Experiencing the well studied benefits of Diversity, Equity, and Inclusion (DEI) takes more than a commitment statement. Increasing innovation, staff retention, and other successes linked to DEI requires follow through on key practices, such as understanding your organization’s specific context, daily and methodical actions, and real accountability. Below are five DEI-informed actions that can strengthen the leadership at your school.
Create an inclusive environment for your team
This will help to ensure that each member of your team is bringing their most authentic self to the table. When people believe they can be themselves, they are more confident and comfortable proposing unique and creative ideas to accomplish (and establish) new goals. Let people know that their ideas matter, and that their presence is critical to the success of the team. Remember, an inclusive environment should feel welcoming and encouraging of creative thought.
Keep the experience of your staff, students, and families top-of-mind
Because DEI is a lens through which you see and interact with the world, it does not stop at recruiting talent. In fact, DEI must drive your daily decision making to ensure that the experience on your campus is inclusive and equitable from start to finish. Who is invited to decision making meetings? Whose voice is elevated? Whose voice might be missing? When you keep the experience of your stakeholders in mind, and you emphasize valuing the perspectives of others — you position yourself to identify and admit to areas where your systems are not equitable. And when you are able to acknowledge these inequities, you unleash the power and responsibility to change the very structures holding your team back.
Establish everyday actions that solicit honest conversations
This is especially true of conversations that include constructive feedback, and may require elevating others into leadership positions. Doing this will increase the number of people actually talking – and may help bring issues and concerns to the surface. When you increase the number of people available to have difficult conversations, address concerns, or solve problems – you simultaneously increase opportunities for growth and resolution. You might consider forming committees or task forces with specific focus areas that can help hold the school accountable for collecting data and feedback, informing stakeholders, and driving decisions. Remember, to be an organization that exemplifies the values of DEI, your DEI leaders are going to need to create more DEI leaders.
Solicit ideas from multiple perspectives
Remain cognizant of the voices being elevated and the perspectives that may be missing. By ensuring diverse perspectives, you enrich the dialogue of the group and strengthen your team’s overall understanding. In doing so, your team is positioned to see things differently than they may have seen before. And in turn, this new vantage point can lead to innovative thought and a new approach to problem solving.
Know who you serve and find ways to authentically represent the surrounding community
Diverse perspectives and a variety of experiences leads to multiple views on topics and different sets of questions. When your staff reflects the experiences of your students and families, their insight can help design solutions to eliminate some of the blind spots and biases otherwise present on campus. As a team, consider: Who are your students outside of the classroom? What do families in the community value? How can you bring those voices, values, and experiences into the school? And in what ways is your school impacting the broader community?
Finally, remember that this is an ongoing practice for you and your team. Our understanding of Diversity, Equity, and Inclusion will continue to evolve. We will continue to face challenges and must continue to focus our DEI lens. As you and your staff work to implement the strategies above, don’t forget to celebrate wins along the way. The work is hard, but it will lay the foundation for increased engagement and overall achievement. Who doesn’t want that?
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