Some of the most well-intentioned executive leaders, in some cases, even Chief Diversity Officers, seem to think that the countdown to Belonging happens shortly after the decision to undertake a Diversity, Inclusion, Equity, and Belonging (DIEB) initiative. First, DIEB is not an initiative. It is a journey. Second, it is a journey that requires a commitment to humility. Third, without humility, the journey will be short-lived in an organization being led by leaders that lack a personal frame of reference which can only be cultivated through rich encounters that arise by having a diverse circle of their own. It is only when executives can personally situate themselves in the DIEB space that they can have the insight, credibility, and experience to lead the journey for their organization.
Consider Your Circle
At a recent DIEB conference, I was asked what the one takeaway was I had for the attendees. My response was this: “Do not see DIEB as a philosophy, skillset, or application for your HR toolkit. Rather, situation yourself in the DIEB space as an individual who happens to serve in the role of CEO, CDO, or CHRO. Only when you cultivate a diverse circle of authentic relationships that afford you the luxury of being transparent enough to exercise cultural humility, can you be effective in your role as a CEO, CDO, or CHRO.”
Change Your Frame
Belonging is not a state of being that can be mandated. If that were the case, we would not have to manage our biases. Even the most inclusive-minded person has biases. Bias is part of the human psyche. What becomes problematic is failing to recognize the intellectual arrogance, shaped by biases, that presents itself as a very real hurdle along the journey toward Belonging. Therefore, it requires a willingness to change your frame of what Belonging is by focusing on how Belonging is defined by those who seek it.
Change Your Focus
It has been said that “If you can’t measure it, you can’t manage it.” I like to say that “If you can’t explain it, you can’t attain it.” When I work with leaders at the beginning of their DIEB journey I take them through an initial exercise that requires them to brainstorm words they would associate with Belonging in their organization. After the team settles on a word that would reflect their definition of success, they must describe how that word looks, acts, feels, and sounds. This serves to change your focus from expressions to emotions. Words are expressed. Emotions are felt. Belonging is something you feel, not just a campaign slogan.
Change Your Future
The process of attaining Belonging is something that should be viewed as an opportunity to overcome the enthusiasm gap that is accompanied by change. Although a worthy effort, recognize that DIEB necessitates change management. Most people resist change, especially if they view change as something being “done to them” rather than something they initiate for themselves and are part of. By actively engaging the workforce by directly inviting them into the process of pursuing DIEB—which requires change—you are more likely to change your future state as a culture of Belonging in ways that are both rewarding and sustainable.
Keep It Real!