Written by Dorothy Norris-Tirrell, Ph.D., CNP
Reading Time: 2 minutes

At the opening keynote session of the Nonprofit Leadership Alliance’s Elevate 2021 conference, I interviewed Tequilla Lopez, CDP, Director of Inclusion, Talent Planning and Development for Best Buy. Mrs. Lopez is a successful Diversity and Inclusion professional with experience in both nonprofit and for-profit sectors. She had so much to share about how leaders can foster inclusive workspaces. These are the top three things I learned while interviewing Mrs. Lopez.

  1. Know where your organization stands on Diversity, Equity, and Inclusion.  As a leader, you can assure the processes are in place so that the board, staff, and volunteers are in sync with the organization’s stance and the work it does to implement. If you are not in a leadership role and/or find yourself not agreeing with the organization’s stance, it may mean this is not the job for you. Mrs. Lopez emphasized that you must not lose sight of yourself. If you get to the place where you are disgruntled or the job is making you physically or mentally ill, then think about where else you can go. While sometimes a job is about adding a tool to your toolbox, alignment with the organization’s leaders and work is essential. Mrs. Lopez leads with “I choose to be here.”  
  2. Think carefully about how to measure inclusion. Mrs. Lopez defined inclusion as “providing a space for people to be comfortable, contribute and co-create.” Too often we create goals that are easily measured such as Increasing the number of BIPOC, female and/or differently-abled individuals recruited and selected or hired by your organization is only the starting point. Mrs. Lopez argued that the real measurement of inclusion is the sense of belonging felt by staff, board members, and volunteers, which comes from the culture of the organization and teams. Building strong teams requires team members to get to know and trust each other. This takes time to understand expectations and then learn to meet people in the middle, find common ground. They need to know what to expect from each other and to be comfortable holding each other accountable. 
  3. Create a User’s Guide for working with you. Sharing expectations is so important for your team members to get to know you and feel comfortable both accepting feedback and providing feedback. To make this as easy as possible, Mrs. Lopez provides team members with a user’s guide for working with her. This guide includes the following sections: Tests & Stuff (brief interpretation from Meyers-Briggs and StrenghsFinder), How I Communicate, Logistics, When I Work, Expectations, Feedback, and Personal Stuff.  The short document not only communicates key points such as when to contact her via direct message, email, meeting, or text but also displays her values of direct communication and transparency. 

Talking with Mrs. Lopez inspired me and focused my thinking on building a strong team. We can’t thank Tequilla Lopez enough for sharing her time and insights with Elevate.

Are you interested in watching the full keynote session? Check it out here!

Elevate 2023 will take place February 22-23, 2023. You don’t want to miss this 3-day virtual conference for social sector leaders! Watch your email for registration details.