Core competencies in DEI: meet people where they are at and help them move to be more inclusive (Part 3 of 5)

2 blank speech bubbles on a pink background
Photo by Miguel Á. Padriñán from Pexels

This is the third post in a week-long series exploring DEI professional competencies. I believe the five key competencies for DEI professionals are:

  1. be strategic
  2. translate academic research into action and measure the impact of initiatives
  3. meet people where they are at and help them move to be more inclusive 
  4. influence others
  5. get cross functional projects done. 

Yesterday I described how a DEI professional needs to be able to translate academic research into action as well as be able to measure the impact of programs. Today I’ll talk about meeting people where they’re at and helping them move to be more inclusive

For me, doing this work in a professional context means meeting people where they’re at and helping them move to where they need to be. Building trust with leaders is key to being successful in this line of work. When leaders are vulnerable and honest with you about their process of unpacking their own biases or learning about inclusion you can be a trusted partner to help them move forward on their journey. 

I loved working with senior leaders who invited feedback on how they were showing up. I supported a manager in levelling up his knowledge of gender, so that he could continue to foster an inclusive environment. I encouraged several executives to share a bit more about who they are and their fears and vulnerabilities to come off as more human and so that staff would share their fears with them. Trust allows for an authentic relationship where we can do hard and necessary things together.

I had a lot of 1:1 conversations with people at all levels of the organization about the intent of their actions and the actual impact on people. The key to having these conversations well is to be able to offer clear and direct feedback with empathy. Kim Scott’s book Radical Candor offers a great framework for this. 

tattoo of a lit match on the inside of my forearm

Looking back to when I was an activist in my 20s I was extremely self-righteous about my politics and very judgemental about where other people were at. There’s no way I would’ve been able to be effective in this work with that mindset. This tattoo on my left forearm has a few meanings for me. One is to remind me of when I was younger and wanted to burn down oppressive systems and as a reminder to meet people who are in that place with patience and empathy so we can build together. 

This is the third in a series of five posts. Tomorrow’s post will address influencing others as a core competency for DEI leaders.