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Podcast Transcript

Diversity Is A Fact

Wendi McGowan-Ellis  0:11  
Welcome to "Your Authentic Path to Powerful Leadership" with Marsha Clark. Join us on this journey where we're uncovering what it takes to be a powerful woman leader. Well, welcome back again, Marsha. And, you know, I'm just gonna say I'm a little high from last week's episode where we talked about feedback, celebrating successes in the five languages of appreciation.

Marsha Clark  0:34  
Yes, thank you, Wendi. And I am, too, and it was a great episode. And, you know, I think it's always a wonderful booster shot, if you will, to remember the power of supporting others with really quality feedback and appreciating people for their talents and contributions. And I will just tell you, I came back from a weekend, was a birthday celebration weekend. And the Choctaw Nation has been one of my clients for a long time. And so we wanted to go see a particular concert there - John Fogerty of Creedence Clearwater, my generation music. And so, you know, I called the person over all their commercial stuff and I was just going to ask, 'Where are the good seats' because I'd never been to this venue. Well, she ends up putting together this entire weekend package for us that was just over the top. So yesterday, I wrote a thank you note to her and I purposely made notes of who were our massage people at the massage at the spa, who was our suite host in the concert venue, who helped get our drinks at the cabana. I mean, we live the good life, right. And so I was very specific about getting names. And then I was very specific about saying what these people had done that made the weekend so special. And it felt really good to be able to do that because I made notes on my phone, you know, made sure I got everybody's name and all that kind of stuff because I wanted to give them credit for it because they made for a happy, joyful, delightful weekend. And service in today's world is something that you can't take for granted. And so I really wanted to do that. So, I love providing that input and to help them hopefully feel appreciated, but also to hear the things you're doing that are, are really good, so, citing those specific behaviors, and I know I appreciate it when others do that for me and it helps me learn and grow in my own leadership and life journey.

Wendi McGowan-Ellis  2:29  
Well, I'm totally right there with you, Marsha. I feel like I'm continuing to strengthen and expand my support structure of colleagues who are honest with me and offer candid feedback or help me see situations from different perspectives. And I think that's another aspect of feedback that we don't always consider. I think people go to this place of when they hear the word feedback, they almost like, oh, like they just like start, they go into a cringe. They cringe and put up the armor. And I love this idea that we're going to talk about today that feedback isn't always about pointing out something I did wrong. It could be just about something that I didn't know, or something I didn't consider as I was making decisions, or even as your story just pointed out something that's positive.

Marsha Clark  3:20  
Right. That's such a great point, Wendi. And I'm also reminded of the episode we did with Rebecca Bales last year where we talked about the Johari Window and blind spots. And that's the part of their model where other people see or notice behaviors or traits about us that we can't see in ourselves or don't acknowledge in ourselves.

Wendi McGowan-Ellis  3:40  
Exactly. And, you know, that was a great discussion. And I remember there was something else that you introduced around blind spots that came from another source other than Johari.

Marsha Clark  3:51  
That's right. And it was a really interesting perspective, I think, from author, Martha Beck. And she suggested we might not actually be completely unaware of our own blind spots, or at least not all of them. And we'll see if we can track down that content while we're talking today and pull it into our discussion. I think it will set us up nicely for not only today's episode but next week's as well.

Wendi McGowan-Ellis  4:14  
And you know, I already did pull up the Rebecca Bales' episode, it was Episode 58 titled, "You 101" and we dropped that on October 26th last year in case anyone who's listening wants to go back and revisit that.

Marsha Clark  4:28  
All right, Wendi, you're always on top of things.

Wendi McGowan-Ellis  4:32  
I feel like we're not doing a good service if we don't know where it is.

Marsha Clark  4:36  
That's right. So, I like this idea of recognizing the value of actively seeking feedback from different people as a way to help us fill in our own blind spots and to learn how to consider a situation from various perspective. That is what I think is one of the many beautiful things about feedback.

Wendi McGowan-Ellis  4:56  
And so that's a perfect segue into today's episode. We You're kicking off a miniseries over these next three weeks on a very hot topic in the news and in boardrooms across the country.

Marsha Clark  5:08  
Yes, we are, Wendi. And we're going to fully lean into the topics of diversity, equity and inclusion over these three episodes. And today, we're going to begin with an exploration of diversity.

Wendi McGowan-Ellis  5:21  
In addition to being quite relevant, you actually dedicate a chapter in your upcoming book,"Expanding Your Power", to these topics, correct?

Marsha Clark  5:30  
I do. And right now, I've titled that final chapter "Belonging" and it encompasses all three opportunities around diversity, equity and inclusion. We wanted to pull the content in here. So, it's a little bit out of order from the book, but for a couple of reasons. One is that we think it ties in beautifully with our recent exploration of feedback and celebrating successes, and the love and appreciation languages. And two, it sets up our next mini series perfectly around Will Schutz' work on the element of interpersonal relations and group dynamics. So are we ready to dive into diversity?

Wendi McGowan-Ellis  6:09  
Absolutely, absolutely. Yes. So, you open the "Belonging" chapter with a quote that I'd love for you to share and explain why you feel so strongly about it.

Marsha Clark  6:22  
Yeah, I'm happy to do that. The quote is from a DEI (Diversity, Equity and Inclusion) strategist, Arthur Chan. And here's his quote: "Diversity is a fact, equity is a choice, inclusion is an action and belonging is an outcome". And the reason I'm drawn to that, I think his quote clearly dissects or delineates the major differences between those letters in DEI. And you know, now you'll also hear that the "B" , the belonging pieces often being added by several, many organizations. And I was inspired by the quote when I first heard it just for its clarity. And I think it's a helpful, simplified way to explain a really complex set of objectives that organizations who are seeking strategy and want to have some success around their DEI initiatives.

Wendi McGowan-Ellis  7:20  
Yeah, diversity is a fact, equity is a choice, inclusion is an action and belonging is an outcome. I really, those sentences are extremely powerful. And they offer a clear and precise way of setting the expectation around how each element is unique, yet also interrelated.

Marsha Clark  7:42  
Yes, I agree with that, Wendi. And, you know, for my experience, and for an organization to truly benefit from any of its efforts around DEI, they need to recognize that these are interrelated and the connectivity, the connective tissue really have all the elements and raise that awareness and design activities around all of them, not just one or two.

Wendi McGowan-Ellis  8:05  
Yes. And you know, normally your chapters, in your chapters in your books (yay, I can say that now, books), you offer reflection questions at the end of each of the main teaching points for the readers to go a little deeper into their own experiences related to that content. And so, in this chapter, you invite your readers to dive into their personal stories first thing with a few reflection questions. So, I'd really love it if you would share with our listeners now what those questions are so they can start thinking about how those topics have touched their lives.

Marsha Clark  8:41  
So, I'd be happy to. There are five questions. And I'm going to recommend that our listeners pause the recording however they may be listening to this after each one of these questions to really consider their answers to each of these questions. When I first heard these, and I've now used these in my training classes, I would consider them to be powerful questions. So I, I offer that up accordingly. So, the first one, first question is, "When was the first time you had a conversation regarding differences?" It could have been about differences in race, age, education, religion, geography, socio economic status, accent, ethnicity, there's, you know, a whole myriad of possibilities. And then think about that conversation. What was that like for you? So that's question number one. When was that first time you had a conversation regarding differences? And then question two, "Were you allowed to play with or interact with people who were different than you?" And I want to share a story here. I was having lunch with a dear friend and her granddaughter, and this was just last week. And they're African American. And the granddaughter who is a senior this year in high school, well, I take that back. She graduated last year, she's going on to be a freshman in college. And she was talking about her sixth birthday. And she was at one of these bounce house, you know, jump, whatever they call those up in the air or whatever, kind of places. And there was a group of them that were not from the same group. I mean, they didn't know each other. They were just they were all playing together in this particular venue. And the parents of one of the children called the little girl over and said something to her. And then she didn't play with them anymore because they told that little girl, they asked her later, and the little girl said, 'My mom says, I can't play with people that look like you'. I mean, that was six years old. And so, you know, not just when can you remember the first conversation, but and the little girl didn't understand why because they asked her why not, 'I don't know, my parents just said'. So, this idea of even allowing people, allowing our children to play with people who are different than them. And that leads us to question number three, "When have you felt like an outsider?" And I think of all the stories I've heard about women who say 'I'm the only woman in the room'. That's the first thing that pops into my head times 1000, because we've heard that story and experienced it ourselves so many times. Number four is "What messages or beliefs did you take away from your stories and experiences?" because we know that by age five, 60% of our brain is developed. These are deeply held, early-on stories that set us to have certain beliefs about things, so, being mindful about that even with our own children and the young people in our lives. And question number five, is "How have those messages or beliefs influenced you first, as a human being?" I mean, think about the authenticity we talk about. That's the human condition. "And then secondly, how might they have influenced you as a leader?"

Wendi McGowan-Ellis  12:28  
So, I can already see how these questions start generating some critical thinking around experiences around diversity. Like I can see how these questions are setting that up.

Marsha Clark  12:42  
And get the juices flowing. And Wendi, that was my intention. I offer these questions early in the chapter because I think when reading the remainder of the chapter, I need to get in touch with that part of me that has experienced being different or feeling like an outsider. And the stories that I've heard have ranged from, as I said, I was the only woman in the room and that's certainly the most common response to I wasn't wearing a tie and everyone else was. And I just offer that kind of with a smile and a snicker because that's the continuum, right? One is the familiar experience of being the only woman in the room which is very different from everybody had a tie on and I didn't but it'll cover the spectrum. So, my recommendation is that our listeners not only reflect on those questions individually but also use them with a group and discuss them with your family, your team, your book club, whatever it might be, because I think it would make for an interesting and maybe even an enlightening set of insights to learn more about.

Wendi McGowan-Ellis  13:49  
Absolutely. And I'm already thinking of some groups I'd love to explore these questions with. I mean, what a way to start building a foundation for honesty and transparency through the group.

Marsha Clark  14:00  
Yeah, it really does. I can tell you, in the inclusive leadership programs that I'm delivering, it's a part of what gets us started. And, you know, the people in the program, or the people in the conversation recognize, Oh, this isn't your typical internship program or your typical whatever it might be. And for teams that are already pretty strong I would say that the questions allow people to share their stories really in a way that they may never have before around topics that might have seemed either too controversial or sort of against the institution, if you will. And we all have experiences around diversity. Remember, the first line of the quote is diversity is a fact. It's all around us and, but we may not have adequate language to fully understand how our experiences around differences have or still are influencing our beliefs and our choices. And that's one reason I like to start with these questions to help people begin to explore their own story, and then encourage them to share that story.

Wendi McGowan-Ellis  15:07  
You share a story in the book about your first memorable experience about being different. And you've talked about it here before on the podcast. It's the situation where your brothers and the neighborhood boys were going to get up and go camping or something. And you couldn't go because you were a girl.

Marsha Clark  15:29  
Yeah, you're right. The memory is really vivid still, in my mind. And yes, it happened when I was five or six years old. But, I was a tomboy and I loved to play the games that the boys played. I'd climb trees, I played baseball, I, you know, did all that. So, one summer night, my two older brothers and several of the neighborhood boys, they were actually going to camp out in our backyard. So, it wasn't like a go off camping trip. It was right in our own backyard. And of course, I wanted to do that, too. And my mother said, 'Absolutely not'. And I still am, I mean,  I still get charged. But I was so mad and declared that it wasn't fair. And I know I've said that before that even as an adult woman, it's not fair. And I want the world to know, I appreciate my mother's decision, I understand her decision. And that I'm pretty sure I also want to say that that's when a seed was sown that has prompted me to do the work that I do today.

Wendi McGowan-Ellis  16:31  
Ah, yes. And there's that fifth reflection question, "How have those messages or beliefs influenced you as a human being, and as a leader?" and so that early experience for you of being different, a girl and not being included because of that difference, lit a spark.

Marsha Clark  16:51  
It certainly did. And of course, there's been a lifetime of what I would call reinforcing experiences to that very early on experience and not just my personal experiences, but seeing how others were treated based on their differences also influenced me. It's a big part of why I encourage everyone to share their stories. We need to hear them. The world needs to hear each of our listener's stories, and it adds to the world's understanding of the true human experience, the human condition, if you will. And I also hope it gives us both empathy and compassion for that person's story. And, as you know, Wendi, one of my favorite books, and yours as well, is "Cassandra Speaks" by Elizabeth Lessor. And you know, for our listeners who are unfamiliar with the book, I just share this subtitle. "When women are the storytellers, the human story changes."

Wendi McGowan-Ellis  17:49  
Yes, it's definitely become one of my favorite books and one that I've read a couple of times and has spawned yet another business for Wendi under the same title. And you know, I just, it was Marsha's first On the Nightstand episode. I want to say it was episode 8? (15.) Why do I want to put it so much forward in the story, okay, or in the chronology of our podcasts? So, for those of you who have not heard Episode 15, I'm going to encourage you to go back and listen to episode 15 and then definitely get the book.

Marsha Clark  18:29  
Yeah. And it will be called On the Nightstand because it was me offering some book's summary of books that I hold in high regard, and that is certainly one of them. I just think there's so many  stories. You know, history isn't what happened. History is who tells the story, another one of my favorite quotes from that book. So, it is a powerful reminder of how much we can learn from one another when we invite in each other's stories, and we really get curious about other people.

Wendi McGowan-Ellis  18:59  
Exactly, exactly. Well, going back to your book, you introduce a model by Michelle Bogan. Not Brogan Michelle Bogan, who is the founder and CEO of a business called Equity at Work. So, will you break down that model for our listeners, and then explain the exercise that you included in your book that aligns with the model.

Marsha Clark  19:22  
I'd be happy to. I receive Michelle's newsletter and I almost always learn something from it. So, kudos to Ms. Bogan. And we'll include a link to her website and this model in the notes for this episode on my website so that our listeners can pull it down themselves. And if you are interested in learning more about diversity, I would encourage you to sign up for her newsletter. She includes the model and the activity and one of her blog post titled, "Diversity is Race and Gender and So Much More". So, we'll have that website link for you.

Wendi McGowan-Ellis  20:01  
Perfect. That will be very, very helpful.

Marsha Clark  20:04  
So, I figured I could describe it, describe the model. And if people want to see it for themselves, I want to make it easy to find. So, her model has three concentric circles. And the center circle says the title of the model, which is The Many Dimensions of Diversity. So, if you think about like, a target, the bullseye, the bullseye is the many dimensions of diversity. And then the second layer out, I'll call it, the middle circle, shows eight dimensions. And these are ones that are typically top of mind and what I would describe or think of as the most obvious aspects of diversity. So, their age, gender, race, cognitive ability, national origin, ethnicity, physical ability, and sexual orientation. So, when you hear the word diversity, these are what I would describe as the ones that most quickly come to mind. Then if you look at the outer circle, it lists 16 different dimensions of diversity, which represent the things we often find in common or not. I mean, but it's less visual, if I can say it that way, with people who are like us or not like us, in this inner circle, dimensions, the middle circle. So, I'm gonna list all 16 here for everyone. And, by the way, you could add to this list. So, this is not an exhaustive list, but it includes work experience, political ideology, education, belief system and ideology, communication styles, hobbies and recreational interest, military experience, work location, mental health, physical health, marital status, family structure and dynamics, socio economic status, and organization role, geographic location, and learning style.

Wendi McGowan-Ellis  22:10  
Okay. Wow, we've got a lot going on on this graphic!

Marsha Clark  22:15  
Which is what makes us human beings very complex. Right? And I do, I bet our listeners could add even more to that list. And as you consider the many dimensions, I think it's easier to accept and understand that first line of the quote, which is diversity is a fact. And think about it with over 8 billion people in the world, imagine all the combinations.

Wendi McGowan-Ellis  22:37  
Exactly, of the concentric circles. So, Marsha, what is it about seeing diversity in these concentric circles, that visual idea. What is it about that that appeals to you?

Marsha Clark  22:49  
Yeah, when you only think about the second circle, that middle circle, and the more common, that can be, it can engender thoughts about affirmative action, EEOC, Equal Employment Opportunity stuff, and people can denounce it because it feels like those are artificial qualifications, if you will. And so it's incomplete. Now, if you look at only the things on the outside, because with the people that I talked to about diversity, it's the well, we just want to hire the most qualified person. Well, if we rely on that, the result, we have centuries of results on that. We have people who look like us. And we're gonna talk about that next week on the episode. But this idea of, if I only look at the outside, I'm missing obvious parts of people's identity. And so for me, what I love about her model is that it gives us a more comprehensive view. There are the middle circle, age, gender, race, ethnicity, and so on. That is a part of who we are, and so is the outer circle. So, I can't see all of you without considering both the inner circle and the outer circle.

Wendi McGowan-Ellis  24:12  
I love that. Well. And the exercise you included in your book from Ms. Bogan seemed like it would be a really interesting icebreaker for any group trying to get to know each other on a deeper, deeper level. So will you explain that activity?

Marsha Clark  24:26  
Yeah, I'd be happy to and I think it's really pretty easy, but to your point, pretty deep if you're willing to really be honest with yourself and others. And so I adapted them a bit from in my book from what she suggests. So, it's very simple. Find a partner or if you're part of a group, ask each person using this three dimensional model to find three to five things that they define and how they define who they are. So, what are five things on that model that relate to me, that I attach to my identity. And then each person shares their three to five dimensions and how that dimension shows up in their lives.

Wendi McGowan-Ellis  25:08  
Okay. And you also include a couple of important reminders for the activity that I really appreciated.

Marsha Clark  25:15  
So, well, yeah. You know, this is about psychological safety. Right? And remember that it's their story and their truth. And y'all have heard me say, listeners, those of you who have been with us for a while, just because it's not my truth doesn't mean it's not someone else's truth. So, that's really the point of that bullet. And then the second is to listen with your head and your heart. And, you know, head can be logical, it can be how can I sort of analytically process this or connect with it, and the heart part is human to human. That's what I think about.

Wendi McGowan-Ellis  25:57  
Okay, so now that we've explored the content from that section in your book, I'd love to circle back to something that we touched on at the beginning of the episode. And that is the topic of blind spots and the worth of Martha Beck. So, this Dimensions of Diversity model would be, could be absolutely serve someone as they're working on their own awareness of their personal story, but also help them dig in and maybe gain some clarity around some of those blind spots Beck spoke about in her blog that we referenced back in the episode entitled "You 101". So, I do have that content from back up for us to share again, so.

Marsha Clark  26:41  
That's great. And so again, the blog was titled, "Getting Rid of Your Blind Spots". And what was so intriguing about her work, which is the idea that you already know what's in your blind spot, it's just that looking at it makes you extremely uncomfortable.

Wendi McGowan-Ellis  26:57  
That is so right. And I can absolutely see how I could use Bogan's model to guide an honest exploration of how my differences may be creating some uncomfortable spots for me to see more clearly.

Marsha Clark  27:11  
And that would be a really interesting application of Bogan's model. You know, Beck also offered a mindfulness exercise that really helps people to be more gentle with ourselves and accepting our own self awareness, and in some cases, lack of self awareness. And she instructs us to as kindly as you can, and I love that, ask yourself the following questions: "What am I afraid to know? What's the one thing I least want to accept? And what do I sense without knowing?" And you know, as I'm rereading those reflection questions from Beck, I'm struck by how powerful they would be for our listeners to use as they gently enter into this exploration or get curious about diversity, equity, inclusion and belonging. So, talk about an honest exploration of my real thoughts and feelings about these topics of DEI and B.

Wendi McGowan-Ellis  28:13  
Yeah, I agree. I'm going to repeat the questions for our listeners, and invite everyone to lean in to those as we continue to explore these topics for the next couple of weeks. So, here they are. Number one, what am I afraid to know? Number two, what's the one thing I least want to accept? And number three, what do I sense without knowing? And you know, those are pretty compelling questions in the context, just on their own. But then when you put them in the context of DEI and B, they feel like they could really uncover some important, deeply held mental stuff that just needs to bubble up.

Marsha Clark  29:01  
Yeah, I agree with that, Wendi. And, you know, even as we shift next week to look at the topic of equity and specifically looking at biases, these questions will be just as relevant and profound. So, we could include these in every one of the episodes around this.

Wendi McGowan-Ellis  29:14  
Exactly. So, speaking of next week, we will continue to unpack Arthur Chan's quote, "Diversity is a fact, equity is a choice, inclusion is an action and belonging is an outcome". As Marsha said, next week's focus will be on the equity piece. So Marsha, as we start to wrap up today, what final thoughts do you have for our listeners?

Marsha Clark  29:38  
Well, this is what I share in my book, and I think it's a great way to wrap up this first segment. So, the world continues to make efforts to rearrange spaces to feel safe, aware, educated, oriented, curious and passionate about the value and impact of diversity within our communities and our schools and our places of worship and our workplaces. And we strive to not only make room for the stories of others, but more importantly, to make room for the humans that are sharing those stories. And I think it's through education, owning our own stuff, and accountability that there's a slowly evolving and I think a more acute understanding of the vital necessity of creating a seat at the table. And that seat invites an informed voice to represent and educate on that which has been historically dismissed, or even unknown. It's been not just quieted, it's been hidden away. And by allowing others to be seen, heard and valued in a way that enhances really the entire value of an organization or even a meaningful relationship. So, you know, stepping intentionally into the call of truly listening, we're going to be able to better hear the sounds of effective, impactful and psychological safety that truly can make equitable room for all. And that's my goal is to make equitable room for all. And I want to offer something that I shared this on my Facebook page this week, and I saw it and it spoke to me, again, in the context of this topic. And it is that we are not all in the same boat. We are in the same storm. Some have yachts, some have canoes, and some are drowning. So, again, this idea of diversity, that we may all be in the same storm, but we are not traveling in the same mode of transport. And the last line, of course, is one I love. Just be kind and help when you can. Isn't that great?

Wendi McGowan-Ellis  31:58  
Oh, that gives me goosebumps. Okay. Well, Marsha, thank you so much. I love being able to explore this topic of diversity with you in a way that didn't feel nebulous, like it feels meaningful, like having describing those concentric circles and giving people labels to ways that diversity shows up, I just absolutely love that because diversity is a fact. And I think the more we understand and appreciate that the more we can benefit from the beauty that diversity brings to our organizations and our communities. So, thank you for inviting us all on this exploration.

Marsha Clark  32:38  
Well, my pleasure. And rather than focusing on all the ways in which we're different, when you look at it in Michelle Bogan's more comprehensive view of what diversity is, we can find connections. And we have to want to, we have to want to be open to it, be curious about it and be sincere, right? This is about that genuine, authentic, sincere desire to live in a world with all the beauty that the diversity brings. And so, you know, thank you to our listeners, and I hope you will, you know, our book's gonna come out. It'll probably be in early 2024. But if there's anything we can do for you in the meantime about any of the topics that we cover here, and this is a big one, and as we know, is getting lots of play in the media right now. And if you're looking for a person to explore this topic with or expand your own thinking about it, let us know because we're here to help you. And I do want to say, as always, I have found that in the gender work, which is one aspect of diversity and the one that I spend my biggest part of my time thinking about, the idea and the mantra with which I close this each and every time, we need each other. We need to support one another in this. And so, as always, "Here's to women supporting women!"

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