Robin Ely, Dina Gerdeman

When they talk about what it takes to be successful, managers will often say, “I know it when I see it.”  What they’re really saying is, “I recognize the qualities I value, which just so happen to be the qualities I have.” The organization’s norms, processes, and interactions are structured to give those who “have it” opportunities to demonstrate their talents and advance accordingly. But leaders in such cultures typically aren’t thinking about how to identify talent in people who look different from themselves. When a company’s talent arbiters are white men, research shows, they tend to more easily recognize the talents of other white men. And so, the cycle continues: These employees get the challenging assignments that help them learn new skills. With more opportunities to shine, they rise through the ranks faster, preserving the status quo. […] Breaking the inequity cycle requires leaders to see talent as something that’s cultivated through hard work, stretch assignments, and investing in each employee’s success. These organizations are structured so that all employees get the opportunities they need to grow and advance. In turn, by cultivating a broad array of talent, developmental organizations are not only more equitable but are also more agile, innovative, and, ultimately, competitive. […] Some people are forgiven their mistakes; others are not. Some are given useful feedback that feels supportive and gives them the opportunity to grow, while the feedback others are getting is soul-destroying.

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