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Christie Smith is the West Region Managing Principal for Deloitte Consulting where her responsibilities include markets, clients, talent and community for more than 2,400 consulting practitioners and more than 250 principals and directors. She is also a lead consulting partner and advisory partner for several of Deloitte’s largest clients. In addition to her management and client responsibilities, Christie leads the Deloitte University Leadership Center for Inclusion & Community Impact.
Jennifer Brown: Thank you for joining me on ‘The Will to Change,’ and this is Jennifer Brown. My guest today is Christie Smith. Christie is the West Region Managing Principal for Deloitte, and the National Managing Principal for Deloitte’s Leadership Center for Inclusion and Community Impact. She’s also the co-author with Kenji Yoshino of the study ‘Uncovering Talent: A New Model of Inclusion.’ She’s been featured in media including CNN, NPR, Fast Company, and the Harvard Business Review. Christie, welcome.
Christie Smith: Thanks Jennifer. It’s great to be with you, and congratulations on your book.
Jennifer Brown: Oh thank you, thank you very much. I knew that that title would resonate with you on inclusion, and that’s what we’re going to talk about today.
Christie Smith: Everything you say resonates.
Jennifer Brown: Aw thank you, I feel the same. I feel the same. You know I’ve been such a fan of your work for so long, I’ve been reading everything you write, and I’ve heard you speak a lot, and I really feel a kinship with you as a member of the LGBT community and somebody who really believes in workplace advocacy and what organizations can do to enable all of us to feel welcomed, valued, respected and heard, as we say in my company, and I really think that you embody the courage of leaders that I think are out there really having the conversation and creating a constructive way to have a conversation about inclusion. So I just want to thank you for all of that and the voice that you have on these issues as a starter.
Christie Smith: I deeply appreciate that, and my admiration for you is the same, and I am blessed to be part of an organization at Deloitte that values a culture of courage, so that allows me to do the work that I do and to live the passion that I have in this area. So I’m pretty lucky in that regard.
Jennifer Brown: I know I agree, it’s a great company, and a company with a longstanding commitment to all of these things. So let’s get personal as a starting point. You have such an interesting background. I wanted to know a little bit about what made your parents unique, and your kind of sibling constellation, and how did all that evolve, and maybe tell us what really shaped you in terms of your family situation.
Christie Smith: Wow you are getting right into it.
Jennifer Brown: You know it.
Christie Smith: Yeah, no I appreciate the question because I often get asked in some form or fashion why I care so much and why I’m so deeply passionate about the issues that I am. And it does stem from being the youngest of eight kids, and I grew up in a household where there are six girls, two boys, my mother worked our entire lives, and pursued her own advanced education during that time as well. My dad was- modestly he would have told you he was a shirt salesman, and so he was on the road quite a bit, but when my dad was home he was larger than life and you never felt like you had those empty time periods away from him which was pretty special. But both my parents, my mom’s an only child and my dad has an older sister who really raised him because his parents died at a young age, and both my parents were instilled by their parents in their lives with this notion that women can do anything, and achieve anything that they put their mind to, and a deep sense of faith, and giving back to the community, and the responsibility to fight for the underdog. And so being the youngest in my family, I was the underdog, I was the runt of the litter.
But certainly I grew up around a dining room table that talked about civil rights because I grew up in the sixties, my sisters were in college, my brother was in college at that time, it was electric. I grew up outside of New York City. I remembered my mom going into Newark- she was a teaching going into Newark, New Jersey during the riots to teach young black men because she believed education was the way out. I remember my dad fully supporting her both through those endeavors and her education and her career. And so I grew up in a household where having a voice mattered, taking action mattered, giving back and service mattered, and equal rights, human rights, social justice all were central to who we are and how we identified in the world, and that was critically important to my parents.
Jennifer Brown: And how did your- I mean it’s so unusual for your dad to be a man in that time believing what he believed. What was the- was there an ‘ah-ha’ moment for him that led him? Maybe it was meeting your mother who sounds like a force of nature.
Christie Smith: No question, my mother is a force of nature.
Jennifer Brown: Like her daughter, her youngest daughter I guess.
Christie Smith: You know my dad as I said, he had an older sister, my aunt who’s passed, both my dad and my aunt have passed, but Aunt Loretta really raised him and she was an extraordinary woman in and of herself. She went on to get a PhD in her- I believe it was her late forties, fifties. The first woman school superintendent in Illinois. She was smart, engaged, worked her whole life, and so I think he didn’t know any better. He grew up believing certainly that he wasn’t- he would say very clearly he was not as smart as his sister, nor was he as smart as my mother. But he was- and he was in his own way, but he really was a champion of them and loved playing that role. So I think it came very natural to my dad. And then he ended up with six girls.
Jennifer Brown: Yeah, that’ll do it.
Christie Smith: Yeah which he said he planned because girls stay with you.
Jennifer Brown: Ah smart, very smart.
Christie Smith: Yeah he was extraordinary in his support and his counsel to us in navigating all of our different careers, and choices in education that we made, and he really was an amazing partner in that. I learned a lot from my dad.
Jennifer Brown: That’s incredible. I’m going to keep it on the personal note, and I guess you had mentioned to me though that coming out, even in a really progressive household where equality was something to be fought for and guarded as so valuable, what was coming out like even in that context? Where there any bumps in the road in terms of the education that you had to provide for your loved ones?
Christie Smith: Yeah I would say that my coming out was not only an inflection point for me personally obviously in realizing that I was gay, but we were- I grew up Catholic and my mother was a- is, I mean she’s still alive, Theologian. And when I came out- I’m the only gay person in my family, when I came out my mother essentially rejected me and we didn’t speak for many years. And that time period obviously was extraordinarily difficult for me, and I would imagine for my family and for my mother as well, with discord it’s never fun. And I think that what I learned from that, and I think she would say what she learned from that was really having to come to terms with and be able to look at yourself in the mirror with how far you will actually go for your beliefs. Right? And how you have to adjust that certainly in the familial setting. And I think my mother deeply, deeply did not compromise certainly on her faith, but also came around to not compromising on the love of her daughter and what she had taught us and how we grew up all of our lives. So it was tumultuous.
Jennifer Brown: But you’re on the other side, and I can imagine-
Christie Smith: Been on the other side for a very long time. Very, very, very long time.
Jennifer Brown: That is so wonderful, yay. That’s the happy ending, but I’m sure it was a hard road. I mean what- feeling seen, and heard, and valued for all of who we are, I’m sure you had a sort of parallel journey in the corporate world of feeling- wanting to land in a place, which it sounds like you are now, a place where you could really feel you’re bringing your full self to work. And I would imagine maybe that wasn’t always the case in your professional career too, but how did that play out professionally for you as well? And how did you achieve- how did you get to that place where now I see you very much living out loud as we say, and really being authentic? Which is a place that a lot of people strive to be at, but as we know- what is the statistic, nearly 50% of people are still choosing to remain closeted in the workplace today, and that research is not that old. So tell us a little about that.
Christie Smith: Right, yeah. So I think that my journey was interesting because I never in a professional setting saw myself discounted in any way as a woman, right? And that’s largely because of my upbringing, right? I knew that I had a seat at the table. Even if others didn’t think I did, I knew that. And I always felt empowered to have a voice, and to use that voice either for justice, or for fighting for the underdog, or for fighting for my clients, right? Whatever it was, I was never encumbered by feelings of being less than as a woman. Now interestingly I do think within my personal experience of coming out, and that rejection in my own family, that stuck with me, there’s no question about that, and I hid the fact that I was gay for a very, very long time in my professional career. And I think in part it also fueled my ambition, and my accomplishment because I felt that I had to be better than everyone else. And I don’t mean that in a competitive way at all, nor do I mean that in silencing other people. What I meant was an internal drive. It wasn’t good enough to have a Master’s. That wasn’t enough: initials after my name. It wasn’t good enough to be a PhD, that didn’t- I still wasn’t good enough because if they found out I was gay, I’d be discounted, discounted, discounted, and a woman, right? So it was this constant feeling of truly just feeling less than, and that I had to constantly prove myself that was the drive for much of what I did. Now that’s exhausting as you well know, and I burned out. I burned out in my thirties and I thought, ‘I cannot do this anymore.’ And frankly none of it worked, right? All of the achievements, all of the education just flat out didn’t work. And so again, at this point I was transitioning from the job I had, I was introduced to Deloitte by a friend and mentor who said, ‘You need to interview with these guys if you’re interviewing with other big consultancies,’ and that was the turning point for me because I went to my initial interview determined not to change pronouns, determined not to hide my partner or my life in any way. And what was so special about Deloitte, the first person I interviewed with was our chairman today, and we were scheduled for like a half hour. I think it was an hour and a half later that I walked out of his office and we never really talked about competency, capability, ‘tell me your resume, what you’ve done.’ We talked about family and our lives, and it was truly like no experience- professional experience I had ever had in my whole life. And I interviewed for nine months because I was interviewing to be a direct entry partner, every partner I met with, it was the same thing. It was, ‘Tell me who you are, how’d you grow up, tell me about your brothers and sisters.’ They wanted to know who I was, not what I did. And I didn’t hide my sexuality in any of that, nor did anybody blink, and it was pretty clear that this was my home, this was the place that I needed to be, and fortunately I was offered a position.
Jennifer Brown: Incredible. And you know that makes so much sense in the context of the wonderful research you did with Kenji Yoshino on covering, which I cite all the time. Your own story is really reflected in that work, that you needed to uncover who you are, and it became more and more important to you not to spend all that energy managing or somehow minimizing who you were in your professional life. And you finally found an employer where you could bring- not only could bring that to the surface, but actually live it and know that it’s not just tolerated or accepted, but it’s actually sought as something unique about you. But the assumption is all of us have these very unique things about us that we’re stuffing underneath what I call the water line. I think about it like an iceberg. And the effort it takes to kind of downplay all of that, whether you can hide it or not, I mean maybe some people knew you had a female partner, but nobody talked about it. And so it’s a really big difference between being in the kind of environment where you minimize or don’t bring it up versus a place where it’s actually valued to that extent. It’s great. And I know you know Vivienne Ming’s work, she’s been a guest for us as well, and she calls it the tax that we pay on being different, and she’s actually quantified it and it’s like hundreds of thousands of dollars over somebody’s lifetime to be named Jose instead of Joe. At every single point, the having to work double work, the having to show up in a certain way, it is exhausting and personally I think it’s part of the reason that we’re not succeeding with the diversity numbers in so many companies just from a representation standpoint, that we haven’t really done that work that you’re talking about. We think we can hire our way out of the problem, we think we can I don’t know, buy the best PR and marketing that money can buy, but really we’re not building inclusive cultures where people like you or me frankly can bring our full selves and really thrive.
Christie Smith: Yeah I think it’s in some ways more basic than that as well, and that is we have for forty years started from a position of difference rather than what we share in common. And I think that’s what was so pivotal about the work that Kenji and I did. I was an admirer of Kenji’s for a very long time. When he first released his book in 2006 on covering, I remember being just awestruck when I watched him talk about it. But it was at that moment that the seed was planted for me about: This exists in Corporate America. It’s not just a legal discussion, it’s not just a social discussion, this is happening in our workplace. And it took many years of kind of formulating that, seeing it unfold with my clients and with my colleagues, to get to the point where I founded the Center for Inclusion at Deloitte University, that I went to him and said, ‘Okay now is the time. Now is the time to really begin to look at how we all cover at work and the impact of that.’ And by doing so, what we began to see is that no matter the color of your skin or your sexual orientation, we all cover very much in the same way. And if we can enter into the conversation of what makes us more alike than different, and then be able to share the experiences around that as the unique piece of how we come to that same place of covering, I think that’s the richness that we’ve missed in Corporate America in our programs of what I think are institutional segregation like our BRGs or ERGs. I think they’re necessary in some organizations, but really what we’ve done is just create these groups that further separate us from one another and point out difference rather than engaging that difference, bridging that difference to find out A) what humanity looks like in our organization, and B) how do you unleash that humanity so that everyone feels as though they can work to their potential and not with one hand tied behind their back.
Jennifer Brown: Christie, what this reminds me of is why I named my book ‘Inclusion’ primarily as opposed to ‘Diversity.’ You know we talked a lot about- I’m asked a lot about what word is the most meaningful word, and what’s the emerging conversation? And I do believe exactly what you’re talking about which is everyone has a diversity story, and our job really is to find out what those are because what we’ve got to create is a universal experience. We have to somehow shift into the next wave of this conversation about diversity, which is that all of us know something about diversity, and stop with the ‘us and them’ polarization or the binary really of identity. Which I think, when we think about the millennials, they very much think of their identity on a continuum or a spectrum, which is really exciting because I think that’s going to pave the way for a more nuanced conversation about what it would mean when we talk about who knows what diversity feels like. I mean when I say ‘diverse talent,’ I can’t even say that anymore because what does that really mean? We are all- we all have this richness as you call it, and our job really is to unleash it as you say. So I wanted to ask you, how do we- if we focus on say white, straight men for example that are inhabiting our leadership ranks in most companies disproportionately, right? Because that has been the history of business and we see it. But how are they best be welcomed into this conversation to talk about their own stories of inclusion and diversity, and what is the landscape in those conversations? Because I know that you talk to executives a lot, and so do I, but what are you hearing from them in how they want to be included, maybe some resistance points? But why is this really important that we engage this community?
Christie Smith: Yeah well I mean I think it’s important to engage this community because with or without all of us rowing in the same way and at the same time, we’re not going to achieve any of the goals that we hope to. We may achieve our quarterly numbers, but in the long run we will not achieve the brand, the reputation personally or from a company standpoint, and the longevity in the marketplace that we hope to. I believe that’s just life. I think that we’ve done two things for two straight white men, and this came out loud and clear in our research. One is we vilified them, we put a target on their back, because they are in the privileged positions. And so I don’t want to sugar-coat that, I mean they are, they know they are, right? But what we’ve done is vilify them for that, right? Or we’ve asked them to be the knight in shining armor. ‘Come sponsor our program. Come sponsor all the young women in our organization, or the young blacks, or Hispanics, or gays,’ or whatever it is. Right? We put that in the position that we vilify them for, which is that position of power when they feel powerless. Right? Because they’ve never been invited into the conversation of inclusion, right? What we found in our research was that straight, white men- or half of the straight, white males surveyed said that they cover at work. And to the same levels of detriment to their sense of self and their sense of opportunity that the other diversity cohorts did. So this was significant to them. They covered on age, they covered on veteran status, they covered on physical or emotional issues, disabilities, challenges. They covered on interestingly being- always being the ones put in the position of having to succeed. So they’ve got to have- one of my colleagues said this beautifully, a straight white man, he said, “You know I’m in this new leadership position running a very large piece of our business, and I’ve got to go in front of all of our people and look calm, cool, collected like I’ve got this all going, and underneath I’m like a duck in the water paddling as fast as I can, and I don’t know that I’m going to get anywhere.” But they cannot show that vulnerability. Cannot. He’s like, “I could never talk about that, I’d be written off,” right? And not at Deloitte. I mean he said more broadly, “I can’t.” I mean the fact that he and I had this conversation very publicly speaks to his courage and to the courage of our culture. But I think that this is where we’ve placed the straight, white man; in this almost impossible position when it comes to diversity and inclusion. Because we haven’t A) engaged them in the conversation, or B) we haven’t allowed for the intimacy or the language of vulnerability into our organizations. Which if you think about it we have all been conditioned, but especially the straight, white male, not to ever speak that way. There’s a great film called ‘The Mask You Live In’ that looks like the media messages that young men are given about being strong, and never crying, and never showing a person that you’re weak. She did that- that was her second film, her first film was on young women and the messages they get. But you know those early on messages of showing up, and being the strong, ‘I’ve got it together’ are just as damaging as the flipside, that I experienced, ‘I’m gay, I’m worthless, I’ll have to work twice as hard.’ Do you know what I mean?
Jennifer Brown: I do. Absolutely.
Christie Smith: But what allows us, and the covering language allowed us to do this, was to bridge those conversations in a safe way with language that wasn’t heated. The word ‘diversity’ means a million different things to a million different people, and it has baggage, right? When we talk about diversity, we talk about the exclusion of straight, white men. It just conjures that up, right? It’s not the ideals of diversity, and I want to be really clear about that, there is a big difference, right? The ideals of diversity are critically, critically important, but what’s happened in corporate settings, and even outside of it, is that word in and of itself is exclusive of straight, white men.
Jennifer Brown: Yeah.
Christie Smith: So we needed a language to bridge the difference, and ‘covering’ allowed us to do that.
Jennifer Brown: I know, I love it. When I present that research, it’s always such an ‘ah-ha’ moment for my often largely white and male audiences because it’s a lot of executive audiences. To see themselves in that research, and then to be honest if you can get them to a point where they realize, and we all realize, that all of us are stuck in a narrative that doesn’t really define us.
Christie Smith: Right.
Jennifer Brown: Yeah and I think it’s harmful to our health, and our feeling of wellbeing, and our productivity, and all of it. And you mentioned the word vulnerability, which is a big leadership competency for the future when we think about what millennials really want to see in their leadership in their company is that authenticity, and that to them, I believe, means the storytelling, the vulnerability, the leader that doesn’t necessarily have all the answers but is really real about it, and really- and shows up like you said earlier, not just for what they know how to do or their big title, but actually who they are. And that imperfection welcomes others to you that are also imperfect. And so it doesn’t even need to be the same diversity story, it’s literally in sharing your diversity story, and sharing challenges, you are actually allowing so many to see themselves in you. And that’s a different model of leadership for men to exhibit, and we’ve got to make it safe for that process too. I’m also struck by the whole- what I call sort of the ‘ally movement.’ You know, you and I know allies as straight allies for the LGBT community, but when are we going to get to a point, and I think it’s happening this year especially where people of all kinds are saying, ‘I want to be- I want to stand up and do more. I want to be an ally for if I believe any ideals of diversity, what can I do?’ And I cringe a little when I see an ally sort of shouted down for not being perfect, and not knowing exactly the right thing to say, or somehow not kind of knowing all the issues that others have been carrying around with them for so long. And I think it’s really paramount to encourage ally behavior and being in service of others that may not have the voice that you had. As much as we say everybody has a diversity story, there’s still a real differential in terms of opportunity between certain people in the professional realm and others, right? So it’s really interesting, we have to have kind of both sides going. We’ve got to challenge that myth of meritocracy I guess, and I’d love your thoughts on that because I get that pushback in the room a lot, especially with largely male audiences to say, ‘Look I believe in gender equality, our company has stood behind this, and we have these goals, and I’m well-intended. I personally believe this, I professionally believe it.’ But to say everyone has the same opportunity is not actually an accurate statement, and yet I find myself having to explain that quite a bit to allies frankly too who are like, ‘Hey just suck it up, why are you not out at work?’ They don’t seem to have a lot of patience for it, and yet I think the differences are really real for women, for people of color, for LGBT people, that there really is kind of a different playing field. So how do you describe that difference in the most persuasive way?
Christie Smith: I think that we have devalued the word ‘authenticity’ so much in our society today, and especially in a corporate setting, and because we have married it with storytelling. A leader stands up and says, ‘I was in X country last week, and I noticed how I was the only white man,’ and all of that, right? And they’ll tell the nice little story and everybody will go, ‘Oh gosh he’s such an authentic leader,’ or ‘she’s such an authentic leader.’ And I don’t want to dismiss that out of hand, but authenticity requires a heck of a lot more work than one experience and one story. Authenticity is the collection of life experiences that we have; failures and successes, tragedies as well as blessings, and how that forms how we show up as leaders, and how we show up as approachable humans, right? And we don’t set that bar in our corporate settings because that’s just not been the place that we do it, and therefore we have these leaders who have spent their entire careers, because they’ve been told that, compartmentalizing their lives and never being able to weave together those experiences and those stories that inform their basic value system and how they lead. And so because we haven’t asked leaders to do that, or they’ve chosen not to do it, or they’ve been conditioned or trained not to do it, we have almost diluted the very meaning of authenticity to this trite little one story at a time kind of experience. And I think that is hugely damaging not only to our leaders, but to our organizations and the people within it. So I think authenticity is one thing, and so assuming that a leader goes through the process of really that introspection. And it’s funny, I wrote a personal blog yesterday about this and said we often don’t come to the personal reflection point about how did we show up as a leader, and what did we accomplish in the world until we’re looking at retirement or we’ve been diagnosed with an illness. Then we begin to look in the rear-view mirror not on the sales numbers we hit, or quarterly performance. We begin to look at how did we show up as leaders? And what if we started that way?
Jennifer Brown: Yeah, what if. Oh my God yeah, it’s almost like there’s a lot of fake authenticity, like pseudo authenticity around, and I think especially the younger employees really can sniff that out. I think the Litmus Test for a leader, it’s not going to be enough in the future. It’s not enough today. We want to know who you are, and what you stand for, and what forged you, and what created the values that you hold, and what was challenging for you? And we have to take risks with the stories that we tell, and then we have to build that in as a habit, and again that’s sort of counter to what you and I- and how do we not just wait until that moment when we’re looking at our legacy? I believe legacy is created every day whether you’re a younger leader early in your career or later on. I mean I know you were still working on yours, you had a story you didn’t want to share about where you were, and what happened to you on 9-11, and you hesitated for I think awhile to share something like that, and I wondered- I mean you know what it feels like to kind of compartmentalize and say, ‘Is this too risky? Or is this somewhere I don’t want to go? Or is it not professional? Or what does it have to do with leadership?’ Do you want to share a little bit more about that?
Christie Smith: Yeah I mean I think as I have- well as I shared with you when I joined Deloitte, I really had this fairy-tale interviewing process for nine months, and I joined the firm in New York City on June 3, 2001 and our offices were in the World Financial Center. And I, months later, stayed in the city at the Marriott at the World Trade Center, I had dinner with friends that night, woke up that morning like I typically do, was running on the treadmill and if anybody has been in New York in the fall, when you have that beautiful fall morning when the sun is rising over the Hudson, there’s nothing like it. And here I found myself just feeling this elation that I’d arrived, I’m a partner at Deloitte, and that means something to me, and all of it. And a couple of hours later I am having breakfast with a friend of mine in the Trade Center, and we enter into the Marriott which was an atrium, like a glass atrium, and as I remember it I was starving because I went running- I usually get like fruit or something and I was like, ‘No I’m eating a big breakfast, let’s go up to the omelet bar.’ And as we stood there, the first plane hit and the debris came down onto the atrium. And had we been sitting there I may not be talking to you, or certainly I would have been seriously- and my friend would have been seriously injured. The aftermath of that experience and the things that happened immediately after getting out on the west side highway, and the things that we saw haunted me. I went into deep depression, anxiety, panic, post-traumatic stress, all of it. But I knew- that night I finally got home and I thought, ‘I’ve got to put this away. I can’t have these feelings. I can’t actually get my head wrapped around what I just saw but I can’t have these feelings.’ But I went into work the next day literally having locked all of that away and denied it. And I showed up, and my colleagues- I’ll never forget. Mike was there, another colleague of ours who’s retired, Barbara, she was there and said, ‘What are you doing here?’ I’m like, ‘I’m ready to help. What do I need to do?’ And from that day on I denied any of the emotions, any of the things that were going on, I hid my depression, I hid my anxiety disorder, my panic disorder, I hid it all because to be gay and to be a woman is one thing, but to suffer from an emotional illness, that is absolutely taboo. You don’t go there in any work no matter what the experience. And I don’t know where I got that message, but somehow I had that message in my head, and I didn’t have the strength to battle that. I could battle other things, I couldn’t battle that. And so it really wasn’t until many years later that I was asked to run a veteran’s program for the firm which we call our Corps Program, which essentially is we invite fifty transitioning vets from public sector, from military to the private sector, and for two and a half days they come to Deloitte University and pro bono we help them develop their story, their pitch, their plan, their targets for transitioning out of the military into the private sector. And I was spontaneously asked to address this first group, and I got to the front of the room and froze because they were all 9-11 soldiers. You can hear the emotion in my voice. It just broke. The compartment that I had put that all in broke wide open.
Jennifer Brown: Oh my God and that was such a safe group to have that story re-emerge for you in that moment, I think you knew on some level they could hold that with you, and they could hold that space for you to try that story out, and then I’m sure you’ve told it over time and it’s never lost its power, and it’s probably become one of many stories now that you bring to the fore. But it feels like telling stories is healing. There’s always something new to unearth and something that feels scary to us. Like what is our edge? We all have that edge, even if your job is to really do what you and I do, there are still things that are forbidden- or we sense that they’re forbidden. Right?
Christie Smith: Yeah and I think that this is what- I know we spend a lot of time talking about unconscious bias, but I like to talk about conscious leadership. I think the gift of growing up in the family that I did, coming full circle, and also my degrees in social work helped towards this, but it’s this never- always being very aware of what is going on around me, and with me in interactions big or small. Because you get to a point, and I’m sure you’ve interviewed a lot of people and you feel this way yourself, is when you do become a leader, people are watching you. Right? And if they watch you to a point where you’re stagnated and when you’re no longer evaluating at the end of the day, ‘What did I do right? What did I do wrong? Is there somebody I owe an apology to? Do I need to go back on something and correct it?’ If you’re not asking those questions on a daily basis of, ‘Who do I want to show up as and am I being true to that?’ then I don’t think you’ll have a following. I don’t think you’ll be able to create movements within your organization. I don’t think you’ll be able to relate frankly to this millennial population. I say to my colleagues who- I work with nearly all millennials, and I’m a millennial trapped in a boomer body because I’m unwilling to be constrained by a compartment, or by a title, or by a role, or by a position, or by my privilege. What I am willing to do is investigate it tirelessly and align it with who I want to be and how I want to show up. And I think that that is- that’s the work we have ahead of us. So it’s really allowing for cultures, and interactions, and leaders to have the room and the space to do that, because I believe that the leaders I’ve worked with, which are hundreds at this point in my career, that is ultimately the baseline. That is what they want but they have no idea how to get there, and so they live their lives in conflict.
Jennifer Brown: Absolutely, with a permission to get there. We don’t have a lot of time left but do you want to mention your Inclusion Index? I know you’re really excited about that as a mechanism to codify this behavior and kind of build it into the muscle for leaders. You want to tell us a little bit more about it and where we can learn more about it, too? It would be great.
Christie Smith: Yeah well I think that there are a few things, and no one instrument is the magic bullet. But I would say that there are three major pieces of work that we do with our clients, and what we believe to be what is needed in today’s day age in leadership. And as the private sector takes more of a role in shaping our communities, in shaping our world, we believe that three things matter most. One is commitment and commitment by those leaders to do the work that we’ve been talking about. Not to flip the switch of authenticity, but to do the hard work of really defining what it is and what it means to me and my experiences as a leader, and how that translates to not only the business and the purpose of the business, but the purpose of the people within the business. So I think it’s that commitment to do that, and to allow and have a surety in that commitment that sometimes you’re not always going to be popular, and you may get blowback. You may not make the street happy, or shareholders happy, but the brand promise and your role as the CEO or the senior leader, and having done this work, and to understand what is needed is the North Star, and to be committed to that North Star. I think the other thing is accountability, and I don’t mean accountability from the standpoint of performance management and the almighty wallet. That’s how we’ve done it for years in these discussions of diversity and inclusion. I believe accountability to create the cultures in which leaders can have these courageous conversations. We are working with two very large corporations right now, and on a very sexy and cool way to do this kind of acting out and role modeling of this vulnerability, or of having conversations across difference. We’ve been scared off to do that, right? And so really working with senior executives to be able to role play, and to scenario plan the most difficult conversations across different- and unexpected because we can’t expect the world has changed, and so we don’t know what we’re always going to get from our people when they walk through the door or what they’ll need from us. And then the third is, which you’re alluding to, which is a very sophisticated set of analytics. Not rooted necessarily in the performance management talent life cycle, but rather looking at all of that data in addition to customer sentiment, in addition to brand sentiment data that’s out there, in addition to 360s that we do.
Jennifer Brown: It’s really an exciting time I think for behavior change. There’s so much around us, there’s so much information around us, and I’m really excited for people to access more information on your work on inclusion, and how holistic you’re looking at it, and how you’re defining conscious leadership which is my favorite sound bite we’ve had today. I just love that concept, so important. So Christie, where can people access your work? I know that you do a lot of business to business work in your role at Deloitte. Where would you point people to to hear more of maybe about your inclusion tool, or other pieces, maybe LinkedIn, places that you’re writing?
Christie Smith: Yeah certainly at www.Deloitte.com is where if they just search on either the Leadership Center for Inclusion, or inclusion overall, they’ll be pointed to all of the research that the firm has done. Certainly I do quite a bit of writing on LinkedIn as well as research papers. We are currently working on a third millennial research paper, and- which is really exciting. And so we’re in constant motion with this, and I would also say that we don’t know what we don’t know, so if there are things that we need to look to to kind of make really the workplace more courageous, then we’d certainly love to be pointed in that direction as well, and that can all be done through www.Deloitte.com or through LinkedIn personally.
Jennifer Brown: That’s great, thank you Christie. Thank you for sharing all of the stories today and being so vulnerable. Role modeling all of those skill sets we talked about today, and just being present with our audience, and for being the light that you are for so many I am certain, and a patient teacher, and sharer of information and yourself that you are to others, and I’m so excited by this frontier. I think we have such an incredible opportunity right now to redefine the conversation to welcome new voices into that conversation, to challenge our own beliefs, to get out of the binary and the labels, and also to step up into a new way of leading that- hey if it weren’t uncomfortable, we wouldn’t be learning. So hey, the more uncomfortable you are, that’s when you know you’re on the right path.
Christie Smith: That’s exactly right. Well Jennifer thank you for all the work that you do, and it is a privilege to be in this boat with you, so thank you very much and I wish you all the best of luck with these podcasts, it’s been great.
Jennifer Brown: Thanks for joining us, Christie. Maybe we’ll have you back again because I think we have more conversation to be had.
Christie Smith: I’m sure of that.
Jennifer Brown: Alright thank you so much.
Christie Smith: Alright take care, Jennifer.
Jennifer Brown: Alright, bye bye.
Authenticity, transformation, and the future of inclusion: A conversation with Christie Smith
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Uncovering talent: A new model of inclusion, April 29, 2014 Download file
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