Commentary & Opinion

Aligning Intent and Impact for Powerful D&I Results

By Susana Rinderle

Apr. 5, 2017

Getting crystal clear about your goals and intentions — personally as well as professionally — is the first critical step for diversity and inclusion practitioners and champions to obtain powerful results. Once goals and intentions are clear, D&I change agents should take two more crucial steps:

Step 1: Go out and have an impact!

1. Always stay centered and grounded in your intention or goal. Advocate, take a stand, make decisions, show leadership, and demonstrate behaviors that reinforce progress in D&I based on costs, benefits and your organization’s unique, mission-critical DROI (diversity return on investment).

2. Be realistic and honest with yourself about the required foundation for success. For D&I to work and for you to have powerful, positive impacts, you must have:

  • Leadership buy-in from the top, which goes beyond lip service to commitments in time, resources (human and budgetary), and meaningful action.
  • Political and personal will from formal and informal leaders and stakeholders.
  • A belief among leadership that change is possible, and within their power to co-create — an optimistic, proactive approach instead of reactive, apathetic, or victim mentality.
  • A belief that change is not only possible but necessary (per the costs and benefits and your DROI).
  • Courage and resources to endure the difficulties of change and the inevitable conflict and upheaval that will take place.
  • A crisis (hopefully not, but this is often a key motivator). Be prepared if you think this is imminent!
  1. 3. Celebrate, even tiny successes and triumphs. Remember that it took women over 100 years to get the vote. Many of the women who demonstrated, went to jail and endured beatings for a basic right now taken for granted never got to vote themselves because they died before it became a reality. Realize this journey may be a marathon. Pace yourself. Stop every mile and do a victory end zone dance and have a piña colada, then keep running until the next mile or pit stop! Don’t just trudge on to some distant finish line, endlessly in agony, unwilling to appreciate small miracles.
  2. 4. Be prepared to walk away, and know when that is. Don’t sap your brilliance and precious energy on a losing battle. There is much work to be done. Don’t waste yourself on an impossible or untenable situation — you’re needed elsewhere! And maybe someone else is a better fit for the current reality. Be clear about where your line in the sand is and let it shift, but don’t cross it. Having a clear sense of self and integrity will keep you from compromising or diluting the goals of the initiative, which are more important that you are (another reason to make sure to do your “personal work”).

Step 2: Call out misalignments of intent and impact and course correct!

1. Notice and record ways your organization or individual leaders are having an impact. Do they align with stated goals and intentions?

2. Assume good intentions. Unless you’ve gathered a significant amount of data over a long period of time to the contrary, assume others mean well. If you can’t assume good intentions, check your assumptions by tactfully asking what the intentions were. If you are certain there are bad intentions, go back to Step

3. Address impact.

  • Call out the misalignment of intent and impact (in the appropriate setting using emotional intelligence and political savvy) by stating facts: (a) here is what we said we would do, or who we say we are, (b) this is what happened, or this was the impact. Observations are facts. Data (like employee or customer satisfaction survey results or employee retention data) are facts. Stories and emotions are also facts, because they are true accounts of a person’s experience. Avoid questioning intention or an individual’s motivations. Terrible impacts can be had with noble intentions. Always stay focused on the goal at hand and whether or not it’s being met. Addressing the problem this way is effective even when there is little trust and respect. It can also serve to build trust and respect, which may lead to deeper conversations (perhaps about intent). Consider using a model like PNDC or Crucial Conversations.
  • Apologies may be necessary, but insufficient. You must still address impact, correct behaviors and make amends. Here’s a metaphor: “You stepped on my foot and broke my toe. You’ve apologized for breaking my toe (thank you), but now what are you going to do about getting me to the hospital and paying for my medical care?” You might need input on what kinds of amends and corrections you need to make.
  • Collaborate and problem-solve with ALL stakeholders to find ways to course correct and create better impacts. Make a plan. Agree on action items, a timeline, who is responsible for what, and when/how there will be follow up, and how all parties will be held accountable.

Following these steps will better align intent and impact for you and your organization to experience more powerful results around D&I. Please share your triumphs, challenges and further questions below!

Susana Rinderle is president of Susana Rinderle Consulting and a trainer, coach, speaker, author and diversity & inclusion expert. Comment below or email



Susana Rinderle is a principal consultant with Korn Ferry, and a coach, speaker, author and diversity & inclusion expert. Comment below or email

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