Manage Smarter 214 — Lakeya Cherry: Managing Inclusively

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Dr. Lakeya Cherry, DSW, MSSW, ACC is an executive leadership coach who has dedicated her career to the growth and development of individuals and the organizations they are a part of. As an ICF Certified Coach, a StartingBloc Fellow, a Google #IamRemarkable Facilitator, and a Certified Dare to Lead™ Facilitator, she believes that when leaders are empowered to reach their fullest potential, they will be able to support those around them more effectively. 

Dr. Cherry holds the title of Chief Executive Officer of The Network for Social Work Management, an international organization dedicated to strengthening and mobilizing diverse social impact leaders. Her approach is informed by her Doctorate in Social Work from the University of Southern California as well as her M.S. in Social Work from Columbia University, and her B.A. in Psychology and Legal Studies from the University of California at Santa Cruz.

In this podcast and vodcast for sales managers and sales leaders, Audrey, Lee and Lakeya discuss:

  • Definition of inclusive managing
  • The major elements needed to start and maintain a robust culture of managing inclusively
  • How to increase manager and employee buy-​in to a new program
  • Managing effectively more personally to reports, including increasing knowledge of home and family life  

"The #1 mistake managers make is not having high emotional intelligence and a commitment to their own leadership development, then they will likely have many blind spots that will impact their ability to lead effectively.”

Dr. Lakeya Cherry

Connect with Dr. Lakeya Cherry:

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Manage Smarter 214 — Lakeya Cherry Managing Inclusively


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Welcome to the Managed 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 Managed Smarter podcast.

Audrey Strong:  What does it mean to manage inclusively? This is a topic we haven't done, Lee, and I'm very excited for our guest today, not only for the topic, but she's got a very unique background. When I explain who she is, you guys are going to be like, wow.

C. Lee Smith:     Yeah, and we've covered DEI in the past on previous shows and like that, this is not that. So, I'm really curious to see, this is not necessarily an HR thing. This is a management thing, and this is Managed Smarter. So, I'm really anxious and looking forward to dive into this.

Audrey Strong:  Absolutely. Welcome to Manage Smarter everyone. My name is Audrey Strong. I'm the Vice President of Communications here at Sales Fuel, our company.

C. Lee Smith:     And I'm C. Lee Smith. I am the CEO and Founder of Sales Fuel.

Audrey Strong:  Okay, so on deck. Oh, we've been waiting for this one. And she's fantastic. Dr. Lakeya Cherry is an executive leadership coach who has dedicated her career to the growth and development of individuals and the organizations they are a part of. Now as an ICF certified coach, a starting block fellow, a Google I Am Remarkable facilitator and a certified Dare to Lead facilitator. She believes that when leaders are empowered to reach their fullest potential, they will be able to support those around the more effectively. Dr. Cherry also holding the Chief Executive Officer for the Network for Social Work Management, which is an international organization dedicated to strengthening and mobilizing diverse social impact leaders. She has got a doctorate in social work from USC and an MS in social work from Columbia, BA in Psychology and Legal Studies from University of California at Santa Cruz. So, Dr. Cherry, welcome. You have been both a therapist and a social worker. Your approach to all of this is something we just haven't seen. It's amazing.

Lakeya Cherry:  Thank you so much, Audrey and Lee. Yes, I have done a little bit of everything. I'm definitely what you call an advanced generalist, so I've been there, done that and dappled in almost every arena.

Audrey Strong:  So, how do you blend the lens of social work in with your management and leadership expertise? And then we'll talk about that managing inclusively, but you have a different lens and view that you're looking through. And what is it? How does that work?

Lakeya Cherry:  So, my view as a social worker, I have my master's in social work as well as my doctorate in social work. I really have a systems lens. So, I'm looking at the person and environment I'm taking into consideration the different barriers and the different obstacles they may be facing based on their different environments. I'm looking at the person, I'm looking at the team, so the mezzo level as well as the organization or the macro level. And then you mentioned that I was previously the CEO of the Network for Social Work Management. I was the CEO of that organization for nine years. And so, while I have a social work background, I was in a [inaudible 00:03:46] role leading an organization where other social workers and leaders within the nonprofit sector. So, that allowed me to kind of interject myself within the leadership management realm.

C. Lee Smith:     How do you get managers to change their point of view? That it's like, okay, I have a management style, this is what I know works, this is who I am, and you're going to have to adapt to it. Versus understanding who the employee is, their likes and dislikes, and what's going to help them perform at a higher level that's perhaps requires a different approach than every other employee on the team.

Lakeya Cherry:  It's hard work, honestly coaching, which is why I'm now a coach. I've seen a lot in my previous row as a therapist as well as a nonprofit CEO. A lot of people are stubborn. They're not willing to change, they're not aware of their blind spots. They're not necessarily emotionally intelligent. And so, people aren't willing to change overnight. You have to be able to convince them. You have to coach them. You have to convince them that they should be willing to grow as an individual and as a leader. And that by them doing that, they're also benefiting the teams and the organization that they're part of. And it's not something that most people are comfortable with.

C. Lee Smith:     You know, in sales, we learn to not only sell the benefits, but also talk about the consequences of not taking action because it's so comfortable for people then to make the decision to do nothing. And so how do you go about explaining the consequences of doing nothing and keep on doing the same thing as manager that you've always done?

Lakeya Cherry:  Exactly. And so, with sells, I mean, you're selling for the company. You're trying to generate revenue or income, which benefits everyone. And so for leaders who aren't necessarily focused on them self and doing a better job as a leader and increasing their skills as a leader, you have to convince them that their role impacts everybody else. And that by them focusing on strengthening their leadership abilities, it can make a difference within the company. It can lead to leaders being more engaged. It can lead to leaders being more innovative. It can lead to more money and more stability and sustainability within the organization.

Audrey Strong:  So, what are the other buckets that go under managing inclusively besides encouraging emotional intelligence and goodness?

Lakeya Cherry:  Yeah, so I'd say, and I will say I've been doing a lot of work from this article I saw on Harvard Business Review about the traits and characteristics of an inclusive leader. And some of the characteristics are first, a commitment, an actual commitment. Many of us have heard of the word performative, but for leaders who are committed to managing inclusively, is there a visible commitment or is it just stated words? What does this actually look like in practice? Also humility. We've seen over the last few years, a lot of people have been uncomfortable with the unknown, having hard conversations, et cetera. And so we need to get to a place where we admit that there's some things that we don't know, but that we're willing to adapt the mindset of a learner and learn and grow especially if it benefits our people. As managers, we should always, beyond looking out for our self, we should first prioritize our people, the people that we're leading. Other things, I'd say awareness of bias. If you're an inclusive leader or you're striving to create an inclusive team and you're not necessarily aware of your own biases, then obviously that is going to impact your team and the culture. People aren't going to believe you if that's one of your blind spots. And we all have bias and we all have blind spots, but what are we doing to become aware of them and to work on it? Other things that I would say are cultural intelligence. What are we doing to actually learn about different cultures and to make space to celebrate everyone within our workplace? Effective collaboration, is our environment actually psychologically safe, where all people feel comfortable making their voice heard and sharing ideas. So again, inclusion is to include what are we doing to make the environment comfortable for all people to really feel included.

C. Lee Smith:     How you coach the managers then who have team members, for example, that aren't being inclusive then to certain members of the team? And can I get them to embrace the differences and embrace the other members of the team that perhaps they've kind of shied away from for whatever reason?

Lakeya Cherry:  Well, there's a couple different mechanisms. So, one is obviously DEI training, which most organizations are doing. But just because you do one DEI workshop an unconscious bias or micro-​aggressions or whatever, that isn't necessarily going to solve the issue. And so this is something that needs to be lifelong work for the individual as well as the organization. So, if I'm coaching a leader and they're trying to ensure that their team is more inclusive, I might say, how vulnerable are you being with your team about your commitment to this and why it matters? How well do you know your team members and how well do they know each other? What are you actually doing to ensure that beyond everyone knowing each other's role and responsibilities, that you know that this is this person's religion? That this person is from this cultural background, that this person celebrates this holiday, that this person has a family and that is their motivation, and that they stop working at a set time and we're going to respect that. So, I encourage the leaders that I coach to make space to establish rapport with everyone on their team, but to ensure that everyone is having time to get to know each other. But then also, what does it mean to create shared norms? So, if this is something that is important to you, ensuring that collectively your team establish some ground rules or ways of being in order to ensure that everyone feels psychologically safe, comfortable, and included. But then also how are we going to hold each other accountable?

Audrey Strong:  So, interesting. So, my question is then to go one step beyond that, which is taking in your social work expertise. Lee is a big proponent of getting curious, as a manager, how curious should I be about the social work? The personal lives and the work-​life balance and the individual home environment situations of my employees? And where's the line where I can explore that and become aware of it, but then it's too far?

Lakeya Cherry:  Good question. So, I'm also a Brene Brown Dare to Lead Facilitator. So, in my work, we're oftentimes talking to people about the importance of vulnerability and courage at work. And one of the things that we often tell people is that vulnerability doesn't necessarily mean disclosure. So, it doesn't mean that you're coming to work and you're sharing all of your business, but it's really showing up, leaning in, having hard conversations. And so as a leader, it's important for you to establish rapport and get to know your people. But then there's some boundaries. And so, for example if you missed a couple days of work, Audrey, like, I definitely want to check on you and know that you're okay. But you're not required, as someone on my team to share all the intimate details of what was going on. But of course, I'm going to check on you, is everything okay? Is your family okay? You could say, and thank you for asking, and then it's up to you to share what you want to share. But again, it requires some discernment. And so some people might be willing to share a little bit more, whereas others are really much, this is my work life, this is my personal life. And they have more refined boundaries, so to speak.

C. Lee Smith:     Well, don't ask the question, if you don't intend on following through and having a conversation about it, because that looks very disingenuous.

Lakeya Cherry:  Exactly. And that's the thing many of us have been taught to, how are you? And then we don't expect people to actually give us…

C. Lee Smith:     Tell us how they are.

Lakeya Cherry:  And I've seen it so many times where it's, hey, how are you feeling today? And most people, they're not emotionally literate. They're not emotionally literate. They're not in tune with their emotions and their feelings. So most people don't even give you a feeling or emotion. They say, okay, good.

Audrey Strong:  They're fine.

Lakeya Cherry:  Yeah, fine. And then for us, because I mean, I won't say that we don't care, but because we're not necessarily trained to go further, we're just like, oh, okay, good. And then we move on. And so again, we need to get to the point, even as leaders where we're asking, how are you feeling? And we're looking for an emotion and we're able to respond. But then also, are we willing to be vulnerable and share, you know I didn't sleep well, but I'm here today and I'm ready to get started. Are we willing to share a little bit more about our self in order to open up the members of our team?

Audrey Strong:  Less transactional?

C. Lee Smith:     It's not just the words too that you're listening to. You have to listen to how that are using the words and the facial expressions and the tone of the voice and everything like that. So, it really requires, I think, listening intentionally then to not only what is being said, but also what is not being said, and also how it's being said.

Lakeya Cherry:  Exactly. Audrey just said, less transactional. Unfortunately, many of us have worked for years our entire career in transactional environment regardless of the sector organizations workplaces are businesses, and we begin to adapt the mindset based on what we're seeing. And so to your point, we really need to get intentionally with fully showing up, asking people how they're doing, and caring enough to being willing to respond and kind of react depending on what they say.

Audrey Strong:  I'd love also this media packet that you sent over. Before we run out of time, I would love to hear more on your guidelines for more inclusive decision making and meeting etiquette. We've had…

Lakeya Cherry:  Good question.

Audrey Strong:  Break those in half. Let's talk about decision making first, inclusive decision making, then we'll talk about meeting etiquette. But decision making. How do you make sure everybody's got the equal seat at the table? Or is there a system or process that you recommend?

Lakeya Cherry:  There's numerous systems. So one, managers really need to be mindful of who's in the room. I know in my previous role, for example, if we were hosting a conference or a meeting, we really try to ensure that there is diverse people and race, gender, sexuality, et cetera at the table, so really being mindful of that. So, if you're thinking about inclusive decision making, are all perspectives at the table or is it one-​sided? How diverse are the people at the table? Is it just leadership who have the ability to respond and make a decision? Or are you creating room for employees at all levels to have a voice? And what does that look like? Are you mindful of different personality styles? For example, I'm an introvert and so in some situations I might want to ponder and think about my thoughts a little bit more before fully diving in and giving an opinion. What does that look like? We also have neuro-​diverse employees. What does it look like to create a space for them? So, in terms of decision making the top thing is just really being mindful of who's at the table. How diverse is it? Does everyone have all of the information they need? Did you send an agenda in advance that you give people an opportunity to do some research perhaps in advance? Once the conversation starts occurring, do you make sure that everyone have an opportunity to actually speak and share? What does that look like? Do you follow up with people afterwards? Do you give people an opportunity to weigh in? And so people should be aware of all of the criteria and what's at stake before necessarily coming to the table to make a decision?

C. Lee Smith:     I got a couple comments on that. Is like, the first one as far as the meetings go, is a pre-​read is very helpful so that you can cover some stuff in an email that you don't have to cover in the meeting. As long as you require and you're holding people accountable for actually reading the pre-​read, which is sometimes a challenge. But the other thing is that asking yourself or the people in this room, is this an echo chamber? This goes to what you were talking about. This is how I would sum up what you were saying here is like, because we had a meeting yesterday in our company, and we're talking about marketing messaging everything like that. And we were all in agreement and we realized that wait a minute, we have three Gen Xers here. So, of course that's how we would come at that particular problem. And we had to blow the whistle on that and just kind of say, hey, wait a minute. We need to get some input from the Gen Zs and from the millennials and millennials. Because they're coming at this from a different perspective than perhaps we come at it from.

Lakeya Cherry:  Yeah and do they feel comfortable to share?

C. Lee Smith:     Right.

Lakeya Cherry:  Perhaps they do have ideas, but perhaps it's not an inclusive or safe enough space where they feel comfortable depending on the power dynamics actually speaking up and sharing.

C. Lee Smith:     Because we're so dominant.

C. Lee Smith:     Speak for yourself.

Lakeya Cherry:  Not you, Lee.

Audrey Strong:  We've got a few minutes left. I want you, so all these great ideas, you have something that you call creating permeability to implement the changes. So, per Lee's question, like all right, we've made the commitment, this is going to be a regular set of changes and implementation, but how do you get it to sink in and get everybody on board? It’s going to…

Lakeya Cherry:  We need policies, we need practices. No, in the handbook, we need mechanisms to ensure that people are being held accountable. And so with this work, I mean, many organizations have been talking about it for years, even before 2020, but they had no mechanisms to hold themselves accountable. So, it was easy to stay. I'm committed to diversity, equity, and inclusion, but what does that look like? Are you collecting data? Are you actually interviewing your people for feedback? And so I can say I'm an inclusive leader, but if you ask people around me, people who work for me or with me, are they also going to agree? And so I would say organizations need to continuously collect feedback from all of their employees to see how they feel about the culture. Because it's one thing to say, I'm culturally humble and I'm curious and I'm committed, but what do the people actually think? What are your policies around inclusive culture? Do you have team norms? Do you have ground rules? What is your feedback culture? And so if you feel that your voice isn't being heard or that you're not being included, how comfortable are you actually with speaking up to your manager? Is your manager receptive to that? Is HR receptive to that? What will happen if you're someone who don't feel included and you actually spoke up? So again, policies, practices, and continuing to walk the talk, like continuing to ensure that the people who are there and the people that you continue to bring on are committed to this, that they're willing to continue to learn and grow. And again, it's not going to happen overnight, but it takes intentionality.

C. Lee Smith:     This is something that we had to do here. We had a bad actor on one of our teams, and I had to put together a code of conduct and put it in writing so that when that person then ran a foul of how we expected people to behave and participate in meetings with other people, that I could point back to what I had in writing and say, okay, look at number three here, on this list or whatever. It's like we need to do a better job in this particular area. Because when you said this, when you did that.

Lakeya Cherry:  Exactly.

C. Lee Smith:     So, putting it in writing is something I found is absolutely critical.

Lakeya Cherry:  And you need proof. In the past, I worked for a tech company where one of their rules, one of their values was no assholes. I've also seen many companies where one of their values is kindness, but what does this actually look like in practice? What's this…

Audrey Strong:  There is the definition of that though? It's just a word.

C. Lee Smith:     Well, is it kind to call somebody an asshole?

Lakeya Cherry:  Yeah. Right, exactly. And so what does it mean? What is the definition? What is the observable behavior? But also in a management context, I don't know how I necessarily feel about performance reviews, but are people being evaluated based on how inclusive they are? What does that look like? It's a little bit different when your promotion and your pay is dependent on falling in line with a certain set of meetings…

C. Lee Smith:     But what does that look like? I mean, because that's an interesting topic.

Audrey Strong:  That’s a good question. What's the answer?

Lakeya Cherry:  You've been doing this longer than me. What do you think? But no, seriously, [crosstalk 00:22:04], like seriously, even with diversity, equity, inclusion, we saw so many organizations state that this is a priority, but how are they measuring it? How do we actually know that they have seen progress? There's a pay gap, but are people paying attention to the racial leadership gap and pay between men, women, different races? How often are they tracking it? Are they tracking engagement? Are they tracking people's viewpoints around inclusion? And then what are you doing? So, you get the data. What are you doing? What is your visible commitment and who holds you accountable?

C. Lee Smith:     I think it would be easier to identify what is not inclusive. Yes, it is to identify and measure what is inclusive. So, that to me is a challenge.

Lakeya Cherry:  Yeah. Well, interesting point. I mentioned that I do Brene Brown Dare to Lead work, and when she first started doing her research, she asked many leaders, what does courageous leadership look like? And they weren't necessarily able to tell her, but they were able to your point, to identify barriers to courage. Which is the inability to talk about fears and feelings, have hard conversations, prioritize and talk about diversity, equity, inclusion, perfectionism, et cetera. And so many of us can point out what's not inclusive, what we don't want, but many of us frankly have not seen what it means to have a culture that is inclusive, emotionally intelligent, et cetera.

Audrey Strong:  Well, if you need a coach, Lakeya Cherry is your coach. I'm going to spell your website and are you taking new clients? It's L‑A-​K-​E-​Y‑A Cherry…

Lakeya Cherry:  Yeah, like it's a new year. I'm actively recruiting.

Audrey Strong:  Awesome. So, you can help anybody who's ears have perked up. Oh, I need help implementing that. Get ahold of you through the website.

Lakeya Cherry:  Yes, definitely. And I'm also a partner at Evolution and Evolution as a firm full of coaches. So, even if I'm not necessarily the right fit there's many talented coaches of all genders, races, and identities who might be a good fit for you.

Audrey Strong:  Fantastic. Dr. Cherry, I'm so glad we finally got to interview you.

C. Lee Smith:     It's delightful.

Audrey Strong:  Been a while. Well worth the wait. Thank you for coming to the show.

Lakeya Cherry:  Oh, thank you so much for having me.

Thanks for listening. 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@​salesfuel.​com.

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