By Kristin Ekkens, Director of Corporate Partnerships
As I reflect on 2017, I can safely say it was a year of growth for me personally and professionally. I set out to achieve some ambitious goals. And in partnership with many of you, we moved the needle!
One of my personal goals for 2017 was to complete a credential in global diversity and inclusion leadership. When I started the program last February, I was a leader of Inclusion & Diversity in a healthcare organization. In May, I transitioned into a new role as the Director of Corporate Partnerships with the Cultural Intelligence Center. I decided to continue my studies although it felt enormously hectic to say the least. Completing the credential took focus, dedication, and drive. On January 4, I received confirmation that I passed the exam and candidate project. Now a Certified Diversity Executive (CDE), I’m ready to tackle my goals for 2018!
I have worked in the field of Diversity & Inclusion (D&I) in some form since 2002; and still I find I need to continually work on my own competencies to keep pace with the field and ever-changing business demands. In 2008, The Conference Board published a white paper on Creating a Competency Model for Diversity and Inclusion Practitioners. Although it’s 10 years old, it still very much applies. The author argues that to best support organizational goals and to achieve success, D&I practitioners should possess the following overarching competencies:
- Change Management
- Diversity, Inclusion, and Global Perspective
- Business Acumen
- Strategic External Relations
- Visionary & Strategic Leadership
- HR Competencies
And at the foundation, D&I practitioners must have Integrity, which includes Resilience, Influence, Empathy, and Communication. I don’t disagree — I would just add Cultural Intelligence (the ability to work and relate effectively in various cultural contexts). Well, no wonder it is such a challenging position!
While transitioning from being a D&I leader implementing CQ to helping others do so, I have had a few “aha” moments I’d like to share:
- Envision the end before you get there. You have to see the end before you get there and apply the right approach/method/tactic at the right time. Timing and approach is key. If leadership is not engaged or frontline managers lack a sense of ownership, efforts typically fail or are not sustained.
- We are not problem fixers; we’re disruptive includers. The job of a D&I leader is not to fix problems but to create champions and empower others. We disrupt the status quo, provide new solutions, find partners, and build bridges. This takes patience, persistence, and energy.
- Creativity | Invention | Innovation. These terms do not have the same meaning. We often talk about diversity of thought and the importance of diverse perspectives. Diversity may help inspire creativity (with a culturally intelligent environment). Creativity is when ideas are brought to the table (such as suggestions for engaging employees). Invention is something new and tangible. Invention happens when voices are heard and action is taken (like a pilot program or internal campaign). Innovation happens when inventions are implemented and replicated. It becomes a scalable process, a replicated system (i.e. CQ Train-the-trainer program, champion networks, etc).
- You are not alone. Interestingly, my experience has been that many companies across various industries including tech, retail, and healthcare, are experiencing very similar challenges. Different organizational cultures may require different tactics, but the drivers are the same.
- Navigate land mines. Land minds are sometimes inevitable but are typically easier to map out when you are not standing right on them. A coach, consultant, or informal mentor can help with perspective-taking. Risk-taking at the right time is an essential competency and skill in this role.
After studying for my CDE exam, I was bursting with ideas and had copious action steps. I remember having this same feeling when I completed my Level 1 CQ certification in 2012 and then Level 2 in 2014 through the Cultural Intelligence Center. Then, I returned to the office where I found hundreds of emails, and urgent requests from team members, colleagues, or clients. Don’t let your great ideas get stuck in creativity mode! Move from great ideas to scalable processes and replicated systems. We can help you do that. It is truly a privilege to partner with so many great D&I leaders and organizations all around the world to provide research-based, innovative solutions for assessing, predicting, and improving cultural intelligence (CQ). Thank you for an incredible 2017 and here’s to 2018!