The foundation of diversity, equity, and inclusion (DEI) in any workplace is access to relationships. Emotionally intelligent leaders and teams are critical to the health and strength of any organizational culture. Organizations that get this right drive cultures where teams communicate better, collaborate effectively and create meaningful relationships. This helps to ensure their most valuable asset (talent within the organization) feels seen and driven to want to be their best.
According to Gallup, when employees feel like they don’t belong or that their workplace isn’t fair, performance suffers and engagement drops. In order for employees to show up authentically and want to produce in an organization, they need to feel whole, cared for, and included.
It is important to remember what shapes the perspectives of your employees. Culture, professional experiences, prior personal experiences, education, and their current workplace. All of these factors play a role in how they contribute to and how they feel in your organization. They make up social identities and shape perspective. With that in mind, it is important to remember that the ability to comprehend this in your interactions with employees or perhaps at a company function is considered a high calling for leaders.
Mentoring improves culture. Emotional intelligence and trust is key to creating authenticity in relationships. When it comes to DEI and mentoring, sometimes our natural tendency is to work with people who are similar to ourselves. This can be limiting to how employees develop and improve themselves and work to reach their greatest potential.
When I was a part of a team, I always appreciated supervisors and bosses who
created an environment where spaces were created for team vulnerability and trust building, and diverse perspectives were considered and valued. No surprise based on the emotional needs as discussed earlier.
It is important for leaders to create opportunities for exposure and connectivity between team members. Employees are smart–they know when there is no authenticity to “new DEI” initiatives. Bringing diversity and various types of mentoring (formalized, peer, cross-cultural, reverse) into the workplace brings different talents, strengths, understanding and skills that help to break down barriers, communication silos, and comfort zones which leads to organizational growth and capacity building.
To summarize, it is important to remember that leaders who have greater emotional intelligence will foster the same in their workforce. Creating a competitive strategy around DEI initiatives that includes mentoring will result in a more inclusive, thriving culture where belonging is achieved.
Yalonda Brown is a seasoned professional whose expertise spans over 20 years in both the private and public sectors. Her drive and self-determination has resulted in a myriad of demonstrable accomplishments as an intuitive leader, thought partner, and high functioning performer. Yalonda serves as the President of Diversity Initiatives for Engage Mentoring where she leads the national expansion of diversity-focused mentoring and leadership programs for companies, universities, and nonprofits.