Equity & inclusion work starts with real introspection: why this matters personally to you. What you yourself bring to the table in the form of your thoughts, beliefs, actions, and history. And how you personally impact your company’s progress in these areas.
The DEI&B journey map CEOs
Put your socks on first. Then your shoes. Then you can start running. Here’s the journey CEOs need to take to affect real, lasting change in their organizations.
1. It starts with A CEO WHO’S INFORMED & GIVES A DAMN…
Leaders set the course. And leaders have to care, to want to do this, to understand why they’re personally invested in this work, and to go into it equipped with enough info to avoid making terrible mistakes.
2. Who uses INFLUENTIAL LEADERSHIP…
85% of change initiatives fail when pushed down with autocratic orders. Successful change requires influential leadership, not command structures.
3. To reach a CRITICAL MASS of co-leaders…
Organizational change requires cultural change. That begins to happen when the nucleus of change agents reaches a critical mass, a tipping point.
4. Who can notch a couple of EARLY WINS…
Every organization will have a different entry point to this process. Early wins are levers that pry open the rest of the organization & create momentum to change norms. So pick your battles from all the options below.
5. That then snowball into CUMULATIVE, LASTING CHANGE.
One win leads to another. Your path will be unique to your team. And outcomes are felt and sensed as much as measured and observed. That’s because you’re changing the unwritten rules of the organization, not just the written ones.
Personal self-reflection: Why am I really doing this?
It’s evident to most people that there’s a race-based problem in the world that erupted into civil unrest in the first half of 2020. However, every person has to come to their own understanding of what that problem is, exactly. Some people are interested in getting back to a state of harmony as quickly as possible and others are willing to go deeper to understand the history and root cause of the problem. This is a personal decision.
Are you willing to look beyond your own initial feelings of discomfort to see that the harmony of the recent past wasn’t shared by everyone? Curiosity will drive some people to dig deeper into the recent civil unrest in the United States. Those curious people will embark on a learning journey that isn’t all fun, but it is rewarding.
Civil unrest has inspired business leaders to look into diversity and inclusion in their own companies. CEOs are asking, “Are we contributing to the problem? If so, how can we fix this quickly?”
Imagine that two companies put in place the exact same DEI programs. One company is run by a leader who chooses to personally invest time and emotional energy into understanding equity and the long history behind our current civil unrest. The other company is run by a leader who cares about their employees and their stakeholders, but doesn’t put time and energy into learning about equity and civil unrest.
Even with matching DEI programs, these two companies will experience noticeable different outcomes. Why? Because outcomes hinge on the leaders’ personal reasons underlying the DEI program. If a company’s leadership is simply trying to restore tranquility, the outcome will be vastly different than leadership that is willing to uncover root causes and get into messy conversations.
Those executives who choose to update their DEI practices without embarking on their own personal learning journey will develop a different kind of DEI program than an executive that chooses to do the personal journey.
Empathy is defined as the ability to understand and share the feelings of another by Oxford Languages. Simon Sinek, an empathy expert explains empathy in the business context as, “being concerned about the human being not just their output.”
Empathy is a crucial skill that leaders can learn, practice and fully develop.
Empathy is important to the work of DEI as it allows individuals to understand that needs differ between people and approaches need to reflect the individual. By understanding empathy on a deeper level, as a leader you’ll be able to create deeper relationships, ask the right questions, support and understand your teams better.
Resources: Watch “Empathy – Best Speeches of All Time by Simon Sinek” (video, <15-minutes)