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In this minisode, Jennifer Brown discusses her new book, How to Be an Inclusive Leader. Jennifer reveals the ally continuum, and the changing expectations about leadership, particularly among members of the emerging workforce. Discover the biggest mistakes that organizations make when it comes to inclusion and creating a culture of belonging, and how to access a free assessment on inclusive leadership.

In this episode you’ll discover: 

  • The importance of being uncomfortable as a leader (2:00)
  • How to discover where you are in the “ally continuum” (7:30)
  • The biggest mistakes that organizations make when it comes to inclusion (17:30)
  • The changing expectations around leadership (22:00)
  • The importance of providing public feedback to employees (27:00)
  • Why Jennifer wrote her new book for both the “comfortable” and the “afflicted” (28:30)
  • The connection between inclusion and innovation (33:00)
  • How to access a free assessment and report on inclusive leadership (36:30)

Listen in now, or read on for the transcript of our conversation:

DOUG FORESTA: Hello and welcome back to The Will to Change. This is Doug Foresta, and of course I’m joined today, or I’m joining Jennifer Brown, and we’re going to be discussing … We’ve talked about elements of Jennifer’s new book, which is How to be an Inclusive Leader, Your Role in Creating Cultures of Belonging Where Everyone Can Thrive, but we haven’t specifically really addressed the book, so I’m excited to do that.

Jennifer, thanks for allowing me to be here with you today.

JENNIFER BROWN: Thanks Doug. I’m happy to be here.

DOUG FORESTA: Thanks. So yeah, let’s talk about the book, and again it’s called How to be an Inclusive Leader. I guess my first question is your first book was Inclusion, but can you say a little bit about what does it mean to say that I’m an inclusive leader? What does that look like?

JENNIFER BROWN: Mm-hmm (affirmative). I’m not sure any of us can say it, because actually it’s a destination we never really reach.

DOUG FORESTA: Right. You don’t need the badge, you don’t get the badge, right?

JENNIFER BROWN: Yes. Exactly. And like we say about ally-ship you’re only an ally when someone in an affected community or identity says you’re an ally, so we can’t really slap the badge on and say I am an ally. We can, like internally, we can say that to ourselves as an aspiration, but it’s really important to remember that inclusive leadership is measured by those around you who deem you to be an inclusive leader, and that’s something that you earn over a whole professional career really.

Inclusive of whom? There’s always another community, and identity, and way, and behavior, and a new context. I mean, there’s always opportunities for stretch in your leadership when it comes to inclusive leadership, and I think that’s what makes it actually this really interesting, evolving challenging, stretching, learning process. I personally think that’s really fun. To me, it reminds me that I’m alive, because I think it should be deep in our core as humans. We should always be growing, and stretching, and I always say if you’re not uncomfortable you’re not leading.

And so, I say to audiences this is just like everything else. We’re uncomfortable all the time in business world. Anytime you’re leading on any kind of initiative there’s an element of stretch, and discomfort, and risk, and not having the right language, or not having all the answers, or making mistakes and coming back as we say failing forward. The whole sort of growth mindset, Carol Dweck’s book.

And so, why shouldn’t that apply to inclusive leadership, you know, we should all be striving every day, we should know that we’re going to make mistakes. We should know that we’re going to be uncomfortable, and that’s to me the sign that you’re doing the right kind of learning, and you’re actually on the journey, which is really to me the metric that matters the most, like are you on the journey? I’d like you to be on the journey somehow.

DOUG FORESTA: I think that’s a great takeaway is this idea that when you talk about how to be an inclusive leader, again, you’re not talking about people wearing the badge. You go to the conference and you have your inclusive leader badge, you know, I have become an inclusive leader, but more about an aspiration, a way of … Would it be fair to say it’s a way of looking at leadership that might be different than the past when the leader did have all the answers?

JENNIFER BROWN: Right. Yes. That was very much the definition, and now it’s having all the right questions, isn’t it? And having the cultural humility to know you don’t have all the answers, to seek more answers, and to talk about the fact that you don’t have all the answers. It is a classic case I think of actually the more senior you are on the topic of diversity, I mean, the more senior in role you are in an organization on this topic the less you’re likely to know, so there’s the knowledge about diversity, equity, inclusion lives in I’d say the bottom half of every organization the most, or the bottom third.

It’s a lived experience of those who are perhaps our most junior, and it makes it sort of categorically different I think than the leadership competencies we’ve thought about and taught so much in the past, which were the province of senior leaders, strategic thinking, and executive presence, and change agility. I would argue that actually the learning … This is why I talk about reverse mentoring so much as a really interesting concept, because when it comes to this topic we all know especially in the older generations how much we don’t know, truly, and so how do you lead when you have a senior leadership role, or you’re a people manager, but at the same time being so humble, and vulnerable to the fact that you have the least number of answers actually. So how do you point your learning then?

How do you handle the dichotomy of needing to be somebody people trust and that want to follow if you have a leadership role, but also admitting, and owning, and welcoming the fact that you actually, on this topic, you have so far to go, and you probably have the furthest to go, because you don’t have the lived experience? I say this because, Doug, you and I talk about it all the time on The Will to Change that the top of organizations is still largely white, and male, and cisgender, and straight.


JENNIFER BROWN: That is a demographic, and it’s the truth, it’s a fact that dominates a lot of these positions, so we can actually say as a group, we can kind of characterize this group’s knowledge, and competency around this as unless you are a very strong ally, and you’ve been working on this for a long time, most of the time I think there’s a complete lack of knowledge of a lot of these things at those levels.

It’s generational, it’s exposure, we have a lack of diversity in our personal networks, in our communities, in our communities of faith, in our neighborhoods. It’s nobody’s fault. It’s the lives that we have become comfortable with. And so, in the workplace though is where we have the opportunity to rub shoulders with people of the most difference from us, like that’s what’s so cool about the workplace I think, and if you work for a global multi-national company you’re particularly fortunate, because you might have a global team, and you might be meeting people of different background that you’ve never known in your whole life, and you would never know in your neighborhood, in your community, so there’s a real opportunity there to seek difference, and to really grow.

DOUG FORESTA: Yeah. As you were saying that, that’s what I was thinking, that work has now become the place where we are more likely to encounter someone who is in ways other than us, or that we are the other to them, so that is really cool, and exciting. We’ve done other episodes about the ally continuum, but in the book you share a model, the inclusive leader continuum, and so for those who haven’t listened to those episodes I encourage you to go back, but at the same time I’m wondering could you give an overview to listeners about the inclusive leader continuum, what does that mean, how does it work?

JENNIFER BROWN: Yes, for sure. I am forever the consultant, so I think in terms of models, and stages of growth, because I just think we as humans appreciate knowing where we are, and so one of my goals in orienting the book around a model … And then, we developed an assessment that goes along with the model, which we can share the URL for at the end of the episode, but I wanted to allow people to identify, and diagnose, where they are, and not feel shame about it, not judge any phase in this model. I’ve been thinking about it like a train, and like a caboose at the end of the train, like jump on the caboose.

DOUG FORESTA: You could get on it anytime, right?

JENNIFER BROWN: Get on at any time, even if you’re in the back.

DOUG FORESTA: Even if you’re in the back, yeah.

JENNIFER BROWN: Yes. Even if you’re in the back, and even if you’re hanging on by a finger, and you’re trying to like-

DOUG FORESTA: For anyone who’s ever taken the subway in New York you’ll appreciate it.

JENNIFER BROWN: Yes, exactly. Jump onto that train at that last minute, and hang on for dear life, and then eventually sort of crawl your way from the back car to the penultimate car, and just make your way up. And yes, are you going to have the wind in your face? Yeah. Crawling up is a little harder.


JENNIFER BROWN: It is, and it can feel that way, and yet to me that’s … Look, we should all be growing as leaders. If you’re not then you don’t deserve to be in a leadership position. So anyway, the model has four stages, four phases, from unaware, to aware, to active, to advocate. These to me felt like everybody is probably in one of these phases on a variety of issues, and we can actually be in sort of multiple places at once. I often talk about my identity as LGBTQ+ means that I understand that community, and I advocate for that community in my role, so I might be level four advocate, and that’s how I use my voice, which is to say I am bold, I’m brave, I’m fearless. I’m honest. I speak truth. I use my platform. I’m pretty public. And I’m questioning how things have been done, and are being done.

And that’s level four advocate, that’s that lens of that level four, but interestingly there’s so many places that I’m actually at the beginning stages of my own learning. For example, for my trans and gender non-binary friends, colleagues, loved ones, it’s not my identity even though it is part of the LGBTQ+ community. It’s a part of that community that I have a lot of learning still to do, and I’m still developing muscle, and I’m still getting my language right, and sometimes I’m not getting it right. I would say I’m level … Maybe from unaware to aware, which is phase two, I am aware, meaning I know what I don’t know, and I have to sort of apply myself and expose myself to that knowledge, so that then someday I can hope to be a full advocate for that missing piece of our community that’s totally underrepresented and not understood, and stereotyped, and stigmatized.

And then on things like race and ethnicity I would say I’m also level two where I’m gathering as much knowledge as I can, and then level three, which is activating. I’d say on that aspect as a white identified person I have been learning intentionally, and I’m very much every day trying to activate to use my voice to raise examples, stories, to center experiences of others to make sure that’s in the room whenever I’m in the room, making sure those perspectives, and the data’s in the room with me about people who are not white identified. So I personally am traveling these stages myself in many ways, and I hope that comes through in the book for leaders who read it and say, so okay, there’s multiple identities, I as an inclusive leader that I need to know something about, and that I should be working the steps of the journey for.

I hope people are thinking about, so what do I know about community of people with disabilities? What do I know about the LGBTQ community as a straight cisgender person? What do I know about the experience of veterans for example in my workplace? What do I know about socioeconomic differences, or education, that’s impacting people’s ability to thrive? There’s just so much. I was just recently learning so much about those with criminal backgrounds, and how it’s a massive talent pool, a pool that is like screened out routinely from the job interview process for jobs that I think many could have, and could thrive in, and could do very well, but there’s a whole kind of conversation that’s about ban the box, and making sure that there’s solutions to enabling a talent pipeline like this to get through the filters, and to actually be gainfully employed, because it would just make an enormous difference on multiple fronts.

I didn’t even know about that until very recently, and so I’ve had some guests on The Will to Change to educate myself about the issue, to learn from them, to hear their stories. We’re going to be airing an episode with Michelle from Televerde soon, and she was incarcerated for seven or eight years, and then was released, and has gone forward to become an executive at this company called Televerde, which actually employs women in prison, and employees them while they’re in prison, and then employees them when they come out of prison, and actually invests in job skills, and training, so they go on, and they thrive, so what a story, and what an eye opening conversation, and person for me to know.

I think I will never be the same because now I have those examples in my mind, and I think about, okay, so on the continuum in the book I’m now at aware. I am aware, and I aspire to move into active, which means that I’m going to start to use those examples. I’m going to start to bring that to the table. I’m going to start to incorporate it into my keynotes. I’m going to start to share on my LinkedIn examples, and stories, about this, and the data around fair chance hiring, and second chance hiring, because I aspire someday to be advocate level, and be a voice at that level for this aspect of diversity that I knew nothing about, that I’m still learning about, and that is very poorly understood. To me, that’s my exercise in inclusive leadership, and it’s just one example.

For somebody else they might say, wow, I have so much to learn, I’m really overwhelmed.

DOUG FORESTA: There’s so many different populations, and so many different things.

JENNIFER BROWN: I know, and I get it, so maybe you pick one, and you focus on that for the entire year. Maybe it’s like, okay, this year’s going to be all about understanding the LGBTQ identity, so broadening my network, showing up to my pride group activities at my company if there are some, really finding out, and building personal relationships with people who are out in my workplace, or in my community. It often takes knowing one person to really familiarize and personalize all of these learnings too, so we learn from people, but we also learn from what we read, and what we watch, and podcasts we listen to. It’s the exposure to somebody else’s way of life, somebody else’s challenges, somebody else’s … How their identity is viewed in society, it’s exposure to all that, and it’s also having that personal network as well.

I would say you don’t have to boil the ocean to use a really bad cliché, like really just focus your effort, and make your year about one identity I would say. And in the workplace, or course, this means really getting involved with that identity as an ally, and that’s the definition I think of ally-ship is putting yourself around all of that, and making intentional choices to broaden, and diversify, your network, and everything that you consume, and watching what you talk about, and what you story-tell about, and the language that you use. There’s so many ideas in the book for how you can actually make this very real.

I don’t think there’s an excuse, because there’s a lot of information there. We get scared. We don’t want to say the wrong thing. We don’t want to intrude. We don’t think it’s our place. We’re not sure that we can really add to the conversation, and I would absolutely argue that we are all needed more than ever in terms of communities and identities that aren’t talked about, that aren’t bringing their full self to work, that are feeling the pain of stereotype and bias. There’s always a need, and the more time you spend not doing anything not only are others losing out but you’re not really making the progress that you need to as a leader.

DOUG FORESTA: The thing is that, like you’re saying, you don’t have to do everything right now.

JENNIFER BROWN: Mm-hmm (affirmative)

DOUG FORESTA: Just start somewhere.

JENNIFER BROWN: That’s right. Start somewhere.

DOUG FORESTA: Start somewhere.

JENNIFER BROWN: Get one friend. Get one friend.

DOUG FORESTA: Get one friend.

JENNIFER BROWN: Get one friend that you can talk to.

DOUG FORESTA: There you go.


DOUG FORESTA: Yeah. It’s a beautiful model and I think it’s such an important part of the book. I want to ask you about belonging but I want to come at it from a little bit different … My original question to you was going to be about how do we create cultures of belonging, but I actually want to start from a little bit different vantage point, which is can you say a little bit about what do you think are actually the biggest things that get in the way of creating a culture of belonging? What are some of the biggest mistakes or missteps that you see organizations make that I guess prevent creating a culture of belonging? Can you say a little bit about that?

JENNIFER BROWN: Yeah. I think that there’s so much well meaning activity going on, and I say activity because sometimes it’s not strategic it’s just kind of tactical, or it’s checking the box. I’d say everyone, most companies, have gotten the memo that diversity’s good for business, and it’s particularly good for marketing, so I do think that there’s good progress in terms of the optics of inclusion, and inclusiveness, and in many ways that’s the easy part to kind of show that face to the world from a recruitment perspective, maybe in advertisements, maybe in getting awards. You can kind of create that if you’re savvy.

But I think the harder work is the culture of belonging internally that matches that messaging, and that it’s harder work because it’s less quantifiable. Belonging is like a feeling. It’s a sense that I might get every day or not get, and it’s created honestly by yes I’m happy to see my company, and my employer, saying things in the media, or hoisting the pride flag in June, or the fact that ERGs, and affinity networks exist, and are supported, and sponsored. That’s great but I think if you asked a lot of people, even in companies that are doing all these things, about whether they feel they belong they may not answer you in the way you want them to.

And you as a leader might say, “well, we’re doing this, and we’re doing that, and why don’t you feel that way?”

DOUG FORESTA: “We have an ERG.”

JENNIFER BROWN: Yeah, well, check that box. Like, “we do this, we do that. We get all these awards,” and that is not the same. And so, it’s a hard message, because I’ve got to give that message often to leaders. I have to say you might have all the things, but it doesn’t mean that you’re succeeding, and enabling people to truly thrive in the way that they do when they’re totally relaxed, and they totally feel held by the organization. That they feel they belong, which is deep.

I think that’s kind of this innate … It’s I am not only invited, as Vernā Myers says, I am not only invited to the table, I am asked to contribute, and then my contributions are actually welcomed, valued, invited, and acted upon, which is in a perfect world I’m not just at the table, but I am considered for my expertise, for my lens. I’m needed. In fact, that meeting can’t happen without me. How amazing would that feel to really be asked, and to be listened to, and to feel that I had a role to play in guiding something, guiding a strategy, guiding a marketing campaign, guiding our plan for recruiting a certain demographic of talent, or going to certain schools? To feel that you are listened to in that way I think does lead to a sense of belonging, because you’re valued.

Belonging comes from feeling valued. And so, I think that the checking of the box, or the superficial stuff, or the awards, et cetera, versus I think the everyday behavior of your colleagues, of your manager, yes, your senior leadership too, because it matters. It matters what they say as well, that I’m listening to my leaders, I’m looking for certain words, I’m watching them to see do they really mean what they say. Are they walking the talk? Are they vulnerable? Are they storytelling? Or is it just this sort of business conversation all the time, which is fine, but I think it really needs to be a head and heart balance to say … I think people follow people, and like willingly, when they feel that there’s a genuine authenticity, and connection there.

That is not accomplished just by a clinical business case for diversity. I would like the senior leaders I work with to very much show up as fully human, authentic, vulnerable, humble, admitting what they don’t know, sharing what they don’t know, because they know that to present a façade that is all knowing is inaccurate, and disingenuous, honestly. I don’t think it’s a-

DOUG FORESTA: One of the things I’ve learned from you, and from producing the show, is that it’s not what the emerging workforce even seeks in a leader.

JENNIFER BROWN: Right, which is so cool, because I feel like all the messaging I talk about is actually being hugely supported by this tsunami of younger talent that’s coming in that’s like, hey, I want to be fully seen and heard here, like I expect that, that’s table stakes. And by the way why do we have to have diversity training, like what do you mean? Why do we need to learn how to be kind to each other? Why do we have to go through a training to have empathy for the voices that aren’t represented or heard? I love that question. I love it. It comes from a totally different origin.


JENNIFER BROWN: Versus I feel like we’ve been trying to push this into the conversation. I feel like younger people might come in and say wait a second this is like every day.

DOUG FORESTA: I expect this.

JENNIFER BROWN: My friends are diverse, and I identify as gender non-binary, or queer. Of course, I’m an ally because I was an ally at school, and I was in all the alliances, and so they come out of this hugely diverse school experience into this workplace that has major issues. They look up. They don’t see anybody that looks like them. They hear this sort of show don’t tell, I mean, the tell not the show in terms of the, oh, we’re doing this, and we’re doing that, and we have these things in place. But it’s I think culturally internally their experiences doesn’t match. It’s like the words don’t match the music. The music doesn’t match the words.

So yeah, I think that they’re finding their voice, and I hope, hope, hope that they don’t give up, that they don’t go quiet, that they continue to be committed to being seen, and heard, and valued. And I think that they have so much to teach the rest of us and other generations where we could never had hoped to be seen and heard. We were a cog in the wheel, and many of us were the only, and we were trailblazers, and we were glass breakers, and we struggled to either stay in the game and figure out how to make it work, and deal with all the sort of disconnects, and the microaggressions, and everything, or we left and we started our own companies, or we went to another company that we felt we might have a better shot at feeling included in.

So this is still going on. Many of us are still kind of struggling every day to bring our best to our professional roles, and feeling sort of thwarted by unconscious bias and microaggressions at every turn, and that exhaustion is still causing the leeching out of all kinds of talent from organizations. Organizations haven’t really paid attention to this, and they haven’t really felt the pain, or they haven’t been sort of publicly humiliated enough I guess to say oh my goodness we’re going to be held accountable for this, like this is not okay. And I don’t know when that points going to be where people really … It’s different for every company. I guess some companies haven’t had their moment in the spotlight on this stuff, and then others have, but they haven’t done the work afterwards that they need to do, and then other companies really believe that they’re great, and they have no problems.

And I’ve never met a company that has no problems Doug. Literally, I could tell you.

DOUG FORESTA: That is part of the problem, right?

JENNIFER BROWN: Ask my team, it’s literally-

DOUG FORESTA: No one’s ever complained Jennifer.

JENNIFER BROWN: Yeah. I love when they say “We’re fine. We have no problems. We’re great. Women love working here. We have no pay gap.”

DOUG FORESTA: They don’t tell us.

JENNIFER BROWN: And then, I’m like, okay, so let’s look under the hood here. Let’s do some focus groups. Let’s do some data collection, and then we’ll come back, and we’ll tell you what we hear, and invariably it is shocking, it is disturbing, it is embarrassing, it is oh my goodness, wow, clearly … And I think that’s a moment where people of privilege, and a majority identity, I hope they have that ah-ha moment to be confronted with data from your workforce that looks nothing like how you would’ve answered those questions. That is a real moment. That is you are shown the truth that’s being experienced, and you have some kind of accountability for addressing it, and the choice then at that moment to me is what matters. Do you care? Do you think it’s a problem? And do you see that you have a role in addressing it? And then, how are you going to address it?

And are you going to not just address it once, but are you going to sort of commit to change. And that commitment is sustained over time, needs to be consistent. I would argue needs to be public, at least public to employees, meaning I get up on a stage, and I say we just asked you about what gets in the way of thriving at work, and belonging at work, and here’s what we learned, and here’s where I was shocked, and surprised, and discouraged. Here’s where I had a disconnect in terms of my understanding of what I wanted to hear versus what I actually heard, and then here’s what I’m going to do, and what we’re going to do. Here’s what we’re going to commit to doing.

And that can be action, resources, new programs. But commitment from leadership is so important, and that’s what people are looking for. They’re looking to see do we really mean it, like are we really on this journey, or are we just pretending to be?

DOUG FORESTA: Let me ask you this question with all of that, because there’s so much in this book, it’s so rich. Who needs to read this, I mean, in your mind is it only CEOs of organizations? I mean, we’re talking about inclusive leadership. I mean, yeah, in your estimation who needs to be reading this?

JENNIFER BROWN: It’s interesting. I had like kind of two audiences in mind. You know how we had an episode, Doug, on afflicting the comfortable, and comforting the afflicted?

DOUG FORESTA: Oh, yes. Yep.

JENNIFER BROWN: So let’s talk about the afflicted and the comfortable. Like those are sort of … And then, there’s everybody in between too, so this is not really a binary, but I guess I can use a binary to kind of explain how I was thinking about it. Actually, those of us who are both afflicted and comfortable, so I would say I’m in that category. If I’m afflicted I’m LGBTQ, and maybe I’m closeted. Not me personally, because I’m not, but like there’s many in my community that are. I’m afflicted, I am a woman in business, and I might be very much struggling in a male dominated enviroment where there’s a lot of bias, but I’m also maybe perhaps a white identified person. I might be a cisgender person. I might be a socioeconomic background, or have like multiple advanced degrees, or I might be … You know, there’s just other things in my life that might enable me to be more comfortable, or have been comfortable, as I was building my career, et cetera.

I may have more access to means in the world, and I might walk through that world with more ease, and less concern about my safety, or my future. So you can be both the comfortable and the afflicted in the same person. I know you can, because that’s me. And so, the book is not just for the comfortable. I had the comfortable in mind when I wrote it because I want to call to action to be for those of us that have elements of ease relatively more elements of ease in our life, and I can use the privilege word. I’m weary of the word, because it’s been so sort of weaponized, and that’s not helpful.

But I like to use the word ease or advantage, and I like to say all those things were probably unearned by most of us. I know they weren’t for me. It was the family I was born in to. It was the socioeconomic class I was born in to. What matters is what I’m doing with it. So the book is a call to action for anybody who’s sitting in a place of comfort because of something they didn’t earn, but something that they have. And it’s a call to action to do something with that, because to me that comes with an opportunity, and a responsibility, which is to get in that room, tell the truth, challenge things, because you could be heard in a different way, because of whatever identity you have. That’s kind of an insider identity.

On the flip side, if you’re also in an affected community like LGBTQ, like being a person of color, like having a disability both visible or invisible, and a host of other diversity dimensions, you also have elements of privilege too, and ease, that you can continue to use. In the book we give a whole section of women of color in my network who I really look up to who talk about having levels of privilege, and wanting to use that privilege, and they’re coming from, like me, a different dimension, but in the same respect, coming from a place where I say often they need ally-ship. They’re women of color. I can say I need allies desperately. As an LGBTQ woman I value my allies every day.

And so, you can sit in both places and you can be doing something with both aspects. We can walk and chew gum as we keep hearing in the news. We can do all of these things, and actually inclusive leadership calls on us to do both of these things. And so, while I think the most present community for the book is folks who are sitting on the sidelines not doing anything at all, and thinking this has nothing to do with me, or I might be like a white straight guy, like I don’t know what my diversity story is, like if I even have one, I think the diversity team is doing a great job, and I just sort of follow their lead, all those things we say to deprioritize this.

I think the book is … If I had to choose a population that would be mainly the audience, and moving people into the conversation who are right now not in it. That’s my biggest push. But I would say that for me I am working all the steps that I write about. I have affected identities, and I have identities that I have hidden and downplayed, and been ashamed of in the past, and I still find value, and I know that my voice is needed, at the same time, and in a way, using my voice actually from that place of ease and privilege it feels actually really amazing, like it’s actually healing to do that. It’s not an extra to do. To me, it feels very proactive. It feels like, oh, I can do this. I actually can do this. I have something I can use in my story, in my background.

DOUG FORESTA: Yeah. I can see how it could be very empowering.

JENNIFER BROWN: Yeah. I mean, it’s amazing. It’s incredible to feel you could potentially be a part of changing an outcome for somebody on this. And if more of us did that many hands would make lighter work for those that aren’t heard, and seen, and at the table who are working so hard to just stay at that table if they can even get to the table. When you know that, and you’ve been shown that information, I hope your empathy is stirred, I hope your business sense is stirred in terms of, wow, so many people are hiding in my workplace, and that can’t be good for productivity. It can’t be good for creativity. It can’t be good for innovation. You cannot ask people to innovate, and be creative, and bring their best stuff when they’re simultaneously managing the fact that they are struggling to just feel like do I fit here.

I think any business leader that can look at that, and say, oh, that’s not a problem, like that’s not a big deal. Okay, well, then they’re going to leave and you are going to be without the best and brightest, and you’re going to work really hard to bring people in, but are you going to be able to keep them. That is costly, demoralizing, really bad optics, and actually sort of has a legacy effect in terms of who you then in the future can attract to the company, because if you’re losing people in the middle of your pipeline I can promise you that your executive suite is not going to visibly change from a diversity perspective. If you can’t get people and keep people through that pipeline, up that pipeline, in to visible roles and leadership you will continue to suffer because you will not be able to attract and retain people that just look at the company, and say you know clearly this company does not know how to do this well.

The evidence is in the C-suite. The evidence is in the board. The evidence is in who’s not getting promoted, and who’s leaving the organization. I mean, everybody looks at that, and we see that. You can try to hide it but it’s very hard to hide moves at the top. Everybody’s watching that, so know that a million eyes are on all of that, and there’s a lot of interpretations being made about what that means. And there’s whatever you say the reason is I think a lot of people are probably going to say, well, you know, we had four women of color leave in the last year from the senior level of this company. There will be a lot of talk about that.

DOUG FORESTA: That speaks for itself.

JENNIFER BROWN: Well, yes. And if you think it’s not being talked about it is. And whatever the reasons are, but I think it’s unfortunate, and there may be reasons for it, but people aren’t stupid.

DOUG FORESTA: Definitely not. And so, whether you are comfortable, afflicted, or both.

JENNIFER BROWN: And we are all both.

DOUG FORESTA: And we are all both.


DOUG FORESTA: Exactly, exactly. Right. Exactly. So you’ll want to pick up the book. It’s called How to be an Inclusive Leader, Your Role in Creating Cultures of Belonging Where Everyone Can Thrive. It’s available pretty much everywhere that books are sold, right?

JENNIFER BROWN: Yes. And I want to talk about the assessment really quick, Doug.

DOUG FORESTA: Sure, sure.

JENNIFER BROWN: There’s a free assessment that takes 10 minutes that we built along with the book, and you can find it at inclusiveleaderthebook.com and just navigate to self assessment in the menu, and you’ll get a report at the end that gives you some scores around different competency areas that we’ve identified, and I think that all of our listeners will really value, A, kind of figuring out hmm this is interesting, where could I do more, and it gives actually concrete reading, and lengths, and resources, both mine and also external reports that I really like that are sort of my go-to learning tools.

It will provide a bit of a roadmap for you to start to move yourself along the continuum. So please look it up. It’s at inclusiveleaderthebook.com. Please take it. We’re really interested to see. I have my theories but it’s going to be really interesting to see where we all are on these criteria that my team and I have determined, and then kind of target our conversations accordingly, because I don’t think we can talk to people who are at the beginning of the journey in the same way as we need to be talking to that advocate level leader.

That’s a very categorically different conversation, and so I’m hoping organizational leaders … And we’re actually getting a little interest, Doug, from particular clients who want to do the assessment as an organization, and then get that data back in the aggregate, and look at it, and say, okay, so if we’ve got this percentage of say people managers in unaware, or aware, that’s not what we thought, and okay so maybe that then needs to then change our learning strategy, maybe that needs to shift how we think about what people need as support.

DOUG FORESTA: Great. So thank you, yes. Thank you for mentioning that. Give me that link one more time.

JENNIFER BROWN: It’s inclusiveleaderthebook.com, so please go there. There’s a code that’s already embedded in it so you don’t need it, but go to the menu at inclusiveleaderthebook.com and you’ll see something called self-assessment, and that’s where you can start to take it. Ten minutes, really simple, and I don’t think you need to take it like before, or after, reading the book, or during the book. It kind of doesn’t matter.

DOUG FORESTA: Just take it.

JENNIFER BROWN: Yeah. When done together they’re like wonderful bookends for your own learning journey, your self-awareness, and everyone asks me how do I get started? I don’t know what to do. I think it will give you a lot of ideas for what to do.

DOUG FORESTA: Jennifer, thank you so much. Thanks for joining. Thanks for allowing me to join you today, and for a great conversation. As always, I look forward to continuing it.



How to Be an Inclusive Leader