Editorial Note: Originally published in the September 2021 issue of Trade Show Executive magazine.
One of the biggest challenges for executive leaders is knowing when something is not working. Or, perhaps, not working as well as it could. It may be a little easier when challenges relate to issues beyond our control. But when we know that the challenge falls directly on our shoulders, it can get tough. Even tougher is knowing that the challenge greatly affects one of our organization’s most valuable assets: our team members.
We learned a long time ago that leaders who operate from a bubble, or a vacuum, experience a lower success rate than those who establish meaningful connections with their team members. We know the data reporting that workers who feel a sense of mutual benefit and trust with executive management are more productive and loyal than those who do not.
This is where the call to action for diversity, equity and inclusion (DE&I) comes into play; it is the next evolutionary step for executives to become more effective leaders. In some cases, senior executives may be resistant to the conversation surrounding DE&I and may even claim they have already been applying great mindfulness toward it. Unfortunately, the subject is sometimes met with the genuine question: How could I possibly do any better?
I can understand the sentiment because I have asked myself the same question. I am a ‘people person’ who loves the industry that I am in. Over the past 40+ years I have had the privilege of working with so many talented and diverse individuals that I have literally lost count! Even though I look at young professionals through experienced eyes today, I can still recall being in their shoes. I have been fortunate to have my scope of understanding broadened in the ways that only visiting various parts of the world and experiencing new cultures can. Like many, I feel I have embraced DE&I all along the way, both personally and professionally.
The truth, however, is that we need to implement a more progressive level of DE&I in the workplace regardless of what our personal assumptions may be. We know this because we are being told this – in no uncertain terms – across every single industry. The time has come to do what executive leaders do best when facing any challenge, which is to create solutions to achieve the most successful outcome for our organization. Here are a few things to consider when you take on the DE&I challenge:
There is confusion surrounding how DE&I differentiates itself from other corporate policies, so the first step is for everyone to get on the same page. Available sources range from hiring consulting services to free resources such as IAEE’s webinars.
Take a good, hard look at your company culture to determine how well it addresses DE&I. Accurate feedback is crucial, so as an executive leader you must provide your team members with the sense of safety and security to be completely honest in their input. True leadership skills such as accountability, collaboration, compassion, communication, emotional intelligence, honesty, integrity and transparency are essential to this process.
Create a plan and stick to it! Like all corporate policies, DE&I is not a one-time action item. Your organization’s plan will evolve over time but by showing your immediate commitment to the process, you are leading by example and sending a clear message to your team of its indelible value.
The successful implementation of strong DE&I policies will not only advance our individual organizations, but our overall industry in return. And that is good news for everyone.
David DuBois, CMP, CAE, FASAE, CTA
IAEE President & CEO