Meaningful Brand Maturity vs. Promotional Box Checking

by

Featuring: Errika Flood-Moultrie

Diversity. Equity. Inclusion (DEI). Individually, each word packs its own unique punch, but together, this lineup represents something much greater — profound even — and that is true head and heart transformation.

As a people-first, woman-owned, strategy and management consulting firm, Thought Ensemble has been closely studying DEI for years — for our own operational competency and for the benefit of our clients. We even developed a performance framework to measure our maturity against because, in the words of our CEO Lisa Jasper, “DEI shares a great parallel with technology in that there is no great-mountain top. We must always be in pursuit of knowledge and growth.”

Our own introspection has revealed a simple truth: intention and knowledge are essential, but the real transformation comes in the form of discipline. In other words, it is the relentless pursuit of new perspectives that ushers us around the corner to meaningful progress.

So, welcome to “The Great Perspective Pursuit!” Where various members of our ensemble will share unique findings from their individual quests to expand their horizons.

This time, we follow the pursuit of Thought Ensemble’s Growth Leader, Alyssa Martin, who is exploring the line between tactful DEI brand maturity and weightless self-promotion.

***

At this precise moment, most mid-to-large-sized organizations have seemingly engaged in some level of Diversity, Equity, and Inclusion initiatives, right? At least this is what the official LinkedIn accounts and hiring pages tell us.

The social conversation seems to be taking place, but are the internal conversations maintaining pace? As a Growth Leader in my organization, I have been asking myself what role I need to play in the larger conversation. More importantly, how can I — and others in business development, sales, brand, and marketing roles — avoid the temptation of promotional box-checking?

I recently had the privilege of speaking with an expert on DEI and capacity building, Errika Flood-Moultrie, the Operations and Strategy Director for the Dallas Truth, Racial Healing & Transformation Center and Principal of ConnectThree.

Here is what Errika had to say about the three biggest mistakes organizations are making with their DEI conversations — internally and externally — and how to level up:

 

Mistake #1 — Only Dipping a Toe

If you only have one or two leaders investing time into DEI, if you only have one or two required DEI trainings, if you only added one or two new strategically placed stock photos showing diversity to your website, then these are likely performative tactics that your organization has taken to gain the level of comfort needed to check the HR-compliant box. Performance is entertaining, but it does not move the needle.

Level up: If you are serious about DEI, then JUMP IN! ALL THE WAY IN! With all of your leaders, with regular discussions, with ongoing development, and with daily discomfort. The same is true for your external conversations — weekly focus needs to be placed on the work your organization is doing around DEI with a true and solid focus on the equity of DEI.

 

Mistake #2 — Skimming the History

DEI training not only needs to be continuous, but it needs to start from the top. Most organizations start the conversation with a list of behaviors to change (e.g., biases, microaggressions, harassment) without first acknowledging the hundreds of years of trauma that got us here to begin with.

Level up: If you are going to have the discussions, you first need to lay the foundation, otherwise the emotional investment will not be shared by everyone in the room. This is non-negotiable, and it needs to have a place in your external messaging as well.

 

Mistake #3 — Leaning Away from Discomfort

Avoiding discomfort, or worse, asking your facilitators to soften the message for your employees, is simply continuing the cycle we need to be focused on breaking.

Level up: If you are willing to jump in and start from the top, you are going to be uncomfortable. Your colleagues are going to be uncomfortable. Your leaders are going to be uncomfortable. So, when you design your all-in, continuous, multi-dimensional training, do it with courageousness and plan on allowing time for everyone to sit with their discomfort for a moment — the anti-Shavasana if you will. And, when you begin to fold the work your organization is doing into your external messaging, do it courageously and do it intentionally.

Perhaps one of the most important takeaways I had from my time with Errika was to think of DEI as a life-long practice and not just a few items you can check off your to-do list. This list is merely the beginning of several alignment exercises that need to happen from the proverbial day one and continue to happen in perpetuity.

So, if you are ready to take the next step, then lean into discomfort, get immersed in the history, and JUMP ALL THE WAY IN!

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