very, very helpful. The last thing I want to say here is the great psychologist Carl Rogers made an important observation about connecting. He said, only real people create real relationships. Now think about that. Only real people create real relationships. If you're not willing to be real, if you're not willing to bring your authentic self to the conversation, if you're not willing to open up to display some vulnerability, it can't happen. Only real people have real relationships. That's a penetrating glimpse into the obvious, but it's also a deep insight that sometimes just passes right over us. We have to be there. We have to be focused and we have to come with that good faith and that genuine intent. If we do that, chances are we're going to have a great experience.

0:33:23.5 Junior: If we go back to what we said about connection, that it's satisfying each other's needs to matter, one of the ways that you can look at this is there's this exchange of vulnerability. I think that that's part of what Carl Rogers is getting at with this, is that in order to be a real person, you need to show vulnerability. It doesn't mean that you meet someone on the street and need to bear your soul. That's not what we mean. But there is an element of risk that goes into connection. One person is going to reach out with something that could be slightly vulnerable. Even the fact that they're saying hello could be a vulnerable activity for them. There are two things here. How do we treat the vulnerability of that other person and then do we reciprocate? Because one of the places that I see people go wrong is they will create a safe environment for the person to share. They're rewarding the vulnerability of the person, but they're not modeling vulnerability back and reciprocating the vulnerability. If you do that for too long, then the relationship isn't real. The person may think, oh yeah, I'm safe around this person.

0:34:35.3 Junior: But if they don't get a piece of you, then it's not going to be real for the long term. That needs to be something that's constantly reciprocal, that's symbiotic, that's back and forth. That's what I think about when I think about that Carl Rogers statement. Chances are, Junior, that'll be a short conversation if you're not willing to share. Think about this. We often say, well, people want to be seen, heard, and understood. I agree with that. But if you can't be you, then you can't be seen, heard, and understood. Think about that. That's a corollary principle. If you're not willing to be you, don't expect to be seen, heard, and understood. That's not how it's going to work because you're not sharing, you're unwilling to share, and therefore that's not possible. If you can't be you, there's no chance to be understood. If you can be you, then there's a big chance that you can be understood. You have an obligation here in this discussion, in this bridging discussion. You go through the questions, you have a conversation, a back and forth about these questions. Then at the end, there's a commitment to practicing at least one inclusive behavior.

0:36:03.2 Junior: We put these into seven different categories and we won't go into all of the detail, but here are the seven. Greeting, asking, listening, sharing, inviting, helping, and protecting. Each of us looks at that list of seven and we choose one. Maybe you have a hard time just greeting. You go in your routine, it's very rote, it's very monotonous, and you don't break out of that, you don't greet anyone new. Maybe that's something that you can work on. Asking, maybe that empathic inquiry is something that you really, really want to work on. Just getting that started is asking. Maybe you're good at getting it started, but then you jump in with your own stories, your own experience, and you start speaking over the person. Maybe you're going to choose listening. Maybe you're going to try and listen and pause. Maybe you're not good at reciprocating that vulnerability, so you might choose sharing in an effort to share your own experience, the way that you feel about a given issue, being open and honest about your opinion. We have inviting, helping, and protecting. All of these roll into stage one inclusion safety. If you're looking at the way that this ties back into the four stages in the model, all of these are behaviors that help create and sustain level one inclusion safety.

0:37:27.1 Junior: If you do these things well, you'll have inclusion safety. If the team does things well, it will exist at the team level. If you do these things as an organization, it will happen organizationally. Just this morning, I was in a pre-event call for a client that we'll be engaging with tomorrow. We were talking about some of the norms of their team. Something that comes up a lot is that while the level of psychological safety or inclusion safety is one way in my team, it's different cross-functionally. As soon as we move across this boundary or in a new environment, we approach the situation completely differently. The vulnerability is different. It's punished more or it's punished less. I call that out because one of the things that you can do with these bridging discussions as you're designing the pairings is to do it cross-functionally. Maybe there are two functions that work together fairly frequently but don't have an opportunity to do things like this. Maybe that's an opportunity for you to choose the pairings across those boundaries. All of these behaviors are things that I've seen work. If we go all the way back to the beginning about awareness and behavior, these are the types of behaviors that we want to kick off immediately.

0:38:47.5 Junior: The greeting, asking, listening, sharing, etc., that's not going to come as consequence of awareness. Those are things that we need to, in some cases, prescribe or let people opt into at the very beginning to get that behavior channel going. Yeah, we have to jump in. It goes back to the imperative that we talked about at the very beginning. We're on a journey from awareness to action, but let's restate that. We need awareness and action running on parallel paths. We need to jump into action. We need to jump into these behaviors from the very beginning. Otherwise, we're in a passive posture. We're watching. We're spectating. We're observing. You can't get there doing that. No amount of awareness is going to get you there. Even if you jump into these affirming behaviors that validate others in any situation and you practice those. We're just talking about picking one behavioral family out of the seven, just one, and going to work on that and being very intentional about practicing that behavior. For example, you may pick asking. That's your mindset. You go into any interaction, any social interaction, any setting, and in your head, you're reminding yourself, you have a prompt that says, I'm practicing this behavioral family of asking.

0:40:12.3 Tim: I'm going to try to look for opportunities to ask meaningful questions, to catalyze discussion and dialogue, and then hopefully connection comes out of that. If you really focus on that, if you're very deliberate about that, and you do that for two weeks, you will build up some muscle memory in that behavioral family because you're practicing it every day. It's on your mind. That's going to have an overall impact on the level of inclusion that you create around you. All of these other behavioral families will do the same thing. That's how we make incremental progress, but yet it's actually much faster than the normal pace of social integration that takes place in an organization. That's why we say pick one and really commit yourself 14 days to focus on that and then come back together, right, Junior?

0:41:22.8 Junior: The fourth and final step is to report on performance and learning. There needs to be an accountability mechanism, a way for us to do this in cycles. It's important that after that one week, two week, three week period, we say, okay, here's where we've been. I've been working on sharing. This is how it's gone, and this is what I've learned. This is what I'm going to do differently moving forward. Those are the four steps to the bridging discussions. One, hold them. Two, follow a discussion guide. Three, commit to practicing one inclusive behavior in one of those families. And four, report on your performance and learning. If you're in charge in an organization of creating these types of programs, consider doing this. We've seen it work beautifully. If you're an individual, do this. Follow the same exact pattern. You're not going to follow it to the T. It's not going to be as formal, but if you incorporate these principles, you'll become more effective interpersonally. If you approach your interactions with empathic inquiry, you'll become more effective and you'll develop a deeper appreciation for people. That's something that I've learned at a personal level is every single person is interesting.

0:42:36.0 Junior: You just won't know it unless you ask and dig in and show some curiosity and some humility. It's very easy to go throughout your entire day without connecting with a single person, even though you're around them constantly. So it's up to you. It's at your discretion to dig in, to ask these types of questions, to care about the other person enough to listen and see what they have to say. If we all do that as a collective, we'll become more inclusive. And so you can see just how easy it is for an organization to stall at the awareness phase if they don't break into behavior. And as you mentioned at the beginning, this needs to be done at all levels of the organization. It's especially important that it's done at the top. The behaviors at the top of the organization need to fall into these families. Our leaders, we as leaders need to be greeting, asking, listening, sharing, inviting, helping and protecting. And if we do that, we will find ourselves over time with more inclusive organizations than we have ever had. The $15 billion that we're going to spend on diversity and inclusion will not be spent in vain.

0:43:45.2 Junior: Hopefully they're accompanied by behavior change and we find ourselves in a real different place in 2026.

0:43:52.1 Junior: Junior, I agree with that. And I'll just say maybe a couple of things in conclusion. Just to recap, employees need to cross the lines of natural affinity in order to get all the way to deep inclusion. You have to be able to cross those lines. But as we have seen time and time again, they need help. They need help in that process. The normal pace of social integration is usually not going to get it done, not even close. And because why? They cling to what is familiar and they fear what is strange. So they need a guided effort. They need someone to take them through step by step. And then when they get the hang of it, then they can do it. They learn how to do it. They gain confidence in the process. They can do it. But they really need to do it. I think the last thing that I would like to share is that just to remind everyone that the most important element in creating an inclusive environment is engaging in this type of connection, particularly with bonding. That is unenforceable behavior. Now think about that. We cannot enforce that by law, by policy, or by rules.

0:45:12.3 Tim: It's inside out unenforceable behavior. People have to want to do that. They have to look at it as an exciting opportunity. We're not trying to create a deeply inclusive environment out of compliance. Who's going to get excited about that? That's not a portrait of the future that I can get excited about. There's no inspiration associated with that aspiration. Forget that. I want to learn about and connect with the human beings around me. And it's so fascinating when I can do that with someone that is not like me, where I have to bridge and we don't have natural affinity. But coming out of that, it's exhilarating. That's what we're talking about. This is an exhilarating journey. It's exciting at an individual level to be a part of that. It sure is.

0:46:04.6 Junior: Well, thank you everyone for your time and attention. We appreciate your listenership. We really do. We're thankful for all of the work that you do wherever you are in the world. We appreciate what you do. And we as an organization are here to support you. You can always reach out to us at If you have questions about the podcast, anything related, anything unrelated. And as always, we appreciate your likes, your reviews and your shares. If there's anyone in your network that you think would find value from today's episode, please go ahead and share it with them. With that, take care everyone. We will see you in the next episode. Bye bye. 

0:46:54.4 Producer: Hey, Culture by Design listeners, you made it to the end of today's episode. Thank you again for listening and for making culture something that you do by design and not by default. If you've enjoyed today's episode, please be so kind to leave us a review. It helps us reach a wider audience and accomplish our mission of influencing the world for good at scale. Today's episode show notes and other relevant resources related to today's topic can be found at

0:47:21.4 Producer: And with that, we'll see you next episode.

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Episode Transcript

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