I’ve got a question for you. Is DEI dead?
That’s what I’ve been grappling with. Is it dead? (I’m sliding my soapbox out from under my desk!)
I’ve been rolling this question around in my mind since reading this article a couple weeks ago in the Washington Post.
But it’s more than just this one article. One of my DEI clients shared a story where she told someone that she was heading to a DEI taskforce meeting, and the person rolled their eyes. Rolled. Their. Eyes. (And yes, I did have some commentary about that!)
My retort to the rolling of eyes and leaders (by title, not by actions) saying “DEI is dead”:
Is good leadership dead?
🤦🏻Those leaders who think DEI is dead are not willing to be present in the real world where difference surrounds them every day. They’re not good leaders.
🤦🏻Those leaders who think DEI is dead are operating from a place of fear. Acknowledging the existence of difference, exclusion, and inequity means that something may need to change for them. That’s scary. They’re not good leaders.
🤦🏻Those leaders who think DEI is dead are operating from a place of perceived power and privilege. They believe that they don’t have to acknowledge DEI and their privilege protects them from having to do so. They’re not good leaders.
🤦🏻Those leaders who think DEI is dead are completely and totally out of touch with others who are not living the same lives as they are. They’re not good leaders.
🤦🏻Those leaders who think DEI is dead are in denial because they might have to own some mistakes that they’ve made. They’re not good leaders.
🤦🏻Those leaders who think DEI is dead are quite simply operating from a place of ignorance. They have no idea what diversity, equity, and inclusion really mean and how to incorporate it into their leadership. They’re not good leaders.
🤦🏻Those leaders who think DEI is dead let good leadership die along with that belief. They’re not good leaders.
Embracing DEI is synonymous with good, authentic leadership. DEI is about values. You cannot lead well without embracing difference, engaging everyone, and creating equitable experiences and outcomes for all. You can lead, but you won’t lead well.
When you are accountable for the success of others – through projects, teams, organizations – believing DEI is dead is synonymous with saying:
⛔ Some of you matter, and some of you are dead to me.
⛔ Some of you can participate, and others of you are dead to me.
⛔ Some of you can have access to everything, and some of you are dead to me.
Leaders who believe DEI is dead, can you say those statements from your chest, like you mean it?
Corporate Soldier Sidebar:
Killing the sales game.
Bringing a new product to market.
Taking the company global.
All good sh*t.
ut if it’s done on a foundation that lacks DEI, the price to make these things happen was far too great and, guess what, the outcomes are below what you could have achieved with DEI at the foundation. You may be receiving external validation and accolades for accomplishments, but the people who got you there won’t be singing your praises. How you achieve matters as much, if not more, than what you achieve.
To those leaders (by title, not by actions) who say, DEI is dead:
- I respect your right to be afraid.
- I respect your right to disagree.
- I respect your right to make mistakes.
- But I don’t respect your right to dismantle, roll your eyes at, or declare “dead” something you’re unwilling to or don’t yet understand.
- But I do believe you can grow and change.
If you’re on this journey with me and you want to learn more about HOW to bring DEI to life, click here for my list of 26 real, actionable tips to embrace diversity, create inclusion, and activate equity at work. Hang it up where you can see it and put it to work every single day!
BASIC Leaders are just happy to have the title or the accountability. (You’ve seen them.)
BOLD Leaders are aware that their leadership matters and they know that DEI is not dead.
BADA$$ Leaders know that DEI will NEVER be dead, and these values are core to their authentic leadership.
Sliding my soapbox back under my desk now.
MAKE A DIFFERENCE.
In this three-part series unpacking the meaning of DEI, I’ve saved the best for last. I’m talking about the “E” – Equity.
I saved this one for last because this is the one that most people have the greatest challenge getting their head around. This is the one where some of you will stick your chest out and declare that everyone should be treated E.QUAL.LY. Well, here’s where you’re wrong. Equality doesn’t equal equity.
Remember our definition:
Equity = How you make what works for one person work for the next person equally as effectively. That means YOU, bold leader, may have to take a different approach to get the same outcome for others because we’re not all starting from the same place.
Let me bring this to light for you in a simple, everyday way.
When we lived in Cincinnati, my husband had a close friend who had a serious condition that impacted his height and twisted his limbs. He was still able to drive, but he had to sit on a few cushions and raise his seat to maximum height and closeness to the steering wheel to have the right line of sight to drive. The position of his seat and the added cushions would have made it impossible for my husband – and most others of average height – to drive the car. My husband would not have been able to move his feet to the pedals correctly.
Without the adjustments, my husband’s friend would not have been able to drive, which would have severely impacted his ability to work, get groceries, and do many of the day-to-day things that require transportation that most of us take for granted. The fact that the seat was adjustable, and cushions could be added made all the difference.
And here’s the cool thing: adjusting the seat and adding a few cushions did not change the car fundamentally and it didn’t give my husband’s friend an unfair advantage over all other drivers. And the seat could be adjusted to a position where my husband could drive the car as well. The adjustments created equal travel access among my husband, his friend, and other drivers.
You see, equity is about making the adjustment. It’s about moving the seat to the height and closeness that an individual needs to drive the car. It’s about doing what is necessary to facilitate equal access, capability, experience, and outcomes.
Most people are all for equal access, capability, experience, and outcomes until it comes to THEM needing to make a change.
So here’s your moment of straight, no bullsh*t talk: If you call yourself a leader – of people or otherwise, it’s time to get your head around making adjustments. Because we’ll never get to equality if we don’t have equity. YOU MUST MAKE ADJUSTMENTS.
Here are a few tips on how to make adjustments and bring greater equity into the workplace:
👉🏼 If you have a team, in your 1×1’s, ask “How can I help you?” and “What can I do to make this role work best for you?” or “What changes do you need to help you be most effective and successful in your role?”
👉🏼 When you onboard a new team member, ask them how they learn best. What would help them learn their new role in the easiest way? And if they work in the office, ask them if there are any specific needs for their desk or workspace that will help them be most effective. (For example, some people have sensory issues and prefer spaces that face away from heavy foot traffic.)
👉🏼 HR leaders: Look at your development programs through a diversity lens. If there is a lack of women or people of color in your programs, get to know the women and people of color and ask specifically “Why not this individual?” Compare the individual to the program criteria, not how others feel about the individual.
👉🏼 Networks and “who you know” factor into the hidden path to leadership and promotions. As a leader and especially those in HR, make sure that you are sharing the process for promotions, succession, and how to network with your employee resource groups so that women, people of color, and other underrepresented groups have the information and tools that they need to navigate.
👉🏼 Create mentoring and sponsoring opportunities for women, people of color and other underrepresented groups. Pair individuals with executives, or high-level respected leaders for mentoring or sponsorship. Educate your mentors and sponsors on what equity means and how bias impacts talent decisions. Establish relationships that offer two-way learning for the executive and the protégé. We are working to educate both sides of this partnership!
👉🏼 Embrace universal design principles in learning strategies and physical space. Focus on maximizing usability by individuals with a wide variety of characteristics. Remember to design for ALL abilities, not just yours or the “majority”. (I got stories on this one! So important!)
👉🏼 Know your talent data. Complete comparisons of hiring, promotion, development, and retention by race, ethnicity, and gender. Identify the barriers by group and develop strategies to eliminate them.
👉🏼 If you’re not doing it yet, use captioning and someone to provide sign language for your all employee meetings. It’s worth the investment. There are many who may not identify as deaf, but are hard of hearing or have other barriers to comprehension. All boats rise on this investment!
👉🏼 Make sure your website, HR systems, and technology processes are Section 508 compliant. While section 508 applies to government entities or those receiving government payment, this is a good guide for ensuring that equal information is provided to all.
👉🏼 Bring equity to and remove bias from hiring by using structured interviews and diverse panels for interviewing and hiring decisions.
👉🏼 Make sure your processes for accommodations are tight end-to-end, integrated seamlessly among HR, facilities, IT, and the business, and operate smoothly and quickly. (I have war stories of individuals who could not do their jobs effectively for months!)
🤘🏼 Bonus tip: Look at your employee relations data for complaints that identify inequities within the organization. It’s a great place to start to identify and prioritize opportunities.
Equity can be hard. When something works for us, it’s hard to imagine that the same processes we experience are not working well for someone else. We develop blind spots. The work here is the identify the blind spot, then address it. Remember, the world is much bigger than your backyard. Others have different experiences and needs than you have.
Things can never be equal if they’re not first equitable. Real talk.
BASIC Leaders believe, live, and lead as if what works for them, works for all.
BOLD Leaders know that the world is bigger than their backyard and when they see inequality, they address it. If they see inequity, they address it.
BADA$$ Leaders understand that their experience is simply one experience that has blind spots. They lead, work, and build processes proactively that acknowledge the existence, experience, and needs of others who are different. They know the challenge is beyond “make it equal”. They live by “make it equitable”.
How do you and your organization measure up? If you’re missing the mark, don’t just sit there, reach out and let’s get after it.
MAKE A DIFFERENCE.
We’re moving our mindset today from BASIC to BADA$$ when it comes to DEI. We’re continuing our deep dive into ACTIONABLE guidance about inclusive leadership.
Why? Because BADA$$ Leaders don’t just say they’re inclusive. They BELIEVE, ACT and LIVE inclusively! We may not always get it right, but that won’t be for lack of trying!
Today we dive into the “I”: Inclusion.
Recall our definition from last November.
Inclusion = You know, live, and lead like everyone counts and all perspectives matter.
Last Tuesday, I conducted a workshop on leadership brand (click here to listen to the recording). Now, before you think “random”, let me unpack this for you and connect the dots.
In that session, I laid out the most important questions that you must ask yourself to take ownership of your unique, authentic, leadership brand:
⁉️ Who AM I?
⁉️ What do I DO like no one else?
⁉️ What is the IMPACT I have on projects, teams, organizations, and the world?
Here’s the connection to inclusion.
Those three questions give us deep insight into ourselves. They help us draw upon how our lived experiences combined with passions, talents, skills, and expertise create a one-of-a-kind individual that brings a one-of-a-kind contribution to anything they do.
And it’s that combination of unique, authentic, unadulterated individual contributions that bring success to any project, team, group, organization.
Now, some of you masters of the counter argument will say “We’re (our team, organization) not the best at inclusion, but we’re still getting it done.” (How many F’in times have I heard this?)
To that I say, “Yeah, you’re getting something done. But you’re underachieving.” It’s time to dream much bigger than what you’re already accomplishing with a less inclusive approach. (Here’s the data from McKinsey to back that up Delivering growth through diversity in the workplace | McKinsey.)
Think about it this way: Imagine a beautiful, 1500-piece puzzle. A single piece is unique in its color(s), its shape, and its importance to the overall picture the puzzle creates. But put all those unique pieces together and what you get is amazing. The sum is ALWAYS greater than the individual pieces. Alone, the pieces are important. But together? You get it. Inclusion quite simply creates MORE.
Each of us can get our head around our own unique leadership brand. Guess what? All the people around you come with a unique brand. Each person leaves their unique stamp on the world based on who they are, what they do, and how they impact the world. As a BADA$$ leader, it’s your job to create that one-of-a-kind, unique, masterpiece puzzle. It’s your job to get all that unique goodness to engage. It’s your job to stop settling and to dream and lead much, much bigger.
Here are a few tips to set you on a path of inclusion:
⭕If you’re a people leader, when you introduce someone who reports to you (directly or indirectly), say “we work together” instead of “he reports to me” or “she’s on my team”.
⭕When you’re in a meeting, identify whose voice hasn’t been heard and ask for their insights and thoughts. Consider saying, “I’ve not heard from everyone yet.” Then ask specific folks for their perspectives.
⭕When you see someone trying to get into a conversation – or being talked over – interject smoothly by saying, “Excuse me. I see we’ve got some voices that are trying to be heard. I want to hear what he/she has to say, please.”
⭕When you witness an idea being dismissed before it has had time to develop, step in and ask the originator to expand upon their thoughts. Consider saying, “I didn’t completely understand that last idea. Can I hear more?”
⭕When you put together a team, start your list with those who have the skills, but have not had the opportunity to serve in a role. Consider the value they could bring. Also, make sure that the composition of the team is diverse and that they have the tools to work together inclusively.
⭕As a CEO or executive, ask your leadership team – as a group or one-on-one – “What are you doing to create a culture of inclusion on your team? What is your best practice for inclusion?”
⭕If you manage a hybrid team – some work from home, some in the office – create virtual “drive-by” conversation time with those who are not in the office. Make sure that you’re giving those at home the opportunity for informal touchpoints with you.
⭕If you manage anyone who works virtually most of the time, schedule regular career conversations to ensure that you are always aware of their goals and objectives. (You should be holding regularly scheduled career conversations with everyone, but those who are virtual very often get overlooked because they miss informal face-to-face opportunities.) Don’t fall victim to “out-of-sight, out-of-mind” mentality aka distance bias.
⭕If you are facilitating a session focused on developing new ideas or problem solving, tell the team at the start that you want to hear the craziest, off the wall ideas first. Give people permission to leave their fears at the door and create the expectation that ALL ideas are welcome.
I’ve got a ton more, especially for my HR business partners, but I’ll stop here. If you need more, let’s talk about it.
BASIC leaders think good performance is good enough. Their motto? If it ain’t broke, don’t fix it! They let sleeping dogs lie!
BOLD leaders want more for themselves, their teams, and their organizations. They step in when they see opportunities to improve inclusion.
BADA$$ leaders have courage and are intentional about inclusion. They don’t wait for the moment; they create inclusion. They don’t talk about it. They are about it. Periodt.
Where are you on the journey? Inclusion requires intentionality. Get after it.
MAKE A DIFFERENCE.
Back when I introduced this newsletter last November, my commitment to you was to provide you with BOLD, actionable advice on DEI, leadership, and culture that you can use. Today, I want to bring us back to the conversation on DEI.
In my practice, I have some amazing DEI clients. They come to me for a variety of reasons, but no matter the reason or scope of work, we always end up working on leadership – inclusive leadership – in some way.
You may be reading this and thinking, why do we use terms like “inclusive leadership”. Shouldn’t all leadership be inclusive. I mean, who’s the ass that’s going to say proudly, “I’m a non-inclusive leader?” No one.
But here’s the thing, while no one is going to shout it out, so many leaders ARE non-inclusive.
You’ve seen it. It looks like this:
🤦♀️Almost everyone on their team and around the table at their meeting looks about the same and very similar to the leader – age, gender, race, physical ability, etc.
🤦♀️The people they assign to projects are always the same handful of folks.
🤦♀️There is no variability in how they manage the individuals on their team. For example, either no one can work from home, or we all must come into the office 1 – 2 days per week. It’s the rules.
🤦♀️On the conference calls they lead, the people dialing in for the meeting (or with their cameras off on the zoom) rarely get included in the conversation with those in the room or on camera.
🤦♀️They spend time scolding and planning to fire those who don’t learn things as fast as they’d like and they never asked what the developing team member may need. The path to meeting expectations is the same for everyone.
When it comes to your leadership – of others, projects, teams, organizations – how are you showing up?
Before you answer, let’s reflect on our definitions from last November.
Diversity = Difference. YOU are different from others around you in some way. And YOU are very similar to others in many ways.
Equity = How you make what works for one person work for the next person equally as effectively. That means YOU may have to take a different approach to get the same outcome for others because we’re not all starting from the same place.
Inclusion = You know, live, and lead like everyone counts and all perspectives matter.
Let’s check ourselves, starting with the D word – Diversity. Identify a team that you lead, work with, are a member of, or engage with regularly and answer the following questions.
- See Diversity: Look at your team. Do you see diversity? Beyond what you see on the outside, what other differences exist? If you can’t come up with any, it’s time to schedule some 1×1’s with people to get to know them more deeply. (And if you don’t even SEE diversity, click here. We’ve got to talk!)
- Identify Diversity: Think about a person you know from the team that you would say is completely the opposite of you. What makes them different? What makes them valuable? What do you have in common with this person? Spend some time finding out.
- Apply Diversity: What is a skill or talent you wished you had yourself or on the last project you worked on? Who has it on the team? How do they use it? How could you tap into that talent to accomplish great results?
- Appreciate Diversity: Think of the people you work with every day, what unique skill do you appreciate about each of them? Let them know. Tell them how their unique skill and contribution makes a difference.
- Advocate for Diversity: Identify one person who is different from you and develop a “follower” relationship. Get to know them and their work and become an advocate for them. (Check out chapter 8, Find Your Followers, of my book if you want to understand more about developing followers and what it takes be make a good follower relationship work.)
You’d think a focus on diversity would come easy to all. But it doesn’t. Bias is so powerful. It’s in our human nature to prioritize and focus on that which is like us, expedient, or close by.
Small steps can make a difference. Take one of the steps above and get started on your diversity journey.
We’re moving down the path away from basic leadership into full on BADA$$.
BASIC Leaders don’t see the diversity (or the lack thereof) around them. Their leadership screams, “I’m a non-inclusive leader and I’m proud!”
BOLD Leaders see diversity (or the lack thereof) and they apply diversity for its benefits.
BADA$$ Leaders appreciate diversity, seek diversity, apply diversity for its benefits, and advocate for it.
Where is your company on the journey? Need help? Click here to schedule time to talk .
MAKE A DIFFERENCE.
Has the shine of the New Year already worn off? 😕
You’re three weeks into the new year, and the energy, focus, and belief in your abilities to tackle these new amazing, courageous goals might be waning a little. Don’t worry. I got you. Been there.
We come out the gate strong, ready to be a new, better, more improved version of our leadership selves, and we run smack dab into it: CULTURE. It’s hard to be BOLD, much less BADA$$, in an environment that is BASIC.
You’ve done the work. You delivered authentic performance reviews of yourself and your team. You set some AMAZING, courageous goals, and now, you’re feeling like you’re swimming up stream while the rest of the work world heads in the opposite direction.
How do you rise to the level of your authenticity when your authenticity isn’t supported?
Often this feeling comes because the culture doesn’t embrace being BADA$$. But here’s the great thing about culture: It’s formed by putting our values into action. You are capable of leading from a place of values that drive results.
(Corporate Soldier Sidebar: If the values of the organization don’t align to yours, then we need to have a whole other conversation about why you’re there. For now, let’s assume your values align enough to the corporate values to have this conversation.)
As a leader, you have an awesome opportunity – and responsibility – to create the culture you need for you and your team’s success.
Now, you’re probably asking, “How can I, one person, change the entire culture of an organization?” ❌Wrong question.
Instead, ask, “What values can I live and lead by that will drive a culture of courageous excellence for myself, my team, and the organization?”
We’re talking about elevating culture and performance from acceptable mediocrity to courageous excellence.
Mediocrity can be stealthy. It’s like a sheep in wolf’s clothing. It can look like cutting edge excellence on the surface, but when we unwrap it, it’s the same old sappy mediocrity.
You’ve seen it:
🐺SHEEP IN WOLF’S CLOTHING: We’ve got so many amazing priorities! We’re doing great things! Let’s adjust the scope of this important, strategic project for the 13th time so that we make sure it gets done too!
🐏Huh??? How about knowing which projects drive strategy and prioritizing and saying NO to something? Cut the scope creep. Make a commitment to right work to accelerate success.
🐺SHEEP IN WOLF’S CLOTHING: Our commitment to DEI is strong. We have a DEI statement posted on our website, which includes pictures of diverse talent. Yay! Our CEO sends out a year-end Happy Holidays communication thanking everyone for their contributions.
🐏Huh??? What are we doing all year? How about, Juneteenth recognized as a paid holiday, benefits covering transgender surgery, closed captioning for executive town hall meetings, and leadership development programs for women and people of color?
🐺SHEEP IN WOLF’S CLOTHING: We did a remarkable job adjusting to Covid. We upgraded technology. Our staff now works remotely or in hybrid working environments. We got this thing right!
🐏Huh??? How are you creating inclusion for those who work hybrid or full-time work-at-home? How are leaders creating the in-the-office experience for those who are not? How are you equipping leaders for the post-Covid work environment?
The bottom-line questions that you must ask as a BADA$$ leader who leads courageously: What are we doing that makes the difference and what results are we creating?
Courageous leadership calls bullsh*t on the wolf and unveils it for the sheep that it is.
To unveil mediocrity, you’ve got to be on your BADA$$ game!
BASIC Leaders Think: Let’s do what we can.
BOLD Leaders Think: Let’s do what we should do.
BADA$$ Leaders Think: Let’s do what makes the difference.
Remember, you’re capable of creating the life, career, and culture you need for success. Draw from your authenticity: self-honesty, courage, confidence, and resilience.
What values do you need to embrace to be a BADA$$ leader who gets results? Identify at least one right now and put it in action!
More to come on transforming the culture from sappy, accepted mediocrity to courageous excellence. Stay with me.
MAKE A DIFFERENCE.