I've been writing lately about how love is damn good business. So it stands to reason that I would think a movement with the slogan "love is love is love" is worth thinking about, in June and really any time of the year.
No matter how you were brought up, or how you identify personally, I hope you know that some of the most interesting people in the world are those out on the margins--people who, for one reason or another, have been excluded from the mainstream. Among those are LGBTQ people. Maybe you know that the "Q" stands for "queer," which was intentionally added to reclaim what was once an insult, and used as a big-tent inclusion term for everybody who identifies in these and other gender and sexual identity categories.
Now think about that so-called big tent with room for everybody, and nobody left out in the cold. It is a beautiful idea, one with love and acceptance at its core.
The month of June should be all about including everybody under the big tent of humanity, appreciating the ways in which we're different from each other, and realizing the ways in which we can all help, encourage, and--yes--love each other for who we really are.
So, whatever your gender, sexual, or cultural identity, happy Pride Month to you, too.
Businesses today are participating in Pride Month because, despite everything going on politically, in some ways we're living in increasingly open and inclusive times, and the best leaders know that bringing people together helps everything work better.
I strive, personally and professionally, to see the spirit of Pride Month grow from an annual occasion into an everyday way of being. And it can start in our businesses.
Here are 4 things we can all do to make the world of work a more accepting and inclusive place:
1. Let people bring their full selves to the mission.
You can't ask people to fully commit to you if you don't give them power and agency to personalize and embrace your corporate values as their own. You can ask the world of people who have considered and, of their free will, absorbed the mission. People value their friends and families and need to feel that, without any coercion, their lives have been invited to be fully, 100 percent, part of your team. So ensure they have been.
2. Give everyone a seat at your table.
Let's think about groups or individuals who tend to feel unwelcome or unsafe in the workplace. One challenge is to ensure acceptance and understanding for those whose gender identity is in flux, changing, or has changed. This, especially for older workers, can be hard for some folks to understand, so it'll take some educating on your part. Widen this out to other forms of difference. Introverts. People with various handicaps; weight and body-type differences. If you aren't including them, you are excluding them. As the leader, set the example of bringing your own whole heart to the experience of reaching out and listening to others. Everybody else is watching and learning from your example.
3. There's stuff to learn.
So make sure it gets learned. It takes effort to bring people past the point of discomfort on both sides--that means both those who identify as LGBTQ and those who are not sure how to deal with them. Open the conversation. Educate people--bring in speakers if you have to. As a leader, though, if you recognize and reward behavior that lines up with the company mission of inclusion and team spirit, that will trickle downhill. Don't put up with discriminatory behavior, not for a moment.
4. Fun is the one thing that money can't buy.
How festive do you encourage people to be at work? Is your workplace full of laughter, high spirits, and conversation at least occasionally? Fun brings unity. Unity brings success. Think that over and schedule some occasions where that can happen. How about a few unplanned pizza parties, some walking meetings, and some live music once in a while? Pride Month has caught on internationally, and it's not because it involves slideshows and handbooks about "accepting." It's because so much of it is fun, fabulous, and it invites everybody to participate.
So examine your prejudices, and set aside your fears. Pride Month is not just an excuse for gay people to have a parade. It's a wake-up call to you and everybody who depends on your vision. There's a reason the Pride flag has a rainbow on it: the possibilities stretch all the way past the horizon.