Last year, a tech company employee reached out to me for tips on swaying a leadership team to embrace diversity, equity, and inclusion (DEI) as an organizational priority. After chatting to gain more context, I shared some suggestions and never heard from the person again. I sincerely hope they are doing well and continue to press forward instead of embracing the sidelines. Then, this year, I came upon another person who shared that they were the sole champion for DEI efforts in their organization. We commiserated over the heavy lifting required in that position. Undoubtedly, there are likely many more lone champions pushing a boulder uphill to drive cultural transformation. If this resonates, here are suggestions to heed.
TAKE THE APPLAUSE
Let us congratulate ourselves for embracing the change agent role. It is no easy position to be in, but know that passion will take you far on this journey. My mother always said encouragement sweetens labor, so be sure to applaud yourself often, especially when others appear unfazed by your efforts. I know it's easier said than done but necessary. The fact that there is recognition around the value and importance of an inclusive workplace deserves kudos. So continue your path and lean into these resources to build change agent muscles.
Read through the McKinsey report, Diversity Wins, How Inclusion Matters. Glean data insights around how diversity and inclusion impact the bottom line. Note findings and include them in conversations and presentations.
Hone in on data that is specific to your industry. Pay attention to competitors leading the way and doing the work when it comes to DEI. Use those data insights to your advantage when conversing about the need for modifications in your organization. Guidepoint recommends resources for gaining market insights.
Embrace a change management framework. Look to your Learning and Development teams for materials readily available. We do not always have to reinvent the wheel. Is there a person responsible for change management in your organization? If so, seek to align yourself with this resource to aid in promoting cultural changes.
Get on the lifelong learning bandwagon. We will be challenged at every step of the way, especially if others don't buy into the business case for DEI. Therefore, it is pragmatic to educate ourselves continuously. We can't wish and hope that others will yield their priorities based on our ask. While we don't have to become professors of DEI, we must become well-versed in the benefits that DEI drives that apply to our organization and industry, for that matter. Build a storehouse of knowledge that can respond to challenges aired.
DO THE HOMEWORK
It is not enough to want to create an inclusive workplace. You must assess opportunities for improvement specific to your organization. Where are there gaps? What would make the workplace more enjoyable? We must ask ourselves what ideas will bring about the most leverage to start the journey.
How you package the message is essential. If the receiver can't consume your message because your packaging isn't digestible, you must adapt the approach. One example is to extend your reach by building rapport with those savvy in influencing upwards. After that, we must follow up by asking for support.
LEAN INTO PATIENCE
I know this is a hard one, for perhaps patience has already been exhausted. Yet, we must be patient and kind to leaders who take a slower route on the DEI journey. If need be, take a time out from pushing that boulder. Sit with silence and allow the inner wisdom an escape to chart the next steps.
On this end, I'm continuing to cheer you on from afar. After all, we need more inclusive leaders in the world. Thank you for raising your hand to be a change agent.
This article was originally published in Forbes.