Diversity 101: Stakeholder relations and carding

By Michael Lashley

I am too polite and well behaved to explain in this public forum the difference between a nincompoop and an incompoop. Suffice it to say there are too many of both in the membership of the Toronto Police Service Board, the TPS Association, the TPS itself, City Council and much further afield in the political arena.

This is a beginners’ course I designed for students from all faculties in the University of Life. It is one of the courses in the category of Education For All (EFA). No matter what their field of study, all candidates for a full bachelor’s degree must have successfully completed one EFA course in each of their four years of study.

In the Canadian approach to human resource management, marketing and stakeholder relations, diversity is the proverbial “oil in the coil”. Policies, programs, projects and business ventures can only achieve lasting success if their inner structures reflect the values and the demographic realities of the audience, participants and market being targeted.

It is not enough to identify the people and the organizations that are important to ensure that you reach your goals in work and in your personal life. Even courting them is not good enough.

You need to engage them in your ventures and to make your success an integral part of their success.

This is the end of Lesson One; now, to Lesson Two.

It is people who make things happen, not just systems. If the system is to work in your favour, you need to have your stakeholders fully on board. You do not alienate any of your stakeholders by stereotyping them or by taking them for granted. You do not discriminate among your stakeholders by stigmatizing them, demonizing them or by driving divisive wedges between and among them.

Those negative and demeaning practices are commonly called “Harperization”. They may appear to be successful in the short term but their results are counter-productive because they eventually do lasting damage to the marketplace by tarnishing and discrediting the whole system and all those persons, including individuals of solid professional integrity and programs that are in themselves sound and viable. Everybody and everything lose credibility when the whole system is stained by the dirtying process of Harperization.

This is the end of Lesson Two. Here is Lesson Three.

Why do systems fail? There are countless reasons. While some systems are intrinsically defective, it is important to identify the people issues and the leadership issues that create nincompoops and even incompoops out of “technically competent” individuals. We are not just talking about the lack of ongoing training for staff or the absence of periodic evaluation and appraisal of both personnel and operational systems.

Take for example the chaos in our Canadian military establishment over widespread sexual harassment of women. This establishment is hamstrung by a total absence of policy structures to reflect the diversity of Canadian society and hence to ensure respect, equal access to advancement and protection of rights for all, regardless of gender, race / ethnicity, sexual orientation, culture and religion.The disaster is compounded by the “leadership” of a chief of defence staff whose “education” is totally deficient in that regard.

A second example is to be found in the American, Canadian and no doubt worldwide reaction to the case of Rachel Dolezal, the former president of the NAACP Chapter in Spokane, Washington. There has been so much condemnation of this white woman’s act of deception by passing herself off as Black that few persons were capable of taking the high road that begins with understanding, and then moves forward towards forgiveness, rehabilitation and resurrection.

Once Dolezal publicly admits to her deception, she deserves to have her explanation of her motivation and her ethno-cultural mindset fully aired. Her personal convictions and commitment to the cause of the Black community are too valuable to waste.

End of LessonThree. Lesson Four now closes the course requirements.

The very principle of diversity is based on the idea that everybody has a contribution to make. It evokes the ideal of combining personal and group humility with the capacity to admire the work and the values of others.

In that vein, the fundamental argumentation of Capt. (retired) Leona Alleslev and Dr. Andrew Lui is quoted word-for-word because it should be applied throughout the structures of the government, political institutions, the business sector and the not-for-profit sector:

“Additionally, representation of women in Canada’s military is important from a public trust perspective. The CAF (Canadian Armed Forces) is a vital symbol of our collective Canadian values. As Rear-Admiral Andrew Smith, then chief of military personnel, noted in 2011, it is “mission critical” that the military be as diverse as the general population to “remain credible in a democratic society.” To do otherwise would risk alienating the military from the public, thus severing the link between soldiers and civilians.”

Amen. End of course Diversity 101.

Michael Lashley
Michael Lashley