Developing a growth mindset requires one to read, to pursue knowledge from unfamiliar arenas and to keep pace with changes in the modern context. We had the pleasure of reading and reviewing Network Beyond Bias: Making Diversity a Competitive Advantage for Your Career by Amy C. Waninger. Amy asks many key questions, perhaps the most pointed being, “How diverse is your network?” Expanding your perspective will enable you to broaden your network which will unlock pathways to opportunity that you would otherwise miss. Through personal stories and some very practical tools, Amy helps the reader to navigate areas that many are uncomfortable with. Network Beyond Bias is a significant resource for growth minded professionals who want to thrive in the modern economy.
The benefits of reading on broad topics as a growth minded professional
We all know that we should read more, but with so many items competing for our time reading often draws the shortest stick. The benefits of reading have been told to us over and over. Harvard Business Review has a catchy title, For Those Who Want To Lead, Read, in which the author challenges that the history of success is full of, “Business leaders who believed that deep, broad reading cultivated in them the knowledge, habits, and talents to improve their organizations.” When selecting content for personal and professional growth, the material we choose should inform, challenge and expand our resource capacity. Author Amy C. Waninger provides an opportunity for those in a position of leadership to broaden their understanding and ability to navigate the complexities of diversity.
The necessity of understanding the modern context as a growth minded professional
While diversity in the workplace is not a new reality, the modern context has brought to light broader perspectives. Amy asks four key questions in the introduction, one of which sticks out as pertinent to any person who wants to develop themselves and their ability to reach their potential in any industry, “Is your professional network as diverse as the workforce and community around you (p.5)?” If we are not aware of where we stand we stand to miss out significantly on opportunities to meet new people, learn new things and open new doors. Networking Beyond Bias helps brings modern topics to light and makes them approachable both by explaining them while sharing personal stories of victory as well as failure. Personal growth starts with a willingness to be a part of the solution and taking time to listen.
The importance of understanding oneself as a growth minded professional
Amy does a good job of walking the reader through confronting unconscious bias as a baseline for opening oneself to embracing diversity. In chapter two we see how our values, sense of self, perception of others and experiences are core to our interactions. “We define ourselves relative to others, and we evaluate others relative to ourselves (p.20).” Operating in this unconscious bias only limits our personal and professional growth. To break this cycle we have to intentionally confront this reality and transform how we think by expanding our information base through networking. Perhaps the two most applicable tools of Network Beyond Bias are two acronyms, first the C.H.A.M.P. network which starts in chapter 11 and the I.G.G.N.O.R.E. test from chapter 32. Networking in this fashion opens yourself to see how many resources you have in your existing circles that can help you develop greater diversity, growth and opportunity.
Developing a diverse network as a growth minded professional starts here and now
Network Beyond Bias creates the case that diversity is the key to unlocking your potential and advancing your ability to navigate the modern economy. “Just as you wouldn’t put all of your financial eggs in one basket, you also need to diversify your professional relationships (p.93).” Whether you need to be convinced that your current network needs to be more diverse or need help in finding ways to expand, the C.H.A.M.P.S. test is a good place to start. This acronym stands for Customer, Hire, Associate, Mentor and Protégé. Chapters 11 through 16 break down these categories with practical insights to help you identify and build a more diverse network. Start with who you are and where you are. If you are willing to confront these two realities then the tools Amy provides in this book will serve to accelerate that process of growth. Opening yourself to new opportunities, asking questions of people you trust and listening have great power in further unlocking your potential.
Awareness leads to understanding and action as a growth minded professional
The sub-title for Network Beyond Bias is Making Diversity a Competitive Advantage for your Career. Diversity is a complex issue that extends through many sub categories from the primary segments that we are familiar with in relationship to discrimination such as gender, race, age, ethnicity and religion. Our willingness to understand is directly proportionate to our ability to succeed. “Invest in people and ideas outside your own norms to create opportunities for yourself and others (p.95).” In chapters 17 through 23 Amy walks through these categories with practical insights for professionals at any level. Chapter 21, Gender Identity: A Primer for People Who Just Don’t Get It, goes into greater detail on this topic including a lexicon, questions to avoid and ways to show respect to individuals. Amy shares her vision as well as lessons learned the hard way throughout the book. Even if you set out to understand and impact these issues, you will make mistakes, it’s how we deal with those events that makes an impact on our personal and professional trajectory.
Honest and ongoing assessment is required to continue your success as a growth minded professional
We discussed the C.H.A.M.P. network as the starting point for building a diverse network. In Chapter 32 Amy provides a grid that will help anyone answer the questions, “How diverse is your network?” Once you have your CHAMPs list, we can plug in the data to determine where we stand with regards to diversity by cross referencing with another acronym, I.G.G.N.O.R.E. To expand and develop a diverse network we need to understand where our CHAMPs fit into the categories of Industry, Generation, Gender / Gender Identity, National Origin / Native Language, Sexual Orientation, Race and Ethnicity. The final E in IGGNORE is for Exchange, this is where we determine the depth of these relationships. Exchange measures how deep we have shared personal stories with these persons, “Do you know the values, challenges and worldviews that make your CHAMPs who they are (p.198)?” Knowing your network starts the process of being able to expand your network as well as your pathway to long term success.
Growth minded professionals see the value in engaging diversity and inclusion
If you feel like the world is changing, you are correct. One of the few constants is that everything is changing. The rate of change is increasing exponentially. Professionals at every level can lead at any level, which is also the name of Amy’s organization (see more at leadatanylevel.com). This organization, “Promotes in-the-trenches leadership, diversity and inclusion, and career management through mentoring, public speaking engagements, and other offerings.” Understanding the evolution of diversity enables professionals to engage the marketplace and leaders to navigate the workforce with success. Chapter 31 provides Seven Questions for Self-Reflection which should be referenced on a regular basis as well as a guide to Recovering from Honest Mistakes which again includes a personal story from Amy. Network Beyond Bias reminds us to recognize the value to ourselves and others by engaging diversity. In writing this book, Amy has provided a roadmap to personal and professional development through the rewarding subject of workplace inclusion.
Resources for professionals wanting to learn more about diversity and inclusion
1. Review our interview with Amy C. Waninger
2. Invest in a copy of Network Beyond Bias
3. Connect with Amy on social media
4. Follow the Lead At Any Level Blog
Understanding diversity and inclusion in the workplace is critical to success in the modern economy
Diversity and inclusion are complex topics woven into the fabric of society as well as the current workplace environment. Our personal and professional development requires that we engage these issues in order to better understand this context and thrive in the modern marketplace. Amy C. Waninger has risen within the insurance industry as a key voice in helping professionals broaden their perspectives and achieve success in their journey. While some approach with trepidation, Amy helps to cast these subjects in another light, reminding us that failure to engage serves only to limit opportunities. In her book, Network Beyond Bias, she challenges us to, “Invest in people and ideas outside your own norms to create opportunities for yourself and others (p.95)." Her acclaimed book informs as well as inspires with insights that will educate the reader, including personal stories that help to make these topics approachable. We were grateful that Amy took a few moments out of her busy schedule to correspond in this interview.
Do I understand correctly that you background is in software and IT? What brought you into that industry and how far have you gone with it?
My first Bachelor's degree was in Criminal Justice, and I aspired to practice Civil Rights law. Just before graduation, I learned how much law school would cost. Then I learned the meaning of the phrase "pro bono." I decided instead to join the workforce, but I struggled to find a position that offered a path for growth. On the advice of a friend, I went back to school and earned a Bachelor's degree in Computer Science. The industry appealed to me because there was a shortage of software developers at that time, at the height of the Y2K frenzy. There were a number of bubbles and bursts in the years that followed, so I learned how to adapt quickly. I spent the last twelve years in progressive management roles, the most recent decade within the insurance industry. The highest position I have held is a Senior Management role within a Fortune 100 company.
You started Lead at Any Level over a year ago, what was the impetus to get this venture off and running?
A few experiences converged that led me to start a blog in 2017. First, I had been participating in Employee Resource Groups (ERGs) that had been launched by my employer. I was surprised and excited to learn that there was a business appetite for messages around diversity, equity, and inclusion. At the same time, I earned my Chartered Property Casualty Underwriter (CPCU) designation, a prestigious award within the insurance industry. The CPCU conferment in 2016 marked the first time I'd ever attended an industry conference. The experience was inspiring, and I began to think about how I could contribute to the industry beyond my "day job." I submitted a proposal for the following year's CPCU conference, and the committee accepted my proposal. I began working on the hour of content I would need to deliver for the conference. A couple months later, I attended the Out Women in Business Conference, where I met Jennifer Brown, a Diversity & Inclusion consultant and TED speaker. An idea began to form in my mind that I could build my own business around my passions. I blurted out my idea to Jennifer, and she said, "You totally should!" It seems silly, but that was all the encouragement I needed. I began building a social media presence, writing content for my blog, and developing workshop outlines to submit for conferences.
What is one thing that is harder than you thought it would be as an entrepreneur and one thing that turned out to be a bit easier than you expected?
For 2018 alone, I've booked over 35 public speaking engagements, including workshops, webinars, keynotes, and podcast interviews. I also wrote and published a book, which I'm sure we'll cover later. It's been a lot of work, but it's all been fun for me. Even the book was much less of a challenge than I expected, once I enlisted the right coach to help me through the process. The "hard" thing I didn't expect has been to develop services beyond the talks, and articulating to prospective clients what I have to offer.
Take a moment to talk about the concept of Lead at Any Level, the name and concept is powerful and for me invokes the idea that we shouldn’t be waiting to become leaders but engage in leading from where we are. Can you elaborate on what you envision for leading at any level?
Not only did you start a business but you also wrote a book, Network Beyond Bias: Making Diversity a Competitive Advantage for Your Career. What did you see in the professional experience that prompted you to put pen to paper and speak into this area of need?
Naming the book was as important to me as naming my business, so please allow me to answer your question by breaking down the title. Networking is a critical career management and leadership skill. Many of us fail to recognize our default behaviors or the perspectives that are missing in our networks. We may not be able to overcome or undo the biases that cause us to limit ourselves, but if we recognize them, we can move beyond them. I also wanted to be clear that the book is a tool for individuals' careers. So much literature exists on what companies or executives can do, and I felt there was an unanswered question in the marketplace: "Yes, but what can I do?"
What in your personal and professional experience has brought you to the place where you feel so passionately about making a difference with regards to diversity and inclusion?
Diversity and inclusion was important to me before I even knew what to call it. There are so many examples, anecdotes, and personal stories I could share -- and I do share many of them in the book. The common thread, I guess, is that I firmly believe everyone should have the opportunity to do their best work and contribute as much as possible to the world. There are so many problems to solve, and we need everyone's gifts to solve them.
For those who are reading that are in a position of leadership what is one simple step they can take to make progress towards making a positive impact for diversity and inclusion within their teams?
For current leaders who want to be more inclusive, start seeking diverse perspectives on purpose. If you don't do it on purpose, it will not happen by default. When I sit down with people to help them assess their professional networks, they are invariably confident that their networks are diverse. After a few minutes of putting pen to paper (this framework is described in Chapter 32), they typically say, "I have a lot of work to do, don't I?"
For those who are employees, working their way up the ladder but still wanting to be a part of the change, what is one simple step that they can take to lead at their level?
For professionals who are aspiring to higher positions in the corporate hierarchy, I offer this. So many corporate employees want the pay and prestige that come with leadership positions. They seek out high-profile projects, promotions, and executive sponsors. To really stand out in a company, though, you need to stand for something other than your own self-interest. Specifically, you can position yourself as a leader by being an ally to others.
Resources for professionals wanting to learn more about diversity and inclusion
Jon Isaacson / IZ Ventures - Creative business solutions. We help you connect, collaborate & conquer. #MTWSL
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