Whether you are a team leader, a C-suite exec or still new to leadership, you no doubt are aware of the growing imperative to prioritize diversity, equity and inclusion (DEI) in your organization. Or perhaps DEI has been on your radar for years, and now you’re ready to get more serious about it.
This post outlines five ways that leaders at all levels can use their influence to advance diversity, equity and inclusion in their organizations.
Transparency, openness, willingness
At The Workplace Coach, we see our leadership coaching and leadership development clients as having both an opportunity and a responsibility to put DEI front and center in their strategic planning and decision making, as well as in their own personal leadership development. We share this same opportunity and responsibility in our own work.
No one is saying it’s easy. Creating an inclusive organization that provides fair opportunities for all employees – regardless of race, ethnicity, age, sexual orientation, gender expression or (dis)ability – demands transparent and mindful leadership. It requires an openness to learning and a willingness to admit one’s mistakes – qualities that are the foundation of effective leadership in all realms.
Leaders also must be diligent about ensuring they don’t default to old ways of doing business.
Fortunately, we do see the needle moving in the right direction, as more and more of our leadership coaching and leadership training clients raise workplace diversity and inclusion issues in our business leadership coaching conversations and leadership development programs.
5 lessons for leaders
Here are the top DEI lessons and insights for leaders that we’ve gleaned from our executive coaching and leadership coaching clients as well as from our own efforts in this realm.
- Lead by example. Commit to your own learning about the importance and benefits of creating a more diverse, fair and inclusive organization. Be willing to engage in tough conversations about bias, including your own. Create a safe environment by openly sharing your own learning curve and vulnerabilities.
- Engage employees, management and top leadership. Explain why you’re prioritizing diversity, equity and inclusion to employees and leaders across the organization. Communicate the benefits. Be frank about the challenges. And be sure to invite employee input. Work to get the full buy-in of top leaders, including a commitment to budgeting for DEI on an ongoing basis.
- Open up the conversation to diverse voices. Make it a habit to value and make space for the viewpoints of individuals from diverse groups whenever you’re in conversation with employees, business partners and customers. Do this by expressly inviting the participation of individuals from under-represented groups. Then listen to what they say and acknowledge their contributions.
- Create opportunities. It’s not enough to hire for diversity. You must support the career advancement of individuals from under-represented groups. Use coaching conversations to ask about career goals and obstacles to advancement. Assign projects that offer opportunities to grow and learn new skills. Provide resources such as coaching and training, making sure to address barriers.
- Be in it for the long-haul. DEI is not a one and done project. Leaders must learn to integrate diversity, equity and inclusion concerns into all their decisions and processes. The work must be ongoing, with a clear strategy, goals, success measures and accountability.
Two clear business benefits of diversity
At The Workplace Coach we continue to learn and grow in our own thinking about what it takes to create and sustain a truly diverse and equitable organization. While we are not DEI experts, we know that leaders who integrate diversity, equity and inclusion considerations into their leadership strategies increase their likelihood of success significantly.
In addition to the ethical reasons for creating work environments that are more diverse and equitable, there are solid business benefits. Here are two that stand out:
- When your workforce includes individuals from a broad range of backgrounds, the rich mix of experiences and perspectives generates more dynamic conversations. This invariably leads to more innovative and creative business solutions.
- Organizations that are committed to building an inclusive, equitable and diverse organization are more successful at employee recruitment and retention.
Are you looking to advance your thinking and your DEI practices in order to transform your own business leadership and your organization? Do you need support and accountability as you grow in your understanding of the issues?