How to Be An Inclusive Leader with Jennifer Brown

How to Be An Inclusive Leader with Jennifer Brown

Hey, hey, everyone. Welcome to the Bold Leadership Revolution Podcast and today, we are talking again about diversity, equity and inclusion because not only is this an important topic to me, but it’s an important topic to all leaders today. Being a more inclusive leader in my opinion is a skillset, a competency that we must be mastering not just for today in the present moment, but this is the leading competency for the future and today, we have with us Jennifer Brown. Jennifer Brown is a leading diversity and inclusion expert, a dynamic keynote speaker, bestselling author, award winning entrepreneur and the host of the Will to Change Podcast which covers true stories of diversity and inclusion.

As the founder, president and CEO of Jennifer Brown Consulting, Jennifer’s workplace strategies have been employed by some of the world’s top Fortune 500 companies and nonprofits, including, Walmart, Microsoft, Starbucks, Toyota Financial Services, T-mobile and many others, to help employees bring their full selves to work and feel welcomed, valued, respected and heard. Jennifer’s work in talent management, human capital and intersectional theory redefine the boundaries of talent potential and company culture. Her bestselling book Inclusion, Diversity, The New Workplace and The Will to Change, creates the case for leaders to embrace opportunity that diversity represents for their own growth and for the success of organizations.

As a successful LGBT entrepreneur, Jennifer has been featured in media such as the New York Times, Bloomberg BusinessWeek, Forbes, Fortune, Inc., the Wall Street Journal, Harvard Business Review, CBS, Fox News and many more. We are so excited to have Jennifer here especially as she is about to launch her new book called How To Be An Inclusive Leader. Stay tuned and let’s dive in with Jennifer Brown.

Hey, Jennifer. I’m so excited to have you here with us today to talk about diversity and inclusion and how to be an inclusive leader. Welcome to the Bold Leadership Revolution Podcast.

Jennifer Brown:Thank you Tara. I’m so excited to have this conversation.

Tara Newman: Yeah, we actually started the podcast, before we started.

Jennifer Brown: We are getting going so yeah.

jennifer brown headshot graphic for the bold leadership revolution podcast

Tara Newman: We have to back ourselves up a bit. First of all, I want to say that I don’t often have guest on my podcast and I like to get into an integrity with the fact that I turn away a lot of people, most people and however, you … Because I save the podcast guest spots for people in my community and my clients and my program to share my platform with them. However, you are bringing such a critical topic and conversation into the world that I just knew I had to have you here to help my audience figure out, how they could be a more inclusive leader because I know that’s a desire of theirs.

Jennifer Brown: That’s so lovely. I’m so honored and I will try my best to kind of boil it down today and give you a window into my daily world which is focusing entirely on diversity and inclusion and belonging and organizations which is fascinating.

Tara Newman: I knew we were going to be kindred spirits when I went to your website and it says, you are a speaker and author and a humanist. What does being a humanist mean to you?

Jennifer Brown: I’m just fascinated by people I love to greet them. I love their stories. I’m very much glass half full and such a … almost Pollyanna, I’m … you have to be very optimistic, I think to do this work, particularly because there are so many discouraging moments and facts out there, right, in the world we live in. We are some of the most hopeful people I think that do this work because you have to be, because you got to get up and fight another day but anyway, humanist is to me, always believing that there’s something valuable that can be taught by every person that you meet and it’s just a matter of creating a space for that or encouragement or maybe being the storyteller like for them or alongside them as they find their own voice.

I feel very much like that midwife channel energy that I have is a mechanism for me, if I can get into a room, I can then be the vehicle for things to be shared and those are human stories and everybody has these stories, we say everybody has a diversity story. I have been so humbled by the breadth of diversity stories that have been confided in me and then it’s my job I think to make sure that people with power and people with influence actually know about that and that they do the right thing with it.

Tara Newman: That really resonates with me. You and I have such a similar personal philosophy. I have a personal philosophy that says, be helpful, be human, be humble.

Jennifer Brown: Beautiful.

Tara Newman: Yeah, and so, we’re sitting here and we’re talking already into it on inclusion and diversity but I was wondering if you can share with us what is inclusion, what is diversity, being different, how does that … can you demystify both those terms for us?

Jennifer Brown:Yeah, they’re thrown around a lot together. People say D and I, right, to abbreviate it and sometimes there’s an E in there and that word stands for equity. That’s becoming more a part of going along with D and I, DEI, we also have the word belonging that’s kind of entering the frame so you’ll see that in some companies that have this function, they’ll call it inclusion and diversity or the office of inclusion and belonging or they’ll say, the office of DE and I, whatever so it really depends on the company and sort of where they are in their evolution but I don’t think there’s one answer like I get asked a lot like what is the optimal thing and I’m not a very absolute black and white kind of person.

I think it really … it depends on what your organization is ready for and it really depends like, what does your organization mean by each of those words? What we typically mean with those words is it started as diversity which is the who or the what and its demographics and representation, right? It’s the composition of a workforce. You can tell that by data by typically remember, we can’t count things like LGBTQ status, disabilities. We have a real challenge with diversity, elements we can’t see or that people don’t report because they’re afraid which is by the way, 50% of LGBTQ people are closeted in the workplace today. Tons of us are not out at work and therefore, we’re not checking a box on any HR forms, I can tell you that.

That’s a challenge but with race and ethnicity and gender, that diversity is counting the heads as somebody refers to it in my network. It is the mix, right, so inclusion is really then, what do you do with that mix? You can invite diversity to the table Verne Myers says, it’s like being asked to the dance and then inclusion is being asked to dance. Inclusion is the how. It is literally … you cannot have diversity without inclusion which means, how do I manage that diversity, how do I support that diversity, how do I encourage that diversity to not just show up but to actually participate in a meaningful way and to be listened to and to be heard, which is two different things.

Listened to is like, okay, I’ll listen to you but I’m not sure, I’m going to take your input on board. By truly being heard and then having your thoughts be acted on is the promise, when D and I are working well together, you’ve got the right people at the table and you’ve got the openness and the trust to make the contributions and know that it will be heard so you’ll be valued. Then, belonging, if you want to really want to take it further is I think the resulting feeling of maybe being diverse however we wanted to find that, like which to me, means, sort of underrepresented or of a marginalized identity or multiple identities.

Belonging is if I’m at the table and I feel not only listened to but heard and valued, I will a sense of belonging which is the result of that which means, I’m going to stay in a position at a company, working for or with someone longer because I feel I belong here and that’s like this really … that’s a profound thing that I think a lot of us understand what it feels like. When we feel that we belong, we do better work. We have endless energy. We feel like we’re in a flow. We enjoy, we feel sort of purpose aligned and that’s what I would hope for many of the people that right now feels sort of outsiders in their own organization and have one foot out the door.

Tara Newman: Yes. I’m like, just yes.

Jennifer Brown: Yes to all of it.

Tara Newman: Yes, because I have been in a corporate environment responsible for the people function and yes, that is a very hard thing to sometimes get people to understand because it’s not always tangible.

Jennifer Brown: Yeah, that’s true.

Tara Newman: People really struggle with the intangible.

Jennifer Brown: Yes, and that’s what I’m hearing that people really right now are … they’re on board with the why for diversity and why it’s important and critical and there are so many good business case, crossing points and data and everything.

Tara Newman: Relation and …

Jennifer Brown: Yeah and like, better engagements and retention of talents and better products for the world which by the way is super diverse, right? Any company that doesn’t reflect the diversity of the world right now in terms of mass head, in terms of their top three levels of the organization, their board. Those companies are really at risk in many ways and I think they underestimate the risk and those that are like starting to worry about the risk, those are the phone calls we get.

Tara Newman: Yeah, some are massive risk. I mean, I remember in 1998, 1999, when I was in grad school for industrial organizational psychology there was … you probably remember it because I mean, you’ve been in the game for around that time, there were all these reports on workforce 2020 and the word …

Jennifer Brown: I remember those. Yeah, that was a big deal year. It’s here, it’s upon us.

Tara Newman: It’s Armageddon now. It’s the Apocalypse, people.

Jennifer Brown: Good point. Good point.

Tara Newman: Finding talent right now, between talent and benefits, I think for most organizations, larger organizations that is probably their biggest challenges and organizations aren’t getting behind this whatever you want to call it, diversity, inclusion, equity, belonging, mission. It’s going to make recruitment efforts incredibly hard because the people you’re talking to are primarily minority, millennial, right? These are the people who are here for social change.

Jennifer Brown: Yes.

Tara Newman: Who want to see companies embodying these values so good luck to you.

Jennifer Brown: You can keep your head in the sand if you like.

Tara Newman: When I left my corporate job in 2015, the CEO said to me, what am I not seeing? I’m like, here you go, keyed it up for you, because in a matter of less than a year, I started my own business, created a global brand using the internet.

Jennifer Brown: Awesome.

Tara Newman: Watching all these other … and I’m not a millennial but watching all these millennials and minorities be like, see ya corporates.

Jennifer Brown: Right, so they’re losing the best talent, and they’ve also … me too, me too, I left all of the document deal with this …

Tara Newman: However, I am here for women staying in corporate. I don’t want that to be like hey, let’s leave. I want minorities and women and millennials in corporate environments because that’s how we’re going to make change. If everybody leaves and leaves all the people who are not diverse and inclusive, we don’t have change. I wanted to talk to you because you’re here today, because you’ve written a book. It’s coming out, when is it launching?

Jennifer Brown: August 20th.

Tara Newman: Okay, awesome and it’s called How to be an Inclusive Leader and before we started this podcast recording, I said to you, this is the critical skillset for a leader, for the present and the future. This is where it’s going. If we’re not looking at how we can be even more inclusive, as a leader, I think we’re going to be in trouble. You have a structure that you outlined in the book. can you share that structure with us because it’s powerful.

Jennifer Brown: Thank you. Yeah, this is my second book. My first was called Inclusion, a couple of years ago, actually it came out two weeks after the election, in 2016. Everyone was clamoring so that was good for the book sales but it was really more of a, I’d say, a book for advocates who were sort of already on board and needed to just be armed with some data and stories and rationale. This one is more for the individual leader and that was why I titled it the way I did, how to be an inclusive leader, creating cultures of belonging where everyone can thrive and I really had in mind, the middle manager.

I had in mind the person that didn’t see themselves in the diversity conversation as it’s being had in organizations and I … because I’m desperate to get them on board. I think we’ve got to be inclusive of people that don’t feel included in the discussion.

Tara Newman: Yes.

Jennifer Brown: That was the sort of core premise of why I try to get at that. There is a model in the book. I use to call this four part model the ally continuum. Being LGBTQ allies have made a huge difference for me, for us as a community, for progress in general. They’ve used their voice, their platform, their networks, their social capital, their courage to really speak up, right in solidarity with a marginalized community of which I am a member. I took that model but then I found out ally has kind of a limited understanding in the broader world when …

Tara Newman: I was going to ask you to find it for people because I’m not sure of what it is.

Jennifer Brown: Yeah. I mean, if you’re in a corporate job and you’re an ally, you’re a straight ally, it means, you’re willing to say you’re an ally. You’re willing to do little and big things, you show up to events, you’re supportive, you use your voice, you challenge homophobic comments. Really, really great allies are really bold and unapologetic about standing up, using their voice, particularly, if they’re an inside group, particularly if they have some kind of power related to their identity or their positional power in organizations. Then, I shifted the world ally then to be more of the inclusive leader continuum. I sort of broadened it because I wanted to make sure I didn’t people off, if they didn’t understand what that word meant.

Effectively, it is the journey of allyship. Meaning starting from total lack of awareness such as unaware which is, is there a problem, I don’t know there’s a problem. I think my workplace is a meritocracy which is a fallacy, which we can get into if you like a little later or I don’t see my role in the diversity conversation. I don’t think I know about diversity, on a personal level or I’m resistant. I think that this whole effort is taking something away from me to give to somebody else, right, which is all of these things are true and so, it results in this unawareness, people are asleep to the problem. Honestly, I think there’s a whole lot of people in that stage …

Tara Newman: I remember being in that stage from the perspective of I’m white versus gendered. I’m straight. Having a pretty privileged upper middle class life and seeing what was going on in the world and being really frustrated by it but also not under … like being afraid to speak out because am I going to say something that’s offensive? Am I going to say something that’s going to make the situation worst? I was the opposite, I was so caring that it really shut me down to having these conversations and this is a challenge and the stretch for me to start having more of these conversations.

Jennifer Brown: Right, and so, you’re not a bad person if you’re in phase one. I mean, hopefully, you’re not a bad person. There are some folks that are pretty difficult but most people have very good intentions and I think most people in leadership roles, as you said, this is like the competency of the future and the present so I think a lot of people are stuck in this phase one, not knowing what to say, not knowing what to do, feeling like you don’t want to intrude, feeling like you don’t want to make this moment all about them. Feeling like I’m a good person so if you’re like a male leader for example and maybe you tell yourself, “Oh, I have daughters, like I understand what needs to happen with gender equality in my organization.”

Maybe you do but maybe you don’t. Just because you believe something about yourself, it doesn’t mean that you’re actually leaving around it, effectively. That’s kind of what I want to put a fine point on, to say that intention is an impact.

Tara Newman: Correct.

Jennifer Brown: Right, and leadership is a public act. It’s private but it’s public too. Especially for people who have any kind of platform or capital in an organization, like if you do all this privately, it’s sort of like, if the tree falls and the woods doesn’t … and nobody is around to hear it, does it make a sound? That’s all fine and dandy for you to believe you’re a good person but like how are you enacting it in the world and that to me …

Tara Newman: Closet allies aren’t helpful.

Jennifer Brown: Yeah, exactly. That’s a great word. Closet allies. The unaware is phase one and then phase two is aware which kind of makes sense, right? Aware is like, okay, I’ve been told there’s a problem, there’s a gap, whether that’s a pay gap, whether it’s … maybe you’re not … your organizations or your teams are not very diverse and you don’t know why. Maybe you’ve just awakened to the need to use your voice but you absolutely don’t know the first thing about cultural differences, about who feels like an outsider and why, about people stories. There’s the awakening which is the phase two and I recommend once you’re in that phase, it’s about learning, learning, learning. Consuming media, reading books.

Tara Newman: Yes, it’s very messy, it’s very uncomfortable. It’s very raw.

Jennifer Brown: It is and it’s saying to yourself, okay, just because I’m a good person, doesn’t make me an inclusive leader. This is actually a journey, just like going to the gym, just like eating enough vegetables in your diet, just like putting money away for retirement. It’s a discipline.

Tara Newman: Yup.

Jennifer Brown: It is a discipline and it doesn’t just happen. I have to say, a lot to leaders, your organization will not just become inclusive because you want it to be.

Tara Newman: Right, to have them by closest.

Jennifer Brown: No, and you’re an OD person, org psych like a culture shift is a product of a million little and big gestures and actions by lots of people. It has to be led from the top and with a strong hand from like a CEO but it really … organizations are made up of people. It’s all the culmination of everything we do and choose to do or not do, or choose to stay silent on or choose to say something about. We are the culmination and workplace cultures of the culmination of all of these little and big choices, private and public that we make and I think that’s where I want to sort of intervene and say, hey, are you aware of your own biases and aware is phase two, you’re thinking about, does bias intrude on my performance reviews.

Do I write about women’s performance differently than men in the same exact scenario? Do I run my meetings inclusively? Am I hiring enough diverse talent? What is diverse? What am I actually looking for? What is the data say in terms of how this might drive my performance and the performance of those around me? Am I bringing my full self to work? Maybe I am and maybe I’m not. Even if I am a white straight guy I can have a lot of issues in diversity challenges going on in my life but I may not talk about it. I mean men are in this straight white cisgender men and this terrible straight jacket in terms of behavioral expectations. My friend Mark Green calls it and others have called it the man box.

The man box culture dominates our work places. All of us are sort of guests in that world and trying to wrap ourselves around in different pretzel shapes in order to fit in but that culture is an unhealthy culture. When it dominates, it’s usually an unhealthy culture for all of us. I think too there’s a journey particularly for white straight cisgender men unaware to say, “Hey, am I demonstrating a different model for what being a man or a father … am I really kind of synchronizing my old beliefs with the new beliefs of the next generation and really like thinking about, do I need to lead like I was taught to lead or can I lead in a different way,” and that is like fundamental, right?

That’s a big challenge for men who have followed generations of men behaviorally and been mentored up the chain in ways that I think, it’s time to revisit what we were taught all of us, all of us.

Tara Newman: Yeah, sometimes I wish we would take gender out of some of the conversations that we’re having around things like patriarchy and feminism because it’s not about gender. Just because you’re a man doesn’t make you part of the patriarchy and just because you’re a female doesn’t make you a feminist.

Jennifer Brown: Yes and just because you’re gay, for example just to continue this, doesn’t mean you’re an inclusive leader. I mean, some of those fascinating thing is the diversity issues we have within diverse communities like within marginalized communities, we have sexism and transphobia and racism and misogyny. Within the LGBTQ community, I am often the only woman in rooms full of gay men, for example or there’s no racial or ethnic diversity that is paid attention to, right? When we talk living inclusive, the other thing I want to dispel is that just because you are a marginalized identity, does not mean you won’t have work to do. We all have so much work to do. I have so much work to do.

It’s my discovery that I am low and behold a right cisgender privileged woman, even though I’m LGBT, even though I’m a woman in business like even though I might identify and do identify with people who struggled to build what I’ve built and be heard and taken seriously and all that stuff, these days, I want to be called an ally so deeply like that really animates everything I do now and so I paid tons of attention to people of color, communities, what I can learn, what I consume media-wise, podcast I intentionally listened is always cross-cultural.

Tara Newman: Yeah, I mean, I’ve seen women embody the patriarchy. I’ve seen embody toxic masculinity. We’re joining the bro culture, whatever we call it. I had … Half of my clients are men and these are men who are searching for an alternative to your current labels and their current … how they’re being marginalized in a way.

Jennifer Brown: I know. I know.

Tara Newman: I think every man and you think toxic masculinity, right and it’s not every man so it’s just … yeah, it’s an interesting time for us to hold a place of compassion and so I really appreciate that you’re having that conversation around how everyone has a diversity story even the middle-aged white men.

Jennifer Brown: Yeah, yeah. I have a lot of compassion too. I mean, I struggle because I walk into all male audiences all the time and as a woman, I’m a bit triggered by that honestly.

Tara Newman: Yup.

Jennifer Brown: I literally … you talk about a bias, right, we all have biases and they just pop up, right? It pops up and I sort of feel, maybe I feel unsafe. Maybe I feel like, “Oh my goodness, they’re not going to listen to my message. How are they going to give me the credibility that I deserve for example. Then, I think, “Oh my God, what if I came out of LGBTQ, what then? How would they … then what would happen to their ability to listen to my message and for me to do my work?” All of that stuff is going on in my head but then I think, okay, stop and think about every single person in here could have the story going on or could have a very … has a diversity story.

What happens as I try to really approach it with love and grace and forgiveness and just say, look, I have to extend humanity to every single one of these people. I must because I walk the talk of inclusion, like I have to and these beautiful things have come up, that remind me, it is so ultimately fair and important to extend that space to everyone. It doesn’t what they look like and I can’t put them in a box just like I don’t want them to put me in a box and the ways, that I’ve been put in a box interestingly, as a white diversity practitioner, I think by folks amongst us on the left to say, well, what is she doing? She has too much privilege, why is she jumping on the diversity bandwagon and capitalizing on it which I think is hysterical.

Nobody makes money unless we work. I mean, we’re doing fine thank God but I’ve been doing this for a decade when nobody wanted to talk about this and nobody had any funding for it and I believe in it and it was though as like nothing else I can do in the world besides this. It was so, a part of healing myself and so critical for me to wait for them to like finally sort of get … have the aha moment and I think that we’re really now, there’s a confluence of lots of things. There’s the elections of 2016 where people were like, “Oh my goodness,” I’d like to quote Martin Luther King Junior, the arc of the moral universe is long but it bends towards justice. I love that quote but it’s not going to bend by itself.

We have to bend the arc and those of us with any kind of comfort or privilege in this world and for those of us who have at all an easier journey, have to be the ones at the front bending arc. That’s allyship. That’s literally like, it will not happen without our proactive doing of it and sort of I think we’ve learned that and me too and all this other stuff that has very much the entrance of generation Y and then Z which is coming in, the oldest of whom are 23, 24, coming to the workplace with all of their stuff and their lens which by the way is super diverse and inclusive, like really uncompromising.

Tara Newman: I know, I love them.

Jennifer Brown: Yeah.

Tara Newman: As Gen X, I love them.

Jennifer Brown: I know, me too. I always say that too and the people in my audiences who were my generation and older are like rolling their eyes and like, I can’t handle these new folks so committed to their authenticity and wanting, having a long list of demands and expectation. I’m like, no, listen, we in generation X, would have had … we had all these expectations and wants and needs to be seen and heard, we just didn’t …

Tara Newman: We didn’t have the tools.

Jennifer Brown: We didn’t.

Tara Newman: We just not have the tools.

Jennifer Brown: No. We were still caught between I think this huge shift, we were sort of in the middle and we sort of got the worst ends of the stick on both ends. Yeah, we didn’t have a voice as a generation. We weren’t raised by parents who were like, you’re wonderful, here’s a trophy. We were on our own. Hey, get out of here, move out when you’re 18. I’m not interested. I’m not going to do the helicopter parent that calls your first job and says, why isn’t my kid making more money?

Tara Newman: We really lacked role models.

Jennifer Brown: Yes, we did.

Tara Newman: We really lack inclusive role models. Yeah, for sure, and like so that’s how I looked at this through my lens is how can I … if I’m here to create more leaders on this planet, and I’m here to create more wealth in the world, how can I be a better role model? How can I create, help create more role models? How can I create, help create and stand shoulder to shoulder with more inclusive leaders so every single emerging leader can identify with a leader.

Jennifer Brown: I love that because we got to see it to be it.

Tara Newman: We need to see it to be it.

Jennifer Brown: Right, and I didn’t have anyone., I mean, as a business owner, I have nobody like it was really dire and I made a lot of mistakes and no mentorship, no business people in my family. I went liberal arts college which isn’t freaking healthy with business at all, which is another podcast. Just the options women, when I was growing up and coming of age like you, what did we think we could do and what were we preferred to do and what … then the problem is then when you say, “Oh, I’m going to be an entrepreneur. I have this big idea and I’m full of passion and I’m sort of good at some of the pieces of the puzzle,” you trust the wrong people, you hire the wrong people, you spend too much with things. It’s like you’re underfunded, you’re under-capitalized. You don’t know how to work the financial part of running a business. You’re laughing.

Tara Newman: That’s another podcast.

Jennifer Brown: That’s a whole other podcast. Maybe we can do that one.

Tara Newman: What I’m hearing here, the conversation that we’ve just had probably for the last five to 10 minutes was all around that awareness.

Jennifer Brown: Yeah.

Tara Newman: He is right, like becoming aware of our biases, becoming aware of the work we want to do in the world, becoming aware of how people react and respond to each other and this whole piece for you around being a humanist and for me, be human, be humble and that awareness piece and then at some point, we have to move from awareness.

Jennifer Brown: Yes to …

Tara Newman: To action.

Jennifer Brown: It says phase three in my model.

Tara Newman: Right, which you call active.

Jennifer Brown: Active, right. What good is knowledge if we don’t activate with it, right? What do we want to do about it? The problem with a lot of unconscious bias training in organizations which typically is like, “Oh, check the box we did on conscious bias training,” right? It leaves people actually confounded and feelingly bad about themselves because it’s like you just came out of a training that showed like all of the science about why we’re biased every single moment of our lives. It’s sort of like you break Humpty Dumpty and you don’t put Humpty Dumpty back together again. Often, we only have like an hour or two to put people through training, right?

We don’t create the space about curriculum to say, okay, so now that you know this, what are you going to do about it? How are you going to catch yourself in the act of bias, intruding and decision, meetings, feedback, advancement and promotion, hiring decisions, interviews, resumes. I mean, it’s everywhere, it’s like, when you start to think about it, everywhere in every organizational process. Everything that you’re involved in is an opportunity for you to be on the lookout for your own biases and the biases for others. Start to talk about it, yours and others. Give the feedback, make a conscious choice because what you can’t do is prevent the bias thought from sort of coming.

It pops up. It even pops up for me. I have them all the time. You can’t stop that but what you can as humans luckily, we can override things and we can sharpen our ability to perceive when it’s happening to us or around us and what we can do is activate around our behavior, what we say, what we don’t say and we can make conscious choices. Activation is all about heightening our awareness, making different choices and by the way, those choices take courage. Activation is about taking risks, experimenting, making mistakes, knowing how to apologize in a real and meaningful way and not in a sort of a false way, where you don’t really mean it.

It’s understanding the difference between intent and impact. Coming out of aware, phase two, you might have great intent. You’re like, okay, I know what the problem is. I’ve educated myself, I have some vocabulary and language. I have some understanding about different people’s experiences. Now, I’m going to sort of jump in and you have to be careful and conscious about how you jump in. What I tell leaders is you need a lot of feedback, you need to … yeah, take it slow and small at the beginning. Find your … it’s your training wheels, right? Find your footing. Don’t go too big, too fast.

Don’t sort of … I don’t know, I just tell people sort of constrain yourselves a bit before you kind of have that comfort and you’ve had the opportunity to adjust and shift some things according to how you’re coming across, making sure you’re respectful, making sure that the message you intend is actually landing in a way that you want them to because when you go big, and you don’t really have the competency developed, I love that model of competence. You’re at that conscious incompetence level. No, you’re at conscious competence which is riding the bike but having to really pay attention to how you’re riding the bike.

Tara Newman: Yes, this is talking … for me, this is all about the skill acquisition to skill application.

Jennifer Brown: Yes, indeed. The OD framework. Yes.

Tara Newman: You’ve acquired the skill and now you’re in very small bits, learning how to apply it. Maybe listening a little more, maybe including different people in some conversations like you’re taking these small bites and then when you work that skill acquisition to skill application, over and over and over again, you start to form some level of mastery.

Jennifer Brown: Right, mastery.

Tara Newman: Which I mean, I think that’s your next point.

Jennifer Brown: It is. It’s the … so after a while, it’s like not jumping into a marathon thinking that you don’t need to train for months, right? You’re going to hurt yourself and in the leadership world, you’ll hurt yourself in terms of breaking relationships, breaking trust as an ally or somebody who wants to be an inclusive leader. You’re going to make mistakes and some mistakes are harsher than others. Particularly at this time, it’s tricky because people are very sensitive right now. There is … I don’t need to tell you this but people are really polarized and people are struggling to hold the middle right now.

Tara Newman: As someone who firmly plans herself in the middle.

Jennifer Brown: Me too.

Tara Newman: It’s a very uncomfortable place to be right now.

Jennifer Brown: It is and you make one false move and people aren’t in the mood, to give you the benefit of the doubt right now, because there is a lot of anger that’s fueling a lot of voices that are … and for good reason and important reason and necessary reason. There’s a lot of really good cathartic anger right now about I have never been heard and now I’m being heard. I want to be centered and there’s many of us that want to center voices that aren’t our own because that’s part of what needs to change and so another thing, the inclusive leaders struggles with at the stage is what does it matter in my story?

I don’t want to intrude, I don’t want to take the stage from voices and stories that need to be centered right now. I have people who have been on this journey who are asking me in Q and A, I’m a white straight cisgender man and the last thing I want to do right now is dominate anything. I don’t even want to say a word right now and so I understand that and I understand that message is being received by a lot of people and I also by the way understand a very unfortunate thing is happening. Lee Nin did a study that’s very disturbing, two years in a row, men have been pulling away from relationships with female coworkers, like work relationships, mentoring relationships, intimate professional …

Tara Newman: I saw that study.

Jennifer Brown: Yeah, and it’s super disturbing because there’s sort of this, I’m not welcome. I could do something wrong. Someone is going to accuse me of something fair or not often unfairly and so I’m just going to totally opt out, I mean, I’ll just pull way back and go dark. This is a disaster as you know for underrepresented talent because the thing we need most of all, most of all is a solidarity and power sharing of those who were going to pull us up and pull us to the table and pull us up the pipeline and literally like share that power and that influence and that social capital and professional capital to help because that’s like the one thing.

The most important thing that makes a difference to a marginalized talent is mentorship and sponsorship in particular. Somebody who’s like, I’m going to voucher you. I’m going to bring your name up in meetings. I’m going to voucher your performance. I mean, I’m going to help you take a stretch and I’m going to say, you’re going to be fabulous at it and I know I have your back. That is what’s been happening man to man for a long time and that’s what needs to happen for talent outside of the power structure to somehow get into the inside and … but when you pull away because you’re paranoid, that just disrupts that whole thing, that wasn’t even happening to begin with and so, to have people literally pulling away recently is just the most disturbing thing.

Tara Newman: Yeah. I agree. I mean, when I coach women in organizations, they’ve most likely been referred to me by their male boss who’s like, can you coach them? We believe in them, it’s like from a very supportive place and so it is scary to me when I read that, to see that because I’m like, I have a whole host of women in organizations who do have that sponsorship, who do have that champion in a male figure and it is important.

Jennifer Brown: Critical. Yeah, so I’d say around activation, if you’re afraid to activate phase three, it’s real. However, what I’d say is leadership is about being uncomfortable like if you’re not uncomfortable, you’re not leading, right? That’s true for all the competencies, not just inclusiveness. You know this. Growth is a stretch, it’s uncomfortable. If you’re not growing and uncomfortable on a daily basis, you’re not leading, it’s what I would say and so putting yourself into uncomfortable situations is part of competency and you do this for other things so why should growing your inclusiveness competency be any different? It’s a leadership competency.

You’re in a stretch assignment, just like you are hopefully with everything else and then don’t give in to the fear because that’s not courageous. It’s not courageous and I also believe it’s not morally defensible. I mean, I hope that speaking of being humanistic, I hope leaders and organizations are really embracing the diversification of the work place and saying, how can I be a part of this? Retreating from that is a really dangerous thing but to jump into the arena means that it comes along with risk and that’s risk just like all the other risks, right? I just think it’s like, okay, you’re going to need to apologize so you’re not going to get some things wrong.

Can your ego handle it? Yes, hopefully and can you take feedback in the way it’s intended to make you a better inclusive leader and not kind of tuck your tail between your legs and slink off into your corner and never to reappear. What are you going to do about that, right? It’s courage, it’s coming back. I mean, I even call it out as being this sort of what is this white woman doing in this work and how dare she and I’ve had some pretty vicious stuff and I wanted to retreat and I wanted to hide and I wanted to give up because it hurts so much, it really hurt when you dedicate your life to this and I’m LGBTQ but funny enough like people who call me out like of course, as people don’t, they didn’t do any homework on me.

They don’t know who I am so they grab whatever they see and then they try to take me down. This is not widespread by the way but it’s a risk that I live with and I have to get back in the game again, after that happens to me.

Tara Newman: I think that’s a really important story though.

Jennifer Brown: Yeah, it is.

Tara Newman: There is how … right, because I can definitely identify with feeling like when I advocate or me, stepping into you allyship will have a similar impact to what you’ve experienced like who am I to be doing this or who am I to be speaking up about this and I think obviously, that’s the opposite of what we want to happen so having the courage to move through that and to be putting yourself out there, it’s scary but it’s important for that last phase of your model around being an advocate.

Jennifer Brown: Yeah, so that’s phase … nice segway, you’re good. I might want to consider interviewing you. Phase four is advocate and once you … to our point about exercising a muscle and strengthening a muscle and getting ready for the marathons so that you can run it without injury and hopefully with good time too, phase three about activation was about building that competency, skill application, comfort. I would say going more public. It’s a real shift from phase two aware to phase three active that you’re starting to come out about your inclusive leadership so becoming more comfortable so that you don’t make a mistake in public so that you’re more comfortable sharing your story so that you feel it’s integrated with your overall story as a leader, you’re overall vision as a leader.

You’re starting to connect the dots. You’re starting to be more sensitive than ever to how you’re responding to and who needs you to do what in order to demonstrate inclusive leadership because to me, it’s all about … I’m such an outside in kind of person. I’m always like, how can I be of service and I learn how to be of service based on the feedback I get about what’s resonating and what’s helping and that’s what I take on board then I think about, okay, how can I do more of that? To me, that’s the feedback I need so that I know where to point my energy in the world. As you’re active and moving at advocate, you’ve really gathered all of that and you’ve let it shape you and you’ve taken it onboard and then you’re like, okay, so who needs … might need to be of service the most and how do I apply that?

I think that comfort, that publicness that competency with language, you don’t make as many mistakes, although I would argue we’re always making mistakes. You move into advocate level when you are bold, unapologetic, unafraid to challenge, speaking truth to power. I mean, I often describe myself at the advocate level on certain issues and others I’m not. I’m sort of at the very beginning of a continuum.

Tara Newman: I love that.

Jennifer Brown: Yeah, because

Tara Newman: I look in that spectrum too.

Jennifer Brown: Yes indeed.

Tara Newman:        Having a spectrum of … and navigating where you are on the spectrum at any moment.

Jennifer Brown: That’s right, so for some communities or some identities, like for me, people of visibilities or diversabilities is a whole learning curve for me. I am literally struggling to stay on aware. I would say too, my competency around ethnicity and race is somewhere between maybe aware and active and I still am sort of awkward about how to show my allyship in that’s so for sure, I’m working at all these steps depending on which arena I’m talking about. The advocate level is unafraid. I always say, to comfort the afflicted and afflict the comfortable. When you’re an advocate, you’re … and this is everyday, I do feel like I’m saying to the afflicted, I’m saying, I hear you and I’m bringing your message to the room.

I am speaking truth and I’m using whatever platform I have as a person that might get some sort of unearned privilege attributed to me because of how I look, how I identify people’s comfort with me and how I present myself, whatever it is, that’s something that gets me in the room. As an advocate I can be the piece of sand in the oyster. I can be the irritant. I can be the truth teller. I can be the challenger. I can be the space holder honestly.

Tara Newman: Just listening. Just listening to somebody, asking a question, being willing to have a conversation or to sit there and just be present to somebody else’s experience is so important.

Jennifer Brown: Also by the way, like I really believe that, we talk a lot about emotional labor and the diversity inclusion space and I think I have a longer fuse for doing the emotional labor of supporting people’s learning, like I’m doing less management of being a person of color. Being a gender, non-conforming individual, right? Those things aren’t things that I need to navigate because I’m a white person moving to a largely white executive world. That’s kind of my world, right?

Tara Newman: Yup.

Jennifer Brown: I think I can be a buffer to help educate, to hold the space you were just talking about. I don’t think people should lean too heavily for their learning on people who are already doing a ton of educating about their own experience, right?

Tara Newman: I agree, 100%, be the conduit. I think that you gave such clear examples of how people could be better advocates which I really appreciate and I like to leave my audience with a little something that they could take away just one step because we get so overwhelmed right, we look got this whole model and so for me, as I’m reflecting upon our conversation, if I had to ask my audience to take a small action, it would be to evaluate where they feel they are.

Jennifer Brown: Yes, that was what I was going to say.

Tara Newman: On that continuum, right, be aware of it and like, where are you right now on a whole and then like Jennifer was saying, where are you with certain types of diversity. Where are you with different types of diversity whether it would be disability, whether it would be race, whether it would be sexual orientation, whether it would be thought. Where exactly are you in those kind of sectors. I would love for you, my audience to go and just create that level of awareness for yourself in terms of where you are in this beautiful clear spectrum that Jennifer brought to us. Jennifer is there something you’d like to leave people with?

Jennifer Brown: That’s so great. Yeah, I mean, I wanted to mention, we’re releasing an assessment on the same day as the book, that does exactly what you were just saying which is sort of take these 30 questions and you’ll get a report with some ideas about where you are in certain competencies that we’ve identified and then with some suggestions for resources, both stuff that my firm has created like E-learning programs about like D&I 101 perhaps and also external resources that you can be like white papers and things. For your listeners, please, go to and you will be able to get on our mailing list and watch some stuff but also take that assessment and then that plus the book, I think will probably light a fire under you to understand where am I in this journey?

What’s one thing I can do differently and I would say maybe my answers to your question is let’s take pronouns for examples, lots of questions about pronouns in my keynotes. One in five people under 35 identify as non-straight and non-cisgender. If you think about your workforce and how just that element of diversity is shifting so fast, we all … one in five so somebody on my team, somebody that I’m hiring, somebody that I work for or with is gender non-binary or they’re not straight and they’re probably closeted. I think when we think about sharing our pronouns, it’s a way of signaling to others that we’ve done our homework, that we are aware, that not everybody is heterosexual or cisgender.

That we’re endeavoring to create an inclusive environment around ourselves by making it okay to talk about these things. I think it’s particularly important for cisgender people to share their pronouns just do it as a matter of course. The managers are like, when am I supposed to bring that up and it feels awkward and appropo of what and then I go to schools by the way and everyone sits around and says, hi, I’m Jennifer Brown. I live in New York, my pronouns are she or hers like bang, bang, bang. That’s just how young people talk, but nobody is doing that in corporate and I’m not suggesting everybody needs to do it in corporate but you may want to think about opportunities where you do open that door and you normalize it.

It is a normal part of life, we just have never … we have assumed hetero … have the hetero-normativity of our world, a lot of us. I mean, assumed cisgender normativity.

Tara Newman: Thank you so much for that little nugget that you tossed in at the very last minute because I’m not kidding, my sister and I have been having this conversation and we’re like … we’re not really sure what to make of it and we’re not really … we’re both like in the middle on this thing but just really for me, clarified it in a way that I can now go and take action.

Jennifer Brown: Good.

Tara Newman: All I needed was that clarification and that might have been true for other people as well.

Jennifer Brown: Maybe. I will suspect some. Put it in your email signature. I have it in my pronoun:.

Tara Newman: I really appreciate … I really appreciate that clarification Jennifer. I know you said where to go for your book, but where can people find you because you have a podcast and you’re out there all over the place.

Jennifer Brown: I am so please join our mailing list. Go to and find out where I’m speaking and other conferences that you may want to go to, if you’re really intrigued about this topic because likely, I am there and hopefully, I am speaking. My consulting team which we didn’t talk a lot about today but Jennifer Brown Consulting is all about the amazing team that I get to do this work with, who’s out in the clients every single day, building strategy and training so they’re incredible in case your organization has a need for help developing strategy to shift the culture. My social media, I’m at @JenniferBrown on Twitter, @JenniferBrownSpeaks on Instagram and my podcast is called The World to Change, True Stories of Diversity and Inclusion.

Jennifer Brown: I get to bring on some just incredible individuals, sharing surprising diversity stories and kind of we really dive into org change and using our voice and courage and compassion fatigue out of all …

Tara Newman: All the things.

Jennifer Brown: Yeah, all the things that go along with traveling the journey that we’ve talked about today and just making sure you don’t feel alone in your journey because that’s kind of my overarching goal is to make sure we all know that there is a beloved community that’s really, really, endeavoring to walk this path and the isolation that can happen is not healthy for us and we have to remember that there’s like such amazing people that care about this so we’re not alone. We’re never alone.

Tara Newman: Thank you so much for coming by today and sharing your knowledge with us.

Jennifer Brown: Absolutely. Thank you so much for this opportunity.

Tara Newman: Thank you.

Now, if this conversation was interesting to you and felt unique and a little different, I want you to do me a favor, I want you to take me up on my invitation to join The BRAVE Society so if you’re a female small business owner, this is likely your community. If you’re resonating with this podcast, and the things we’re talking about over here because they are very much the essence of how we talk about things in The BRAVE Society. The BRAVE Society was founded on three basic principles. 

One, community. How can we come together and become a marketplace of business owners where we can do business together, where we can open doors for each other, where we can collaborate with like-minded credible business owners.

Two, nobody should ever short change their leadership development. I see too many times women spread thin making investments in their businesses as they grow and short changing their leadership development and I’m here to solve that problem. You can make the investments that you need to make and say your marketing or your branding or your website and develop yourself as a leader. 

The third thing that we come together for is to really stand at the pinnacle of our leadership which John Maxwell talks a lot about in his work and he says, that we’re at the pinnacle of our leadership when we are a leader who develops leaders who develops leaders. What I ask the women of The BRAVE Society to do is to take what they learn in The BRAVE Society and bring it into the world, into their communities, into their families, into their clients and their customers and to really continue to develop more leaders on this planet. 

If this sounds interesting to you, I want you to go over to apply now or you can come find me on Instagram on @thetaranewman and ask me any questions you need to about joining The BRAVE Society. If you found this podcast valuable, help us develop more bold leaders in the world by sharing this episode with your friends, colleagues and other bold leaders.

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