How to Support Your Team: Three Lessons from the Past Month
Updated: Dec 14, 2020
Welcome to my weekly Q&A roundup. (Scroll down to find the Q&A.)
If this is your first time here, welcome. I spend a fair amount of time speaking at events and conferences. At the end of my presentations, I leave space for audience members to ask questions—tough questions, brave questions, you name it.
The level of candor and curiosity always inspires me, and I want to share that sentiment with you. So each week, I pick one question that I believe others would find most instructive and publish my response to it here.
The purpose of this weekly tradition is transparency and inclusivity.
• Transparency: a behind-the-scenes look at my day-to-day.
• Inclusivity: bringing others along in the journey.
Supporting Your Team Through 2020 and Beyond
How can I support my team through all that’s happened recently (COVID-19, Black Lives Matter) without coming across as patronizing, evanescent, or hypocritical?
There’s a lot you could do to support your team. It’s a matter of the type of impact you want to have. And on a more aspirational level, it’s a matter of the type of legacy you want to leave.
For the purposes of this question, let’s organize the many different ways you can support your team into three categories:
In the immediate wake of George Floyd’s death, companies flooded social media with pro-racial justice statements and black squares. In fact, it took less than two weeks for organizers to record a spreadsheet of 212 public statements from corporations expressing their commitment to Black Lives Matter and racial justice.
These public statements (and the leadership teams behind them) received slack for talking the talk but not walking the walk. People questioned how large companies could stand for racial justice when less than 3% of tech workers at companies such as Facebook, Uber, and Google identify as Black.
Lesson learned: Words matter. Use your words to support your team, and use them wisely. If you say you care about Black lives on social media, you need to show it with your actions.
Money, and where we choose to spend it, is an external representation of our internal values. To that extent, we’ve recently seen leaders pledging large sums of money to organizations such as the American Civil Liberties Union and the Equal Justice Initiative.
The Fortune 100 alone has committed $1.63 billion to organizations fighting for racial equality. And on June 11th, Apple CEO Tim Cook announced a $100 million commitment to their Racial Equity and Justice Initiative.
Donations such as these are mission-critical for many non-profits doing the hard work of closing racial equity gaps in this country. These donations also signal to employees that your organization values racial justice.
Lesson learned: Donations, like words, are not a substitute for action. You cannot donate your way to racial justice. If you choose to financially support racial justice causes outside your organization, make sure to match your donations with equitable changes inside your organization, too.
Making structural changes is the most difficult way to support your team right now. And it’s the most important. By and large, our systems are not designed to value Black employees equitably. Words and donations won’t change that. You can.
Use data to find and fix cracks in your talent pipeline.
Do you have equitable rates of promotion?
Do you have equitable racial representation on every step of the corporate ladder?
Do you pay Black employees equitably?
Does unconscious bias creep into talent decisions?
Do Black employees have the same access to resources to advance their careers?
If you answered “no” to any of these questions, what’s your plan to change that?
Lesson learned: It’s (relatively) easy to allocate more funds for employee resource groups or non-profits. It’s not easy to look inward and accept responsibility for inequity—nor is it easy to change “the way things have always been.”
Between words, donations, and making structural changes to your organization, you have options on how to support your team through this moment in time. Ultimately, the choice is yours. How will your actions change history for the better?
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