Dear fellow humans,
This is a leadership moment without a roadmap. I’m pulling these words from my experience as well as my intuition in the hopes they direct you on a constructive path to progress.
Recently I have received emails from CEOs denouncing racism, promising to do better, and forming committees of their employees to build a roadmap for change.
That’s not enough.
We can’t just denounce racism. And we definitely cannot ask our teams – specifically the most impacted people of color – to do the heavy lifting in addition to their other work and personal experiences.
Here is an executive 30-day plan.
- Start the search to hire a Diversity, Equity and Inclusion (DEI) Officer if you don’t have one already that reports to the CEO.
- Commit a 3-year Diversity, Equity and Inclusion (DEI) budget that is irrevocable.
- Give DEI Officer a team because no one can do this alone. It’s then the role of the team to create and manage any multi-functional committee.
- Get the head of finance and accounting to start looking through your tax structures to understand how your business decisions have taken advantage of underprivileged communities and how to start reversing those trends. Have you negotiated for corporate tax breaks that actually pull money from communities and affect funding for schools? Have you specifically sought to not be a part of communities even though they need the work, they need the jobs and they have the affordable infrastructure?
- Stop marketing leaders from touting platitudes and start sharing truths: where the business is now and the action plan for improvement – not only for their employees, but for their customers and their community stakeholders.
- Send your CEO to the Board and to Wall Street/investors and explain how their stakeholder value and investment in the community needs to be recalculated because the optics of a short-term ‘loss’ will actually drive long term results. If you’re in this to flip a company at the expense of the community, the employees, the customers; then you’re in the wrong game now.
Denouncing racism is not enough. Reiterating that you have a commitment to equality is not enough. Asking your employees who probably are already disenfranchised to spend more of their time on a new committee to explain to you how to not be racist is not enough.
If you’re an executive, you need to do more.
Has your organization siphoned money from communities based on the business decisions? Has your organization created income inequality? Has the creation of your low-cost products and services disenfranchised individuals across the world? Has your executive leadership team climbed a ladder that someone else put down for them and then pulled it up behind them?
Talk about what you are going to do in the next 7 days, 1 month and 2 months to actually audit what you as leaders have done, how to reverse it, and how you’re going to take the responsibility off of your disenfranchised and overworked employees and do the work yourself.
Talk about how you’re going to make an investment in a permanent DEI Officer that has a seat at the table, and how you’re going to give that individual a budget that is secured for the next three years along with a team of FTEs.
I say this with compassion and care as well urgency and action. This is life or death.
There is no other leader that’s going to do this. You are the leader. This is your work. This is your moment.