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Episode 186: Achieving Diversity, Equity, and Inclusion Outcomes—with Lily Zheng

Deb Zahn: Hi. I want to welcome you to this week's episode of the Craft of Consulting Podcast. So on this episode, we're going to talk about diversity, equity, and inclusion and particularly what the current landscape looks like, what's happening, what's not happening. I brought on somebody who I was so excited to have on because they're an absolute expert in this. Lily Zheng is going to join us and is going to talk about what they're seeing out in the larger world among companies and organizations and also, what consultants, including consultants that are not DEI consultants, can do to ultimately help companies and organizations not just do the work but achieve the really important outcomes that are associated with the DEI work. So let's get started.

Hi. I want to welcome Lily Zheng to the show today. Lily, welcome to the show.

Lily Zheng: Hey, hey. It's great to be here. Thanks for having me.

Deb Zahn: You bet. So let's start off, tell my listeners what you do.

Lily Zheng: Yeah. So I am a diversity, equity, and inclusion strategist and consultant. What that means without the buzzwords is I go into organizations, and I help them address the thorniest issues around their workplace diversity, their organizational culture, their policies and practices, and essentially, help them fix inequities. I help them build organizations that are better for more people and are inclusive and make people feel respected and welcomed.

Deb Zahn: Got to love that. That's what we're going to talk about today. We're going to talk about the DEI landscape and sadly, some of the relapses that we've seen in companies and organizations and what that calls us to do as consultants. But before we get into that, I do want to highlight because I'm super excited about this, you've got a new book that by the time this airs, it will be out. Tell us about your new book and who should be reading it.

Lily Zheng: Yeah, yeah. I'm also extremely excited, I suppose unsurprisingly. My new book is called DEI Deconstructed: Your No-Nonsense Guide to Doing the Work and Doing It Right. I wrote it... Well, you know what they say about most authors, you write the book that you wish you had, right? But beyond writing it for myself, I wrote it for those who are actually interested in not just talking about diversity, equity, and inclusion work but doing it. Whether that's HR professionals, DEI practitioners, middle managers, senior leaders and executives, basically anyone who is interested in achieving these outcomes in their own organization or their own community, I wrote this book not just as a call to action but as a very comprehensive resource for action.

I think we have a lot of great material out there that tries to convince people why they should care about making a better world, that's great, that's not my book. My book basically opens with saying, "You're here because you care and I'm not going to waste time trying to convince you to care. This book is trying to upskill you as much as possible, as quickly as possible so that by the time you put the book down, you can do the work and feel like you're actually doing it right." So yeah, it's for anyone that wants to do that, regardless of what their role is, regardless of how much power they have.

Deb Zahn: I'm going to include consultants among those.

Lily Zheng: Absolutely.

Deb Zahn: Regardless of what type of consulting you do. We're going to talk about that a little bit later. So I know that I follow you avidly on LinkedIn and I know one of the things that you've talked about is there's all these headlines of, "Oh no, now we have a recession," and so the great resignation and DEI is over because we got to get back to business as usual and using that, as in the recession whether it's here or coming, as an excuse for that. So what are you seeing some, luckily not all, but some companies and organizations do as it relates to REI who buy into that or promoting that nonsense?

Lily Zheng: Yeah. So when it comes to DEI, I think there are quite a few companies that... How can I say this nicely? Maybe I won't say this nicely.

Deb Zahn: Don't say it nicely.

Lily Zheng: They never really wanted to do it, right? DEI felt like an aspirational thing for them. It was never tangible. They never operationalized it. They never linked the achievement of DEI outcomes to solving real challenges in their organization. It was a cosmetic effort. It was something that they did because it was trendy because their employees were frustrated, and they just wanted to put something on the table to appease folks.

I'm actually seeing a good number of companies recognize that, that's not the right approach to take but even those companies are finding it difficult to resist this feeling of pressure given the economy, given the complex environment most corporations, most organizations are in right now to cut back on DEI work. This isn't the first rodeo for DEI work being devalued. We saw it happening right during COVID actually. Most people don't mention this because very soon after the first lockdowns happened, the murder of George Floyd happened and then, DEI professionals were sucked back into the workplace.

I actually described that exact phenomenon in my book. I call it a tsunami. So when a tsunami wave happens, the first thing that happens is actually the waterline draws back which is really dangerous because if you're on the beach you're like, "Oh, that's cool. Look at all this exposed seabed. I'm going to explore," and then horrible things happen. That's exactly what happened with DEI first during COVID when companies everywhere started slashing their DEI efforts to "focus on the business" and then the murder of George Floyd swept everything back and companies scrambled to get DEI work happening. I think not every push-pull wave is going to be as dramatic as that one but that's really how I view what's happening now and what's happened, honestly, many times in the last few years.

Whenever it's not trendy to do so, companies make really rash decisions to pull back on DEI, to deprioritize it and then inevitably, something big happens in the news and companies are wondering why they fired all their DEI people and don't have anything lined up. The people who lose out, most of all, from this dynamic is the marginalized employees, the women, the people of color, disabled folks, LGBTQ+ folks within organizations.

These are the folks who they understand that there are ongoing problems of racism, sexism, homophobia, transphobia, ableism, all the isms in their workplace and yet the leaders that are responsible for funding DEI work and supporting it oftentimes very naively feel like, "Well, if it's not in the news, it's not a problem." That assumption gets companies in a lot of trouble. It burns a lot of trust between executives and marginalized employees and it puts DEI practitioners in a tough place when demand for our services is so complicated and fluctuates so much.

Deb Zahn: I know that you've also talked about caution about trying to ride the wave, to go back to your tsunami analogy, of there's a business case for DEI and that's a way to convince people to keep leaders and organizations and companies to keep doing it. So what are you seeing in terms of how that's playing out in terms of are folks actually really doing it and really doing the real hard work?

Lily Zheng: Well, it's funny you mentioned that because the business case for DEI is a whole can of worms. There's actually some fascinating research that came out in the last few years that says there's a dark side to using the business case for DEI. Most people who talk about it say things like, "Oh, the business case for DEI is tried and true. The more diversity you have, the more money you make. That's great."

The dark side of using that argument, new research has found if you use the business case for diversity, that actually directly enables lower support for diversity when business outcomes aren't doing well. That business case for diversity is directly tied to that because you've now trained organizations and their leaders to say, "Diversity is useful because it makes you money." So that trains them to say, "Well, if we're not making money, then diversity isn't useful. It's not doing its job," so I don't use the business case for diversity in my own work.

That doesn't mean that I don't make a case, for it but I'm a lot more cautious these days than I was maybe six, seven years ago when it comes to framing the benefits of diversity. There's certainly a functional case for diversity, maybe I'll use that word. Diversity does bring benefits but it's not this very basic like, if you hire a Black person, you make $20 more this year, right? That's never been how it works. More often, it's this messy complex stuff of if you build a culture where people feel like they can share tough feedback, where people feel like they're accepted and they can bring their full selves to work and they can engage in productive conflict, then you'll find things like lower turnover rates, for example, higher degrees of engagement.

Is that as sexy as me saying, "I can directly tell you how much more money this year you'll make by hiring more women?" No, it's not as sexy but the research does support it and I think that those kinds of arguments are the ones that we need to be making for DEI work. Notice, I don't just say diversity, right? I say DEI work. You need to do all of it because if you do all of it, you do end up seeing these benefits in terms of organizational health, in terms of organizational resilience. There's great research supporting that but, like I said, it's less sexy because it's hard. It takes real work to do. It's long-term stuff and you can't just achieve it by running a two month hiring campaign or bringing in an inspirational speaker. You have to commit to changing your processes, your policies, your culture, your systems to enable that kind of diversity to thrive. And then yeah, you're likely to see some real benefits from doing so.

Deb Zahn: Now, somebody is already convinced, and I do know a lot of organizations that this is meaningful to them, that they actually want to do it. They don't know what the hard work is necessarily at the beginning, but they start with some commitment. But their first steps are often, "Let's bring in folks who are going to do training," and that feels like the work as opposed to some of the broader things you're talking about and I'm sure you cover some of this in your book. When you start working with an organization, what are some of the first steps you tell them that are useful and meaningful?

Lily Zheng: Yeah. So one of the most important steps is to get organizations aligned on what their journey might look like. So regardless of what the organization's like or what problems exist within it, I actually invest quite a bit of work up front, especially working with senior leaders to help them understand that DEI work is not going to be achieved with any training in the world. I could be the best DEI trainer in the world, deliver the best 90-minute session in the world, and I guarantee that won't fix DEI problems anywhere because the nature of the work itself is a long-term systemic change effort to achieve diversity, equity, and inclusion as outcomes.

I think, as you mentioned, a lot of companies, a lot of organizations, period, don't think of DEI as outcomes. They think of DEI as inputs so it almost doesn't matter what they achieve by doing it. They think, for example, that hiring one or two more people of color works because it's an input. They think that bringing in a speaker works because that's an input. They think that running a survey works because that's an input. None of these things actually achieve anything on their own but they're all important steps to achieving outcomes, that just requires that we keep our finger on the poles, we stay involved, and we can guide organizations from their inequitable exclusive homogenous Point A to a more diverse, equitable, and inclusive Point B.

So one of the first steps, like I mentioned, is to help organizations understand that DEI work is a journey from Point A to Point B. That means that we need to A... Maybe I'll use a different metaphor. That means that we need to, one, define Point A and two, define Point B so once I get folks on board with that, it's not too hard to engage in that work. Defining Point A, you can do that through a range of methods. You can use employee engagement surveys, you can use focus groups, exit interviews, candid conversations with employees, understand where you're starting at, what your challenges are, where your opportunities lie. You can do SWOT analyses, whatever you want but try to understand in terms of DEI where you're starting out from.

And then Point B, if you can't define the outcomes that you're going toward, how are you supposed to get there? So what might a better organization look like? What problems have you solved? What's the composition of your workforce? How do the most junior employees feel at work? You need to be able to answer these questions and then you can reverse engineer from Point A to Point B. You can make a plan. And then, that plan, would you look at that? That's a DEI strategy. And so, this entire collection of things, that's the work, right? That's DEI work.

Now, do workshops play a role in that? Yes, absolutely. They can. But just in the way that you wouldn't take out a wrench and wander around your house looking for things to fix with it, you can't just take out an unconscious bias training and fling it at your company hoping that it'll fix something. You have to know what you're trying to fix before you find the right tool for the job, right? That's the case with everything, not just DEI work. And so, once you understand what you're trying to fix, once you understand what you're trying to go to, what you're trying to achieve, then you can start picking interventions. Maybe an unconscious bias training is the right call, maybe executive coaching is the right call, maybe more in-depth survey efforts, maybe you need to make new hires, maybe you need to fire some toxic high performers that are poisoning your culture, I don't know.

My stance as a consultant is I really don't know what organizations need until I know the organization. That's not, I think, super common among consultants, right? Because I think there's a roaring trade in consultants saying, "I have a pet practice. I have a pet workshop and I will apply it to anyone who wants it," and corporations who say, "I have a great need for this particular workshop because my employees seem to think that we need it." So there's this excellent partnership between companies that are like, "Just give us something fast," and practitioners saying, "I'd love to give you things fast." Unfortunately, that can make practitioners part of the problem, that can make consultants part of the problem because they're not always fixing the right problems.

Deb Zahn: Well, it's interesting because it sounds like it suffers from some of the same problems as it happens in companies is it's not about the outcome.

Lily Zheng: Exactly. It's about the input.

Deb Zahn: It's about the thing.

Lily Zheng: Right.

Deb Zahn: Yeah. I know even with organizations that have a commitment and understand that it's a path and have an understanding of the work, relapses also happen. Something happens in the organization, they don't want to let go of their high-performing toxic person, whatever it is. How do you work with them to help them understand what blocks them or how to unblock them from getting to the outcomes they want?

Lily Zheng: Yeah. So a big part of that is helping them understand what exactly the challenges they face as an organization are and oftentimes, there are many of them. I'll just spin up a hypothetical company given a lot of companies that I've worked with. Let's say there are a few major problems. One, their culture's really toxic. People don't feel safe sharing feedback because they'll get punished. Two, that culture is embodied by one super mega toxic person. Let's call them Toxic Joe, whatever, right? Sorry to folks named Joe. Toxic Joe. And then, Toxic Joe is a huge source of this toxicity. He's in a position of extreme power, people are scared of him, what he says is law. And then, there are a few other problems. Let's say there is no formal conflict resolution process. There are no formal promotion processes. And so, if Toxic Joe doesn't like you, that means you have no chance of resolution when you get discriminated against and you have no chance of promotion, right?

So let's set up a hypothetical company with these challenges. What would you do to fix it? I would say number one, please get rid of Toxic Joe, right? You fire toxic Joe, that gives you the space to start fixing these other things. Once you fire Toxic Joe, you can start implementing some more process, some more policy. You can support middle managers to be supporting new behaviors in their teams. You can, through a series of events or talks or conversations, slowly start to undo your toxic culture and create a speak up culture where people feel like they can share feedback. You can hire more leaders that are more supportive of that new culture and framework, so on and so forth.

Now, let's say I give a document with that kind of strategy to an organization and they say, "Well, right out the gate we're not going to fire Toxic Joe." Well, OK. Now, we're in a place where the primary lever that enables change, they've refused to act on. In that case, what I would tell them is, "I can't guarantee that you'll be able to fix your organization. But if you're not willing to fire Toxic Joe, at the very least, fix your policies. Try to create enclaves in your company where Toxic Joe doesn't have as much influence. At least, try to limit Toxic Joe's behavior, put them on a performance improvement plan, anything. These aren't going to solve the root cause of your problem but these may be harm reduction or damage control approaches."

Deb Zahn: I love it and I love the honesty too because in my mind, the best consultants are always the one who are going to... They're going to tell you the truth no matter what. So for DEI consultants who are out in the world, I'm going to talk about DEI consultants and then folks who do other types of consulting and they're seeing these things in organization or they're seeing waning commitments, what advice would you give to them in terms of course of action to try and work with the right folks and work with folks who care about doing the right thing?

Lily Zheng: Yeah. I think understanding the cause behind waning commitment is the first point of order. A lot of companies that I work with that have had that waning commitment or companies that I've heard of have these lower commitments, make these choices because they haven't seen improvements in their outcomes from DEI work.

So sometimes, it's actually a very "rational decision". Let's say, they had a big spike in interest in DEI, they brought in a few speakers, they started an employee resource group, but right now all of their internal DEI folks are burned out, there's less interest in engaging in these topics. Maybe they tried to fund these topics but those resources didn't even get used because people are just really tired. And so, based on that information they say, "We're going to lower the commitment that we have to DEI work because it just doesn't seem to be a priority for our company."

It's not responsible for me in that situation to say, "Everything you've told me is completely wrong and you should continue to put in lots of money into DEI" because that doesn't speak to their organizational reality. If someone told me that, I'd say, "OK. It sounds like you're making the best decision you can with the information you have but there are other problems here beyond you don't feel like DEI is a good investment. One, why is your workforce so burned out? Why did all the DEI work you did before not work? That's odd. What did you do?" And then, sometimes that gets me some really interesting stories.

I worked with a company once where they had a DEI council bring in somebody to design a DEI survey, but the DEI survey was worded in a way that was extremely antagonistic to some members of the organization and then political conflict got that survey nuked from orbit and shut down. That really disheartened a bunch of folks. They disengaged from the survey process. Senior leaders were really frustrated and pissed off and then things had to start from zero.

In that situation, the problem was that they chose the wrong person to design their survey and now, they burned some bridges between employees and senior leaders and there's a lack of trust going on. And so, in that situation I would say, "OK. Maybe we can't do a survey effort for a while because people are still feeling salty about that. So what can we do instead? What might be another use of our resources that allows us to still do some good without necessarily rubbing salt into open wounds?" In that situation, we could talk about how can we support senior leaders to learn more about DEI and to move past their first misconceptions of it or how can we support this DEI council to be scrappy and to support themselves in the interim while we're trying to regather funding for this.

Are there other ways we can talk about this work to build up momentum for something that... Maybe another survey effort undertaken by another practitioner. Maybe not a survey at all, maybe something informal. There's always more we can do. There's always more problems to solve. If people are sharing that they don't have the energy, they don't have the commitment, I think that's something we should listen to. That's a sign but we shouldn't engage in the binary thinking of thinking either companies are full steam ahead, bought into DEI, or they're recalcitrant, they're reluctant, they don't want to do DEI work and therefore, they're lost causes.

I guarantee, even companies that are rolling back their commitment, there's really complex politics at play there. If you take the time to understand why this is happening, you're more likely, than not, able to suggest some sort of third alternative that preserves DEI work that allows you to set that foundation for future work when there are more resources without just abandoning companies.

Deb Zahn: I love that because that goes back to your toolbox approach of, "OK. Put the wrench aside and grab a hammer because that's what you need given the realities that they're facing and the causes of the decisions they're making." That's fabulous. Now, in many organizations and companies, there's also other consultants floating about, doing other work for them. Even if they're not DEI consultants, I firmly believe that we have a role to play, especially if we have the ear of leadership and we're able to have some influence over them. So if any other type of consultant starts to see some of the things that we're talking about, what would you suggest to them that they do in what role they play?

Lily Zheng: Get curious and take personal responsibility for some aspect of it. DEI work touches everyone. It interacts with every single consultant doing every imaginable kind of consulting. I don't mean that to say that everyone needs to become a DEI consultant but I mean that to say, you always have a viable reason to ask about DEI because it should impact your work.

If you are building new policies, you absolutely need to understand how DEI factors into that. If you're doing executive coaching, that's definitely DEI work if you're helping with organizational transformation. Would you look at that? DEI is also organizational transformation. If you're doing product design, DEI factors into that as well. You need to make sure your products aren't only made for non-disabled, white men. Every single thing imaginable touches, in some way, DEI work and so, that gives you an in. You can always ask, for example, how is the work I'm doing impacted or affected by other developments happening in the organization? Or vice versa, how does the work I do, itself, impact other things that happen in the organization? What should I know to be able to do my work most effectively?

And then, conversely, here's what you should know that will enable the work I'm doing to have the most impact. You can actually play a pretty big role in pushing for other changes you want to happen, and I do this all the time, right? DEI work, I primarily do DEI survey deployment and analysis and a bit of executive coaching. But if I see something that actively impedes the DEI work that I do and I know that there's another consultant working on it, yeah, I'll stick my nose into their business a little bit.

If there's already an executive coach working with senior leaders and the result of my DEI survey say that their senior leaders need a vastly larger range of competencies, I will say, "I should talk with your executive coach. Let's get on the same page. Let's make sure that this is already part of their plan." If there's already another consultant, let's say, helping to write proposals for clients or something or another consultant helping hire people, for example, maybe a consultant is filling in for hiring managers to expand their team in the interim of them hiring managers then I'll say, "Here are some big findings of the DEI survey. We found that candidates are really worried about hiring bias. Let's talk about how we can integrate this into the work that you do. How can I support you as a consultant?" for example.

Everything connects, everything is linked to everything else, and so I would really encourage you not to take the easy way out of saying, "Well, DEI isn't my job so I'm just going to keep on doing my thing here." I think DEI is everyone's job. Even if you're not a subject matter expert, you can do a lot of good just by getting curious about how the work you do connects to other work happening in the organization.

Deb Zahn: Yeah. I love that. It speaks to why you need to know more so you can do more and do better because I imagine a lot of consultants are like, "Oh. Well, I don't know enough about that. I don't want to do anything wrong," and so they choose to do nothing which I certainly don't think is the right approach to take. That's why, again, I'm going to plug it. I don't care if you do. That's why books like yours are so important. It's to be able to raise folks' understanding so that they are looking at an IT initiative in a way that they haven't looked at it before or as often the case, sometimes leaders will come to other consultants who because of their multiple identities, they feel more comfortable with and they're going to say things they won't say to somebody else, in which case, you're in a perfect position to influence.

Lily Zheng: Right. Exactly. I'll go ahead and say it, implementing DEI work is difficult but the core concepts behind DEI work, they're not rocket science. You can do a whole lot of good just by asking yourself a few simple questions. You can ask, for example, "How does the work I'm doing impact people from different demographics?" Anyone can ask that question, literally anyone. Who wins and who loses from the work that I do? Who gets resources? Who doesn't have resources? Who has a better time? Who has a worse time?

If you start to see from your answers to these questions, there might be inequities. For example, let's say you're designing something that really addresses middle managers' concerns but makes things a little harder for their direct reports. Guess what? You're now doing DEI work because you're now concerning yourself with inequities happening within the organization. You're now doing the work, right?

You can always ask yourself these kinds of questions and you don't have to have the answers, you don't have to have the solutions. But if you get involved, if you get curious, and then you talk to other folks in the organization, you do your own learning, you talk to other consultants, you can use the influence you have to make a pretty big impact, especially, as you mentioned, if you have the ear of senior leaders.

Deb Zahn: I love that. That's wonderful. So any other highlights from your book that you want to share?

Lily Zheng: Any other highlights?

Deb Zahn: I'm asking because I'm dying to get that book.

Lily Zheng: There's so many. I mean, what do you want to hear about, right? There's so much relevant, I think, to this conversation…

Deb Zahn: How about this? Say something about Chapter 3.

Lily Zheng: Chapter 3. So Chapter 3 is about what we're trying to achieve through DEI. Oh, this is fun. So that was the chapter where I took apart the business case for diversity. I basically said, "So DEI work started off, in the US at least, off the heels of the civil rights movement." Fundamentally, DEI work started off as dramatically outcome oriented. It was about ending discrimination, it was about ending segregation, and ensuring that people of all races could be represented in all organizations. It was about shifting the balance of power and ensuring that there wasn't an underclass of primarily Black folks but also other non-white people of color groups.

One of the biggest crowning achievements of that period was actually affirmative action, which the research has showed time and time again comparing dozens of DEI interventions from the 70s to today, the one that had the most tangible impact, affirmative action because what was affirmative action focused on? Was it focused on being nice to people? Was it focused on trying your best? Was it focused on addressing individual biases? No. It was focused on the outcome of bringing in people of color. It was outcomes focused. Affirmative action got struck down and everything, this is controversial, every single DEI intervention that's come up since then to try to fill the vacuum that affirmative action left behind has been nowhere as successful because none of them have centered outcomes. All of them have been very kumbaya, let's try our best, let's try to do another little thing.

But even if we can't do affirmative action these days, we need to remind ourselves that we don't get anywhere unless we can center our work on the outcomes we're trying to create. We don't get anywhere unless we have clear ideas about what sort of representation we want, what sort of workplace environment we're trying to create, what sort of outcomes in terms of pay equity or equity of opportunity or promotion rate equity, all of these things. Once we have these goals in place, we need to be willing to hold everyone accountable, including ourselves as practitioners, for achieving them.

If you set a goal to say, "I'm going to have X% representation in this way in the next two years," and nothing happens if you fail, that's not outcome centered work. That's just aspirational, empty words. That's just hot air. If you set a goal and you achieve it, you're allowed to celebrate. If you set a goal and you fail, there are consequences, right?

Deb Zahn: I love that. Anything else is just marketing and PR.

Lily Zheng: Anything else is marketing and PR. It's not rocket science. You just have to do what you say you'll do. You'll have to achieve what you say you'll achieve. I find that when people are centered on outcomes, that pushes them to a standard of behavior that is infinitely higher than the loosey goosey like, "I'll see what I can do. I'll do my best," and that's the exact standard that DEI needs to ascribe to. I can't imagine any other industry. Imagine a plumber comes by your house and you say, "My pipe's broken," and they say, "Oh, I'll see what I can do." And then, they leave, they charge you, and you're like, "Well, my pipe's still broken," and they said, "Well, I tried," right? No, we would immediately be like, "That's the worst plumber I've ever worked with. They didn't fix my problem."

Yet, why are we totally OK with DEI efforts being this loosey goosey, right? No. We got to fix stuff and why don't we hold executives to it either? Executives are just like, "Well, I'll put a social media statement about how sad I am that your pipes are still leaky but I won't fix them." "Oh. Maybe I'll make a $10 donation to the National Association of Leaky Pipes, but I won't fix yours," right? It's absurd. There's just a standard of accountability we need to hold ourselves to. If we have problems, we fix them, right? That's what consultants are there to do.

Deb Zahn: I love that. Well, that is wonderful. So tell folks where they can find you, where can they find your book?

Lily Zheng: Oh, all sorts of places. So you can find more about me, two places. One is my website, Lily, at and the other is on LinkedIn. I'm very active on LinkedIn. I post two or three times a week. Lots of content, lots of stuff about the book, lots of advice on how to do DEI work in practice. The book, you can find it anywhere books are sold. You can find it at your local bookstore. Feel free to look it up on to find a local bookstore selling it. If you'd like to buy it online, it is available through Barnes and Noble, Amazon, Berrett-Koehler. I mean, it's available pretty much anywhere. So look for local bookstores near you and I guarantee you'll be able to find it.

In case there's interest in bringing me in to do a talk, I'm always happy to travel and to do book events and bring these ideas to your organization or your community to keep this conversation going because we're long overdue. Not just the conversation, right? The action. We really need to be fixing shit. If there's one thing I want this book to do, it's to get everyone on the same page, to hold ourselves to this higher standard of actually achieving these outcomes that we say we're going to do, actually achieving diversity, equity, and inclusion.

Deb Zahn: That is perfect. Well, I do have to ask you one last question that I do ask everyone because that is just beautiful. So you're off doing all these good things in the world, fixing those leaky pipes wherever they are, how do you find balance in your life however you define that?

Lily Zheng: I find lots of balance in my life. This is work that I'm really passionate about and I'm also very aware that people who are passionate about their work are at the highest risk of burning out, overextending, and overworking so I enforce rest. Rest is extremely important to me. I can't be at my best unless I've gotten rest.

And so, what does that look like? Well, right now in 2022, I have a four-day work week. I have a three-day weekend every single week. It's really nice. I hold myself to a 40-hour work week or less. Sometimes, I work 30 hours, sometimes less than that. I spend lots of time with family, chosen family, community, friends, partners. Yeah. I think the most important thing is I'm really passionate about this work but it's work, right? DEI work, I love it. It's super important. It's my life work but it's not my life. So I spend a lot of time living my life and doing things that people do to enjoy their life. Right after this podcast, I'm going to put my pajamas back on and lay down on the couch and probably watch Netflix. I don't know. I do my best to take care of myself.

Deb Zahn: That's fabulous and I hope you find a good show on Netflix. Well, Lily, thank you so much for coming on. As I told you, I read everything you put out on LinkedIn, and it feeds me every day and encourages me to go out and be part of doing the work as well so I appreciate everything you do and thanks so much for coming on.

Lily Zheng: Thanks so much for having me. I really hope this conversation gets folks excited to do the work and to do it right.

Deb Zahn: Thanks so much for listening to this episode of the Craft of Consulting podcast. I want to ask you to do actually three things. If you enjoyed this episode or you've enjoyed any of my other ones, hit subscribe. I got a lot of other great guests that are coming up in a lot of other great content and I don't want you to miss anything.

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So as always, you can go and get more wonderful information and tools at Thanks so much. I will talk to you on the next episode.

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