Manage Smarter 194 — Leslie Short: Diversity and Inclusion in the Workplace

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Leslie Short is the Founder of The Cavu Group and author of Expand Beyond Your Current Culture. She has an accomplished background that includes running marketing and PR for FUBU, serving as Corporate Operating Strategist for blueprint + co., and starting several successful international businesses. Leslie has been developing multi-​cultural/​mosaic marketing and programming as far back as 1998, and in her book, Expand Beyond Your Current Culture, she offers tips on how to think differently about diversity and inclusion to achieve a sustainable, diverse and inclusive workplace.

She is also a fellow podcaster with her show name, Visibility Unlimited…and you can see the video version of that on her YouTube channel The Cavu Group. Today's discussion is on Diversity and Inclusion in the Workplace and international business.

In this episode, Audrey, Lee and Leslie discuss:

  • Why a long-​term DEI implementation is necessary
  • Why DEI is not a standalone program and needs to be part of the foundation of your company
  • How to create a culture of inclusion
  • Leadership skills and mentorship goals and strategies

"Managers and leaders do not understand their own strengths and weakness and with not understanding themselves they don't ask the "WHY" of those they work with and just assume they know the why."

Leslie Short

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Manage Smarter Episode 194: Diversity and Inclusion in the Workplace

Diversity, inclusion & equity episode length: 00:20:52

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Welcome to the Manage Smarter Podcast with host C. Lee Smith and Audrey Strong. We're glad you're here for discussions on new ways to manage smarter, hire, develop, and retain talent, improve results and propel team performance to new heights. This is the Manage Smarter Podcast.

Audrey Strong: Welcome Manage Smarter, everyone. You know, Lee today, we've got a terrific guest who can not only talk about diversity in the workplace, equity and inclusion and branding and advertising. But also how to be thoughtful with all that when trying to expand your business internationally. She's got some best practices and some great thoughts.

C. Lee Smith: Yeah, absolutely. I would have to think that it becomes even more important as you're expanding internationally because now it's like in America, we are aware of the cultures that we have to be aware of and trying to deploy DEI here. But internationally, you've got a whole wealth of other cultures than you have to be considered as well. And I can't wait to crack into this topic. 

Audrey Strong: Me neither. So, my name is Audrey Strong. I'm the vice president of communications at SalesFuel.

C. Lee Smith: And I'm C. Lee Smith. I am the president and CEO of SalesFuel. 

Audrey Strong: I have a frog in my throat but Leslie Short is at our microphones. Leslie, thank you for coming today. We sure appreciate it. 

Leslie Short: Thank you. I appreciate the invite. 

Audrey Strong: So, for those of you who don't know Leslie, you need to know her. She is founder of the Cavu group and the author of Expand Beyond your Current Culture. She has an accomplished background that includes running marketing and PR for FUBU, serving as corporate operating strategist for Blueprint Plus Company and starting several successful international businesses. She's been developing multicultural mosaic marketing and programming all the way back to 98. And in her book, Expand Beyond your Current Culture, she offers tips on how to think differently about diversity and inclusion to achieve a sustainable diverse and inclusive workplace. You've even said in some of your content, don't just do the checklist, Oh, I'm done now. This is like a long term thing you need to implement.

C. Lee Smith: It's a lifestyle change as we say in fitness, right?

Leslie Short: It's a commitment. A huge commitment. 

Audrey Strong: She's also a fellow podcaster with her show name Visibility Unlimited and you can see that video version on the YouTube channel of the Cavu group. So, Leslie, I mean, I start on this, what are you seeing currently? Let's do a snapshot it's October 2021. We're recording this. How are we doing on the DEI? I saw some things where you said, you know, people are saying they're going to implement it. And a year later they're calling me saying I haven't done anything. 

Leslie Short: Yeah. That's where we are unfortunately and not with everyone. Look like everything, this is a journey and so what is your commitment and your accountability and your responsibility at this point. And so for some, they have gotten it and they have made that commitment. They've taken the responsibility to implement not only need the right people but the right policies by actually shift in change and understand that they're dealing with people. Others jumped on the bandwagon as a trend and was like, yeah, pick me, pick me because their colleagues were yelling, pick me, pick me. And then they realized you will hear their phrase in DEI, you must do the work. They realize you must do the work. Woo. I'll act like I'm back in Japan. So, [foreign language 00:03:48] that means, I don't know. I don't know. I don't know. This is hard. How do we do this? And so we are still at this point, people going, I don't know how to do this.

C. Lee Smith: Yeah. I think the frustration for me, Leslie, because I've been around a little while. It's like, it just seems like a history is repeating itself again. It's like, and after the murder of George Floyd, everyone was all up in arms about this topic and everyone was acting all serious about it, but it's like, I always just had this doubt in the back of my mind and say, okay, yeah, let's see what happens a year or two from now and see if this stuff actually gets done this time and here we are.

Leslie Short: Right. And I mean, and I've been working with clients that was supposed to be four month contracts that a year and a half later, we're still working together because they understand that it doesn't finish, there isn't the checklist. And I always, when people ask me for that checklist, I go, well, if I knew that I would be sitting on the Palm trees having this conversation. Because I will not be working as hard as I am to say you have to do the work. You have to be committed to understand that's not about you.

Audrey Strong: Yeah. I was reading Ad Week and insider​.com for show prep. And in terms of like company positioning and branding and marketing and then trying to expand internationally. One of the things that people have up been saying is they want to do this all in a way that's very thoughtful, but not driven by the headlines and driven by the ongoing tragedies and to somehow separate off the DEI program that they're implementing to have it be a standalone and not third rail. That's at least what some people are saying. 

Leslie Short: Falling off my chair without fall off my chair.

Audrey Strong: Yeah. I mean, what do you think about that [inaudible 00:05:25]?

Leslie Short: I think they are unbelievably a hundred percent wrong and I need them to call me immediately. DEI, number one is not a program. Diversity in the workplace, Equity in the workplace, and inclusion in the workplace is not a program, is not an execution. It needs to be part of the foundation of any company. If it's not part of the foundation that you care, then what is it? It's not a standalone. How do you tell people that don't look like you, sound like you, walk like you, go stand over there? That's segregation within inclusion. And yes, I said the segregation within inclusion, you cannot do that nor should you do that. Yet that's the easy fallout for companies to say, look, we're doing that over there, but your employees work here. So, what is that saying to them? You want them to be committed to you, but you won't be committed to their humanity?

C. Lee Smith: So, diversity in the workplace and inclusion in the workplace is like, how do you get the Asian folks from being only with the Asian folks and the black folks only sitting at their table and everything like that. Because we got to draw them in so that we're all playing and working well together, not separately.

Leslie Short: Well, you have to create that culture of inclusion. If someone comes in and they immediately see or even in the interview, right, you say to me, oh, let's see, you're going to love Tyrone. And you're going to love Cynthia. And I look over at Tyrone and Cynthia, the only two black people sitting there. I already know that your mindset is not one of inclusion because you automatically think because we're all the same color that we're going to get along? No. And it's just like building these ERG, little groups. We're going to have the black folks over there and the Hispanic folks over there and the Asian folks over there. I don't need to sit across the table to another black folks and tell me what their issue is. We already know the issues. Who's the conduit between the diversity of group, which is also disabilities, is also LGBTQ+, who's the person that understands the issues or concerns and is going back to leadership to have that discussion? If you separate, that's why I always say segregation within inclusion and be like, oh look, we got groups. Most of those groups, what are you doing? You're just sitting across having the same conversation, nothing gets executed? So, it's up to leadership to build an inclusive environment to say that there is equity here within this company, meaning we understand individually kind of what you need to grow and to build to shift.

C. Lee Smith: So, we're struggling at that level and now we want to talk about up leveling it then, it’s like now let's talk about international business. So, now Indians and Australians and Middle Easterners and Asians and Japanese and Chinese, boy how do we get our arms around all of that?

Leslie Short: Number one is not about you. So, that's the first thing I say to everyone. Because it's always and having lived in Japan and had a successful business in Japan, everyone went, how did you do that? You did what no other American company could do and you're not even a company at that point, it was me. Because I didn't create the theater to the things that I wanted. I created to the consumer for which I was speaking to and understood how my brand would fit into the culture. And so we are so big and bold as Americans that we go over and say, well, this is how we do it over here and we're not doing it very well over here. But yet we're going to impose what we think may work in another culture. So, here's the big thing, nothing about us without us. If you're not familiar with that phrase is started from the disability community in South Africa. It has grown as a ralling cry for our blacks and African Americans. It has now grown for a rallying cry for LGBTQ+ for across the board. If you were trying to build something, anything, whether it's a policy or procedure, a program, a business in a different country, how are you doing that without having us as valid voices at the table to understand what we need and what works here? And then how do you take your brand and value it there? 

C. Lee Smith: And to flip something you just said earlier, which is it's not over here, it's over there.

Audrey Strong: What are some of the leadership skills that our audience might want to be mindful of? Like, hey, I'm lacking in this skillset. I need to bone up to be able to actively listen and plug in and have an understanding like you did in Japan. What should they be pursuing in terms of professional development to make them succeed more within the space?

Leslie Short: One, they need to find someone that they honestly trust and click with, that can be that sounding board for them. I work with a lot of CEOs as a sounding board. Like I'm an exterior person, so I'm not looking for a raise. I'm not jockeying for a position. I'm honestly going to say you missed the mark on that. Or did you hear what they said? They said they didn't need it but they said it in a nicer way, but you kept going saying, but this is what we're giving you. And I can pull that back and we can take the layers down. So, you need to have someone that's listening also with a different ear than you. That's going to be honest with you to say, have you thought about, have you bought in, can we call? I have this resource for you and not be so bold of a leader to think you can lead without having all the knowledge?

C. Lee Smith: Having somebody who can call you on your bullshit in a respectful way is a huge asset.

Leslie Short: But that's what it really is because we get to a certain level as leaders that we also — the perception of having to know everything starts to play on us. The title starts to play. Well, it means nothing, if you can't actively listen to someone giving you information. 

Audrey Strong: Interesting. What are some of the tips you have after being in Europe for 10 years, expanding over there at this current time and being cautious about? I haven't done any homework on that and would be interested to hear what kind of you see is going on right now.

Leslie Short: So, the approach to Diversity in the workplace, Equity in the workplace, and Inclusion in the workplace is very different in Europe and in Asia. They're focusing a bit more on gender and disabilities. Now, and one of the reasons I did it, I was invited to meet with kind of the head of — they don't call it diversity inclusion there in Israel. And to hear her speak about diversity in the workplace and I was like, wait, wait, wait, let's go back. Because I just came from Israel. I need more, I need more of that information. What does that look like and sound like to you, whether it's the Palestinian women and jobs or how they work with companies that if they get so many complaints, the state, actually a country comes in and reviews that company and somebody is monitoring now inside for three years. And the leadership has to get training and management gets training and you have up until like three, I think it's three times to get formal complaints before somebody comes in and helps you reshape your company. Wouldn't that be amazing?

C. Lee Smith: Are we headed that direction here in the United States? 

Leslie Short: Sorry?

C. Lee Smith: Are we headed in that direction here in the United States?

Leslie Short: No, because we are, nobody can control us and it's not about…

C. Lee Smith: Nobody can tell us what to do. 

Leslie Short: No one tells us what to do here in this country. And no one is telling anyone what to do. What I always say my job is not to change anyone's mind, you know, is the quote on my book. My job is to help you think differently. To realize that it is bigger than you, that there are other people that don't walk like you, sound like you and look like you, but have just as much of not more value to situations and to open up and allow them to use the talent for which they've been given.

C. Lee Smith: And really these are the people you have to sell. I mean, so you have to sell them because they're your customers, but you have to sell them also because we have a labor shortage and most parts of the world, there's a labor shortage. And so you have to sell them to recruit them to come work for you. And so if you think of them as the customer and its like just doesn't matter, they're the customer. So, speaking the labor shortages, is like how has that impacted DEI? Whether it be in this country or abroad?

Leslie Short: It's been interesting on both sides because I've also been tasked to help some companies recruit because you know that old saying you can't find diverse candidates and I call BS on that. And so I'm like, then hire me but I'm like, you're going to get a true diverse. I'm not just bringing you black candidates because I'm the first person to say stop hiring black folks, stop hiring people of color, stop hiring LGBTQ, stop hiring women, if you are not prepared internally, culturally, to understand what inclusive looks like. If you are not ready to give equity, not only money, but equity, the understanding on how someone gets promoted and how someone moves through the company, then don't hire anyone. So, I work with leadership and the same time I'm working with candidates and I say to leadership, be clear, candidates are also interviewing you for what type of culture you have set before they walk in. Because many of them said we've had a horrible experience and we don't want to keep jumping.

C. Lee Smith: Diversity in the workplace without inclusion in the workplace just doesn't work.

Leslie Short: Does not work. And that's whether you are in Europe or in Asia or you're in the United States. And it's not belonging, let's be clear on that. And if you hear me say, this is the one I'm going to get a t‑shirt that says this, no one can tell you, you belong. A book belongs in a bookstore. You as a human being decides where you belong, it's up to a company or organization to be inclusive, to understand what inclusive means. To try to set that tone that there's opportunities for you to use your voice, to grow your talents. But you don't belong, you decide where you belong.

C. Lee Smith: But you can help make them feel like they belong, right? 

Leslie Short: You can make them feel like they belong, but I want to feel like it's an inclusive environment. Not that I have a seat at the table, that my voice is valued at the table. See, that's the difference. We can all get a seat at the table. When I speak with women groups and they're like, we have a seat at the table. I'm like a big deal. Do you have a valid voice at the table? See people have to give us seats now, that's a given. But what is your valid voice when you're at that table? So, that's the difference. 

Audrey Strong: What are maybe the top three things that our audience can do or should be doing to realize the inclusion part of that, to make it the final step happen, where the value part comes in?

Leslie Short: When you're in a meeting, even if you zoom, are people contributing or is it the same two or three people? And if not, you need to have a conversation with those others to say, am I not facilitating a meeting in a space where you have something to say or I noticed you went to say something and someone else said something and you shut down. What can I do to make sure that your ideas are being heard? It's very simple. You see someone, you hear someone. As a leader or the facilitator of meetings, it is your responsibility period to call on different people. Now, some people are shy and so you can say, I'd like to open it up and if there's something anyone will like to say, you can let us know now or here's this, feel free to email me at after the meeting. Because some people may not want to speak.

C. Lee Smith: Well, I do this thing and I'm wondering if it's the right thing to do, because if I see someone that's quiet in a meeting or someone who's not chimed in or something like that, I'll call on them directly and I'll ask them for their opinion. And it's like so if they're shy or they're being introverted or don't feel like they have anything that they want to offer or something like that, am I putting them on the spot in the spirit of trying to include them in the meeting?

Leslie Short: Yes. Yes, because you should know as a leader, you have an idea of your employees’ personalities. And so that would be a conversation that I would have with them like, listen, I didn't mean to put you on the spot, but I do think you have some great ideas or I love to hear your input in this. If you don't feel comfortable in the meeting, do me a favor, shoot me that email with what you're thinking and I'll even read it in the next meeting to make sure that you're voice is being heard within the group. It takes two minutes of all time to step back and say, how can I make sure that I'm getting the best of this person without me deciding what the best for them is? 

C. Lee Smith: And I think that that's an important point that really bears repeating is like, know your people, know what they like to do, what they don't like to do, how they interact with groups, know what motivates them. And it's like doesn't matter what the color is, doesn't matter what the gender is or any of that other grouping or generation or anything like that. Each person is an individual and they all have different motivations, different reasons for showing up to work, know your people. I just big believer in that. 

Leslie Short: Yes, yes.

Audrey Strong: For no organization, once the leader would do that. But the only reason he did that was not to spotlight somebody's value, but to just make sure that that person was paying attention, which [crosstalk 00:19:23]

Leslie Short: That too.

Audrey Strong: Well, but I mean your way is way better.

Leslie Short: But you know everything is done in context. 

Audrey Strong: Yes. 

Leslie Short: Think about it. It's the same thing that he did but everyone knew his intention wasn't one of inclusiveness, but one to catch you. And so, again, as a leader, what's your context when you give these things out?

Audrey Strong: Right. Got it. We got about a minute left, its Cavu group. It's thecavugroup​.com and that's spelled everybody T‑ And your Twitter is the same. And so, Leslie are you taking new clients? What have you got going? I know you have the book and the podcast.

Leslie Short: Book and the podcast, I'm taking new clients, I'm opening up an office in Philadelphia soon. So, I'll be [crosstalk 00:20:09] 

Audrey Strong: Congratulations.

C. Lee Smith: Hazelnut, Canole at little [inaudible 00:20:11]. I love that, of course. 

Leslie Short: You know, and love to take clients, work with people that really want to do the work, that are here to not change the world but be open to a shift and understanding of others.

Audrey Strong: I love it. 

C. Lee Smith: Well, it's fantastic. Thank you enough for your thoughts today. I think it's been very informative and we appreciate your time.

Leslie Short: Thank you. I appreciate you all. Thank you.

Thanks for listening to Manage Smarter podcast episode 194 — all about diversity in the workplace, inclusion in the workplace, and equity in the workplace . If you enjoyed the show, please rate and recommend on iTunes, Overcast or wherever you get your podcast. You can also get more great information at salesfuel​.com.