10 Tips to Achieve Meaningful Success

Dear Future and New Executives,
It is with immense joy and pleasure that I welcome you to Diversity, Equity and Inclusion executive leadership. On behalf of all of us, we are very excited for you to join the community. Your experience driving results and influencing management has brought you to this point. Your technical knowledge, practitioner skills and leadership abilities must be impressive!

According to the Wall Street Journal, more than 50% of the Fortune 500 now have a Chief Diversity Officer – our numbers and visibility are growing. Together we can achieve so much more. To acquaint you with your new role and help you excel, below are 10 tips for success:

  • Control Staff & Budget: High performance is predicated on accomplishing the objectives for which you are accountable. While shared responsibility is held throughout the organization, a dedicated team is fully invested in DEI success. Defined staff allows for deep expertise to efficiently get work done. Staff and budget resources improve consistent and reliable performance.
  • Define & Understand Success: Success mandates vary across organizations. Reliable researchers like McKinsey and Coqual have substantiated the outperformance of firms that leverage DEI. In addition, understand how your business makes money, manages regulatory requirements, complies with legal obligations and contributes to corporate social responsibility to achieve holistic success.
  • Maintain Relevance: Continually recalibrate the “why” of Diversity, Equity & Inclusion to your stakeholders. Listen, learn and maintain an internal and external pulse to stay grounded with what’s going on and align interests.
  • Execute, Execute, Execute: Connect Diversity, Equity, & Inclusion to data-driven and measurable impacts. Keep your commitments.
  • Communicate, Communicate. Communicate: Consistently and clearly articulate objectives, goals, activities and results. Communication demonstrates transparency, increases engagement, builds trust and credibility.
  • Maintain Appropriate Visibility: The adages “out of sight, out of mind” and “doing the most” are both true. Balancing the visibility of your brand in the information age is an art. Provide content and be present in the marketplace. Roll up your sleeves internally, lead, and support others. Avoiding overexposure requires self-awareness and restraint.
  • Manage Short- & Long-Term Objectives: We often refer to DEI journeys as “a marathon and not a sprint.” This is because cultural, strategic and systemic change takes skill, time and patience. Align your reporting to the business and operational rhythms. Consistently manage expectations, be agile, and reinforce progress and lessons learned. Mix quick wins with incremental progress while keeping your eye on the long game.
  • Cultivate Relationships: Building and maintaining professional and personal relationships is more involved than networking and knowing thousands of people. Take the time to foster and invest in others; there is no substitute for lasting, mutually supportive networks.
  • Give: Give grace. Give freely. Give time. Give back.
  • Take Care of Yourself: The average tenure of Diversity, Equity & Inclusion Officers is declining. According to Entrepreneur.com, the tenure is 1.8 years (2022). In 2021, Reuters cited the tenure as about 3 years. Why? The work is complex, expectations vary, and the discipline of DE&I is relatively new, plus political and societal pressures are extreme. Invest in your rejuvenation, mental and physical well-being. Take advantage of your benefits package, exercise, rest, maintain a healthy diet, and have fun.

Check out a few of my favorite publications, which include The Power of Choice: Embracing Efficacy to Drive Your Career by Michael Hyter; Your First 100 Days in a New Executive Job by Robert Hargrove; and Expect to Win by Carla Harris.

There is no better time to serve as the Chief Diversity, Equity and Inclusion Officer. The role is a visible articulation that your organization prioritizes the commitment to reflect the diverse customers they serve internally and externally.

Congratulations and Continued Success!

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