We know that equality, diversity and inclusion (EDI) are very much front of mind for organisations and their leaders at the moment, and that’s been extremely encouraging for people working to support and inform businesses as they get to grips with the practical and strategic realities of diversity in the workplace.
But it also has its downsides as the increased demand for workshops and training around EDI issues has presented an opportunity for business and executive coaches to build EDI into their existing offer.
And while there are certainly executive and businesses coaches out there who have a very good, if not expert, grasp of the issues and support and training frameworks that are needed to address them, this is not the case for most executive and business coaching professionals.
Before specialising in the Inclusion & Diversity (I&D) and EDI space, I was also an executive coach and I know from personal experience how important the work they do can be.
So, I understand why a business or executive coach might be persuaded to add EDI work to their offer.
There’s a problem with doing that, though.
Without an immersive and specialist understanding of how EDI issues affect businesses, the possible solutions that might be suitable to implement for any given challenge and the outcomes that can be achieved, there is actually a danger that not only will your EDI strategy be ineffective, but it might also actually do more harm than good.
As I have already said, there are some executive coaches who do possess the training and skills to help you navigate your EDI challenges successfully, but the majority of them do not – and so you need to pay attention to due diligence if you’re thinking about engaging your existing business coach to also deliver support around I&D.
The reality is that the EDI and I&D landscape is vast. It has its own language and cadence, its own tone, its own definitions of accepted norms and behaviours. Getting these things wrong can cause enormous reputational damage and impact negatively on your employer brand.
Like so many other examples in our digitally literate world, there’s a danger that because we hear I&D and EDI spoken about regularly on an array of news and media channels we all begin to think of ourselves as being well-informed on the subject.
And perhaps we are, in an informal sense. But there’s a real difference between a casual conversation in which there might be an unspoken caveat that detailed understanding of the subject matter is missing, and a paid service in which practical solutions are being offered.
So, even though traditionally coaches don’t need to be experts in many of the challenges a client raises, when it comes to the sensitivities that are frequently associated with EDI, it’s important that you have confidence that your coach has at least some specialist awareness of those issues.
There is a community of executive and business coaches who will bring a lived experience of EDI and I&D issues to their work, but most are unlikely to have explored their own understanding of belonging and not belonging through an EDI lens.
This puts both you and them at risk, especially if their lack of lived context (or a lack of understanding of the context) is exposed within environments such as workshops or conferences – and in turn you, as the client, may also struggle to apply agreed actions in a way that is credible.
None of which is to say you shouldn’t enlist the support of your business or executive coach in identifying EDI strategy as an area in which you might need support – only that a specialist EDI coach or coach with specialised training will be able to help you deliver it.
If you’d like to know more about how we can help you to review your existing I&D and EDI strategy, or build one out from the ground up, we’d love to hear from you. Please contact us.