We are on a Diversity, Equity, and Inclusion (DEI) journey and have been for the last 25 years. We believe in the benefits of bringing uniquely different people with uniquely different backgrounds together within a unique culture. I specifically use the word “journey” because the work is ongoing and should be. We started when our founders established the Greenleaf Trust scholarship to help Western Michigan University students from underrepresented ethnic groups overcome obstacles to pursuing their education in finance. The internship component of the scholarship would also help us build a more diverse team.

Along the way, we have learned important lessons. One of the more notable lessons is the importance of inclusion as part of our culture. I believe sometimes companies mistakenly view the terms diversity, equity, and inclusion as interchangeable. They are not. If diversity is thought of as the mix of people in a company, then inclusion is the culture or environment that makes that mix of unique people feel accepted, valued, and respected. The Society For Human Resource Management (SHRM) defines inclusion as “the achievement of a work environment in which all individuals are treated fairly and respectfully, have equal access to opportunities and resources, and can contribute fully to the organization’s success.” Diversity and inclusion work together to create growth, engagement, and productivity.

Inclusion is something that is important to us and part of Greenleaf Trust’s story. I actually think it is a part of everyone’s story. Think of a time where you did not feel included. Did others around you get your best? Were you engaged? Were you productive? Were you motivated? Did you speak up? Now think of a time where you did feel included.

Inclusive cultures that allow people to bring their full authentic selves to work and provide them with acceptance and appreciation of their differences create critical components to team success. One being psychological safety. The term “team psychological safety” was first used by Amy Edmondson, Harvard Business School professor and author of The Fearless Organization. According to Edmondson, team psychological safety is a shared belief by teammates that it’s acceptable to speak up, ask questions, and take risks. Teammates feel that their opinions count. There exists a high level of trust and respect amongst the team. Candor is embraced.

Inclusivity also creates a workplace experience that shapes whether people remain and thrive. This was the basis for our cultural vision when we opened our doors in 1998. Find really talented people from different backgrounds and immerse them in an inclusive culture where they felt trusted, respected, appreciated, heard, and valued. Where they felt psychologically safe. Where they felt they belonged. If we got it right our clients would benefit from long-term relationships with engaged talented teammates who would be there to serve them from generation to generation.