Guide: DEI Discussion Starter Questions


DEI Discussion Starter Questions

Use this handout to help start conversations within your organization, understand where you are at with your DEI efforts, and identify what changes need to be made.

Infographic: How to Be a Diversity-Minded Leader

We all know that diversity is an asset to any organization with a range of opinions, experiences, and feedback, but hiring a diverse workforce is only the first step. In order to retain a diverse workforce and ensure an exceptional employee experience for all, an organization needs to train its managers to be diversity-minded leadership.

Download this infographic for 3 steps you and those of your organization can take to become a diversity-minded leader.

Are you interested in learning more about measuring employee engagement across your organization?

Diversity, Equity, & Inclusion:
Discussion Starter Questions

Our Own Department/Team Awareness

Our Work: Assignments, Decisions

  • What are our team’s blind spots? How
    should we identify our team’s blind spots?
  •  Do we have a shared definition of
    belonging, equity, and inclusion? How
    about bias, inequity, and non-inclusion?
  • How are we using output from HR Pulse
    surveys, engagement surveys, employee
    suggestions, and exit interviews to create
    positive change within our
  • What new “diversity factors” has COVID- 19 introduced? (Home-schooling parents, family members with special health needs
    or other at-risk factors, etc.)
  • What is our team doing to embrace
    diversity of backgrounds, thoughts, beliefs
    and experiences in our decision-making processes?
  • Are our project teams diverse, not just in
    terms of race, age, sex, but also tenure &
  • Is work fairly distributed within our
    department, or do we tend to assign new
    deliverables to the person who will get
    them done fastest?
  • How do we ensure that our quieter/less
    assertive team members feel comfortable
    speaking up and sharing their ideas?

Our Team Composition, Development, & Rewards:

Our Products & Services:

  • What are we doing to actively grow our
    team’s diversity and inclusion practices?
  • Is our department hiring and promoting
    the candidates with the best qualifications
    regardless of race, age, sex, appearance?
  • Are we fair and equitable in our team’s
    compensation and merit increases? How is
    our team encouraging individualism, or are
    we mentoring people to be “like me?”
  • Are newer associates within our team
    getting opportunities to learn and stretch
    themselves in ways that allow professional
  • Are we working toward delivery of
    products and services that address the
    needs of all customers, including diverse
    and future desired customer segments?
  • Do our department’s promotional
    materials reflect diverse groups?

Our Team Commitment:

  • What are two best practices for
    workplace inclusion that we want to adopt
    (or reinforce if we are already doing it)?

9 Benefits of a Certified 360-degree Feedback Coach

Understanding and managing the employee experience (EX) is challenging for many reasons. Maybe the most significant challenge is that no one has a one-size-fits-all tool that allows us to understand and measure the employee experience at the organizational, team, and individual levels in a simultaneous fashion. For example, org-wide surveys are helpful when researching themes across departments and functions, but they fall short when trying to understand what it’s like working for a particular manager who oversees a small development team.

This article will focus on ways we can understand and improve the employee experience at the team and individual level by using multi-rater feedback (i.e., 360 degree feedback) instead of relying on traditional org-level surveys. In addition, I highlight how the multi-rater experience is significantly enhanced by making trained/certified 360 coaches part of your multi-rater talent programs.

As a brief primer, a multi-rater assessment solicits feedback and evaluative information about a leader or employee from various raters that surround this person (the “participant”). Except for one’s immediate supervisor, feedback data is aggregated and presented as coming from a rater group, such as “direct reports” or “peers” to maintain confidentiality and foster candid feedback. Because multi-rater feedback is omni-directional, it is often called “360 degree feedback,” which refers to the number of degrees in a circle.

The genera idea is to uncover what it is like to work for a particular leader and to give the leader a chance to understand how people experience their personality, their leadership style, and their management decisions. This information is essential to any leader seeking greater awareness and who is wanting to improve their individual and team’s performance. In fact, many who have received 360-degree feedback describe the process as “career-changing.” 

Benefits from a multi-rater program accrue both to the individual, as noted above, but also to the organization. When, assessments are organized and conducted in cohorts and across functions, group analytics can be gathered and analyzed to see how manager-level experiences are being received, what differences exist, and what is working well within discrete teams to create exceptional experiences.

While 360-degree feedback can be career-changing, this level of transformation doesn’t typically occur without the guidance of a trained mentor/coach. Trained 360 coaches are professionals who have been qualified/certified to guide a participant through the multi-rater feedback process. We strongly recommend that individuals be certified prior to conducting 360 debriefs.   

Some organizations choose to train and certify internal professionals to meet their debriefing needs, while others use outside professionals. Internally trained professionals are typically cheaper to implement, and they are more readily available, but they may lack experience. And, being internal means they may be viewed as being too close to the situation to be considered an impartial confidant or sounding board.  

Still, whether internal or external, a trained/certified 360 coach can strengthen the multi-rater process in the following ways:

1. Focus on the message and not the messenger.

A trained 360 coach helps the participant to focus on the message and not the messenger. Many participants like to play “who said what,” and while 360s are geared towards confidentiality, there are times when it may be possible to pick out raters, particularly when it comes to written comments. This natural reaction is unhelpful, as it distracts from the feedback itself. A good coach keeps a participant on track.

2. Assess Feedback within Context

A certified coach also helps a participant absorb feedback within the proper context. For example, a participant may become so focused on one comment or piece of quantitative feedback that they miss the big picture entirely.

3. Help Participants Along the Emotional Journey.

We often have distorted pictures of our performance. These distortions are unceremoniously laid bare during a 360, which can be emotionally painful. A 360 coach helps a participant understand and navigate their natural emotional reactions and keeps them focused on how the feedback, and the accompanying process, is going to help them improve and become better.

4. See and Accept Both Strengths and Weaknesses

Strong coaches keep participants from either focusing on just the negative feedback or only on the positive feedback. They help a participant see and accept both their strengths and their weaknesses.  

5. Confront Necessary Change for Growth

Sometimes a participant needs someone to challenge their assumptions. Or it may be helpful, or even necessary, for a coach to step in and force a participant to confront an uncomfortable piece of feedback. Without an impartial guide, participants feel the pain but do nothing to improve, or they explain away their feedback in unhelpful ways.  

6. Compare Benchmarks

A trained, experienced coach can help a participant understand the evaluative scales that are being used. For example, is a particular score common for that organization? Or what scores are expected for a specific role within the organization? This type of understanding gives a participant much needed additional information.

7. Identify Critical Feedback

A 360 coach helps a participant prioritize their feedback, helping draw out what is most important.  They also advise a participant on whether they are in jeopardy from a career perspective, or whether the information is helpful but doesn’t represent a red flag.  They key is helping a participant focus on what is urgent and important and to avoid activities that aren’t urgent and not important.   

8. Create Accountability

Coaches play a vital role in creating accountability and pushing a participant to engage in action planning to address areas that need improvement rather than putting things off for “another day.”

9. Establish an Action Plan

Finally, effective coaches draw from a participant what they will do with the feedback. They understand that the answer lies in the participant, and they help guide and focus the discussion until the participant sees a pathway forward and is appropriately committed to making meaningful change.


In summation, multi-rater feedback is an invaluable source of employee experience data, particularly at the team and individual levels. This data can be used to help leadership better understand themselves, but it can also be used to gain insights about the organization itself. Yet, in order to take full advantage of these benefits, we strongly advise that organizations utilize trained coaches to help facilitate the 360 debrief process. These professionals are vital in helping employees improve and feel valued. They also help participants become self-aware, take action, and hold themselves accountable. Finally, trained coaches also serve as an additional source of qualitative employee experience data that can help guide talent professionals and help EX leaders better understand the employee experience. 

At DecisionWise, we offer certification programs, with an accompany digital badge, that certify individuals as “Certified 360 Coaches.”  For more information on our certification process, please visit

Infographic: How to Be a Diversity-Minded Leader

View the PDF of this Infographic

We all know that diversity is an asset to any organization with a range of opinions, experiences, and feedback, but hiring a diverse workforce is only the first step. In order to retain a diverse workforce and ensure an exceptional employee experience for all, an organization needs to train its managers to be diversity-minded leadership.

Here are 3 steps you and those of your organization can take to become a diversity-minded leader.

Step 1: Make a Plan.

Research shows that 95% of leaders say that they want a Diversity and Inclusion plan, but only 25% of leaders actually have one. It’s time to act now.

Step 2: Evaluate.

Here are some questions to consider as you evaluate your current position. Are you finding that most of your social interactions primarily involve men? How are you changing that? Are you actively acknowledging contributions from minority voices? If you oversee a lot of meetings, how are you ensuring that diverse populations have a meaningful way to contribute and share their thoughts?

Step 3: Take Action.

Describe a genuine moment where you have seen things differently and where your perspective has changed for the better. Diversity will make your organization better. True learning comes in the application of a concept; so, demonstrate commitment by clearly articulating how diversity will improve key areas such as innovation, process flow, customer experience, etc.

For more information on diversity, equity, and inclusion, visit

Don’t forget to register for our webinar, “Diversity, Equity, and Inclusion – Developing a Clear Roadmap”.

Webinar: Diversity, Equity, and Inclusion – Developing a Clear Roadmap

Date: Wednesday, July 28, 2021

Time: 1:00 pm Eastern / 10:00 am Pacific


  • Kristin Chapman, Managing Director of People & Culture at AAA National
  • Charles Rogel, VP of Consulting at DecisionWise

Cost: Free

During this webinar, we’ll share the latest DecisionWise employee survey research as well as tested best practices and stories from AAA National on how to map a clear DE&I strategy. We’ll answer the following questions:

  • What structural blind spots and policies exist in your organization that prevent action?
  • What are the myths and common misconceptions around diversity?
  • What are you doing to gain the support of your leadership?
  • What message is your company sending with the way it communicates about diversity?
  • How do you measure the impact of your DE&I initiatives to know if they are making a difference?

As a bonus for attending this webinar, we’ll provide you with a “DE&I Discussion Starter Questions” handout to help you begin conversations within your organization, understand where you are at, and identify what changes need to be made.

This webinar qualifies for SHRM and HRCI credit.

What Makes A Good Manager and Leader?

Manager listening to others

The cost of a bad manager amounts to billions of dollars each year. Hundreds of millions of dollars are being spent to measure and improve the employee experience by focusing on the collective organizational experience. However, DecisionWise research shows that organizations should refocus their efforts and double down on their managers.

Our research shows that an engaged manager is 213% more likely to have an engaged team and industry research shows that managers account for at least 70% of the variance of employee engagement scores. The data is crystal clear. Organizations should focus on creating effective managers to improve the employee experience and drive employee engagement. So, what makes a good manager, and most importantly, what creates a successful manager that drives a positive employee experience?

7 Behaviors of a Good Manager

Gallup has suggested that organizations miss on hiring the right manager over 80% of the time . While Gallup suggests getting the hiring right, I believe organizations can orient leaders to the competencies and behaviors that will make them successful in their individual and collective responsibilities. Here are 7 behaviors that a great manager can employ to help drive a more positive employee experience.

  1. Create a Culture of Belonging
  2. Actively Promote the Mission and Vision of the Company
  3. Coach for Enablement
  4. Focus on Employee Growth
  5. Provide Appropriate Levels of Employee Autonomy
  6. Be Driven by Results
  7. Manage Through VUCA
leader increases eNPS by showing his team he cares

1. Create a Culture of Belonging

Over the past several years, the question “I feel like I belong here” has dominated as the primary driver of employee engagement in most organizations. Deloitte found that leading organizations are creating a stronger link between belonging and organizational performance by strengthening workers’ connection with their teams and fostering their sense of contributions to meaningful shared goals.

A great leader creates a culture of belonging on their team by focusing on 3 simple behaviors:

  1. Show respect to each team member. Avoid demeaning language about any member of the team in any way. Discuss challenges or deficiencies in private and directly with the impacted team members.
  2. Be inclusive. Discrimination is a real challenge whether it is gender, race, religion, age, or sexual orientation. Create a culture where team members can contribute their full potential, regardless of any societal label or demographic category.
  3. Drive toward a common goal. When teams are united under a common purpose, differences in opinion on matters unrelated become less relevant and differences of perspective can be used to enhance productivity rather than divisiveness. 

2. Actively Promote the Mission and Vision of the Company

In the American West, cattle ranches have been long identified by their livestock brands (a symbol that was seared into the cattle.) Ranch brands were initially created to identify lost or stolen cattle, but quickly became a sense of pride for the ranchers. The phrase “ride for the brand” became a call for ranch hands to work for something larger than themselves.

An effective manager understands the mission and vision of the company and frequently shares that value proposition with their team. They are brand ambassadors and advocates for the organization’s mission. A manager can influence the optimism team members have about the future of the organization and show the impact their work is making toward the collective goal.

3. Coach for Enablement

Employee enablement is the process of empowering employees with the right set of tools, situations, and support to deliver high-quality results. A good manager can not simply do all the work to accomplish the desired outcomes. They must provide guidance, tools, resources, and autonomy so employees can learn, develop, and get the necessary training to provide quality results.

Here are 3 strategies managers can implement to coach for enablement:

  1. Build a culture of listening on your team. Let your employees know they have a place to discuss successes, challenges, and their future.
  2. Provide channels for immediate learning. Employee learning can happen in structured classes, but perhaps the best learning comes “in the moment.” Feedback is a gift and, when given properly, it is a tremendous asset to your team.
  3. Create targeted learning and development initiatives. Each employee will learn differently, so effective management will ensure training is delivered according to the individual’s style of learning.

4. Focus on Employee Growth

Employee growth is defined as being stretched and challenged in a way that results in personal and professional progress. Often, we limit the scope of employee growth to promotion or advancement in an organization. While promotion is part of employee growth, it is only one component of an employee’s growth plan.

Here are 3 ways managers can focus on employee growth

  1. Discuss growth opportunities with team members. Opportunities may include developing a new skill, continuing education, degree advancement, cross functional training, or even growth related to a hobby. Make growth a primary focus of the conversations in manager one-on-one meetings.
  2. Create a development plan. Find out how employees want to grow and become an accountability partner of their development plan.
  3. Provide appropriate opportunities for team members that will push them to learn new skills and hone abilities.

A good leader is intentional about employee growth. When employees feel good about the opportunities in front of them, they are more likely to stay engaged and have a positive employee experience.

5. Provide Appropriate Levels of Employee Autonomy

Autonomy is the power to shape your work and environment that allows you to perform your best. Autonomy is not anarchy, rather it is giving people the freedom to choose how to do their best work without removing accountability and process.

Trust is foundational for autonomy. If you don’t trust your employees, you will end up micromanaging. Appropriate autonomy is established and maintained through clarity and transparency of expectations for desired outcomes. A great manager is transparent about limitations or constraints they have. Engagement, satisfaction, and happiness often depends less on the conditions in which one works and more on whether expectations are aligned and met.

man autonomously working on iPad

6. Driven by Results

In addition to developing team members, organization leadership is held accountable for business results. Results orientation is a behavior every good manager should develop and continually improve. Create a business plan for your team that correlates to the overall organizational business plan. Build structure into your environment with clear expectations and definitions of success. Create accountability for the deliverables and extend rewards for successes.

7. Manage Through VUCA

Following the 9/11 terrorist attacks in 2001, the United States Army began using the term VUCA for training commanding officers. VUCA stands for Volatile, Uncertain, Complex, and Ambiguous. Every good leader, team, and organization will experience VUCA. The key to manage in a VUCA world is to break it down into its individual parts and to identify volatile, uncertain, complex, and ambiguous situations. Each situation has causes and resolutions, allowing you to deal with one at a time.

Bob Johansen, author of the book Leaders Make the Future provides suggestions on responding to VUCA threats.

  1. Counter volatility with vision
  2. Meet uncertainty with understanding
  3. React to complexity with clarity
  4. Fight ambiguity with agility


A good manager is key to creating a positive employee experience and driving employee engagement in an organization. Organizations will see a greater ROI on their engagement initiatives by orienting managers towards these behaviors. And lastly, to be an effective manager, develop and implement these 7 behaviors and you will be well positioned to create a positive employee experience for your team.

6 Tips for Setting Performance Goals with Your Employees

I recently met with an organization to conduct an after-action review. Our goal was to understand why their process broke down when an employee was forced out of the organization. My biggest takeaway from the conversation was that leaders often have a difficult time distinguishing between three types of employee goals: development, performance, and minimum expectations. Knowing what to do in each of these scenarios significantly increases a manager’s likelihood of success.

In this case, we learned that the manager, with the best of intentions, kept trying to help the struggling employee develop and grow when they should have been focused on following a simple process to help the employee meet minimum expectations. Two different scenarios that needed different responses.    

In this article, I will explain about these 3 types of employee goals and then focus on 6 ways to help you improve the performance goal setting process, since this is what most managers should be doing on a regular basis. 

3 Types of Employee Goals

Development Goals. These goals are conceived of and designed by the employee, and they are forward focused.  What is something new they would like to learn or how should they prepare for a future position they are hoping to obtain?  With development goals, the manager’s role is to be supportive and to act as a sounding-board, but the process is primarily employee-led.

Development goals provide a manager with the opportunity to be a mentor and a coach, following the mantra that the “answers lie in the employee, not the manager.”  Development goals are typically used by employees who are operating at a level where they are exceeding expectations. They are seeking greater autonomy in deciding how they can best improve. The manager can sit back and oversee the process with minimal intervention.

Minimum Expectations Goals. On the spectrum’s other end, we have goals to comply with minimum expectations/standards. These are goals and conversations where an employee is teetering on the edge of whether they should remain with the organization. In this case, HR should be involved and generally there is strong emphasis on process, documentation, and clear, written communication.

While these instances are rare, the need for precision is important. In the anecdote I shared earlier, this was the first termination the manager had experienced in 13 years. The goal is not substantial improvement; rather, the goal is the clear communication of expectations, adherence to a formal process, and eventual compliance with basic minimum standards.

Performance Goals. In the middle of the spectrum is where we find ourselves most of the time: helping employees set performance goals. In this arena, responsibility is shared equally between the leader and the employee. Conversations should be scheduled and routine, but they do not have to be highly formal.

Many performance goals are closely tied to development, and in some cases they may seem indistinguishable. The difference, as I see it, is that a manager has a vested interest in performance goals, as they are striving to build capability that will directly improve business results within their team. Performance goals are tied to measurable outcomes (OKRs) and reflect less of what the employee wants and more of what the organization needs from the employee.

How to Properly Set Performance Goals with Employees

In my view, performance goals are vital not only because they are more ubiquitous, but also because they are critical for team success. Improving performance represents a foundational duty of a high-performing leader. Great leaders constantly strive to build other high-performing team members.

When setting performance goals with an employee, there are 6 tips that, when followed, will greatly increase your likelihood of success.

Tip #1: Focus on Both Tactical and Adaptive Performance

First, determine whether a performance goal is tactical or adaptive in nature. In their book, Primed to Perform: How to Build the Highest Performing Cultures Through the Science of Total Motivation,[1] Lindsay McGregor and Neel Doshi teach that there are two types of performance: tactical and adaptive. Tactical performance is the ability to complete a task with a high degree of efficiency and quality. Adaptive performance, on the other hand, is focused on an employee’s ability to adapt, solve problems, create good outcomes without a lot of oversight, and to innovate and improve standard processes. Adaptive employees are those that can think outside of the box.

As a leader in search of business results, success will depend on employees that are proficient both tactically and adaptively. In setting performance goals, ensure that employees are focused on both types of performance and help them with access to the resources and tools they need to help them improve on both sides of the performance coin.

Tip #2: Identify the Correct Measuring Gauge

Second, establish a clear understanding as to what measurement gauge will be used to evaluate success. Success can be measured against established competencies, standards of performance, against other employees (ranking system), or against the employees themselves (are they improving year over year).

Some have suggested that self-comparison is the best option[2], but, in my view, there are only two imperatives. One is that the manager and employee come to a mutual understanding of what gauge will be used to determine if goals are being met and improvement is taking place. Second, the gauge should be institutional versus personal. This means that standards for performance should be based on known, objective measures such as previously defined competencies, job descriptions, published team standards and/or institutional policies, procedures, and OKRs (objectives and key results).

Tip #3: Understand and Manage Biases

Evaluating human performance is challenging, just ask anyone who has been tasked with judging a talent show or scoring a diving competition. Because there is a vast amount of subjectivity in what constitutes good performance, employees are naturally wary of biases, and this leads to distrust.

Leaders need to carefully identify and manage these potential biases in order to build confidence in their performance goal setting process:

  • Recent/Dramatic Events Bias: anchoring to behavior and events that readily come to mind due to recency or because they stand out.
  • Representativeness Bias: resorting to stereotypes to explain performance issues.
  • Anchoring Bias: focusing too much on early results rather than considering the data’s impact over a reasonable time period.
  • Confirmation Bias: seeing only the data that agrees with preconceived viewpoints.
  • Halo/Horn Bias: focusing on a single trait that appears to drive everything.
  • Fundamental Attribution Error: affording greater weight to a person’s characteristics rather than seeing how each situation and external factors impact the outcome.   
  • Central Tendency Bias: when we avoid polarizing feedback and rate everyone in the middle.

Tip #4: Use Multi-Rater Feedback to Evaluate Whether Performance is Improving

Setting and achieving goals depends on our ability to measure whether improvement has occurred. Of the myriad of options available to measure performance, employees prefer multi-rater feedback in evaluating performance gains.[3] A standard multi-rater feedback program solicits feedback and evaluative information from a variety of sources that surround the focal person (i.e., the participant). Feedback is solicited from one’s supervisor, from one’s peers and direct reports, and from other applicable categories.

Because multiple raters are involved, the process is sounder as it relies on a variety of observations instead of just one or two. Employees also appreciate the fact that feedback is not contingent on just one or two people. Evaluations are received from a variety of sources including peers and others that might even have a rooting interest in the employee’s favor. Finally, a multi-rater system, by its nature, means evaluation criteria remain consistent from one rater set to another.

Tip #5: Know the Context

When establishing performance goals, ask yourself what the context is for what you are trying to accomplish. My business partner, Christian Nielson, teaches that every manager has an obligation to help their employees find a purpose, a path, and a place. Purpose is about helping employees reach success, see their impact, and find meaning in their contributions. Path is about developing a shared vision of how an employee can grow and improve within the organization. Place is about developing a sense of belonging, care, connection, and community.

Performance goals should help an employee in each of these three areas. Identify together which area the goal touches upon and ensure that the goals are distributed among these areas so that an appropriate balance is maintained.

Tip #6: Awareness, Action, and Accountability

Over the years, we have found this simple phrase, awareness, action, and accountability, encapsulates much of what we are trying to accomplish with performance goals. Goals can be organized to help employees learn (awareness), do things (take action), and return and report (accountability). We recommend this simple structure as you focus on improving the performance goal process.


Performance is the intersection of people and results. At the end of the day, organizations succeed when people do great work in an environment (the employee experience) that invites them to grow and bring their best selves to the journey.  It is not enough to just develop our people; we need to help them deliver the results that let them know their work matters. 



[3] R. Wayne Dean Mondy, Chapter 8, Performance Management and Appraisal, Human Resource Management, 12th Edition, P. 244, Pearson, 2012.

Podcast: The What, How, and Why of Emotional Intelligence

Tune in to this episode to join Charles Rogel and Dave Long discuss the holy grail characteristic of leadership: EQ (Emotional Intelligence).

They will be diving into the what, how, and why of Emotional Intelligence, including:

  1. The definition of EQ
  2. The why behind the importance of EQ
  3. How to measure EQ and appropriate assessments
  4. How to develop and improve EQ as an individual and a leader

To learn more about increasing Emotional Intelligence with 360-Degree Feedback, visit: