Page 24 - Foreign Service Journal - May 2013

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24
MAY 2013
|
THE FOREIGN SERVICE JOURNAL
as the State Department,
that have powerful vertical
hierarchies; a strong and
deeply ingrained culture
that is often self-referential,
inward-looking and lacking
clear measures of success;
a system of discipline that
ofers few rewards for suc-
cessful risk-taking, but lots
of punishment if initiative leads to failure; and entry based on a
complex examination system that does not recognize contem-
porary conditions.
Our State Department panel debated the relative value of
current recruitment measures, such as the Foreign Service
exam, lateral entry, specialized programs for minorities, etc.
While individual members may have preferred one approach
over another, there was a consensus that the recruitment base
must be quickly and innovatively rethought. We suggested
bolder, more targeted ties to external sources of innovation
and diversity, and internal reforms to reward new ideas and
promote deeper, more practical knowledge.
State should emulate successful private frms by aggressively
recruiting innovative young people through targeted intern-
ships to identify top candidates, especially those who use social
media successfully. And just as the Foreign Service Institute can
teach anyone Spanish or embassy management, it should be
able to teach anyone how to improve their cultural competence,
and to nurture their innovative spirits.
Tere is no silver bullet to meet the challenges of double
diversity, but forward-looking leadership can make a huge
diference. Just look at the pathbreaking steps State has already
taken in regard to women, both in terms of substantive issues of
special importance to women and high-level appointments.
Diversity, Innovation and Transformative Inclusion
To prioritize diversity, organizations like the State Depart-
ment must think boldly, beyond the legacy paradigms of “afr-
mative action,” “diversity” or “inclusion.”
Te frst bold step is to recognize that, whatever we call these
baskets of activities and attitudes, at this point in American his-
tory they are mission-critical.
Te second bold step is to accept
why
they are mission-crit-
ical: not for ethical and legal reasons alone; nor simply because
we are experiencing a substantial overall labor shortage for
highly skilled employees of all types. Tey are essential because
we need to hire people
with brand-new portfolios
of talents, whose diverse
perspectives can challenge
and change for the better
our traditional ways of
thinking and acting. And
we need to give this new
talent the leeway to do so.
Tird, we need to
aggressively pursue change agents. We need to hire the impa-
tient, the diferent. We need to bring in employees with distinc-
tive emotional intelligences and diferent kinds of traditional
intelligences, with diferent professional backgrounds and
complementary strengths.
Finally, ethnic diversity by itself is not enough. We also
need all new employees to be culturally competent and able to
negotiate important diferences; to be respectful of both tradi-
tion and transition; and to be able to minimize the inevitable
frictions that will occur.
Creating a diverse, inclusive organizational culture requires
training in cultural competence for everyone.
Moving Forward
Moving forward, we should hire people with diverse per-
spectives not just to help them be more like us, but to help us
and our organizations be more like
them
. Tere must be a bal-
ance between acculturating employees enough to make them
efective, but not so much that all their creativity, innovation
and diferent perspectives are diluted.
To get a better idea of the required approach, ask yourself
this question:
If you were inventing the U.S. diplomatic service
from scratch in today’s world, what would it look like?
Wouldn’t
there be more bridges between the department and other
stakeholders in society? Wouldn’t we recruit more people with
science and technology backgrounds? Wouldn’t we have a more
ethnically diverse Civil and Foreign Service?
Finally, and perhaps most importantly, our new global and
local conditions require a new kind of leadership. Tese chal-
lenges for success place huge responsibilities and demands on
the shoulders of today’s leaders.
Engaging double diversity, through cultural competence,
to achieve innovative, transformative inclusion, is not easy.
It’s a messy process flled with experiments that will succeed,
and others that will fail. It is a challenge, but what an exciting,
timely and hugely important one!
n
There is no silver bullet to
meet the challenges of double
diversity, but forward-looking
leadership can make a
huge diference.