Become the diverse voice at the table
Philanthropists and executives believe they have responded to calls for greater diversity of thought at the table, but many do not understand they must change their own operating style to integrate alternative viewpoints presented by unicorns they recruit. What operational parameters do you require to be successful? Is the risk worth the reward? Unequivocally yes.
Determine in advance what you hope to achieve from the relationship
You can’t expand your leadership skills without taking risks. The key is strategically mapping out your career goals and identifying opportunities in which you can balance risks and rewards to get where you want to go as you build your personal brand portfolio and knowledge base.
Remember, your career is a learning engine. When hired to be the diverse opinion holder, you automatically become vulnerable. Own it. Empower yourself to make the most of your time. Sometimes it works. Sometimes it doesn’t; however, if you approach from a positive intent, you will discover success points and rewards in unusual ways.
Document your remit
Confirm the problem you are solving. Articulate your professional standards. Outline how you plan to execute. Document what your task list is. Do research to fill knowledge gaps. Admit when you don’t understand. It is expected that you will ask questions or clarify points which are unfamiliar to you.
Ask your “godfather” to convey to the greater team what makes your POV unique and required to solve the problem. You may not be an expert in their fields, but you understand trends and can provide best of class benchmarks to assess the problem from a different angle.
Establish a clear framework for reports, scheduled check-ins and predetermined success criteria
Stay on point. Speak with facts.
If questioned, diplomatically remind everyone why they asked you to join the discussion. Listen and understand the “why” behind alternative viewpoints.
Earn your stripes by being diligent. Ask how you can help others. Report your findings without criticism. Those in an institution can feel threatened by people who think differently. Ask the individual who hired you to “clear the runway” from rubble thrown in your path.
If you can’t run fast or are not provided with required information, step back and have the professional courage to reset parameters. It’s not personal. It’s just business.
Adapt your behavior to fit the environment in which you operate
See the world from the organisation’s point of view. To be most successful, you will have more success when using their language and preferred formats. They asked for your alternative thoughts, but they did not ask you to upend their culture. Don’t argue, nitpick, or criticise.
Manage your relationships with respect, dignity, and grace. You don’t know why people made past decisions but give someone the benefit of the doubt as problems are inherited in many cases, not created. Maintain the attitude that we are all in this together to link arms and solve the problem.
Don’t Forget to Enjoy Yourself
Being a pioneer is stressful. However, it is also energising when you are solving a complex problem – visualise an alternative future and build a path to execute the vision. Invite your network to join your journey. Dig deep and learn.
Success is a team sport. When you meet a major milestone, celebrate it. The reward you garner is what you make of the opportunity and your good results. Your contribution may be big or small, but its impact has a ripple effect and results in needed change. Stick to these principles and be proud of the part you play.
Lisa Gable is the author of Wall Street Journal bestseller, Turnaround – How to Change Course When Things Are Going South.