Lessons, Learned and Shared.

Isn’t that what we are all striving for as we progress in our DEI journeys? Yes, we are, and knowledge-sharing was a big part of the recent D CEO DEI Symposium attended by several members of the Richards Group team. These timely conversations to acknowledge the opportunities to be seized, celebrating the inroads made, and impart lessons learned were on point. These reflections capture many of the event’s standouts:

Preston Barrett – Brand Director, We@TRG Leader

The phrase “Weapons of mass innovation” from James Fripp, Chief Diversity Officer at Yum! Brands’ session on ART (building Authentic Relationships that lead to Trust) stood out because progress in companies is so often linked to finding ways to innovate in unexpected ways. The idea of applying innovation in a widescale manner to DEI just seems smart. I like the turn of phrase because it’s unexpected, which helps it stand out and show that DEI shouldn’t be a one-off effort made once a year, but a companywide approach that means business.

Beyond that, the idea of progress over perfection also resonated with me. It was empowering to see the variety of people working to help promote DEI together. It eases the pressure on any one action, and helps to take the load off historically excluded groups who may feel that they must represent an entire group because it’s the only time that group may have a seat at the table for the foreseeable future. And it acknowledges that we know there might be missteps along the way, but learning and measuring will help us move forward.

Terence Reynolds – Creative Director

My true “Aha!” moment came from understanding the power of reverse mentoring. The ability to groom our superstars of tomorrow – and our stars of today – in one simultaneous stroke is not only effective, it’s incredibly efficient. Exposure is the shortest bridge to respect. The spark of a single common interest like music can ignite a relationship that changes the perspectives and lives of so many more.

Trevor Monteiro – Head of Media

One conversation that stood out was focused on rewarding volunteers and de-centralizing DEI efforts. There is a justifiable and much needed conversation to be had around oppression and atrocities that brought the need for today’s DEI efforts. But it is necessary to reward DEI champions and acknowledge that the work truly benefits everyone. When the crescendo due to this work is positivity, togetherness, and optimism for the future, due to this work, it has the power to create a snowball effect that can have the force and impact to make real change.

Scott Luther – Head of Digital Strategy

“Think Processes and Attitude, not Programs and Initiatives.”

Stephen Metoyer, Chief Diversity and Equity Officer, Deloitte Tax

As much as we might be tempted to make a special campaign, targeted interventions, or map out a tightly articulated strategy to accelerate progress, the most effective long-term strategy for inclusion is to make sure that it is embedded in the posture of the organization. Programs and initiatives are subject to budget pressure. Your ways of working, processes for operations, and measuring impact are not. Choose the path that permeates each group and system with staying power.

Nikki Wilson – Chief People Officer

The words that rang loudest in my mind and heart during the fireside chat featuring Michael Williams, Cherice Williams, and Porsche Wilson, were that people do their best work when they are happy. Though not a new or novel concept, it’s so important that individuals can feel good about their quality of life and work, and we as leaders play a big role in helping to shape those moments.

Creating change in DEI, doesn’t belong to one person, a department, or council, it’s shared accountability. “We must diffuse it across the entire organization” is how L. Michelle Smith, closing speaker, put it. And the more we diffuse, the more DEI becomes part of what we intentionally do as part of the business.

Trent Walters – Brand Management, Principal

The words of James Fripp (Chief Diversity & Equity Officer at Yum! Brands) made an impact for me. As leaders, we need to help establish “works of ART” with our people. (Authentic Relationships that lead to Trust). We must encourage people to know we care BEFORE the resignation occurs.

Building IE&D is like building a brand. It requires the same principles: conviction, connection and consistency. The same criteria we use to build a strong client brand are the same criteria we should use to build a strong IE&D brand within our organizations.

Jessica Walker – Group Brand Director

“Collateral Beauty”

L. Michelle Smith, Principal, No Silos Communication

I loved the idea of turning collateral damage on its head. Instead of reeling from the incident, look for the opportunities that can rise from the proverbial rubble. Look for the lessons that can be learned – small and large – so that you’re stronger than you were beforehand. Take hold of the change and find the collateral beauty.

Nancy Morkovsky – Brand Strategy Director

“How do you know you’re on the right track with DE&I efforts? There will be some uncomfortableness.”

I am a person who seeks comfort, harmony, and routine. I used to skip tough conversations at work and avoided confrontation like a child fleeing a plate of brussels sprouts. But I’ve worked through this behavior, because I’m reminded of what lies at the other side of discomfort: growth. Enlightenment. Change.

So while I don’t want to make people feel attacked, singled out or uncomfortable, I do want to create a space where people will ask brave questions, even if the answers are things we weren’t expecting to hear. This is especially critical to me, as a strategist, who is there to understand and represent the voice of the consumer in our creative work.

“Do some cultures consider that phrase derogatory?”

“Are we representing our Black consumer appropriately?”

“Are we taking the opportunity to highlight an overlooked segment?”

These are the “uncomfortable” questions that lead to discussion, explorations, and honest answers.

In closing:

Making inclusion, equity and diversity foundational principles of an organization’s culture is absolutely essential. Chances for leaders to come together, discuss, and learn from one another as we strive to make changes for all industries are crucial. These lessons will follow our team back with us and continue to reinforce our commitment to progress.

Special thank you to the D CEO team – and each and every one of the phenomenal speakers – for hosting such an important and impactful symposium.