speak English, and I like to think I do it rather well. If you hear me toss off a phrase in, say, French or Spanish, I am only trying to impress you. And the clue will be that I’m speaking French or Spanish with a British accent.
Yet here I am working in an organization where our staff and clients speak dozens of different languages. We touch lives from Boston all the way to Cape Cod. Our incredible staff come from such varied backgrounds. At South Shore Mental Health, we enjoy the perspectives of people with diverse cultural and racial backgrounds, across the age spectrum, sexuality identifications—all aspects of diversity.
This group is all about not checking a box, but a strategy that puts center stage this issue of diversity.
Diversity can be politicized, but in and of itself, it is not political. Rather, it’s a way of doing things better. Diversity in an organization is a beautiful thing. It’s worth considering how it’s a genuine strategic strength.
Peter Senge, an educator and writer in the field of organizational development, talks about moving from the model of finding the smartest person in the room to gathering the most diverse perspectives in the room in order to get the best decision to move forward. Organizations are often measured on their diversity as a matter of how “fair” they are or how equal their opportunities are for career advancement of individuals. Senge’s point goes beyond this to using diverse perspectives in strategic ways that benefit the organization as a whole, not only the individuals within it. Cultural encounters add substance to an organization. They lead to improvements, to a culture of striving to be better.
A few weeks ago I met with our mental health team that serves the Asian population. In one city, Quincy, a full 25 percent of the population are Asian Americans, and 95 percent of those are of Chinese heritage. Some in this team is just beginning their journey in America, while others have been here a long time. Some offer clinical care while others support services. I was struck by how much expertise they brought because they shared the culture of the population they care for. The trust they build with clients—and the community who may need our services but have not yet taken the step through our doors—is phenomenal.
Trust involves being part of the communities we serve. Diversity means being part of the communities we serve. We honor the differences that exist when we bring our varied perspectives to the table not to find the smartest person in the room to make a decision but to find the best strategies for us to move forward together.
South Shore Mental Health