Taking the “Right” Next Step as Inclusive Leaders: Jennifer Joins Sarah E. Brown, Ph.D. on the KTS Success Factor Podcast

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This episode was originally recorded on the KTS Success Factor Podcast and features a conversation between Jennifer and Sarah E. Brown, Ph.D. Jennifer discusses the stages of the Inclusive Leadership Continuum and how the pandemic exposed workforce inequities. She also shares details about the Inclusive Leader Assessment and how it can help leaders create cultures of belonging where everyone can thrive. 

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

JENNIFER BROWN: It was a concept that my editor suggested, because I wanted to write another book, and I was assuming I would start from scratch, and he said, you know, "Why don't you consider a second edition?" So, as I learned about what goes into second editions, ours is a little unique in the end, because normally there're very few updates in a second edition. It's, you know, 10 percent is new, but what- what happened when we decided to do second editions, we dug in and we realized, yeah, we loved the first book, and there're so many people that are still such a fan of the first edition, but, you know, imagine having released a book in 2019?

I mean, it was the before days truly. I had much, much, much deepened in the work. I- I gave 200 keynotes over the course of the pandemic virtually, and learned so much about what was in the pages of that- that original edition.

DOUG FORESTA: Addressing systemic inequities has become a defining challenge of our times. Leaders understanding of their role and responsibility to others, and to society is being questioned. On October 4th, Jennifer Brown will release the second edition of her best selling book, "How to Be an Inclusive Leader." She will share insights from over 20 years of experience working with organizations to create workplaces where everyone thrives and belongs. Her widely-acclaimed Inclusive Leader Continuum provides a framework to lead individuals through the personal learning journey they undertake to become inclusive leaders.

New stories, strategies and discussion guides equip leaders at any level to take action and step into the role in affecting change. Whether you're already a fan of the book, or a reader who considers themselves and advocate for equity and inclusion, or just starting to understand how uneven the playing field is, this book is a must read and essential tool for leading into the future. Visit jenniferbrownspeaks.com to pre-order your own copy, or access special bulk rates.

The Will To Change is hosted by Jennifer Brown. Jennifer is an award-winning entrepreneur, dynamic speaker, best-selling 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 advise top companies on building cultures of belonging in times of great upheaval and uncertainty, and now, onto the episode.


Hello, and welcome back to The Will To Change. This is Doug Foresta. This episode was originally recorded for the KTS Success Factor Podcast with Doctor Sarah Brown, and in the episode Jennifer talks about the second edition of her book, "How to Be an Inclusive Leader." She also discusses the stages of the Inclusive Leadership Continuum, how it helps people keep developing, evolving and taking steps forward towards inclusivity, as well as the Inclusive Leader Assessment... all this and more, and now onto the conversation.

DR. SARAH BROWN: So, our guest today is someone who has actually appeared on a previous podcast here, it's Jennifer Brown. She's an award-winning entrepreneur, speaker, diversity and inclusion consultant, and a best-selling author. She is founder and CEO of Jennifer Brown Consulting, a 20-year old certified woman, an LGBTQ+ owned industry-leading DEI consulting firm. Her clients include FedEx, Hearst, American Red Cross, Under Armor, Major League Baseball, NBA, Toyota, Wells Fargo and many more. She's a sought-after keynote speaker for executive leadership on the topic of leading inclusively in uncertain times, and she has a book entitled, "How to Be an Inclusive Leader," which is coming out this fall with the second edition, and that's what we're gonna be talking about today. Welcome Jennifer.

JENNIFER BROWN: Thank you so much.

DR. SARAH BROWN: So it is 2022, and we are hopefully coming out of two years of pandemic. So, Jennifer have there been additional challenges to expanding DE&I as a result of the pandemic?

JENNIFER BROWN: Oh, definitely. I really think it has reshaped the way we talk about it, the urgency that we talk about it with, the emerging issues, I would say, within DEI that, I think, weren't given a lot, or any focus previous to the pandemic. It's made everything so much more urgent, in a way, and it has highlighted certain inequities within the workplace, like, "Business as usual," if you will, that, you know, have become in a way intolerable and out-of-date, and harmful. So, you know, I- I for one am really grateful for the truth- the truthful conversations that we've all had over the last couple of years where people have finally found a different level of their voice, and have been sharing it.

You know, employees have spoken, and have- have learned to speak, and have become brave enough to speak about, you know, the problems in the workplace that have held so many people back because of bias that permeates these systems. You know, so I feel like I've been waiting a longtime, and it took a pandemic, and it took, you know, the- the horrible murder of George Floyd, and everything that happened in the summer of 2020, and then cascaded from there that it really forced an honest conversation about, "What's broken," and we were right there... we had a front-row seat, and I was, you know, by turns, you know, excited and, you know, frustrated that it had taken this long to really have that kind of reckoning, but really grateful that we are embarking, I think, on a different road with greater understanding, with greater urgency, and the loud voices that are criticizing the systems are not going away.

And, in fact I think that this is, this is here to stay, and so organizational leaders are really, I think, behind a eight ball struggling to learn everything they need to learn to update the workplace, and to prepare it for the incoming generations who have very different expectations.

DR. SARAH BROWN: Mm-hmm, and what's an example, and, er, you talked about George Floyd, and that's pretty obvious, but inside the workplace, what's an example of an inequity that kind of got exposed or- or rose to the surface during the pandemic?


JENNIFER BROWN: Mm, well, a lot of employees they see much more than we realize, and we watch and observe who gets promoted, who gets advanced in organizations, what is pay equitable, you know, usually that's something that is a bit of a blackbox, and it's very confidential. So what started to happen is questions of, you know, and the transparency of our age means that things can be questioned now, "Why do we do it this way? It seems our company is doing sort of the bear minimum, or- or superficial jesters towards this thing that's a... it's a really big priority, especially for younger generations," you know, in- inclusiveness is-


  1. JENNIFER BROWN: ... is one of the top priorities for Gen Z, just to give an example, from a values perspective. So, the questions that are being leveled to institutions around, "Why does our management team look this way, and have a complete lack of certain kinds of diversity? Why do we not reflect the world that we do our work in, or that we exist to serve, or that we sell products and services to?" So, just digging into these questions that haven't really been asked in this way before, and the accountability in the pressure that has occurred for like real change and real commitment, versus phoning it in per- what we call, "Performative," (laughs), actions and support, you know, it's gotten much more specific, and again I'm- I'm grateful for that because- because there was a lot of phoning it in, and there still is a lot of- of, "Oh, we'll placate this," or, "Oh, we'll kind of go... we'll take two steps in this direction, but we really won't overhaul the system," or, "We won't really challenge ourselves as a company to get ahead of certain issues, right, and speak about it publicly."

So, there- there's this whole kind of new expectation, and therefore a new language in expectations being developed between employee and employer, which requires employers, I think, to really get comfortable being uncomfortable, because a lot of what's being asked and demanded is way beyond how leaders used to lead. It's way beyond the, you know, the span of influence and control that probably most companies were- were comfortable with inhabiting for decades. So, I o- I refer to this moment as, "A new language," it's a new set of expecta- (laughs), is a new playing field, and that some of us are really playing catch-up in terms of how... so, "How do we meet this moment," you know, "How do we retool ourselves to really listen and then to redesign, you know, the way we do HR systems, the way that we look at talent, the way that we speak up on social issues," you know, all of it, I think is- is being debated. I think that's healthy.

DR. SARAH BROWN: Well, I guess, when you are thrown into a situation where everybody is remote, where once everybody used to be in the same workspace, it does kind of set the stage for asking all kinds of questions, well, "Why do we have to do anything-


DR. SARAH BROWN: ... the way we, (laughs), we- we used to do it?" So- so I can se how- how that would actually happen. So, what have you noticed in terms of how employees have been able to use their- their voice during this time, to actually bring issues to the forefront so that they can be addressed?

JENNIFER BROWN: Yeah, I mean, so after the murder of George Floyd, that whole summer and into the fall and- and still to this day most companies realized, "We don't know what we don't know, and it's a liability for us."


JENNIFER BROWN: And not to be too cynical about it, but that's probably the thought process that occurred to a lot of people, because sadly this is not just the- the moral argument that, "Oh, this is the right thing to do," (laughs), so regardless, the result was many, many, like listening forums, and forums for sharing, and lots of opportunities for the solicitation of feedback that really hadn't been in place before that-


JENNIFER BROWN: ... point. So, through all of this data collection, if you will, and the invitation to say, "Here's what it feels like to be in this company, and be a Black woman, or be-


JENNIFER BROWN: ... a member of the LGBTQ community, or be an ally, you know, a millennial ally who really believes in this stuff," and is, you know, consistently, you know, disappointed, for example, with policies and, you know, the company's actions or silence, or lack of actions, and so all of this was invited because it- it had to be. I mean, we were in a crisis on so many levels, (laughs), in 2020, right, it was kind of the- the blood letting, (laughs), it was, (laughs), it was like a, it was a moment of like I say, "Truthfulness," that I hope we-


JENNIFER BROWN: ... never lose, because so much, so much that was important was revealed in those listening forums, in those opportunities for leaders to hear directly from people that they'd never heard from-


JENNIFER BROWN: ... before-

DR. SARAH BROWN: ... mm-hmm, mm-hmm.

JENNIFER BROWN: ... and empowering that conversation, and then-


JENNIFER BROWN: ... taking the actions that come out of that to whatever degree they could, and were, you know, realistic, but I think that's like a very healthy... it's a healthy dynamic because the- the pressure is coming to be better, to be a better workplace culture where was can feel a sense that we belong, that we're psychologically safe, that we can do our best work, right, but the reality being so far from that for so many people was a wonderful, like a cognitive dissonance, and created this opportunity for innovation. The smart companies jumped into that and said, "This is," saw this moment as an opportunity to innovate their own systems, to really challenge their own thinking, to acknowledge their generational bias, for example.

To say, you know, "We haven't been doing enough," and so the right companies took it as an opportunity to take action, and then-


JENNIFER BROWN: ... I think, other companies like didn't do it at all, or did it but didn't follow-up, you know, and I think we see a lot of people, and then leaving, or, you know, "Retiring in place," as we say, (laughs), like, you know, "I'm in a job, but I'm- I'm basically sabotaging the organization," or, "I'm- I'm not, I'm not really, I'm not really into it, I'm not really giving everything that I can, because I don't feel that the organization supports me and people that look like me." So, companies now are- are feeling the pain with this retention struggle and with, you know, the war for talent being the worst it's been, and all these open jobs.

It's, to me, really fascinating, because, I think, belonging i- is such an enabler of retention. It's such, it's such a carrot, particularly for younger talent to say like, "Hey, you matter here. We- we listen, we learn, we adjust, we take it on, and we're una- we're not afraid to be uncomfortable and not know the answer, but if you come here we will figure it out together," and that-


JENNIFER BROWN: ... that goes a long way in terms of speaking the language of the very talent that we- we must have.

DR. SARAH BROWN: Mm-hmm, and- and I- I love that comment around, "Belonging being so critical," it's kind of a basic human need, but it, but it i- but it is critical for actually doing your best work as well, and I think, the listening forums that you described, and the way to get feedback on, "Here's what it really feels like to be a person in whatever category it is, working in this company," is a great idea, and I wanna come back to that, but before I ask more questions about that, I wanna set the stage, because you're actually re-releasing your book, you're doing version two of, "How to Be an Inclusive Leader?" Tell us a little bit about, uh, what prompted you to wanna re-release your book?

JENNIFER BROWN: (laughs), I know, it was, it was a concept that my editor suggested, because I wanted to write another book, and I was assuming I would start from scratch, and he said, you know, "Why don't you consider a second edition?" So, as I learned about what goes into second editions, ours is a little unique in the end, because normally there're very few updates in a second edition, it's, you know, 10 percent is new. But what- what happened when we decided to do a second edition is- is we dug in and we realized, we loved the first book, and there're so many people that are still such a fan of the first edition, but, you know, imagine having released a book in 2019?

I mean, it was the before days... truly, (laughs), so, I had dee- much, much, much deepened in the work. I- I gave 200 keynotes over the course of the pandemic virtually, and learned so much about what was in the pages of that- that original edition, and had learned how to really capitalize on and capture the key points, you know, how to make it real for people, how to il- illustrate it, how to call them to action, how to... it, what, where they typically struggled to understand or get stuck, and so as we went through it, it just, we had so much more to say, and it was really painful, trust me, to take out-


JENNIFER BROWN: ... a lot of content and replace it, (laughs). It was really, (laughs), very difficult, and I didn't do this alone, I had an incredible team that was, you know, we, cou- could be harsh in terms of saying, "Well, well, well, we only have X number of pages, so, uh, we've gotta, you know, adhere to that," which made it harder, because I didn't wanna give up anything, but at the same time it felt... we had greater clarity on some of these concepts and I- I- I was very eager to put that new clarity into the pages, and yet keep the core model of the book which is in, which is a Continuum, it's like a four-phase model for our learning journey.

So, the neat thing about, for me, in my case, the second edition is I got a second bite at the apple, like I got another chance to take a model that has become really, really so helpful for so many people, and kind of put new meat on the bones, you know, give it, give it light in a different way, bring it alive in a different way, contextualize it for our moment... now, and so we did a new chapter on topics like, "Privilege," for example, that-


JENNIFER BROWN: ... has been so much talked about in the last couple of years, but I think poorly understood, and also a bit weaponized in terms of- of a tool... it's been used to kind of banish people from the work, and from contributing to the work, so I, you know, I get to redefine that. You know, I got to pullout different stories. I- I got to make it a little more hard-hitting and concrete for people versus a little more, I think, philosophical when I first wrote it, because I was, you know, I was just a different person, I think.

We've all been changed by this experience in so many ways, and I'm still kind of... I feel like the ways I've been changed are still appearing to me, (laughs), you know, that it- it really, you know, we say it lightly, but it really, it- it deepened a lot of us, and it deepened us in our relationship with each other, and so I wanted the pages to reflect the- the- the pain of other people's experiences that I have been, you know, privy to, that I wanted to make sure, you know, w- came alive in these pages, and I wanted that to feel very recent, very relevant, very timely, because even I... I don't know about you, but I- I- I look at books now, (laughs), and if they were written before a certain time, at least like leadership books, I'm like, "Ugh, you know, I- I don't know, so much shifted that-


JENNIFER BROWN: ... I really, what I really wanna know is- is what are we becoming, like what's next, what are we predicting? What changed, and- and what does leadership now look like?" That's what I'm really fascinated with, and I think, I think we're on a new path.

DR. SARAH BROWN: And- and I will... as one whose read the book, I will tell you that the stories do come to life, but the- the stages of your Continuum continue, uh, no pun intended, but the- the basic framework is the same-


DR. SARAH BROWN: ... and as a review for people who may not have heard your first podcast, or read the book, can you just do a review of the basic stages for us?

JENNIFER BROWN: Yes, thank you for asking. So, this is a reflection of my own journey, and a model that I created to make sense of, "Where I felt like I was?" The first stage is, "Unaware," which is, you know, "I don't know there's a problem. It's not my lived experience. I don't have the language, maybe I don't care. It's not happening to me, so it doesn't matter." It could be, "I'm a good person," you know, "I believe in equality," but they don't know what it has to do with me, or I would, I wouldn't know where to s- where to, you know, contribute." So, it can be a lot of those things at sort of the, it's sort of the- the, "I don't know what I don't know,"-


JENNIFER BROWN: ... phase of the Continuum. Then, "Aware," is phase two, which is, "Okay, now I'm waking up." I'm beginning to look around, I'm beginning to notice. I'm- I'm thinking about bias, I'm noticing my own biases. I'm noticing the biases of others, I'm maybe reading and listening to different media. I'm- I'm sort of absorbing everything be- perhaps I wasn't taught in school, in our own history as a country, just to give one example. I'm realizing maybe that I haven't done enough, or that I'm not proud of what I've done or not. So the, "Aware," phase is that, "Now I know what I don't know?" Right, and it's uncomfortable, and awkward and we might feel regret, we might feel shame, we might feel guilt, all of those things as a result of learning sort of like the question of like, "Where have I been," (laughs)?

And so empathy, I think, is born in this state, you know-


JENNIFER BROWN: ... to say, "Wow, I- I haven't had to walk around and be concerned for my safety, you know, I was protected." Then... so then, but we move from, "Aware," then to, "Active," which is phase three which is, "Okay, now that I know, I have to build competency and scale now around that awareness, and begin to use my voice, begin to speak, begin to make moves. I need to take steps." And, this is an awkward phase, it is an uncertain phase, it is definitely a, "Get comfortable being uncomfortable," phase because it's about like building the muscle of inclusive leadership, like, "What am I gonna say, how am I gonna start that conversation, how I'm going to raise a bias that's appearing in the meetings that I'm in? How am I gonna challenge people that look like me," for example, "and those that don't?"

Like, "How am I going to begin to become more public about my actions," and really lead, and be a role model, and so this a... certainly a- a fail-forward stage. It's a stage of imperfection... I tell people, "Please, you know, don't- don't expect to be perfect, we cannot be," and we can never be, (laughs). Imperfection is a great... it's just a way of being, I won't even say, "It's a goal," it's- it should be an expectation, right, that we're gonna, you know, get some things great and right, and then have to get feedback and have to work on other things or not get it right and have the best intentions, but not understand our impact... that calibration goes on in-


JENNIFER BROWN: ... er, uh, "Active," and then the fourth phase is, "Advocate," and this is the last phase, it's- it's, I think aspirational. It's... some of us live in this place, because it's our job, and, or we're just so passionate and so knowledgeable, and we know we have the muscle built, we know how to use it, we know how to challenge things, we are comfortable being uncomfortable, and we're fearless, and courageous in terms of, you know, pointing out and challenging things, and we have that resilience built into ourselves, because- because of that deep knowledge and- and lived experience, or- or just sheer courage.

You know, I- I see, I see some people being this for certain communities that they've had a direct experience with, like a- a parent of a kid with a disability-


JENNIFER BROWN: ... you know, might have gone down this road, you know, maybe not by choice, but became hugely proud and strong, and informed, and an incredible advocate. But, you know, we can be there, and we can also be in the earlier stages at the same time, still, you know, taking our baby steps, you know, still-


JENNIFER BROWN: ... learning how to ride the- the tricycle, falling off, getting back on, falling off, getting back on. And so the point, I hope, people take from this is, "It's okay, you know, where we are makes sense." We are learning... we're always learners. There's no shame, and this is not, "I'm a bad person." It's that, "I didn't know this," and, "What am I doing differently as a result of what I have been shown, what I've learned, how am I being gracious, and generous with receiving and getting feedback, and giving feedback? How am I humbly, you know, submitting to the fact that this is a lifelong journey of evolution that we're being invited to," and- and that's really the feeling I want people to be left with is like, "As long as I'm taking my steps forward, and holding myself accountable for developing and evolving, there's no kind of right answer in terms of how long this should take," or Jennifer, "When should I be here," (laughs), or whatever, even though I get those questions, because people like to nail things down, and make, you know, to-do lists, and I, er, that's good.

That's good, but it as much, it as much a mindset shift and a heartset shift as it is developing a new competency. It's a way of being, it's a way of paying attention to the world, it's a way of feeling empathy, it's of way of kind of reflecting to other's that, "Belonging is important," and that we prioritize people's experiences in a system, and that that's important to us, and acknowledging that for some of us that may be more comfortable than for others, and it's no- it doesn't make us a bad person, but it certainly, I think, is incumbent on all of us, and is a wonderful opportunity ahead of all of us to rebalance a system that has been imbalanced in the past.

DR. SARAH BROWN: And throughout each of these stages of the Continuum, you have in there tips for, "How a leader can begin to educate himself or herself on what the shared ex- or what the lived experience is of people that are not like them?"


DR. SARAH BROWN: That's number one, and also, because 50 percent of us have some degree of this, "Explore what privilege we have that may not be apparent to us," and I wanna ask you a question about that, because there's also a warning that you have that, "We cannot do that at the expense of those in marginalized groups."


DR. SARAH BROWN: It is not their... we cannot overburden them for our own education-


DR. SARAH BROWN: ... for example, regardless of who we are, and- and- and what group that we're trying to learn more about, so how do you go about doing it then?

JENNIFER BROWN: Yeah, well, I think of it as the- the learning... we have to set our own learning goals that come in the form of not just the human that we can go and ask, but the- the reading, the listening, (laughs), the podcasts, the TV, media, you know, staying up on, er, if you're in social media, you know, certainly there's all kinds of dialogue going on there, but all kinds of education that's going on there. Actually, people are sharing so much wisdom about their experiences in... on Twitter, for example, I have learned so much through reading like long threads by people who are reacting to... whether it's a piece of legislation, or something that a public figure


JENNIFER BROWN: ... says, or, you know, a book, or whatever, you know, reading those things e- even challenges me still and to this day, I mean, my work, I'm still a learner in the work, and I... but I'm there to kind of read through it and understand how somebody, how some, how things hit people in certain environments, so I don't need time with that person, to have them explain it to me, I need to make time to read people's writing. I need to make time to read people's stories and watch their talks, and listen into webinars, which by the way, since the pandemic and we all went virtual, the- the accessibility of all of this storytelling, all of this information, has never been greater.

There is so much to take in, and as somebody in the LGBTQ+ community, I would say, you know, "Don't- don't come and a- without doing your homework first, like don't come and ask me, 'Jennifer, like what's the LGBTQ experience like,'" you know? My first question's going to be, you know, so- so, "What do you know already, you know, what have you-


JENNIFER BROWN: ... what- what have you taken on to become a student of," like, "What do you understand, what is your context," you know, so I expect that we do the majority of the work before we bring... I- I would hope, kind of the more complex or nuanced questions to people, that we're tr- that we're puzzling through. I- I like those questions, because I feel like somebody is really valuing my time, and has prepared to use my time wisely, and respectfully.

DR. SARAH BROWN: Mm. Okay, that's a very good explanation.

JENNIFER BROWN: Yeah, (laughs).

DR. SARAH BROWN: Mm-hmm, okay, okay. Er, it's essentially using the resources that are available to you, to understand at a, at a macro level before you get down to the micro level?

JENNIFER BROWN: That's right.



DR. SARAH BROWN: Okay. So I do get that. Uh, now as a part of your book, you include an online assessment-


DR. SARAH BROWN: ... which we actually talked about in- in the previous, uh, podcast, and the- the assessment actually helps you as a taker of, as the assessee to figure out where you are on the... in the stages of this Continuum, on a host of different issues. So say a little bit more about this, and how a listener might take advantage of this?

JENNIFER BROWN: Yes, yes, so there aren't that many assessments out there that give us a- a pulse on our own biases, for example, in how we currently define, uh, "Inclusive leadership," how- how much or how little we really know, so I think, it's such an important compliment to the book, and I really recommend... it takes 10 minutes, it's free, it's available inclusiveleaderassessment.com, and you can also go to inclusiveleaderthebook.com to find information on it, but it- it will spit out a- a rough estimate... and again, we're- we're notoriously not great at, I think, answering questions... I won't say, "Honestly," but the self-report is limited, right?

We know-


JENNIFER BROWN: ... we see ourselves differently than the world perhaps experiences us, and the, and the work of our life of course is to kind of bring these things in alignment, (laughs), but, you know, that- that's a, that's a life's work. It's a long, long endeavor, and so this is a self-assessment, and it's one piece of the puzzle. It's not the whole answer, and I would encourage you to sort of look- look critically at your results, and, you know, just take that in, and say, "Do- do- does this feel right, do- does it resonate, is it what other people would say, uh, about me," and- and I hope what it does is it provides some kind of baseline from which to jump off and actually be extremely curious then... in the contexts of relationships with others, "How am I, how am I appearing?"

Because remember, "There's intent, and there's impact," so we may answer any kind of assessment with the intent of how, the person that we wanna be, but the impact is really what matters, and this is what we're often not able to see or perceive accurately is how our intentions land, so the work of inclusive leadership is... and in the Continuum, we talk about this in sort of the middle stages, especially, "Active," phase three, which is, "Okay, go and seek information on impact." So, "When I did that, or when I told that story, or when I asked that question, or when I s- when I spoke up, did that have... what kind of impact did that have," and we may be surprised by the answer that we have more work to do.

We may have more... we need to calibrate more, because we're- we're sort of off the mark, and that's okay, that's... as with any kind of behavior, and, "How can I support you," and, "What does support look like," it should be a question we ask a lot, you know, and then as we show up and provide that support, we are doing to do it imperfectly for a while, and maybe forever, but, so this is part of that- that learning, so again, as you take the assessment, and you get your results, there are, there're reading lists, there's podcasts to listen to, there're certain things that we've pulled out from our world, and our library of resources to point you in a certain direction, to study or listen more to.

And I- I love it for that, because it's so concrete, and, er, you know, it gives you, kind of, people are asking all the time, "What should I be reading, what should I be listening to," and- and I hope we've given you a- a specific to your, to where you came out with your answers, specific resources that are going to meet you where you're at in your journey, and not kind of either throw you into the deep end, when you're not ready, but also be perhaps too basic, or too beginner, because I- I do think, this is why the phases are important, that, "We have to understand where the learner's at?"

And this is advice I would give everybody listening, you know, that it's- it's not just, "Where we're at in our growth," but really, "Where are other people, and what do they understand or not, or were they an unaware," you know, and, "How can we be a part of perhaps accelerating their journey, our journey, our journey together if we're on the same team," you know, everybody's in a different place, and, you know, so- so what's so important is understanding where we are, understanding where others are, and then crafting the bridges between us, so that we can move forward together, because i- if we, if we sort of throw the wrong remedy to some people, it may push them away, it may overwhelm, it may cause resistance, where really what we want is, you know, interest and curiosity, and openness.

So, you know, it does really become about understanding your audience, understanding those around you, and then kind of, you know, meeting them where they're at, and, you know, investing in their journey, in addition to our own, (laughs), so it's really, it's very fascinating, it's- it's all about to me human behavior and- and the self in the system... both of those things being really important to understand as we embark on this work.

DR. SARAH BROWN: And I think it's very interesting almost as a study guide through your book that... what I found helpful, is- is that, the results actually pointed me back to various places in your book as a, in addition to other resources.

JENNIFER BROWN: That's right, that's right.

DR. SARAH BROWN: So Jennifer, is there a question that I should've asked you about version two of your book, that I didn't, or the second edition of your book?

JENNIFER BROWN: Yeah, thank you, I love that question. I would say, "Who, you know, whose it for?" It's such a... we wrote it to be so accessible, so, "Meet you where you're at," like I was just saying, and hopefully something that's really actionable, and- and makes things practical to do right away, and demystifies some of these concepts that we've all probably heard talked about so much, but some of us are probably sitting on the sidelines not really sure how to engage, how to contribute, "What would I say, where would I start?"

I think, it's so good for people at that stage, it's really, because to me, that's the group that I really want to engage, who aren't doing much, but, and yet have the will to be involved, and as long as you have the will and the energy, I- I can work with that, (laughs), because then it's, then it's really a matter of skill development, and I think that's the perfect reader if I could say, but- but for those of you who are listening, if- if there are, you're listening to this and you're like, "Yes, I love it, I get it, I'm- I'm on my journey," please think about, "Who may benefit from having a- a passed-along version of this book?"

Who may benefit from having a book that finally makes sense, or that doesn't feel like it's putting us into a corner, but really inviting us into the evolution... this is that book. So, you know, it's incumbent on us, and really imperative actually that we involve new potential changemakers in where we're going? It's- it's critical, I cannot underscore that enough, and yet where DEI has focused in the past has really been those of us who struggle to fit in in a system, right, those of us who've had that marginalized experience, and we've been largely responsible, in many ways, for bringing our stories and challenging systems, and making suggestions, and doing all, what we call that, "Emotional labor," to make our workplaces and other systems better.

But what we really have to figure out is the rest of us, you know, people who just look at this and- and- and are sort of in that, "Unaware," to, "Aware," phase of saying, "This doesn't pertain. It's not important, it's not critical," an- and really in- and awakening that groups of folks, because we will benefit from having everyone engaged, and making their own unique contribution. We- we actually will not build our way out of this if we don't have a full group of builders, builders that look like us, builders that, you know, you know, when you look at them you think, "Well, they have nothing to say and nothing to contribute," which by the way is never true, but we- we really... the work is big, it's important and we can't afford to leave any- any builder behind.

And so- so I like to think of it that way to kind of say, "My challenge now... having been in this work for over 20 years is to really figure out, like crack that nut, like reach people that could contribute so much," and you speak of, "Privilege," maybe in an identity that gives so much privilege, that comes with so much opportunity to contribute, and yet they don't understand what that looks like? This book is perfect for a reader like that. So, thank you for asking, (laughs).

DR. SARAH BROWN: And Jennifer, thank you so much for being with us today, and-


DR. SARAH BROWN: ... congratulations on the book.

JENNIFER BROWN: Oh, thank you so much. Thanks for having me.


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, and 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. I'm covering true stories of diversity and inclusion with Jennifer Brown. If you've enjoyed the episode, please subscribe to the podcast on 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.