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And just like that, 2022 is behind us and what an eventful year it was! With the year full of employee burnout, economic uncertainty, and workforce reductions, it’s no surprise that many HR and DEI leaders are exhausted. To fight fatigue, I like to reflect on ways to stay motivated, refreshed, and passionate about leading DEI work. I encourage all DEI leaders to be intentional about bringing even just one of these recommendations into practice in 2023.

Remember Your “Why”

Remind yourself why this work is so important to you. Your “why” may even change over time.  My lived experience as a Black woman and immigrant ignited my interest early in my career, and now, as a mom of two Black boys and a wife to a Black man, I find new purpose in my work to ensure that the future I leave to my children is a more equitable and inclusive world where they can thrive.

Take Time Out

Take time away from DEI work to engage in other interests.  Leaders in this role are often women, people of color, and members of the LGBTQ community who are also navigating the hypervisibility, microaggression, and politics of the company culture they are trying to improve.  How exhausting! Don’t be afraid to use your PTO and rest so you don’t burn out physically, emotionally, and mentally.

Know When to Stay and When to Go

Most would describe me as resilient because I’ve persevered through every challenge I’ve faced so far, but this has caused me to stay too long in work environments that were harmful to me. Not every company making a pledge to do DEI work is prepared to commit to it, and some places can even be toxic and abusive to DEI leaders. I now encourage DEI leaders to find companies eager to invest in the work, willing to have uncomfortable conversations and prepared to support them as leaders in the company.

Be Intentional About Self Care

This work can be incredibly taxing, emotionally and mentally. And with many of us working from home, the lines between work and home can become blurred. Find ways to pour into yourself. Whether it be regular meditation, occasional massages, or periodic trips out of town, identify what self-care looks like for you and become intentional about it. It doesn’t have to be big or expensive either. Something as simple as a matcha latte feels like a treat and gives me something to look forward to each day, so I intentionally make room for it in my budget and schedule.

Celebrate Your Wins

I’m goal-oriented and tend to go from one goal to another without celebrating the achievements along the way. After incidents of burnout, I’ve realized how important it is to be my own cheerleader. Keep a running list of your achievements, even small wins.  This makes them accessible for you to review when you get discouraged and has the added benefit of being easy to use during performance reviews.

Do the Inner Work

Therapy has been a game changer for me as a DEI leader.  It has helped me to process my own lived experiences and traumas so that I can more effectively lead organizations through this work.  While there’s still a stigma around therapy, I’m happy to see that it is gradually becoming more accepted as part of the process of healing and growth.  If you find yourself getting triggered during the course of the work, consider therapy as an outlet and a tool for healing.

Request Resources, Support, and Accountability

DEI leaders alone can’t change the practice and culture of an organization without resources and commitment from company leaders. DEI leaders should request the resources and support they need to get the work done. Resources like a subscription are great to have at your fingertips to enable you to kick off, ramp up, and empower your DEI initiative. Meet regularly with company leaders and ask them to be the face and voice of major DEI projects and initiatives for a top-down approach.  If company leaders are unwilling to own this work and invest in it, it won’t go very far.

Find Your Tribe

There are many LinkedIn and Facebook groups where DEI professionals gather.  I have met DEI leaders on these platforms who are now lifelong friends.  We get together periodically to support one another and work through challenges. It’s important to build a community of other leaders that can offer affirmation, advice, and feedback when you need it.

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The Editor

Ngozi Okeh is an experienced leader with a history of driving efforts to conceptualize, define, assess and promote diversity, equity, and inclusion (DEI) as strategic business processes. Ngozi is currently the Director of DEI at a leading marketing technology company where she develops and executes enterprise-wide DEI initiatives through rigorous strategic planning efforts, community partnerships, leadership collaboration, strategy evaluation, and careful management of communication and buy-in as well as policies and procedures.  Previously, she worked at an independent mortgage bank, where… View Profile