January 25, 2021 7 min read
Opinions expressed by Entrepreneur contributors are their own.
Everyone’s heard of leadership coaching, but diversity, equity and inclusion (DEI) coaching takes leadership to another level. DEI coaching guides executives and professionals toward authentic, actionable and inclusive leadership at the highest levels.
DEI is not your average leadership development experience where a coach peeks over your shoulder, gives you advice and throws you to the wolves. It’s an intensive, transformative practice that teaches how to do the following, and more:
- Builds cultural competence
- Promotes equity in the workplace
- Practices intentional allyship
- Engages in courageous communication
- Supports an actionable DEI plan
- Fosters a culture of belonging
1. Cultivates inclusive leadership at the executive level
DEI coaching allows executives to dive headfirst into inclusive leadership. Rather than keeping inclusion and diversity as willful thoughts or ideas, leadership begins to walk the walk and talk the talk. Executives are held accountable for strategies, plans and actions that improve DEI in your company. Your executives and the coach put their heads together and work through your company’s goals, key performance indicators (KPIs) and challenges. Then they come up with a personalized and executable DEI leadership development plan. From there the leadership team can effectively lead on their initiatives with a professional coach holding their hands along the way.
2. Positions execs to better execute DEI plans
Executives in your company may not know how diversity, equity and inclusion play out in the workplace. If issues of diversity are invisible to them, they won’t be able to effectively lead and solve problems. That’s where a DEI coach comes in. A coach would audit your company’s social dynamics and show your leadership team where to look for inequities in the workplace. When leadership can see and understand the dynamics of DEI in the business, they’ll be better positioned to strategize and execute on programming and strategic initiatives in the future. Even if the executives aren’t the ones directly overseeing the implementation, coaching better positions them to support the efforts in meaningful ways.
3. Provides a safe space to ask difficult questions, make mistakes and grow leadership’s capabilities
One of the major holdups to DEI efforts is the fear of making mistakes. Many people on your leadership team may have lofty goals for diversity and inclusion but may be hesitant to try new things or make mistakes. With a DEI coach, the fear of wrongdoing is mitigated. The coach has answers to your most pressing questions about DEI, and they’ll hold space for leadership to test different strategies. The safe space that a coach creates can allow your team to go bigger with your DEI programming and make the changes that significantly transform your business’ work culture.
4. Offers personalized attention
There’s no one-size-fits-all with diversity, equity and inclusion. A DEI coach can customize your coaching experience so all facets of your business are taken into account. From acquiring more diverse personnel to getting buy-in from employees on your DEI initiatives, coaching can be made specifically to reach your goals on a timeline that feels right for your business. Having a dedicated coach with personalized attention to your organization can make a difference in the long-term success of your diversity initiatives.
5. Gives ongoing, real-time support
If there’s a fire in the office that has been sparked by issues of diversity, equity and inclusion, it’s ideal to have a coach around for advice. A DEI coach can offer real-time, ongoing support as issues come up. If you find your team is having frequent problems with diversity, equity and inclusion, put a DEI coach on speed dial to counsel with you on issues that just can’t wait.
6. Fosters personal growth around vulnerability and authenticity
It’s not always easy to be vulnerable and authentic about DEI issues in the workplace. When your leadership team has a safe container to express ideas, concerns and thoughts about DEI, a powerful growth opportunity presents itself. DEI coaching allows you to let your guard down, be transparent and practice courageous communication. Opening up to your DEI coach can encourage you and your team to push through limiting beliefs and adopt more inclusive, diversity-minded principles instead.
7. Produces a deeper commitment to allyship
Once your team has opened up about their beliefs, values and concerns, you enter a new frontier in DEI: effective allyship. Your leadership team may not be aware of how they’ve treated employees and coworkers in the past. Past behaviors may have been unkind or unwelcoming to racial minorities, women and other groups in the workplace. It’s hard to acknowledge that perhaps DEI issues may have something to do with your leadership team’s behavior. By being vulnerable and honest with your DEI coach, you and your team can learn how to practice effective allyship and turn a new page with certain groups in the company. From new, nursing mothers and racial minorities to colleagues with mental health issues, you can practice effective allyship and start new relationships with a coach there to guide the process.
8. Helps existing DEI staff and committees
If your business already has DEI professionals or committees dedicated to the work, bringing in a DEI coach can increase their effectiveness. Sometimes an outside perspective is all that’s needed to push a plan from stagnant and resistant to fully-embraced and effective. Many DEI professionals and committees are struggling to effectively communicate their diversity, equity and inclusion plans in a way that gets buy-in from all levels of the organization. With a DEI coach who specializes in communicating, strategically planning and executing diversity initiatives, your existing staff and committees can feel supported and produce better results.
9. Improves marketability of your company and leadership
DEI plans look good on paper, but stakeholders, future employees and other parties are looking for proof of your company’s dedication to the work. It sends a powerful message to prospects when they see your company taking DEI seriously. It sets a positive tone that can improve the marketability of your company in the long-run. Your leadership team can be seen as champions of diversity, equity and inclusion and your company as a wonderful place to work and partner with.
10. Enhances each team member’s personal inclusive leadership journey
A DEI coach offers major benefits to the executives of the business, but it also provides value to the employees. The ripple effect of DEI work makes waves throughout a company and what your executive team learns can encourage nonexecutive staff to learn too. Effective DEI efforts can change your company’s culture and impact your staff on a personal level. DEI coaching is an investment that reaches the far edges of your company and encourages a more inclusive mindset for you and your coworkers.
DEI coaching can be the difference between keeping your diversity, equity and inclusion plans on the shelf and fully executing an impactful DEI strategy with results. It’s understandable that not all companies are in a position to hire in-house DEI staff. Hiring a DEI coach can be a powerful alternative. Now is the time for your company to execute its diversity, equity and inclusion plans, and in the process grow an inclusive-minded work culture.