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Leading Culture Solutions CEO and Founding Partner Andréa Hawkins is a creative and compassionate collaborator. She recently participated in Starting Your Journey to Racial Equity, Diversity, and Inclusion, a panel discussion hosted by the MetroHartford Alliance and the Racial Equity and Economic Development Committee, where she discussed how collaborating involves what she refers to as, “the four Ls: listen, learn, lean in, live.”

Andréa spoke with MetroHartford Alliance Content Manager Nan Price about how her entrepreneurial journey led her to forming a collaborative consulting practice focused on strategic planning; culture transformation; organizational assessments; and diversity, equity, and inclusion (DE&I).

NAN PRICE: How did you create your business concept and how has it evolved?

ANDRÉA HAWKINS: I’ve spent many years as a strategic consultant. I launched Leading Culture Solutions in August 2019 because I wanted to lean in and focus more on DE&I. I strongly believe that if your strategic plan and your culture reflects DE&I, it improves everything you do—you’ll serve your customers better and you’ll be seen as a contributor to the community.

NAN: You formed a collaborative team and you’ve built strong partnerships. Tell us about the importance of collaboration.

ANDRÉA: Fortunately, I have a lot of great people in my wheelhouse, who I brought in to highlight their specialties and make Leading Culture Solutions even more impactful. Like me, the people I work with love the work they do. They’re hardworking and they always go above and beyond the call. When you have a team like that, quite frankly, there’s nothing you can’t do.

I’m actually looking for a couple more people to bring onto the team. I’m specifically seeking people who represent different perspectives. In this work, you need a diverse team. If you’re going to talk about DE&I, you need to have diversity of thought and lived experiences.

Leading Culture Solutions has also formed some partnerships with other organizations. For example, we’re collaborating with InspireCorps to engage with some clients together to develop an Inspired DE&I Leadership framework. This senior leadership capability called ReCenter was developed to help leaders prepare to embark on their DE&I journey.

NAN: How have all the events of 2020 impacted your business?

ANDRÉA: When the pandemic happened in March 2020, I lost every one of my clients. They all sort of went into survival mode and weren’t thinking about a strategic plan or culture transformation. That was a little bit of a struggle, but I just kept at it.

I did start looking for another job. I was doing a little bit of prospecting and interviewing. Then, in April, I landed an assignment that really seemed to unlock things. I was hired to do an organizational assessment with a diversity lens on it for a client in the Bronx.

When George Floyd’s murder happened in May, my phone started ringing—and it hasn’t stopped ringing. Leaders could see the effects of racism happening to this man, which really created an awakening.

So, it’s been an evolution of guiding organizations on a path to help them make sustainable change. Prior to George Floyd’s murder, I was doing more strategic planning, organizational effectiveness, and culture transformation and DE&I was about 30% of my work. Since George Lloyd’s murder happened, about 80% of what I do is around diversity, equity, inclusion, and anti-racism.

I think if this year taught us nothing else, it’s the importance of resilience, perseverance, and having grace—which is paramount above everything.

Read the entire interview at Innovation Destination Hartford