Episode: How to Create More Just and Equitable Workplaces (Part 2)
Megan Hyatt Miller: Hi, I’m Megan Hyatt Miller, and this is Lead to Win, our weekly podcast to help you win at work and succeed at life. Today we’re continuing our conversation about how to create a more just and equitable workplace with our guest, Danielle Rodgers, director of human resources at Michael Hyatt & Company. Hey, Danielle.
Danielle Rodgers: Hey there, everybody. Good to be here.
Megan: We’re so glad to have you. And Anthony Hendricks, director of the Center for Biblical Unity at Williamson College and area manager for logistics at Amazon. He’s also the cofounder of The Public, a conversation on race here in the Nashville area. Hey, Anthony. Thanks for coming back.
Anthony Hendricks: Hello, everyone. Great to be back again. Looking forward to additional conversation.
Megan: Me too. We were just joking before we started that we could probably have five episodes on this topic because, as you said, Anthony, it’s so vast. We began the conversation last time by talking about why justice and equality are big issues for us as business leaders. If you missed that, please go listen to it now, because it really provides the big-picture context for what we’re going to be talking about today, which is much more practical, what you can actually do inside your own organization or business to make this issue better.
This is really a business issue because it affects our competitive position in the marketplace and also our profitability. After all, businesses with a diverse workforce have more access to talent (that’s so important), broader thinking for innovation, and also 19 percent higher revenue. That’s a really important statistic that should make all of us pretty excited to listen to this conversation, I think. Of course, it’s also the right thing to do. This is a human rights issue, a moral issue, and it’s an opportunity for our leadership.
It’s an opportunity to step up, to be courageous and intentional, as Anthony said in our last episode. That’s really the goal of this work: to be courageous and intentional such that we create organizations that are ultimately not just “not racist” but that are intentionally anti-racist; that the policies and the culture we’re building inside our companies are welcoming to people of color; that they recruit from the very best talent that’s out there; that we’re creating opportunity for others; that we’re creating innovative solutions, but that we are intentionally anti-racist in the way we design our company. So, that’s what we’re going to talk about today, and I’m so excited to dig in.
Today we want to take this down to a practical level for leaders, and I want to talk about the problems we face in our businesses when we try to tackle this issue. And there are many, believe me. I really want to get to some practical solutions so that you feel empowered to start making these kinds of changes in your company and seeing the results that come from those. All right. Let’s talk about hiring. I feel like this is the topic where it gets tricky but also where the rubber meets the road. Why do companies struggle in hiring people of color? Danielle, I’d love to hear your perspective on this.
Danielle: I think sometimes we don’t even realize it, but we have, as an organization, biased criteria or limiting criteria for hiring, including the required experience. So, taking some time to look at candidates and figure out if you need to look at candidates who have transferrable skills, perhaps from a different industry, who have experience that comes by way of their volunteer experience and maybe not by way of their vocational experience.
We know there are different glass ceilings in the marketplace that result in people of color not having the same access and opportunities. We don’t want to perpetuate that same cycle when it comes to being able to offer them career opportunities simply because of that lack of access. So, being creative in how you are looking at your own expectations for that particular job. I think that’s one big thing to look at.
Then also looking at ethnic or traditionally African-American or culturally specific names when you are looking at applications and résumés. There are companies out there that have software that allows you to even black out and not be able to see the names of candidates as you are looking through their résumés.
Or even internally, just making sure you have a check and balance to hold yourself or your hiring team accountable to look a little bit closer, look a little bit deeper, making sure that when you’re looking at those applications with those ethnic names you are still looking very closely at those résumés and figuring out ways you can look for their atypical experience to be able to gauge not just their passion but their proficiency in the area you’re trying to hire for.
Megan: Danielle, I have to interrupt for a second, because I can hear questions coming from our listeners, like, “Wait, wait. Why do I need to consider atypical experience? Why would I need to consider volunteer experience or something like that?” I want to just say at the beginning we’re operating from the premise that, for all of the reasons we’ve mentioned last podcast and this one, diversity is good, that it’s something you want more of in your company, but that we’re all struggling to figure out how to make that happen, particularly if you, as the CEO or leader of your team, are white, that’s challenging for you. I just want you, Danielle, to kind of back up and explain why that’s a relevant part of this conversation about hiring.
Danielle: That is a great question. One thing we need to consider when we are marketing is that, typically, when it comes to career success, we know that, statistically, people are able to climb the ladder much faster and are able to see they have a solid place and a path in an organization when they have someone who’s on their side as an advocate, who is someone within the organization who can advocate on their behalf, who can speak well of them at the executive table, who can advocate on behalf of them when it comes time for promotions and who should get new developmental opportunities that lead to promotions.
We know, historically, people of color do not have those kinds of internal advocates within companies. As a result, we need to make sure we are not just continuing to operate in that same system that has allowed certain people to ascend faster in their careers than others who have been a little bit more stagnant. Basically, we’re asking you to take some time to step back and acknowledge the limitations that may have and, in many cases, have created a gap between someone’s proficiency and passion and the kinds of roles they’ve been able to walk into.
There is a vast gap when it comes to access and opportunity for people of color that we’re trying to bridge. As a result, you may be looking for someone for a financially related position at your job to be able to fill a role, but you may have to look for someone who, perhaps, served on a board in a financial or treasurer capacity or someone who had another type of role but did projects that involved them having to oversee budgets and interact and show their financial savviness.
Here at Michael Hyatt & Company, we also have as a part of our hiring process what’s called a test assignment phase. Before the candidates even dive deep into their higher-level interviews with us, we screen their actual abilities. That way, we’re able to see what their proficiencies look like and we’re not assessing what we perceive their proficiencies to be.
We’re making sure we are not incorrectly judging what the candidate is able to do based upon some false expectations we’ve set, if that makes sense from a hiring standpoint. That’s why it requires us, as organizations, to go out and find out where the people of color are, to market our jobs to them, to recruit them there, but then also to make sure we are looking in unique ways to find the criteria and job experience that we’re looking to find on their résumés.
Megan: We’ve been talking a lot about recruiting, and one of the things I hear from fellow executives and business owners a lot is, “I just don’t have any people of color who are applying.” The interesting thing about this, as you and I have talked about it, is one of the biggest problems is that in HR we’re taught to prioritize referrals. We want those referrals because we want more people who are the same kind of “cultural fit” as the great employees we already have.
Of course, the problem is if your team is primarily white and they’re hanging out with people who are mostly like them, you’re just going to end up with a whole bunch of white candidates. It’s kind of a self-perpetuating challenge. Anthony, I’d love to hear your thoughts on recruiting and how to think about that, especially as we’re thinking about this professional world and highly qualified candidates like you were talking about in the last episode.
Anthony: I guess it goes back to our discussion at the end of our last time together, and that’s intentionality. I will throw into the discussion not only intentionality but relationship-building. It’s a difficult thing because of the way our country has been shaped. Because of redlining and other issues, we have systematically separated ourselves, so outside of a few people of color who have made their way into the corporate space and moved into neighborhoods that were predominately white, for the most part, we are separate as cultures.
The way that plays into the hiring process is like you said. If I’m going to look for talent, I’m going to ask one of my top sales reps, “Hey, give me some of your friends. Who can I bring into this organization?” If they haven’t developed any relationships across cultural lines, then they’re going to go to their friends, and their friends are other white guys or white young ladies, and they’ll bring them into the discussion.
That’s why I say relationship-building is huge, especially from a leadership perspective. If I am not intentional about developing additional relationships across cultural lines… And I know even that is a difficult thing for most people. One of the things I run into often as I’m teaching my classes… This is one of the things I tell my class participants: “On your way out, these are some of the things you must do.” The first thing I say is, “You need to start developing relationships across racial lines.” The issue with that is most of my people live in predominately white spaces, like Williamson County, for instance.
Megan: Where we’re recording. That’s right.
Anthony: Exactly. So now they’re running around in Williamson County looking for the 6 percent of African-Americans who are in this county, and that can be a very difficult thing. I say that for your listeners so they understand that I know this is a difficult thing. I know it’s going to take additional time that you may not have. You may walk away from this conversation saying, “Yeah, I hear what he’s saying…intentionality, this, that, and the other. But I have all of these other initiatives I’m working on. Who has the time to go looking for relationships?”
But that’s really the only way this is going to happen unless you begin to hire people of color, and then you can begin to ask them “Can you bring in some of your friends?” Then they are now going into their spaces, their places of influence, and saying, “Hey, this organization is really serious about diversifying. Why don’t you come and take a look at them.”
Danielle: Something to think about as we’re looking at the diversity of the populations in the areas we work and interact in… Even if you’re talking about 4.5 or 5 percent African-Americans, in most areas, when you look at the overall population, that still comes out to (I did the math with Williamson County) about 10,000 African-Americans who are there within the county space who are people who are oftentimes concentrated, to your point, Anthony, about how our society is oftentimes racially separated…
The way that can work in our favor is when you get into those circles with people of color, your likelihood of interacting with someone who will be a good fit for a job opening or someone you can create an organic friendship with increases. You just have to get into those spaces first. I know we mentioned a few times very briefly HBCUs, which is historically black colleges and universities. They have very advanced, robust networking for their alumni.
There are also nationally recognized sororities and fraternities that operate on a professional level nationwide, along with a lot of professional organizations that focus on specific professions. For instance, there are professional organizations for people who are of color but who are journalists…the National Black Association of Journalists…that you can connect with and promote your job positions through them by finding someone locally who is a part of that chapter or even nationwide who can connect you to the local resource.
There are equivalent organizations. There are local black chamber of commerces that exist in many different counties across the country. So it’s about getting into these diverse spaces, getting your foot in the door, staying there, being comfortable being the minority (we could talk about that for a while), being comfortable, as a white person or someone who’s not of color, in those spaces when it’s reversed, when you’re the minority, building those relationships and friendships in an organic way.
For me, I’m the director of human resources, a black woman, but I’m also a pastor’s wife as well, and when I look at churches in the area, including in Williamson County, there are churches, for instance, if you lead a religious organization, that are very diverse. They’re not in high quantity, but they are out there. There is something those organizations or those churches are doing to attract and to retain people of different backgrounds.
So, I think it’s a misnomer that it’s impossible for us to be able to do this. Even when you’re dealing with a low percentage of people of color in your immediate area, there still is a broad base of people you can connect with and build great relationships with, even if it’s only for one reason at all, just building relationships, and then those can lead organically to filling your jobs as well. But there definitely is opportunity, more so than we think, that’s out there.
Megan: That’s really good. Danielle, we’ve talked about the need for time, to be thinking ahead and to always be building our bench of potential candidates well in advance of the time when we need to hire. Thinking ahead is part of our vision. Michael Hyatt & Company right now has about 15 percent people of color on our team. We’re just about to go into strategic planning. We’re talking about adding to our vision script a part of our vision under the culture section (if you’re familiar with that concept from The Vision Driven Leader book) that we want to see our team become 50 percent people of color within three years.
Now, you and I have talked about that a lot. We haven’t made the final decision that that’s what we’re going to go with, because that’ll be part of our strategic planning, but that would require aggressive recruitment to get there. That’s a significant jump from where we are. You and I talked about we need to have time on our side. We need to have diverse recruiting avenues.
We need to perhaps tap communities that have high concentration of professionals, like Atlanta or Birmingham, that are close to us, for example (this, of course, will be different for every geographical area), where there are a lot of people of color who are in professional positions already, and perhaps there are recruiting agencies, headhunters, things like that, that we can connect with and diversify our network, because that’s so much of what it’s about, and that’s kind of what you’re both talking about in the challenges we’re facing here.
Anthony: I have to go back to intentionality. It’s just not going to happen because everybody wants it to happen. It’s like what you just said, Megan. You have to intentionally get into spaces where people of color exist. Quite frankly, you have to become comfortable with being uncomfortable. That’s just the nature of getting into spaces of the other as a white person. By and large, you’ve not had to do that, so to do that, to get into those spaces, is pretty uncomfortable, which takes me back to my comment about courage. You just have to get in there and mix it up. Make some mistakes. Say some stupid things. All of that is a part of diversifying your organization, and it’s tough.
Megan: One of the things I’d like to talk about with both of you is, if you’re thinking about diversity, the importance of having people of color in positions of leadership rather than just in entry-level positions or something like that. How important is that and why?
Anthony: It’s extremely important. If you don’t have voices at the top lending the perspectives and the experiences of people of color, then I don’t think the total diversity of your company will ever happen. We’re talking more than just window dressing or a couple of people to put on your website and “Hey, we’re diverse.” We need people in positions of leadership who are making leadership decisions. I think that is extremely important.
Again, I think it’s a difficult thing unless you walk into this understanding that “This is what we’re going to do.” I love the fact that you guys have a vision that by a certain time you’re going to be 50 percent diverse. That’s what it takes. It takes a visionary leader to say, “This is what we’re going to do,” and then put in practices that will get you to that goal.
Megan: Then, all of a sudden, the innovation kicks in because the commitment is there. You have said, “This is part of our vision; this is what we’re committed to,” and now all of our innovative thinking can go to work. “How do we do it? Well, if that doesn’t work, then could we try this? What else is necessary?” If it’s just kind of aspirational, like, “Oh, it would be great to be more diverse…” Well, what does it mean to be “more diverse”?
We’re going for something much more concrete than that and much more far-reaching. I agree with you on that. I think making that part of your vision… We talk a lot about vision on this podcast, and what we realized when we reviewed our vision script this year was that while we said that diversity was important to us, we were not explicit about what that meant; therefore, we really couldn’t measure if we had achieved it or not. That was a missing piece for us, and that’s a big takeaway as we head into the future.
Danielle: I was just going to add really quickly… Anthony made some really great and compelling points, so I don’t have much to add, but when you are hiring a diversity candidate or promoting someone who is going to be in middle-level or senior management within your company, part of the benefit to that is they’re able to focus on some of the high-leverage opportunities for change and influence change at a much faster rate.
For instance, there are a lot of ways to realize a diversity bonus at an organization, but until you have specifically created a vision for how you’re going to measure that diversity, as you mentioned before, Megan… But even taking the time to step back and realize, “Okay. The last couple of years, we’ve launched products and been able to assess the market in a much more precise way. We’ve been able to get ahead of the curve and figure out more about the felt needs of our customer base and foresee a lot of issues and get ahead of them. Why is that?”
You need someone who is able to champion that at a higher level and able to step back and figure out “What are the patterns this new diversity bonus has created for us, and how can we continue to replicate that?” Then on top of that, another great benefit is you have the rest of your staff that’s able to see that you value diversity at the management or executive level, and that inspires them…those future executives, those future managers…to continue to climb the ladder because they see some piece of themselves in their leadership, and they then see it’s possible.
Anthony: That’s a great point.
Megan: All right. I want to talk about culture. Danielle, you mentioned in the last episode how important it was not just to recruit people of color to your organization and pursue diversity in your hiring but to create an environment and a company culture where you’re able to retain those people, to develop them, to integrate them into your culture, to create a big table for ideas, all that kind of stuff. I want you to talk to us about how we can do that in practical ways, because I think this is unfamiliar for a lot of us.
Danielle: Yeah, absolutely. Megan, you made a great comment earlier that I love and am completely aligned with regarding culture being the water we’re swimming in that we sometimes don’t even realize we’re in, and it’s up to us, as organizational leaders, to create water for our team to swim in that is going to continue to encourage professional development, that’s going to make the space for people to feel that they are seen and heard and they can make an impact on the company at large.
I think culture is huge, and it’s the thing that makes such a big difference as to whether or not your diversity hires are going to decide to stay with you long-term or leave or decide to be silent or feel the safeness and security to be able to speak up and share their ideas and brainstorm with your team. Part of the way you do that is by making sure that even in your hiring process you’re taking time to get to know the felt needs of your candidates. Figure out what is important to them, especially when you’re looking at women of color, for instance.
One of the great benefits is looking to make sure you have excellent healthcare and health insurance and what your parental leave looks like for families who perhaps are single-parent families. We know that, disproportionately, people of color oftentimes can come from single-parent households. What does the support system look like for them to be able to feel the confidence to be present parents, to walk away from their vocation for a couple of months, and then to come back knowing their job is not in jeopardy?
It’s taking the time to think through providing the support system and the resources to provide those kinds of benefits, to make sure their work environment is taken care of, that the workload is still manageable when they come back because there has been some kind of plan for coverage when they’re gone and there’s a way to make sure their work and their job is still protected upon their return. It also takes some initial research ahead of time to figure out how you can better connect with those candidates and figure out what their felt needs are before you even have a chance to interact with them through the interview process.
Then once they are on board with your organization, it’s important to have some training and tools and resources for all of your staff, including those who are of color, to be able to climb up the learning curve with ease, to understand everything from company acronyms to more about a profit and loss statement and things that will benefit them if they are strong candidates who are very proficient and passionate in what they do, but in order for them to take the next step in their leadership, they need to know more about budgeting, need to know more about high-level finances, need to practice their presentation and public speaking skills.
One program I’ve loved that many organizations that are championing diversity and career development and mobility and growth have begun to take on is creating opportunities for cross-training, for employees to learn more about an adjacent work center or department in order to help them to realize potential career opportunities they would not have otherwise even known about or been interested in, and that can then result in continued promotions over the years.
One of the other things, while we’re talking about promotions, is in terms of inequalities, financially speaking, with salary. It’s important for us, as the organizational leads, when we’re deciding how we’re going to promote from within and as we’re hiring externally, to make sure we’re not deciding salary solely based upon what someone made in their prior job, because we know there are different barriers there that would prevent people of color from being able to make the same equivalents of their white counterparts.
We don’t want to add insult to injury, perpetuating the same cycle, by only paying them what they previously were paid but looking at their skills, looking at what they bring to the table, and looking at the internal equity at our own company and figuring out how what we are considering paying this person correlates to someone else who is performing a similar job function at our organization. There are a lot of ways for us to, as organizations, make our company one that not only is a proponent of diversity but that attracts diversity candidates to want to come and stay with us long-term.
Megan: That’s good. Anthony, what would you add to that?
Anthony: When you asked the question, I wrote down two words: assimilation versus accommodation.
Megan: That’s important.
Anthony: One of my favorite classes in my master’s program was organizational culture. In this particular instance, we weren’t just talking about black and white in America; we were talking about global organizational culture, because the world is getting smaller. One of the things I remember during this course was we talked about understanding and knowing your culture so you can accommodate the culture of the employees you’re bringing in as opposed to asking them to assimilate to an already structured culture.
I understand, in a lot of instances, there is a company culture you kind of run with, but if you are malleable when you have other people from other cultures coming into your organization, they can help form a new culture. As you are accommodating the cultures that are coming in, you can now form a new culture that is more inclusive and that then becomes attractive to other people of different cultures, if that makes sense.
Megan: That’s great. Can you give me a specific example of what it might look like to accommodate?
Anthony: Here’s a great example. At our delivery station, we have what we call a meditation room. This is at Amazon.
Megan: That’s awesome.
Anthony: When I got there, I was like, “Okay. So what’s the meditation room?” Well, we have a number of Muslims who work at Amazon. They have specific prayer times they must do in order for them to walk out their particular religion, so this meditation room was set up so they have a quiet place to go to engage with their god and practice whatever they practice. Now, that doesn’t hinder what they’ve been brought on board to do, but it accommodates who they are as Muslim workers for Amazon. I was like, “Man, that’s pretty impressive.” I just never thought about that.
Most people think Amazon is the company from hell, but to understand that even Amazon understands they have numerous cultures… Of course, Amazon is a global organization, so they’ve had the opportunities and the necessity to think through a lot of this. They have delivery stations in Muslim countries. So what does that look like? How does that differ culturally from what’s going on in America? They’ve had to accommodate various cultures predicated on where they are.
Megan: You know, Danielle, one of the parts of your responsibility is caring for our employees, of course, and that has had a particular urgency about it in the last several months with the George Floyd killing and then subsequent killings or others that became in our consciousness simultaneously with his murder. I would love for you to talk about the role of the HR director or the leadership in caring for employees of color when there are traumatic cultural incidents that happen.
Danielle: One of the things we have to keep in mind is that every people group deals with things in a unique way. For African-Americans especially, there is almost a tribal impact and emotional trauma that is felt collectively. It’s unique, because these things that have happened nationwide or that have been brought to light are things that, more often than not, the immediate instances we see in the news have not been things that have happened to the family members or the friends of the folks we employ, but they can empathize with the experiences because they’ve had something similar that they have heard of happening to their friends or family or even their own interaction, whether it’s direct or indirect, with racial discrimination.
I think it’s important if you are a non-person of color trying to understand why this is so important and deeply impactful and hurtful to people of color, even when George Floyd was not their cousin or their brother… I think you have to step back and understand that there’s a collective hurt from this people group that we all feel. When one is hurt or one dies or one is going through difficulty, we all feel it. From an organizational and from an HR director standpoint, it’s important to check in and often with your staff just to see if they are okay. More often than not, the answer I keep hearing is, ”I’m not okay.”
In the midst of the global pandemic, there also is what seems to be a war that’s waged on people of color that they’re just reminded of all the time, and that is a lot of psychological weight to carry and to bear. I think it’s up to us to lean in and ask often how they’re doing, but then also to be creative in your existing benefits or even new benefits or emergency assistance, or whatever you choose to call it, that’s created to be there to help them if they have some self-care needs, whether it is additional time off they need to take, and you, as a leader, would then work with their supervisor to make sure that time off is truly protected and it’s true time off and not kind of half time off, half work.
Also checking to see if they have any mental health needs that they feel like they have not been able to address because of financial reasons, providing the finances and the resources of some names of local therapists or counselors in their area to be able to reach out to confidentially about their situation and begin that process and that journey of healing. Those are all things that, even if you have these benefits already in place… You may think, “Oh, well, my employees know. They know where to go. They know they can utilize those things.”
But oftentimes, people…all people, regardless of their color…need permission to take a deep breath and to pause and focus on their own mental, emotional, and oftentimes, spiritual health. So that’s important to us to care about our employees holistically and not just what they can give to us, because long-term, we’re helping to prevent burnout, we’re helping to make sure that what they’re doing at their work with us is sustainable long-term and that they see we value them as people and we want them to stay around for the long haul.
Megan: That’s really good. Anthony, what about having conversations around race? I think Danielle gave us some good insight into how to care for the people of color on our team, but as we think about having conversations about race, how can we do that well, and how can we do that badly in the context of our organization?
Anthony: To have conversations around race… I think it begins with a concerted effort to define the terms that are going to be used during the conversation.
Megan: Okay. Anthony, I have to ask you something before we even go on, because I just thought of this. This is probably a question I should have asked at the beginning. Is it even appropriate to have conversations about race within the workplace? Is that a good idea or a bad idea? I feel like that’s level one.
Anthony: Yeah, absolutely. Again, what that does is that allows people of color to feel seen. If everyone is just kind of wanting to tiptoe around this issue, especially now, especially while the country is such at these polar opposites as it relates to race, to not have discussions around it, you almost feel, as an African-American, like “Do they even care?”
Megan: Like we’re just pretending to be color blind, which is dehumanizing.
Anthony: Like life goes on. I also think that in order to engage those conversations where they don’t get heated is to make sure everyone understands what the terms you’re discussing mean. Like, “Okay. Before we jump into this conversation, when I say white privilege, this is what I mean. When I say white fragility, this is what I mean. When I say whiteness, what does that mean?” All of these terms need to be explained so that as you’re engaging in this conversation, people aren’t shutting down internally because, “Oh, why did they say that?” They may not say that outwardly, but internally they’re gone. They’ve shut down.
For me, even as I start my class, my first class is really introducing terms so that as we get along in this discussion people aren’t just shutting books and leaving because they’ve been offended by something I’ve said. The other thing is as you engage in these discussions, I think it’s important for people to understand that you will be offended and you will offend somebody.
Megan: That’s important.
Anthony: Let’s just put that on the table. Don’t shut down the conversation because you’ve offended someone or you’ve been offended by someone. This discussion on race has been going on in this country since its inception. It is a very volatile conversation, but it can be done. It is a conversation that can be had, but I think you have to go into this conversation with certain expectations. If those expectations are in place, then I think it can be a very cordial conversation that will lead to understanding and to some action. So, yes, I think it is very important that these conversations be had.
Danielle: A key piece there is making sure you have (or if you don’t have it, aggressively trying to get it) psychological safety for your employees before you decide to talk about this. You may just need to press pause and have this racial conversation next week if you know you have some other cultural issues when it comes to your employees feeling safe to be able to speak up in the workplace or there’s a presence of a perception of retaliation.
If you have any of those flags or things you’re working through from a cultural standpoint, make sure you have already addressed those things or you’re addressing them simultaneously so that they all don’t snowball in a racial way. The other piece of it is, especially as a black woman, it’s important to make sure we are not inadvertently tiptoeing into tokenism. What that means is putting someone kind of on display, whether it’s intentional or inadvertently, and having to be responsible for bearing the weight of being the spokesperson when they’re not supposed to be in that role.
What that could look like is inadvertently having a forum or conversation on race with perfectly good intentions but then putting the weight and the burden on people of color who are staff members to have to share their experiences, which may be very traumatizing experiences, professionally speaking or from a personal standpoint. We want to certainly be inclusive and make them all feel welcome to share their experiences should they choose to, but it’s not fair to force them to go through bearing that burden and that weight, particularly if they’re not in a leadership position, if they’re not heading this initiative. It’s really not fair.
Anthony: Yeah, that’s good.
Megan: That’s really good, Danielle. I think that’s one of the mistakes that’s easy to make as a white leader. You’re like, “Okay. I know I need to step back, and it can’t be all about me, and I don’t really have a firsthand experience with this experience of discrimination or inequity or injustice other than the ways I’m complicit in it; therefore, I’m just going to take all of my black employees and ask them all to sit on a panel and teach the rest of us.” That’s one of the things where we really get in trouble.
We get in this (Anthony, we’ve talked about this at The Public) kind of white fragility place of “Oh, I can’t do this on my own. I need you to do all the heavy lifting for me, people of color, because I’m so inadequate,” and whatever. It just becomes this whole weird situation. From a leadership standpoint, I would say, one of the most important things you have to do as a leader if you’re white is take responsibility for your own education.
There are a bajillion books out there. Many of them are on the New York Times list right now because of the conversations we’re having in America at large. Just start reading those books, and then, as Anthony said, have conversations that are cross-racial. That’s important. It’s fine to make mistakes, but there’s not an excuse for being uneducated as a leader. It’s so accessible now that even if you don’t have personal relationships with people of color, you can certainly access books that are written by people of color on these topics and learn so much. I think that ought to be emotional intelligence required education for all leaders in this century.
Okay. I have one last question. As I’ve said probably 15 times now, we could really talk about this all day because it’s so important and there’s so much to talk about. One of the most important things I heard you guys say is that it’s critically important that you have people of color in leadership in your organization.
If your percentage of people of color is really talking about people who are kind of in the bottom parts of your organization, there aren’t going to be the advocates, there aren’t going to be the leadership decisions that need to be made by people of color to advance this cause and initiative within an organization, and so forth.
How do we intentionally promote and create growth paths for people of color within our organization? Let’s say we’ve gotten the recruiting thing. We’ve gotten people in the door. We’re creating a culture that’s positive and they’re staying, but now we want to move them up in the organization. How do we do that?
Danielle: One great thing about Michael Hyatt & Company is we have this tool called a Freedom Compass that we use as an organization. It’s meant to be a point of self-reflection but also to help and encourage conversation between an employee and their supervisor. It talks about the areas where your proficiency and your passion meet. That’s called your Desire Zone.
We hope the majority, at least 50 percent or more (and oftentimes a much higher percentage than that if you’re in a leadership position), of your job is in that Desire Zone category. There are other categories in this image of the compass that we talk about. I think it’s important to have those types of Freedom Compass, career development, inventory types of conversations with your employees on a frequent basis, at least a couple of times a year.
In doing that, we want to encourage our staff to think about not only “Where do your proficiencies and your passions intersect in your current role?” but “What are some things that maybe you are interested in…? You’re passionate about it, but you’re not sure if you have a proficiency just yet or maybe it’s something you can learn or maybe you are proficient and passionate but it’s outside of your current job responsibility.”
Then I think it’s up to the supervisor to be creative over a period of time, not overnight, but figure out, “What are some ways where I can help my employee, my person of color who’s reporting to me, to expand their skill set, to expand their abilities and be able to try out some things they have not done before in hopes of learning more about a potential career path for them?” I think those conversations are extremely important.
Another thing that’s important is encouraging employees to develop and helping them to cultivate relationship internally within the company with someone else who can be their advocate, someone who is not just their direct supervisor alone but someone else who’s in the organization who they can form somewhat of an alliance with, where that person understands their skill sets, understands what they bring to the table, and will challenge them and say, “Hey, have you tried doing this?” or “Have you asked your supervisor that?”
I’ve found, for me and the organizations I’ve been in and been successful, oftentimes that opportunity has been organically or intentionally created for me, where I had someone who always had my best interests at heart, was advocating before me when I wasn’t there. They were in a leadership role. That really helps to make space for them and provide more access and opportunity for potential promotions that otherwise would not have been there.
It also provides a great opportunity for what we call job shadowing and job interviews, where informally, your staff can spend time with someone and learn more about what that person does and ask them questions about what they do to figure out if there is some overlap and some interest there. That’s something that can happen internally, but then also encouraging your employees to develop mentors outside of the organization who are subject matter experts in the area they want to grow and become more proficient in.
This has been something I have leveraged and taken advantage of as well outside of the company. Someone who is not working at the same company, who doesn’t have to deal with the same politics internally, potentially, can help to be a really good source of inspiration and practical wisdom to help your employees be able to learn how to find their career path and the next step. Then beyond that, it behooves us, as organization leaders, to put a lot of time and intentionality into succession planning, not just for our C-suite executives, but looking at succession planning organization-wide.
When you have your executive who moves into their new role or moves from a director level role to executive, what opportunities does that create internally for your staff, and how do you potentially see the people you have now growing to be able to fill them? Beginning to think of building your bench, not just as an external concept for hiring people outside of the company but how you can build your bench internally for director-level roles or for manager-level roles or even executive positions within your company, and your vision for incorporating people of color into that, and beginning to look at that on a monthly basis.
Megan: That’s really good, Danielle. Anthony, anything else you’d add to that?
Anthony: I think the only thing I would add… I mean, all of that is just amazing. I don’t necessarily see leadership development as a different thing for people of color than for the general public. So I would say, just make sure those who are in leadership…supervisors, managers… Again, I’m going back to this implicit bias. Make sure they understand this person of color in this particular position has just as many skill sets as a white person, and they deserve the same kind of leadership development that every other person in your organization deserves.
So let’s spend the time to understand their skill sets, understand what they can develop, and then begin putting efforts into that person, as you are putting efforts into every other employee, so that they might advance and acquire some of those maybe even C-suite positions that they are very much qualified for. My only thing is, again, understanding what those implicit biases are that tell me about this particular person.
Megan: Right. Because it could be in my mind that when I think leader, I just think white. I don’t even know I think that, but when I look at my company, everybody is white. I’m just thinking, if you’re a leader, an implicit prerequisite to becoming a leader is being white. Obviously, none of us would say that consciously (at least 99 percent of us hopefully wouldn’t), but it’s in the background just because that’s how we think about it. So I think that’s a really good point. Just challenge that in your own mind and expand it to include people of color as potential candidates for leadership as you’re thinking about developing the next generation of leaders in your organization.
Guys, we could keep talking all day long. This has been so rich. I’ve learned so much from both of you. Thank you again for your willingness to share and help us expand our thinking in this area. I hope, for those of you listening, that this has had the same effect on you. I hope you’re inspired and excited to think about how your organization can grow in this area, what your vision is.
I would really encourage you, as a next step, two things: to educate yourself, to look at that New York Times list for potential books you could be reading to start educating yourself if this is a new conversation for you, but second of all, to really think about how this is a component of your vision. What kind of company culture do you want to build with regard to people of color and diversity in general? That’s really important as we’re thinking about the future, as we’re thinking about all of the reasons we talked about today.
Hopefully this has been helpful for you. Thank you so much for joining us today. We’ll be right back here next week. Until then, lead to win.