Christopher Simmons: Five lessons to tap “The Power of Diversity”

Christopher Simmons, former U.S. Chief Diversity Officer of PricewaterhouseCoopers and former Managing Partner of PwC for the Washington, D.C. region, addressed a crowd of 150 GBC members and guests at the Greater Baltimore Committee’s Bridging the Gap event on June 8.

Here are his top five tips:

A serious focus on diversity is important:

“Talent is equally distributed throughout the population,” Simmons said. “Every human being is given a brain that has great potential for something. Your breakthrough perspective may be in the brain of one of those people that you wouldn’t normally have involved in that activity.”

Judge less, assess more:

“Think about when you’re evaluating other people and you’re making assessments about their potential based on where they are,” Simmons said. “How much of that is based on you trying to justify yourself as opposed to being honest about why you are where you are, how you got there and how this other person maybe should be there with you. We have to deal with those realities. We need to judge less and assess more.”

Watch out for denial and minimalization:

“We’ve got to change our belief system about who we’re dealing with,” Simmons said. “We have to reorient some of our assessment approaches. The things we’re evaluating – potential employees – are those the things that really determine success once we get to doing it? I can tell you oftentimes it’s not the case.”

Take risks:

“We have to risk having a different dialogue with people,” Simmons said. “We have to risk talking to some people we wouldn’t normally talk to and really get to know them. We have to also give some people a little bit longer to figure some things out. Go in with a different mindset.”

Diversity can impact countless lives:

“The power of diversity is good for your bottom line,” Simmons said. “It’s good for your corporate or organizational culture, it’s great for positively impacting the lives of countless people in your community. But the real power of a focus on this: it will give you a chance to be a person that you’ll love.”

A graduate of Harvard College and Harvard Business School, Simmons is chairman of the membership selection committee for the Executive Leadership Coun­cil, the organization for the highest ranking blacks in corporate America. He has a lifetime of experience navigating and creating diversity in the workplace and the community. Simmons’ diversity perspective is broad, as he has played a leadership role in the diversity efforts of African Americans, Asians, Latinos, GLBT individuals and women.

The Greater Baltimore Committee’s Bridging the Gap initiative focuses on minority and women-owned business and the role they play in our regional economy.

For information about Bridging the Gap, contact Candace Dodson-Reed.

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