3 ways to be a stronger D&I leader: learnings from industry experts

Lydia Watson

Lydia Watson

Working in the Diversity & Inclusion space isn’t easy. From the sheer scale of your scope to getting support for D&I initiatives from leadership, it can feel like an uphill battle - especially if you’re new to the role.

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We joined Thriving Talent and three expert panelists to talk about their learnings around working towards more diverse, inclusive work cultures - uncovering three ways to be a stronger D&I leader. Here are some of their key takeaways:

Networking: advice for building support

  • To get leaders onside, get to know what drives them: D&I is a people-focused endeavour, so take the time to learn more about your leaders. What connects you with them, what drives them to succeed?
     
  • Present your case like any other business challenge: source and share data, research, case studies, and personal testimonials to show how your initiatives will support and align with business priorities.
     
  • Take a reciprocal, relational approach: it’s all about give and take. Be clear about the benefits to them, and be open and honest in your approach - it’s the best way to build a lasting relationship based on trust.
     
  • Don’t be accusatory: take people where they are: it’s easy to feel frustrated and even angry when people don’t understand why this matters, but use your emotional intelligence to approach them in a place of mutual understanding.

“First convince their brain with data, then convince their heart” 

- Laetita Tierny, Inclusion & Diversity Leader

Listening: ways of measuring inclusion

  • Use multiple approaches to listening, not just one: focus groups, interviews, staff network groups, surveys - use a combination of these methods to make sure there are no unheard voices.
     
  • Inclusion scores are helpful to get leaders invested in change: measuring and scoring inclusion regularly gives leaders something to get ‘competitive’ about - so they’ll start thinking about improving it as a real must.
     
  • Make it a two-way conversation to strengthen trust: it should be more of a conversation, than just a listening exercise. Respond to what your people tell you with both words and actions, or they’ll lose trust in you.
     
  • Use staff network groups, and embed them into your process: bring ‘interest groups’ into the line of sight, and involve them in your decision making. This will help you change your culture from the inside out.

“The best route to getting a discussion going is understanding people’s individual drivers” 

- Tom Waterhouse, Inclusion & Diversity Consultant

Resilience: how to cope with setbacks

    • Rely on your allies for emotional support: lean on your network of sympathetic colleagues and other D&I professionals, and allow yourself to be vulnerable in front of them - you matter too.
       
    • Pace yourself: this is a “lifetime of marathons”: don’t expect quick pay-offs and easy solutions. This is a worthy cause, but it’s one that takes years of undoing past mistakes - just remember that you’re contributing your own part. 
       
    • Don’t be your own biggest critic - be kind to yourself: when you’re motivated by a moral imperative, small mistakes loom large in your mind. Don’t blame yourself for setbacks, as you’re doing the best you can in a hard situation.
       
    • Focus on the bigger picture, and what motivates you: you’re part of something bigger than yourself, so remember that in tough times - and think back to why you moved into the D&I space in the first place.

“Resilience means recovery in the quickest time after setbacks” 

- Helena Mattingley, Head of Equality

 

Topics: Diversity & Inclusion

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