We’ve recently seen many CEOs and leaders make statements regarding their commitment to stand against systemic racism, oppression and white supremacy in solidarity with the African- American communities in this country. Given our current climate, this is probably very strategic. However, the hard work comes now in backing up those statements.
Many black employees have reacted negatively to several of these statements as being just that, a statement with no real credibility or substance behind it based on their experience in some of these workplaces. It’s not my job to determine if these statements are true or not in terms of their sincerity. But for argument’s sake, let’s just say many of these leaders are sincere about standing in solidarity with the black, brown and other historically marginalized communities. What does this mean for their internal organizational dynamics?
As a practitioner, I have observed that many leaders would like to create more diverse, equitable and inclusive (DEI) workplaces; but don’t know how, or where to start. I’m also convinced that most leaders don’t really understand what they are signing up for when they approach this work. Because truly creating a diverse, equitable and inclusive organization is a transformational process that won’t be accomplished simply through training.
It often boggles my mind the approach that many of the most high-performing organizations take when addressing DEI. Many times, a strategy can be developed for everything else, but when it comes to DEI; it’s a bolt-on at the end of an already full agenda or relegated to a program. Why is that?
Dr. Stephen Covey said, “To begin with the end in mind means to start with a clear understanding of your destination.
It means to know where you’re going, so you better understand where you are now; so, the steps you take are always in the right direction.” This is a good strategy when approaching this work.
Understanding your vision of what you want your organization to look, feel, act and be like is critical if you are to shift from “doing” DEI, to being a more diverse, equitable and inclusive organization. Because the ultimate goal is to embed DEI into the very fabric and culture of your organization, as your way of being. This must be a strategic imperative, if it is to be successful.
So, if leaders are truly sincere about standing with blacks and other marginalized communities begin by looking at yourself and your organization. Are you an inclusive leader? Is your organization a monocultural workplace (i.e., white supremacy culture), where in-groups and outgroups, assimilation and conformance for non-dominant group members are the norm? Are your workplace policies equity-centered?
Cultivating workplaces that are more diverse, equitable and inclusive of everyone requires a commitment to doing the work required at every level of the organization in fostering an environment where differences are viewed as an organizational strength, rather than toleration. An environment where you build on your commonalities, leverage and celebrate differences; and, where practicing mutual adaptation is the norm. This level of commitment requires more than a statement. It requires action.