Very early in my career, a nurse named Joan took me under her wing. I remember attending an event where the attire was business casual. Back then, my wardrobe was mostly shorts and business suits, not much in between. I wore the best business casual outfit I could put together. The next day, there was a note from Joan on my desk that said, “Come see me.”
In her office, she bluntly said, “Young man, go and spend some money on clothes. Of the people there yesterday, you were probably the worst dressed.” Her message wasn’t just about clothes. It was also about the importance of investing in myself, and how that was an investment in my future.
Joan told me things that I needed to know and sometimes didn’t want to hear. She took me places and introduced me to people. I didn’t choose her, she chose me. While many seemed interested in what I could do for them, Joan was interested in what she could do for me. I was about half her age, we saw the world differently and didn’t seem to have much in common. But Joan’s unexpected mentorship was invaluable.
Throughout my career, I realize the people who think and look differently from me have helped me grow the most.
Fostering and embracing an inclusive culture is important to AdventHealth’s mission of “extending the healing ministry of Christ.” That mission is for everyone because we believe that everyone is a child of God. Inclusiveness is also one of our core values. We’re intentional about celebrating the various backgrounds, cultures and experiences of our team members and consumers.
We want people to feel a sense of belonging, and we’ve added questions about inclusiveness to our employee engagement survey to get real, actionable feedback from team members. We’ve also embedded inclusiveness in other meaningful ways to help validate, empower and inspire.
Coinciding with our recent rebrand, our organization has undergone what we call a “cultural transformation” centered on helping people feel whole. We have redefined the way we engage consumers and the way our team members interact with each other. As part of this transformation, we developed the AdventHealth Diversity and Inclusion Council. The group is made up of leaders from across the system who represent various ethnicities, backgrounds and perspectives and work together to advance our culture of diversity and inclusion among team members. I chair the council. Everyone’s viewpoint matters, and by validating every perspective, we challenge ourselves to evaluate where we are now and where we are going as a company.
AdventHealth, like other organizations, benefits tremendously from the talents and contributions of amazing female leaders and team members. We are also fortunate to have many emerging female leaders who will without a doubt help shape the company in the future. One thing that we have done to ensure that we are supporting and empowering women is establishing a Women’s Leadership Forum. This is a resource for women within our company, created to identify and organize programs that develop leadership skills and enhance professional development.
I strongly believe in inspiring and investing in the next generation of leaders. So, we launched the AdventHealth Leadership Institute. We have been intentional about identifying minority and female candidates in our succession planning. I hope that by seeing and experiencing a purposeful approach to diversity and inclusiveness during their own maturation, our future leaders will be inspired to carry it with them throughout their careers.
Nurse Joan isn’t with us anymore, and I miss her. She was willing to get to know me, go out of her comfort zone and invest in my growth and development. She didn’t let our ages or differences stop her. She made me better, and that inspired me to try and make others better.
I’ll leave you with two challenges. First, in everything you do, lead with love to recognize and celebrate the differences of others. Secondly, I encourage you to find someone who doesn’t look or think like you, learn something about them and invest in them. You may be surprised how much learning about someone else can teach you about yourself.