When DEIA first entered corporate America’s regular lexicon more than 30 years ago, the business landscape — and the scope of a DEIA leader’s work — was completely different. How we spoke about diversity and inclusion has changed — many times — and it should continue to evolve alongside the workforce, workplace, and marketplace.
This work has always been challenging for one reason or another, but it’s important. It takes a toll on leaders who are unprepared, and it can be a poor investment for companies that have not laid the right foundation to aid successful business transformation. To prepare the next generation of CDOs and DEIA leaders, organizations have to be willing to invest in education that enables them to win on multiple levels that directly impact the enterprise.
Essentially, that means organizations must equip people with the skills and the tactics they need to avoid the landmines that many DEI leaders have traditionally stepped in because they were creating strategy and programs and then executing at the same time. It’s not unlike building a plane as you’re flying it.
Fortunately, now DEIA leaders have a roadmap. They have an educational system that will give them what they need to succeed today and tomorrow — Ivy Planning Group’s NEXTGEN CDO Institute.
“This is not your typical training,” said Tujuanna Williams, executive consultant for Ivy Planning Group, and a coach for the NEXTGEN CDO Institute. “It's real talk, about real work life.”
Small, 10-12 person, guided cohorts enable participants to build trust and a safe space immediately, and set the stage for dynamic, collaborative learning between participants, external educators, and Ivy DEIA experts who have 30+ years of experience building transformational strategies and programs for some of the most well known companies and government organizations in the world. That collaboration includes regular contributions or lessons from CEOs, CDOs, HR leaders and practitioners in marketing, legal, and many of the other functional areas where leaders need to build relationships in order to be successful in an organization.
“You get exposure to all of these people,” Williams explained. “We have CEOs come into our sessions just to talk about what they want from their DEI leaders, and the opportunity to learn what CEOs are looking for from their practitioners in this discipline is incredibly valuable.”
Consider, DEIA is one of the only leadership roles in an organization that's responsible for workplace, workforce, and marketplace deliverables. So, to equip leaders to drive those throughout the organization, “it's phenomenal because nobody really learns how to do it,” said Williams.
“You don't go to school and say, oh, I want to be a DEIA leader. You go into this role because you have passion for it. You're an advocate for justice, for fairness and equity, but there's really no textbook or no formal education to tell you how to do it,” she explained.
At least, there wasn’t until the NEXTGEN CDO Institute.
Each of the program's 12 sessions focuses on a different aspect of the DEIA leader’s journey: well being and professional branding, relationship building, how to drive business outcomes, how to communicate effectively with the CEO and other key stakeholders in the organization, and more.
“It's not only the tactical things they learn,” Williams said. “It’s how to create strategy, when you should execute it, how to have conversations with the board, and how to brand yourself externally for the work that has to happen internally.”
All of this work is holistic, she explained. Being able to talk in complete confidentiality about what's not working in an organization from a DEIA perspective, but not be judged, instead you are actually offered solutions on how to be better.
"When you get to this level in your career, we don't always feel like we can be forgiven if we make mistakes, and you will make mistakes,” Williams explained. “However, there may not be anyone in the organization who truly understands the work, and who the diversity leader can go to and say: You know what? I'm trying to execute this and I'm not sure how to do it.”
With the NEXTGEN CDO Institute, leaders can embark on a virtual learning experience where they are all on the same level playing field. They can feel completely comfortable saying: This is a challenge for me. How do I do this? The confidence that comes from the right kind of educational preparation, that’s powerful.
When you come into the NEXTGEN CDO Institute, you walk away equipped to build budgets, transform culture, have courageous conversations, and build upon the competencies you already have, even as you learn valuable new ones. It's a different kind of education for a leader.
It’s certainly not a one and done training, it’s about exposure to people and scenarios that will advance and build upon your knowledge, enable you to interact with peers, and create partnerships that will follow you through this journey. All of this is critical because so much of DEIA work is uncharted territory. Even if you know the tactical things to do, you often have to execute differently.
“Look at my career,” said Williams. “I led diversity, equity, and inclusion at four Fortune 500 companies, and each time my role was different. And I'm not talking about title, I'm talking
about the work because the culture is different.
“But in this cohort, it's all an open book because we want everyone to succeed,” she explained. “Walking away with that kind of knowledge, it’s not something you can get in any other place that I know of.”