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DEI Training Shouldn’t Be Check the Box

How do I motivate my team to be more open to issues of diversity, equity, and inclusion, and not see it as training they must do to check the box?

Thanks for your great question that, I think, has two parts.

DEI Training Shouldn’t Be Check the Box

The first part is trying to help your team members not see training as “check the box.” One way to do that is to keep the conversation going year-round about DEI and respect. For instance, team members might have various discussions about what inclusion means in the context of your team or your division, or with your customers and partners.

Other conversations might focus on equity—how tasks are assigned (particularly high-profile ones), how raises and professional advancement opportunities are determined. Transparency is critical for seeing how equity and inclusion aren’t just check-the-box items.

Similarly, asking the question in meetings “whose opinion are we missing?” or “what information are we lacking?” helps make diversity a continuing, live issue affecting team functioning and team decisions.

Motivate the Team About DEI Issues

The second issue I see is how to motivate team members to be more open to DEI issues. You have an opportunity to make a difference. Research shows that inclusive leaders share six traits:

Visible commitment: They articulate authentic commitment to diversity, challenge the status quo, hold others accountable, and make diversity and inclusion a personal priority.
Humility: They are modest about capabilities, admit mistakes, and create the space for others to contribute.
Awareness of bias: They show awareness of personal blind spots, as well as flaws in the system, and work hard to ensure a meritocracy.
Curiosity about others: They demonstrate an open mindset and deep curiosity about others, listen without judgment, and seek with empathy to understand those around them.
Cultural intelligence: They are attentive to others’ cultures and adapt as required.
Effective collaboration: They empower others, pay attention to diversity of thinking and psychological safety, and focus on team cohesion.

As you behave in these ways, you both model and set the tone for the rest of the team. In addition, periodically sharing with the team why you, personally, are committed to DEI. In doing that, you’re conveying to them that DEI isn’t simply a check the box. Because it’s meaningful to you, it becomes meaningful to them.

In addition, as you coach team members (perhaps privately) to be more mindful of DEI issues, you’re keeping it closer to the forefront of their minds. They see that you want to increase their DEI-related skills. With coaching, it’s important to make sure your focus is on how the new skills align with the organization’s mission, the team’s functioning, and fundamental aspects of respect and fairness. In contrast, trying to “shame” people to be more interested in DEI issues can backfire.

Disclaimer: This question and response is provided for informational purposes only, and you should not act or refrain from acting on the basis of this content. It is strongly recommended that you immediately seek legal or other professional advice if you believe you are experiencing a problem requiring professional assistance. Robin Rosenberg and Live in Their World, Inc. disclaim all liability for actions you take or fail to take based on Dear Robin content.


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