Editor’s Note: Grace Ueng is CEO of Savvy Growth, a leadership coaching and management consultancy founded in 2003. Her great passion to help leaders and the companies they run achieve their fullest potential combined with her empathy and ability to help leaders figure out their “why” is what clients value most. Grace writes an exclusive column for WRAL TechWire.
RESEARCH TRIANGLE PARK – On Monday I was in South Carolina to lead a Project Peak: Climbing the Mountains of Life – Higher Education and Beyond – Happiness Retreat for the faculty of a vibrant HBCU (Historically Black College/University).
During the breakout session, I gave the faculty this piece to read about an event I attended in the fall of 2019, just a few days after my father passed away. This post then sat in my drafts for months. Given the senseless death of George Floyd on May 25, 2020, I decided it was time to pull out and complete which I did on June 2, 2020 in honor of my father.
I also provided each cohort a poster for them to create a vision board entitled “How we will help our students find their second day.” I have faith in the cohorts keeping each other accountable for their Project Peak exercises and thereby becoming happier this year, leading them to help their students find their second day…
I now would like to share with you, my Leadership and Happiness community, as my learnings from Dr. John Silvanus Wilson are important to ALL of us.
Diversity, Inclusion, and Belonging
It was such a treat to sit next to our guest of honor, John Silvanus Wilson, Jr. at the Harvard Alumni Association of our region’s annual luncheon. A renowned thought leader in higher education, Dr. Wilson serves as Senior Advisor and Strategist to Lawrence Bacow, the President of Harvard University. His primary responsibility is bringing the Presidential Task Force for Inclusion and Belonging report to life and ensuring its enduring impact. Bacow’s predecessor, President Faust, led the move for Harvard to get inclusion and belonging right and to lead the country and the world in figuring out what inclusion and belonging means on a campus. For 340 years, Harvard welcomed privileged sons of New England aristocracy and other white males. In the last 50 years, Harvard started to bring in new audiences previously excluded: women, people of color and others including international students. The Case for Diversity, Inclusion, and Belonging being made at Harvard is important for “the Beyond” – the broader community and world we live in.
Finding your “second day”
Wilson started his higher educational leadership career at MIT, while I was still a student there, and most recently served as the 11th President of Morehouse College. Under President Obama’s administration, he was named to head the White House initiative on Historically Black Colleges and Universities. He has stated that his 4 years at Morehouse were the most psychologically wholesome years of his life. There, he was not “othered,” rather he felt like the college was built for him. He was “in focus.” What drew him there was that Martin Luther King, the picture of character, was a graduate. Morehouse set a man up not only for making a living but also for life; to become a force for good. He likes to reflect on
Mark Twain’s quote: “The two most important days in your life are the day you are born and the day you find out why.”
He found his “second day” at Morehouse.
After speaking one-on-one with him and hearing his remarks, I clearly saw why he was chosen for this critical role. Compassionate, dynamic, and articulate, he was easy to talk to, and it was just as easy to listen to his message. His children said they considered Harvard’s President Bacow to be woke on the issues at hand. Together, they thought their father and Bacow formed a strong team for this important cause.
Wilson rattled off the men of fame in his Morehouse Class of ’79 including Spike Lee, Jeh Johnson and Martin Luther King III. Spike Lee stood out to me. When I took film classes in New York City, Spike came to speak to us about a racially charged movie that he had just produced. In ensuing years, I would include his movie poster Do the Right Thing in my talks as his title just made sense to me as a broad life mantra to seek to live by. Spike also found his “second day” at Morehouse. He floundered the first two years until he found a camera and realized his calling.
Character and Perspective
Wilson was quick to point out that character is more important than color and perspective is worth 100 points of IQ. He believes that Harvard can become the premiere “second day” institution in the world – helping students discover why they were born. To position them to do their best work while becoming their best selves. He would like to take Harvard’s character preeminence to the same level as its capital preeminence. By getting the right things going in inclusion and belonging, he believes that Harvard will arrive there.
Harvard believes that diversity is an instrument toward creating academic excellence. Diversity goes well beyond race and gender. In Do you have a Best Friend at Work?, I discuss companies embracing accommodations for neurodiverse candidates in the interview process. Harvard’s Task Force went on to discuss diversity dimensions along many lines: race, ethnicity, gender, sexual identity, religion and spiritual experience, political viewpoint, socioeconomic and immigration status, geographic origins and language, disability, veteran status, and discipline and scholarly methodology.
We must keep in mind, however, that diversity does not imply inclusion. Diversity is quantitative. Are there a diverse mix of people in the environment? And inclusion does not imply belonging. Inclusion and belonging are qualitative. How well do these different people interact and learn from one another? Diversity is a precursor, however, to inclusion and belonging. Inclusion, incorporation and participating, in and of itself does not necessarily achieve academic and social integration. Women may be included in a decision making committee, but find that they are not given opportunities to speak. In these cases, people are included but do not yet experience full integration, or belonging. Why Dr. Wilson emphasized “DIB” for “Diversity, Inclusion AND Belonging” and encouraged us to visit their site.
Belonging is the experience that flows from participating fully in many of the chances Harvard offers to learn, to create, to discover, and to achieve. The journey from diversity to inclusion and then to belonging is critical. Ensuring everyone feels at home in their roles is much harder than just getting them into that position, and belonging is the place where the most progress can be made out in the world. Achieving belonging isn’t an easy or quick task due to the differences in each person and their definition of “belonging” to a group, but nothing worth doing is easy or quick.
Wilson’s first year in his role allowed him to build the infrastructure, including strategic planning and initial surveying. Continued ongoing surveying will allow Harvard to track progress of uplifting of Harvard’s 5 Core Values: (1) Respect the rights, differences, and dignity of others (2) Demonstrate honesty and integrity in all dealings (3) Pursue excellence conscientiously in one’s work (4) Be accountable for actions and conduct in the community (5) Cultivate bonds and bridges that enable all to grow with and learn from one another.
D + I +B are all important.
And by ensuring diversity leads to inclusion which then incorporates belonging, the culture created will cause more individuals to discover their “second day.” In this environment that inspires the highest levels of excellence, students will do their best work and become their best selves.
Businesses can learn from Harvard’s DIB efforts with capitalism being often cited as the greatest force for good.
Have you found your Second Day? How can you help those you work with find their Second Day?
About Grace Ueng
Grace is CEO of Savvy Growth, a leadership coaching and management consultancy founded in 2003. Her great passion to help leaders and the companies they run achieve their fullest potential combined with her empathy and ability to help leaders figure out their “why” are what clients value most.
Grace’s core offerings are one on one coaching for CEOs and their leadership teams, facilitating workshops on Personal Branding, Happiness and Vulnerability, and Speaking Success, and conducting strategic reviews for companies at a critical juncture. A TEDx speaker, she is hired to give keynotes and workshops on Happiness and Mental Wellness.
A marketing strategist, Grace held leadership roles at five high growth technology ventures that successfully exited through acquisition or IPO. She started her career at Bain & Company and then worked in brand management at Clorox and General Mills. She is a graduate of MIT and Harvard Business School and holds a positive coaching certification from the Whole Being Institute.
Grace and her partner, Rich Chleboski, a cleantech veteran, develop and implement strategies to support the growth of impact focused companies and then coach their leaders in carrying out their strategic plans. Their expertise spans all phases of the business from evaluation through growth and liquidity.