Whether you have been on the succession list to assume the diversity and inclusion (D&I) leadership position or just tapped on the shoulder, the most typical preparation for D&I leadership assignments seem to be real life experiences and/or business/organizational strategy expertise.
I often hear from current D&I leaders that this “work” is part of their purpose or mission in life. Many others say that they were asked to leave the jobs that they loved to take on this responsibility for the benefit of the company.
No matter how you landed on this planet of D&I leadership, the “how to be successful story” was likely not written in your organization. It was actually not written in any organization. There has been no roadmap for leading the biggest organizational transformation that has ever been undertaken!
Why do I say that this is the biggest transformation or change to have ever been undertaken? Because it not only requires a focus on our conscious organizational structures, systems, policies, procedures, decisions, and behavior but also on those that are based in the unconscious mindset. Tinna Nielsen and Lisa Kepinski, authors of “Inclusion Nudges Guidebook” illustrate that it’s as difficult to change the unconscious mind as it is to move an unmotivated six-ton heavy elephant.
A CALL TO ACTION
I learned from a colleague, that she was a chemistry major with a strong communication background. She was very happy with her career progress and potential, utilizing her scientific background in her operational positions. Even with no prior background or experience in D&I, she was asked to lead the strategy. Since she had a strong voice for equal opportunity, was a mentor for women and minorities (groups that were under-represented), and had also been very successful in her history with the company, she was asked to lead this transformation.
So, it appears that if you have a strong business or human resources background, a commitment to the area of equal opportunity and are well-thought-of in your organization, then you are suited for the position.
I experienced something similar. With a Master’s degree in business administration and public administration, more than ten years of business operational experience (including two years of profit and loss responsibility), I was asked to take the assignment of Diversity. Prior to my assignment, there had only been one person in the position and she had been there since its inception.
At that time, the role was one of compliance and affirmative action, but the leadership desired to go in another direction. This new direction focused on connecting D&I to the business aspect of the company. There was no road map or design pattern available to help a newbie like me organize and structure the position for success. So, what did I do?
I just did what I knew best. That was to use my business experience in operations to help me create a model for putting the (now called) D&I role and responsibility at the same level of importance as any other organizational role and responsibility. The same level of importance had to be placed on D&I as any other strategy created to increase revenue and productivity, decrease cost, and provide a culture of employee engagement and community respect.
Things did not happen smoothly, like I thought they would. I did not know about that six-ton heavy elephant that needed to be moved. I thought that the leadership and all employees would buy into the business case with ease and quickly join me in the transformation of the culture to one of inclusion and equal opportunities. Even with the affirmative acknowledgements of agreement in strategies, nothing changed in behavior. I could go on with my story, but we will wait for another time.
A PATH FORWARD
Lately, I have met a few people who believe that they are interested in the area and desire to prepare themselves for a career in diversity and inclusion and that is exciting!
If you wanted to be a lawyer, doctor, teacher, police officer, communication officer, or a financial officer, you could find some direction by doing a simple google search. However, what I have found is there is very little groundwork developed, architectural design, or guidance for people new in the field of diversity and inclusion.
WHERE CAN YOU GO FOR HELP?
If you are a new D&I practitioner who has a desire to ground yourself in D&I as well as the following:
1. Gain knowledge, competencies, and resources to meaningfully enhance the value proposition of D&I for you, your business, and your society
2. Develop contemporary capabilities to elevate your impact and create sustained value
3. Conceptualize an effective and sustainable D&I strategy
4. Develop and implement an effective organizational culture change strategy
You are invited to click the Free Gift for a complementary consultation with May or one of her staff members. She will help you design your role, acquaint you with approaches that work, and answer any questions that you may have about opportunities to work with May.