Dr Tiffany Brandreth, CEO of DEI Death Zone, Discusses A New Future for Diversity, Equity, and Inclusion
Dr. Tiffany Brandreth is a leadership and organizational psychologist with over 20 years of experience in the D&I field. She is recognized as one of North America’s leading diversity, equity, and inclusion experts working corporate executives in Global Fortune 100, Fortune 500, and Multinational Private companies.
Tiffany specializes in systems theory, behavior science, and moving teams from conflict to consensus. She is highly sought after to analyze bias, drive large-scale change and stimulate senior leadership excellence. With an approach that is distinctively unique, Dr. B and her team continue to disrupt the norms and illuminate a new path for DEI.
Grit Daily: There are a lot of Diversity & Inclusion consulting companies. What sets DEI Death Zone apart from all of them?
TB: We are disrupting the industry and redirecting best practices with a new path for leaders and organizations. From our groundbreaking research that discovered the DEI Death Zone™ revealing five newfound biases as the root causes of its failure, it compelled us to critically examine how DE&I is being led with a brand new lens. We also uncovered five advocacy characteristics that dismantled the five biases. This is game changing and beyond exciting for our field.
We begin our work with leadership teams because change begins and ends at the top. So we were already offering learning, coaching, and consulting in a unique way that was accelerating growth in people and impact inside organizations. However, these were the missing puzzle pieces and consequently obligated us to realign an entire series of solutions that created the DEI Summit Strategy™ which are seven key initiatives that will achieve a diverse, equitable, and inclusive workplace. The field’s current practices are important but have not and will not bring DE&I into a reality. We redesigned our assessment tools that redefined metrics of success, we have integrated learning and consulting to happen simultaneously, and changed even how we structure our contracts that help our leaders do the right work without resource constraints standing in the way.
Grit Daily: We see the data that talks about the revenue benefits of D&I and we see the pictures that show diversity where everyone is happy and smiling. Have you seen these results in your work?
TB: Yes and no. After delivering hundreds of sessions for over 10,000 senior leaders, what I have found is that first tension and tears must come before genuine happiness and smiling can exist. This means people are speaking their truth and holding each other accountable for their words, behaviors, and decisions rather than keeping their observations, experiences, or grievances hidden.
When individuals do not ‘enter the arena’ and they remain on the sidelines, the exhilaration of coming through to the other side is not experienced, nor is the breakthrough as powerful so they do an injustice to themselves and to the group as a whole. I see happiness in its sincerest forms when each person trusts our process enough to bring the micro behaviors and micro inequities to the surface rather than keep them hidden. This escalates the tension but they engage in productive turbulence that is facilitated where psychological safety remains priority. So they realize through the tension and tears, a newfound trust was formed and developed. It is incredible to witness the freedom and power that is felt amongst the group. Every single person feels it in the room. That is when the happiness and smiling is real manufactured versus. The groups who invest the time and energy will experience this and the groups who don’t, won’t.
Grit Daily: Do you believe Diversity or Bias Training should be mandatory?
TB: There was a time when mandatory training was a metric of successful commitment and accountability so I don’t want to discredit that achievement at that time. Present day, however, the investment of time given only checks a box versus creates substantive change in behaviors, attitudes, and beliefs.
There has to be an incentive to learn and become an inclusive leader. And a form of consequence must exist to motivate behavior and actions. Right now, it’s backwards. We promote first and then ask leaders to learn inclusivity as optional but not required. Therefore , we removed the incentive and there is no consequence to being non-inclusive.
People’s mental health, well-being, financial livelihoods and career advancement are at risk by their managers who have not been properly developed in diversity, equity, and inclusion. The ‘most qualified candidate’ when leading people should be defined as someone who possesses proficiency in DE&I. If this was a mandatory qualification, then people would be incentivized and motivated to participate in training and coaching. I find that leaders do want this training but companies aren’t providing opportunities for this learning.
Grit Daily: Once we achieve equity in diversity being represented at the leadership levels, does that mean DE&I was successful and that it’s no longer failing?
TB: Great question. When diversity is reflected at the highest levels of leadership, it will be one indicator of success. However, does that diversity hold the same level of political currency or power currency within their peer group? If they do not, then DE&I is still failing.
When I stop hearing, “Will this be kept confidential?” from people at all levels then I will know there is not an entity who reigns the real power and they are not imposing unfavor to those who are challenging the status quo. This is a very real dynamic across virtually every leadership structure. When speaking truth to power is no longer negatively impacting people’s career advancement, to their employment or business contracts, then we will have success. When codeswitching is not a requirement to fit an implicit executive leadership profile and when ‘most qualified’ means possessing DE&I proficiency, then DE&I will no longer be failing.
Grit Daily: Executives seem to know the right thing to say; on the other hand, we hear that DE&I is failing, even from you. Is this because it’s too hard for people to overcome biases?
TB: It is because we have been focusing on the wrong biases for leaders who are championing this work and because decisions being made aren’t transparent.
Executives need to be trained in the newfound biases that were discovered in the DEI Death Zone™ research I mentioned earlier. DE&I is a muscle that needs to be conditioned, strengthened and sustained; akin to being a runner, an athlete, or going to the gym. Leadership teams require ongoing, interactive conditioning that helps them build, strengthen, sustain, elevate, and evolve their knowledge and application of DE&I for their business.
We have a one-day Executive Masterclass for DE&I that takes executives through these five biases, the data discovering the death zone, and the DEI Summit Strategy™ which are seven new initiatives intended to become the field’s new set of best practices. This is an insightful and empowering re-start to their learning journey that is just the beginning. From there, they have buy-in to participate in a longer term workout plan that helps them become credible and congruent to their DE&I Commitment.
Grit Daily: In your opinion, what is the future of DE&I?
TB: Transparency, accountability, and commitment will have expanded well beyond today’s definition which is limited to only disclosing recruitment goals and philanthropic investments. Equity and inclusion will be emphasized as primary drivers to enable diversity, versus today diversity is the shortcut to measuring results. Finally, micro versus macro and process versus result will become best practices that corporations are recognized and rewarded for. All this is articulated more clearly in the Masterclass I mentioned above.
The DEI Death Zone™ and the DEI Summit Strategy™ are analogies to Mt. Everest.
While Sir Edmund Hillary and Sherpa Tenzing Norgay became the first pioneers to reach Everest’s peak, our summit has yet to be ascended and the future will see its first pioneers.
We are on a precipice for a major breakthrough. We can either take the easy route by doing the same thing without a different result or take a hard left that addresses the 5 biases and 5 advocacies as prerequisites. For those who are willing to do this , diversity, equity, and inclusion will experience a ‘hockey stick growth’ and reach new heights that finally achieves its promise and purpose. This is an exciting future that is absolutely within our reach.
Only one simple step is needed. Each executive team ready to be part of a game changing strategy no matter where they are in their DE&I journey is to ask us “where do we start?”
Brianna Ruelas is a Dallas-based Account Executive and Strategy Consultant at Grit Daily. She is a Reality TV Music Coach, Singer-Songwriter, and Best Selling Author to Make Reality TV Your Reality. Most recently, Brianna launched the Reality Singing Show Success Academy to help independent performing artists prepare for and maximize their experience on a reality singing show to create momentum in their music careers.