Data-Driven DEI™ Case Study: Andrà Ward
Andrà R. Ward, President/Chief Culture & Transformation Officer of The KhafreWard Corporation, has a storied past when discussing the evolution of his personal allegiance to diversity, equity, and inclusion (DEI) and using data to optimize his growth and development.
Ward has been surrounded by diversity in every aspect of his life for his entire life. There was never a question of his commitment to DEI because it has been organically embedded in his DNA. His journey into the early construct of DEI (known then as diversity or sensitivity training) began with his first professional role out of college as Executive Director of the Cincinnati YMCA’s Black Achievers, a career development and mentoring program for African American and Latino youth. Despite initially having been accepted to law school with the intent to pursue a Juris Doctor degree, Ward concluded that a career rooted in the development of people was a more suitable trajectory because that’s what he was passionate about: the upward mobility and positive transformation of people.
“When I think about the broader spectrum of diversity, equity, and inclusion, I think about my own life experience. My family tree is a clear example of diversity in almost every category. If I showed pictures of my paternal grandfather, one would be hard-pressed to believe that he was not white. My paternal grandmother was significantly taller in stature and had a much deeper, darker hue. My son is not of biological birth from me – but from my ex-wife’s previous marriage. My daughter-in-law (love) is Ugandan-American, and my grandchildren have dual citizenship identities. Blended families and “bonus siblings” are our norm. I attended a performing arts high school (Cincinnati’s School for Creative & Performing Arts) where being on the fullest range of the sexual orientation spectrum was just not an issue – at all. This was back in the late1970s and well into the early 1980’s. We also have family members who self-identify with the LGBTQ+ community, so diversity has always been a normal aspect of my life. Professional workforce careers in my family include ordained clergy, career military, educators, law enforcement, university professors and presidents, medical doctors, attorneys, theater & performing artists, award-winning journalists, corporate executives, and traditional “blue collar” laborers. Degreed, some college, no degree. My paternal grandmother earned her high school diploma as an adult after raising eight children.
This is why advancing the work of DEI is so important. We are not a homogenous family nor nation,” says Ward.
While extremely rewarding, Ward’s work in the nonprofit and, subsequently, the private sectors proved unstable, and he eventually found himself at a turning point that required him to re-evaluate his career path. After being unemployed for over two years, he decided to pivot the direction of his career from employee to entrepreneur. A friend provided his first introduction to “positive organizational psychology” and operating out of one’s innate strengths. Resonance with this concept was in such complete alignment with his personal vision that he immediately took action by creating his own passion-driven vocation. Utilizing his experience and expertise in training and development, he earnestly pursued behavioral and emotional intelligence certifications. But success in this proposed endeavor also required personal introspection to understand his own emotional intelligence and behavioral preferences.
One of Ward’s earliest personal DEI assessments was the Herrmann Brain Dominance Instrument® (HBDI®). The HBDI® assessment measures thinking preferences according to the Whole Brain® Thinking model, which recognizes the different processing specialties of the left brain (logical/rational thinking) vs. right brain (intuitive/creative thinking) and the cerebral cortex system of the brain (abstract/theoretical thinking) vs. the limbic system of the brain (concrete/realistic thinking), respectively. This ultimately results in the following four color-coded quadrants, one for each cognitive system:
Included among the HBDI® results are the extent to which a respondent demonstrates a single dominant thinking preference (i.e., one quadrant) or a multi-dominant thinking preference (i.e., two or more quadrants).
Ward took the HBDI® assessment for the first time in 1999 and has repeated the assessment quite often thereafter. The following example was administered in 2012:
At that time, Ward yielded scores of 47 (analytical), 60 (practical), 110 (relational), and 68 (experimental) under normal circumstances, which indicated a double-dominant thinking preference for relational and experimental thinking (a score of 67 or higher is considered a dominant preference). These results under normal conditions are depicted not only in the numerical scores but also in the kite-shaped solid line in Ward’s HBDI® profile, whereas the kite-shaped dotted line shown in Ward’s profile denotes is thinking preferences under pressure. In other words, Ward’s natural cognitive inclination is to consider people’s emotions, interpersonal matters, and feelings (relational) and to look at the big picture from a holistic, flexible and intuitive perspective. This offered valuable insights for Ward as it enabled him to tap into his dominant traits that include a predisposition for being aspirational. This work allowed him to be more attuned with his aspirations to make a difference in his personal life and the lives of those he coached and counseled.
Tangibly, one of the significant roles Ward added to his cache of accomplishments after gaining clarity through his HBDI® profile was becoming an ordained (AME Zion) minister. In this capacity, he could exercise his aspiration to inspire others to pursue their life’s purpose on a regular basis. But he didn’t assume this role to preach from a pulpit. Instead, he wanted to use his innate empathic and spiritual nature to connect with others from a different yet authentic human perspective and inspire them, while also providing pathways to possibilities that are sometimes overlooking when relational or emotional feelings overwhelm inner logic.
In 2019, Ward completed the Intercultural Development Inventory® (IDI®), which measures how a person or a group of people tends to think and feel about cultural difference stemming from any aspect of diversity, human identity, and cultural difference. It assesses the core mindset regarding diversity and cultural difference and determines the level of intercultural competence along the Intercultural Development Continuum (IDC™):
The IDI® is a statistically valid and reliable psychometric instrument that measures one’s current degree of intercultural sensitivity and intercultural competence affects or “shows up” in your interactions (e.g., cross-cultural communication) with other people.
Ward scored a developmental orientation score of 130.64, which placed him at the highest point on the IDC™, namely, an Adaptation Orientation, indicating the ability to shift deeply into one or more cultural perspectives and to appropriately adapt behaviors when in other cultural communities. These results certainly reflected Ward’s intra-cultural family composition, but also provides additional insights into his keen understanding of how to connect with people relationally using his propensity to adapt to differences in culture, ethnicity, identity, and orientation without the influence of inherent biases. From this base of strength, he can coach, minister, lead and engage meaningfully with others from an authentic perspective in both personal and professional experiences. He uses the insights from the IDI® to make better decisions by expanding his ability to see problems and solutions from multiple intercultural perspectives.
An HBDI® reassessment in 2021, after almost 20 years’ experience working in organizational transformation and human capital development, yielded some movement in scores but surprisingly similar outcomes:
He still maintains a double-dominant preference for relational and experimental thinking. Perhaps the most noticeable change was Ward’s results when under pressure (once again, denoted in both HBDI® profiles by a dotted line, whereas the solid lines represent his thinking preferences under normal conditions. While in 2012 his thinking preferences did not change dramatically from normal circumstances to under press (i.e., the solid and dotted lines in his 2012 HBDI® profile are very similar), in 2021 the results indicate that his relational score increased from 65 to 105 under pressure and his practical score decreased from 65 to 22 under pressure. In other words, under pressure Ward prefers to think more about what's possible and the big picture and less about process and making plans. These insights empower him to maintain a neutral stance when confronting relational discord or a clear head and open mind in stressful situations. His perspective of possibilities also allows him to mediate and manage challenges thoughtfully, with the interests of all parties considered. It also helps him fine tune his listening skills, so that he seeks to understand, then be understood, which is helpful when seeking the foundation of common ground to build, strengthen or repair relationships.
His acumen and competency utilizing HBDI® and IDI® make him a leader in the industry but, more importantly, they make him a better person. Decades of self-reflection, self-improvement, and growth based on ongoing use of multiple assessment tools have benefitted his personal, professional, and spiritual endeavors. Even though he has always had a knack for understanding and inspiring others, the use of these data-driven tools has expanded the effectiveness and the reach for his work.
For example, Ward had always maintained strict and independent control of his calendar as it dictated his daily actions and priorities. But doing so was not efficient and in some cases, kept him from being effective as his responsibilities grew. However, after 20 years of self-work, mindset growth, and acceptance that delegation was not equal to relinquishing control, he finally found someone he sufficiently trusted with this responsibility and the result was “less stress in my life and freedom to think about things outside of my calendar obligations. It's a functional difference; an efficiency that allows me to dedicate that time to other interests. The benefits are exponential because they spiral in so many different ways that are interconnected so, now, I get to do so much more. It was a huge shift; one I wish I’d made sooner.”
In addition to the HBDI® and IDI®, Ward has completed and received certifications in other data-driven assessment tools including the Emotional and Social Competence Inventory (ESCI), DiSC, Learning Style Inventory (LSI), StrengthsFinder, and Inclusive Leader 360, to name a few. He is HBDI® Level 2 certified, which allows him to not only debrief and interpret results but also certify others.
“KhafreWard is now a 32-year-old organization that offers a suite of services to our clients and organizations across the country and around the world. Data-driven DEI is a large component of our practice. Transforming people, mindsets and organizations is my gift, my Raison D’etre and why I’m passionate about what I do,” he concludes.