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Don't Let Your DI&E Efforts Fail

Imagine getting promoted from an individual contributor to a manager. Now imagine being responsible for budgets, delegation, reviews, employee development and feedback with no training, scaffolding, cohort to share and compare, or practice and feedback loops.

Sounds pretty scary, yet thousands of first time managers experience just that. Now let’s up the stakes and also make you responsible for creating an inclusive environment, holding courageous conversations about everything from sexual identity to race and systemic racism, and bringing together politically polarized employees. Oh, and speak up to stop bias and exclusion when you see or hear it. Couple that with you are from a small town in the Midwest and the first black person you actually knew you met in college.

After two decades of various levels of work in the diversity, equity, inclusion and more recently anti-racism work I have some thoughts about why DE&I work often fails to hit the mark and how it needs to change.

I’ve talked to more than a few leaders passionate about creating inclusion and having cultures of belonging, who have said to me “just tell me what to say and I will say it” or “how do I confront bias in a positive way, or “I just don’t feel equipped to lead Inclusion, diversity, anti-racism work.”

The competencies required to be anti-racist, create inclusion, address subtle and not so subtle acts of exclusion, be an ally and create a culture of belonging requires a certain mind set, skill set, courage, accountability, and vision. A systemic, business-led approach with diversity in the C-Suite is an optimal start. Research shows those with a diverse C-Suite outperform companies that don’t. If profit is not a motivator, why are you in business? I digress. There is also research that reveals workplace belonging is vital to achieving your bottom line in business.

Diversity and Inclusion training is part of the solution. Where I see too many DI&E efforts fail is the one and done approach, or separate an unequal positioning. Or, no accountability. DI&E separated from the core business goals and initiatives.

However, when there is a coherent, compelling message from the top of the organization and other systems within the organization are focused on improving inclusion and equity, training will support the business goal.

Training without scaffolding, history, conversation models, cohorts to share and compare, and practice and feedback loops is not going to yield optimal results. It may actually do more harm.

Change does not happen in a vacuum. Inclusive leaders have something intrinsically they anchor themselves with. Values, personal experience, emotional intelligence, a need to succeed. Something has to anchor you in this work, because it is hard. The work requires tons of curiosity, courage, empathy, mindfulness, self awareness, and a willingness to learn and broaden your perspective. To get comfortable being uncomfortable until it becomes more comfortable.

Antiracism training. We just started speaking specifically to race in the workplace, in the last two years. Building racial stamina comes with effort. Education, conversation and engagement outside of our comfort zones.

Unconscious bias training should include the science, discussion, self reflection, a model to guide you in how to interrupt and address acts of exclusion, and a psychological safe place to examine your own biases. With time to practice, receive coaching and feedback, observe others, and practice some more, you can learn to manage bias.

Inclusion training should include the science, reflection on who you include and why. A history of how we got so divided in the first place, and an understanding of the central role leaders play in employees feeling of inclusion and belonging. What is inclusion anyway? What actions, conversations, and mindset’s foster this feeling in others? Your training should cover this and more, again with a conversation model and practice and feedback.

Bottom line, change requires education, reflection, practice, feedback, support and community.

This is why I decided to create my own curriculum; Creating Cultures of Belonging. All of my research, all of my experience, and dimensions of diversity, and all of my passion around learning, helping leaders grow, and advancing a more equitable world has been poured into it. I did not see it out there, so I built it.

I invite you to the pilot of Creating Cultures of Belonging starting Feb. 25th. Yes, it is a curriculum spaced over time, because these skills are built in community, with support, over time, not over night.

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