THE BLOG
12/11/2014 03:01 pm ET Updated Feb 10, 2015

From Intention to Action: Five Ways to Build Diverse Leadership Teams

Across industries, diverse leadership teams drive high performance. They make better decisions, improve financial outcomes, create a competitive edge, compete more effectively for talent, and reduce employee turnover.

But not every industry successfully attracts, develops, and retains talented leaders of color. As Fast Company recently reported, tech has a lot further to go. So does education.

To provide practical guidance for education organizations and others to build more racially and ethnically diverse leadership teams, Education Pioneers and Koya Leadership Partners have co-authored a report, "From Intention to Action: Building Diverse, Inclusive Leadership Teams in Education to Deepen Impact."

In the report, we share five key ways that organizations can build high-functioning, diverse leadership teams, based on results from a quantitative survey and accompanying interviews with educational leaders:

#1 Customize your vision and strategy. Defining diversity and why it matters establishes the foundation for building more diverse, inclusive teams.

What you can do: Establish a diversity vision, definition, and rationale to fit your organization's unique culture and needs. Ensure that the message that diversity matters comes your board and executive leaders, and weave your vision and priorities into your mission and culture.

#2 Focus on impact and metrics. Organizations that track performance metrics can strategically deploy resources and continue or halt initiatives based on what the data says about their effectiveness.

What you can do: Use the report's Organizational Audit Checklist to assess your organization's current diversity and inclusion practices and set a baseline. Then, identify a set of key performance metrics based on your customized vision and strategy, assign accountability to an individual or individuals, and share results across the organization regularly.

#3 Focus on recruiting and selection practices. There are a number of steps organizations can take to strengthen performance and outcomes in recruiting and selection practices.

What you can do: Establish strategic partnerships that connect your organization with diverse talent pipelines, and ensure that internal recruiters and hiring managers know good sources for candidates of color. Train your staff on unbiased interviewing and selection processes.

#4 Invest in leadership development to retain high performers. Leadership development is vital to ensure that all team members, particularly employees of color, remain engaged and advanced in their careers.

What you can do: Implement a process for identifying high-potential employees. Offer a range of informal and formal professional development tools, such as buddies, mentoring, and coaching. Regularly evaluate internal talent to ensure employees of color are in your leadership development pipeline.

#5 Ensure ongoing discussion. Best practice organizations regularly engage in meaningful dialogue at different levels, from one-on-one talks to company-wide discussions. They talk about diversity and what it means to the organization, why it is important, and what the organization is doing to achieve it.

What you can do: Start a dialogue at your organization and keep it going.

In education, the children and communities we serve need and deserve the most effective leadership teams that we can assemble. To get there, it's time to move from good intentions to meaningful action by building and empowering diverse, inclusive leadership teams.