The following is a conversation between Sally Helgesen, author of Rising Together: How We Can Bridge Divides and Create a More Inclusive Workplace, and Denver Frederick, the Host of The Business of Giving.
Denver: My next guest maintains that it’s easier to act our way into new ways of thinking than to think our ways into new ways of acting. Nowhere is this more true than in the workplace where so many organizations are striving to create a culture of belonging. She is Sally Helgesen, the world’s premier expert on women’s leadership and an internationally bestselling author, speaker, and leadership coach.
Her most recent book is Rising Together: How We Can Bridge Divides and Create a More Inclusive Workplace. And she’s with us now.
Welcome to The Business of Giving, Sally.
Sally: Thank you, Denver. It’s great to be with you.
Denver: I know of you primarily from your work you’ve done with women’s leadership and specifically your wonderful book, How Women Rise, so I was a little surprised and delighted when I first saw Rising Together. What was the inspiration for writing it, Sally?
Sally: The inspiration for writing it was I was doing a women’s leadership program at the Construction Super Conference in Las Vegas where there were about 6,000 men. And so I expected, I went down to my breakout room, I thought that I would have about a hundred/150 women, who were feeling that they weren’t making their voices heard.
And I walked into that room, and there were about 300 people, and they were mostly men. And I was so astonished. And so I was completely unprepared too because I was going to direct this very much at the women. And so I started asking: Why did you come?
And I heard a lot about things that I already knew, that they needed to get better at attracting and retaining women because that’s who was in the workforce, and they didn’t think they did a very good job of it. And they knew that they wouldn’t remain competitive if they didn’t have access to a wider talent base than they had in the past.
But then one man stood up and he said, “Listen, I hope you don’t waste your time telling us all the reasons we need to get better at this. We know them! We get it! We just don’t know how to do it. That’s what we need to learn.”
And since I’d had so much success with How Women Rise, which is very how-focused, very tactical, I thought, Okay, I’m going to write a book on the hows of creating organizations that everybody feels a part of, wants to join, wants to stay with, because I know something about that. So that’s what I set out to do. I had written a book back in 1995 called The Web of Inclusion.
Denver: Right, I recall.
Sally: Yeah. So there was a real link back to The Web of Inclusion there, not just women’s leadership. So it feels like a good place to be.
“…one of the chief ones that I really worked with in the book is that there are all kinds of triggers that get set off with people when they’re in a situation with people they feel who are different from them… who are either, they believe, more advantaged, or communicate in a different way, are offensive in some way. So there are all kinds of little triggers that can get ticked off.”
Denver: It is a great space to be, and I love the word “how.” We have too much in this society about the whats, and when I even think about an organization’s culture, it’s not really so important what you do, it’s how you do it. Because the whats are always going to change, and the how you do something is going to be the thing that’s going to stick and last. So boy, that word “how” is great.
So what makes it so darn difficult, Sally, to bridge divides in the workplace?
Sally: Well, I think a couple things, but one of the chief ones that I really worked with in the book is that there are all kinds of triggers that get set off with people when they’re in a situation with people they feel who are different from them… who are either, they believe, more advantaged or communicate in a different way, are offensive in some way.
So there are all kinds of little triggers that can get ticked off. And the problem with the triggers is not the triggers themselves. We operate in an environment in which triggers arise naturally. They do not lie within our control.
Marshall Goldsmith, who wrote the book on triggers– the book is called Triggers– said that our working environment is a nonstop triggering machine. And I think this is particularly true now where there’s so many different people with different backgrounds, experiences. They bring that with them to work.
So the problem is not the triggers themselves, it’s how we manage them because what we tend to do when we’re triggered is we default to a narrative about why this person or this group or whatever is the way they are.
And it operates all kinds of ways. I mean, I’m very alive to it because I’ve worked with so many women, so I hear all the time… I’ve been hearing for decades, “Well, this organization, they only choose guys. That’s why I didn’t get promoted.” That may be true. It may be true, but it may not be true.
Maybe you weren’t promoted because he did something that you hadn’t done… or demonstrated a certain set of skills, or did not demonstrate a certain set of skills that indicated to people that he would be right for this, that, or the other job.
Maybe he talked about it nonstop. Maybe he went in and said: What do I need to get that job? You don’t know. So just assuming that– Well, this organization only promotes men– just doesn’t serve you. It really doesn’t. It’s information that you generally don’t have confirmed, and it doesn’t give you a path forward.
So the first part of the book, I’m really talking about some common triggers, how they operate, and more effective ways, the how of it, to manage those triggers that does give you a path forward and helps you create alliances more broadly.
Denver: Well, let’s take an example. You have eight common triggers in the book, and one that I think I run into most frequently is visibility. So walk us through that. Tell us what happens, how people generally react, and maybe the way they should be thinking of reacting.
Sally: Well, first of all, visibility can operate in different ways. If you feel you are not recognized enough in your organization, you can be triggered by that. So, that trigger will generally manifest like, Oh, you know that guy… Okay. Say you’re a woman and you feel that what you do is not sufficiently seen or regarded; maybe you’re talked over in meetings.
Maybe someone in a meeting reframes your idea, and other people seem to notice it and pick it up. And what you’ll often do then is think, “Oh, well, that guy’s such a showboat”; or “If I have to be like him, no, thank you!” in order to get noticed around here. No, thank you.
So you are triggered by other people’s visibility because you lack it yourself. But also, you can be triggered if you’re very good at visibility, that is positioning what you do to get noticed and recognized and valued because it’s a skill.
If you’re good at it, and you’re working with someone who isn’t, who’s overly humble or shy or doesn’t want to insert themselves in, you can be triggered by that and think, “Well, that person’s not a player. They must not have much to say. They’re shy like a teenager,” whatever it is.
So we can be triggered by the ways other people are either visible or not visible depending on where we fall on the spectrum. And again here, it’s the narrative, the story we tell ourselves that doesn’t serve us. “Oh, I don’t want to be like him, he’s a showboat.” Okay, fine. How is he a showboat? “Oh, he always seems to speak up first and blah…”
Okay. Is there something there you could learn from since you’re uncomfortable with that? Are there ways in which you don’t have to be like him? But if he says, Well, I had the client eating out of my hand, can you say, Well, I really bonded with that client, and I think we developed a useful relationship?
So there are all kinds of stories you can tell yourself that will be more productive. And the important thing about shifting the narrative… so I really encourage people to sort of rewrite the script and rewrite the script so it gives you something to do that’s positive. That’s the how. And the thing about it is, you don’t have to believe it.
You can still think the guy’s a showboat, but that script isn’t serving you. So you are going to act in a way as if you believe this script. There’s something I can learn, there’s something I can learn here. This is a skill. I can master the skill. It will be better for me, for my team, for the organization if I get more comfortable with this. So what can I learn?
“And yes, authenticity, being yourself is important. And I think there’s a huge emphasis on it now, on the positive side. It’s because a lot of people have felt that they couldn’t bring their real selves to work at all. This is especially true with people from cultures that have been marginalized, gay people, et cetera. They felt like they could not be who they were or even disclose who they were. So there’s a great value placed on authenticity. This is a good thing.”
Denver: No, that’s really smart. I mean, we have a habitual way of responding to situations, and maybe even those responses served us at one point of our lives, but we never take the moment. “Is that still serving me now?” And should I count to three and think of maybe another way to look at it because you know, you’re pretty much stuck in place if you continue to respond.
But Sally, people will say: Well, that’s who I am. Authenticity. Tell me about the authenticity trap.
Sally: Well, in fact, I started thinking about authenticity as a trap because when I was working with clients, let’s rewrite the script. Let’s write a script that will serve you better. Then the thing I would get was: Well, I do believe this person’s a showboat.
I do believe that this person’s way of communicating is obnoxious. I do believe that this is the wrong way to form a network. That network should be completely…not serve the interest of oneself. So that’s what I get. I don’t believe that so why would I write a script that would reflect that?
But it kind of goes… Marshall has a wonderful phrase– Marshall Goldsmith– that he uses, in What Got You Here Won’t Get You There, his print book. And he talks about one of the things that trips people up, is an excessive need to be me.
And yes, authenticity, being yourself is important. And I think there’s a huge emphasis on it now, on the positive side. It’s because a lot of people have felt that they couldn’t bring their real selves to work at all. This is especially true with people from cultures that have been marginalized, gay people, et cetera. They felt like they could not be who they were or even disclose who they were. So there’s a great value placed on authenticity. This is a good thing.
On the other hand, privileging authenticity above all and remaining stuck in the desire, the excessive need to be me, even when it’s not serving you– “I’m just not the kind of person who…” is usually the tip-off that somebody’s invested in this– doesn’t really make much sense because you’re undercutting yourself. And so you’re going to remain stuck in kind of a mindset of negativity and even grievance, which isn’t really going to get you verified.
Denver: Oh, no, you’ll never grow. And I wonder, Sally, also, how much of it is ego? And I don’t mean that in, I have a big ego. I made it in the Super Id Ego Id way, that this is who I am, and people expect that of me, that I’m going to react in a certain way. And if I don’t react that way, they’ll say, Hey, what’s happened to Denver?
“I mean, he’s not reacting that way. He’s like… he used to be doing the all-nighter with us. So now that he’s too fancy, he doesn’t do the all-nighter anymore.” And I think a lot of people are afraid of losing that identity, so they stick with it even though they don’t want to.
Sally: Well, that’s a really good point, and we can’t let other people define what our identity is. I mean, that’s really not the point of being authentic, is letting other people define it. And it is something that does hold people back from changing. They may feel… I’ve worked with a number of people who are always worried about seeming too big for their britches. And part of that is often loyalty to their family of origin.
I’ve worked with people from cultures where you don’t put yourself forward. The boss is always right. You accept what they say. And the person that I’m working with has really grown beyond that kind of passive approach, but it’s very hard for them to break through because it feels as if they are being disloyal to their family of origin.
So I think the way you come to a path with that is to recognize and be grateful for what your family of origin, in fact, has done for you, for sure. But you don’t allow that to keep you stuck because: Guess what? We all grow. I can think of things that I thought 20 years ago, that I really don’t think now at all. And that’s growth. That’s development.
“I think the distinction is very clear. Diversity defines the nature of the global talent pool. It is who you have available for hire. It is the reality of who comprises your workforce. That’s what diversity is. Inclusion is really the most effective means by which to lead a diverse workforce…”
Denver: Right. And unfortunately, sometimes in our society, they call it flip- flopping, but it’s sort of like when things change, I change my mind about things. I don’t just hold onto that position.
So, well, that first half of the book really talked about those eight triggers. We talked about visibility. There’s seven others. People need to pick up this book and find out what they are.
Second half of the book talks about a culture of belonging, and I’d like to start that part of the conversation by talking about diversity and inclusion because they pretty much have become conflated, where in many people’s minds they almost mean the same thing, and nothing could be further from the truth.
Tell us the distinction between diversity and inclusion.
Sally: I think the distinction is very clear. Diversity defines the nature of the global talent pool. It is who you have available for hire. It is the reality of who comprises your workforce. That’s what diversity is.
Inclusion is really the most effective means by which to lead a diverse workforce because people who grew up outside whatever the mainstream leadership culture is, whether they’re women, whether they’re people of color, whether they’re recent immigrants with a very different tradition, if they’re gay, whatever that is, are more likely to feel not a part of… are more likely to perceive the culture as one that they, in some way, do not really belong to.
And when they do perceive this, that’s when you hear people talking about their own organization or their own team as a “they,” not a “we.”
Denver: Mm-hmm. Oh, that’s a great point. Yeah.
Sally: Yeah. It’s very easy to judge. You don’t have to say: Do we have an inclusive culture? Well, what do people say if they talk about “they”? No. If they talk about “we,” then you do. Very easy benchmark. But I don’t think it serves organizations and especially people in D&I, diversity and inclusion, to conflate these two.
I hear executives who’ve clearly done that. They say, diversity is our goal. No, it’s not. It’s your reality. You need to manage that reality, and inclusion is the way to lead and manage a diverse workforce, which is why the words belong together. I wrote a book in 1995 called The Web of Inclusion, and it was the first time the word “inclusion” was used in the context of organizations.
And there was no thought of inclusion being connected with diversity back then. I was proposing it as a way to lead and manage and structure organizations that reflected the then emerging nature of network technology, that really was shaping and reshaping organizations. But I didn’t think of it as tied to diversity, and no one else did at the time.
But then by the late ’90s, mid to late ’90s, they started diversity and inclusion; the words belong together because of what I said earlier. People from very diverse backgrounds are less likely to feel included, more likely to feel excluded. Simple. But it doesn’t help to conflate them or to imagine that diversity is your goal when it’s not your goal. Your goal is to lead a diverse workforce well.
Denver: Right. Diversity in some ways is bringing a diverse workforce to your place of work, and inclusion is keeping them and retaining them so they don’t feel excluded.
Do you think that there is a different understanding of what inclusion means between the leaders of an organization and, let’s say, people from traditionally marginalized backgrounds, and young people?
Because I hear all the time that the leaders are saying, Oh, we’re inclusive, and they’re really trying to be inclusive, and I mean this sincerely, but you talk to the frontline people and they’re like, No, No, No. This is not an inclusive culture. I don’t know if you have observed a cognitive dissonance between that.
Sally: I’ve definitely observed a cognitive dissonance, and in particular, in regard to age. I think that younger people are far more sensitive and aware. They grew up in very diverse situations, and they’re hyper-aware of that.
Sometimes they’ve been overly encouraged, I would say, to look for so-called microaggressions, et cetera, and to hunt them out and to be highly reactive against things that are kind of normal, or fall outside how they think the world should operate. So I’ve definitely seen that.
But I’ve also seen remarkable insensitivity from people at the leadership level, not because they’re bad people, but just through lack of exposure and through not kind of getting the lingo. I will, however, say this, Denver: I see… where I see the issue in so many organizations I’ve worked for, where I see inclusion undermined, is not at the senior leadership level.
It is more at a supervisory level where you get the leaders making all these statements about: Diversity is our value, et cetera, et cetera. We strive to be an inclusive culture. Okay, they’re written by speech writers often. I used to be a speech writer, so I wrote a lot of this stuff, and I recognize it.
So they have aspirations to do the right thing. But when people experience their organization as alienating, it’s usually not because of the leaders. It’s because of their direct boss; it’s because of the supervisor of their unit; it’s because of how their team leader does things. So that’s really where I see more of this issue and particularly around age.
So this is really a leadership issue, however, because leaders are the ones who need to hold people at senior and supervisory levels to account for being inclusive, and they need to spell out what that means. And this is why the how is so important. Okay, be inclusive. So what? I’ve sat through hundreds of presentations where the person on stage is exhorting everybody to be inclusive.
Who knows what that means? Let’s define it. Let’s put some hows to it. What are inclusive behaviors? What kind of behaviors are not inclusive? And I think that’s where leaders can benefit, is by getting more specific, and they don’t have to have a whole list of them. Just start with two or three.
Here are three things we are going to do to demonstrate inclusion. And I think that being very articulate about that, and also holding people to account for it, not saying, “Well, he’s terrible at promoting women, but boy, he’s our biggest earner so I feel powerless.” You say that, you’re done. You have to hold everybody…
Denver: You’re done. You’ve got to make that a part of the performance review. Yeah, this has got to be built into that.
Sally: And it can be very simple. Alan Mulally, when he was at Ford, he said, No gossip! No one can disparage what someone says in a meeting under any circumstances, no matter how much they disagree with it. We need to behave in a respectful way to people at all times.
And he had some very senior people who said, “I think this is politically correct. I think this is… I don’t want to go along with this.” Okay, fine. Enjoy your next job. As simple as that. These are our rules.
So the simpler, the more real, the more human, the more achievable we make it, the more we can hold people to account, and then the people in the organization will perceive what the leader either is trying to do… or says he or she is trying to do.
“…people don’t really perceive you based on what happens to be running through your head. They perceive you by the actions you take for them. That’s what frames it.”
Denver: Yeah. And I think the observation you made on middle managers, if I can call them that, is so critical. Not just for this subject, but for every subject because the senior team huddles together with best intentions, and the time it gets to the last person… It really is that middle.
And I always have called it the “middle kingdom,” and we sometimes overlook the middle kingdom, but boy, they can make anything go or not go. And they’re at that point of maybe six, seven years… a little jaded, a little cynical about the organization. But boy, if you bring them along, everything goes along, so I think your point was great.
And I guess what you’re also saying is that maybe this is one of the reasons this unconscious bias training, nice as it may be, just doesn’t get the results that it otherwise might because it’s more in the head, and it’s really not in the behavior.
Sally: That’s exactly right. It’s quite theoretical. And there are a couple things with the unconscious bias training, and I’m not saying it can never work; and I’ve heard people say, “We had it and it was really helpful,” but I’ve heard lots of clients say, “We rolled this out at great expense to our top 2,000 people worldwide, and we saw no difference.”
To me, the problem with it is exactly what you say, it’s about what you think, not about what you do. And people don’t really perceive you based on what happens to be running through your head. They perceive you by the actions you take for them. That’s what frames it. So, addressing unconscious bias.
And I’ve heard that also in successful things, that were successful, they’ll say, “We did the unconscious bias training; we learned a lot.” But what do you do with it? So you recognize that you have this instinctive response toward this group of people. What do you do with it? There’s no path forward.
The CEO Mike Kaufmann of Cardinal Health Care, he recently retired. He said, it’s all an Aha! moment. Now what? Which I thought was perfect. But the other thing, it can really stir up some resentments. There’s always a little bit of a hierarchy of bias.
If women can sit there and say, Men always do this, and I’m sick of these guys. But men can’t sit there and say, Women always do this; then they’re really held to account for it. So people can feel like, Well, these people can talk about what their biases are, but I can’t actually talk about mine. That doesn’t serve anybody.
But I was doing a podcast recently with a colleague, and she had been at one of the world’s great consumer product companies that had been very early on the diversity and inclusion initiative side. And what was fascinating was that she had… so they did unconscious bias, this company, and she and one African American male were the only sort of non-mainstream people on this big sales training group.
And what was incredible was, she said, we heard all these white men we worked with talking about what their biases were toward us, and we could not unhear that. She said, Both he and I left the company because it was so challenging. So that was pretty painful to hear.
Denver: Yeah. Well, there’s a little bit of the pink elephant syndrome in that, that you don’t think of a pink elephant, and then you’re thinking about a pink elephant. So if somebody brings up all these biases that others have, I may never have observed them before, and now that’s all I see. That’s all I see.
The other thing I think about unconscious bias, it could always have a downside. Organizations I’ve worked with think it’s a check mark. They say, It’s off my list; we did the training. And there’s a complacency that comes in. Well, we did it. We’re done. You know what I mean? And that’s farther from the truth. So let’s talk about some of those hows.
This is what really sets your book apart because you give such practical and actionable steps that people can take. What are some of the hows in inclusion, which, as you say, is a practice?
Sally: Yeah. Well, one of the big hows is just being very invested in your colleagues’ development. That is something that is really, really helpful. If you go out of your way and ask questions, and you can do this whether you’re at a senior level or junior level with people. “What are your aspirations? What would you ideally like to do?”
“Is there a way I can help you? Is there a way… Do I know anyone who could be useful to you? Just letting you know that this is something that I’m interested in. I’m interested in supporting what your aspirations are and may ask you for help in the future myself.” So you’re making it a two-way street.
Denver: Got you.
Sally: That kind of stuff– just being very, very proactive about that is enormously helpful… very, very valuable. So I think that’s one of the things. How we listen is also important. We keep being urged to listen. And again, I’ve been at many presentations. Listen! Okay, what does that mean?
But more importantly, how do people perceive that we are listening? Listening is actually something happening between our ears, but we need to signal to other people that we are listening with follow-up questions, or in a meeting, “I was struck by the point that such and such just made.”
And doing that across levels, doing that broadly, not just doing it as a way of gaining favor with people in the room who are at a higher level, but really demonstrating our interests, our goodwill. And the fact that we are listening actively to people in the room and highlighting those points, the appreciation people can feel for that is really well out of proportion to the effort.
I remember a number of years ago reading an interview with a fellow who had mentored three women who became CEOs of major companies. And he was asked, Well, what made you such a champion of women? He said it was actually kind of accidental. I was in a meeting, and a woman who I had a lot of respect for raised a very interesting suggestion.
No one responded, and a couple minutes later, one of the men who was in the room said the same thing and everybody went, Oh, well, that’s a good idea. And, he said, all I did was say, Well, that is interesting, but I just want us all to be aware that Patrice was the first one who suggested that. She said that a few minutes ago, and Jim just confirmed it.
And he said by the next day, he had this huge reputation as a champion for women. He said, I think every single woman in our 70,000-person company had heard what had happened.
Sally: Because they were so… it really got a lot of attention, he said, “so that gave me this reputation. So women started coming to me,” he said, and it evolved from there.
So that’s the kind of small action he really took in that situation, which isn’t that common, I can tell you. It means it doesn’t happen that often, that can lead to…that really creates a much more inclusive sort of culture.
Denver: Yeah. Oh, so the two things I hear you say there is that, number one, with that junior person, when they perceive you care about them as much, if not more, than what they’re doing for the company, that changes everything. And as you say, it’s the little things sometimes. It’s the parenthetical things that we sometimes don’t think are big actions, but they have profound effects on people.
You’ve also talked a little bit about employee resource groups. Tell us about the role that they have played currently and traditionally.
Sally: It’s really interesting because this is one of the great things. I’ve been doing this work for 35 years, so I’ve gotten to watch a lot of things evolve. And one of the biggest evolutions in many cases, to me, has been the role of the employee resource groups.
And they started off as a small women’s network, or people of… Black employee network, whatever. And so they started off that way, and they had no budgets, and they had no access. And they were usually people bringing lunch into someone’s office and talking about things.
And a lot of them were kind of focused on, Well, this happened… and this was terrible, and this guy treated me this way, and I thought I was going to get this promotion. So they sort of had… their purpose was to make people feel more included by other people like them. So that’s good. That’s a helpful thing. That can help people stay with a company.
And I saw examples of those kinds of networks that really kept women or people of color in a company because they felt like they had a way to be heard. But they weren’t particularly effective in positioning people for leadership.
And working with them, one of the things I saw was that often, the most senior people who would belong to that group didn’t want anything to do with them. Because I remember trying to get senior women to join a women’s network event, and they’d say, Well, I really want to be identified here as a leader, not as a woman.
So they would not see it in any way to their advantage. Fast forward to the… even really beginning in the mid-teens of this century, these groups became much more proactive, much more involved in leadership development, much more involved in providing mentorship support to people, and organizations started giving them significant resources and budgets.
And I, in my observation: they have become a fantastic resource in organizations for ideas, for practices that are helpful for the whole organization. And there are some organizations that really recognize the potential power of these. And they’re usually… we named them business resource groups, which I think is a good thing because it says: This is an imperative, important part of how we do our business.
So that has been a great evolution, and I think they’ve been a terrific source of connections and confidence, solidarity in many cases, but also of leadership development. So a great resource and a real bottom-up evolution in organizations.
“And in the last chapter of the book, one of the things I do is I revisit one of the ideas that stuck with me and had a most profound effect from writing The Web of Inclusion. And that was the idea of organizations having four kinds of power and finding ways to explicitly honor these four kinds of power. That our power in organizations can be vested in our relationships. It can be vested in our expertise. It can be invested in our personal authority, that is, how much people trust us and look to us as natural leaders.”
The fourth kind of power, of course, is positional power, where we really hold a position of power and can command those resources.
Denver: I love that. They’ve been incubators. I would love to be able to see the notes of those employee resource groups from 25 years ago. And when you get groups together like that, and particularly groups who have a scarcity of resources, that only fuels innovation because you don’t have any money.
And you probably could look at those notes, and that will be the next book that will come out on the subject. You know what I mean? Because that’s where it all comes from many, many, many, many years back.
I loved your last chapter of the book where you put in place the practices. Just give us a quick rundown on that.
Sally: Yeah. Well, it was really about creating this culture of belonging. And in the last chapter of the book, one of the things I do is I revisit one of the ideas that stuck with me and had a most profound effect from writing The Web of Inclusion. And that was the idea of organizations having four kinds of power and finding ways to explicitly honor these four kinds of power.
That our power in organizations can be vested in our relationships. It can be vested in our expertise. It can be invested in our personal authority, that is, how much people trust us and look to us as natural leaders. And all of these kinds of power in organizations are not necessarily tethered to position.
The fourth kind of power, of course, is positional power, where we really hold a position of power and can command those resources. But guess what? Those who have expertise, those who have personal authority, and those who have broad connections, are also able to command and harness resources.
And one of the things I was aware of way back in Web of Inclusion, is that the more organizations explicitly recognize and honor that there are different kinds of power, as opposed to just positional power… and in some ways it’s gotten much better here; in some ways it’s gotten much worse in terms of exalting the person with the highest position, making them the hero of everything, which the business press has been very complicit in…
Denver: Yeah. Yes.
Sally: …it’s the more healthy an organization will be, and the more likely it is to foster a feeling of inclusion.
But as you point out, also to be an incubator for great ideas and innovation and change because you’re empowering more people. You’re not empowering them; you are allowing them to empower themselves to really be a part of providing the ideas that take the organization forward.
Denver: I can’t agree more with that. I’ve always believed that if you try to get something done in the company based on the rectangles of that organizational chart, nothing would ever get done. That’s not the way things happen. So it’s all in that white space. That’s where it’s all at.
Final question, and it’s just one more how, one more to do. If there’s one thing, in addition to picking up this fabulous book, you would have listeners do, what should they do today?
Sally: I think what they should do today and it’s a practice I advocate all the time and talk about it in the book, is to get very active at asking for, as well as offering support, asking for support, and it can be in your own development.
I listened to this podcast that Denver had, and they’re talking a lot about inclusive behaviors, and I realized that one area I fall short of in terms of inclusive behaviors is that I can tend to only communicate up a chain of command, or that I’m not a terrific listener, for example, that I’ve got a lot else going on in my head when I’m trying to paste a look on my face that looks like I’m listening.
So would you please help me going forward? Watch me. Let me know if you feel like I seem like I’m tuning out, if I feel like I’m not listening, if I’m interjecting too often? Because often we think we sound like we’re listening, and we’re going, ah-huh, yes, I agree, oh boy, that’s a good idea. Constant commentary. The other person is not reading it that way. So we don’t make really effective change if we try to do it alone. We need some kind of support.
So the one practice, and we haven’t really talked about it, that I would most advocate for people who have any ideas about trying to put this into effect is to ask for help to do what I call informal enlistment. Would you watch me? See how I do here. I’m trying to slightly change how I do things, and I could use your support. People love it. Most people are going to say, yes, and you’ll get ideas that you hadn’t thought of, and you will advertise the fact that you’re changing.
What we talked about earlier, well, I don’t want to do that because then people will think I’m changing. Sometimes we are changing, and no one notices because they’re thinking of us as we’ve always been. But when you start talking about what you’re trying to do and what you’re trying to do differently, people are much more likely to notice. So it’s very, very effective practice.
Denver: Yeah, and I’ve always noticed too, when you ask people for help like that or support like that, they think you’re smarter. And particularly, they think you’re smarter since you asked me.
Denver: I mean, how smart can anyone be?
The book again…
Sally: How flattering is it? Yeah.
Denver: The book again is Rising Together: How We Can Bridge Divides and Create a More Inclusive Workplace. It’s practical, it’s actionable steps you can take, and I urge everyone to pick up a copy.
I want to thank you, Sally, so much for being here today. It was a real delight to have you on the show.
Sally: Thank you, Denver. I enjoyed every moment.
Denver Frederick, Host of The Business of Giving serves as a Trusted Advisor and Executive Coach to Nonprofit Leaders. His Book, The Business of Giving: New Best Practices for Nonprofit and Philanthropic Leaders in an Uncertain World, is available now on Amazon and Barnes & Noble.