We’re celebrating our second annual Global Week of Belonging, a time to further educate, engage and involve colleagues in our Diversity, Equity and Inclusion (DE&I) efforts. This year’s theme, “Building Trust and Connection,” empowers colleagues globally to understand the importance of building trust and strengthening connections to foster a more respectful, diverse and inclusive culture. Employees will engage in activities throughout the week and hear from internal and external experts and leaders who put trust and connection at the center of their work. For this special edition of Inside Edelman, we profiled colleagues from around our global offices who are committed to deepening Edelman’s commitment to DE&I and are advocates for building acceptance and understanding within the firm and beyond.  

What does DE&I mean to you?

“Decency, empathy, impact.” 

“Do everything intentionally.” 

“Dammit, everyone’s important.” 

I’m not just trying to be cute (and I also hope that playing with the acronym isn’t disrespectful). 

Truly, these different phrases have helped me think about how to ensure more voices are present in conversations, different perspectives are included in decisions and people who don’t look like me have a seat at the table. I’m a huge fan of how Lisa Ross, U.S CEO, has been framing it in her recent talks and presentations (and how we’ll ultimately be reshaping things from an Edelman standpoint). As a white male of privilege, and with considerable authority, I feel it’s a responsibility to demonstrate and demand decency, to give and expect grace and empathy and to make an impact that improves life for as many people as possible.  Put another way—it’s important to not just do as we’ve done, or as we think we’re supposed to—but to act with the intent to expand viewpoints and, therefore, outcomes for as many people as possible. 

What do you see as the link between DE&I and business progress, performance and growth?

Honestly? The data’s the data! When more voices are included in decisions, more people can benefit from the ideas and revel in their success. I think Edelman is a great example of this. With the guidance of our leadership and the commitment of practice, sector, specialty pool and market owners, I really think Edelman has begun to expand the lens through which we view the world, our clients, their needs and how we address them. And our business is flourishing. Personally, I’ve committed to examining my own unconscious bias and have made every effort to intentionally diversify everything from leadership teams to account teams to brainstorms to new hires. And again, business is good! I’ve had a lot of help from HR, talent and resourcing partners, as well as the leads across U.S. Tech and Austin—I’m super grateful for that. And incredibly proud of what we are building with our inclusive tech offering, huge shout out to Nick Nelson, Senior Vice President, Edelman Austin, for serving as that important bridge between Tech, DE&I and Multicultural. Watch this space!

Edelman’s 2022 Global Week of Belonging seeks to emphasize trust and connection. How have you learned to build trust and connection throughout your career?

I’d say trust and connection are actually how I’ve built my career. I work hard to earn trust of the people who manage me, the people I manage, the people who rely on me and the people I rely upon. And it’s hard to earn or expect trust without connection. I’d like to think I’ve taken time to get to know people—what matters to them, what makes them feel inspired, what makes them cringe. When I joined the firm many years ago, I remember telling the hiring manager that I wanted to find a career where I could work to live, not live to work. So, I like to try to use that as a filter for how I build relationships with colleagues…which I think requires connection and earns trust. 

What has influenced your thinking around DE&I and motivated you to get involved in being an advocate for change?

Listening. Shutting up. De-centering myself. Asking questions. Not making assumptions. I have learned so much—especially in the past couple of years—just from doing this simple thing that we’re all capable of. When you know more about your colleagues, peers, clients, friends, family, it becomes so much easier to be an advocate for progress. Scratch that—it becomes so much easier to be an ally. Actually, scratch that—if you’re really listening, it becomes an imperative to demand change and prioritize enabling a sense of belonging for everyone. 

What is your approach to understanding the perspectives of colleagues from different backgrounds?

Is it cheating to say see above? We’ve just got to listen to each other. There’s so much to be learned and gained and understood and applied. Problems seem less grim, ideas shine brighter and wins soar higher when you have a strong team representative of more than your own world view. So, let’s listen. Look around the room at who you’re listening to and ensure it isn’t just a bunch of…yous. 

Have you ever had an experience or situation in which you felt like you didn’t belong?

I think we all have. But, again, as a white male of privilege, I share this acknowledging this reality…and to recognize how much more it happens to others who don’t look like me. Feeling like you don’t belong can be isolating, demoralizing or worse. We’ve got to take care of one another, notice how and when folks are pushed to the margins and learn how to prevent that. 

What can leaders and managers be doing to help improve a company's culture to ensure it is an inclusive workplace?

Listen, listen, listen. I’ll say it again: listen. Respect. Embrace differences. Be open to learning. Remember that change is an action. And action drives trust.

Dan Susong is Chair, U.S. Technology Sector and General Manager of Edelman Austin.