How to Know You Have to Change as a Leader

July 7, 2016, 2:52 PM UTC
Frustrated businessman in office
Frustrated businessman in office
Photograph by Westend61 via Getty Images

The Fortune 500 Insiders Network is an online community where top executives from the Fortune 500 share ideas and offer leadership advice with Fortune’s global audience. Danny Peltz, executive vice president and group head in wholesale banking at Wells Fargo, has answered the question: How do you encourage diversity in the workplace?

Encouraging diversity in the workplace isn’t something that you should do. It’s something you must do if you want to lead a successful company. After all, one of the great benefits of having diversity in the workplace is the variety of ideas and perspectives that a diverse team is able to contribute. There is a higher probability of innovation the more diverse a group gets. And it’s not just about ethnicity or skin color. It’s about including people of different generations, genders, abilities, cultures, sexual orientations, and backgrounds.

The United States of today is an increasingly diverse country. According to Pew Research Center estimates, by 2055, no single group will be a majority in the United States. Establishing a strong and diverse team will provide the necessary breadth of perspectives that will enable you to compete for your customers’ attention, both now and into the future.

As leaders, it is our responsibility to appreciate the different perspectives a diverse population brings to the table, and ensure they are understood and supported in the workplace. You need to create an environment that is inclusive and comfortable for all types of people and perspectives to thrive. This is where leadership matters the most—and where it all starts.

Though it may be a cliché, communication is key. There’s no use in having a diverse workforce if you aren’t taking advantage of what your employees’ differing experiences can contribute. Diversity councils and committees are a good start. You will learn a lot from the deep and meaningful discussions. But the information-gathering and idea generation shouldn’t end there. That’s why I spend a lot of time at offices across the country—walking the floors, hosting town halls, asking questions, and listening to and directly responding to people’s thoughts.

We all naturally align with people who are “like us,” which means we not only look the same, but also think the same. If you find yourself doing this, you have to change. Leaders need to model the way forward.

Walk the talk and do what you say. If you expect your teams to hire diverse candidates, that same expectation falls on you. Stretch yourself, and cast a wider net to increase your chances of recruiting from a more diverse candidate pool.

I believe in kaizen, a Japanese business philosophy that essentially means continuous improvement. We use that philosophy in all of the businesses I run, and have established a quarterly cadence to make incremental improvements to our products and services. Diversity is no different. It requires time and the continual support of leadership to improve. Start with a clear focus, and take small steps at first. It might feel slow, but these small steps are what will eventually lead to a changing and more diverse team.

To ensure you are making progress, set aside time to check in with yourself, and ask a series of questions. When you look at the team, is it changing? Does the composition of your team reflect the composition of your customer base? Are you spending time with people who are less like you? Are your team members engaged? Are you retaining diverse team members? When you have open positions, are you attracting a diverse candidate pool? Do you have an inclusive environment? If you can answer “yes” to these questions, then you know you’ve successfully built a diverse workforce. I look forward to the day when diversity in the workplace is not a problem to be solved, but something that just is.