“This year will be different! I will get in better shape, be healthier, more organized, more productive, and I will achieve all my goals.
… Pay no attention to the last 10, 20, 30 times I have made these resolutions because this year will be different.”
And so, it begins.
And, after a few weeks… and so, it ends.
Previous habits settle in, and the lofty goals get quickly replaced by the normal (or not so normal) demands of the day. Pretty soon those fantastic goals are shelved along with that gym membership, course book, how-to manual, for yet another year.
The challenge with new year resolutions, like any other huge lofty goal, is it rarely comes with a clear path to achieve it. It doesn’t include a step-by-step guide for what to do, or the tradeoffs required to get the time or resources or funding required. It doesn’t include the incremental behavioral shifts necessary to create a systematic change or how to fully adopt them. And, without these details, the chance of success is slim.
And just like new year’s resolutions, organization initiatives such as big diversity & inclusion programs, suffer from the same pattern. Big goals at the beginning of each year that quickly fizzle out in wave after wave of daily demand.
Let’s make this year different.
Rather than a big lofty D&I goal or two or twelve that just end up getting shelved, make this the year of progress. And how can we do this? Start by taking it one step at a time.
Take it one step at a time
Big compelling D&I initiatives with lofty goals are fantastic as an ‘X’ on the map. But without a path to get there, they are little more than a pretty picture. Turn your initiatives into a series of actionable steps (i.e. the path to achieve the goal) and execute the steps.
Design the steps themselves so they are ‘doable’ for your organization. Make them as big or as small as your team and organization can handle. Go at a pace your organization can absorb to establish new behaviors or shift existing ones. Once the step is well established (i.e. behavior and organizational processes have become new habit), move onto the next.
If a step isn’t working or working well, no problem. Successful initiatives aren’t about getting every step right, they are about driving change and making progress. So, if a step isn’t working, change the step. Learn from the path itself through techniques such as using a center of excellence.
As for making progress, this brings us to a second trick – go for the easy wins first.
Go for the easy win first
Driving change is hard. It requires shifting the established way of doing things – such as people’s behaviors, processes, and technology. It means learning new techniques, remembering new sequences, designing or redesigning systems.
Change in an atmosphere of resistance when there is no appetite for it is near impossible.
If your organization is resistant to change (and most are, at least for some types of change), then start with actions that will build the appetite for change. Start with easy wins.
Actions that are more easily done and show noticeable and measurable improvement will give people a sense of accomplishment and empowerment. And that euphoric feeling of achieving something great will drive demand for more!
Design the first few steps to be fast and easy. Celebrate them – a lot, loudly, and continuously. Celebrate the people behind them, give credit generously, and show that those who go on this D&I journey with you are appreciated and rewarded for their efforts.
And with that celebration comes the third trick – communicate, communicate, communicate!
Think of that exciting new product that hit the top of the wish list for the holidays. That amazing new phone, must-have game, trendy new design, adorable baby Yoda thing… they are there for a reason. It’s not just that they are great products designed with their customer in mind (which many are), they are also wrapped with powerful marketing. We want them because we were told we want them. We were inundated with flashy, catchy ads, were swept up in the message, excited by the vision portrayed. Even the best products are nothing without the marketing and advertising that tell us they exist and why they are so great.
The same goes with your D&I initiative. It’s not enough to have a perfect plan with an amazing impact that will transform your organization. The organization needs to know it exists and why it’s so great. They need to be excited for what’s possible and want to go on the journey with you.
Communicate your D&I initiative and the actions that feed it. And like celebrating the successes (which is a form of communication), do it a lot – loudly and continuously and in a way that excites your audience.
Make this year the year of progress
As we jump into 2021 and beyond, set your initiatives and your resolutions up for success. Take it one step at a time, start with easy wins, and celebrate each success. All the while, communicate every step of the way to excite your team and organization for the journey ahead.
By avoiding the directionless lofty goals and instead focusing on the path to achieve them, you can make 2021 the year of progress. You can be part of the solution to a more inclusive, equitable, and diverse future. You can do it and career.place is here to help – every step of the way.
Happy New Year!