By Angela Peacock, CEO of worldwide diversity and inclusion training consultancy PDT Global

Executive-level buy-in is crucial if inclusion and diversity initiatives are to flourish within an organisation. Top-down support is invaluable – but getting the ear of senior executives can be easier said than done. So I’ve put together my 8 top tips for increasing your chances of success when talking to the C suite about inclusion and diversity.

Tip 1

Start by working on you. Reduce your own bias first and confront any imposter syndrome moments. See yourself as a trusted business leader. Know what the politics are in your organisation and draw up a stakeholder map of the C-suite people you want to influence.

Tip 2

Understand the human that is your CEO – their background and their family, as well as their career history. Take into account their behavioural preferences and whether they are ego driven. And be careful of your own biases and assumptions.

If your CEO is a straight, white guy, be aware of what psychologist Robin DiAngelo calls “white fragility” – defensive over-reactions to race-based criticism stemming from a lack of racial stamina. His theory is that the white men in our world have not been asked to think carefully about their identity. Whereas if you are in a minority group, you are constantly having your identity called out. You still need to have the conversation with your CEO – but being relaxed and confident about it rather than preachy or nervous will help.

It’s also worth finding out how your CEO has reacted in the past to conversations about inclusion and diversity. Know what reasons they have given for not buying into initiatives – until now…

Tip 3

Separate the inclusion and diversity conversations. Diversity fatigue and the global political climate right now mean leaders can have a downer on diversity. And often – believe me, I ask enough! – the C suite has no clue what the difference is between inclusion and diversity. By separating the two topics and targeting them separately, you can reinvigorate your organisation’s efforts and still hold people accountable.

Tip 4

Know what keeps your CEO up at night (try asking them!) and link both diversity and inclusion back to the solution. From cyber security to growth, from safety issues to new markets, it is possible to articulate just how diversity and, separately, inclusion can help. Be specific and avoid using words and phrases like “innovation”, “war for talent” or other overused expressions. Explain just how increasing diversity and driving inclusion can impact your CEO’s specific issue.

Tip 5

Lies, damn lies and statistics – keep the stats clear and minimal. Benchmarking against competitors works if your CEO cares – but if you are doing marginally better than a bad competitor, it may have the opposite effect. The best approach is to measure inclusion at the beginning of your inclusion or diversity initiatives and again during and after.

Tip 6

Make the procurement director your friend. We are seeing the rise of the procurement director – with a more powerful seat at the executive and even board table. They hold a huge lever in this work. If they clean up the supply chain, the company has to do the same for itself or the top team looks hypocritical at best. The days of accepting a vendor who is the cheapest but has terrible diversity numbers are disappearing fast.

Tip 7

Brand is all today. Your CEO will have a desire for the company to not be seen on Glassdoor as a non-inclusive place to work. Having an inclusive environment – especially one you can prove to be inclusive – is a great antidote to that. Social media the hell out of great things you are doing – but make sure you can back up the results.

Tip 8

Authenticity is a must for inclusion but – with a view to great stakeholder management and with the importance of the cause in your heart – be sure to learn and repeat the language of your CEO. Resonance is key – so, if they are an economist, learn the keywords and concepts used in economics. If the CEO is a finance person, research and incorporate finance terms and concepts in your proposals. Similarly, if the CEO is from sales and marketing, learn and use the terms they will be familiar with. Speak their language.

Angela Peacock

Angela Peacock

Angela Peacock, CEO of PDT Global – which provides diversity and inclusion training for large multinationals around the world.