Speaker 1 00:00:07 Welcome to the Skillsoft podcast, a platform designed to help leaders and learners alike unleash their edge. In this series, we are going to feature a number of guests, including some familiar faces from our perspectives, ask a speaker series to engage in thought provoking conversations and open dialogue on the topic of learning and growth in the workplace. I look forward to beginning this journey with perhaps the most urgent and necessary conversation we all need to have. Right now, we are finding ourselves at a critical moment in history. And when we look back on June, 2020, there is no doubt in my mind that the recent tragic events have been a rally cry for change. This is a defining time for our country and quite frankly for the world. And while calls for change are loudest on our streets and in our communities, organizations around the globe are looking for ways in which they can address racism, discrimination, and systemic bias in the workplace. My guest today is Lawanna Harris, a certified diversity executive, an ICF credentialed coach, and a global leadership development professional who has dedicated her career to aligning performance with business strategy on June 24th at 10:00 AM us Eastern daylight time Lawanna will lead a free one-hour session on leading inclusively. And today we're going to touch on what she'll cover, but to register and join the lineup. Please visit our website at www.skillsoft.com/leading inclusively. Welcome Lawanna. And thank you for taking the time to share your guidance with our listeners.
Speaker 2 00:01:45 Thank you. I'm glad to be here.
Speaker 1 00:01:48 Wonderful. Um, so we know that diversity and inclusion initiatives, they're not new, um, but now more than ever, I think it's imperative that we reflect on the programs that we have. And my sense is that many companies, including mine still have a lot of work to do. We know that we need bold leaders at every level who are equipped to address racism, discrimination, and bias in the workplace. But, you know, as I think about it, the enormity of change needed might actually be overwhelming for some. So Lawanna what do you say to the leader who was looking for guidance yet might feel intimidated by the expanse of the problem and doesn't know where to begin.
Speaker 2 00:02:29 Yeah, great question. You know, where we are today, there really isn't a manual or any simple solution for what needs to happen. So I'll start by saying that while I have some ideas and suggestions based on conversations I've had as well as working with some organizations and with some tried and true practices that have yielded, um, a more inclusive environment. There is no easy answer here because we didn't get here overnight. And while the incidences that have just happened with the murder of George Floyd with on the heels of the global pandemic, that's continuing to happen. You know, leadership starts small within their sphere of influence and really act with intention, reality and resisting some of the knee jerk reactions that tend to happen. And we've heard a lot of energy around black lives matters. And with black lives matter as a hashtag, that may be a good place to start to show solidarity. However, if we really want to have lasting impact is going to take a lot more than checking that box.
Speaker 1 00:03:37 You know, I, I thank you for that. I find it really interesting. I, you know, I, I just finished your book, um, diversity beyond lip service, a coaching guide for challenging bias. And I was surprised at, and maybe I shouldn't have been, but I was at how much I gained from that book and how much self-reflection I personally needed to do. Um, and what I, one of the things I walked away with is that diversity is, and maybe not just diversity, but also inclusion and the types of behaviors that we need it's everyone's responsibility. And so how, how can we empower individuals at every level within an organization to enact change in their workplace or even in their community? One,
Speaker 2 00:04:21 The thing is to start with being willing, to be uncomfortable and recognizing that some of the conversations that need to take place, we're at a point of no return, we're at a tipping point. So thus far, we've had some conversations, because again, this is not new. It's just that if we really want individuals to be empowered, we need to create safe spaces where we can have real conversations. We need to talk about diversity and inclusion. We need to, to call it what it is. And we need to be able to understand and recognize that inclusion done right will lead to controversy and conflict, and we need to be able to face that and embrace it. And it's only from those real conversations and embracing some of the controversy and conflict that arises out of real conversation that we're able to make meaningful change. And then again, just really recognizing that where we are now, we have a great opportunity. The work is going to be hard, but if we take our time and we're on the right side of history with this, we're going to look back on this and see that this was a time that really changed the trajectory of our company, of our country, our companies, and ultimately the world.
Speaker 1 00:05:30 So when I had the opportunity to not only read your book diversity beyond lip service, a coaching guide to challenge it for challenging bias. Um, but I also had the opportunity to take your commit self-assessment, uh, which you can find on, on the one-use website, www.lawannaharris.com. And, you know, it was really fascinating for me was that there was a lot of work that I personally need to do after coming out of that assessment in the area of controversy and conflict. And I would imagine that as people go through this, this self-reflection as, as they start to enable change within their organizations. And as they start to address some of the systemic issues that we see and they feel more empowered, there might be some roadblocks that they encounter that can disrupt progress. So what are those potential roadblocks and how do we avoid those pitfalls?
Speaker 2 00:06:26 Yeah, it's one of the, um, major roadblocks is not having a broad enough perspective of what's causing the roadblock because sometimes we think about individuals and we only focus on individual effort. So we look at who's on board, who's not on board, who's a champion who may be resisting those kinds of things in an organization. There are also systems, policies and practices at a high level that need to be addressed as well. So that's one, one of the roadblocks is not having that broader lens to understand. Yes, we will work with as individuals from leader to teams, as individuals, colleagues, and we have to also look at things on the systemic level institutional level, and even the structural level based on those things that may be perpetuating some of the behaviors that the symptoms, right. We're looking at the symptoms of how people act and some of the behaviors.
Speaker 2 00:07:26 But when we look at the root causes on two, we do that. We'll find that we make some progress, but we're not able to truly have a cultural shift in a way that leads to meaningful change. And I think that's one of the major roadblocks. And then the other quite honestly, is that some people just are not ready and they haven't been able to really face where they are. You mentioned that reflection. So sometimes because folks are so busy looking outside and looking at what others need to do and kind of taking it from a superficial point of view, they haven't gone internal to really deal with their truth. And that can be a real roadblock as well. So I love that you're taking that time to really think about that reflection and how, where you are, because when you move forward from that place, you're able to really get into some of the meaningful change that will last over time.
Speaker 1 00:08:17 Well, it's, it's not easy. I mean, because you, you do have to look at yourself in the mirror and, and sometimes what you see back, isn't maybe what you want to see. And so I think, you know, I think that's the journey that, that hopefully many of us are on is first taking that look inward before we ever look outward. And I love that, that perspective. Lawanna I know you've worked with global companies to address bias and create action plans for diversity and inclusion in the workplace. I think so many of us have been focused on what's happening here in the United States and the tragic murders of George Floyd, and then Rashard Brooks. And, you know, while we may be focusing here, we recognize that this isn't limited to just the United States, that states that that racism is a systemic issue globally. And so what are some of the ways you've, you've had to address this in either multinational organizations or, or global organizations outside of the United States?
Speaker 2 00:09:28 Yeah. You know, I'll start with the latter part of that question, because some of the work that we still need to do is to really face what we're dealing with here. And I'm going to quote Andre 3000 here, because I think he coined the term that across cultures, darker people suffer most, and that's a shared experience around the world. And then he asked why. And I think until we're ready to really answer that question and deal with the history associated with that question, why is it around the world that darker people suffer most? And then from that truth and the truths that surround that, um, the good, the bad and the ugly, then we can move forward. So that's number one, um, relative to some of the culture shifts that have had a positive impact, one is we're able to look at it from a geographic and from a holistic perspective within an organization, because you may have a diversity effort and in the U S you're able to have a more broad approach.
Speaker 2 00:10:37 Whereas if you were to go in certain parts of Asia and the middle east, certain things that we talk about and advocate for such as LGBTQ issues, we're not able to address those, um, for the known reasons in those respective geographies. So we have to take what I Cohen, uh, one of my terms, a glocal approach, where yes, we are looking globally and we want to make sure to advance diversity, equity and inclusion in organizations around the world. But we also have to understand that there are local considerations, but we're able to do that by having a universal approach and focusing on behaviors. So when we talk about, as you mentioned earlier with the climate assessment, when we're talking about committing to courageous action or opening your eyes and ears, or making room for controversy and conflict, regardless of where you are, when you have those universal dimensions, then you are able to drill down and leaders are able to say, how do I commit to courageous action in my organization with my team in my part of the world. And that's when we're able to build in behaviors that are inclusive and to embed inclusion into the DNA of the organization.
Speaker 1 00:11:50 I love that. And I love this notion of glocal. You know, it seems that depending on where you are in the world, you're at a different starting place and we have to start with where we are. Right. Um, I think one of the fears that perhaps many of us have, um, I certainly have, it is the potential for lost momentum, right? So once the headlines change, do people go back to their perceived normal? Do they feel like, Hey, you know what, I, I attended a rally or I, you know, I made this change to one of our policies and, or I read a book and now I can move on. That's not what we're advocating here. This is a rally cry for real change. So how do we sustain this need to enact long lasting change?
Speaker 2 00:12:43 Well, we do that the same way we would across any other activity, project, life, goal, passion. Anything else that we really want to have that long-term impact is to do just that, to have that longterm lens. This is not a quick fix. We didn't get here overnight. It's going to take some work. We're talking about hundreds of years of systemic racism, discrimination, bias, and oppression, and for meaningful action to take place. It's going to take some time to really deconstruct some of those things that are in place and are being perpetuated at high levels even. And when we talk about things that happen within the organization of micro behaviors and micro and civilities and all those kinds of things, they come from somewhere and they're being perpetuated from systems that are at a higher level. So the way that we keep this moving forward is to recognize that and what we're really dealing with.
Speaker 2 00:13:41 And then number two, is to make a long-term commitment. And you may have heard, or, you know, there's a lot of talk right now about performative allyship, where, you know, you do your things. Now I'm woke. I, you know, I was in the protest, I took a selfie. I did all those kinds of things. I was in the movement. The question goes back to where we started with the commit, but are you really in this for the long haul? And if you're not, then you need to look in the mirror and assess where you really are, and that's what leaders should do as well. Are you in this for the long haul, are you committed to taking action over the long haul to make sure that you ensure change within your teams? And are you willing to open up access and opportunity for underrepresented populations within your organization?
Speaker 1 00:14:31 That's um, that is incredibly powerful. Lawanna thank you. Um, you know, we want to remind people about the upcoming leader camp that I referenced at the beginning. Uh, this is intended to put people on the path towards inclusive leadership. And when we say leadership, we're talking about every leader at every level. Um, so when you think about this event or this experience, this leader camp, what are the key takeaways that you want to leave participants with?
Speaker 2 00:15:04 One is, is to help leaders understand that it's okay to take risk, knowing that we're going to fumble because no one has all the answers as it relates to the complexity of what's happening in our world today, whether it's through the global pandemic, whether it's through the horrendous murders, all the things that are happening with civil unrest, we don't have all the answers. So going back to being willing, to be uncomfortable, willing to know that you may not get it all right, but being invested enough to try that's number one. And then number two is how, how do, how do you live this out? It's one thing to talk about it. We rally behind it. We say it's important, but how do you actually make this live in your organization as a leader? So the other piece will be some very specific behaviors, um, supported by some tools and resources, so that they're then able to live this out with their teams, knowing not only best practices, but how to best determine around some of the mindset to shape. Um, what's needed to make this last over time. And then the third piece is around some specific discussion points around power and privilege. How do we have those conversations? How do we get into the weeds around some of the pieces? Cause we need to get in the weeds on some of this. How do we go there, have the conversation and then build a path forward based on some real truth that has kind of been swept under the rug.
Speaker 1 00:16:35 Yeah, I think that's, I think that's fantastic. And I think I would, I, I guess I would add, and I'd love to get your, your thoughts on this, but, but to the person who's afraid and they don't know where to start. Um, you know, I think your book is a, is a wonderful, um, place to begin your journey. It's a diversity beyond lip service at coaching guide for challenging bias. And you look, this is for leaders and learners alike because I think everybody is a leader within or can lead within their organization, particularly in this area. And for those who want to attend this upcoming leader camp, featuring the one that you can register at skillsoft.com/leading inclusively, it is free to all and open to everyone. And I do encourage you to take commit self-assessment, which you can [email protected]
It's designed to help you determine your strengths and weaknesses and the areas of diversity and inclusion. And it will offer you a baseline to determine the actions that you need to take to help advance diversity and inclusion. Lawanna thank you so much for joining me today. I'd like to offer any final thoughts you'd like to share.
Speaker 2 00:17:43 Yeah. You know, I think if we really boil it down to starting being human and understanding that we have more in common than we do a different, I think that's a good place. And right now we're all in this together. So whatever it takes for us to get grounded, to center ourselves as a woman of faith, that's where I spend a lot of my time. And in doing that, I'm able to, you know, get the right energy, going to come and bring my best to all of this. And I think that it's going to take us doing that, to find the best within ourselves to bring out the best in the next phase of what's going to happen across this great thing called humanity.
Speaker 1 00:18:27 Oh, with that Lawanna thank you so much. I, I really, um, I want to thank you for joining me. Um, I want to thank you for participating in the upcoming leader camp and I, I sincerely look forward to it. And again, everyone, I can't emphasize enough. Come join us next week. Uh, June 24th at 10:00 AM. Eastern daylight time here in the U S skillsoft.com/leading inclusively. Thanks to all