Owning Our Own Stories, With Oklahoma City’s Chief Inclusion and Diversity Leader, Shalynne Jackson

Jennifer Brown | |

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This episode was originally recorded as a DEI Community Call and features a conversation between Jennifer and Oklahoma City’s Chief Inclusion and Diversity Leader, Shalynne Jackson, as they discuss how storytelling, getting curious and connecting can be powerful tools to increase our perception of what’s under the water line. Shalynne provides details about the benefits of the Intercultural Development Inventory (IDI) and the difference between the monocultural mindset vs. the intercultural mindset.

Listen in now, or read on for the transcript of our conversation:

SHALYNNE JACKSON: Most times people in this work thinks that D and I is about denying a part of yourself. I’m telling you every room I’m going to, I’m showing up as a Black Christian, young, married mama, every room, full stop, point blank. I’m not hiding any parts of myself. I understand that also I’m privileged because that’s the work that I do. So people, they expect it. They expect it, I get that. I hope that when you wake up tomorrow, if you are given the chance to be anything but white man, I hope you still say yes to being a white man. Because this work isn’t about making white man think that they’re bad. It isn’t. It’s about white men really leaning in and saying, “I understand what is going on. Or I want to have an understanding because I want to bring everybody else along. I want everybody else to have an equitable opportunity just like me.”

DOUG FORESTA: The Will To Change is hosted by Jennifer Brown. Jennifer is an award-winning entrepreneur, dynamic speaker, bestselling author and leadership expert on how organizations must evolve their cultures towards a new, more inclusive workplace reality. She’s a passionate inclusion and equity advocate committed to helping leaders foster healthier and therefore more productive workplaces. Ultimately driving innovation and business results. Informed by nearly two decades of consulting to fortune 500 companies, she and her team advised top companies on building cultures of belonging in times of great upheaval and uncertainty. Now onto the episode.

Hello and welcome back to The Will To Change. This is Doug Foresta. Today’s episode was originally recorded as a DEI community call and features a conversation between Jennifer and Oklahoma City’s chief inclusion and diversity leader Shalynne Jackson. In this episode, you’ll hear about how storytelling, getting curious and connecting can be powerful tools to increase our perception of what’s under the waterline. You’ll also hear Shalynne talk about the IDI or the Intercultural Development Inventory. Shalynne also talks about the importance of owning all the aspects of our identity. All this and more, and now onto the conversation.

JENNIFER BROWN: Some of you may remember Shay joining me, oh gosh… Shay, was it 2020? Was it in the summer?

SHALYNNE JACKSON: Mm-hmm.

JENNIFER BROWN: Yeah, I think that’s when we gathered and you and I endeavored to unpack many of those things that were happening that year, which was rich in learning very difficult, very exciting, very inspiring. Here we are two years later, a day after the two year marker of George Floyd’s murder. This week is very heavy for so many reasons for me. Shay, and I want to just invite you to share what it feels like for you to reach this milestone yesterday, but also to be holding everything that you’re holding and that we’re all holding. Help us make sense of this moment, if you would.

SHALYNNE JACKSON: Yes. So I think that by starting with what are some of the dimensions of my diversity? So Black woman married, mom. I see someone in the chat said that they drop their children off at school today, wondering if they’d come home alive. That’s exactly what I’m thinking. Today is the last day for my little girl. I told her this morning, I hope you know that mommy loves you so much. While I tell her that I love her every day, she said, “I know mommy.” I said, “No, mommy really wants you to know that I love you so much.” So at four she can’t wrap her mind around. She doesn’t know what happened, but it really was a heavy feeling like, does she really need to go to school last day? Because I want my baby to come home.

I’m a qualified administrator for the IDI, the Intercultural Development Inventory. If you’ve never taken the IDI, please reach out to me, I would love to either offer it to you or connect you with another QA. I see Steve is raising his hand. So maybe Steve is a QA too. But I’m saying that because one of the things, depending on where you are on the spectrum and we can talk about the IDI. But one of the things that they have you do, the practices they have you do is pick the three identities that are important to you. I’m bringing that up because they change, right? I’m always a mom, but today being a mother is more important to me because of what is happening in the world, right?

It’s the most important thing to me today as I pray that my daughter makes a home to me. So I just say that because it’s really important for people to understand that what’s important to us, our dimensions of diversity changes just depending on where we are in life and what’s happening in the world. That’s really what I’m feeling right now. Last week it was being a Black woman, a granddaughter of people that could have been in that grocery store. My heart was really heavy, right? Now it’s just being a mom, my heart’s really heavy. Having to balance it all out is just hard.

JENNIFER BROWN: Thanks Shay. I know your people are resonating with you in chat. Everybody, the IDI is the Intercultural Development Inventory. Shay would you just quickly mention the stages that it measures on and just something about the role that IDI plays in DEI work?

SHALYNNE JACKSON: Yes. So love the IDI. Right now, I’m going through giving it to our firefighters I and D committee. So I work for the City of Oklahoma City, as you all know. So I’m working with our firefighters to give. The reason why I say that is with the IDI, it measures your intercultural competence. Really it’s really your ability to shift perspectives and behaviors around those that are different than you, right? Really what it boils down to a lot of people think that the IDI is about measuring good or bad. Are you a good or bad person, and that’s not what it is at all. Really just saying like, what’s your comfortability and how do you show up in instances of being around those that are from different cultures.

Just the reason why it’s really important, especially as leaders is to understand one thing that the tool does is it gives you your perceived orientation. So it’s how you think the world is experiencing you and how you think you’re showing up. Then it gives your developmental orientation where the tool places you. How I like to explain that is it really says, does your talking your walk match, not to say that you’re fake, not to call you out, but to say, “Awesome.” When you take it again in six months to a year, have you closed your gap? What they call the orientation gap. It’s really just a cool tool to really say, I’m showing up in the world how I want to be, how I want to show up and how they experience. Real quick on the continuum measure from denial to adaptations. So denial really just denying. That word is tough because it’s not that you deny that culture is important, or that difference does matter. But you deny the fact or the role that culture plays on our relationships.

In times of conflict, you lean on, “My way or the highway.” If there’s difference and you don’t like it, it’s, “My way or the highway.” Then there’s polarization where we’re seeing a lot in the world, it measures two sides of polarization. Defense, “My group is better than your group.” Then polarization reversal, where you’re really hard on your own people, “Why can’t we get it together? Other groups are better than us.” Then there’s minimization where a lot of the world is, where we minimize the parts of what’s different and really just want to elevate what’s similar. While we’re seeing polarization a lot in the world, many are in minimization, because we were raised to be color blind, “We’re all the same.” So that’s that minimization mindset, right?

Then acceptance is just getting more comfortable with, “There are differences and I know how to show up and adapt.” Then adaptation is you just are pretty fluid. You understand how to show up in different perspectives and really let yourself be true to who you are, while often holding space for other people to do the same. So I know that was a long example, but I absolutely love the tool because then it tells you where you are. Then it gives you a plan to say, if you really want to move through and close that gap, here’s what you can do. You have to take the test with a qualified administrator. You can’t just take it on your own and get your results. So there’s a lot, but it’s a really strong school for leadership teams.

JENNIFER BROWN: Everybody. So the IDI check it out, get certified, take Shay up on the generous… Are you offering to literally do a debrief with people, Shay?

SHALYNNE JACKSON: If you can work it out, yeah. We can schedule. I mean, there’s a cost to the tool, but I it’s-

JENNIFER BROWN: So worth it.

SHALYNNE JACKSON: That is enough for us to be paying for it as an organization.

JENNIFER BROWN: Yeah. Yeah. Most organizations pay for something like this and then have their leaders go through it. Somebody comes in from the external world and facilitates it and debriefs it. So thank you, Shay. Yeah. There’s other folks in the chat by the way that are also certified with IDI. So feel free to raise your hand if you’re somebody that knows the tool. All right. Shay, it’s intense right now and I think you just told me before this, you came out of a meeting where you were very honest about how you’re feeling. Maybe folks on this call have also had some moments of vulnerability publicly this week. I wondered if you would be willing to share.

SHALYNNE JACKSON: Oh definitely. So I was in a meeting. This is unrelated to the City, but I’ll tell you, I show up. Jennifer knows and those on the call that know me know I would show up like this as a City as well. But I was in a meeting with primarily white men, was working with an organization and it was their leadership team. The question came up around, how do we tell our white employees that feel this is reverse discrimination, that it isn’t. This is you and me, not you or me, some language that I use in the training. I was just really saying, education is key conversations like this. They’re going to bring me also to talk to their whole organization, but it’s really reiterating, and practicing, and modeling what this work really looks like as leaders.

Some kind of way we got on. I said, because I get it there. There’s fear and Buffalo was a prime example. That person fears that the white race is being replaced. So what do you do? You go kill people because of your fear. Instead of really just saying… Just talking to that person and educating people. We live in our bubbles and just allow fear to grow inside of people, and then things like that happen. I know it’s way more complex, and then we could spend a lot of time on hurt people, hurt people, and white supremacy, and things like that. But at the end of the day, that’s all based in fear. So I just started crying.

Typically I don’t cry in my presentation, but I told them, I said, “Look, I’m afraid to go to grocery store.” My husband works for a really large retailer and it’s a shame that we try to be committed to going to that retailer. But we don’t know when we go into that retailer, if we’re going to be next. You hear the stories of the people that are like, “I was supposed to be in there. I dropped my friend off and just ran to the ATM. It could have been me.” Where a lot of my peers where was that like, “That could be my elderly grandparents.” I instantly wanted to teach my grandparents how to order groceries online in hope to keep them safe. Going to the grocery store should not be that scary for people.

So I’ll end with, I told them, I said, “If you don’t think that there’s people in your organization, because this was a really large organization. If you don’t think that there’s people in your organization that came to work with that on Monday, you are missing the mark. You are missing the mark to think that people didn’t show up and aren’t still showing up with that fear.” So I know that was a lot. I mean, because some of us in our workplaces, depending on the work that we do, there’s the same fear. Really we should understand that no matter the work that we do, if we’re not prioritizing this stuff, intentions can be growing beside of people and workplace shootings are happening more and more now. So why are we not educating people instead of allowing this fear because of our fear as leaders that we don’t want to approach this work. What I told them was, “You’re making someone mad either way, so why not make people mad doing the right thing?”

JENNIFER BROWN: Oh, that’s a good sound bite. You got to frame that one, Shay. That’s good. I like it. I think I like it. I like it. Everybody, please utilize the chat if you have questions for us to kick around. Shay, gosh, we could go so many directions from that. I guess I’m curious what their reaction was. Also did you feel that it was the right reaction to what you’d shared and then you presenced in the room. Then I guess your advice for leaders who want to acknowledge that this access or not our job as leaders and managers and companies really is to name those things that folks are burying when that Monday comes. And to not let things be swept under the rug, because that was the workplace of old. That is not what we want to go back to because it was so toxic and left so many of us out, and didn’t acknowledge the very real experiences of our lives.

So we don’t want to go back, but there are questions these days about, how do I broach that? How do I open up that door in a way that’s respectful, that’s not tokenizing, that’s not forcing someone to almost re-traumatizing them by my bringing it up? How do I read where people are and what they need? So I wonder what happened in the room and then what advice you’d give.

SHALYNNE JACKSON: So one people were teary eyed. I actually got a text right before we got on this call from the person that had me. So two things, one, the lady… I didn’t even get to read the whole thing, but she said, “Thank you so much. You changed some hearts today.” I want to say, that’s what this work is about. It’s not really changing minds because to me, if we can get to people’s hearts, the rest will follow. What I told him was, “Look, I understand they make some people in here uncomfortable that I’m crying. But the truth is when you build relationships with people, when you get to know people, what’s important to them matters to you as well. So we need to be building relationships with our employees to know what’s important to them.”

To see your point, Jennifer, some employees want to come to work and they don’t want to talk about it. My husband would be one of those people like, “I’m a Black man and it affected me, but I separate the two,” right? I am one that wants to talk about it. We are not going to act like that did not happen, right? In my role like it to do that, but say I’m an engineer or I in another role, give me the space to talk about it. So closing the first question that you asked, even when I left, there was a white man that’s head of their legal counsel. He said, thank you for your emotions today. Because what I’ve learned in this organization, as we have started to do this work is it’s moments like that get to people because we are a caring culture.

So we have to also stop with the… Let’s just practice the business case. Let’s have a really neat presentation up, and let’s go back to our desk and expect everyone to… No, we need to be building relationships and find ways. There are best practices out there to help our people make organic, authentic relationships. There’s a number of things that I could share. But to your point about the second part, because you’re right, tokenism is not good. Like I said, my husband would be one that’s like, “No, don’t come to me because I’m the Black man in the room.” Right? I’m one that I am available. Now, it’s unfair to say this for me because I do this work so everyone knows you can talk to share about it whenever you want to. But even if I didn’t do this work, I’d be one that’s like, let’s talk about it.

What we have found in our organization is, and I’m proud because before I started working here, this murder of George Floyd happened and my leader… I’m sharing this because he’s on his own spectrum as a white man. He will tell you he’s privileged. He had to even be shown what that means, right? I’m saying that because they said that it was hard at first to get him to send a letter for George Floyd. It’s not because he didn’t know what the right thing to do, but there’s a lot of things that leaders often go through around like, well, what if another shooting happens? So I have to send another one out. Like all of these things, where do you draw the line?

When this shooting happened last week, it was nothing for me and our communications director to say, “Let’s send a letter.” He said, “Let’s do it.” Even when we read through the letter that we drafted for him, there were things that we were like, “If that’s too strong, let’s take it out.” He said, “No.” That’s allowing him though over two years, the great that we’ve allowed him and the opportunities 101 to build relationships with him. He’s been on his own journey, reaching out to those that are marginalized to have these conversations. You got to let people grow. So a lot of the advice that I give is, find ways to organically have these conversations with your organization so that people can be on their own journey like our boss. Then finally I’ll say, then create space to invite people to say… So we are soon going to have a whole office, the office of I and D collaboration lab.

In moments like this, because unfortunately it’s going to happen again, we already plan to be like, “If you want to come down to the D and I team’s office anytime day, stop by, we’re here for you.” And be in community with other people that want to talk about it. How are you providing that space for those that do want to show up and then how are you letting the other people like my husband sit at their desk and do with it, what they need to. Does that make sense?

JENNIFER BROWN: Oh yeah. Oh, that’s so beautiful. There’s a lot of shout outs happening in chat for leaders in the public eye that are really embodying what you’re talking about. Steve Kerr is one, right? It’s not just the words, it’s the emotion as well. I don’t mean to dismiss the importance, but it’s the delivery too. It’s like people can feel, they can hear, but the feel is another, to me, I think an advanced level and something that leaders develop into. Shay, I love that you said you got to help your leaders grow. What you see in your leader is the product of two years of growth and evolution supported by you. But also having faith that people can get there if that’s fostered, right? And supported. I’ve seen it. It’s not common. I wish it were more common, but it is possible.

SHALYNNE JACKSON: I’m really glad that you said that because even when we talk about giving people space in the delivery, I’m just going to say, I’m going to go there. A lot of times, even people that are doing this work, our delivery is off. Then we wonder why people are avoiding us. We have to stop beating people over the head with really harsh words. The reason why I say that, for example, in that room, I said power and privilege, but I gave them the definition of what I meant by power and privilege. Why? Because if you just tell someone that they’re privileged nowadays and you don’t tell them what you mean by that, they’re closed off. They’re like, “Oh, I knew she was going to come in here and say I was racist and I was privileged.”

So I told him, “Look, I’m here. I’m calling to say to face, yes, as white men, you all have power and privilege. But I also know that I have power and privilege sometimes when I walk into a room, just less times than you all.” As a Christian in Oklahoma, I have a lot of privilege when I walk into room, people ask me, “Shalynne, as a Christian, how can you do this work while also supporting the Pride community?” Because I was given one director from God and that is to love, full stop, period. I’m like, that’s it. There’s no but. When we say, but, we’re negating everything else we just said, right? So where I’m going with this is that I was able to set the tone with them and say, “Yes, I am going to look you all in the face and say that you have privilege. But I’m also going to tell you that’s not a bad thing because you can use your privilege to pull other people up.

When we deliver it like that instead of, “You’re privileged, and you’re horrible, and you don’t even deserve to be where you are. You only got there because you’re a white person.” Congratulations, you just invited yourself to never be invited. You lost the next invitation to be in that room. So I just wanted to really say that with a group full of people that are practitioners, we have to watch our delivery because we also mess it up for the next person. I’ve been in organizations where it took them a really long time to lean back into it because another consultant came in and beat them up. Don’t mess it up for the next person. I’m not trying to say that I’m the right consultant for every organization, I’m not. Some are not ready for me to be direct to say, yes, you have power and you have privilege. But the next consultant that the organization is ready for come in, but don’t mess it up for them.

JENNIFER BROWN: Oh my goodness. There’s so much love coming your way in chat. You and I, we finish each other’s sentences on many pieces, but this one’s so important. I know as LGBTQ + myself, right? My evolution into my allyship and recognizing that I carried some marginalized identities and grappled with those and still do. But these days I really want to unpack privilege and not have it be weaponized, but have it be something that we all contain in some form and that we can all activate. This removes it from shame and guilt and opting out, if you will and sitting on the sidelines that we see so many people doing. And gives people something tangible to actually to action, that would make a difference that shifts systems, right?

If we share power, and influence, and capital, and all those things on a daily basis, as part of our leadership, as part of our colleagueship, because you don’t need to be people leader to do this. We are enabling change from what we have to work with. We all have the ingredients of who we are to work with. Those are always available, but they come with, I think of it like different instruction booklets. My job as LGBTQ is to make sure my challenge to myself is to come out, to always be out, to shine that light regardless. Even if it’s uncomfortable in certain rooms, to talk about it. But it’s also to demonstrate what allyship looks like in practice from the same person. So Shay, I just love it when you talk about that, I really appreciate it. I think the world needs more of this kind of dialogue that’s not threatening, but actually it’s an invitation and it’s imminently doable.

SHALYNNE JACKSON: The day that I stop learning and the day that I feel like I figured it all out, the day that I need to hang up my badge because we’re always growing and we all make mistakes. I really like to lead with that when I talk to clients, because I want them to know this isn’t me coming in and say, “Get on my level.” Right? This is about, “We’re in this together. Let’s lean in and figure out how we can be good neighbors to each other and really support each other.”

JENNIFER BROWN: You being a loving Christian and being out about that, to me, far from being something that should be hidden because I might feel uncomfortable. You are literally, you’re love and it is the most inspiring, beautiful thing for me to feel that love identifying the way that I do. But your awareness of, “Gee, I might be out about that and it may alienate some people who are making assumptions about what Christianity means to me.” That just always takes my breath away about you. What a healing relationship we have on so many levels to know that we both feel honored in this relationship. Perhaps identifying differently, but being able to see each other. You talk about polarization, right? In the IDI. That has led to so much pain and yet you are breaking the mold and I am breaking the mold in relationship with you. This is the opportunity that DEI, I think represents, is these beautiful relationships across difference, that are in some ways unlikely, but they shouldn’t be unlikely. We need to see more of them.

SHALYNNE JACKSON: You know that on this call, there’s been a number of people that people will be like, “She’s really that close to them.” I mean, for example, if you all want to go look at the top between Major Matt McCord and myself. Matt actually has a TED talk y’all. So amazingly recorded.

JENNIFER BROWN: What? It was?

SHALYNNE JACKSON: Oh my gosh. Oh my goodness. With the Tulsa Police Department. I’m so sorry, I’m seeing multiple people are chatting. So give me one second, I’m sorry. But he tells that he’s a white, straight, Christian man, married 25 years, 30 years, something for a long time, older kids than I do. You name it, we are not supposed to be close. Oh my gosh. I would say he is one of my best friends. He is awesome. He has a TED talk about a lot of what we’re talking about just but really being in community.

The reason I bring that up is, he and I will call each other when a lot of this happens to be like, “I’m struggling here, tell me how the process right.” Or, “I’m struggling here, tell me what the…” And we’ll honor, “I know you can’t speak for everyone, but for me, it’s like, tell me what the law is. Tell me why they thought that was okay.” And build those kind of relationships with people to say, before I get upset. Because sometimes it’s like, “Okay, that wasn’t enough for me. I’m mad.” I want to be really clear. I don’t call Matt, so I can give cops a pass all the time, right? What I’m just saying is it’s really big to be in community with people that are different than you so that you can really talk to someone.

Yeah. So his TED talk was up, but then he said that there was some issues with when the organizer organizers posted it, they had to take it down. It was everyone in that TED talk cohort. So I’m going to see if no one can find it. I’ll try to find it and send it to Jennifer, to send it out. Someone did ask me though up here, they asked me, how did I develop the space with my leader to have these conversations? Was it scheduled, or organic, or did the conversation start with the IDI? So this is a loaded question. I am the type that you can expect me to talk to somebody regular to talk back to me. So a lot of it is got to be organic. I love relationships and really creating space for people.

With my leader, I’m going to be honest with you, it started in my interview. Which is one of the reasons why I joined this organization. In my interview he said, “Look, if you made it this far…” Because I report to the City Manager. He said, “If you made it this far in the interview, you know the technical stuff, you know the strategy, I want to know you as a person because in this space I have to trust this person.”

We had one of the deepest talks I’ve ever had in the interview. It didn’t even feel like an interview. But he was honest about where he is on his journey. Even he was willing to tell me, “I didn’t think we needed this position at first.” He said, the mayor said, “One of the things that you will do is hire a Diversity Inclusion Officer.” He said, “But once everything happened with George Floyd. And at that time of year, he said, “I realized, okay, this is something that we need to prioritize because we need someone to help guide us on this journey. Right now, we’re just feeling around in the dark, driving in the fall, trying to figure it out.”

So the reason why I’m saying that with him, it started the day we met. I promised him, I said, “I want you to know you’re safe with me. Even when we disagree, I will respectfully let you know and I’m going to honor that in a private space.” You can’t be a D and I leader calling your leaders out in front of everybody. Because you have to understand like, yes, call him out. We call each other out. Okay. But it’s in our one on one. When we leave those one on ones though, unless it’s something and it never has been. But unless it’s something that’s non-negotiable and goes against my morals and values, I’m walking out of there supporting him, having his back. Because I have to understand that he’s on his own journey. There has been some beautiful things that have come from that.

Again, honor his story and let him own it. I can’t really share all of that. But I see where we were a year ago and I see where we are now. I just on Monday in our one on one said, “I’m so proud of you. I am so proud of you.” So you just have to give your leaders that and understand some things are non-negotiable and he’s clear about what my non-negotiables are, but it hasn’t been a problem. The other things that I wish he would get right then I’m like, he knows, so I’ll end with this.

In my interview, I told him, he said, “Tell me about his time that you didn’t agree with a leader.” I said, “Well, there was an organization that I worked for and they never said no, it was just not right now.” He said, “They probably told you, no, that’s just how you heard it.” So do that though. When you hear no y’all, not everything has to be a fight. Not everything has to be, “I knew you weren’t committed to this.” Understand that they are on their own journey, so we have to honor that.

JENNIFER BROWN: You know what? I see you and the totality of everything you do, Shay, you know what? We’re not perfect. Perfection is not the goal, but it’s intent and impact. Your impact has been incredible and authentic. You just heard how you role modeled your relationship with your leader. I love that you said it’s not always going to be the answer you want, and maybe that’s not the time to throw up your hands and say, “I’m done with this.” Because the way we can lead is through holding the space, and nudging, and supporting, and giving feedback, and watching somebody evolve in front of you, and then thanking them. What you also said just now is identifying ally behavior, identifying it and defining it and saying, “Thank you. This is what you did. This is what I heard. This is the difference that it’s making. This is how it’s landing.

Because leaders, I think they’re in such a vacuum. They get a lot of criticism and not a lot of the, “Hey, I see your work. I see what you’re committed to and it really is making a difference.” That is so encouraging. We all need that. We all need that encouragement, and it can feel really heavy right now. But just to keep going, we need to remember to foster allyship in ourselves and others. In the ways that we hold space for that, the walk alongside people, give the love and kindness with the feedback and choose our moments so that we don’t… I think also what you were saying, Shay, is when and how to give the nudges and the coaching.

That matters as much as the coaching itself too. Like being really kind in that is, I believe, important. Now, the call out sometimes is necessary, right? When things are just going awry and something needs to be addressed in the moment. But I do think even these choices make a huge difference around having people’s back and treating them as humans that are somewhere on the IDI, right? And not destroying things in the process, because this is fragile. This is so fragile between us and in ourselves like this new seedling of inclusion that I hope is growing in each of us is fragile. It’s fragile because our egos want to tell us that we’re better at this than we really are. They’re fragile because we don’t want to be embarrassed. We don’t want to hurt people. We don’t believe we know enough.

There’s so many reasons that we stay quiet. Not all those reasons are, oh, I’m a bad person, or I don’t care. They’re much more. I think in my experience, it’s the hesitation from not wanting to cause harm, not wanting to exacerbate, and yet being so awkward in terms of how to go forward. So I think if we carry that energy to the people that we’re in community with, I think we’re going to attract that I can do this, I can be better, I can grow. We need to communicate that message because we know that it’s true, Shay. You and I have seen this transformation.

SHALYNNE JACKSON: Not only when you communicate it, but again, I go back to, we need to model it. Y’all, I don’t always get it right. I don’t always get it right but my willingness to apologize or ask the right questions, call the Matts, call the Jennifers, call the Joe Gerstein. If y’all know Joe Gerstein like, woo, here’s a big deal in my life. If Joe said he needs me, I’m booking a plane, I don’t even care how much the ticket is, we’ll figure it out. So yeah, you need those people that are willing to check you. I also tell people with the IDI that there’s no one better for me than myself to hold me accountable. I tell my husband this is what I’m working on and woo, he going to home me accountable. But who in your life can you ask to hold you accountable for things, and just really call you out?

Give people permission to do that, but be open to it. Don’t say it, and then when someone does it, “Well, that’s not what I really meant.” Or go back to the IDI, there’s a perceived orientation about how you’re being received. Then there’s your developmental orientation about how it’s happening. Whether that’s what you meant or not, if that is how the majority felt it, you need to fix it. You need to fix it.

Whenever I miss it, I need to fix it. So that I can be received how I desire to be received. So that I can really show up and make the impact that I’m trying to make. Because I’m wasting my time if I walk in and I’m not self aware, and I’m beating everybody up. A waste of time, money resources, because no one left with the message that they needed to leave with. I may have left with the check, but for me, it’s not about the money, it’s about the impact that I make. Anyway, we could go on and on, but just the self learning system work is huge.

JENNIFER BROWN: Yeah. So just to put a couple pieces in here. Meeting the learner where they’re at is the animating principle of consulting. While it can get frustrating and feel a bit like an erasure of ourselves as we meet folks where they’re at and where they’re not, right? It can be triggering for us. This is what makes this work so unique. To be able to stand in that discomfort and at the same time, still hold space for where people are, is the most ultimate… I mean, I think that’s a magical competency. Knowing how to sit in the trigger, but leading with love and continuing to educate. It’s one of the hardest things that we ever are asked to do, and yet it’s so important. I love that you said that. Then I wanted to also elaborate, the IDI has this perceived versus developmental orientation that Shay keeps referencing. Developmental is where the tool thinks you are, perceived is where we think we are.

SHALYNNE JACKSON: Exactly.

JENNIFER BROWN: Yeah, so that. By the way, our team just did this. I did the IDI for the first time, Shay. My perceived orientation was higher than my developmental orientation.

SHALYNNE JACKSON: Typically, it is.

JENNIFER BROWN: Right?

SHALYNNE JACKSON: Typically people don’t match. Typically, it’s like, “Oh, I love everybody.” Even D and I practitioners, my mentor was the first talk to me about, about the IDI. She said, “When I took this 2 years ago, I was like, “Oh, uh-huh, this tool is wrong. It put me in minimization.” Listen, all of the ways that she was in adaptation. But when she said, “When I really sat and thought about it, that is how I was showing up. I was wanting to focus more on people’s similarities instead of that.” One thing I also love about the IDI is that the continuum is, on one side, it’s the monocultural mindset. Then the other it’s the intercultural mindset. The monocultural mindset is all about basically being able to make sense of your own values and beliefs, and perspectives through that lens. A cultural is being able to make sense of your own and others.

Every time I give the tool or give a debrief, I stress the, and, because most times people in this work thinks that D and I is about denying a part of yourself. I’m telling you, every room I’m going to, I’m showing up as a Black, Christian, young, married mama, every room, full stop, point blank. I’m not hiding any parts of myself. I understand that also I’m privileged because that’s the work that I do, so people, they expect it. They expect it, I get that. But even what I told this group today, I said, “I hope that when you wake up tomorrow, if you are given the chance to be anything but the white man, I hope you still say yes to being a white man.” Because this work isn’t about making white man think that they’re bad.

It isn’t. It’s about white men really leaning in and saying, “I understand what is going on. Or I want to have an understanding because I want to bring everybody else along. I want everybody else to have an equitable opportunity just like me.” So going back to the end, I just really like to strengthen that because I’m not denying a part of myself. But when you really can lean in and feel comfortable with yourself, you then can start giving other people permission to do the same. Look, if you’re not a Christian, we can still be in the same room and accomplish the same goals for this organization. Because most of us are doing this work for an organization, right? It’s important at the end of the day, how do we get the best out of our brightest? Okay. If that means that people need a prayer room to be able to pray, do that.

Because when you come out of that room, you are going to be loyal. You are going to be productive. You are going to be ready. But a lot of us are not giving people that space. It’s come in, it’s the norm. I just told the group today too, I said, “Look, if you don’t have a prayer room, you’re big enough organization that people are going to pray in their cars.” Why is that fair? Why is that fair? Does it really hurt you with this big… The answer was no, they’re a great organization, but I was just like, does it really hurt you to say, “Even though no one has come to me for an accommodation, I’m just going to put a prayer room in here because it’s the right thing to do.” Does it hurt you? You have enough closets around here that you can go ahead and convert them to a prayer room.

Again, no one wants to be stuck in the closet, but you can there’s some rooms, there’s some offices that are empty right now. Make it a prayer room and see how your organization changes. So I know that was a lot, but you had said something where I just really wanted to stress that this isn’t about denying a part of yourself. You can ask anybody that knows me, the shade you see right now is the shade you going to see… The only people that see a different version is my husband and my kids. That’s some of the stuff that I do at home, I just need to do at home. Okay. Just in terms of like, I just sometimes randomly get, ahhh.

JENNIFER BROWN: I can’t ignore it. Yes.

SHALYNNE JACKSON: In a meeting is like, that is distraction, Shay.

JENNIFER BROWN: It’s a little too much.

So much good stuff. Our folks are just loving you, of course. What you just said like, it’s, build it and they will come. I mean, what organizations and leaders need to do is assume that diversity is everywhere. Assume it is there in your room, in your team. When I share my pronouns as she/her/hers, I know I’m sending a signal to somebody who’s terrified. I know that I’m doing that from a place of cisgender, comfort and being seen in the world as a certain accepted identity. I know that that’s what I’m doing and I’m doing it strategically. So that folks know I’m not assuming cisgenderness around me. I love that invitation, but you may not get the right away. Somebody coming out to you and saying, “Actually thank you for saying that. I use they/them pronouns.”

It takes investment of time organizationally in our relationships with each other to say, just be consistently laying down these breadcrumbs, saying, anywhere I am, I am saying psychological safety’s important to me. I’m saying these are the values that are important to me. Anywhere I am, I will do everything I can. But I want you to know, I will be the kind of person that sees. If you can trust me with that, with any kind of diversity dimension that’s challenging, any kind of stigma, any kind of microaggressions, our job is to signal that this place with me, you can always have this conversation with me. Shay, I mean, people must be really at your door all the time.

SHALYNNE JACKSON: Oh, I love people. This is what I would say because there’s a few things. So some goodies that you said, first of all, where you said basically meet people where they are. I really had someone tell me the other day that, like I said, they really want to do this work. Then it’s been two instances. Same person that called me saying, I want to do this work. We were with a group of people and they just broke down crying saying how much they hate cops. Y’all, I don’t give a shit. If I hated cops, which I do not, I want to be really clear. Because I wanted to be a homicide detective, y’all. There was a time in my life where I was like, “How can I love cops and the Black man in my life? Because the world’s on fire and I have to pick side.”

That’s where Matt and I grew our relationship. I literally asked him, I said, “How could I love the two?” He said, “Let’s go on this journey together.” Right? What I’m saying though, is in my work, I work for the City, I support the cops. I can’t be in this organization saying I’ll support everybody but you. No, I have to meet and understand that officers themselves are on their own journey. Okay? Like what you see in the, in the news, those are the bad stories. They’re really good officers. They’re really good white male executives. They’re good people in every bunch. They’re great Black people. Okay. There are good people in every bunch. So we need to meet people where they are.

But one of the people that was telling me, they were like, they want to do this work. Then five minutes later they’re like, “I’m trying to meet people where they are. They need to get on board.” You’re not going to be very successful if you don’t want to meet people where they are. By meeting people where they are, I don’t mean being like, “Okay, we won’t talk about that part.” It’s okay if you don’t like so and so. Or a really good example, I see someone on this call and I am going to give them a shout out. An organization I use to work for. They do really good about, to year point, Jennifer, offer it and they will come. Somebody may not come to your Pride Month event next month, but maybe they’ll come to your Juneteenth event. Somebody might not come to either. But where they’re really able to lean in at first is Veteran’s Day because most people are patriotic and can get behind that.

Let them do that. Don’t hold it against them because they didn’t show up to Pride Month. Can they come next month? I mean next year. Give people the opportunity to move along the spectrum. As long as they’re not being nasty and disrespectful, that’s why I draw a line. If you come in my office and you want to talk about, how as a Christian can you do both? Let’s talk about it. But you come in here and being disrespectful, now we have problems. What I’m not going to do is allow disrespect. What I am going to allow is curiosity. I am going to allow you to explore and do your own self exploration. It’s a safe space to do that in here in my office. People do it all the time. So just really, really want to be able to say, a lot of people hold people accountable.

Did you see where that leader didn’t come? First of all, you don’t know what that leader has on their calendar. You don’t know if you recorded it and you posted it somewhere, that they may watch the recording. Chill y’all. We have to chill. There are some non-negotiables. Okay. But there are other things where it’s like, just do the work inch by inch and let people lean in where they’re comfortable. Then usually you will see them lean in harder and harder with other topics as they start to understand the work. So hopefully that was helpful.

JENNIFER BROWN: Super helpful. There was a question earlier Shay about this question of how often… When the horribleness of our world is just rolling every day, how often. At some point is there such a thing as overcommunication of solidarity messages from employers to the point where we on the receiving end are like, it loses its meaning or its power. I’m probably not doing a great job of representing the question, but I think you get it.

SHALYNNE JACKSON: I will tell you that we had this conversation and we’re still figuring it out. So again, things I’m saying on this call is representation of Shalynne Jackson, I just happen to also work for City. Okay. Because we’re having this conversation. But when the shooting happened at the school, there are people that our little group that come together, it’s like, “Well, we just sent this.” We made a decision to make a note because this is now the worst. One of the worst shootings. So put some parameters around, is what I’m saying. For example there’s a lot of shootings that are happening, but you cannot deny that Buffalo was racially motivated. So you cannot deny that a lot of your Black employees were feeling, “Ugh, I need someone to see me right now. I need somebody to see me right now.”

The shooting of our Asian Americans, they need to be seen right now. Okay. I will say another parameter that you put in place and it’s so hard. But for us, it was tough because there’s some where I can tell you, I feel it was racially motivated, but where you have to be careful. Sometimes it’s like, if the cops haven’t said it yet, and there’s a bunch of technicalities, and all of these things just make your own processes, right? Because maybe you still say something, but you don’t necessarily call out race because we don’t know yet. They haven’t found the manifesto yet. Or they haven’t found the gun with the N word written on it. Okay. So you just have to put your parameters in place and say, when this happens, like a crisis communication response team, because it’s going to happen, they’re going to happen.

So really just say, “In this organization, we will do X, Y, Z, when these things happen.” I’ll end with, it never hurts to remind people of your EAP. It never hurts to remind people of EAP. But you also don’t want to remind people only of EAP and never call out what’s happening. I’ve seen some organizations, a shooting happens and it’s like, “Hey, don’t forget EAP.” But tell us why we’re not forgetting EAP. You don’t want to mention the fact that, because you’re trying to keep people comfortable, mention the fact that a shooting happens, right? I know that it feels great. Some of y’all may be like, “She didn’t answer the question.” You have to do what’s right for your organization to put parameters into place because another shooting is going to happen, unfortunately, until we get some bold people that stand up and make some really drastic changes to laws.

JENNIFER BROWN: Yeah. Shay, so EAPs everybody, Employee Assistance Programs, often larger employers, although I’m seeing more and more smaller employers have them as well. We actually have one, there’s a very small consultancy. But Shay, I think your point is, don’t just always use the EAP as an answer for everything. It’s not sufficient to just say, “Hey, we have the support.” You got to learn how to name what’s going on. Also, yeah, I mean, I take your point too, about the speed with which we need to address something even when we don’t have a lot of information. I also take a point around developing a crisis coms muscle and process in the organization, which is super important. I mean, I think doing that work because we know horrible things are going to continue to happen, unfortunately, where this country is and where it’s going. So this is something we want to be prepared for.

So thinking through, okay, so this happens, so then who does what? What are the approval processes not to overcomplicate it? Bearing in mind that I think time is of the essence. So if we sit on something for too long because we’re too bureaucratic, we also create problems. I’m amazed this thing happened with the Disney. I mean, it feels like ancient history now, but the misses that happened with that, I thought it was fascinating because you can never rest on your laurels. Even companies, executives who’ve never been through navigating something before, maybe they’re new, the organization could have done an amazing job, like Pulse Nightclub, right? With Disney’s solidarity right there, right? But then a big miss on the legislation that was going on in Florida. So I watched that and it was fascinating to see like, “Huh, I wonder how that decision was made. I wonder who was at the table. I wonder how prepared they were. I wonder if that was approved. I wonder, what does this leave people feeling in the organization when they’re not supported?”

So Shay, you just said something. You said, “I need to be seen right now.” Like you said. So I think too, that needs to have the ability to cut through red tape, whatever it is to say, this is urgent and we have to acknowledge it now because people are hurting anyway. So I think this is the readiness, right? That we need to have as part of our organizational DNA, and really work ahead of these things so that we have a plan in place. So that we don’t lose time. We don’t water down the message to such an extent that it doesn’t really accomplish what we need it to. Which is to enable people to feel seen and heard right now. Feel, feel the values of the organization in practice. That’s, I think what people crave in those moments. It’s not answers. It’s not a lot of the other things. Anyway.

SHALYNNE JACKSON: Even community. It’s community as well. I know that Bank of America had a really good process. I forgot what they call it. It was crazy conversations or something. But when things happen and think about their skill, right? So sometimes it was, okay, it’s appropriate for the people in this region or this event. I maybe getting some terminology messed up, but to do something and they have a protocol that’s like, here’s how you do it, and here’s how you do it quickly. Then something the scale of Buffalo or something, it affects the whole nation, should affect the whole world, hopefully. But I hope everyone felt that. But they probably rolled that out. I don’t know, it’s been a while since I heard about this. But really just also sometimes it’s targeted, right? Because sometimes, unfortunately, when I heard of the number of mass shootings that have happened in 2022, I’m like, I missed like 99% of those. They’re happening all the time. How are we empowering our local leaders to do something as well? It doesn’t have to always be the CEO.

JENNIFER BROWN: Good point.

SHALYNNE JACKSON: I know people may disagree with that, but spend it on the scale of your company and the size of your company, CEO may not even have heard about what happens clear across the world. You, as a leader should be empowered and feel empowered to address it. You are a people leader, no matter where you are an the organization, you have a responsibility to care about this and not wait on the CEO. Okay? Yes, this needs to be pushed down and this work needs to be important all the way up, but don’t sit on your hands and think that you’re off the hook to not say something. You need to say something.

JENNIFER BROWN: Yeah. I just made that point in the talk I just gave. I just said, the message from the top is powerful, but the decentralized nature and the frequency now that things are happening, it’s impossible to always come from the top. So I said to these managers I was talking to, “What are you going to say? You have to have this skillset too. You have to have a plan in place, be paying attention.” People are like, “Well, what if I missed something that’s going on?” I say, “Well, then as a leader, the question to me is how are you enabling the bubbling up of people’s experiences, locally in their communities, around the world who are on your team?”

What’s the mechanism that you come to understand quickly and regularly? What’s going on for people? What’s impacting their ability to be present? What’s on their hearts and minds? Having that dialogue and that open communication on a regular basis is the way that we learn and the way that we lead. Leading from the place of, what are my folks experiencing right now, even if it doesn’t affect me, and even if I don’t even know about it?

The question to me ahead of us is, so how do I know about it? How do I make sure I set those mechanisms up? Then not waiting for somebody else to communicate, because if you are, it’s too late, it’s maybe doesn’t come from you. We can’t really delegate this work to others. I mean, at the end of the day, I think each one of us has to operate like we are. We are the voice that somebody may hear that day and the only voice they may hear.

SHALYNNE JACKSON: Yeah. I know we’re at time. This is what I will say with that is, again, I’m telling on myself a few things. One, the shooting this week, one of our people reached out to me and said, “Hey, are we doing something?” It was so timely. But even in this role, and as a mom, I was affected by it. I hadn’t thought about it. So you need to be accessible and open and let people know that they can give you feedback no matter who you are as a leader. Have you created a space? I was like, “What in the world had I missed that?” Yes. [inaudible 00:53:39], called my boss. So even in moments like that’s also why it’s important to have that crisis response team, if you will, that everyone’s had their fillers up.

Nowadays most of us on Microsoft Teams, create a team for them and be like, “It’s time.” Or is this something that we need to make sure that everyone has a place? But just really saying that people need to be accessible to us as D and I practitioners. We need to be open to letting people say, “Hey, this happened in my community, can we talk about it?” Or, “Hey, this is important to me, can we talk about it?” Because we can’t do this work in a silo. I can’t have all my fillers, no matter how aware I am, I’m missing some stuff. I need my people to help me and be on this journey with me.

JENNIFER BROWN: Thank you for your love that you show and the way that you walk, your talk and your beliefs, and just the friendship you show, your allyship. All of the things, your patience and your grace, Shay. And just, I celebrate you. You’re really inspiring for us today. I thank you for taking time out of your day to spend time with us.

Hi, this is Jennifer. Did you know that we offer a full transcript of every podcast episode on my website over at jenniferbrownspeaks.com. You can also subscribe so that you get notified every time a new episode goes live. Head over there now to read my latest thoughts on diversity, inclusion and the future of work. Discover how we can all be champions of change by bringing our collective voices together and standing up for ourselves and each other.

DOUG FORESTA: You’ve been listening to The Will To Change: Uncovering True Stories Of Diversity and Inclusion with Jennifer Brown. If you’ve enjoyed the episode, please subscribe to the podcast in iTunes. To learn more about Jennifer Brown, visit jenniferbrownspeaks.com. Thank you for listening and we’ll be back next time with a new episode.