By Heidi Turner,
With more than two decades of leadership development experience, David Son coaches C-suite executives, high-performing professionals, and entrepreneurs around the globe. He empowers leaders to succeed in Executive Presence, Human Performance, Leadership Transition, Cross-Cultural Proficiency, and Strategic Vision, across a spectrum of industries.
David’s extensive experience includes his role as a faculty coach at the Berkeley Executive Coaching Institute, University of California--Berkeley; in the Marine Corps as an attack helicopter and drone pilot where he achieved the rank of Lieutenant Colonel and held policy and advisory roles; and running his own coaching and consulting business. As a first-generation immigrant from Seoul, David navigated through the challenges of racism and bias. He rebuilt his career after he nearly crashed and died in combat. And he learned to make difficult decisions that impact the lives of those under his charge.
Ultimately, David’s journey has taught him the value of empathy, positive mindset, and authentic leadership. He applies his leadership and coaching principles to help his clients to become exceptional leaders. He is also passionate about helping underrepresented professionals who aspire to succeed as executives.
What is your advice for companies starting out on their Diversity, Equity and Inclusivity (DEI) journey?
It’s important to first identify where you have gaps and define your goals. Executives must learn and understand the culture of their organization, because you can’t establish a strong DEI foundation without leadership buy-in. It takes work to have that honest conversation, but it’s a critical element of the DEI roadmap to initiate a lasting program.
Companies like to highlight diversity and inclusion aligned with their company culture. But if you’re simply hiring to fill a diversity quota, you won’t fix your turnover rate problems. Leaders must understand how employees truly feel about their workplace to identify gaps. It can’t just be written in your mission statement or company website. Employees want to see and feel that the company has embraced the need for change.
DEI is a huge beast, and you can’t make things equal for absolutely everyone. So be specific about what you want to improve and plan for ways to strategically implement them.
How does leadership impact DEI initiatives?
Strong leadership is vital in DEI. Without engagement and advocacy from the top, the organization will have a hard time implementing any meaningful DEI program. You can have all the talent in the world, but without the people at the top leading the way, you can’t sustain a solid DEI initiative.
How do you counteract statements like “We hire the best person for the job regardless of race or gender”?
For me, that’s a red flag. I find that statement to be a defensive response, and it indicates a lack of understanding of diversity. Creating a diverse work force is not a compromise to hiring the best people. In fact, numerous studies show that diverse teams perform better, which benefit the company. We all have unconscious biases, so we must be consciously intentional about creating diversity.