Editor’s note: Veteran entrepreneur and investor Donald Thompson writes a weekly column about management and leadership as well as diversity and other important issues for WRAL TechWire. His columns are published on Wednesdays. Thompson of The Diversity Movement was named an Entrepreneur Of The Year 2023 Southeast Award winner.
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“There’s really only one life…I want to live it well.”
RESEARCH TRIANGLE PARK – About a year ago, my leadership memoir Underestimated: A CEO’s Unlikely Path to Success was published. What a rollercoaster ride we have had since then – from rebuilding in the post-pandemic economy to the destruction wrought by warfare and devastation. Closer to home, The Diversity Movement was acquired by Workplace Options, a Raleigh-based global corporation that wants to integrate diversity, equity and inclusion (DEI) into the everyday well-being of tens of millions of people.
Although we are all living in this era that seems like it is in constant warp drive, I have also tried to prioritize the emotional and physical health of my teammates and myself. Certainly, it’s not easy, especially with the many challenges constantly knocking at the door. Just like you, I am trying to figure out how to manage my life and abide by my own words: “live it well.”
Even with everything swirling around me, whether in the news or our offices, I am attempting to use my influence to help others get to a better place in whatever way they define that idea.
KICKING DOWN BARRIERS
When I think about accomplishments in the past year, what comes to the forefront is how TDM has dedicated its efforts to helping people live with purpose. We are not just fighting to shape the future of work, our firm is tearing down barriers for those (like me) who were or have been underestimated. TDM wants to pave the way for those society has sidelined.
Living life well means much more than a fancy sports car in the driveway or lots of neat gadgets. In Underestimated, I look back on my father’s struggles with race, despite being an accomplished football coach, and how his challenges have shaped my own thinking.
For example, over the past year, as politicians and the conservative media have weaponized language around diversity and culture, at TDM we have consistently emphasized the importance of well-being and belonging in the workplace. This refinement of what it means to live well drives home the point that we are addressing an issue that is so much more important in a person’s daily life than race-based thought bombs from critics.
What has remained as true today as a year ago is that we must work even harder to embed new attitudes about employee well-being into the core of the relationship between employees and organizations. By doing so, we are setting the right example for young professionals entering the workforce – and future generations.
As a senior business executive, I feel a profound responsibility to stand up, speak out and contribute to changing the narrative. At TDM, we have created opportunities and a platform for credible discussions, aiming to instigate tangible change. We will be leading such a conversation in the webinar “DEI Under Attack: Tips to Navigate (and Survive) the Contentious Year Ahead,” at noon, Thursday, Nov. 16.
OVERWHELMING RESPONSIBILITY TO ENACT CHANGE
Another point that I have been mulling and frequently addressing in this column (from the CEOs responsibility for AI implementation to the epidemic of poor mental health in the workplace) is the senior leader’s responsibility to create positive change. I have argued that the work may seem overwhelming, but it brings with it new opportunities and better business results.
Inclusive companies are more profitable and experience higher rates of innovation and productivity. By putting in the hard work to become a more inclusive leader, you will benefit your organization in ways you can’t imagine. Committing to workplace inclusivity aligns both social and financial goals, which are crucial for success, as well as meeting the expectations of younger generations of consumers, clients and employees.
Were we at a crossroads last year when Underestimated came out? It certainly seemed so at the time, and it still feels that way. The business world is still laden with obstacles. But, throughout my life, I have learned that obstacles are opportunities to prove resilience. Each day we get to work toward a higher standard that may result in bettering our organizations, families and communities.
Just as I was a year ago, I am certain that my work at TDM – and now Workplace Options – extends my parents’ legacy, smoothing the road for others and making their lives better, just as they did for me. If you find yourself underestimated, don’t let the world dictate your potential. As senior business executives, the ever-evolving world offers us an extraordinary chance to build an inclusive culture that supports everyone and pushes us all toward our highest potential.
Collectively, we can create a future defined by better well-being and a sense of shared success. Let’s keep going – a well-lived life is within our grasp.
About the Author
Donald Thompson, EY Entrepreneur Of The Year® 2023 Southeast Award winner, founded The Diversity Movement to change the world. As TDM CEO, he has guided work with hundreds of clients and through millions of data touch points. TDM’s global recognition centers on tying DEI initiatives to business objectives. Recognized by Inc., Fast Company and Forbes, Thompson is author of Underestimated: A CEO’s Unlikely Path to Success, hosts the podcast “High Octane Leadership in an Empathetic World” and has published widely on leadership and the executive mindset. As a leadership and executive coach, Thompson has created a culture-centric ethos for winning in the marketplace by balancing empathy and economics.
Follow him on LinkedIn for updates on news, events and his podcast, or contact him at firstname.lastname@example.org for executive coaching, speaking engagements or DEI-related content. To further explore DEI content and issues impacting your work and life, visit TDM Library, a multimedia resource hub that gives leaders a trusted source of DEI content.