August 2004 
Volume 03, Issue 4 
Main Feature

A diverse school of thought

BLC helps managers to tap multiple perspectives

It’s not just talk—Boeing wants diversity in action. That’s why the Boeing Leadership Center is the ideal hub to help educate managers in the critical role diversity plays in leadership.

In support of Boeing’s strategic global diversity initiative, the Florissant, Mo.–based Leadership Center incorporates a diversity-focused curriculum into its courses—including the Boeing Executive Program II, Leadership Development Course and Global Leadership Program. The goal is to encourage managers to value and leverage multiple perspectives, experiences and skills, and integrate them into practices and processes to better achieve business objectives.

“We embrace the notion that diversity of thought, people, teams and culture are what really makes innovation,” said Laurette Koellner, Boeing executive vice president Internal Services.

“People may have the misconception that diversity is a human resources–driven initiative, but it’s not,” she said. “It’s a leadership issue. The most successful leaders are those who can gather and embrace ideas of the multiple perspectives of our workforce, which will generate innovation and business growth.”

The Center’s Diversity Change Agent Program (DCAP) is a 2.5-day course designed to help participants from all levels within Boeing to become change agents around Boeing’s diversity commitment. (Manager’s approval is needed to attend.) Course objectives include identifying cultural differences and developing strategies for dealing effectively in a multicultural environment and practicing ways to lead and manage change in the workplace.

“Diversity works more effectively and efficiently in an organization when there are various avenues of thought,” said Curtiss Witt, program manager for the Boeing Executive programs. “The BLC supports the company’s position in increasing shareholder value by getting the best out of everyone—engaging hearts and minds and tapping into the best that everyone has to offer.”

Cultural anthropologists Tom Kochman and Jean Mavrelis, principals of Kochman Mavrelis Associates Inc., an Oak Park, Ill.– based leader in cultural diversity research and management, help teach DCAP and Boeing Executive Program II courses. Their teaching focuses on the importance of understanding and engaging in multicultural perspectives and flexibility.

“Cultures are very powerful determinants in how people think of and approach situations,” Kochman said. “Each culture brings a different value-added approach to a situation, and you will get a richer, different mix of ideas from a multicultural perspective.”

“For a successful team that incorporates diversity, managers must develop multicultural flexibility,” added Mavrelis. “If you have the same exact expectations of everyone, then you miss culturally those talented people who then won’t benefit from mainstream processes. Multicultural flexibility creates the most inclusive work environment.”

For Loren Bedore, the DCAP class helped reinforce the important role leaders play in ensuring an inclusive, open-minded and comfortable environment at work. “Diversity is really about people and what they bring to a team. It’s about their talents and what they can deliver,” said Bedore, a Philadelphia-based senior manager in Composites for Integrated Defense Systems. “As a leader, you have to tap into what that is, and there’s much more value in that. The best teams are diverse—not one uniform skill or style.”

A diverse team also makes good business sense. Bob Hyink, a Tulsa, Okla.–based senior manager of accounting and business resources for Commercial Airplanes participating in the Center’s strategic leadership seminar, said a diverse work force brings different perspectives, which drives more ideas and increased productivity.

“Diversity is an opportunity for all of us to learn about ourselves and the people we work with to advance Boeing to the next level of performance and innovation,” he said.

—Katherine Sopranos


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