If you don’t think you’re quite ready to take on the role of diversity champion, there’s no need to rush. This is something you can grow into, and there are many challenges to tackle in the office setting. Start small—begin with things you can do, such as changes to your own attitude and behavior, and slowly expand those actions. Once you earn trust and buy-in from your peers, you’ll be in a better position to approach management with broader goals.

Before you can begin to create change at your organization, however, you may first need to make changes within yourself.

CHAMPION, KNOW THYSELF

We’ve already talked at length about the importance of staying true to yourself, and the dangers of biases both explicit and implicit. When it comes to advocacy, it can be all too easy to put on the social justice blinders and forget about your own weaknesses. Now, I’m not saying you have to model perfect inclusive behavior before you can become a diversity champion. There is no such thing. I am saying that it’s critical to be self-aware; when you can recognize your own shortcomings, it’s easier to empathize with others’, and that spurs honest conversation. Before you ask others to change, ask yourself some key questions.

AM I CULTURALLY COMPETENT?

You may be in touch with your own roots—that may be what’s spurring you on to create change within your organization—but a diverse organization doesn’t just mean representation of many cultures. It means active acceptance, engagement, and participation across those cultures. So talk to your colleagues. Find out who they are, the traditions in which they’ve been steeped, and how those traditions shaped them.

DO I ENGAGE IN INSENSITIVE BEHAVIOR?

Unless you walk the walk, don’t expect others to trust you when you talk the talk. It doesn’t take a microaggression to make someone feel excluded. Whether you intend it or not, certain behavior—like frequent interruption or lack of eye contact—can marginalize team members, some of whom are already dealing with marginalization every day.

DO I ACTIVELY LISTEN TO OTHERS?

This isn’t just about understanding other cultures. No lone champion, no matter how big her cape, can create change all by herself. You might as well know before you start down this path: you’re going to need more than one brain on this. If you’re not already engaging with your colleagues, start now. It doesn’t have to be a formal interview or even diversity- and inclusion-related. Grab a coffee with the new person, attend that happy hour you were planning on skipping, join a cross-functional committee. The point is to get in the habit of listening to others before you begin to speak for them.

We all fall short in these areas from time to time. Perfect behavior is not the goal here. The key hallmarks of the diversity champion, rather, are self-awareness and willingness to change, to listen to others, and to lead others in creating change. If you can commit to those, you’ve already completed a significant step.

The next step, however, is more difficult. It’s time to take action.

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