This is short Q&A I did with my colleague and Executive Assistant Lizzie Salsich. I hope it helps my readers get to know me and my approach to DEI&B a little more! Enjoy.
1. What first brought you into this work?
I left being a leader in for- and non-profit organizations in the mid-90s and decided to go into consulting on my own. At the time I was focused just on generic leadership development and team building. I lucked into some great engagements, including being a consultant for Duke Leadership Training Associates at Duke Power where I got to work with organizations like Novozymes and the EPA. Then in 2000 I attended a white men’s caucus run by White Men as Full Diversity Partners and it changed everything for me. Suddenly, as a man and a leader, I saw a whole body of work before me that I hadn’t even considered and, frankly, was embarrassed to have missed given some of the underrepresented populations I had been serving for over 20 years. Today my journey in that work continues and I and have just as much to learn as the day I started – just in different ways.
2. What is the most important thing for you in doing this work?
It’s really easy to focus on what we as consultants and facilitators need to do and say to help clients when we are working with them, but the reality is this work is always about the client – what they are able and willing to commit to in terms of moving towards equity. If we’re purely listening and seeing what’s real for them, and advising them based on where they are, the rest falls into place. I guess it’s as simple as making the shift from presentation to being present.
3. What is one common mistake you see leaders making when it comes to DEI&B?
I think the only way I can answer this question is to break it into two parts: Part 1 would be, what mistakes do I see the insider group members make as leaders when it comes to DEI&B? And Part 2 would be, what mistakes might leaders in general make?
What I see about insider group members is they don’t understand the advantages they have as members of the dominant group, much less how people behave differently around them because they are leaders. They forget the impact of power on people who feel like they are in a power-down position.
My answer for leaders in general would be that typically the C-suite or senior-most members of the organization think it’s important for everybody else to understand about DEI&B as if they either don’t have anything to learn or the investment in their development isn’t worth as much. The truth is, unless the senior team members are not only aware of their own areas of development but also demonstrably practicing inclusion and equity in the way they lead, it doesn’t matter how “with it” everyone else is, the sustainability of the effort will be at risk.
4. What relationships hold you accountable to your work in DEI&B?
I haven’t made it official yet but I have a small but potent Advisory Board of colleagues who I rely on to tell me when my view of the world is either skewed due to my social group identity or personality, or if I am missing some situation altogether. It’s not their job to convince me, but when they speak from their truth, if I am listening, it’s really helpful.
Recently a colleague and employee of mine gave me feedback about how I move too fast and might make fewer mistakes if I would slow down. I felt like it might have been risky for her to tell me that, and of course I’ve heard it before and believed it, but for some reason hadn’t taken it to heart. What was different this time was that my colleague told me how she was noticing my approach was impacting ME without guilt, blame or shame. I like to think I’ve taken her feedback to heart.
5. What’s your favorite thing to do when you’re not working?
This is going to sound like a stock answer, but, for me, being outdoors is the one activity that heals everything else – that and having time with my person, my partner, and my love, Moe. Both of us started our careers in the therapeutic outdoor wilderness arena working with at-risk kids and people. I eventually owned a commercial rafting and guiding company and did all that stuff for a living. Now it’s just nice to be outdoors for leisure, doing almost anything from skiing to biking to taking a nap in the woods.