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For 30 years, we've been working with CEOs and leadership teams to create more effective cultures. One of the hallmarks of an effective culture is that they foster collaboration. 

People learn to listen to one another; not even when they disagree, but especially when they disagree. 


Cultures that are both diverse and inclusive are cultures where people embrace disagreement, are more creative, more understanding and more agile. 

In short, the combination of diversity and inclusion pays big dividends:

  • Companies with higher-than-average diversity had 19% higher innovation revenues.

~ Harvard Business Review

  • Companies in the top quarter for diversity are 35% more likely to surpass peers.

~ McKinsey

  • Companies with “two-dimensional” diversity (racial and gender) are 45% more likely to report that they had captured a larger portion of the market and 70% more likely to have entered into a new market in the past year.

~ Harvard Business Review

​Discussions about diversity, equity and inclusion (DEI) can be challenging and divisive.

We think this is unfortunate.  We propose another approach that strengthens relationships and understanding.

We think it is helpful to discuss each of these concepts separately.  Too often we tend to collapse the concepts but they are distinctly different. 

We offer the following acronym; IDEA.  It stands for Inclusion, Diversity, Equity & Action.  It breaks up what has become a buzz word (“DEI”) and more importantly it makes one think. 

And the addition of Action reminds us all that mere DEI workshops and trainings will do nothing but add to peoples’ discouragement and resignation if there is no daily action to change individual and institutional habits.  Ultimately, these conversations must result in culture change.  

Without inclusion, diversity has little additive value.

Inclusion builds a culture of belonging by actively inviting the contribution and participation of all people.

Inclusion is a learned behavior. And effective leaders and great teams do just that... they learn:

  • To seek to understand one another. 

  • To respect one another enough to listen when we don’t agree.  

  • That instead of dismissing another’s opinion as “stupid, bad or wrong”, they look for the value in the other person's opinion.  

  • To understand how their life experience lead them to that opinion. 

Diversity Is the representation of all our various identities and differences (race, ethnicity, gender, disability, sexual orientation, national origin, tribe, caste, socio-economic status, thinking and communication styles, etc.) collectively and as individuals.

Equity seeks to ensure fair treatment, equality of opportunity, and fairness in access to information and resources for all.

Action is not merely what actions can we take, but more importantly:  What behaviors do we need to develop?  How do we turn those new behaviors into new habits?  How do we turn those habits into a new culture?

“…avoid becoming the very thing you are fighting against, which is

 intolerance. It’s a paradox that happens when people insulate themselves

 and block out others whose beliefs are radically different from their own.


We must avoid binary thinking. Step outside of your echo chamber. Quit

 consuming information and perspectives from sources that already think,

 feel and believe how you think, feel and believe. That is toxic.”


Anthony said leaders must have empathy for everyone, even people they

disagree with, if they want to be truly inclusive. 


“You cannot lead effectively in any organization or capacity if you don’t have empathy. And you

cannot develop the right empathy if you are in an echo chamber.”


~ Corey Anthony, Senior Vice President of Human Resources and Chief Diversity Officer, AT&T

Brad worked in the Personnel Department of a Big 3 Auto plant in the 70’s and it was very diverse… but not at all inclusive. Trust was very low and conflict, at times resulting in violence, was the norm (the union rep put his cigar out in the plant managers chin one day)... and their business results showed it!

Inclusion is a learned behavior.

Inclusion has been perhaps the single greatest advantage the U.S. has had throughout our history. “The Melting Pot”; a metaphor for a society where many different types of people blend together as one, can only exist if people are willing to embrace (include) diverse peoples, cultures and opinions. Francis Fukuyama, in his masterwork Trust, says the reason for the US’s historic economic dominance is that we have developed the ability to generate trust spontaneously. Because trust facilitates trade. Inclusion is the foundation of spontaneous trust.

Inclusion is also the foundation of learning. Adults tend to dismiss that which we don’t already know or agree with (do you, by chance find yourself dismissing this statement?). This is the aspect of brain science that leads to polarization and obsolescence. When we allow this to happen, learning ceases, innovation is seen as a threat, and obsolescence sets in. This is why innovative companies often have short lives. Witness K-Mart; a category buster in the ‘60s, now all but defunct!

If the current trend toward racial, social, religious, economic and political polarization continues, we as a country are doomed to a downward spiral… on all those fronts.  And not all DEI efforts are productive efforts so organizations must be thoughtful and intentional about their approach to avoid "diversity theatre" or other consequences of their DEI efforts that actually further divisions. 


And there are better ways forward where breakthroughs in inclusion, diversity, equity & action will fuel economic growth and social justice.  

Our answer is to help organizations foster inclusion in their cultures. If organizations become more inclusive, ultimately so will our communities and our country. 


This is done one person at a time. It requires that:

  1. Individuals learn to be open to diverse opinions, perspectives, lifestyles and peoples.

  2. They ask questions when they don't agree.

  3. That they muster the courage to have the difficult conversations and listen...

If you want your organization to be more innovative, provide better product, better service, practice social justice, be better citizens, produce superior financial results, learn to be more inclusive…and practice, we'd love to help.

Checkout our new program: Creating Inclusive Cultures

(formerly called Courageous Conversations)

Are you interested in learning more?


This experiential program will help you develop your ability to engage in and facilitate all forms of contentious discussions in a manner that promotes inclusion and strengthens relationships.


  • Learn the conscious application of specific thinking styles, skills and emotional intelligence. 

  • Become adept at:

recognizing your unconscious biases

listening for understanding

suspending judgement 

controlling your fear-based emotions 

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Overarching goals for the Team program:

  • To equip leaders with the tools to facilitate an open dialogue about race (and other difficult conversations) in their organization. 

  • To support the development of openness within their culture that facilitates everyday discussions to help people reveal their unconscious beliefs and emotions:  Those that support effective relationships and those that impede them. 

  • To advance a culture where confronting difficult issues is accepted as necessary to produce forward movement and is conducted in a manner that strengthens interpersonal relationships. 

“As we focus on inclusion, diversity and equality issues in our continuum of services, and internally with our staff and the communities they represent, we are grateful for the DEI materials and coaching provided by Phoenix Performance. We have found their insights, coaching and encouragement in this regard very helpful to our journey in intentionally and effectively addressing these critical issues.”

Sam Beals
Chief Executive Officer, Samaritas, ~ Michigan

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Additional Resources

Creating Inclusive Cultures (Courageous Conversations) Webinar
The Role Of The Unconscious In Race Discussions
In Order To Create A More Perfect Union

Why Phoenix?

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For 30 years, Phoenix Performance Partners has been helping CEOs create high performing, inclusive cultures.  We are known for:


helping clients get to the root-cause of difficult-to-discuss, high-stakes topics like race in a manner that is direct, supportive and valuable.  ​


facilitating the development of open, collaborative, coaching cultures that inspire creativity, engagement, innovation, and improved results.

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