In conversation with
Paul Washington about diversity & inclusion - the key to a successful workplace
One of Denver's most celebrated business leaders talks about the importance of diversity in the workplace and how he plans to shape the future of JLL in the Rocky Mountain Region.
"If you have no confidence in self you are twice defeated in the race of life"
A common challenge for any ambitious person of any underrepresented group is to maintain self confidence in pursuit of big goals, despite the isolation you may be currently experiencing and the inequitable obstacles ahead of you.
I remember my first semester at University of California at Berkeley quite well. Academically, I felt extraordinarily prepared. However as an African American in a predominantly white institution, I began to feel a sense of isolation. A feeling of isolation can affect how well prepared you are to achieve success. In the academic world, this preparation was studying. Feeling isolated, I stuck myself in a corner of a library and tried to figure everything out alone or, at best, simply gravitated only towards other people of color. What became clear to me was that I needed to engage a set of resources beyond what was familiar to me and to expand my personal network to include men and women of various backgrounds. Once I got out of the habit of “going-it-alone” and began to engage a larger network of students, faculty and academic resources, academic success soon followed.
Diversity of talent is a necessary component to business success. It can be likened to the basic premise of investment. It is foolish to put all of your assets into one type of investment product. Instead, you create a diversified portfolio, thereby hedging your risks against unforeseen circumstances, while at the same time increasing your opportunity for success in a dynamic environment.
At JLL, I believe both the pursuit and support of diversity in the workplace is going well. It starts with leadership at the top, who reinforce the importance of diversity as good business practice, not just the right thing to do. Moreover, at JLL, diversity is appropriately defined, tracked and taken seriously.
In its pursuit of diversity, JLL has not sacrificed its demanding criteria for the very best talent. Rather, JLL is attempting to attract and retain diverse talent by creating an environment that mitigates barriers. Our clients are also becoming increasingly more diverse and sophisticated in how they perceive real estate as a powerful tool to attract and retain high performing talent. JLL has been able to evolve as an organization that leverages its diversity to bring a broader and more thoughtful perspective to real estate challenges and solutions. As JLL strives to shape the future of real estate for a better world, it must continue to find smarter and better ways to deliver solutions. This will require a diverse set of smart minds, willing to go the “extra mile” to understand clients’ needs and then evaluate and execute the best solutions.
Anything worthwhile requires hard work and perseverance - a maxim certainly not unique to the African American experience. Yet, the importance of staying the course, executing good decisions and having the courage every morning to venture into the unknown and challenge barriers, intensely come out of an African-American experience. Fortunately, these habits are also good business discipline and are practiced everyday at JLL.
Lastly, I believe it is my responsibility to play my small part in trying to shape a better world by living with integrity, making good decisions and helping others along the way. Interestingly, I don’t think much about being an African American while at work, instead, I try and stay consumed by the pursuit of excellence. The constant pursuit of excellence is a noble cause for anyone, regardless of race, gender or religion.