It’s an understatement to say, we’re in a difficult period. There’s division, and a basic and fundamental conflict going on between freedom of speech and equality for everyone. We all honor first amendment rights, right? But where’s the line when those rights attack the fabric of how and why we became a nation in the first place: freedom, and equality?
Perhaps we can start to tackle this issue where we work. If we engage our coworkers, then taking what we learn to our communities can make both places better!
At American Family Insurance, we’ve started the challenging – and sometimes uncomfortable task — of doing this. My company is being very intentional in this regard as we talk about and transform our culture. Our employees’ recent work and efforts around inclusion – and how it fits with diversity – is one example.
We’ve made some strides, and the progress in some ways has been impressive. But we still have a ways to go. This work – the work of inclusion and diversity – is never done! We’ve just started down the path.
Who wouldn’t want to be a part of a company that truly welcomes everyone? A company that believes how we deliver results is as important as what results are delivered. Whether it’s protecting customers, working with each other, or living in our communities … when we feel included, we can do our best work.
At American Family, we believe in striving for top performance at work, but also … at home, and in our communities.
I have lived a fairly charmed life, I must admit. I sit as the CEO of a Fortune 400 company – one that has many things going in the right direction. But, I’ve learned some hard lessons along the way – especially around inclusion and diversity.
Early in life, I saw my childhood friend, Herbie, bullied – in an awful way – because of the color of his skin. I’ve talked about this experience and how I’ve viewed it over time, looking back now, years later. This resonates with me – I guess because I also had to deal with bullying for a time when I was in grade school.
It’s something that I haven’t talked about much in my life, but looking back on those experiences, I know that it’s had a profound impact on things like my leadership style, how I view inclusion and diversity.
Actually, it’s had an impact on how I view the world around me. And, how I want to impact that world. These experiences made me better empathize with disadvantaged people, who often are the target of bias for no good reason.
I’m proud of the way many of our employees see diversity and inclusion working in their lives. More recently, we dove deeper into some of the root causes during a gathering of our company leadership.
Work. Home. Community. We can have a positive impact on all three as we work together on these cultural issues. At American Family, we know that this isn’t easy work! It’s not easy work anywhere else either.
Deliberately connect with people different than you – in the way they think, and perhaps in the way they look. The dialogue alone may make us uncomfortable. But in the end, the courage to participate and contribute in constructive ways provides our path forward – and everyone has a role in building a conscious culture of inclusion. Our voices and actions are critical to finding solutions where we work – and where we live.