In 2022, all but one of the DEIB initiatives that I led missed the most important first step in improving diversity and inclusion in their organisation.
Was I surprised?
Was I disappointed?
It meant more engaging work for me and for our Partners but, time and time again, and all too often, I see people making the same mistake over and over.
They complicate things unnecessarily, write way too many reports to impress and lose the very same people they say they want to engage.
There is a much more effective – and easier – way to approach diversity and inclusion and we will look it over in this article.
What Is The MOST Important FIRST Step In Improving Diversity And Inclusion?
The most important first step in improving diversity and inclusion is CONGRUENCE. As with most other initiatives, diversity and inclusion have become something to do rather than an integrated way of being. An organisation is a Living System. Begin by assessing how to align your diversity and inclusion objectives with the way your organisation behaves. When these two forces are congruent – when they are in sync with each other – the energy being created will produce more impactful results.
I am almost certain that, having read the word congruence, you have concluded that it means alignment with goals and objectives such as the company’s Vision, Mission and profits.
That does have some validity but it is not the first and most important first step that I would take.
My first step is always to define and understand the organisation’s current behaviours. Remember, we are focused on being. How the organisation behaves and what is being done.
If we cannot define the current behaviours that exist, we will not be able to efficiently and effectively measure them and understand what needs to be adapted, changed or removed altogether.
Additional Reading >>>> Is Congruence Important In Business?
Step 1 – Define And Discover
I like to know my starting point and, a little history about how we got there. When I am working with a coaching client, I ask questions to understand their triggers and development journey. The more I learn about their evolution, the more effective I would be at facilitating their future growth.
Those skills are applied to organisations as well. Context is crucial.
For Diversity, Equity, Inclusion and Belonging, (DEIB), my fact-finding mission would include, (but not be limited to) an audit of:
1. Vision & Mission Statements.
3. Employment Contracts.
4. Employee Demographics.
5. Communication language and messaging.
6. Business Plans – goals and objectives set and achieved and their impact (negative and positive) on diversity and inclusion.
7. Performance Appraisals.
8. Exit Interviews.
My objective is to be well-prepared for the next step, observations and dialogue.
Step 2 – Questions And Dialogue
This is where things start to lift off from the runway for me.
I start having informed conversations and discussions with employees across the ladder – staff, Supervisors, Management and Executives and with Members of the Board of Directors, where possible.
This is a step that many people rush into blindly. I prefer to have some context and at least a basic understanding of what I am navigating.
I mean, would you jump into a vehicle and just drive aimlessly without knowing where you are going? Probably not. You would at least find out the general direction, area, or something located in the vicinity that you know.
During this step, you would use the information you gathered in step 1 to frame your discussions and exploration. You want to be clear, direct and function with some measure of authority and connection.
I tend to ask A LOT of questions here and make use of the opportunity to listen – REALLY listen. When I ask my questions, I shut up and allow the person(s) I am with to share as much as they want to.
Again, my coaching and facilitation skills take precedence here.
Step 3 – Observations And Measurement
Having gathered all this information, I then go into stealth mode and observe, listen and measure intensely. This step takes time and it is necessary to ascertain if what is being said and promoted is actually being done.
You are measuring for congruence.
I take nothing at face value. Not because I am judging the intent but because I am there to see what changes need to be made.
Although I walk around the ground and pay attention to the tree trunks, plants and roots, I also want to get a drone view. With a micro and macro view, I have a full and detailed picture.
In her December 2022, HBR article, The Failure of the DEI-Industrial Complex, Lily Zheng had this to say on the importance of measurement among DEIB Practitioners:
“Much of the problem rests with the extreme lack of standards, consistency, and accountability among DEI practitioners.
Few of us measure the effectiveness of our interventions, and while there are many players in the DEI certification space, there’s little agreement on what actual skills and competencies are necessary to become a ‘good’ practitioner.”
Step 4 – Let’s Start To Manage
Again, I am compelled to refer to Lily for validation and support. The “results” she refers to relate not only to DEIB initiatives but most initiatives that affect people in the organisation.
DEIB just seems to be the “new kid on the block” at the moment.
On a macro level, organizations can take credit for “taking action” on DEI, and DEI practitioners willing to provide these high-demand services make their livelihoods on them.
The only losers are employees experiencing discrimination, harassment, and exclusion, who are disproportionately likely to be women, disabled, LGBTQ+, Black, Indigenous, and people of color (BIPOC), and otherwise from marginalized communities, whose negative experiences remain unchanged no matter how many DEI trainings they sit through.”
You cannot manage effectively what you do not know, have a connection with or are incongruent with. It just cannot happen.
When you are congruent, you are authentic, honest and empathic and it shows. Congruence is the most important first step in improving diversity and inclusion.
For me, it is a critical step and informs all my work in the DEIB space.
My Closing Thoughts . . .
Long before DEIB became “a thing“, I started working within the context of the space while living in New Zealand.
As a trained Facilitator, much of my work centred around helping people in organisations understand what diversity meant and how to embrace to create a more valuable corporate culture.
Even then, I was among the first Management Consultants to speak to the fact that it was more than simply your gender or the colour of your skin.
I was fortunate to be born into one of the world’s most diverse populations and I leveraged that experience in all the ways that I could.
If we approach diversity and inclusion with the respect it deserves and authentically sew it into the fabric of who we are and the being of our organisation, we will be contributing to making our environment, communities, nations and the world we live in a much better place.
That is a legacy to be admired.
A Little About Me And Diversity & Inclusion
Hi! I am Cassandra, the Founder and Chief Cook and Bottle-Washer at LaMP International Limited.
Thank you so very much for taking the time to read this article. I trust that you have enjoyed reading it and that it helped you to better understand what ‘a dia-logue’ is.
I have been working within the DEIB space for over 20 years. It continues to serve me well in my roles as a mother, sibling, partner, facilitator, coach, strategist, change agent and entrepreneur.
Coming from the Caribbean, we are born into very diverse and inclusive cultures. It is a way of life – a passion, so to speak, for us.
For almost 40 years, I have been working around the world with thousands of people, helping to rethink behaviours, structures and organisations.
My work has impacted industries such as Energy, Oil & Gas, Manufacturing, Media and Management Consulting in roles that took me from a staff position all the way to the E and C suites.
I love working with people and organisations and helping them become more effective, successful and sustainable.
Reach out to me if I can assist you in any way and help you to Change Your Script!