Diversity, Equity, and Inclusion (DEI) programs are all the rage these days. And, no wonder, we all still have a long way to go to reach our aspirations for all people. We see organizations appointing VPs of DEI, updating their employee manuals, and running workshops for all executives, managers, and team members. But do these programs really work on the ground? They are certainly raising awareness among all of us, but are they changing the reality of our working days? Do people feel more safe, secure, included? Are they treated more fairly? Do they have opportunities to learn and grow? Are others in the organization open to their ideas and concerns?
To have everyone answer yes to all these questions, we need more than policies, awareness, and new executive positions. We need everyone, executives, managers, and staff members to make diversity, equity and inclusion real in everyday working life. Intent is fine, it’s necessary, but leadership and everyday actions are needed to create the change we need.
Let’s be clear. Implementing new policies for diversity, equity and inclusion is the responsibility of organizational leaders, not HR, not some new vice president. Starting a new “program,” or appointing a new executive is not good enough. We need to create change by including new principles in the way we address issues, run meetings, talk to people, and make decisions. To make that happen, all of us need a new sense of awareness. We need to ask ourselves, “Who am I? What do I believe? Do I really embrace our new policies? Do I understand my own emotions and biases? Do I really want to do the right thing? What is required of me as a leader?”
We are all called upon to be leaders in our modern work environment. We don’t have to be a designated executive, manager or team leader to have influence over others in the organization. We may not have designated “authority,” but all of us have influence. Few of us today work in isolated environments.
Over six months ago, Trusted Advisors Network released a revised leadership program that all of our affiliates around the country use while working with individuals and groups across our individual markets. The program includes three new topics, Culture, Emotional Intelligence, and Diversity and Inclusion (D&I). Seven of us, all affiliates with diverse backgrounds and culture, decided to test the new process on ourselves. So we met every week to explore each topic in depth. When we came to the new chapters, instead of spending an hour a week on each, our discussions grew to fill six weeks. There was so much to explore.
Implementing DEI means changing the organization culture. The connection between the Culture and D&I chapters was clear, but the connection between Emotional Intelligence and D&I provided new insights into ways of thinking. We explored the question, can increasing the elements of Emotional Intelligence: Self-Awareness, Self-Management, Social-Awareness, Relationship-Management help us implement true diversity and inclusion in our organizations? Our answer was yes. And we continued to explore the hows — the actions to implement this approach.
We had seven people in our Zoom group, meeting every week for 2 hours and we have created a second group of eight people in a new program. We call these learning and exploring pods and will continue to roll them out.
Our aim: Finding ways to implement our hopes and dreams for our diverse, equitable, and inclusionary society meet our aspirations. And to make sure all of us realize our responsibility and our ability to lead.
Do you want to join us in this quest?