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What’s Really Happening?

“We’re tired of diversity training,” is how the discussion started.

At the request of the CEO, I was meeting with the organization’s leadership team about planning a series of Diversity and Inclusion training sessions. The leadership team’s response caught me by surprise.

Clearly, something was happening at the organization. At a minimum, there was a disconnect between what the CEO and the leadership team thought the organization needed. There was also a disconnect between the staff survey results and the leadership team’s ideas.

So, I began the process of uncovering what was really happening.

As you’ve probably guessed, I didn’t offer the Diversity and Inclusion training sessions as planned. Instead, my team stood up focus groups, sat in on lots of meetings, and met individually with each member of the leadership team, senior leaders and a random sample of staff.

Two common threads emerged from the data. People didn’t feel heard, and they avoided tough conversations at all costs.

Believing that focusing on those two areas had a high likelihood of improving the culture, we provided team coaching for 6 months for the meetings and a series of crucial conversations training for everyone.

Fast forward to today, over a year later, and most staff members say things are better. The data indicates a higher level of satisfaction with the leadership team and higher employee engagement than before. Staff report they have the tools to have conversations they were previously avoiding. Leadership team members say they feel somewhat more connected to the organization.

However, our work is not done. Leadership team survey results/interviews continue to indicate a lack of trust with senior leaders and senior leaders still express frustration with the professionalism of the leadership team.

At this point, the work that remains is with the leadership team and the senior leaders. A couple of tough questions remain – is it time for leadership change? At what point does the Board decide the CEO is no longer serving the organization? At what point does the CEO bring in a team who adds value instead of constantly disrupting?

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