There is no doubt that this is, and always will be a difficult topic to address, but there is one thing I am sure of:
Assuming it comes from a place of love and not fear, saying something at the risk of it being the wrong thing to say is better than not saying anything at all.
I know many of you are wondering what you can do.
How you can contribute.
What's the "right" thing to do.
There are a lot of opinions.
I'm not going to tell you what I think you should do, because I don't believe there is a right or wrong way to contribute to a cause, and whichever way your heart is calling you is the way you should move.
I'm just going to share what I'm doing and I'm open to suggestions and hope it inspires some ideas for you.
But first, I have some questions. Questions that were asked of me years ago. Questions I ask myself and questions I now ask you:
- Look at your team. Does it look just like you? If so, why? Was it intentional? If it wasn't, be more intentional and diversify your human resource assets.
- Do you have a no-tolerance policy for racial and sexist viewpoints and jokes? If no, why not? If your top producer also has a tendency to tell great jokes that are racist and sexist at their core, by letting it slide just once, you are setting the precedent that you prioritize money over human decency. Don't do that.
- Are you willing to "fire" customers who are hateful? Let's say you go out for dinner with the CEO, have a few drinks and the "real" person comes out? Do you laugh at their jokes to keep the business? Or do you call them out on it?
- Is your leadership team homogenous? When leadership teams have just one woman or one person of color you unconsciously set the precedent that there is only room for one "token" female or person of color at the top. It creates unhealthy competition amongst women and people of color to fight for that spot. Only 30% of the population is white male, if you need a measurement stick to see where you stand on this.
- How much of your time and money do you invest in developing the talents of people of color? I'm not talking about company-wide diversity initiatives, I'm asking you directly what you are doing? In sales, especially commission-driven sales, you don't have the excuses other departments have. We lead a unique division whereby someone without a college degree, or an irrelevant college degree, can learn sales and enter a high-income opportunity. When you do well, you earn more than a doctor or lawyer who spent hundreds of thousands to get access to the role. Can you develop people? All kinds of people? If no, why not? What can you do to develop your leadership and coaching skills?
- Are you intentional about the companies you invest in? Do you know what companies you are invested in? Most people have no idea what companies their 401k's and mutual funds are actually supporting. Are they companies you want to help grow? Where you invest your money says lot about you. If you want help understanding how to evaluate the companies you invest in, check out B Corporations .
- Are you intentional about where you spend your money? The stores and restaurants you support? I believe where you spend and invest your money has even more power than your right to vote. And it is irrelevant how much money.
- What charities do you support?
- To be clear, I am not telling you where you should spend your money, that is a personal choice, what I am imploring you to do is to be aware of it and be intentional about it. Ignorance is not an excuse.
Notice a lot of these questions have to do with money.
I'm talking about money because, whether for-profit or non-profit, money is what makes our companies run. So, if it's not good enough to do these things just to be a good person, the financial upside is that diversity leads to innovation.
People with different backgrounds and perspectives are critical for you to come up with creative ideas and strategies to squash the competition.
Are your competitors' boards and leadership homogenous? Great! Diversity will be your superpower.
I was watching a talk last week from an ex-con, Shaka Senghor, author of "Writing my Wrongs," who was brought to MIT Media Lab to challenge the students to come up with some of the innovations that are common in prisons.
He gave them five challenges such as a tattoo pen, a lighter, and an email system, and the common materials to do so and, after two hours, these MIT students could not figure out any of them.
You can watch the talk here: https://www.facebook.com/SuperSoulSunday/videos/292943531738540/
A great leader is able to harness this kind of creativity for good. Be the great leader.
If you want to hear about what I'm doing right now to approach the topic with my customers, you can catch the live video I did yesterday in my Facebook group, The Selling Rebellion - If you have any questions you can contribute them there and continue the conversation.
Here's what it says, in short:
- I'm stopping all self-promotion, including on social media
- I've paused all ads
- I've stopped all my automated social media postings, as they are not relevant. I have over 30,000 followers and I don't want them hearing about my business right now but opening up room for the conversations that matter.
- And because I don't believe silence is the answer, I'm being very intentional about what I do share, from experts and professors who have made fighting racism their lifelong mission. I don't believe in violence (yes, I know there is evidence to support it), so I don't post violence on my feed. My feed is and always has been a representation of me, not someone else.
Other than those things mentioned in the video which are short term, there are things we can do every day:
I know many of us read books on sales, entrepreneurship and personal development. I am making a concerted effort to diversify the authorship with people of color - you can find a great round-up on Entrepreneur Magazine right here: https://www.entrepreneur.com/slideshow/309073
Right now I'm reading Hustle Harder, Hustle Smarter by Curtis Jackson aka 50 . CENT: https://amzn.to/2AE030k
It has a TON of great sales lessons in it and I'll be assigning it to my teams to read
Lastly, ss a mother, I am making sure my boys are educated before someone else educates them for me.
Our kids are seeing a lot of the aftermath on social media and are confused because they don't understand the problem. If they're old enough to watch YouTube and play Fortnite, they are old enough for the gory details of current and past events. I've been sharing some recent events and we've been watching movies.
Theater is a great catalyst for change. Stories have the power to transform, so I'm letting them transform us.
There is a Sesame Street Town Hall on Saturday Morning at 10am EST that we'll attend - I think it will open up a conversation with questions they didn't know they had. cnn.com/sesamestreet
Most of our thoughts about the world are created before the age of 5, before we even have a grasp on the real world. Which means racism is something that is taught at home. Not just by the words we speak, but the actions we take because 90% of communication is non-verbal.
Your kids and the kids that look up to you are watching you.
No one is more powerful than a parent to change the course for our children.
In parting, for me personally, the question I ask is not, "Am I racist?" In truth, no one will answer yes to that even if it is systemically part of our society.
The better question is, "What am I doing about it?"
P.S. If anyone would like to, or knows someone who would like to chat with me on my Monday Morning Motivator Meeting about their perspective on diversity in sales teams, please let me know. Thanks!
P.S.S. If you think this email is inappropriate and we should just be doing business as usual, go ahead and slam that unsubscribe button cause we're not a good fit to work together anyway.
© JPM Partners, LLC