Chief Diversity Officer: 4 Steps to Making a Difference

Wow! You finally landed your dream job. Chief Diversity Officer (CDO). Whether it’s at a FORTUNE 500 Company or a smaller organization, the reward is the same . . . a chance to make a difference. Where do you start?  Your first 60 days are critical. Here’s a 4-step proven framework that can boost your effectiveness and can serve as a solid platform to facilitate organizational change.

  1. Build Trust.  Take the time to talk with leaders and employees, listen to their ideas, establish yourself as knowledgeable in your field and build a ‘helpful partner’ relationship with the leadership team. If you are an internal hire and have already established a trusting relationship with leaders and employees, you may want to focus this time to re-shape your personal brand as the diversity and inclusion consultant. If you are new to a company, focus should be on building relationships and establishing credibility.  Trust is a critical factor in being able to facilitate positive change.  
  2. Understand the Challenge. Designing an effective change plan requires understanding the current culture or the starting point. What is leadership’s commitment to diversity and inclusion? Is it a “show piece” or do leaders have a profound interest in change? Asking them the question will yield the “scripted answer.” Understanding the organizational culture will require daily interaction and conversation with leaders and employees. Take time to attend meetings and observe interactions, review metrics and demographics, understand the process for hiring and promotion and assess the work environment for indicators of bias and exclusion.  
  3. Create a Line-of-Site Map. Once you have established trust and understand the objectives and level of commitment, it’s time to help leaders create a Line-of-Site Map. The map outlines the diversity and inclusion goal in terms of the company’s vision/mission, creates a visual picture of the end-state, connects the goal and actions to each employee and defines the motive force needed to facilitate change. The map serves as a guide for communication and action.
  4. Coach and Mentor. Once a Line-of-Site Map is created, it’s time to implement. Some leaders may struggle with making change. The CDO plays a critical role in coaching and mentoring the leadership team to help them develop the skills and behaviors needed to foster a work environment where every employee is valued, respected and heard.  

Implementing successful change is a difficult task. The challenge facing CDOs will require patience, passion and persistence. By building trust, understanding the challenge, enlisting leaders in building a Line-of-Site map and serving as a trusted coach, CDOs have the opportunity to make a difference in helping companies enact real change.  Because if nothing changes, nothing changes.

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