Diversity, fairness, and inclusion: The Oreo Cookie Diet, or How Not to Do DEI

Diversity, fairness, and inclusion: The Oreo Cookie Diet, or How Not to Do DEI

Editor’s Note: Veteran entrepreneur and investor Donald Thompson writes a weekly column on management and leadership as well as diversity and other critical issues for WRAL TechWire. His columns are published on Wednesday.


search triangle garden When I talk to CEOs and board members, they routinely ask me the same question: Should I hire a Chief Diversity Officer (CDO)? Almost universally, my answer is a resounding “no!”

At first glance, this response may seem counterintuitive, especially to someone who has built a technology-enabled product company to expand Diversity, Equity, and Inclusion (DEI) for customers of all sizes. But let me be clear.

Donald Thompson

If I’m discussing DEI initiatives with a CEO or C-Wing leader, I always come up with questions. I need to know what the organization wants to achieve. Just like a road trip (in the days before GPS), I can’t help you with your trip if I don’t know where you’ve actually gone and the best route we can map to your destination.

Recently, one CEO seemed upset when we delved into DEI programming for their company. They created an Employee Resource Group (ERG) and sent a group of female managers to a leadership retreat. They believed the next logical step was to contract with the CDO. They even formed a recruitment committee to work through the job description.

Immediately hit the brakes despite the shock. Then I asked a few simple questions:

Has anyone on the hiring committee ever led a DEI in your organization?

Is there someone directing this process who manages the profit and loss center?

– Have you built a DEI infrastructure so your CDO is not a single department?

In each case the answer was “no”.

DEI is not DIY

Have you ever had high expectations for a DIY project, went to the hardware store, bought a bunch of tools and equipment, and set it all up only to realize later that you were in too deep? Sure, it sounded easy viewing a home remodel on TV, but in the real world, our DIY projects often leave us frustrated or frustrated. We are not experts despite our natural inclination and optimism.

Sometimes, you’re not supposed to do the important things on your own. In these moments, the crucial decision is to find someone to help you.

This is related to who I am Wrote Last week on building your personal network strategically, so you can reach out to the experts for advice. If this network is created, use it to find the necessary specialist. A 15-minute conversation can help you avoid the DIY stress you get when your expectations exceed your experience, no matter how hard you put in.

Effort and expectation

Let’s be honest, people are provided with bad (or incomplete) information all the time. In an environment where everyone is desperate to prove their expertise (and social media has given anyone who wants it a platform to bark at the carnival), the leadership challenge is making the right decision about where to get help and how to turn it into a viable plan. a program.

Here’s what I learned in my conversation about hiring a diverse leader with a CEO who asked for my advice – a few tips other CEOs and executive leaders can offer right away – hard work doesn’t pay off if the effort is drawn from a weak foundation. All that happens in these situations is that hard work leads to increased anxiety and frustration – and ultimately to giving up completely.

We see the alternative on the sports field and in the best companies: you need training that helps you learn how to practice better. I can advise that C-suite exec not hire a CDO, because I’ve worked with hundreds of clients and talked to other leaders around the world about DEI implementation. You don’t want to hire a CDO without an infrastructure to win – I’ve seen this story over and over. How can you expect success when you can’t even get your leadership team to attend a one-hour English language training course?

Following bad advice—and thus starting on a shaky footing—is likely to lead to a tremendous amount of frustration and anxiety, specifically when employees run from organizations that are not seen as progressive in building workplace excellence.


If you type “Oreo diet” into Google, you’ll get tens of millions of results (my search yielded 15.1 million). Looking at this number, you might convince people that eating Oreos will lead to weight loss, but the finer details will always focus on living a healthy lifestyle and exercising.

When I typed “diversity, equality, and inclusion” into the search engine, it got 715 million results. That’s a lot of content to get if you’re on a DEI trip, but rest assured, you’ll find plenty of so-called experts pointing you in many different directions. If an expert is a consultant or coach who charges dollars for hours, where is their accountability?

Here’s the big picture. Our tendency is to try to work harder, even if we don’t know if what we’re doing is the right thing. Just as challenging, if we don’t get positive results, we lose steam and let fatigue take over. This is the death knell for the many regulatory initiatives that come and go in their favour, such as the latest teen fads…or cliched diets.

There is no magic answer when it comes to DEIs, just like eating a steady diet of Oreo cookies won’t miraculously make you healthier.

So, what now?

The truth is that trying something new and uncomfortable is the right thing to do, even if you as a C-Wing captain find it annoying. Changing the culture is difficult, but the clock is ticking. Personally, I think you have less than five years to get your culture to a place where it is excellent, or you will lose to the competition (and its leaders) who understand that. overall leadership It is what will separate the winners from the losers as young leaders (and generations) move into critical roles.

As a reader, you’re looking at this column for actionable strategies and tactics, so I’ll be with you: there is no magic potion when it comes to changing culture. DEI programming concludes with a lot of hard work and a lot of uncomfortable conversations. Some organizations need a CDO. They’ve put in the groundwork and are ready to take the next step toward greatness. Others need to start the journey with the leadership team that leads the mission authentically. In many cases, tell executives that everyone in your company needs to start reading Comprehensive language guide by Jackie Ferguson and Roxanne Bellamy. Of course, the book isn’t the only source of information, but overall language is an essential part of the process, so it’s a great place to start.

Some aspects of business leadership simply do not depend on effort. You can’t give yourself an “A” for DEI effort and workplace culture if you do it mostly (or completely) wrong.

So, instead of worrying about whether you need to hire a high-flying CDO, find a DEI partner who will help you build the foundation needed to win. As an executive, that’s my focus – how do I win, how do I make better decisions, and how do I help my people have a better career (and life)? The partnership is based on that both sides have the same strategic direction and accountability to ensure that the program works, then measure the following analyzes.

Everyone needs a coach, from Tom Brady and Scotty Scheffler to the Chairman and Executive Team. Changing the culture and excelling in the workplace is a very important – and difficult – thing to do on your own. You will not force a culture change.

As a C-Wing Commander, you expect effort-based results, but are you sure you’re doing the right things? You want to get to the next level and you’re willing to put in the hard work to get to it, but that thin line between good and great is thicker than it looks. Find a partner who will work collaboratively with you to create a blueprint and roadmap for success.

About the author

Donald Thompson is the CEO and co-founder of Diversity movement. He has extensive experience as an executive leader and board member, including for a digital marketing agency WalkWest. Donald is a thought leader in achieving goals, changing culture, and driving exponential growth. Entrepreneur, keynote speaker, author, podcaster, Certified Diversity Manager (CDE) and Executive Coach, he also serves as a board member for organizations in marketing, healthcare, banking, technology and sports. The Diversity Movement has created a suite of employee experience products that customize Diversity, Equity, and Inclusion (DEI) through data, technology, and expert-curated content. micro learning platformMicrofoss by Diversity Movement“was recently named one fast company2022 The world changes ideas. ” DEI Navigator It is the “Prime Diversity Officer in Box” a subscription service that provides small and medium-sized businesses with tools, advice, and content that leads to action and results. his leadership memoirs, Underestimated: The CEO’s Unlikely Path to SuccessAvailable anywhere books are sold. Connect or follow it LinkedIn To learn more.

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