Expand Your Sphere of Influence in Diversity and Inclusion Leadership

diversity and inclusion leadership training Apr 08, 2021

Are you tasked with driving the Diversity & Inclusion agenda? Building a diverse network of influential stakeholders and expanding your sphere of influence, will be critical to your success.

What do we mean by the superpower of “Network”? Essentially it is based on the fact that “the power of many is greater than the power of one."

Diversity and Inclusion (D&I) specialists are key influencers in the organisation, often working with senior leaders to gain their commitment to initiatives, which create long-term value for organisations. When delivered in an integrated way, an effective D&I strategy creates value to both organisations and wider society. (CIPD)

Being able to evidence this value is key to gaining buy-in from some stakeholders. At the same time, others stakeholders will provide you with the data, resources, ideas and people to have a positive impact - so where do you start?

Identify the Influential Stakeholders

Board & Senior Management

Hopefully you are in an organisation where you are part of the executive team who already understand the significance of an effective Diversity & Inclusion strategy. If this is the case, demonstrating the implemented interventions’ ROI and value will be your focus with this group. However, we often hear at Thriving Talent that D&I specialists do not have the buy-in of senior management, so this is a group to put at the top of your list to influence. Harvest the outputs of your superpower “Listening” (read the 1st blog in this series here) to build greater awareness of the challenges and behaviours, practices and policies that are perceived as exclusive; so that you can better inform and educate the executive team.

Human Resources/People & Culture/Communications

Don’t fall into the trap many have made in the past where there is a great divide between the different groups in HR and D&I. There is so much intersectionality between all the functions (think Compensation & Benefits, Learning & Development, Talent Acquisition, Talent Management etc.) and D&I. Make time to build relationships across these groups and share lessons learnt, ideas and resources; to maximise impact and consistency of message.

Business Leaders

Developing a diversity strategy to support the achievement of business goals, including ways of addressing customers’ diverse needs, accelerates the business’s buy-in. Identify the change champions in the business who lead inclusively and model progressive ways of working. Forge connections and increase your understanding of the business vision and goals so that you can demonstrate how the D&I strategy is an enabler.

Line Managers

This is often your most prominent group of both change champions and potential resistors! The secret to success to maximise this community of change agents is to put yourself in their shoes when designing and implementing changes. Solicit their feedback to ideas and test concepts so that you have tested the water before large scale rollouts.

Legal/Audit/Initiatives (BSI, ISO QM etc)

Make friends with the teams so that you can keep up-to-date with the law and policy changes, any other initiatives around Quality Management etc. These will, of course, influence your D&I strategy.

Country/Regional Leaders

If you are working in a multinational organisation, remember that a global D&I framework needs to have the agility and flexibility to respond to local needs. Local legislation, norms and social issues, plus individual working styles and personal preferences, are all influenced by national cultures.

How comfortable are you with networking?

You are in the majority if you are uncomfortable with networking. Many people shy away from this essential activity because either they don’t like it and make up stories about what it entails (i.e. an activity reserved for professional events where people are meeting to sell themselves and show off) or they suffer from imposter syndrome - especially common for D&I specialists who are new to D&I and not yet experts in the field.

If you have to move out of your comfort zone to network, remember that this isn’t about YOU! If you stay inspired and focused on the vision you and your fellow change champions have for the organisation, you will feel empowered to expand your sphere of influence in pursuit of driving change. Build your alliances and interact with others to nurture meaningful relationships that create mutual benefit and value.

Networking with Clear Intention and Conscious Action

It is essential to prioritise your networking. You have to be strategic about how you use your time. Create a D&I Council so you can have representatives come together from these key stakeholder groups and be super-efficient.

When you have successfully built a vast network, be mindful that everyone will have a wish list to fix what is broken - and you cannot achieve everything at once! Once you have defined the strategy or are rolling it out, stay focused on its execution and measure its impact. Define decision making criteria to help evaluate new requests objectively and use groups like the Council to help you stay on track.

  • Stay updated with trends - attend events (we recommend this one coming up on 16th - 17th June through ICON), webinars like this one and external groups to expand your network externally.
  • Stakeholders love data and facts - use the surveys available from reliable organisations like Qlearsite, who have helped many organisations identify priorities, using advanced analysis and deep insights of data collected.
  • Ask your partners and suppliers for help - at Thriving Talent, we love connecting our clients with others in our network to help accelerate change and ensure best practices and resources are shared. At our recent Clients Round Table, we saw rich exchanges and networks expanded for D&I specialists!

Remember that managing diversity and developing a culture of inclusion is a continuous improvement process, not a one-off initiative! As a D&I Leader, you need to keep your battery full so prioritise, delegate and “walk the talk”, especially around well being!

Are you a newly appointed D&I leader for your company? Have you been recently tasked with driving the D&I agenda as part of your role? Are you interested to learn the best practices that best in class D&I leaders adopt to help their company foster inclusion and leverage diversity?

Join Thriving Talent, Qlearsite and our panel of D&I leaders in a free webinar to learn about the 3 ways you can become a stronger D&I leader. Friday, 23 April 2021 at 12:30 CET. 

Click here to book your seat. 

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