Skip to main content

How To Design Organizations Where Everyone Thrives

Equitythe new book by Minal Bopaiah, is a timely guide to help leaders create more inclusive organizations using human-centered design and behavior change principles. The book is based on research and provides engaging, real-world examples for taking impactful next steps.

Most important, Bopaiah explains that equity is different from equality. 

She shares, “equality is when everyone has the same thing. Equity is when everyone has what they need to thrive and participate fully. Equity does not fault people for being different; it makes room for difference and then leverages it.” 

In short: 

  • Equality = The state of being equal, especially in status, rights and opportunities.
  • Equity = A state of fairness and equal access to opportunity that recognizes that people have different needs. 

Equity allows leaders to create organizations where employees can contribute their unique strengths and collaborate better with peers. Equity in the workplace explains Bopaiah, “is about designing a system, a culture, or an organization so that everyone has an equal shot, however they may define what they are shooting for (success, happiness, work-life balance, etc.).” 

Bopaiah further teaches that “engaged leaders understand that if they want to design more equitable organizations, they need to center people who have historically been pushed to the margins. This beings with the empathic practice of perspective-gathering, where leaders take time either formally (through assessments) or informally (through feedback and conversation) to listen to the experiences and needs of people on the margins.” 

The author admits that “equity is a big ask, and that it requires us to examine fundamental assumptions about the world.” She says her hope is that her book will open a door in your mind – a new way of seeing how we can design our organizations and why equity is so critical. 

I recommend you first read the Discussion Guide toward the back of the book before you read the book. That guide presents thought-provoking, equity, equality, culture and behavior  questions as those topics pertain to individuals, teams and organizations. Your answers to the questions set the stage as you delve into the rest of the book. 

Today, Bopaiah shares these additional insights with us: 

Minal Bopaiah 

Question: Why did you write your book? 

Bopaiah: I wrote the book to help make diversity, equity, inclusion and accessibility more practical for leaders in organizations. As I write in the book, my husband, whos a firefighter and paramedic, will never look forward to a one-hour discussion on gender fluidity, even though he was willing to do all the housework while I wrote the book. So, we must find more practical ways to engage people in creating more inclusive and equitable workplaces. 

Question: Why hasn't there been more discussion in the past about equity vs. equality? 

Bopaiah: I believe that there has been significant discussion about equity in education, but it has not gained as much traction in workplaces. Thats because we have been socialized to believe that receiving exactly the same thing is fair, and that difference is unfair. And if were all starting from the same point, thats true. But its clear that life is not a level playing field, and if we really want fair competition, we have to get people to the same level before we ask them to compete. Giving a kid with dyslexia extra time with a tutor in order to learn how to read is not unfair; its just. Similarly, our colleagues and staff may need something we dont offer other employees in order to contribute their strengths. 

That being said, equality is not all bad. Sometimes, equality is the fair choice, such as in marriage equality for LGBTQ+ folks. So perhaps we havent had more discussion about equity *and* equality because it would require us to tow that middle path and value both, but to also employ discernment about which one is appropriate for any given situation. And that sort of thinking requires maturity and wisdom, something were in short supply of these days. 

Question: After reading the book, what are a few "easier" actions a leader can take to design their organization to foster greater equity? 

Bopaiah: There are a lot of things leaders can do to foster greater equity that are simple and straightforward. But whether a leader sees them as easy will depend on how much courage, moral imagination, and mental discipline they have. 

For example, a simple and easy thing for leaders to do would be to establish a salary floor of $70,000 for every employee, which is really what a middle-class salary should be. But will they do it? Ah...theres the rub! 

On a more basic level, leaders could simply manage better by waiting 10 seconds before saying what they think after a comment. Youll be amazed how that simple pause can invite new, innovative ideas. But is it easy for most people to change their behavior? Again, that depends on how good you are at managing yourself. 

The good thing about Equity is that theres a host of simple, straightforward examples of how leaders can create a more equitable environment, and I encourage all leaders to play to their strengths when trying to change themselves or their organizations. 

Question: What are the more difficult challenges a leader will encounter as they apply learnings from your book? 

Bopaiah: You will have to unlearn what you have learned. Little of it is relevant in this new world. The lessons you may have learned growing up about what a leader looks like have changed. Now instead of having the answer, the most respected leaders are the ones who can confidently say, I dont know, but lets figure it out together” or What do you think? 

There can be feelings of loss, shame, or grief with this new education. And thats okay. If you have the courage to face those feelings, your world will open up to new possibilities and new ways of being a leader that allow you to live more authentically and wisely. And so, the reward is much more than the price of admission. 

Thank you to the book’s publisher for sending me an advance copy of the book.


Popular posts from this blog

6 Ways To Seek Feedback To Improve Your Performance In The Workplace

Getting feedback is an important way to improve performance at work. But sometimes, it can be hard to seek out, and even harder to hear.  “Feedback is all around you. Your job is to find it, both through asking directly and observing it,” says David L. Van Rooy, author of the new book,  Trajectory: 7 Career Strategies to Take You From Where You Are to Where You Want to Be . As today's guest post, Van Rooy offers these  six tips for how to get the feedback you need to improve performance at work . Guest Post By David L. Van Rooy 1.       Don’t forget to as k :  One of the biggest mistakes people make is assuming things are going perfectly (until they make a catastrophic mistake). By not asking, you’re missing out on opportunities for deep feedback: the difficult, critical feedback that gives you constructive ways to improve. 2.       Make sure you listen :  Remember, getting feedback is about improving your performance, not turning it into a “you versus the

Sample Of Solid Business Guiding Principles

I really like these  10 guiding business principles  that San Antonio, TX headquartered insurance company  USAA has lived by: Exceed customer expectations Live the Golden Rule (treat others with courtesy and respect) Be a leader Participate and contribute Pursue excellence Work as a team Share knowledge Keep it simple (make it easy for customers to do business with us and for us to work together) Listen and communicate Have fun Too many companies don't make it simple for their customers to do business with them. Is it easy for your customers to: Buy from you? Make returns? Get pricing and terms? Receive timely responses to their e-mails? Quickly get answers when phoning your company? You can find more examples of companies with impressive guiding principles in the book,  1001 Ways To Energize Employee s .

Effective Listening: Do's And Don'ts

Here are some great tips from Michelle Tillis Lederman's book, The 11 Laws of Likability .  They are all about: what to do and what not to do to be a leader who's an effective listener : Do : Maintain eye contact Limit your talking Focus on the speaker Ask questions Manage your emotions Listen with your eyes and ears Listen for ideas and opportunities Remain open to the conversation Confirm understanding, paraphrase Give nonverbal messages that you are listening (nod, smile) Ignore distractions Don't : Interrupt Show signs of impatience Judge or argue mentally Multitask during a conversation Project your ideas Think about what to say next Have expectations or preconceived ideas Become defensive or assume you are being attacked Use condescending, aggressive, or closed body language Listen with biases or closed to new ideas Jump to conclusions or finish someone's sentences

REI Sets The Example For Creating And Living Core Values

Are you a leader who is struggling with how to write your company's core values? You can learn from Recreational Equipment Incorporated , better known as REI -- an outdoor gear and apparel co-op.  As described in Amy Lyman's new book, The Trustworthy Leader , REI concisely articulates its core values in this series of statements: Authenticity -- We are true to the outdoors. Quality -- We provide trustworthy products and services Service -- We serve others with expertise and enthusiasm. Respect -- We listen and learn form each other. Integrity -- We live by a code of rock-solid ethics, honesty, and decency. Balance -- We encourage each other to enjoy all aspects of life. "The words contained in the values are not much different from those found in the value statements of any organization. So what makes it different at REI?  The people at REI actively seek to live out their values ," explains Lyman.

Good Sample Business Principles

I really like these 10 guiding business principles that San Antonio, TX headquartered insurance company  USAA  lives by: Exceed customer expectations Live the Golden Rule (treat others with courtesy and respect) Be a leader Participate and contribute Pursue excellence Work as a team Share knowledge Keep it simple (make it easy for customers to do business with us and for us to work together) Listen and communicate Have fun Too many companies don't make it simple for their customers to do business with them.  Is it easy for your customers to: Buy from you? Make returns? Get pricing and terms? Receive timely responses to their e-mails? Quickly get answers when phoning your company? You can find more examples of companies with impressive guiding principles in the book, 1001 Ways To Energize Employees .

Characteristics Of The Best Leaders

Author  Melissa Greenwell  interviewed many top business executives while doing research for her book,  Money on the Table . When she asked them to list characteristics of their best leaders, those who work well as a team,  collaborative  was almost always first and foremost. The full list is: Collaborative Good listener Asks thorough questions and seeks new information or is curious and innovative Risk taker Sense of urgency or takes action Subject matter experts Not afraid to challenge Participatory Intuitive Wants or seeks feedback Empathetic Respectful

3 Things Your Mission Statement Must Have

A lot of companies struggle when creating their mission statement. Author Peter F. Drucker provides the following good advice in one of my favorite book's of his, The Five Most Important Questions You Will Ever Ask About Your Organization :" Every mission statement has to reflect three things : Opportunities Competence Commitment In other words, he explains: What is our purpose? Why do we do what we do? What, in the end, do we want to be remembered for? How well does your mission statement meet Drucker's recommended three requirements?

Lasting Leadership Lessons From A Year That Changed Everything

Leave it to leadership and communications expert, David Grossman , to decide to write a book called, Heart First, Lasting Leadership Lessons From A Year That Changed Everything . David is so in tune with providing timely, critical, actionable advice, how-to’s and tips for leaders.   Heart First is engaging, inspirational and packed with powerful stories of lessons learned by a wealth of leaders with diverse backgrounds. It’s a book you’ll want to read and then refer to time after time. And, if you read only one leadership book this year, make it this one.   Reflecting on the past year during the COVID-19 pandemic, David says, “I saw many leaders using this challenging time as an opportunity to stand up and lead in moving ways. I was continually inspired by the concrete action leaders took to lead and communicate with heart – and guts. That is what this book is all about – applying those lessons learned to provide clear direction on how to be the very best leader and communicator y

How To ROAR Into Your Second Half Of Your Life

  The global pandemic has awakened people of all ages to just how fragile and finite life can be. This reality likely disproportionately impacted midlife individuals. Because, midlife is a pivotal time to assess career goals, relationships, and lifestyles, to challenge ideals set earlier in life.  “So many people I’ve talked to have no idea where they are going or want to go once they hit their mid-forties,” shares Michael Clinton , author of the new book, ROAR into the Second Half of Your Life - Before It’s Too Late .  These past 1-1/2 years, often called “The Great Pause,” has made us ask: What is important in my life? Am I on a path that is satisfying? Do I have a lot of unlived moments that cause me regrets? Do I have a clear view of my future and what I truly want?  If you’ve asked yourself these questions, it’s time to ROAR proclaims Michael. ROAR is his new concept that is simple, understandable and can be followed by anyone willing to follow the ROAR principles: