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Cindy Solomon

What if We Just Agreed That Everybody Gets to Play?

basketball with hoop

If you know me, you know I’ve spent the past several weeks basking in the glow of women’s college basketball. You also know I admire South Carolina’s kickass Coach Dawn Staley for her fervent loyalty to her players and her unwavering, courageous leadership.

So it’ll come as no surprise that I loved her answer to the gotcha-style journalist who asked about transgender players. Coach Staley’s response was, essentially: You want to play? You get to play.

I loved that moment. Not simply because it was spoken by one of my heroes but also because it was so clean and true. Basketball is a game. Games are fun. We should all get to play. 

The same is true for our workplaces. Work is rewarding and meaningful. And we should all get to play. In my “Courageous Leadership: Creating Courageous Allies” keynote, I do a deep dive into building cultures where everyone in an organization knows the playbook on how to proactively advocate for their underappreciated and underutilized coworkers.  

The program is about showing up at work every day with the Coach Staley attitude: everybody gets to play. After this exhilarating program, participants return to their workplaces with a fresh understanding of how they can become better allies for their people and teach their team members to do the same for each other.

When you understand how and when to step up and be a great ally, you can just feel yourself becoming a more confident, proactive leader overall. The kind of leader you’ve secretly dreamed of being—regardless of your current role in the organization.

Why should we go out of our way to sponsor, advocate for, champion, or amplify colleagues like women, people of color, LGBTQ+, people who are differently-abled, or anyone who doesn’t fit the traditional mold? The stats on that are pretty clear.

Oodles of workplace studies by McKinsey and others have shown that diverse teams are 87% better at making decisions. Racially and ethnically diverse companies are 35% more likely to perform better.

A 10% increase in racial and ethnic diversity on senior executive teams leads to increased earnings (EBIT). Sales revenue increases 15-fold among companies with high racial diversity. And gender-diverse companies are 15% more likely to have higher performance.

If that didn’t make your jaw drop, check this out: among the CEOs of the S&P 1500, guys named “John” make up 5.30%. A whopping 4.50% are named David. If your name is Robert, James, Michael, or William, you’ve got a good chance of becoming CEO as well. 

And yet. Despite making up half the U.S. population, all women who become CEOs in the S&P 1500 number just 4.10%. There aren’t even enough of us to sort by name.

Yep, our workplaces are unbalanced and unfair. And, try as they might, some people aren’t getting to play. Women. People of color. LGBTQ+ people. People not named John or David. As Courageous Leaders, we are ALL in a position to do something about that to help make sure everyone who wants to play gets to play. 

So today, I’m asking you to channel South Carolina’s championship women’s basketball coach. Show up at your workplace with unwavering loyalty to ALL of your organization’s players. Take extra time to get to know those who are most different from you. The overlooked ones. The ones with hidden talents and valuable experiences that nobody knows about … yet. And make it your mission to invite them in, give them a boost, and get them heard.

Stay tuned for my next blog post, in which I detail specific steps you can take to make yourself a stronger ally for our unseen and underappreciated women, BIPOC+, differently-abled and LGBTQ+ coworkers, and team members.

WHAT’S NEXT? Right now, at Cindy Solomon & Associates, we are neck deep in Courageous Leadership training for the cultures of the future. If you’re an executive or leader seeking guidance on how to engage and inspire your teams to perform beyond their wildest dreams, go to www.courageousleadershipinstitute.com to grab a webinar, workshop, or keynote customized to your organization’s specific needs.


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