By Ben Hasan, SVP and Global Chief Culture, Diversity, Equity & Inclusion Officer, Walmart
The great Bryan Stevenson says that you’ve got to have some truth-telling before you can hope to have reconciliation, repair and recovery. I couldn’t agree more, though as I look at the landscape of our nation’s fractured social discourse against a backdrop of unparalleled division, divisiveness, and polarity I realize that the truth is becoming increasingly hard to find.
As I come to you in January 2021, we’re only days beyond what would’ve seemed unfathomable just a few years ago – an insurrection on our nation’s capital. Of course, the harrowing events of Jan. 6, 2021, unfolded on the heels of a challenging and turbulent 2020 that tested our resolve through a global pandemic, the murder of George Floyd, and the civil unrest that ensued.
At this point things have become so unpredictable that I don’t know what the future holds for us just a few short months from now when this article publishes. I do know it’s impossible to predict the future – especially in turbulent times like these – but I also know we have the power to influence our future by the choices we make right now.
My late mother taught me many valuable truths about life. One of my favorites is that we’ve got two ears and one mouth so we should listen twice as much as we speak. I recently heard another leader mention she got the same advice from her own mother. I am pretty sure she and I weren’t the only two who received this sage wisdom. Yet mainstream and social media and our daily interactions can sometimes leave us feeling that as a society we have the equation backwards.
We’re all guilty from time-to-time of being so fast to respond, refute and rebuff that we miss the other party’s point entirely. As a society, we’ve become so quick to point the finger in every direction but inward when things don’t go our way. Our tendency in conflict is to try and fix the other person or vent to our friends about all the ways in which the other party is to blame. But in every interaction, we’re the other party from someone else’s point of view. We only have the power to work on improving ourselves by striving to demonstrate the behaviors that result in mutually respectful relationships and inclusive environments.
We each have the power within ourselves to be a catalyst that sparks inclusion and creates a more just and equitable world brimming with opportunity and possibility for ourselves and everyone else who’s inside our sphere of influence. Contrary to what some might believe, diversity and inclusion is not a zero-sum game. When we get the equation right, advancing diversity doesn’t mean taking from one to give to another. Instead, inclusion becomes a magic formula where 1+1=3. When we collaborate with intentionality and humility innovation occurs that compounds our collective impact, creating a shared value factor that far exceeds the sum of our individual parts.
The truth is obscured; however it is out there for us to find. If we ever hope to achieve reconciliation, repair and recovery then we all must be vigilant in seeking truth. Listening is a critical first step, but it is not sufficient on its own. We must follow up our listening with a commitment to learn and then to lead. It’s only when we are willing to understand another point of view, allow that to change our thinking, and then take action that we’ll continue to make progress.
I urge you to summon the courage to tell your own truth, but more importantly to curiously seek then compassionately listen to the truths of people who look and think differently than you. Then and only then will the truth have the power to set us all free.