Putting Diversity to Work

Dr. Relly Nadler:
 Today, we are sharing one our popular interviews. It’s Kate Berardo, who is the author of the book, Putting Diversity to Work. Kate specializes in global skill building, leadership development, inter-cultural transitions, and diverse teams. She provides consulting, training and coaching to help individuals to be effective, global leaders and organizations to help navigate complex cultural challenges like we all see in our global economy now. Her training experience spans more than a dozen countries and has involved working with hundreds of individuals from over 35 nations.

Cathy Greenberg: It’s amazing how the universe puts likeminded individuals together in some extraordinary places. Kate and I were both asked to be speakers at a recent conference at a large company, a global company. We were talking about the importance of different diversity values at this particular program. Kate was one of the very intriguing speakers, I had actually looked up her book, Putting Diversity to Work, prior to arriving. I was fascinated by what Kate does.

Two of her latest consulting projects have been leading a multi-country, multi-site, strategic training initiative to launch a global resourcing project in enabling international high potential teams to develop working practices. Her work has been the subject of media worldwide including CNN’s Business Traveler, and the Dubai Daily Gulf News.

Aside from consulting and training, Kate also teaches University International Business Management Courses, and she develops educational curriculum.

Kate has sat on multiple advisory boards and she is involved in research and development of effective training methods and tools.

She’s a frequent writer, a workshop presenter and a speaker at international conferences.

Welcome Kate, we are so happy to have you.

Kate Berardo: Thank you, Cathy, it’s nice to be here.

Dr. Relly Nadler: Kate, we want to start off with asking who have been some of the people who have influenced you the most, some of which may be the key leaders in your life, that have maybe shaped who you are today.

Kate Berardo:  You know, when I was thinking about this Relly I actually go back to, maybe not a traditional, my family to answer that question.

My mother was and is a British citizen and she moved over to the U.S. after having met my father who was a second-generation Italian immigrant to the U.S. He did a lot of international business and growing up in a family where you have two individuals from very different upbringings, living together and working through their differences you get exposed to a lot of the interesting dynamics as to how people communicate effectively, and what sometimes challenges them.

And so, when I really try and pinpoint the origins of my interest in doing the work that I do, it really did stem from my family, and my father lived in South Africa during the apartheid. I just grew up with stories and was fortunate to get to travel at a young age and see different parts of the world. That really triggered my interest in helping other people to expand their horizons and learn how to be effective in different environments.

Dr. Cathy Greenberg: That is a fascinating story, Kate. I guess we are going to build on that as we discuss some of the interesting areas of diversity that you have been working on. Can you kind of give us a general background on how you came to put this book together with your co-authors?

Kate Berardo: I can, yes. Interestingly, the work I started in was in the field of marketing and I was working for a small skin care company and I was charged with launching our skin care product to the Spanish speaking market in the U.S. It was a wonderful project and opportunity.

At the same time, at the end of the day, I realized and I sort of had an epiphany one day where I said, “you know, if I am really successful at this, all it means is more Spanish speaking women, because women were our target audience, will be wearing skin care products.” Is that the impact I want to have on the world? I realized that in fact, it wasn’t. Most of my interest was really in finding ways to help people communicate, connect and bridge differences.

I had for a long time been in touch with the two other co-authors of this book, Putting Diversity to Work, Simma Lieberman, and George Simons. We were often putting our heads together, and said, “let’s take the ideas that we have and let’s put them down on paper so that we can, in a formalized way, help other people.”

You know Relly, you were talking as we started off about being a leader in the top ten percent, and I actually do strongly believe that having the capacity to work in global environments and to build really effective multi-cultural teams is an essential requirement of those top ten leaders and something that differentiates them.

So, me getting involved in this field was because I just saw so much, both the importance and need for work of this type.

Dr. Cathy Greenberg: Now, when you say you’ve seen plenty of need for work of this type, my experience is as a managing partner with two big consulting firms one, of course, is Accenture, we thrived on diversity, and in fact one of the subsets of how to successfully lead a diverse workforce in your book says, “use the values of diversity to thrive in the global marketplace.” Maybe you can expand on that a little bit because I’m not sure if people really naturally understand why diversity is so important.

Kate Berardo: Sure, yeah. It is interesting to hear, Cathy, about your experiences with Accenture. There is actually a lot of good research that shows that diverse teams can outperform homogenous teams, but they are not guaranteed to. And, in fact, a number of them underperform because the diversity that they have is either not recognized, it’s in some way/shape/form ignored, or it’s just simply not leveraged. When you are able to take into account the different values, the different approaches, mindsets, worldviews of the team members that you have on a project or in an organization – that really enables you to start being able to innovate, to start thinking outside of the box, to effectively perform more because your entry points into the problem you are tackling or the project you’re working on are so much more robust and rich. It’s not easy, it’s not just by putting everybody, who’s diverse, together that suddenly that will happen, you do need to actively map and take into consideration what are the differences that are affecting us and how can we actually leverage those so that we are more successful.

Dr. Relly Nadler: In just hearing you talk about all the diverse cultures, and just working with a lot of different groups and teams, you know, one of the things I see, and I’m sure you see and Cathy does, you bring these people together and if they are not very well facilitated or you don’t have a really well-oiled leader the IQ of the team goes down because of so many of the complexities, the language and all that. I would think that’s even enhanced even more with all the cross-cultural issues and stuff that come up.

Kate Berardo: Absolutely, absolutely. You take into consideration the current environment that we are in, where a lot of organizations money is tight, time is always tight and increasingly the individuals that we are working with are further and further away from us. So, the distance becomes greater. You can really get a sense of the complexity of the environments that people are working in, and therefore the need to actively manage it. Yet, ironically, often times people don’t. They just come together and they do a little bit of contracting as a team, but they really don’t pause to set themselves up for success.

Dr. Cathy Greenberg: It’s fascinating to me that when we look at how you have laid out this process in your book, it’s pretty, I don’t want to say simple but, it is a pretty effective action plan. Can you talk a little bit about how you developed some of the content for the book and how you have used this content effectively?

Kate Berardo: Sure. So, Putting Diversity to Work is actually designed to be, what we call a self-study text, so it’s something that a manager can pick up and guide themselves through, recognizing that not all of the organizations have the resources for large-scale initiatives of this sort. So, the book is designed and laid out to help a manager, first to sort of make an assessment of, “where is my organization,” in terms of its ability to appreciate and leverage the diversity that we have. Are we actively recruiting, are we able to retain the diversity that we have, and then are we actually able to use that to drive results within the business?

So, the very first section of the book is really focused on that, is really getting clear on where are we as an organization, and what are we doing now, what more do we want to be doing to embrace diversity. And then very quickly we go into the individual leader and talk about – what is it that you need to develop in yourself to embrace diversity even more. Now, we all have strengths, we all have areas we can develop, so it’s designed to be a spot check for leaders to say, “look, if I want to commit to changing my organization, a lot of it starts with me and how I lead, and what messages I convey to my team around diversity and my own ability to walk the talk that I want to start talking.

So, there is a lot of emphasis on this book, both at an organizational level and then also in an individual level and we go into certain competencies like leading and communicating and then go into the aspect of once you’ve developed the mindset, once you have developed some of the skill at an individual level, what can you do at an organizational level. We talk about aspects like recruiting for diversity, retaining that diverse talent, managing people in conflict. So, it has a lot of different touch points to help managers at different points in their development of managing diversity inside their organization to be more successful.

You can listen to the complete interview above.


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