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Considerations for Scaling

This week’s article is by Greg Moran, a C-level digital, strategy and change leadership executive with extensive global operations experience.  It is a companion to his interview on Innovating Leadership, Co-creating Our Future titled What Leaders Won’t Talk About When Scaling a Business that aired on Tuesday, January 11th, 2022.

 

No cute titles, no click-bait tag lines – just an honest conversation about some of the things I’ve learned from creating, launching and getting through the first couple of stage gates on scale.  I spent most of my career working at big companies like Bank One (Chase), Ford Motor and Nationwide Insurance attempting to transform to meet competitive pressure or to maintain the status quo of a business model that hasn’t changed since before I was born.  Starting a company is way more fun, but much of my experience did little to prepare me for the challenges of actually going through the process in a leadership role – kind of like how watching the Tour de France on TV does little to prepare you to ride your bike 100 miles in a day.  For this blog, I’ll summarize the headlines that we cover in the accompanying podcast.  I encourage you to listen so you get the nuance of what the words mean because they can look obvious on paper without hearing the dialogue.

 

Back Office

The thing about back-office investment is that you don’t want to make the investment until you need to, but when you need to, it’s usually painful and distracting – like changing the tires on a car that’s going 70 mph.  The trick of it is to be ahead of the curve, but not too far ahead of the curve.  I’ve found it useful is to remember 2 things:

  • “Skate to where the puck is going to be, not where it has been.” – Wayne Gretsky
  • Tech costs a lot less than people do, so get on platforms that will make sure your back office stays off the critical path of your growth, otherwise you will have to compensate with people.

 

DEI and ESG

Nobody wants to talk about this because they are afraid of getting canceled or saying the wrong thing and getting attacked.  There are some cold hard truths you need to know about this space if you are starting a tech company (and many other types of companies as well):

  • The talent pool of people that can tolerate the perceived risk of a startup is not as diverse as the general labor pool.
  • The talent pool of people that are experienced in the functions you need to fill AND have start-up experience is even less diverse, and you rarely have the luxury of time to go find that unicorn.
  • The people who are attracted to the risk profile of the startup world expect to be compensated with equity in a way that rewards them for the risk and have little practical interest in the other ‘equity’. Everyone has a good set of talking points these days, the expectations remain (I’m living this now, even though we are well beyond the risk-equity phase of growth).
  • Your ability in the early days to create ESG metrics will be limited and probably irrelevant.

So what does this mean for you?  My suggestion is the following:

  • Have a clear set of principles on DEI and ESG that guide the company’s decision-making and are very transparent to the board, the leadership team, every employee and every prospect.
  • Back up the principles opportunistically at every turn, without compromising the integrity of your commitments to existing employees and investors. In the early days, compromises on competence will stick out like a sore thumb and may kill the company if the role is important enough.
  • Rely on advisors to help bolster/refine the thinking of the team over time.
  • As soon as you can begin to build a pipeline, invest in talent resources that have the clear accountability to do so.
  • Use search firms to amplify your reach to great diverse candidates.
  • Insist on equally engaging events and practices within the company.
  • Don’t virtue signal with grand statements that you can’t back up and just invite criticism and ‘gotchas’.

 

Space and People

Scaling and Covid combined have raised some interesting questions on space and people.  As you grow, does your philosophy on space and employee experience change?  Is remote your new operating model – going full virtual?  How do you handle in-person collaboration when it benefits the company and/or the process and/or the individuals who may desperately want to have and build personal relationships?

I think any singular answer to this question would end up being a ‘one size fits none’ solution, so I’ll stick to some principles we have embraced (for now) in light of the ever-shifting landscape in which we all find ourselves:

  • Don’t be definitive and don’t show a preference for remote vs. in-person. If you really want to allow either to give you access to more talent and allow you to grow faster (or whatever reason), then truly embrace and invest in both.
  • Model both from a leadership standpoint, even if you have a strong preference. Your modeling will empower.
  • Make in-person compelling – give people a reason to come in, regardless of the frequency.
  • Do the same for remote – support the gear that makes it a great experience for the remote employee and those they interact with. Provide stipends and perks to enhance the remote experience.  Create quality virtual events – serious and fun.
  • Communicate and get feedback as the game changes.

 

Value Chain Balancing

As you scale a business, maintaining balance throughout your value chain is essential.  You really are only as strong as your weakest link and if you are over-invested in one element of your business, but constrained in another, you are just wasting money.  One of my friends that had exited a start-up gave me some great advice as we started our company.  ‘Never confuse having a product with having a company’, he said.  It was brilliant advice and has value chain balance at its heart.  If you build a better mousetrap, the world will not beat a path to your door.  In fact, the world will probably never know you exist.  If you have no pipeline, hiring people to close deals is a waste of money.

Pay attention to and build specific metrics around your funnel – know the numbers for you and for your industry and stay on top of it!  Keep the operations functions off your critical path by making sure they have the capacity to support your growth – HR, Finance, Facilities, etc.  Force business case discipline on your product and engineering functions (which is not to say don’t place bets, but the business cases force the homework to be done and give you data on which to base the bet, which will lead to better decisions and board-level buy-in).

 

Avoiding Distraction

One of the most insidious things that can happen as you scale is that the world will want to talk to you and your team about your success.  The temptation to do so is pretty irresistible and you should fight it aggressively.  When you start up the steep scaling curve is when the company needs focused leadership the most.  I’ve seen great young companies and budding CEOs get totally derailed by the seduction of publicity that makes them feel good but does nothing for the company, its customers or its team.  Do a couple of carefully curated and well-managed events per quarter and stay focused on your broader objective.

 

I hope this practical approach is useful.  I’m not looking to impress you with clever aphorisms (I have a bunch that perhaps I’ll drop in another blog someday), but rather to give you some super simple, easy-to-implement concepts.  Upward and onward!!

 

To become a more innovative leader, you can begin by taking our free leadership assessments and then enrolling in our online leadership development program.

Check out the companion interview and past episodes of Innovating Leadership, Co-creating Our Future, via iTunes, TuneIn, Stitcher, Spotify, Amazon Music, Audible,  iHeartRADIO, and NPR One.  Stay up-to-date on new shows airing by following the Innovative Leadership Institute LinkedIn.

 

About the Author

Greg Moran is a C-level digital, strategy and change leadership executive with extensive global operations experience. He led corporate strategy for Ford and designed the plan that Alan Mullaly used to turn around the company. Greg held C-level IT positions in app dev, infrastructure and core banking applications at Ford, Nationwide Insurance and Bank One/JPMC, respectively. He began his career in consulting with Arthur Andersen Accenture, working across industries with 100 companies over the course of a decade. He is passionate about leadership and culture and teaches part-time on the topic at Ohio University.

Justice, Equity, Diversity, and Inclusion (JEDI) Innovative Health Care Leadership

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This week’s article is a sneak peak at an Appendix to recently released, Innovative Leadership in Health Care book that was authored by Maureen Metcalf of Innovative Leadership Institute and Erin S. Barry, M.S; Dukagjin M. Blajak, M.D., Ph.D.; Suzanna Fitzpatrick, DNP; Michael Morrow-Fox, M.B.A., Ed. S.; and Neil E. Grunberg, Ph. D.  This book provides health care workers with frameworks and tools based on the most current research in leadership, psychology, neuroscience, and physiology to help them update or innovate how they lead and build the practices necessary to continue to update their leadership skills. It is provided to supplement the interview with Eric Douglas Keene on Innovating Leadership, Co-creating Our Future titled Diversity Recruiting: Changes and Retention that aired on Tuesday, June 8th, 2021.

 

I have strong memories of an eye-opening conversation I had with some friends when I began work in a suburban hospital.  I met my friend and his wife for a snack at the hospital cafeteria when they visited for his routine physical.  I teased him about how nice he was dressed.  He looked at his wife and then back at me.  He smiled as he replied, “We have to dress up when we go to this hospital,” he said.  “Otherwise, the security staff wants to escort us to our physician’s office.”  After that conversation, I noticed several instances of African American patients, families, and staff receiving ‘special help’ from the hospital security staff.  I was taken aback at both the hospital’s racist institutional behavior and my complete obliviousness to the racism.

This section is about innovative leadership for JEDI.  Innovative leadership for JEDI refers not to STAR WARS mind control techniques, but the other JEDI—[Social] Justice, Equity, Diversity, and Inclusion.  Innovative leadership for JEDI is the ability to impact individuals, teams, and systems to create a fair and engaging health care organization. For patients.  For families.  For health care workers. Of all backgrounds, genders, colors, and beliefs. The Innovative Leadership JEDI section is divided into three subsections.  Bias and health care, the health care crisis resulting from bias, and a pathway for leaders to address the JEDI health care crisis in their organizations.

Bias and Health Care

Our experiences are that most health care organizations and most health care leaders try to create a welcoming JEDI environment.  Most health care organizations and leaders truly value the principles of JEDI.  Research and experience, however, reveals too many health care organizations that are unwelcoming and un-inclusive.  In the absence of malice, how does a health care organization create an unwelcoming and un-inclusive environment? We submit the answer may lie in cognitive biases that allow organizations and leaders to believe a problem exists, but… “It’s not me and not us.”

Emily Pronin notes, “Human judgment and decision making is distorted by an array of cognitive, perceptual and motivational biases.” Most health care professionals receive training in statistical practices aimed at eliminating biases in clinical practice.  Pronin goes on to describe a phenomenon termed blindspot bias writing, “Recent evidence suggests that people tend to recognize (and even overestimate) the operation of bias in human judgment – except when that bias is their own.”

Banaji and Greenwald have further described the blindspot bias as a bias people can readily see in others but have great difficulty seeing in themselves.  Blindspot biases manifest in statements like, “I know there is a lot of racial prejudice in the world, but I don’t see color, only people,” or, “I know most people that don’t understand cultural norms can be offensive, but I understand respect, so I am never offensive in any culture.” When someone is aware that a phenomenon regularly exists in others but denies the possibility that it could exist in them, a blindspot bias may be the reason for their confidence. In the health care world, it is often misguided confidence that may dehumanize and disenfranchise others.

In addition to the blindspot bias, health care leaders can suffer from implicit biases. Harvard University’s Project Implicit describes implicit biases as, “attitudes and beliefs that people may be unwilling or unable to report.”  Project Implicit provides the example of an implicit bias as, “You may believe that women and men should be equally associated with science, but your automatic associations could show that you (like many others) associate men with science more than you associate women with science.”

Mission statements and Diversity Departments in health care organizations echo a call to deliver the highest possible care and adherence to the value principles of JEDI.  This in contrast to the many patients, families, employees, and communities suffering consequences of social injustice, inequity, lack of diversity, and un-inclusiveness. The combination of blindspot and implicit biases create a JEDI crisis in our health care systems.  A crisis that hides in plain view through a cloak of “not me, not us” beliefs.

The Tale of a JEDI Health Care Crisis

The evidence on JEDI and health care delivery highlights systemic failures on almost every level.  Below are a few health care statistics illustrating the breakdown of principles of JEDI for our patients, their families, and our employees:

  • During the first ten months of the Covid-19 crisis, U.S. data from the COVID Racial Data Tracker showed mortality rates 150% higher for African Americans, 135% higher for Indigenous American People, and 125% for Hispanic Americans than for White Americans. Bassett and colleagues reported that African Americans between the ages of 35 and 44 had nine times higher mortality rates than their White American counterparts.
  • Marcella Nunez-Smith and colleagues found nearly one in three Black physicians, nearly one in four Asian physicians, and one in five Hispanic/Latino physicians have left at least one job due to discriminatory practices.
  • Dickman and colleagues note the top one percent of affluent males live on average 15 years longer than the lowest one percent of poor males. Low-income families are in poor health at rates 15 percent higher than their affluent American counterparts.
  • Using U.S. Census Data, The Center for American Progress reports women in the workforce earn $.77 for every dollar their male counterparts earn. Women are often pigeonholed into “pink-collar” jobs, which typically pay less. Forty-three percent of the women employed in the United States are clustered in just 20 occupational categories, of which the average annual median earnings is less than $29,000.
  • The Organisation for Economic Co-operation and Development reports that female physicians make up only 34 percent of all U. S. physicians.
  • More than 25 percent of African American women and nearly 25 percent of Hispanic American women live in poverty. Elderly women have poverty rates over double those of elderly men.
  • The Center for American Progress reports more than 10 percent of African Americans and more than 16 percent of Hispanic Americans are uninsured compared to 5.9 percent of White Americans.
  • African American adults over age 20 suffer from hypertension at the rate of 42 percent compared to 29 percent for White American adults.
  • In a survey of over 27,000 transgender respondents, Herman and colleagues reported, “In the year prior to completing the survey, one-third (33%) of those who saw a health care provider had at least one negative experience related to being transgender, such as being verbally harassed or refused treatment because of their gender identity.”
  • A survey of over 40,000 LGBTQ Americans aged 13 to 24 by The Trevor Project found almost half of the respondents engaged in self-harm. And 40 percent have “seriously considered” attempting suicide—in just the past year.
  • Ronald Wyatt reports, “The total cost of racial/ethnic disparities in 2009 was approximately $82 billion—$60 billion in excess healthcare costs and $22 billion in lost productivity. The economic burden of these health disparities in the US is projected to increase to $126 billion in 2020 and to $353 billion in 2050 if the disparities remain unchanged.”

JEDI Innovative Health Care Leadership Action

Reading the statistics above and the myriad of statics available, we find it hard to deny a systemic failure of the health care delivery system and our health care organizations.  How did it get this bad when we have so many well-intended and highly skilled leaders?  Blindspot and implicit biases can cause inaction in an otherwise effective leadership team.  Leaders with blindspot and implicit biases do not disregard problems; they render problems moot through the belief, “not me, not us.”  We hope the shortlist of statistics above brings some awareness that “me/we” are both the health care problem and the solution.

Innovative health care leaders can change the course of social injustice, inequity, lack of diversity, and un-inclusion.  Using their influence, leaders can take an evidence-based approach to JEDI, learn/teach cultural competence, practice cultural humility, create support for diverse populations, and grow communities to change the course of this systemic failure.  We elaborate with some definitions and examples below.

Pfeffer and Sutton wrote, “A bold new way of thinking has taken the medical establishment by storm in the past decade: the idea that decisions in medical care should be based on the latest and best knowledge of what actually works.”  Pfeffer and Sutton went on to write while the idea of evidence-based care is almost uncontested, physicians only make evidence-based decisions 15 percent of the time.  This is certainly of concern for clinical decision-making, and it is an equal concern for changing the tide of systemic JEDI failures.

As leaders, we must ask, “How would someone with a blindspot or implicit bias know if women, minorities, or people of non-traditional identities are experiencing injustice, inequity, or un-inclusion?”  The answer is evidence.  Do job applicants with the names Julio and Jamal have the same employment opportunities as applicants with the names John and James? Do our women and minority workers make comparable wages to our white male workers? Do immigrant patients feel respected when receiving care?  Are our employees reflective of the community in which we reside?  We are uncertain without evidence. Without evidence, our instincts and experiences guide us; instincts and experiences which can be skewed by biases.

Innovative JEDI leaders (like you) are actively pursuing evidence that their organizations are socially just, equitable, appropriately diverse, and inclusive.  Evidence—accurate data that is analyzed and understood; confirms or denies the existence of JEDI.  If a leader does not have JEDI evidence, the “not me and not us” biases may predominate the institutional consciousness.

Cultural learning opportunities should be readily available in your organization. Cultural competence, the ability to recognize, appreciate, and interact successfully with people from other cultures, is essential for any healthcare professional.  In addition, Tervalon and Murray-Garcia observed, “Cultural humility incorporates a lifelong commitment to self-evaluation and self-critique, to redressing the power imbalances in the patient-physician dynamic, and to developing mutually beneficial and nonpaternalistic clinical and advocacy partnerships with communities on behalf of individuals and defined populations.”  Innovative leaders teach, support, and model cultural humility within their organizations.

We have had many conversations with health care human resource professionals observing, “We get minority candidates hired, we just can’t get them to stay.”  When diverse employees walk into a room with people who do not look like them, do not believe like them, may have preconceived negative ideas about people like them, it can be overwhelming.  Patients, their families, and employees need to feel the organization’s support, receive mentoring on the navigation of differences, and understand that their differences are vital for the community and organization’s strength.  Innovative leaders forge pathways of support for inclusion, mentorship, and engagement in their health care organizations.  Support groups, mentoring programs, organizational messages, and evidence gathering serve to support and retain diverse populations.

Innovative leaders look at the gaps in their communities and think about how to close those gaps.  In an article entitled, Physicians for Social Justice, Diversity and Equity: Take Action and Lead, Lubowitz and colleagues note, “Few orthopedic surgeons are minorities or female, and orthopedic surgery is not perceived to be an inclusive specialty. This is an obstacle to equitable diverse hiring.”  Despite the lack of diverse candidates in the profession, Lubowitz and colleagues passionately express the need to advocate, inspire, and continuously improve as a profession.

We agree. If there are gaps in finding physicians and other health care employees that are reflective of the community, start programs to recruit, train, and inspire the community.  Programs from elementary school to advanced educational grants can all serve to change a community.  Lubowitz and colleagues recommend, “In terms of minorities and women making a choice to pursue medicine and then orthopedic surgery as a desired medical specialty, we wield enormous impact and a most direct influence. We must consciously change our behavior and demonstrate that we are an inclusive medical specialty.”  Every innovative health care leader can demonstrate support for inclusion.

Most of us have experienced the patient that demands, “I’m sorry, but I don’t want a [Female, Jewish, Muslim, Gay, Old, Younge, Black, Hispanic, Other] physician.  This is my health, and I cannot afford to be politically correct.”  As if unsubstantiated biases are merely politeness.  Prejudice can be malicious hate or blindspot and implicit biases.  In any form, a lack of JEDI weakens the health care delivery system causing pain and suffering for the community.  Effective innovative leaders replace, “Not me, not us” with, “It could be me; it might be us” to ensure health care teams, organizations, and communities are just, equitable, diverse, and inclusive.

 

To become a more innovative leader, you can begin by taking our free leadership assessments and then enrolling in our online leadership development program.

Check out the companion interview and past episodes of Innovating Leadership, Co-creating Our Future, via iTunes, TuneIn, Stitcher, Spotify, Amazon Music, Audible,  iHeartRADIO, and NPR One.  Stay up-to-date on new shows airing by following the Innovative Leadership Institute LinkedIn.

About the Author

Maureen Metcalf, Founder, CEO, and Board Chair of the Innovative Leadership Institute is a highly sought-after expert in anticipating and leveraging future business trends to transform organizations.  She has captured her thirty years of experience and success in an award-winning series of books that are used by public, private, and academic organizations to align company-wide strategy, systems, and culture with innovative leadership techniques.  As a preeminent change agent, Ms. Metcalf has set strategic direction and then transformed her client organizations to deliver significant business results such as increased profitability, cycle time reduction, improved quality, and increased employee effectiveness. She and the Innovative Leadership Institute have developed and certified hundreds of leaders who amplify their organizations’ impact across the world.

Photo by Piron Guillaume on Unsplash

How Nonprofit CEOs And Board Chairs Can Cultivate Justice, Equity, Diversity And Inclusion

This week’s article is provided by Dr. Christopher Washington as part of the International Leadership Association’s interview series and was originally published on Forbes.com.  It is a companion to his interview on Innovating Leadership, Co-creating Our Future titled JEDI SPACE Principles for CEOs and Board Chairs that aired on Tuesday, May 4th, 2021.

 

The pandemic lockdown of 2020 and 2021 presented (and continues to present) multiple sources of stress and associated symptoms in the U.S. population, leading the American Psychological Association to declare a national mental health crisis. Efforts to establish a new normal in the way we work have exposed anxieties, tensions and dividing lines in many organizations. Because nonprofits are often on the front lines in supporting the causes that matter and in adapting and responding to rapid social and technological changes, nonprofit staff are particularly vulnerable to stressful conditions.

An organization’s climate is how its members perceive “how things work around here.” However, an organization’s climate can change. This change can occur when the language, actions and intentions of board and staff members shift in response to what is stressing them. In these instances, leaders can focus on honing leadership traits like positive emotional energy, trust and stability. More enlightened CEOs and board chairs are deeply aware that their words and deeds can enable inclusive excellence, where human diversity, ingenuity and talent flourish.

Research by the Society of Human Resources Management suggests that companies that operate under these principles tap into a broader range of backgrounds and skill sets, are more likely to pursue fairness and morality, and may reduce the likelihood of staff attrition. Research conducted by McKinsey and Co. linked diversity and inclusion to organizational performance. For nonprofits, operating on principles such as justice, equity, diversity and inclusion (J.E.D.I.) should be viewed as essential for maintaining a healthy and sustainable organization.

Perhaps the analog astronaut and geoscientist Dr. Sian Proctor said it best: “J.E.D.I. space is the outer space I want to visit and the space I want to create and inhabit right here on Earth. It starts when we learn to cultivate our own individual J.E.D.I. voice as a force for positive change in order to create the collective J.E.D.I. space we envision for humanity’s future.”

Having served as the board chair for a number of nonprofit organizations over the years, I am quite familiar with the meaningful work of nonprofit organizations. With social and economic disruption likely to bedevil nonprofits for the foreseeable future, there is a need for CEOs and board chairs to develop a J.E.D.I. voice and to create a J.E.D.I. S.P.A.C.E. with just, equitable, diverse and inclusive environments, where community members engage in supportive, purposeful, accountable, collaborative and evaluative practices.

By working together, the CEO and chair can decide to dial up or dial down their shared authority to address toxic behavior and unhealthy conflicts, uplift the morale or facilitate the cohesion of individuals and groups, or foster more active engagement of board and staff members. Presented here are some suggested ways that the CEO and board chair can work together to create the S.P.A.C.E. principles that nonprofit board and staff members need in order to thrive during periods of prolonged disruption:

Supportive Practices

The CEO and board chair can support their teams by clarifying staff and director roles and emphasizing the importance of people and their contributions. For example, in clarifying roles, the board should know that it only has one employee, the CEO, and that everyone else in the organization reports to the CEO, as a way to prevent the confusion that can arise when multiple “managers” are leading staff. Additional ideas include hosting a new board member orientation, facilitating a review of a board policy manual, and periodically celebrating people and their role contributions.

Purposeful Practices

The CEO and chair can be a force for strategic clarity. To provide a sense of shared purpose, it is important for them to communicate the broader cause and J.E.D.I. principles. In addition, they can design an inclusive planning process that involves these J.E.D.I. S.P.A.C.E. principles and practices. Linking these ideas to how the organization creates value, the opportunities and threats faced by the organization, and the ways the organization will carry out its mission can lead to a deeper integration of these ideas into the culture of the organization.

Accountability Practices

Volatility and uncertainty have a way of bringing out both the best and worst in people. When incivility, dispiriting behavior and bullying emerge and are left unchecked it can create an unacceptable work climate. The CEO and chair can ensure that standards for acceptable behavior are spelled out and communicated and address behavior through feedback and other consequences. Having a code of conduct makes it easier for leaders to address inappropriate and unhealthy conduct. For some organizations, term limits for board members can prompt a board chair to pay close attention to board member performance. For extreme cases, procedures for board member removal can be spelled out in the organization’s bylaws.

Collaborative Practices

Leaders can structure interactions that connect people to the work and to each other. Cultivating a sense of connection can give the board and staff a sense of belonging and reinforce a shared purpose. Community building is especially healthy as more people are working remotely from one another. Collaborative activities can be used to share information, test understanding, foster compassion and engage in creative problem-solving. Collaborative activities can also aid in overcoming divisiveness and unhealthy cliques.

Evaluative Practices

The CEO and chair can lead efforts to assess and evaluate factors that contribute to the current climate. Both formal and informal assessment activities can enable transparency around purpose, J.E.D.I. values, S.P.A.C.E. practices and the perceived patterns of performance that exist. In formalizing this continuous improvement process, the CEO and chair can assure that the bylaws have an assessment process laid out and that a code of conduct serves as a criterion for evaluation and assessment.

Retaining and attracting the talented board and staff drawn to the work of nonprofits during more uncertain and stressful times will require more caring and compassionate leaders who are masters in developing supportive organizational climates. In working together, the CEO and chair can provide the J.E.D.I. S.P.A.C.E. principles the board and staff deserve in order to overcome the volatility and uncertainty that is likely to plague nonprofits for the foreseeable future.

 

To become a more innovative leader, you can begin by taking our free leadership assessments and then enrolling in our online leadership development program.

Check out the companion interview and past episodes of Innovating Leadership, Co-creating Our Future, via iTunes, TuneIn, Stitcher, Spotify, Amazon Music, Audible,  iHeartRADIO, and NPR One.  Stay up-to-date on new shows airing by following the Innovative Leadership Institute LinkedIn.

About the Author

Christopher Washington is a learning ecosystem designer who serves as Executive Vice President and Provost of Franklin University

Photo by Cytonn Photography on Unsplash

Seeking to Understand: Advice to Successfully Implement DEI Initiatives

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This blog is written by Maureen Metcalf and summarizes 5 recommendations Roger Madison shared about how leaders can improve the outcomes of diversity, equity and inclusion (DEI) initiatives.  It is a companion to the interview with Roger on Innovating Leadership, Co-creating Our Future titled Diversity and Inclusion Insights from IBM South Africa Experience that aired on Tuesday, November 24th, 2020.

 

Recently, I was honored to interview Roger Madison, a successful person of color overcoming discrimination and bias.  Let me share a little bit about Roger.

Roger’s Background

Roger grew up in Farmville, Virginia, and went on to earn  his Bachelor’s of Science in Business Administration from the George Washington University School of Business and Government Studies.   He is the Founder and CEO of iZania, LLC, which he established in 2003 after a successful career as a sales executive for IBM, some of that time was spent in South Africa.  iZania.com is an online community of Black entrepreneurs, professionals, and consumers, dedicated to economic and social empowerment. His goal is to help bridge the digital divide.

Roger’s passion is helping to prepare young people for the business of life. He is actively engaged in our community as a board member, volunteer, and mentor with Junior Achievement of Central Ohio, Big Brothers Big Sisters of Central Ohio, and Boys and Girls Clubs of Columbus.

He is married to his lovely his wife, Joyce, and they live in central Ohio.  They have been blessed with two adult children and two grandchildren.

 

Our Conversation

I believe part of the solution to diversity, equity, and inclusion involves understanding people’s experiences impacted by discrimination. During the interview, Roger shared the story of his struggles when his high school was closed because of the Brown vs. Board of Education legal battle. Roger also shared how bias impacted his ability to perform during his early college years and how his experience in the U.S. Air Force helped him develop the skills and confidence required to complete his college degree.

Roger was among the first and often only black person in a job or role. He found ways to thrive, even in overtly discriminatory environments. He is talented, able to self-advocate, and also fortunate to have had the opportunities he did. As described above to young people, he now gives back, helping them understand the business of life. He also serves as a role model and mentor for many others through his direct work at iZania and other community work.

I encourage you to listen to his full interview at the link here.

 

Roger’s Recommendations

Based on Roger’s unique experience, here are the five steps he recommends to improve outcomes from DEI initiatives.

  1. Undertake an honest assessment of the current status of your organization.  Understand the perceptions of DEI issues of existing employees.  Their perceptions represent the reality of your organization.  This has to be the starting point.
  2. Set measurable goals for change. Establish a vision of the inclusive environment you are working toward.  Commit to targets of inclusion, similar to the affirmative action programs of the 1970s.
  3. Create a pipeline to sustain the targets you establish.  Ensure meaningful representation at entry, middle, and senior levels of your organization.  This means providing opportunities for advancement with mentorships, special assignments, and broad exposure across all organizational areas.
  4. Be an advocate for the vision of an expanded culture of inclusion.  Leaders must lead.  This is not an assignment to delegate to the Chief Diversity Officer.  There may be a need for a Chief Diversity Officer to execute programs, but leadership must reside at the top.
  5. Follow through with the execution of plans to reach the goals established.  DEI must be a commitment, not an option.

We encourage you to look at how your organization is doing against your DEI goals, and if you don’t have DEI goals, how you are doing compared to where you think or wish you were. If you are not meeting your goals, take action. If you are in a formal leadership role, you can take significant action. If you are an individual contributor, you can be an advocate! All of us have a role to play in the evening the playing field. Thank you for playing your role well – to create a world where everyone has equal opportunities.

 

To become a more innovative leader, you can begin by taking our free leadership assessments and then enrolling in our online leadership development program.

Check out the companion interview and past episodes of Innovating Leadership, Co-creating Our Future, via iTunes, Google Play, TuneIn, Stitcher, Spotify and iHeartRADIO. Stay up-to-date on new shows airing by following the Innovative Leadership Institute LinkedIn.

 

About the Author

Maureen Metcalf – Founder, CEO, and Board Chair of Innovative Leadership Institute – is a highly sought-after expert in anticipating and leveraging future business trends to transform organizations. She has captured her thirty years of experience and success in an award-winning series of books which are used by public, private and academic organizations to align company-wide strategy, systems and culture with innovative leadership techniques. As a preeminent change agent, Ms. Metcalf has set strategic direction and then transformed her client organizations to deliver significant business results such as increased profitability, cycle time reduction, improved quality, and increased employee engagement. For years, she has been willing to share her hard-won insights – through conference speaking opportunities, industry publications, radio talk-shows, and video presentations.