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An Approach to DEI Training that Inspires Change w/Jared Karol Ep#148

By Anthony Taylor - February 02, 2022

SME Strategy is a strategy consulting company that specializes in aligning teams around their vision, mission, values, goals and action plans. Learn more about how we can help align your team with our strategic planning and implementation services.

Untitled design - 2021-12-27T131748.040  Anthony: Welcome, folks to this episode of the Strategy & Leadership Podcast. My name is Anthony Taylor. We interview thought leaders, senior leaders and experts on this podcast to get their perspective on strategy, leadership, how to move people forward, and just really how to be great in life. And my guest today is Jared Karol. Jared, what's happened today?

Untitled design - 2022-01-27T145245.455  Jared: Anthony, great to be here. Thanks for having me. You know, not a lot. It's a nice sunny day in Oakland, which isn't bad for for January 20.

Anthony: Excellent. I definitely got that. So, I want to give it background, Jared is the author of A White Guy Confronting Racism: An invitation to reflect and act. And he's also a senior facilitator at Translator, Inc. Jared, looking at your background, you've worked with impactful organizations, well known brands in the bay (but if you're in the bay, you're probably global). You've spoken to some of the biggest companies in the world about racism, diversity, equity, and inclusion. And so tell me about some of the work that you're doing now. And what's you know, kind of top of mind in the space that you see?

Jared: Yeah, thank you, thank you, Anthony. Gosh, where to start? So, as you said, my main gig lately has been with Translator, a DEI analytics software company. It's really powerful. It's a startup. So what we do, in my role as a senior facilitator, I do some client work with coaching and strategy sessions with mostly senior leaders, mostly white senior leaders, a lot of white men who are kind of newer to this space. When I say this space - like what do I do? I know racism, I know diversity, inclusion, equity, these are things I'm supposed to know about. And, and I don't really know what to do, can you help me? So that's kind of my role.

But what Translator does as a company is we we provide really robust, powerful, compelling learning experiences with a platform that is really engaging and interactive. It also collects really powerful data that we can share both live time in the sessions, and afterwards with senior leadership where we say, Hey, these 50 senior leaders took this experience, it was really powerful. Here's some of the qualitative data we found. And here's some of the quantitative data that we are going to present that we're presenting back to you, that says, hey, here's what we're seeing. Here's what your people are saying, here's what we're noticing, here are our recommendations. Are you ready to to start acting? And it's kind of like they can't unknow, they can't unsee what we've shared with them. So that's a little bit about Translator.

And then, of course, with the book. The book just came out a few months ago, and it's been about almost two years in the making of really kind of putting myself out there vulnerably. I'm a white guy, I'm a straight white man talking about and working in the anti racism space, which is, I think, really powerful and really needed. And so the work at Translator overlaps a lot with the work I do kind of on my own consulting, it just interconnects and intersects quite a bit, because it's the same type of work. Trying to elevate awareness, ignite a spark, start conversations, challenge people to do better and be better, but also support them in that journey of doing better and being better. So that's a little high level summary. There's, of course more to talk about, but that's the gist.

Anthony: Awesome. I love that. Well, one of the guests that we had on our podcast earlier, Melvin Gravely, he wrote a book called Dear White friend, which I thought was awesome, still available, awesome guy. And as you know, some of our listeners know, we had our Diversity & Inclusion Summit late last year. And it was really powerful for me as a straight white guy to be able to reflect on those things. And I don't want to call it a trend - I hate that. Diversity and inclusion is not a trend, but I want to call it more of a movement, more of an awareness that has happened really in the past two years for people who don't experience it on a daily basis. So Jared, for people that don't experience or recognize, I'll say racism on a daily basis, but who might not be totally aware of the impacts of no diversity, equity, and inclusion. What are some of the things that they're reflecting on? What are some of the questions that you have them ask? And how are those people, who again, might not live it, might not be experiencing it every day evolving and growing in that sort of learning and awareness, as you've talked about?

Jared: Yeah. Great set of questions, Anthony. I mean, do we have do we have three weeks?

Anthony: Well, you got about three minutes.

Jared: No, but seriously. I mean, you pointed at that pretty directly, right? I'll use myself. I grew up in Southern California in the 80s and 90s, as a white kid, lower middle class, so it wasn't like I was super wealthy, but I did have privilege. I never had to think about race, racism, I didn't have any black friends, other friends of color, my world was very limited. And so then as I go off to college, and I go out in the world, and I start to see these things, I had a choice. And initially, my choice was, I don't care, those aren't my people. That's not my issue, it doesn't affect me, I've got other things to worry about. But then as I started to think about it more - and my dad was a big influence on me, he was a gay man. So he was really trying to say, Hey, Jared, you got to evolve, you got to change. And so as I started, it wasn't like I was converted, but it was like, Hey, I don't want to be that guy anymore who doesn't care, doesn't know, doesn't get it, isn't interested, all these things. And it was really about this kind of evolution of consciousness on my part, to say there's stuff I'm missing out on. There are relationships, there are opportunities, there are people there, you know, things that I want to be a part of, that I want to know about. And so that's my journey.

So when my dad died in 2000, little over 21 years ago, I was 27. I started teaching, started really just diving in on my own, kind of doing my own journey of learning and growing and immersing. And you know, without giving a whole - people can check out my LinkedIn profile if they want to see what I've done. But it's evolved to what I'm doing now, today. So I share that story because I see every single person, whatever their race, their background, their gender, etc, is on a similar journey. And I think to get to the point of what you were asking about, the senior leaders or any leaders or really anyone. I think a lot of people are kind of where I was, maybe 10, 15, 20 years ago, where like, wait a second, I got to be different, I gotta do things different. I don't know how.

So my approach - you see a lot of approaches from people in my line of work that are like, just really hard hitting, and you got to do this. But also, when you're used to privilege, equity feels like oppression. So if I come at you and say, Hey, Anthony, you're privileged, and you're like, Whoa, I'm not a bad guy. And you're gonna get defensive, you're gonna get dismissive, you're gonna tune out the conversation. So how do I come and say, Hey, we got to talk about this. And, you know, tell me your story. Tell me what you're thinking about. Tell me what you don't know. Tell me about your people. If you're a manager, tell me about your organization. Right? So really engage these people in conversations, challenging them, say, Hey, can I offer you a different perspective? What if you were a black female? Would you think of this situation differently? Those types of questions, and then supporting them in that in that learning journey. Because if it's just all challenging, they're gonna check out. But if it's just all supporting, it's like, are we really changing? Are we really evolving? No. So it's this kind of yin yang of challenging, supporting. That's my general approach. And of course, there are a lot of little nuances and techniques that I use, depending on the person, the company, the engagement, etc.

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Anthony: Yeah, I get that. What I heard is wanting to be the kind of person that does that, that you saw the benefit of doing it. And I hate to say that most human beings are self serving, but I think that we inherently are, and that we won't change unless we see a benefit to it. So it's kind of shitty saying it, but seeing the benefit of not being a - dickhead's not gender inclusive, so an asshole, anyway. But recognizing - see it's my podcast, I can swear on it if I want. Recognizing that there is an opportunity out of it, there is a benefit of doing it, not just being a good person, but then also recognizing that diversity, equity and inclusion is not just racism, although racism is a huge part of that. And so I guess my question to you is, given that that's your approach, and given that you challenge people without pressuring them and pushing them away.

There's obviously large corporate organizations, there's people sponsoring these initiatives, for whatever reason, whatever motivation it is, and I'm not here to say what it is. So there's the people who want to do it. And then there's people that are being put into these programs. So as somebody who is committing to do this, what are some lessons learned for those that are wanting to embrace it? And what are some of the lessons learned that you've seen from people that are resisting it? For whatever reason that is, and you touched on a couple. So like eight questions at once, so we have another three weeks?

Jared: No, great set of questions. As you were speaking like, yep, that's basically every engagement. So my emphasis is on coaching individuals and small groups. That's just where I work best. I do one-on-one coaching, I facilitate groups of could be 6, 8, 10, 20 people. And what I've learned, and I think a lot of people in my space understand this.. all I really need is at least one person in an organization or a department, whatever the company is, who is on board, who has the budget, who has the wherewithal, who understands the value of it, to sign off for me to get in the door. I don't need to change everyone. There are people who come in and do organizational audits. And do that whole thing, which is great - that's not what I do. What I do is I work with individuals and small groups to evolve their thinking, to see how their actions or inactions, their words, or lack of words, impact their people, their teams, whatever the context is. Whatever their role is, if they're in engineering, or marketing or sales, you know, there are all these different contexts. Who is in your sphere of influence, your sphere of impact, who is being affected, in some way, by how you're embodying your day to day living? Right? It is, and I would argue it should be selfish.

So for me, I'll use myself as an example. And by the way, I do that a lot. Because I'm a storyteller, I believe in the power of story, I believe in the power of what I call a possibility model. Hey people, look at me, use me as your as your model, as your motivation, as your inspiration - to see yourself in me. So to answer your question, not everyone's going to get it, not everyone's going to care. Not everyone's going to be on board, not everyone's going to commit. And I don't want to say that's okay. Because it's not like we do need everyone committing but that's the reality. So who are the people who actually are going to care? Who are going to commit, who are interested in changing and learning. And when you find those right people, they're going to be your ambassadors, your change agents, your strategic collaborators. And they can be at any level of the organization. Now, of course, the higher up they are, the better it is, because they have more influence.

But say someone's middle manager, lower level or even entry level. If they are on board, part of the work that I do with individuals and small groups is alright, you don't have a ton of influence just because of your level and the type of organization you're in. Who do you know, who's more senior than you that we can strategize with? For you to talk to and move this forward. So in the end, Anthony, it's about relationships. Why should white people care about racism? Because it affects us. It affects us not the same way it affects black people and other people of color. I don't walk down the street with people clutching their purse, or calling me the N word. I don't get that every day. But it affects how we all have to navigate the world with this this BS of oh we can't talk to him, all that history and politics. So it does affect us, because it's something we have to think about when really we should just be out, you know, doing our thing and building relationships with whomever.

Anthony: Yeah, it creates a barrier that society poses. And then you have an opportunity to remove that barrier, such that you have, I would say a better quality of life. Now, again, there's so many things at play here. So if anybody else wants to come on the podcast to talk about this. It's two white guys talking about racism, like I recognize what that could occur as. So any DEI people saying hey, I want to talk about this in my work, you know, y'all are welcome. Holler at me info@smestrategy.net.

Jared: Well, Anthony you bring up a good point. I get criticism from from all over the place. You know, from white people saying, Who are you? What are you doing? This is BS, blah, blah. And I just brush that off, like, I don't care. You're not my people just because we have the same ethnic background, right? But what I also get is from other people of color, especially black people saying, Hey, are you the right person to be doing this work? And my answer is yes. And here's how I do it. And here's why I do it. And here's the way I fit into the larger conversation. Because you're right here, we are two white guys. What do we know, individually or collectively about racism? We haven't lived it. We don't know and haven't lived experience of discrimination, of trauma, right? That intergenerational trauma, that black people and other people of color have.

But white people need to be talking about this with other white people. Because what we can't do is hey black person, can you educate me on the history of racism, what I can do to be better? No, unless we're gonna pay that person. Like, that's not how it works. So white people do need to be having these conversations with each other. The gap though, is that there aren't that many white folks who know how to lead those conversations, who know how to facilitate them, to know how to ask the right questions. And so that's a gap I'm trying to fill. Even if you go back in history, Martin Luther King, James Baldwin, Malcolm X. You get together with your people and figure your shit out. It's like, okay, great. But if you don't know how to actually have those conversations, is it going to lead us anywhere? Yeah, the answer is often no.

Anthony: Yeah, absolutely. Well, fortunately when we were doing our summit, we had an internal champion, my colleague Jenna Sedmak who's just so awesome. And she said, Hey, we're gonna do a Diversity & Inclusion Summit, something I'm very passionate about, let's do an internal check and have that conversation. So I was grateful enough to have that to challenge my own assumptions. And one of the things that you had said earlier that I want to take it back to - that we can empower any culture, creed, background to have these type of conversations. Because I think everybody has biases somewhere.

Observe your action and/or inaction, your communication and/or non communication, and decisions and/or non decisions, and then the impact of all of those. So it's not rocket science. It's just looking and saying, Hey, do I have biases that dictate my behavior in action, communication, decisions - whether that's hiring decisions, making a snap judgment on a resume because of their name, or whatever. It comes in a lot of different flavors. So we're not gonna talk about the flavors. But just looking at that holistically. The other piece is are you the one qualified to talk about it? On the other hand, y'all need to talk about it. And so you got to have the conversation. Don't worry about it being right. But I think it's also important to acknowledge and recognize where you do not have the full perspective. And don't go on a high horse saying I am better than thou because I'm having this conversation. But a reflection of saying are you curious? Or are you trying to be right?

So, question. When we look at these large brands, large organizations having these conversations, without throwing anybody under the bus, are these large brands having the conversations because it's the right thing to do? Because if there's a good upside of doing it? Because it's necessary? Because they have more exposure than most? What is driving those conversations in the larger organizations, versus maybe some of the smaller ones? And it could be they just have more resources to go after it. So what do you see out of all of that?

Jared: Gosh, that's a complex question Anthony, and a great one. So I argue, as many things in this space are, it's a 'yes, and'. So roughly, you have the moral - the should. Like you should do this. Because you're talking about people. You're talking about individuals and groups of people who are flesh and bone, whose lives, whose day to day comfort, safety, financial, political, cultural lives are at risk. Right. And so their place of employment has a great opportunity to create an environment for all of us to live psychologically safe, where we feel like we belong, we feel like we're valued.

So there is the should part, there's also the business part, I don't really focus a ton on the business part. I'm not saying it's not valuable or important. On one hand, yes, if you do this, or when you do this, you're going to make more money, your business is going to make more money, because your employees who are from all kinds of different backgrounds, racial and otherwise, are going to be more committed, are going to be more motivated, are going to feel like they're valued. They're going to do better work, there are all kinds of studies and data to support that. And then I would argue in between that is just looking at demographics. Now, especially in the US, but even around around the world. So many companies are, I mean, almost every company is global in some way. Right?

If you look at US demographics, and around the world, I imagine they're similar. The US for example, is going to be majority minority by 2040 or 2050 or something, right? So we can't have this old white boys network, it's not going to last, it's not going to be good for business. So I'm focusing on the people who I have the opportunity to work with, sometimes they're the CEO, sometimes they're entry level manager, and everywhere in between. Helping them understand those types of questions that you just phrased, let's look at the bigger picture here. Especially when I'm doing one on one coaching, but when I speak, it's in the book, you'll see it a lot when I facilitate groups, but what is each of your individual reasons for caring about this? Oh, you don't know? Okay, well, let's figure that out. Right?

So I can tell my story, I can tell a 30 second version, I can tell a 30 minute version, I can tell a four week version of why I do this work. I do this work, because if we lived in an equitable world, I actually wouldn't be here. My father was a gay man, he got married, had a kid because that's what you're supposed to do. Because when I was born, homosexuality was just de-pathologized. Right? So it wasn't safe or legal for my dad to come out. So he married a woman and had me. So everyone has a story about why we should care about this work. It might not be as dramatic or traumatic as that. But there's something and so I challenge people, let's explore your story, explore your narrative. And let's explore how we can use that to inspire the people with whom you work.

Anthony: A lot of this work is common sense, in a way. And I think that there's a gap in understanding, because especially people who say, Oh, I'm not racist, or I don't have these biases, or I don't see it as a problem. But it's not until you actually put yourself in the position of someone else and saying, oh, like you feel like you're always having to stand up for yourself in meetings, because no one ever listens to you. So as a leader, I think it's beholding to look at the DEI, not just diversity, and but the equity and the inclusion so that you become a better leader. Because you're supporting your people better. And then to your point, Jared, you know, it's a great environment. So as leaders, our jobs are to create a great environment for our people. High performing teams create areas that are psychologically safe. So if we only looked at it from the business perspective, well, there's a couple reasons for it there and then to put yourself in the positions of someone else, because perspective is reality. And so if they're experiencing not diversity, not inclusion, not equity, then they are feeling it, regardless of what you think. And I think it's worth a reflection to do.

Jared: Well exactly. Regardless of what you think that I mean, that's why the subtitle of the book is an invitation - the language is very intentional, an invitation. So I'm not coming in like you have to do this. I don't even call myself an expert. I don't consider myself an expert. I consider myself someone who's interested and curious about this work, about people, about relationships, about equity, as I talked about with my dad. So it's an invitation. Here's a book I've written. It's an invitation. I've got some perspectives, some ideas and frameworks, you might be interested in them. I invite you to reflect. Because that part you just mentioned, that's the reflection piece. Hmm. Might my colleague over here who's a gay black woman - might she think of it differently than I experienced it as a straight white man? Oh, yeah. You know what, if I reflect for a little bit? Yeah, probably, it's probably a different experience for her than it is for me. And then act.

So once you understand, and you understand power dynamics, you understand historical inequities, and oppression and racism, all these things, once you understand privilege, and what that means and what it doesn't mean, then you can act because you're like, wait a second, I get it now. And you don't have to be an expert. You don't have to know all the right words, you don't have to say all the right things. You just have to understand that we're not living in a level playing field. It's not a meritocracy. And I think that those concepts are barriers for some people, a lot of people. Because if I think that it's a meritocracy, then well, hey, just so happens that out of the 20 VPS in the company, 19 of them are white men, and hey, it's a meritocracy, so white men are just smarter than everyone else. It's like, no. But what am I going to do in my position of influence to change that, to act, day by day, week by week, month by month, year by year, to change the systems in which I'm part of?

Anthony: Yeah, and I think the key word there is systems. Systems get created by biases, that's why AI can sometimes be dangerous, because it's programmed. So it's however, it's programmed lead you to decisions. You say invitation, like if somebody invites you to a party, you do not need to go and you do not feel like you're forced to go, you have the choice to go. So I think the invitation to reflect on this, take some reflection than act. And one of the things that was really helpful for me as I went through this was just like a beginner mindset. Just like forget everything I think I know, and just say I'm not being challenged at this, it's my choice to reflect on it and my choice to look at it. We got lots to go around, the work to do and I think that as leaders and as audience members, you know, I think you roll with it. And I think that there's a lot we can do to make workplaces great. And the reason I decided to do strategic planning is because when you have a great workplace, you have great family life, when you have great family life, you have impact in your community. When you have great impact in the community, the world is better.

So strategic planning is my way of changing the world. This podcast is my way of changing the world for the better. And I get to have great conversations with folks like Jared to make the world a better place. So Jared, where can people connect with you? Where can they learn more about the work that you do?

Jared: Yeah, I love that wrap up Anthony. So true. It's all interconnected. People can find me - I'm really active on LinkedIn. So just search for me, Jared Karol on LinkedIn, you can connect with me there, follow me there. The book is found at awhiteguyconfrontingracism.com. And then you can learn more about me and my coaching, facilitating other stuff at jaredkarol.com. And they're all pretty interwoven and interconnected. So those are the three main places. I'm also on Instagram, not super active. And I try and stay away from Twitter and Facebook just for my mental health.

Anthony: You want to follow me on Instagram? It's mostly memes. But, you know, you've been warned. But really, thank you for the conversation today. You know, two white guys confronting racism, having a conversation about it. I don't think there's a wrong way to do it. I could be wrong, somebody could tell me. But I think it's being questioning and reflecting and having the conversation, I think can only lead to better results. And I appreciate you making the time to chat with me today.

Jared: I agree wholeheartedly with that. You're very welcome. And I appreciate it. You too. Thank you for having me on the podcast.

Anthony: It's my pleasure. So everyone, my guest today Jared Karol, who is the author of A White Guy Confronting Racism: An invitation to reflect and act, and he's a senior facilitator at Translator, Inc. My name is Anthony Taylor. This has been the Strategy & Leadership Podcast. If you enjoyed today's episode, be sure to like and subscribe and do all the things you do on a platform. Stay connected, share the podcast with somebody on your team if you want to have these conversations. And then if you're doing strategic planning with your team, and you'd like somebody to engage in different types of conversations, be sure to reach out.

Anthony: Once again my name is Anthony Taylor. This has been the Strategy & Leadership Podcast. Thank you for watching and listening and we'll see you next time!

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