A Trip Around the Sun in Quarantine

Today is my birthday and for the first time ever I can’t make any plans.

Unexpected, never would have guessed it but grateful. Beyond grateful.

So how do you ceimage3lebrate your birthday when you’ve been in quarantine for three weeks?

Have a Zoom call with people I love.

Spend half the day cleaning and disinfecting. I’m a germaphobe. It makes sense right now.

Take long walks. 2 to 3 hours. I start at sunrise.

Breathe. Inhale. Exhale. Repeat.

Have an in-home concert. Live music is one of my most cherished love languages. I put a few of my fave NPR Tiny Desk Concerts on repeat and play them from the TV.  Lineup includes Snoh Aalegra, Tank & the Bangas, Robert Glasper, Common & Bilal at The White House, Christian Scott, Big KRIT, H.E.R., Raphael Saadiq, Tobe Nwigwe, Thundercat, and Anthony Hamilton

Make a new recipe. Stuffed salmon is the chef’s (my) choice.

Do hair and makeup. Get dressed. Any other socially-distanced day this is unlikely.

Test out a new camera and lighting kit for my online course delivery. Can’t wait to release new content for clients and colleagues.

Gaze at the most beautiful bouquet of yellow tulips. Breathtaking with every glance.

Search online for organic, non-gmo, heirloom seeds. Obviously time to start growing our own food.

Script a new series of my podcast Affirmations of Excellence. So excited to share more episodes and introduce the guests who will join me soon.

Brainstorm with think tank on ways to build financial pipeline for black female entrepreneurs.

Finish reading “Black Is the Body: Stories from My Grandmother’s Time, My Mother’s Time, and Mine” – a birthday gift from 2019 that I started on a flight to Finland but never completed.

Channel the ancestors in appreciation for the resilience to survive crisis. Imagining what they experienced at worst. I’ll never know the half.

Journal. Major and minor reflections. All are worthy of space.

Call Mom and Dad, and render tearful thoughts of gratitude to each of them.

Pray. To God. Not to make any requests. Only to offer thanks.

Another trip around the sun…



Because of 4 a.m. – The Excellence of Kobe Bryant

Excellence is the result of a prosperous, well-lived and fulfilled life. The excellence that we can truly achieve is up against a real enemy called mediocrity.

Mediocrity and the comfort it gives us is what keeps us from being excellent. Sometimes the painful tension of a struggle comes along to teach us how to tackle hardships with hope and burn mediocrity with motivation. It’s impossible to live a life of excellence without struggle. We often look at successful people and overestimate their talent because we forget about their obsession with excellence which inspires their willingness to outwork anyone else, outshine any appearance of mediocrity and overcome any struggle they face.

As I reflect on the life and legacy of NBA legend Kobe Bryant, excellence has to the best word to describe him. Kobe is considered to be one of the greatest athletes in the world — not just because of his talent but because of his excellent mindset and work ethic. When the horrific news broke that Kobe and his 13 year old daughter Gianna were killed in a helicopter crash along with seven others, I was heartbroken and  immediately felt a sense of disbelief. Kobe, to me, was kind of like a big brother. Not personally. But I was in middle school when he made his announcement to skip college and enter the NBA at the age of 18, and he became one of the overachieving superheroes in pop culture whose hard work, intelligence and humility I found fascinating. He reminded me so much of the guys I grew up with that lived and breathed basketball. Later I would admire his obsession with excellence – a relatable quality that he was often misunderstood and disliked for.

My favorite off-the-court memory of Kobe was when he was on stage accepting the Icon Award at the ESPYs in 2016. Around this time, I’d started the routine of waking up around 4 a.m. to workout and get ahead of my day. The year prior I had experienced a series of major struggles, and I was determined to rediscover Aerial and redefine my purpose. As a fan, I admired how competitive and disciplined Kobe was. It reminded me of myself in some ways. So once I became relentless about my new pursuits and serious about repositioning my purpose, I started going to the gym at 4 a.m. in the morning. I began to see the results not only in my fitness and appearance but everything else became clearer and more precise especially in how I affirmed myself and invested in my relationship with God.

So when Kobe retired and received the Icon Award in 2016 at the ESPYs he addressed his fellow athletes in a speech that still sticks with me to this day:

“We’re not on this stage just because of talent or ability. We’re up here because of 4 a.m. We’re up here because of two-a-days or five-a-days. We’re up here because we had a dream and let nothing stand in our way. If anything tried to bring us down, we used it to make us stronger. We were never satisfied, never finished. We will never be retired.”

Kobe Bryant

Credit: Showtime/THR

Toward the end of the speech, Kobe quoted one of his high school teachers by saying, “Rest at the end, not in the middle.” Kobe Bryant obviously lived that quote, and will now get his rest. He didn’t become one of the greatest athletes in the world simply because of talent. He was great because he was willing to put in the work every single day.

4 a.m.

Seven times a week.

No matter the struggle.

It’d be foolish to think that God allows us to go through life with absolutely no hardships and difficulties. No matter how strong you think you, there will be something that disrupts your peace, shifts your circumstances, limits your livelihood, pauses your progress and tests your character. A struggle or a series of momentary struggles are guaranteed.

It doesn’t have to be life or death, or detrimental to success but the highs and lows will come, and most times the lows will be a struggle – a struggle to get ahead and move to the next level, to fix what went wrong, to get over a bad decision or a disappointment, to make ends meet or break into the right space, to mend broken relationships and pursue the right ones, to establish boundaries, to reach a comfortable position in life, to love yourself and to be fair to yourself, to stay healthy or recover from illness, to let go of resentment or guilt, to overcome hurt and loss, and to heal from anger, sadness and pain – the struggle no matter how it looks is real.

In the world we live in, results are usually tied to performance. Nowadays unfortunately, good enough is enough. Half-done, half-hearted, shoddy, non-committal, just to get by, low effort, low interest, low standard, low energy, unbothered, average attempt, smoke and mirrors, for attention and not for advancement, a failure to go all in and play full out, doing the bare minimum, less than what is required, lack and slack – all fight against the temporary privilege to push through a struggle in order to get better.

I can imagine that 4 a.m. workouts everyday year after year would do nothing but breed excellence, and for many of us, Kobe was nothing short of excellence.

So what’s your 4 a.m.?

What struggle have you overcome recently and how did you learn to see the beauty in it? When it comes to pursuing excellence, what discomforts are required to achieve your personal best and strengthen your character?

Struggles might hinder you but they don’t define you. They will discipline you but do not have to distract you. If we considered a struggle to be a temporary privilege, we’d admit that a struggle isn’t always bad. It isn’t. It can groom us for excellence and bring us remarkable rewards.

This blog post is an excerpt from my podcast Affirmations of Excellence, Episode 4: Struggles. The podcast is an offering of personal devotionals to fuel your week with excellence using personal stories and reflections, clear action steps, and guided affirmations.

Listen, rate, subscribe and share!

Aerial Ellis Podcast

More Than Music – Akon

His name is Aliaune Damala Badara Akon Thiam but the world knows him plainly as Akon. He’s an American-Senegalese based singer and producer introduced to us through pop culture by way of some pretty huge hits, yet little has been said about his impact as an entrepreneur. If anyone is wondering why Akon somewhat disappeared from the public eye, at least on the U.S. music scene that is, it’s because he’s been building businesses and investing smartly.

With an estimated net worth of over $80 million, there’s honestly no way to keep up with his many business ventures. He’s gone from music to real estate and tech, to agriculture and energy – yes, energy.

In 2014, he launched Akon Lighting Africa in effort to provide energy throughout his home continent.  The company provides environment-friendly and cost-effective solutions to address concerns in more than two-thirds of the population of sub-Saharan Africa that are without electricity, and to reach more than 85 percent of those living in rural areas lacking access.

With a billon dollar credit line from a Chinese partner, Akon is leading a movement to illuminate Africa with more than 100,000 solar street lamps installed across 480 communities in 15 countries, along with 1,200 solar micro-grids and 5,500 jobs created.

This year, his company will begin developing utility scale renewable energy projects throughout U.S. and constructing renewable energy solutions for rural and low income housing communities.

Meanwhile, he’s launched his own cryptocurrency called Akoin and will use the currency to support the Akon’s Lighting Africa Initiative and position it to be the de facto currency in a Senegalese city he’s constructing on 2,000 acres of land gifted to him by the President of Senegal – a futuristic city he describes as “a real Wakanda.”

Never moving too far away from music, he has also purchased 50 percent stake in a music download service based in Senegal called Musik Bi that features over 200 internationally recognized artists. 

So if you’re wondering what happened to Akon, you’re out of the loop and have some catching up to do.

His unique perspective as an African born in American is cradled in a heart for his homeland – a perspective grounded in the belief that the only way to build the continent of Africa is with less charity and more revenue-generating businesses that create opportunities for local people.

This bag collector is not only coming up with market-driven solutions that impact the globe, he’s proving that he’s more than music.


This post is the part of The Bag Collector series – a spotlight posts that feature serial entrepreneurs of color each recognized for their ability to diversify in business, wealth and investments. These individuals exemplify what it means to be creative and unapologetic in pursuit of entrepreneurial excellence, and ultimately collect the “bag” then use it to make greater community impact.

The Million-Dollar Mother – Mary Ellen Pleasant

In a time where women were seen as less than men, and black people weren’t seen as human, you’d think it would be remotely impossible to be a successful black businesswoman.

Her story is complicated but abolitionist, financier, real estate magnate and Gold Rush entrepreneur Mary Ellen Pleasant was a free black woman who dedicated her life to equality for African Americans shattering racial and gender barriers.

Born into slavery, Mary Ellen was the illegitimate daughter of the son of then-Virginia governor and a Haitian voodoo priestess. She was sold from Georgia to New Orleans, then later bought and freed as an indentured servant in Rhode Island. She eventually made Philadelphia home, married an abolitionist and became a conductor of the Underground Railroad in Canada. ⁠

Around 1848, Mary and her husband heard about the Gold Rush and saw it as an opportunity to move west to California. She came to San Francisco fleeing prosecution under the Fugitive Slave Act while continuing her work leading people from slavery to freedom and finding them employment. Arriving in San Francisco with a considerable sum of money left to her by her first husband, Mary Ellen invested it wisely. She established several businesses included laundries, dairies and restaurants — all of which became quite lucrative in a city filled with gold miners, politicians and businessmen.

By 1875, she had earned a great deal of money from her businesses and investments and used it to help establish the Bank of California. Mary Ellen continued the fight for civil rights and challenged Jim Crow laws ⁠in suing the North Beach Railroad Co. for not letting African Americans ride streetcars in San Francisco.

Today the Mary Ellen Pleasant Memorial Park in San Francisco lives on the property that once occupied a 30-room Italianate mansion she owned on Octavia Street.

Searching her history you may find so much more about this woman. Mary Ellen was relentless and sometimes controversial yet she died known as “the Mother of Civil Rights in California.”

She amassed a fortune worth over $30 million and used much of that fortune to challenge the white supremacist status quo marking her million-dollar legacy in civil rights and black entrepreneurship.


This post is the part of The Bag Collector series – a spotlight posts that feature serial entrepreneurs of color each recognized for their ability to diversify in business, wealth and investments. These individuals exemplify what it means to be creative and unapologetic in pursuit of entrepreneurial excellence, and ultimately collect the “bag” then use it to make greater community impact.

A Martyr for the People – Thomas Moss

Kroger and Publix, Wal-Mart and Target, every successful business has its competition. There’s inspired competition – the kind that motivates you, challenges you, and makes you chase after success. And then there’s competition that only wants to see you lose and drive you out of business. The story of Thomas Moss is one that undeniably captures the trauma of competition that black entrepreneurs faced while working to acquire wealth post-slavery.

In 1889, Thomas Moss and 11 prominent black investors, opened The People’s Grocery. The store was located just outside Memphis in a neighborhood called the “Curve.” News of this black owned business spread quickly and black people in the community began to feel empowered. 

Moss was motivated to attain wealth and invest into his community. A postman by day, he used earnings delivering mail to invest in his start-up idea of a community grocery store. He delivered mail by day and ran People’s Grocery by night. And, as family man in the community, his popularity lent great success to his entrepreneurial pursuits. 

With this cooperative venture for the store, a unique structure of its kind in those days, he ran along corporate lines and made his store the 5th largest wholesale grocery market in the country. Moss was an instant success. His store brought capital to the black community while also instilling a sense of pride. 

Sadly, his social nor economic status was able to save him from the racial hostility of the South. Across from Moss’ store was another store owned by a white man, and many white people in the community were not pleased. Many felt as if they shouldn’t compete for the black dollar and the People’s Grocery quickly became an enemy of their white competitors. Moss was confident. He ignored the animosity and persisted to thrive in business. He knew the blacks in the community loved him and would support his grocery store.

In March 1892, a series of racially charged fights broke out outside of the store. Two of Moss’ workers went outside to ease the tension. Moss along with his two workers were arrested and later dragged out of jail by an angry mob of 75 white men. They all were publicly lynched while in police custody. ⁠

Moss was asked if he had any last words and he stated, “Tell my people to go west. There is no justice here.” This lynching became known as the Lynchings at the Curve. ⁠Ida B. Wells, a famed anti-lynching journalist and a dear friend to Moss, was set to show through media that lynching had become a tool of economic terrorism and disenfranchisement and became a vocal champion to broadcast the lynchings as they spread especially among black male business owners.

Many black entrepreneurs lynched across the South were people who dared to be their own boss or were perceived as having too much ambition, property or talent. Moss’ lynching, like many others, was framed as an organized act of extralegal violence and a punishment for becoming an economic competitor to whites.

The success and sacrifice of Thomas Moss has major takeaways for us today. The idea that discrimination is alive and well is true but the promise that opportunities are endless for those who fearlessly pursue entrepreneurship is even greater.

For that, we have martyrs like Thomas Moss to thank.


This post is the part of The Bag Collector series – a spotlight posts that feature serial entrepreneurs of color each recognized for their ability to diversify in business, wealth and investments. These individuals exemplify what it means to be creative and unapologetic in pursuit of entrepreneurial excellence, and ultimately collect the “bag” then use it to make greater community impact. 

She’s The One – Nichelle McCall Browne

Less than 1 percent of black women founders get VC funding.

Nichelle McCall Browne, CEO of Bold Startups, is one of 1 percent. She raised $1/2 million within a year as a non-technical founder of her own software company.

She’s been helping entrepreneurs boldly launch and grow businesses since 2007 and has managed two business accelerators, where entrepreneurs have made collectively over $3.6M in revenue within a few years.

Here’s her story:

How did you get started on your journey to entrepreneurship?

My entrepreneurial journey started with me being unemployed in 2010. I had just completed my master’s degree and was recruited for a position back home, when at the last minute the organization went another direction. So I found myself unemployed. At that moment, I decided to never leave my financial future in the hands of someone else. That was when I started working on my first consulting business.

What is your definition of a serial entrepreneur?

I define a serial entrepreneur as someone who frequently sees new opportunities or challenges and starts new businesses to address them.

How many business ventures have you been involved (as owner, investor, partner, etc) and what has been your process for managing them all?

I have started four businesses of my own in consulting, tech, real estate investment and startup coaching. I have also managed two business accelerators helping individuals launch and grow their businesses. Our entrepreneurs collectively have made over $3.6 million in a few years.

When starting my business ventures, I usually focus on launching one at a time, so I can learn what works and what can be tweaked. Once it’s steady, I hand it over to others to manage so I can focus on the next business.

In general, what would you say has been your biggest challenge as an entrepreneur?

My biggest challenge was definitely starting a tech company as a non-technical founder. I had an idea for leveraging software to help students navigate the college application process, but I did not have a background in coding. Fortunately, I ended up finding advisors who taught me how to build an investment-ready business, find the right paying customer, and create revenue-generation milestones. This led me to raising $½ million in a year and I have used these principles in my businesses since.

How satisfied are you with your success thus far? What area of business do you want to tackle next?

I’m content with the progress that has been made thus far and excited for what’s next.

Right now, I’m focused on growing my Money Milestones program that teaches consultants and service-based businesses to build six-figure businesses, so they can be full-time and financially-free. The entrepreneurs I’ve served have seen great success so far, so I’m putting more systems and teams in place to scale my reach. As the business grows, I’ll use more of the profits to continue to invest in businesses, missions, and real estate.

Share a quick example of a time you collected the “bag” and circulated it throughout a segment of your community to give back and make greater impact.

I once had a nonprofit client I was working with to raise money for a new multipurpose complex. I ended up donating half of the money from my contract back to the nonprofit as I truly believed in the mission.

What advice do you have for entrepreneurs who fear they may be doing “too much” at once?

When your business services are aligned and you have a team to help with management, it’s easier to focus on successfully growing them.

In this situation, you will not always have to create something from scratch, but rather leverage what you already created in order to multiply revenue.

Website: https://www.nichellemccall.com

LinkedIn: https://www.linkedin.com/in/nichelle-n-mccall/


This post is the part of The Bag Collector series – a spotlight posts that feature serial entrepreneurs of color each recognized for their ability to diversify in business, wealth and investments. These individuals exemplify what it means to be creative and unapologetic in pursuit of entrepreneurial excellence, and ultimately collect the “bag” then use it to make greater community impact. 

The Magical Annie Malone – Madame C.J. Walker’s First Mentor

Many have heard of hair/beauty pioneer Madame CJ Walker, but not many people know about the woman she credits a great deal of her knowledge to; a woman that influenced her path of success—Annie Malone.

Annie Malone - Aerial Ellis Blog SeriesBefore Shea Moisture, Miss Jessie’s or The Mane Choice, Poro Beauty Products was one of the first haircare and beauty lines developed in the 1890s for black women. Recognized as an African American business woman, inventor, and philanthropist, Annie created products not only for straightening black hair, but she wanted to ensure that her product would not damage it in the process.

Her school Poro College was the first educational institution in the United States dedicated to the study and teaching of black cosmetology. By 1926, the college employed 175 people, and franchised outlets in North and South America, Africa, and the Philippines employing some 75,000 women.

Annie developed a network of franchised agent-operators who operated salons under Malone’s guidelines using Poro products while also becoming the first to patent a hot comb.

A star student she helped and became rather fond of was Madame C.J. Walker. Although much of Annie’s success has been overshadowed by her, it is a known fact that Madame C.J. Walker got her start by selling Annie’s hair care products.

One of the first African American millionaires to be a serial entrepreneur, Annie owned her hair care college and company, a secretarial school, a hotel, and a number a real estate properties (she even owned a whole entire city block in Chicago). She became one of the wealthiest women in the world accumulating a worth $14 million during the 1920s.

However, despite her wealth, Malone lived conservatively and gave away much of her fortune to help other African Americans. Malone donated large sums to countless charities including giving thousands of dollars to HBCUs counting record-breaking gifts in large amounts to Howard University and Tuskegee Institute.

Throughout the years, Annie perfected her craft, continued building her brand, and created many opportunities for other black entrepreneurs.  Her manufactured line of beauty products for black women created a unique distribution system that helped tens of thousands of black women become entrepreneurial while gaining self-respect and economic independence, and birthed the legendary career of our beloved Madame C.J. Walker.

This post is the part of The Bag Collector series – a spotlight posts that feature serial entrepreneurs of color each recognized for their ability to diversify in business, wealth and investments. These individuals exemplify what it means to be creative and unapologetic in pursuit of entrepreneurial excellence, and ultimately collect the “bag” then use it to make greater community impact. 


Introducing My New Blog Series: The Bag Collector

This year, I celebrate 15 years of entrepreneurship, and after starting several ventures with a few more planned to launch soon, I want to share the stories of entrepreneurs of color who’ve done the same thing in the most impactful and profound ways.

The Bag Collector is a spotlight series that features 15 serial entrepreneurs of color each recognized for their ability to diversify in business, wealth and investments. These individuals exemplify what it means to be creative and unapologetic in pursuit of entrepreneurial excellence, and ultimately collect the “bag” then use it to make greater community impact and establish a cultural legacy.

I will be featuring present-day game changers alongside a few unsung giants in black history whose shoulders the rest of us stand upon.

You are going to love their stories, and I’ll even share mine with you too.

Subscribe to my blog here to get notifications when each post goes live, and share, please share this awesome profiles with your network.

More to come…

How Inmate Cyntoia Brown Became a Scholar

At this time of year, most college students have completed final exams and term papers in anticipation of a nice winter break. As I read the senior capstone paper of one student, I am profoundly impressed by her scholarly work. The paper’s empirical research, theoretical context, and succinct flow – all elements are brilliantly done. I am soon reminded though that the chance to come home from college at the end of a semester or the hope of entering the world of work after obtaining a degree does not belong to her.

I’m reading a paper by Cyntoia Brown – an inmate in the Tennessee State Prison for Women whose case has been the center of attention lately reemerging from a news story and leading to the social media outcry insisting her freedom. She’s serving life in prison after being tried as an adult for killing her 43 year-old abuser at the age of 16.

Amid the demands for sexual predators to be called out and the persistent push for systemic change, Cyntoia’s 2004 case as a teen sentenced to 60 years has reappeared in news feeds and caught the eye of celebs like Rihanna, Lebron James and Kim Kardashian West. With a history of being trafficked into sex slavery, many are questioning why Cyntoia wasn’t seen as the victim in this case.

Despite her circumstances, Cyntoia has dedicated her time in prison to scholarly inquiry and intellectual rigor as a student in the Lipscomb University Initiative for Education (LIFE) program – one of only a handful of programs in the U.S. to offer a college degree to prison inmates. She was selected by the Tennessee Department of Correction to be admitted as a student at Lipscomb University, a private Christian university in Nashville, Tennessee, and took courses from the university curriculum alongside fellow inmates and other traditional students onsite at the prison. A rich, life-changing educational experience, it led her to earn an associate’s degree in 2015.


Photo Credit: Associated Press

In May 2019, she will complete her bachelor’s degree.

Cyntoia has been studying literature on domestic minor sex trafficking and researching the correlation between societal perceptions of trafficked and exploited teens, and the effectiveness of eradication efforts. Her research explores the maturity factor of minors having the competence to distinguish consent from sexual abuse. She combats the notion that minors welcome exploitation by voluntarily prostituting themselves and challenges the social phenomena of shunning and shaming exploited teenagers.

In her capstone paper, she proposes a grassroots community based approach that reshapes the cultural norms surrounding the teen sex epidemic. She names it The GLITTER Project (Grassroots, Learning Initiative on Teen Trafficking, Exploitation and Rape) – an online awareness campaign with blogs, narratives, hashtags and photos aimed at fostering dialogue among community members through education and empowerment.

More often than not, young women struggle with histories of substance abuse, rape, violence, childhood trauma, domestic violence, mental illness, and poverty. Often times, these traumas span back generations in families, as they do with Cyntoia. However, she has gained the self-esteem to invest in her own education and the confidence to transcend the systemic ills that have haunted her.

Cyntoia now embodies the qualities of a scholar.

Her intellectual curiosity, critical thinking, communication skills, thought leadership and commitment to community all reveal the academic professionalism of any high-achieving student.

Photo Credit: Associated Press

Though Cyntoia will graduate with a bachelor’s degree, she will not enter the real world and the job market like most college students. That’s what many are fighting for – a chance to win clemency from the Tennessee Board of Parole and Governor Bill Haslam granting her a new life.

Cyntoia was sexually exploited and lured into a lifestyle of abuse, and now her education has become an outlet for halting the spiral of shame, low self-esteem, and hopelessness. Not only is she battling her life sentence, she’s fighting the lack of awareness and acceptance around this problem. Through education, she has used her academic experience to highlight the domestic minor sex trafficking that she’s witnessed firsthand and is ready to devote her future life to creating solutions.

Becoming a scholar is a worthy pursuit. Cyntoia can now look beyond prison walls to see what could be and to know that her life is forever transformed. Full of promise, she’s now an agent for change and an influential voice in the fight for exploited teens.

Her story is a testament of proof that making an investment the best minds of our society can create cultural change and set them on the road to redemption.

Why Your Diversity Training Won’t Work

Earlier this year, Starbucks paused it operations of 8,000 stores for unconscious bias training. Soon after the announcement, I landed three new clients desiring to facilitate conversations and launch initiatives around issues of diversity and inclusion for their organization. The majority of my work, like others who work in this area, is spent customizing content for the trainings and crafting a strategy to support them. I predict more of these trainings will be a priority for organizations, and recommend that consumers hold them accountable for doing the work.

But there’s a major issue with diversity trainings. Many of them won’t work.

Even if you offer multiple trainings, or a series of events and workshops, the experience will have no impact if you have overlooked the most important element any organization must implement – a strategy.

Aerial Ellis Training Diversity Inclusion Intergenerational

Any training or learning event should be tactic inside a larger diversity strategy because most times when training is treated like an activity, the learning experience is much less effective and not seen as a deliberate part of the organizational culture. Without a strategic plan to support your diversity and inclusion initiatives, your trainings are merely an exercise.

Because corporate America has historically struggled to communicate the value of employees and consumers who represent cultural differences, the atmosphere or climate of an organization can have varying effects on employee outcomes and organizational effectiveness. In order for your trainings to work, they must be supported by a strategic plan that advances a dedication to diversity and internalizes a culture of inclusion.

A plan establishes diversity and inclusion as a strategic imperative. It means your organization is committed to the practice of diversity and inclusion and is not simply having a conversation. If your trainings are an attempt to develop core competencies for your employees that will enable them to work more effectively inside a diverse workforce and approach consumer audiences with greater cultural awareness, then a strategic plan should include a focus to examine trainings to determine their effectiveness.

Developing a plan can be based on a competency-based framework for practicing diversity and inclusion. A few proven models that can support your plan include Darla Deardorff’s Process Model of Intercultural Competence (2006), The Conference Board’s Report on Global Competencies (2008) and UNC’s Diversity Competencies for Leadership Development (2016). These examples offer competencies that organizations can strategically use as metrics for regular analysis and data collection.

Implementing a strategic plan ensures that diversity and inclusion will be:

• embedded throughout the organization

• engaged across functions and departments

• executed through communication with consumers and communities

• evaluated for effectiveness through business outcomes.

Aerial Ellis Training Diversity Inclusion Intergenerational

To value diversity is to be expected but to have measurable knowledge and skills on how cultural differences can work best inside the organization, and how to communicate effectively about those similarities and differences, is to be strategic.

Your employees may be relieved to know that your organization is attempting to have a conversation around issues of diversity and inclusion – trainings increase one’s cultural knowledge, ability to empathize, understanding of cultural differences and willingness to face challenges.

Unfortunately, if treated like an exercise, your employees can suffer from pressure to participate, resentment of false commitment and the likelihood of losing interest. Trainings should be not a “check the box” exercise.

Organizations cannot trade tactics for strategies. Conducting trainings for diversity is a wasted effort without a strategic plan in place to activate inclusion.