So much potential, energy, talent, time, and money are wasted because we aren’t clear. When it comes to diversity and inclusion in particular, many of us lack clarity about our goals, the impact we want to have, or even our intentions.
Sometimes we have clear intentions but no idea how to get there. Sometimes we have clear intentions and goals for desired impact, but we don’t believe we can get there. Other times, we have positive, clear intentions, but negative or unintended impacts.
To align intent and impact for more powerful D&I results, first get crystal clear about your goals and intentions. Diversity is a means to an end. Inclusion is a means to an end. They are not the end! “Doing diversity” for its own sake — to look or feel good, comply with regulations, avoid lawsuits, or do the right thing are old school reasons that are incomplete at best and misguided at worst. Having only “old school” motivations are why many internal D&I initiatives, offices, and professionals aren’t taken seriously, and aren’t given the same power, recognition or resources as other departments. Thus such initiatives, offices and resources can be easily eliminated in tough times; D&I is seen as icing on the cake instead of an essential ingredient for the cake. It’s seen as a nice-to-have, not the must have evidence now demonstrates it to be.
What to do? Three actions:
1. Answer these key questions to define your organization’s mission-critical diversity return on investment:
- What does this organization value most? What are its highest, most urgent priorities? Don’t look at the vision, mission, or core values, or listen to what leaders say. What do they do? Where does the money go? That tells you what the actual values and priorities are!
- What does not “doing diversity” cost us now? What could we have saved or avoided? Identify data that affect the organization’s highest, most urgent priorities. Think about quantitative data like dollars wasted due to staff turnover (including the costs of recruiting, training, hiring, onboarding, and new hire learning curves), low engagement, low productivity, absenteeism, low customer satisfaction and reduced market share. Think about the many costs of lawsuits and other crises. Think also about qualitative data like morale, brand reputation, team performance, stress levels, effective decision making, customer satisfaction, innovation, creativity.
- What is not “doing diversity” going to cost us in the future? Use the same metrics to project your ongoing and future costs, taking into consideration projected trends for your industry, market, and geography. Consider the shifting demographics of the United States and beyond, increasing automation and the globalization of most industries.
- How is “doing diversity” going to benefit us? What do we stand to gain now? In the future? Using the same metrics, articulate your organization’s unique, mission critical DROI (diversity return on investment)!
2. If you are a D&I professional or champion, take time to get clear on your personal motivations and vision for doing this work. What is your personal story? Your personal pain? What early or current experiences make you passionate about this? How does D&I benefit you personally? What are your deepest values? What is your vision for the future? What possibilities do you see? What kind of world do you want to live in? How are your choices, words, and actions aligned with your vision of that world? Being rooted and grounded from a heart center will provide balance to your intellectual clarity on goals. It will add depth and authenticity to your work. It will provide motivation and inspiration when you’re weary.
3. If you are a D&I professional or champion, invest time and effort in healing your personal trauma around this work. Your pain and values may drive your commitment, but you won’t be effective over time if you’re not adequately processing your anger, grief, or shame. Most of us who do D&I work do it because we (or a loved one) have been wounded or abused in some way. Do not allow this important work and its impact on future generations to be diluted or tainted by you trying to resolve your personal pain or anger through the work alone. Also:
- Seek a qualified therapist you respect and trust. Consider a body-focused therapy like EMDR or somatic experiencing, or try working with the subconscious through hypnotherapy.
- Seek coaching from a certified, and preferably also credentialed, professional coach.
- Get together regularly (weekly or monthly) with colleagues or friends you can talk with openly about the challenges. Vent and be heard, but don’t stay stuck — move to insights and solutions. Find out how you can take radical responsibility for your experience. Commit to changing your behaviors in service of your healing and vision.
- Pursue a spiritual practice that provides solace and connection — and also guidance, accountability, and support for your behavior changes.
- Pursue a physical practice like a sport, vigorous gym workouts, yoga, or dance in your preferred musical genre.
Going out and having an impact, then course correcting misalignments between intent and impact, are the next steps in obtaining powerful D&I results — but crystalline clarity about goals and intentions must come first.
Susana Rinderle is president of Susana Rinderle Consulting and a trainer, coach, speaker, author and diversity & inclusion expert. Comment below or email firstname.lastname@example.org.