Canada Day: July 1

Canada Day

Canada day is the national day of Canada and is an official national bank holiday and paid workday. Every year, the holiday is celebrated on July 1 to commemorate the anniversary of the British North American Act signed on July 1,1867. This act, known today as the 1867 Constitution Act, joined  the three British colonies Nova Scotia, New Brunswick, and the Province of Canada (now Ontario and Quebec) to form a new, single country called Canada. As well as creating the new country Canada as a member of the British Empire, it also set out the detailed constitutional groundwork for Canada’s government, including the taxation system, justice system, and federal structure.

History of Canada Day

Canada Day has been an official holiday in Canada since its creation in 1879 when it was known as Dominion Day. However, it was not until the 1950s that the holiday began to be widely celebrated. As the holiday grew in popularity, there was some controversy as to the name of the holiday. Many believed that Dominion Day sounded to pejoratively colonial, while traditionalists believed changing the name to Canada Day would be an affront to the British Empire. In 1967, Canada celebrated their centennial as a country, which greatly increased Canadian patriotism. The passing of the 1982 Constitution Act that changed Canada from a dominion of the British Empire to an independent country of the Commonwealth, also greatly increased Canadian patriotism. On October 27. 1982, the holiday was changed to Canada Day.

How Canada Day is Celebrated

Canada Day is celebrated throughout Canada. When July 1 falls on either a Saturday or Sunday, the celebrations employees are granted July 2 as the holiday from work. Much like the Fourth of July celebrations in the United States, Canadians like to celebrate Canada Day with outdoor activities such as street hockey, parades, barbecues, firework shows, free musical concerts, etc. In Ottawa, Ontario (the capital of Canada), the prime minister officiates the live concerts and displays of Canadian cultural pride on Parliament Hill.

June 24: Anniversary of the Battle of Carabobo (Venezuela)

Battle of Carabobo

The Battle of Carabobo was the most significant battle and subsequent victory of the Venezuelan ‘War of Independence’ from Spain.  The historic battle was fought in Carabobo on June 24, 1821 between Independence fighters and Royalist Spanish forces. The Independence fighters numbered 6,000 men and were lead by the famous General Simon Bolivar, while Spanish Field Marshal Miguel de la Torre led about 4,000 armed Royalists.

Venezuelan War for Independence

Battle of Carabobo

Battle of Carabobo

Venezuela declared their formal independence from Spain with a written Declaration of Independence made by Congress on July 5, 1811.  This act began the 12-year war for independence fought between the two countries, culminating in the Battle of Carabobo.  General Simon Bolivar, the leader of the Independence fighters, is an iconic figure of Latin American independence and is associated with the modern day “Bolivarianism” movement in South America.

Modern Day Traditions

This June 24th will be the 192nd celebration of the Battle of Carabobo in Venezuela and will be celebrated as a national holiday consisting of a televised military parade and air show held in the Field of Carabobo.

Cultural Quick Tip: Pay Attention to Non-Verbal Communication

When new parents first bring home their baby, they are faced with many new communication challenges as they try to understand and meet the needs of their newborn. Without verbal communication parents must rely upon observable types of communication in the form of facial expressions, cries and body movements. Parents have a vested interest in learning to decode their child’s nonverbal communication, as it will help them to raise a healthy and happy baby. While your colleagues in the workplace communicate both verbally and non-verbally, understanding how to interpret their nonverbal communication can be a great advantage. Keep in mind that the meaning behind body language and facial expressions may vary from culture to culture, so it is always good to check for understanding.

Action Step:
Research communication etiquette from other cultures to aid your understanding when communicating with people from outside your country or culture.

Holiday Spotlight: Ridvan

Ridvan is a 12-day festival of the Baha’i Faith that begins at sunset on April 21th.  The word Ridvan translates into the word paradise and is the most holy Baha’i festival. The festival is sometimes referred to as the “Most Great Festival” and is a celebration of the start of the prophet hood of Baha’u’llah.

Ridvan Garden Baghdad

Ridvan Garden Baghdad

Ridvan marks Baha’u’llah’s time in the garden of Ridvan in 1863 and his announcement to his companions in the garden that he was a messenger of God and the prophet promised by the Bab. The 1st, 9th and 12th days are especially holy days. They commemorate the arrival of Baha’u’llah at the Ridván Garden, the arrival of his family and his eventual departure from the garden.  These are the days that work and school is usually suspended for all Baha’i people.

Gardens are a requirement for Baha’i Houses of Worship. There are currently seven continental Baha’i Houses of Worship in the world. Each has a unique style but they all have four basic requirements: they are circular shape, have nine sides, a dome, and are surrounded by nine gardens with walkways.

The Baha’i faith is a monotheistic religion founded in the 1800s in the geographic region once known as Persia by Baha’u’llah.

Ridvan is one of the holidays included in our top 15 Religious Holidays Guide.  Learn more about this important scheduling and reference tool: http://www.culturecoach.biz/CCI%20Store/top15religiousholidaysguide.html

Diversity Fatigue Blog Series: Seven Causes of Diversity Fatigue

Diversity Fatigue

Over the last decade more and more companies have launched diversity initiatives and incorporated key concepts of diversity management into their organizations.  These efforts were initiated with a great deal of enthusiasm and quality work was accomplished. What organizations are discovering now after years, or in some cases, decades into the work, is that there is diversity fatigue in the workplace. Their programs are not as well attended, senior leaders are not as engaged and employees are not as involved.

This blog post series explores key causes for diversity fatigue and it outlines steps that organizations can undertake to address the fatigue and to jump start their diversity programs with renewed energy and focus.

What is Diversity Fatigue?

Diversity fatigue is best described as a sentiment of disinterest and even dislike of diversity activities that are taking place at an organization.  Diversity fatigue should not be confused with the general resistance to change that many people have.  Diversity fatigue occurs after the launch of a diversity initiative at a company followed by months or years of diversity programming.  Only after a concerted diversity effort has been made can there be fatigue, otherwise the challenge that your organization is dealing with may be something else altogether.

When diversity is positioned as an “add-on” for an organization, there will always be fatigue.  Something that is not central to my work is an added burden and nuisance.  Something that is central to my work must be cared about otherwise I will fall short with my performance and my goals.

7 Causes for Diversity Fatigue

While there are many reasons for diversity fatigue, here are 7 that we feel encompass many of the issues:

1. Lack of Senior Executive Endorsement and Involvement

2. Lack of a Diversity Plan

3. Diversity Activities Are Not Connected to the Business Case

4. Activities are Sporadic

5. Flavor of the Day

6. Lack of Communication

7. Lack of Manager and Executive Accountability

 

Diversity fatigue occurs when there is confusion and disinterest in the diversity activities that are taking place at an organization. In the next installment of this blog series we will discuss the 3 steps that your company can take to effectively address and curb diversity fatigue.

For more information on diversity fatigue and effective diversity initiatives visit our website: www.CultureCoach.biz

Workplace Diversity Training: Business Case for Diversity

The Business Case for Diversity

While the term business case for diversity may sound more like a business tool that should be used by big corporations, in reality every institution needs a business case, or benefit case, for diversity.  The business case for diversity is an invaluable opportunity to illustrate the relationship that diversity has to the long term success of the organization.  We have found that this is an essential step to the process of taking diversity out of the category of a “feel good” program and into the category of “essential for business success.”

The Business Case for Diversity By Industry

How might a business case for diversity differ by industry?  Here are a few ideas to consider:

1.    Healthcare

The diversity in the patient population is driving a great need in healthcare for diversity, or as it is more commonly called in healthcare, cultural competency. The Joint Commission, the CLAS standards and other regulatory industries are all focusing on the topic and linking this to a hospital’s business case for diversity provides an important strategic connection.

2.    Higher Education

Generational diversity is a key component in institutions of higher learning due to the student population. As schools are attracting students from around the world and from a variety of backgrounds, the business case could also include cultural and religious knowledge for staff and faculty.

3.    Non-profits

For non-profit organizations, the business case for diversity if often linked to their mission. If they are serving a diverse client base than there can be a need to have employees reflect the populations being served, so the business case for diversity might be about creating an awareness and understanding of the diverse backgrounds in their target communities.

4.    Corporations

For companies, the business case for diversity is impacted by the changing demographics that are impacting customers and employees. Companies want to tap into a diversity of background to drive innovation and also to use diversity as a way to increase employee engagement. 

Build Your Own Business Case for Diversity

Every organization that decides to undertake diversity training will have a unique business case for doing so. The uniqueness occurs because the heart of a business case for diversity highlights the operational, financial and competitive impact that diversity is having and will have on the organization. And these impacts will differ depending upon the business model for an organization. There may be common themes from one organization to the next, such as having employees that reflect the changing demographics of their customer base, the organization’s culture, long term strategies and employee base will all impact what the business case is for that organization.  A generic business case for diversity training will help to raise awareness, but a specific business case for diversity will help to fully engage senior leadership and employees in understanding how diversity training will help to achieve both organizational and individual goals.

Some questions to consider as you build your own business case for diversity:

  1. What are your key strategic goals and how could diversity help you to achieve those goals?
  2. How is diversity impacting key operations at your organization? For example, customer service interactions? What is the opportunity there?
  3. What changes in demographics are impacting your client/customer base? How does this impact the work that you are doing overall and more specifically work you are doing around diversity?
  4. How are your competitors responding to diversity or using diversity to distinguish themselves competitively?

Pairing diversity training with a strong business case that is linked specifically to your needs strengthens the diversity training and also helps to ensure that those taking the training understand why it is important to their work and to the organization’s goals.

Keep your eyes out for the next installment of the Workplace Diversity Training blog series that will be published within the next couple of weeks.  For more information on Diversity Training visit the Culture Coach International website: www.CultureCoach.biz

Read the other installments of this series:

Why your company needs a definition of diversity

Top ten tips for making diversity training great

Workplace Diversity Training: Top 10 Ways to Make Diversity Training Great

Top 10 Ways to Make Diversity Training  Programs Great

Diversity training is a great tool that companies have to communicate the values of their diversity initiative and to help employees gain valuable diversity and cultural competency skills.  In this blog series Culture Coach International will pass along our best advice and guidance for making diversity training at your company a huge success that achieves all of your goals.

Great Diversity Training in Ten Steps

Great Diversity Training in Ten Steps

1.    Senior Executive Support is Critical 

It is important to get senior level support for any diversity training that you are going to do. If they are supportive and help employees to realize why it is important, than this will set the tone for your diversity training program.

2.    Have Senior Leaders Attend Diversity Training

If diversity training is important to the organization, than senior leaders can demonstrate how important it is by attending the same training program as employees.

3.    Build the Business Case for Diversity

It is important for employees attending diversity training to know why it is important for the organization and for their jobs. Including a business case for your organizations helps employees to understand why diversity training is an important investment of their time and why they need to use the information that they learn in the diversity training to improve their interactions with others.

4.    Use Experiential Techniques 

Diversity training is more effective if the people attending have a chance to practice what they are learning and to interact with other people. In person interaction helps people to learn about people that they work with, it helps them to better frame their own experiences and it helps them to gain “aha” moments into how they see the world. 

5.    Adjust for a Diversity of Learning Styles 

People learn in different ways. It is important that diversity training use a variety of techniques that help people to learn in a way that helps them to understand and retain the information.

6.    Everyone Has a Personal Story – Incorporate These Into Diversity Training

Everyone comes to diversity training with unique backgrounds and stories to tell. These stories can be powerful learning opportunities and if you incorporate these into the diversity training they can provide meaningful conversations and connections.

7.    Allow Time for People to Process

Providing diversity training is not like providing computer software training. Diversity training often raises issues for those participating that can be emotional. Thus, it is important that diversity training allows time for people to think about and process what they have learned and how this will impact their work.

8.    Tell People How it Impacts Their Role Diversity training

When people attend diversity training they want to know how what the knowledge that they are gaining will impact their work on a daily basis. Thus, it is important to help employees make the links between the diversity training content and their role in the organization.

9.    Make it Practical 

Too often diversity training is abstract in nature and short on practical tips for implementation. Provide time in the training program for participants to think about and discuss how they can use the training content on a practical level.

10. Follow-up 

Wonderful diversity training with little follow-up is not as effective as diversity training that is done within a larger diversity initiative that builds in numerous opportunities for people to follow-up on the core ideas presented in the training program. Repetition of ideas introduced in training reinforces key points and helps to ensure that diversity training provides a higher return on investment for the organization.

Keep your eyes out for the next installment of the Workplace Diversity Training blog series that will be published within the next couple of weeks.  For more information on Diversity Training visit the Culture Coach International website: www.CultureCoach.biz

Helping the International Athlete Succeed in a New Country – Part One

Helping International Athletes Succeed

International Athlete Jose Goncalves

International Athlete Jose Goncalves for the New England Revolution

From the minute an international athlete steps off the plane, they are expected to perform at a top level in a new league, with a new team, in a new city, in a different language and with a new culture to learn.  The adjustment to playing in the US can be challenging for athletes. For teams that are seeking to make the most of their investment into an international athlete, is it important to keep in mind how cultural adjustments will impact their international athletes. This is a series of blog posts on how to help international athletes succeed when playing on US teams. Check back for future blog post on this same topic.

Scouting

Scouting international athletes in their home countries can lead to unrealistic expectations of what a player can do for a US team.  A player in their own country is typically playing with a team they know, in their own country and culture, speaking their own language and with a support structure of friends and family around them which helps them to be happy off the field and thus able to perform at their best on the field.  In essence, they are in the best possible conditions.  All of that changes when they are uprooted and brought to their new US team where they are in a new culture, with a new team, often without a support structure as they are far from family and friends. Many are also struggling with a completely new language so their ability to communicate with their coaches and teammates is very limited and their ability to settle into a new community is challenged greatly by this inability to speak the language.   If they have a family, a player is also struggling with either missing them as they are back home, or worried about their happiness and ability to settle into the new country where they are often isolated due to language issues. So how to improve the chances of an international athlete succeeding?

Before offering an international athlete a contract take into account the following:

• Have they lived and played abroad before? If so, were they successful?

• Do they have any English language skills? If not, are they willing to learn? Are you willing to provide the type of support needed to help them learn the language?

• Have they lived away from friends and family before?

• Do they have a spouse and children? If so, will they relocate with the player or will they

remain at home?  Are you willing to provide the support the family will need to settle?

in if they come with the player?

• Does the athlete have an outgoing, problem solving personality that will make it easier for them to make friends and to adjust to the challenges they will encounter?

• Is there a local community from the athlete’s home country near your team that can help the athlete to adjust culturally?

• Why does the athlete want to compete in the US? Is it because they think it is good for their career or because they really want to play in the US? A strong desire to play in the US will help them to be more successful.

Before Their Arrival

An athlete will be anxious about the move to a US team. Providing information ahead of time that helps to allay their concerns and apprehension will assist greatly in helping them to make an easier transition.   Give them information not only about the team and the other athletes they will be working with but also about the city and the local region.

Early Days

Once an international athlete arrives, their first few weeks with the team is a critical time as they settle into daily life. While it may seem like enough for the club to provide the basics like helping the person get a work permit, driver’s license and a place to live, this level is not sufficient if they want to player to really be successful.   Once an athlete has a place to sleep and transportation to get back and forth to practice, the next level of support is helping them to understand the basics of daily life.

Language

This is the largest barrier to a athlete’s ability to adjust well.  The ability to communicate with team members and coaches is absolutely critical. While watching what is going on will lead to some comprehension, verbal communication is essential to a deeper understanding of the team, the style of play and the coach’s desires for the athlete.  It is important that a team use a professional translator as much as possible instead of fellow team members who may speak the language. A teammate may not know the vocabulary or may feel awkward giving feedback to a colleague. It limits the international athlete’s independence and his ability to seek and receive feedback from the coach directly.

Cultural Adjustment

Addressing the language barriers is the first step; the next step is helping the athlete to adjust to the new culture.  Culture is at its essence, the values and norms of a group of people. As such, each team will have its own culture and the athlete is adjusting to this culture at the same time they are also adjusting to the national culture of the country. People living in a culture rarely stop to think about their own culture.  How things get done is just “the way things happen.” But, to an outsider, this may or may not be the way things have been done in their home culture. In the US for example, there is a very direct communication style as Americans “tell it like it is.”  Many cultures around the world have a communication style that is much more indirect and thus, international players have to adjust to this new style of communicating. This is just one small example of the myriad of ways that culture impacts virtually every facet of our lives.

Many of these steps are not that time consuming nor expensive to implement. With the investment of up to hundreds of thousands of dollars that a team is already making in bringing in an international athlete, making a small additional investment in these extra steps can help the player to adjust better and in turn give his best on the field. This in turn this will result in higher player success, team success and league success.

African American Biography Spotlight: Jan Ernst Matzeliger (1852 -1889)

Inventor who revolutionized the shoe industry

Jan Ernst Matzeliger: Inventer who revolutionized the shoe industry

Jan Ernst Matzeliger: Inventer who revolutionized the shoe industry

Jan Ernst Matzeliger was born in Paramaribo, Surinam (Dutch Guiana), South America. His father was a Dutch engineer who married a native Black Surinamese woman. At the age of ten, young Jan worked in the machine shops supervised by his father, where his talents and mechanical aptitude were nurtured. In 1871, at the age of 19, he sailed the world and settled in Philadelphia 2 years later.

Hearing about the rapid growth of the shoe industry in Massachusetts, Matzeliger went to Lynn in 1877 in search of a better job. He taught himself English and he eventually landed a job as an apprentice in a shoe factory operating various shoe making machinery during a time when most white people would look down on him because of his race. He was a devout Christian, teaching Sunday school at The North Congregational Church, one of the few churches in the area that would accept African-Americans.

In the early days of shoe making, shoes were made mainly by hand. For proper fit, the customer’s feet had to be duplicated in size and form by creating a stone or wooden mold called a “last” from which the shoes were sized and shaped. Since the greatest difficulty in shoe making was the actual assembly of the soles to the upper shoe, it required great skill to tack and sew the two components together. It was thought that such intricate work could only be done by skilled human hands. As a result, shoe-lasters held great power over the shoe industry. They would hold work stop-pages without regard for their fellow workers’ desires, resulting in long periods of unemployment for them.

Matzelinger set out to try to solve the problem of this stranglehold by developing an automatic method for lasting shoes. Over the course of ten years, facing much derision and sacrifice, he came up with a prototype for an automated shoe-laster. Matzeliger’s machine was able to turn out from 150 to 700 pairs of shoes a day compared to the 45 maximum limit completed by the expert hand lasters. By 1889 the demand of the shoe lasting machine was overwhelming. A company was formed, The Consolidated Lasting Machine Company, where Matzelinger was given huge blocks of stock for his invention. His machine had revolutionized the entire shoe industry in the U.S. and around the world.

Unfortunately, Jan Matzelinger didn’t live to see the fruits of his labor. Because he had sacrificed his health working exhausting hours on his invention and not eating over long periods of time, he caught a cold, which quickly developed into tuberculosis. He died at age 37 on August 24, 1887.

Jan Ernst Matzeliger’s invention was perhaps “the most important invention for New England because it increased shoemaking speed by 900%.” His invention was “the greatest forward step in the shoe industry,” according to the church bulletin of The First Church of Christ (the same church that took him as a member) as part of a commemoration held in 1967 in his honor. In 1992, the U.S. made a postage stamp in honor of Matzeliger.

Hostile Work Environments – How Workplace Incivility Impacts Business

How a Hostile Work Environment Impacts Business

A hostile work environment can greatly decrease employee productivity and raise stress. Building a work environment that promotes respectful behavior between employees is a business imperative. According to that recent WSJ article “How to Disarm a Nasty Co-Worker: Use a Smile,” networking-equipment company Cisco Systems Inc. estimated the cost of a hostile work environment in its organization to be over $8.3 million annually in 2007, a figure that takes into account “turnover, employees’ weakened commitment to the company and work time that was lost to worrying about future bad behavior.”  The article also sited a July survey of 1,000 people from public-relations firm Weber Shandwick, which found that 26% of respondents had quit a job because of a hostile work environment.

Hostile Work Environments - How Workplace Incivility Impacts Business

Having a hostile work environment negatively impacts overall business productivity

The problem with hostile work environments seems to be growing in an increasingly fast paced and competitive job market. Where technological advancement has helped to streamline business, it has also greatly blurred the line between work and life for many employees who now find themselves wired to the office 24/7.  The pace of work and hourly demands have increased overall workplace stress and this can lead to more hostile work environments.  A Harvard Business Review study “The Price of Incivility” which polled thousands of employees over the last 14 years has shown that the number of employees who felt they were treated rudely at least once a week has risen from 25% in 1998 to 50% in 2011. The same HBR study included a poll of 800 managers and employees in 17 industries and found the following statistics for workers who’ve been on the receiving end of incivility:

  • 48% intentionally decreased their work effort.
  • 47% intentionally decreased the time spent at work.
  • 38% intentionally decreased the quality of their work.
  • 80% lost work time worrying about the incident.
  • 63% lost work time avoiding the offender.
  • 66% said that their performance declined.
  • 78% said that their commitment to the organization declined.
  • 25% admitted to taking their frustration out on customers.

The negative impact of a hostile work environment on employees and overall business productivity is unmistakable. The study also found that “one quarter of the offenders surveyed said that they didn’t recognize their behavior as uncivil” and that training, classes, and tools teaching civility can be essential to improving overall awareness of civility in the work environment.

 Culture Coach Diversity Training and Products for Improving a Hostile Work Environment

 

Culture Coach International is a leading expert in consulting, training curriculum, and employee engagement tools that help to build respectful work environments. Culture Coach has long understood the importance that building a respectful work environment can have for a company and has successfully worked with client’s to achieve their goals in creating more positive work environment. Our customized trainings and employee engagement tools empower employees to effect change by becoming more aware of their individual behaviors and actions in their work environment. Employees learn how small changes can go a long way, as they gain awareness about how their every day behaviors impact those around them.

An important key is consistent outreach and messaging. At CCI we work with executives to shift the company’s culture to one of respect and civility. We also work with companies to assess their particular problems and develop customized training modules or online training modules for managers and employees to create a positive workplace environment at every level of the organization.

Initiatives for building a more respectful work environment do not need to cost a lot to be highly effective. We also have a collection of stand-alone employee engagement and learning tools that can help to promote respectful work environments by raising employee awareness about important cultural and diversity issues. These are:

101 Cultural Quick Tips Book

Diversity Calendar (2014 Calendar coming soon!)

African American History Month Activities Toolbox

Disability Awareness Timeline

Cultural Quick Tip Subscription

Generations Quick Tip Subscription

For more information about how our tools can help you to create a more civil and respectful work environment, please give us a call. We are happy to help. 617-795-1688

The History of Black History Month

Black History Month is also commonly called African American History Month. The history of Black History Month comes from the need for a month that celebrates the achievements of African American women and men. Dr. Carter Woodson conceived of the idea for Black History Month.

Dr. Carter Woodson: Founder of Black History Month

Dr. Woodson was born in 1875, the son of former slaves, and he received a PhD from Harvard University in 1912. During his studies, he noted that there was a lack of information on and celebration of the role of African Americans in American history. Correcting this omission became a passion of his and in 1915 he founded the Association for the Study of Negro Life (later renamed the Association for the Study of African American Life and History). In 1926 he started the first Negro History Week (later renamed African American History Week). He chose the second week of February for the timing of this celebration, as it was the same month of the birth of both Abraham Lincoln and Frederick Douglas. Lincoln and Douglas were both instrumental figures involved in the fight to end slavery, and Dr. Woodson thought that this made it a fitting time period to host the celebration of African American history. Since 1928 each week, and now each month, has had a theme that has helped those people who are organizing Black History months focus on one main topic within the vast subject area of African American history.

In 1975 Black History Week gained national recognition when President Gerald Ford issued a proclamation about the observance of Black History Week. In 1976, the weeklong celebration was expanded into a month. The first celebration of the Black History Month was held at Kent State. President Ford recognized the month as time to “review with admiration the impressive contributions of Black Americans to our national life and culture”. Future Presidents would continue to recognize Black History Month, but it did not become an official month until 1986 when Congress passed the Public Law 99-244 (National Black (Afro-American) History Month). President Reagan explained the purpose of the celebration of African American/Black History Month: “the foremost purpose of Black History Month is to make all Americans aware of this struggle for freedom and equal opportunity… and it is to celebrate the many achievements of African Americans in every field from science and the arts to politics and religion.” Congress has passed additional legislation celebrating Black History Month and the accomplishment of African Americans in the United States.

Black History Month provides a significant opportunity for organizations to have conversations around the history and contributions of African Americans.  Please visit our Black History Month Page for more information about Black History Month as well as ways to engage your employees or volunteers.

Countdown to Black History Month: Happy Birthday Jackie Robinson

This post on Jackie Robinson is part of our blog series, “Countdown to Black History Month.”  Each blog post will cover one significant event or person in black history that we are highlighting as a lead in to Black History Month.

Jackie Robinson was born in Georgia in 1919, the youngest of five children to a family of rural sharecroppers. However, his poor upbringing did not stop him from become the first African-American Major League Baseball (MLB) player of modern times. Robinson is most well known for having “broken the color barrier” in 1947 when he played his first game for the Brooklyn Dodgers. Jackie’s talents on the field challenged the basis for segregation head on, contributing to the efforts of the Civil Rights Movement.

Jackie Robinson was considered a great athlete early on in high school, excelling in four sports:

Happy Birthday Jackie Robinson January 31

Black History Month Biography: Jackie Robinson

basketball, track, baseball, and football. At the University of California, Los Angeles (UCLA), Robinson became the first student in the school’s history to achieve four varsity letters in four different sports. However, before he was able to graduate, Robinson left the university due to financial struggles and moved to Honolulu, Hawaii to play football for a semi-professional team before being drafting into the US Army during the Second World War.

While serving in the Army from 1942 to 1944, Jackie Robinson was arrested and court-martialed during basic training for having refused to sit in the back of the bus where the soldiers of color were placed. Later acquitted of these charges, Robinson’s courage and determination shown during these events would later prove useful in his experience as the leader in desegregating baseball’s highest ranks.

At the end of the war, Jackie Robinson began playing baseball professionally in the segregated Negro league. However, his talent on field was evident when the vice president of the Brooklyn Dodgers, Branch Rickey, selected him to join his organization. After a brief stint in the minor leagues, Jackie Robinson appeared in a Dodger’s uniform for the first time on April 15, 1947.

Many, including his own teammates, did not welcome his debut. Crowds jeered him, and he and his family received constant death threats. During games, opposing players and managers would shout derogatory terms at him from their dugouts. However, Robinson rose above the prejudice he encountered and showed why he was capable of playing on the team in the first place. In his first year, Jackie Robinson was selected as Rookie of the Year for leading the Dodgers to the National League Pennant with 12 home runs while leading the league in stolen bases. Two years later he was selected as the league’s Most Valuable Player (MVP) with an exceptional .342 batting average.

Jackie Robinson’s success on the field made him the highest-paid player at the time in the history of the Brooklyn Dodgers. His success and courage on the field also opened up new opportunities for other African-American baseball players such as Willie Mays, Hank Aaron, and Ernie Banks.

Keep an eye out for upcoming blog posts that are a part of the “Countdown to Black History Month ” series. Black History Month provides a significant opportunity for organizations to have conversations around the history and contributions of African Americans.  Please visit our Black History Month Page for more information about Black History Month as well as ways to engage your employees or volunteers.

 

Countdown to Black History Month: Events and Activities for Celebrating Black History Month

This post is part of our blog series, “Countdown to Black History Month.”  Each blog post will cover one significant event or person in black history that we are highlighting as a lead in to Black History Month. 

January is a great month to begin planning for the events and activities that your organization is going to hold for Black History Month.  There are a wide variety of events and activities that your organization can host as a celebration of and way to focus on Black History Month.   Culture Coach International has worked with clients to developed meaningful Black History activities that engage and educate people in a variety of ways.  Below is a list of Black History Month activities and events, some created by CCI and some not, all are a great way to bring attention to this important month:

  1. Speakers: Organize speaker(s) to come to your organization and give topical addresses at the start and close of the month.  These people can be: professors from local colleges, experts from local libraries or museums as well as well-known professional speakers.
  2. Videos: Host weekly viewings of significant films related to Black History such as PBS’ Eyes on the Prize series.
  3. African American Timelines – Abridged Version: Post the African American Timeline in common spaces and send out emails informing people as to the purpose of the Timeline and highlighting some of the content on the Timeline.  This is a great activity that people can participate in at their leisure.
  4. African American Timeline – Full Version: Host a facilitated African American Timeline discussion(s) with the people at your organization.  This is a great event because it aims to provide an in-depth experience that every person can feel comfortable participating in.
  5. Famous African American Quotes: Send out weekly or twice weekly quotes via email or posted on internal company intranet.  We suggest using quotes that are in alignment with the Black History Month theme.
  6. African American Scavenger Hunt: Use this activity for a networking event and also to teach participants about 30 African Americans who have made an impact upon our culture and history.

CCI Authored Black History Month Activities Expanded:

African American History Timeline – Abridged Version

The abridged version of timeline measures just 4.5 feet long and brings together key facts from both the timeline and the cards that are used in the larger timeline. This smaller timeline is great for posting as an educational tool that employees can read by themselves and it is also a great tool for smaller groups discussions. The smaller timeline comes with sample discussion questions and a brief facilitator’s guide. This version of the timeline is available in both vinyl and paper. The paper version is divided into three, paper panels, so it can be easily displayed vertically or horizontally for small office spaces. The vinyl version of this timeline is a horizontal, continuous 4.5 long timeline.

This timeline is great for posting as an educational tool that employees can read by themselves and it is also a great tool for smaller groups discussions.

African American History Timeline – Full Version

The African-American History timeline is 12 feet long and contains significant historical facts related to African-American history. Participants interact with the timeline by placing additional facts/events (printed on laminated playing cards) on it for the year they believe the event took place. The trainer then facilitates a discussion by reviewing all of the cards placed on the timeline. If a card is not at the correct year, it can be easily moved to the right year. For each card, the trainer encourages discussion and questions by providing additional information. Depending on the level of knowledge of a particular group, discussions can be either introductory or very in-depth.

Famous African American Quotes

This activity is an designed to offer a small, daily reminder of Black History Month 2013 to employees. This electronic list is a selection of 28 quotes, one for each day of Black History Month, from famous African American men and women. The quotes center around this year’s Black History Month Theme: At the Crossroads of Freedom and Equality. The quotes are given in an electronic format to be sent in daily email reminders to employees of the month’s theme through an inspiring quote.

Keep an eye out for upcoming blog posts that are a part of the “Countdown to Black History Month” series. Black History Month provides a significant opportunity for organizations to have conversations around the history and contributions of African Americans.  Please visit our Black History Month Page for more information about Black History Month as well as ways to engage your employees or volunteers.

Countdown to Black History Month: January 17 – Muhammad Ali’s Birthday

This post is part of our blog series, “Countdown to Black History Month”  Each blog post will cover one significant event or person in black history that we are highlighting as a lead in to Black History Month.

January 17, 1942 – Muhammad Ali’s Birthday

Muhammad Ali: Person in Focus for Black History Month 2013

Muhammad Ali, Source: Public Domain

During the height of his career through the 1960s and 1970s, Muhammad Ali was (and remains) an iconic figure and sports legend.  For the Baby-Boomers coming of age at this time, Muhammad Ali was both a hero and a controversial figure, whose actions and fearless bravado voiced the opinions of many of their generation.

Ali was born to the name Cassius Clay on January 17, 1942, in Louisville, KY.  At the age of 12, he started boxing after thieves stole his bicycle and he wanted to learn the skills to “whoop” them.  At only 18 years old, he won the Light Heavyweight Gold Medal at the 1960 Olympics in Rome. In his 1975 biography, Ali claims that shortly after receiving the medal, he threw it into the Ohio River after he was refused service at a “whites-only” restaurant.  In 1964, Clay fought Sonny Liston to earn the title of Heavyweight Champion, as the youngest boxer to claim the title.

In the same year, Clay converted to Nation of Islam, a religious and political movement aimed to improve the condition of African Americans, and was renamed Muhammad Ali.  For many in the mainstream community, the change made Ali a controversial figure, as Nation of Islam was associated with Malcolm X and the Black Power movements and was often looked at with suspicion and hostility. Ali was very vocal about his beliefs, at times promoting separatist ideas that were considered to be radical.

In 1966, Ali was informed that he was eligible to be drafted for the Vietnam War. Famously, Ali declared that he would refuse to serve, saying he was a conscientious objector because it was against his religion to fight a war that was not in the name of Allah. Muhammad Ali faced criticism from many for being unpatriotic and was charged with draft eviction. However, he also had support from many as a figure for the peace movement that had been growing in the US since 1964. While on trial for draft eviction, Ali famously explained his reason for opposing the war: “Man, I ain’t got no quarrel with them Vietcong.” It was a reason that resonated with many young activists who felt that the war was an abuse of government authority. He was stripped of his heavyweight title and exiled from the boxing community for 5 years. During this time, he spoke at peace rallies at colleges and schools in favor of ending the Vietnam War.

With his return to boxing in 1970, Muhammad Ali came back with increased swagger and boasting to reclaim his title. In 1974, Ali fought George Foreman in the epic  “Rumble in the Jungle Fight” where Ali, projected as the underdog, reclaimed the heavyweight title. He used his “Rope-a-Dope” technique to tire Foreman out before finishing him with a heavy rain of blows. This fight was followed by the famous 1975 “Thrilla in Manila” fight against Joe Frazier, where Ali, after 14 grueling rounds of fighting, was again victorious. This time the fight was a close call and both fighters were in very poor shape by the end of the fight. The fight has been marked as one of the Top 5 Sporting Events of the 20th Century and was viewed by 700 million people worldwide.

During the height of his career, Muhammad Ali was also prevalent in the mainstream media. He appeared in commercials and did many interviews, offering his opinions loudly and without shame, claiming he was “the greatest.” Although he was a controversial figure, many Baby-Boomers of very different backgrounds could agree that he was a hero and a champion.  He was supported and revered by the peace movement; by African-Americans who aligned with his beliefs or those who were proud of his example; by the white population that shared his beliefs or valued him greatly as a sports hero and public personality. Many of his ideas challenged the ideas of the mainstream, which resonated with people who were seeking to overturn and progress government institutions and laws.

Muhammad Ali officially retired from boxing in 1981. In 1984, he was diagnosed with Parkinson’s disease. He would go on to open the Muhammad Ali Parkinson Center. He has continued to engage in many philanthropic pursuits, such as in 1991 when he met with Saddam Hussein to negotiate the release of American hostages and his 2001 peace talks in Afghanistan. In 1996 Ali famously lit the giant Olympic torch in Atlanta to kick off the start of the Summer Olympic Games.  He currently resides with his family in Arizona.

Click here to watch a full-length interview of Ali: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=5m2chT8HKs8

Click here to read famous quotes by Muhammad Ali: http://www.brainyquote.com/quotes/authors/m/muhammad_ali.html

Keep an eye out for upcoming blog posts that are a part of the “Countdown to Black History Month” series. Black History Month provides a significant opportunity for organizations to have conversations around the history and contributions of African Americans.  Please visit our Black History Month Page for more information about Black History Month as well as ways to engage your employees or volunteers.

Diversity Fatigue Blog Series: Three Steps to Ending Diversity Fatigue

Three Steps to Ending Diversity Fatigue

Diversity fatigue occurs when there is confusion and disinterest in the diversity activities that are taking place at an organization.  While there are many possible ways to respond to diversity fatigue, we are recommending that you begin by looking at the following three areas and assess your organization’s performance in each.

This blog post series explores key causes for diversity fatigue and it outlines steps that organizations can undertake to address the fatigue and to jump start their diversity programs with renewed energy and focus. For more information about the causes of diversity fatigue, visit the first post of the series Diversity Fatigue Blog Series: Seven Causes of Diversity Fatigue.

1. (Re)Develop a Strong Business Case for Diversity

A business case for diversity should focus on the real and practical implications that diversity and culture have on your business goals, operations and human capital.  This involves both straightforward thinking as well as outside the box thinking.  Look closely at the goals that the organization has set for the next 6 months, 1-year, 3 years and ask your self how diversity can help to achieve these or might stand in the way of any of these?  A business case for diversity that will drive actual results and help combat diversity fatigue constructs an argument for the importance of diversity to an organization.  If your business case for diversity does not do this it is contributing to diversity fatigue.

So, how do you develop a great business case for diversity that combats diversity fatigue?

  • Study and understand the changing demographics of employees and customers, now and in 5,10,15 years
  • What are the key activities that take place every day at your organization that are affected by diversity? How can these be improved and measured to demonstrate value/cost of diversity to your organization?
  • When you are in social spaces at your organization (lunch room, break room, etc.) listen closely to what employee are talking about, complaining about – what makes you cringe or smile?
  • Know the purchasing power of targeted groups of customers so that you can show executives and employees that real money is on the table (hint, depending upon what demographics you are looking at it can reach nearly a trillion dollars)
  • Explore current trends from your employee engagement surveys and see how the core diversity concepts of building respectful, inclusive workplaces can help to address business goals

2. Senior Level Engagement and Support

Senior executives focus a good deal on strategy and short and long term goals.  For them to actively engage and support diversity and inclusion initiatives, they need to clearly see how D&I work is helping to achieve specific goals and strategies.  Having both a business case for diversity and diversity plan with both short and long term goals will help to effectively communicate the importance of diversity to senior executives. The goals contained in the plan must also demonstrate a clear connection between the diversity work being done and how this will help drive specific business goals. When executives don’t understand how diversity is impacting their day to day responsibilities and don’t see a clear path to addressing this impact, they will stop caring about diversity once the initial push and enthusiasm have died down.

Effectively engaging senior leaders in diversity work means you also have to make it easy for them to engage. Asking them to attend events is great, but it is even better when you provide them with talking points about your diversity work, recent success stories and key focus areas so that they can share these with employees. Making it easy for them to talk about diversity helps to engage them and to make them advocates for the work.

If the leaders of your company are not talking about and supporting diversity at your organization, diversity fatigue will eventually set in.  Managers and employees take their cues from the higher ups and if they do not think that the higher ups care about diversity, then why should they care?  Making it easy and natural for senior leaders to support and talk about diversity is the key to their engagement.  When senior leaders have a clear understanding of why diversity is important to the organization and in particular to their set of responsibilities, they jump at the chance to be visible supporters of diversity.  This may require creative thinking on your part, but it will make the difference between diversity work and diversity results.

3. Manager and Employee Engagement

Creating an organizational culture that is infused with respect and inclusion requires the engagement of all employees and managers. A respectful workplace is built upon the thousands of daily interactions that happen among employees. In order for the culture to shift and change employees need to both understand why D&I is important to their work and also how to modify their behaviors and interactions so that they are creating a respectful and inclusive workplace.  This requires communicating a clear business case for diversity, the goals diversity and inclusion are seeking to accomplish, and constantly educating employees on the practical steps that they can take to become part of the process. In essence, they need to know “what’s in it for me and what do I need to do?”  If the diversity activities that have been planned for employees closely align with business goals that employees are contributing to or responsible for, then they will care about and be engaged with the activities.

Another key factor is the engagement of managers. Managers are in many ways the keepers of an organization’s culture. They are the ones supervising, managing, and correcting employee behavior and they need to have very clear knowledge about their role in this change process. Too often managers are left to fend for themselves and to instinctively know what they are supposed to do and why diversity is important to their teams. Managers need to be actively involved and consistently supported with tools, training, communication and support so that they can play the critical role they need to in helping to sustain efforts in the long term. If you have not done so already, create a profile of the diversity and cultural competence skills that managers must possess in order to work effectively at your organization.  Make sure that this profile is added to and reviewed by relevant parties.  Then take this profile and create a professional development plan that works to educate and equip managers with those necessary skills.  Incorporate the skills into reviews and hold managers accountable. This will help diversity become an integral part of their job and clearly communicate the value that diversity has to the organization.

If your organization is experiencing any of the signs of diversity fatigue and would like assistance in understanding and applying the three steps outlined here, contact Harmony at 617-795-1688 or email our office at harmony@culturecoach.biz

For more information on diversity fatigue and effective diversity initiatives visit our website: www.CultureCoach.biz