WHAT: 45-minute webinar recorded on August 13th, 2020
WHO: Melissa Jezior, Eagle Hill Consulting’s President and CEO, and
Pedro Suriel, Vice President Diversity and Inclusion, Raymond James
Good afternoon. Thank you so much for joining us for a webinar hosted by Eagle Hill consulting—Getting Comfortable with the Uncomfortable: Conversations about race and bias at work.
This is the first of a series of webinars that Eagle Hill will be hosting on this topic and we’re so happy that you’re with us today. We have two presenters today—Melissa Jezior; she is president and CEO of Eagle Hill Consulting. And we’re so happy to have with us Pedro Suriel; he is the vice president for diversity and inclusion with Raymond James.
Just in terms of logistics for the session before I turn it over to Melissa, we’ve got everyone in listen-only mode just to back out the background noise, but we do want your questions. If you have questions during the presentation, you can see on your control panel there’s a question box. Just type your questions into the question box and once Melissa and Pedro run through their thoughts, we will respond to those question by reading them out loud.
So again, thank you all so much for joining us. And now I’ll turn the session over to Melissa and Pedro. Melissa?
Wonderful. Well welcome Pedro, thank you so much for joining us today.
It’s my pleasure, Melissa. I’m looking forward to the conversation.
Likewise. Pedro and I have been talking and I was telling him that we are on this journey here at Eagle Hill. And I’m so grateful to have experts like you willing to join in and help us learn on how we can do better. And I think your decades of experiences and helping organizations achieve strategic vision through harnessing the strength and the creativity of individuals is just, I’m so excited to be able to tap into your knowledge today. So thank you so much for joining us on our journey to do better.
So I’ll just a little bit before we jump into this, I wanted to talk a little bit about the, one of the catalysts for our discussion here to begin with.
I can tell you personally, Eagle Hill we started our D&I journey a couple of years ago. But I’d say we started to get serious about it, really serious about it at the end of last year. We identified it as one of our primary goals for 2020 and since then have been working on it. And I will say that up until that point, I knew that it was good for business and I knew that it was the right thing to do.
But with the deaths of George Floyd and Breonna Taylor and Ahmaud Arbery, that’s really where I think I personally started to see all of the connections of the broader system, issue of systematic racism and it really touched a nerve. I think it touched a nerve in all of us. And certainly me, I think both on a personal and a professional level. And so it’s really triggered me and I think so many people around me to look at things differently.
And it’s caused me to pause and ask questions of myself, some tough questions in terms of how I see work and how I see life and my role as a leader at Eagle Hill. And so I really see this as an opportunity for me to open up, to learn how to do better, to be vulnerable, and see things that maybe I haven’t seen before. And so and to take this approach, I’ve realized that the conversations that we need to have in order to move this forward aren’t the ones that are necessarily a part, a natural part of the corporate world. So I think for me, certainly this moment feels different.
And so with that, I’d love to ask Pedro kind of his take on that same concept. So 2020 has been such a year of disruption, as we all know, right, on so many levels, that it feels like history is kind of being reshaped in front of us. So as it relates to diversity and inclusion Pedro, I’m interested in your perspective on this moment and whether you see something different here than you have before.
Yes, thank you, Melissa. And just listening to your opening comments, it makes me reflect even on my own journey. And when you think about the recent events that you just referenced, and the difference that I’m experiencing now, you think about 2020. 2020 everyone was coming in, it’s oh the roaring 20s. Well, 2020 did come in roaring.
That it did.
Soon after the new year we were introduced to this, we went into this whole pandemic. Then the social unrest that you just mentioned. Add on top of that the political environment that we’re in. We’re in an election year. You talk about disruption. Now, in the business world, we look at disruption as a way to innovate. You think about business disrupters like Amazon. When Amazon came in, they changed everything from logistics to shipping to buying.
And you think about the events that triggered this, conversations that we’re starting to have, it was based on, we’ve been put or thrusted right in the front of the social injustices that exist in society. And what I see different is to your point in your message is that the difference now is that there are a lot of more individuals asking questions. There are a lot more individuals coming to the table to seek to understand and asking questions, how can I get involved?
And why I feel that this is different, talk about disruptors and disruption, technology brought us front and center into what happened to George Floyd. So we were able to see in the moment the experience. And as humans our emotions drive the things that we’re saying how we react to things.
Not to say that things in the past didn’t, from an emotional state, didn’t pull on those, but to see the struggle, to see and hear his voice question a lot of the things that we thought to be normal, just hey they were just following procedures and so forth.
So to me what’s different this time and I see as a turning point, is that there’s a lot more questions being happening in individuals that are not part of the black or African American community are asking questions and knowing to understand that the marginalized voices need to be amplified by those that are in positions of power and authority.
And that to me is I see it happening in society and I see it happening across organizations, is that there’s a genuine desire to seek to understand and there’s a genuine desire to get involved on an individual personal level.
Yeah, I think that’s very true. For me, I can tell you just personally for me, and I started saying that, I knew that even back for a couple years, I knew it was good for business.
I knew it was the right thing to do. But I think up until recently, I never felt it is the best way, I never felt it like I feel it now. And I think if nothing else, I’m feeling other people kind of have that same, it went from the head to the heart in a very real way.
Yeah. And that connection between the head and the heart, and when we make those connections, it puts us in a state of inquiry. And in that state of inquiry, we start to ask and wonder. And you look at again, what’s happening in society and the types of conversations that we’re having, 5, 10 years ago we were said we shouldn’t really be talking about this. We shouldn’t, I’ve consulted many organizations says hey, and I’ve asked the questions, are you ready to have the race dialogue?
And it’s like well we don’t really know and let’s just focus on the diversity part. But now it’s such an important piece because it starts to uncover the experiences that we had. And basically many of us, even myself included being in this role, we don’t know what we don’t know because we’re so focused on our own experiences and looking at the world through our own lenses.
So we’ve been talking about the need to open ourselves up to conversations on topics that can be very uncomfortable and uncertain to have, obviously especially in the workplace. So as a starting point, I’m interested to hear your thoughts on why you think it’s important to have these conversations at work and the impact you think they have not only on individuals and teams, but on organizations.
Yeah, so when I think about the why it’s important to have these uncomfortable conversations, I go back to my experience as a consultant. And whenever I had to deal with an uncomfortable conversation, it was, I felt it was necessary in order to solve something, right.
So uncomfortableness brings that. But I also know that whenever I find myself to be in an uncomfortable state, is because I am finding myself in a position or situation that I have no experience, I’ve never been exposed to. And what that does, the important, and why is it important to do that now again, to my previous comments, it allows us to be able to seek to understand.
And for those that have experienced racist remarks or been involved in biased situations, it allows them to share their experiences. And through the storytelling and through the conversations we are allowed to be able to see through someone other’s experiences, a point, a different point of view, a very different perspective. So the reason that these uncomfortable conversations are important is for those of us that are in a listening mode, it helps us to learn.
It help us to understand. We don’t necessarily have to have all of the answers. But if we listen with intentionality, we’re able to begin to uncover things that might have not be visibly present to us. For those that are sharing, it’s important to have an environment where they’re feeling being heard and seen. In one of the phrases that I’ve heard many times, and ever since we started these conversations over the last several months is: I see you and I hear you.
As human beings, our natural instinct is to want to be connected, to want to be heard. And those of us that are in a leadership position, it’s important to help amplify those voices of individuals that might not have the opportunity to share.
I’ve been saying to a couple of people, who have said to me along this path well, again I don’t, I’ve always been taught not to do this. So why should I do this now?
Why should I start having these conversations now? And one of the things I keep saying was like look, we’ve been taught this for so long, and we haven’t been doing it and look how well that’s worked for us, right? It hasn’t. So how to, I’ve been thinking of it in a way, too to like trying to normalize something that’s new and that until we normalize it, we can’t kind of build on it.
Yeah and on that point, Melissa, most of most of us, and I’d include myself, is that sometimes we are hesitant and having a conversation because we’re so concerned about what we’re going to say or how we’re going to say it, whether it’s right or wrong. And to me, it’s just more of when you approach this in a way, in a state of inquiry, and saying look, I just want to seek to understand.
And I’ve been in this work ever since I started my professional career 30 years ago. And I and to this day, I’m still learning. Being a practitioner, I still, there are things that I still don’t know.
There are cultures I’m still seeking to understand. And that’s part of what these un-comfortable conversations lead to, is just to be able to explore things in a very different way. And fear gets the best of us because it does, when fear comes in, we’d rather not have the conversation because our natural instinct of stay, fight, or flight kicks in. As human beings our natural instinct is to protect self.
And when it comes to this, the best way to protect self is not to say anything. I’d rather not say something or engage in this because A), I don’t want to hurt someone’s feelings, or I don’t want to put myself in a situation that makes me, it puts me either in a bad light or uncomfortable.
Yeah. Someone said to me, the only thing that you can say right now that’s the wrong thing is nothing at all.
And that’s something that I’ve often thought about. And I will say, and I mentioned this to you even the other day, is that I have found when you do approach a conversation, especially with the seeking to understand and a level of humility, that 9 times out of 10 you are received and given more grace than you ever deserve from the person on the other side of the table.
And I think it’s scary until you just have to try to do it, right? And I think that if maybe, hopefully then, back to this concept of normalizing, then it will become not so scary anymore.
At Eagle Hill, we have something that, we’ve had it in place now for a couple of years, but we’ve been trying to leverage it even more so now is this concept, we call it our Let’s Talk About It series, where we bring everyone together and we try to talk about and unpack really tough issues. And one of the things I’ve loved about that process myself is that it creates a place where we kind of have these ground rules where we kind of present ourselves to say look, none of us may be experts.
But we’re all here to learn from each other and learn and grow together and keeping an open mind and being respectful and being humble. And it’s, I think it’s creating those ground rules and those establishments really does create a lot of trust and creates an opportunity for people to risk trying to have the conversation.
Yeah, and part of that, too is just as leaders or whoever is facilitating those conversations, is to begin to have a level of vulnerability. Because often I talk to CEOs of organizations and I understand the weight that fits on the shoulders of CEOs because you represent your organization and always careful about what you’re saying. But I’ve found is that through the power of storytelling and sharing and having a little bit of vulnerability and say look, I want to engage in this conversation.
I just don’t know how, but I’m curious. My coaching has always been is like approach of like a five-year old, right. A five-year old looks at the world with a lot of curiosity, with a lot of questioning to the point that they begin to really unpack and learn. And sometimes as a leader in hosting these conversations, our sole responsibility should be just to listen.
Because to your point, in this Let’s Talk conversations, I’ve found myself in situations where I didn’t have an answer, or I didn’t know how to respond to something. And in what I found was that most of the time, to your earlier point about individuals showing grace, is that they just want to—individuals want to be heard and they want to share their stories.
They want to share the perspectives and point of view and say hey look at my, look at the view of my world from my lens. I always share a quote from Stephen Covey that says we see the world not as it is, but as we are, right. And getting into these conversations allows us again to have a very different perspective and point of view.
I’m a native New Yorker born and raised in Brooklyn. And I tell you is that the way that I see and experience the world is through that lens. And as I’ve traveled the world and gone to different things and have engaged in conversations, I’m able at times to pivot, but then I go back to my ways of well wait a minute, this is, as a New Yorker, this is how I do certain things, right.
But yeah, and that’s the beauty of having these conversations because these conversations is, it’s not about blame, shame or guilt. It’s about sharing our experiences.
And those are what it—our experiences are our experiences, and through that we hopefully learn from one another.
So that’s, I want to ask you about kind of middle managers. I have noticed that sometimes the more senior you get, you’re used to being in uncomfortable situations already, right? You’re used to being in areas that are gray and so you can lean on that kind of skill a little bit when going into having some of these conversations.
So any advice or recommendations for folks that may be not as far along in their own leadership journey, and are trying to think about how to have these conversations, and being able to address the fears that they may say something wrong? So just any advice for some of these folks?
Yes I would say, and I go back to my days where I had teams and were in similar situations, I struggled with approaching difficult conversations or struggled with at times giving bias or feedback.
And one of the things that I learned very quickly through conversation with mentors is again, just that level of transparency and say look, I understand certain things may be going on, are you, ask for permission to have a conversation. Because not everyone may be ready to have a conversation, so that’s the first step. An example, I would approach it hey Melissa, I’ve noticed things to be going on. I’m curious about this particular situation. Are you willing to engage in a conversation with me? Because I have some questions.
Again, you approach it in that way—you’re inviting the individual into a dialogue and then off the bat, that relieves some of the concerns of hey, how am I going to approach this, right. So what you’re doing is you’re inviting, you invite that person for the conversation and ask them for permission to engage with them in a dialogue.
And I would also say to take an introspective look, what are some of the concerns that you have about the conversation or the situation? And say what are my own experiences? What are my feelings about this? And begin to unpack some of that a little bit. Because then that will help you to think about the types of questions that you may ask, or you may want to ask. I always say it’s important to follow the rules that many of us who get on fights always get—put the mask on yourself before you can, you’re going to help someone else.
So whenever I go onto any conversations like what, go through, I go through this thought process—what am I, how am I feeling about this? What am I thinking about this? What’s my point of view? Again to your earlier point, connecting the mind with the heart, right. Here are my thoughts, but how am I feeling? Because then understanding my emotions drives the words and language that I use and also how I interact with the individual.
So bringing synergy between my language, my body, and my emotion allows me to understand a better way to engage in the conversation. So invite individuals to the conversation to understand and take that introspective look on self. And then the third piece is just how do you language it? How do you, understanding how you’re feeling about it, and what your body’s telling you. We always said hey, follow your gut. And that’s, those are some advices I would give to individuals.
Excellent. So what are some tools you see, Pedro as the most essential for companies to build to be able to have productive conversations around this?
So there are many different tools that are out there, just like courageous conversations and so forth. And I’d say that the most simplistic way, and I like to look at things from a very simple perspective, is that find forums like you did around these Let’s Talk discussions where you set some ground rules.
Don’t get too rigid in formality and in formulas and so forth. Set some very basic ground rules of how do you want to have a conversation? Yes, there are some very good tools that are out there around holding courageous conversations. You can put some leader-led discussion guides in place that outlines here is the objective of the session that you want to hold, here’s some ground rules we want to share, and here’s the desired outcome to help facilitate.
But not get—not over-engineer it. Because again, this is about trying to create human connection in a very simple way, in a very structured way to allow conversations really to go where they need to go. Because it’s an evolution that we would go through in order to make sure that we have that continuous learning cycle.
So again, the simplest tool is just very simple guidelines, create a space of safety, and just create a forum where you can continue to have those conversations, whether it’s in a large forum or a small intimate setting.
One tool that I say, that I will say that has been helpful for Eagle Hill leadership so far in our journey is we just as a group finished taking Eddie Moore Jr.’s 21-day racial equity habit building challenge. I’m not sure if you’ve heard of it. And we got into smaller cohorts and we did the challenge over three weeks and we spent time together talking about what we learned and reflecting. And we kind of kept a joint journal as a way to start creating, not only to create more of that introspection to your point, but also to create more habit around being able to talk about it.
Yeah, as I listen to you, Melissa, the other tool that I have on my shelf here that I constantly go to is called Inclusion Nudges by Lisa Kepinski.
I’ll have to check that out.
And that is a tool that again, it just provides resources to very simple, logical steps that individuals can take across all dimensions of diversity. And I found that to be very helpful because Lisa and her partner share very practical things that we can do on a day-to-day basis. Again, simplicity is the best way. And it doesn’t have to get too complicated or over-cumbersome.
An example one of the things that I’ve experienced and shared is having leadership teams after you’ve done this session, some type of session, is talk about what have you done differently since we have last spoken? Or what new observation have you made about self, your teams, or the organization since we’ve last met?
So you continue to have that dialogue and again, very simple tool that you can integrate in any of your conversations and meetings without having to, a big production behind it.
Awesome. Well, I think those are the questions I had about uncomfortable conversations. I thought maybe we could turn it over to the audience and see if they might have some questions.
Thank you all both so much. So now we’re on the Q&A portion of the session. If you have any questions, as a reminder, you’ve got a question box on your control panel. Just type your question there and I will read it out loud and either Pedro and/or Melissa can take a shot at it. So it looks like we’ve got a couple already.
“Part of the problem in our organization is that no one owns diversity and inclusion. Is there a productive way that myself as a manager can try to help handle that and change that?”
Yeah, I can start Melissa, and then would love to get your perspective, being the CEO of an organization. That is a challenge. I’m a firm believer, if this isn’t part of someone’s day responsibility, it’s always a challenge. But as an individual contributor, you can play your part by making sure that you look at those areas that you can control within your sphere of influence and start thinking about the processes that you execute, and say where can I have an impact on the, on whether it’s how I am putting my teams together, or how I am running my meetings to make sure that all of the different voices.
Right now we’re in a very mobile environment, very easy that in a large setting for those that find themselves to be introverted to really fade to the back, right. So I always, when in having these meetings, I always scan the room and whenever to possible say, hey listen, if you feel comfortable, please turn on your camera.
If you don’t, I make it a priority to make sure I do a quick roll call. And if I don’t hear from someone say, hey Melissa, I haven’t heard for you. We just want to make sure if there’s anything that you want to add.
So again, there’s things that no one is really focused on is to take a look at your respective world and the things that you can have influence and it’s like, how can I drive behavioral change over time by modeling it, right? Because to me, it’s just more, it’s my job as a D&I practitioner is not to change people, but to create opportunities where they’re able to understand how they interact with the world and how their experiences affect the decisions that they make—who you’re selecting on your team. Are you going to your usual suspects? When it says, hey I need a project. I always say hey, if you’re thinking about a project and you’re thinking about who is your no look pass to, think about it.
Who are you passing things where you’re not even thinking about it? Is it the same person? Right, well stop and pause and who else can I engage in this conversation or in this process of activity?
So for me, Melissa, I’d be curious to say, you just started this journey for yourself a couple of years. How do you see that? Or how do you empower your associates or employees to really take ownership for this?
That’s a really good question. I would say, I just want to add I completely agree with your points about kind of being a manager and if someone doesn’t own it in your organization, you can only kind of focus on your sphere of control.
And I also do think that if you really want to make a change in the organization, it has to be top-down. But I think I look at it, and I know this is something you and I even talked about, is that I view it very much as a culture change.
And that my job is to make sure I’m imparting on everyone that my expectation is that we are all creating a more inclusive environment at Eagle Hill. And so that’s the frame upon which I’m approaching this is how do I enable all of my team to do that?
One exercise we just did this week that I thought was really, really interesting is I had my whole leadership team take a look and write down, I don’t know if you’ve ever seen this exercise, but write down kind of who their inner circle was, kind of from a top three or four inner circle folks. And then to analyze those three or four people of their own inner circle against how they were different than themselves.
So were they different gender? Were they different age? Were they different sex? Were they different, whatever, age and gender, sex and gender being the same one. But sexuality preference, the whole, kind of a whole list. And to take a look and look at your own relationships from a bird’s eye view.
And look at that as a way to identify themes and trends so that you can be more kind of open and reflective on your own behavior. So to your point, maybe I do need to kind of build some other relationships so that I’m not always going to the same people, that I can figure out who else I need to include in my day-to-day kind of interactions.
Great. We have a couple more questions so I’ll just keep running through those. “Sometimes I feel that I am going to say the wrong thing when I have these conversations, and I’ve heard other folks say the same thing. If you have any suggestions on sort of how to overcome those fears or empower myself in my communications with my team?”
Yes, and it’s, thank you for that question. I just had a similar discussion with a local CEO here in Florida and I’ll share the same advice that I shared with her.
And that is to seek to understand where that fear is coming from and use that to formulate the types of questions that you have. And say hey, if I were talking to myself, what would I say to myself? And really going back to my previous point is engage with the individual and say look, I have questions. I don’t know what types of questions I have in terms of where they’re going to go. My concern is that I don’t know how to ask the question. Again, are you willing to engage with me as I seek to learn and understand it?
And it gets back to that level of vulnerability. Because that part of that fear of being afraid of that I’m going to say the wrong thing is that as managers and leaders, we always carry this burden on our self that we have to have the answer for everything and that we have to be right about everything.
And I’ve given myself the grace, I always say, tell individuals give yourself some grace. Because as a manager, there are so many different things that you’re responsible for. And to Melissa, to your earlier point, not having a conversation is a louder conversation than having one and being afraid of what to say.
So the first step is inviting into the conversation, being vulnerable and say, “Hey look, I’m concerned about what I may say, so just know that I am in a state of inquiry.” And most often, you will find that people are willing to engage in this conversation and go along with you on that journey. Because this is a journey, it’s not going to happen overnight. And it takes some time to get to a point where the words will flow, the conversations will come, and you will be surprised as to the types of things feedback and questions that you receive back.
Because then what happens is this back and forth dialogue. Because in your conversation, the person on the other side will start to see a different perspective and different point of view that they might not have had. And to me, that’s where that beauty of conversation becomes a dance. And you go back and forth in a discussion. So give yourself some grace. Again, come at it with a state of inquiry, ask for permission for discussion. And then give yourself the disclaimer, look I’m concerned about what I’m going to say and just know that it’s coming from a genuine place of seeking to understand.
I would add as someone myself who has only started having these type of conversations at work, in fact my first conversation, my first real significant conversation about race at work was at one of these Let’s Talk About It sessions at Eagle Hill. And I kind of laugh about that to myself because it was with like 250 people on a Zoom call and I’m thinking this is probably not ideal to have my first conversation.
But one of the things I would agree with as well is the vulnerability, is just, especially from a leadership perspective, I think it’s really important to share where you are personally. And I have found people really are receptive. Like I said the same word grace. Like I was joking actually on that Let’s Talk About It, I was joking that I had, well that’s not even really a joke. But I had that morning read an article about the five things you should not say to your black friends. And I had realized, I had already said three of the five just that day, right.
But I think again, I think you find if you approach the conversations in a way that you are vulnerable, and much like Pedro was saying, is that you will receive more grace than you ever expected to, or that you deserve to or whatever, then and the conversation does start to flow like you’re saying Pedro, that dance where you start really listening to each other.
We have a couple questions and comments about some of the resources that you all recommended. Some comments are “I love the habit building challenge and some of the books that Pedro had recommended. If you can send around the links to those, we would be appreciative.” A couple comments from folks, “and if you have any other resources or books that you recommend, we’d love to get links to those also.”
Yeah, sorry I was just looking on my shelf.
There are definitely some resources that I will share with the group.
Great. Another question we have, “We have D&I as one of our performance objectives each year. Do you have thoughts and some tangible actions you recommend to make it truly happen and to help the organizations move toward a culture change that we all need, rather than just sort of check the box items?”
Yeah, so it’s, this is a conversation I have all the time, not only with my teams, but with other peers.
To me, it’s like the, this work that we’re on has to be considered as a journey. And as you think about setting goals and objectives, you can only be able to accomplish those goals and objectives if you clearly understand where the organization is, where individuals are. Because you will need to go alongside and come alongside wherever on that change journey individuals are.
So to me is when you’re thinking about setting objectives and goals is having that clearly readiness assessment for the organization. How ready is this? Again, like I mentioned before, having conversations with organizations about the level of readiness to have race discussions. Well five, six months ago no one was ready.
But yet the environments of society thrusted all of us front and center said well, if you’re not ready, you will need to be ready now, right. So part of the overall objectives is again, doing that readiness assessments like where is the organization? Where are the individual leaders? And coming alongside them.
And they have to be reasonable and attainable. You don’t want to put something that is far outreaching. Absolutely should you strive for aspirational goals? Yes. But when you’re talking about whether it’s recruitment, retention, or involvement, it’s like what is realistic based on what the load of the individual is, where the organization is, and the maturity of the organization?
So to me, it comes down to all of that. That might sound like a consultant response, it depends on where the organization and individuals are. And you can do those things.
For example having leaders engage and sponsor specific initiatives. Individual practitioners—ensuring that they participate in X number of events throughout the year. If you have learning objective, identify which, what courses or content would be required and say you should participate in an unconscious bias conversation. So making sure that those objectives are attainable by the individual and the organization.
But it really has to start with understanding where on that change journey individuals are and coming alongside them. And it’s going to vary by the organization. And you can have an umbrella objective, but you have to have enough flexibility that each business unit may have a different goal or objective based on where they are. So it’s not a one-size-fits-all.
You can have an infrastructure in place and say we’re going to focus on workforce, workplace community, but each part of the business may be in a different part of that journey across any of those pillars.
Thank you. The next question for Pedro, “Can you give me some suggestions on how to stay motivated? As a black woman, I just get tired some times of every day I feel like I have to work twice as hard as others. Even though I want to be part of the change and contribute something, sometimes thinking about certain issues just brings anger and resentment.”
Yeah, thank you for that question whoever asked it. It’s a challenge, and many of us that identify with this specific demographic is that first of all, I always say is do not feel responsible for educating others. That is not your responsibility, that is not other responsibility.
Part of this conversation today about having these difficult conversations is that it has to come from the individual self. What I would say is that we do, by sharing our stories and experiences, we can help with the educational piece. And I would say, to me the motivation comes through helping others who are willing to engage in that conversation. Again, with not taking that burden on self, but when individuals reach out, be willing to share the story, be willing to share the good, the bad, and the ugly as I say.
For me, where my motivation comes in is engaging in these discussions, but most importantly, where I’m able to pull up other individuals along with me, regardless of what gender or ethnicity they represent.
But I always start is like those of us that identify with a particular race or ethnicity, we should not carry the burden of having to fear that we have to educate others. That’s an individual responsibility. But through our actions and through our activities, we can help move the agenda and move forward.
There was a period of my time where I said look, I don’t want to get engaged with any of this diversity initiative, because I’m tired, I’m frustrated. There are things that I experience on a day-to-day basis that others may not have to experience. And it is tiring and it is exhausting.
So again, like I said before, it’s like as individuals, we have to give ourselves grace. So don’t feel like you’re not contributing if you don’t want to participate. It’s okay. Again, it’s more of how do we take accountability for what we have control over and really being able to engage and partner against, partnership, but not put it on self.
Thanks so much. Another question, “Do you have any suggestions on taking the temperature of your employee base on these issues? I know we’ve done surveys in the past, but I don’t know if that’s appropriate for this sort of issue.”
I’ll share, Melissa, I would love to get your perspective, again in terms of what you’re doing. So there are a couple of ways of taking this, of doing this. Surveys is the most natural way of doing it. But I also believe small focus group conversations is a very, another powerful way of engaging. Because in through a focus group, you can structure them in however you want—by level, by location. And the way you structure is also important. It should be very small, you should not have any reporting structures in there. So I’ve always found focus groups as a very good way of getting the pulse of what’s going on.
And also in having questions in your associate or employee engagement surveys, is making sure that there are questions about diversity, inclusion, and belonging in the surveys. And as you do your pulse checks, that you’re constantly monitoring any shifts in associates’ experience, right. Because at the end of the day is about the employee experience and the value proposition.
So I would say focus group first. Second is figure out a way to integrate inclusion, diversity, and belonging questions into any associate or employee surveys that you push out.
And Melissa, just curious is just how do you keep the pulse of it?
Well I’ve been looking at it from a kind of a well I think, I completely agree with your focus group idea. We have been, first off just making it everyone’s job to understand whatever the, all my leaders job to understand what the pulse of the organization is.
So making sure we’re continually talking to people and understanding where people are at. One thing that I’ve been kind of thinking, the way I’ve been thinking about it, is that I have to get my leaders kind of engaged and onboard, and starting to kind of pushing it from that angle. Meanwhile, kind of understanding where all of my more junior folks are.
But I will say, 9 times out of 10, it’s not your junior folks who are struggling with this question. It tends to be more, I hate to say it, but it probably tends to be more the senior folks that, or the, I think there’s age that plays into it basically, which often aligns to seniority in an organization.
Because again, we’re the ones who have been taught you shouldn’t be talking about this. So I think you’re starting to unlearn some behaviors. So anyway, focus groups are a big one.
Surveys I do think are a great one. Our Let’s Talk About It series has been a wonderful way for us to kind of keep a pulse on organizations. I host a 15-minute phone call with my entire organization once a week. And people can submit questions anonymously or ask questions in the forum itself. So that’s another great way where we kind of get a sense of what’s happening in our organization. So I think it’s just really talking to lots of people.
Great. Thanks, everyone for all those questions. We’re right at 2:45 so I will turn it over in just a second to Melissa to close us out. But just to follow up, we will be sending out an email to you with a follow-up. And we’ll certainly send out links to the resources that both Melissa and Pedro mentioned. So watch for that in the next couple days or so.
And we thank you for all of those questions. And if we didn’t cover your question, I think we grouped a couple of them, so I hope that I got to everyone’s question. But if not, we can reach out to you and follow up one-on-one with some your questions.
So thank you for that and I’ll turn it over to Melissa to close us out.
Well, I just want to give a huge thank you to Pedro for joining me today and letting me pick your brain. It’s been wonderful to get to know you and thank you so much for taking the time to join us today.
It’s been my pleasure, Melissa. And I look forward to continuing to participating in the conversation.
Wonderful. Thank you everyone very much. I enjoyed talking with you all. Have a wonderful day.
00:45:34 [End of recording]