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How to Build a Diverse Leadership Team at a Mental Health Startup

Published on:
August 12, 2021

Representation matters, especially when we’re talking about developing inclusive mental health solutions for all individuals. I was delighted to have André Blackman, Founder and CEO of Onboard Health, as a speaker at this year’s conference. André’s entire career has centered at the intersection of public and community health, traditional medicine and digital health. Onboard Health is a specialized executive search and advisory firm focused on creating a more inclusive future of health. 

Many companies ask me how they can develop more inclusivity and belonging within their organizations. I want to share some great advice from André’s session about how mental health startups can approach creating more diverse leadership teams and inclusive work environments: 

What makes a huge impact for developing a culture of impact and inclusion at a mental health company?

If you’re looking at building an inclusive team, you need to take a look at your recruiting process. As a startup, it is easy to want to get immediate traction and throw your team together quickly, but being mindful and intentional about attracting talent and how you plan to retain talent is what matters. Consider the ways you can take an audit of your recruiting process to ensure there is a lens on inclusion and equity, including how and where you are sourcing candidates. Other questions to consider :

  • What is your employer brand? Is what you talk about externally matching up with what you are actually doing internally? 
  • When it comes to your brand, who is representing your company on stage at events or on marketing materials?
  • Mental health in underrepresented and marginalized communities: if you’re even close to attempting to innovate new solutions in mental health, your teams must reflect the communities you are trying to serve. 
  • Understand the history: learn how racism has and continues to impact healthcare overall. 

How should companies source talent appropriately?

Oftentimes, we look at our own circles of influence for candidates, which creates inherent bias in our pipeline. For the last several years, many would say “the talent pipeline isn’t there” when it came to DEI in hiring. No, in fact- the pipeline is out there. It’s really just about being intentional about finding other ways to source candidates. For example, what communities are already established that you can build relationships and partnerships with to build trust and gain familiarity with?

Meanwhile, looking at your leadership. We’re in healthcare. Trust is critical to how you are building your organization. At the same time, decisions about how your products and services are created and marketed ultimately leads back to the leadership team. The leadership team has the authority to drive all aspects of the services and products you’re building. When you have more diverse leadership within the organization, it will eventually impact every facet of your solutions. Keep that in mind as you hire diverse leaders throughout your team.   

Finally, if you are creating a culture of value for your team and organization, make sure to celebrate diversity and the contributions of individuals once they are on the team. These are the things that make the people in your organization feel like they are part of the mission and vision. If you want to build the right culture, it is absolutely critical that the employees building alongside of you at the company have voices and are comfortable using them. 

What if you don’t know where to start with even having these kinds of conversations with your team?

You don’t need to have all the answers. As a leader, just the mere fact that you are bringing up the topic that racial injustice is happening in our world, in our lives, and in our communities really sets the tone for strong leaderships and vulnerability that is needed to start having real conversations within your company. 

Take the first step of acknowledging that these are tough conversations, but they are necessary to build the future of health. 

Finally, consider getting some outside help to create a foundation for these kinds of discussions. Onboard Health is a leading one company working with senior leadership teams across healthcare organizations, you can find out more about them here: https://www.onboardhealth.co/

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