Leading Change Through Diversity & Inclusion
Debbie Madden - CEO & Founder, Stride Consulting
Diverse teams - particularly those that include women - can be a competitive advantage. Debbie Madden will explore the role of diversity in transformative change, why diverse teams outperform less diverse ones, and how to use an Agile, iterative approach to diversity and inclusion that delivers value to customers and institutions.
Did you know that diverse teams are actually three times smarter than non diverse ones? Today, I'm going to teach you a little bit how to harness this, to actually achieve the measurable competitive advantage that diverse teams bring.
Hi everyone. I'm Debbie Madden. I'm the founder and CEO of a company in New York city called Stride Consulting. And, I am the author of the book, Hire Women, which, as was mentioned you'll be getting shortly. Strive Consulting's super power, the thing we believe we do better than anyone else in the world, at the end of the day we're a tech company. We're an agile software development consultancy. We embed teams of developers and product managers within your organization. We roll up our sleeves, we help you launch high quality product. And, we also model the way when it comes to engineering best practices.
So in my career of 25 years, most of them running consultancies, I've actually seen a very interesting cross section of teams and organizations, and I've seen those teams succeed and fail.
So, this talk today is based on my firsthand experience. Now, let's start with what this talk is not. This is 2019. Let's assume we're all smart. We're all good intentioned people. This is not me standing on a soapbox talking about how great it is to hire different types of people.
Let's all assume we all know that. What this talk is, is an actionable, iterative approach to enable you, regardless of whether your team is big or small, regardless of whether you work for one of the biggest banks in the world, medium or small size organization, to really take advantage of the true power that diverse teams bring.
So, let's start first with what doesn't work. And, let's see if I can use the clicker. Excellent. There we go. Sameness … if you look at this picture, we see people that are the same in many ways, not only in the obvious ones. The folks at this table, sure they're all the same age, the same gender, and the same race. But, if you take a look closer, they also dress the same. They probably had the same thing for breakfast. They probably commuted the same distance to work and they even slouch the same, right?
So, the reason why sameness fails is complacency. Let me say that again. Sameness fails because of complacency. This is real stuff, studied by people for decades, right? And, how this works is I'm going to pick on you, right here in the front.
So let's say we're at a meeting, right? And the two of us are at the table together having a conversation. If we dress alike, if we look alike, if our kids are on the same soccer team, if we go to the same coffee shop and get the same latte. What happens, is you assume that I think like you, and I assume you think like me. We don't even realize this is happening, and we hurt our team because we don't ask questions. We don't inquire, and we assume, "Oh, she knows what she's talking about, she's just like me. She's very smart, very educated of course." And, we go about our day, and our team actually suffers for it.
So, the reverse of this is actually also true, right? As I said earlier, diverse teams are three times smarter. They actually perform complex tasks faster. And, as a result they are 35% more likely to perform better than non-diverse teams.
And, the reason, you may or may not already know, but it's worth taking a moment before I get into the hows and what's here, to mention it very distinctly. It is one thing and one thing only. Diverse teams ask more questions.
Now, if you don't believe me or if you're yearning for more detail, take a note. Remember it afterwards, you can email me. I'll say it a couple times. My email is very simple. Debbie, D-E-B-B-I-E at stridenyc.com. I will answer you 100% of the time. It may take me a couple of weeks. I will send you this information, this data.
Harvard Business Review has done a lot of research here, and they do a very nice job of collating it and presenting it in articles and I recommend it for everyone. So, let's play out the meeting again. Now I'm at a table with someone that might be 10 or 20 years older or younger than me. They might come from a completely different upbringing from me. They might be different than me in every shape and form. When I look at this person, something comes out of their mouth, I'm going to question it, inherently.
The trick is for us in this room to create a safe, inclusive work environment where everyone feels they have a voice and they can collaborate. Because, then that inquisition in our heads is the most powerful tool we can have and that is the key to efficiency with diverse teams.
So, here's one of the problems I run into, right? I give this talk and everyone says, "I got it. Great, thanks very much. I'm going to go on LinkedIn or whatever, and go hire me some diverse people," right? No. No, no, no. Right? Step away from the keyboard. Hiring is all great, but is not where we start this process, right?
Think about this for a second. If you have a team of people today, now this is true. I can't stress this enough because I know I'm talking to a wide audience here,, in terms of everyone has come from different locations. People work for different size financial institutions. I tell you in my heart of hearts, I believe that what I'm saying applies to big companies, small companies, midsize companies, new companies, companies that have been around for a hundred years.
If you do not take care of your existing team, why in the world would someone that's not like that team want to work with you, right? The answer is they are not going to. So, before you try to add to your team, it is imperative that you take care of your existing team, and that is how you lead change through diversity.
Diversity starts with inclusion. Now this circle seems simple. What I'm about to tell you at a high level, Chapters one and two of the book that you'll get, goes into a detailed process for this. And, again, you might have questions. I'm happy to answer them.
Diversity starts with zero tolerance policy for harassment, paying equal for equal work, and then you can get into the stuff, like retention and hiring best practices, right? I don't have five hours to get into how to achieve zero tolerance, harassment, or equal pay for equal work. I'll say a couple of things.
The biggest mistake you can make is walking out of here today, and making the false assumption that your company has too much red tape to pay for equal work. Do not make the mistake of thinking that your company cannot achieve zero tolerance on harassment. It's absolutely not true. It is possible and is not boiling the ocean. We're talking about moving the needle. We're talking about continuous improvement, baby steps one day, one week, one year at a time. Right?
One final thing, I'll say about the importance, and again this is in the book, we can go into the process later. If anyone in this room here is a supervisor or manager or a leader in any way, then you are personally open to be personally liable for any action that someone on your team brings against the company when it comes to these two inner circles.
So, looking in the other way and making excuses that, "I can't. It's too hard. I don't have enough time. It's not a priority. We have too many other things to do." It's really not an option unless you want to put your own self at risk. Now, given what I've just said, we all have day jobs, we all have a lot to do, very busy. I've made it seem so simple, but in reality it can be overwhelming. How in the world do I figure out where to start?
Okay, "I buy it. All right Debbie, I get it. Diversity's important. We've been talking about this for years now. I get it. We have to start by looking within. I want to create an inclusive environment. How do I start?"
This is a lot, and so that's what I'm going to spend the next 10 minutes or so on, giving you a framework. It doesn't take weeks, years, months. It takes a few hours from a few people and it's something you can do. It's not technical. It's not financial. So, we can all do it.
It's an agile, iterative approach to diversity and inclusion. Agile, I come from agile software engineering. Big A, little a, just means iterative, collaborative, and, kind of, piecemeal, right? We're going to iterate on this. We're going to give ourselves credit for the work and the achievements that we do. We're not going to beat ourselves up when we don't leave here tomorrow and 100% of our organization is all of a sudden paid exactly the same for for all the stuff that we do, right?
It's not about that. It's about taking a realistic approach to this. And here's how we break it down. All right. Step one is volunteers. Research has shown that the quickest way to kill any diversity initiative is to tell people they got to do it. Don't do that. You know why? Because, think about how you felt when I just told you that, right? All right, I'm going to pick on you, sitting in the front row. If I told you that you were bad at diversity, that's horrible to hear. Even if you don't say those words, if you say, "I need you to care more about diversity." Still feels terrible, right?
Forcing people to spend their time on this is the quickest way to squash it. I've seen this firsthand. I've seen teams do it. The best thing you could do if you want to make movement, impact your team culture, and ultimately impact your customer collaboration. That's what this is all about, right? How can we improve our team so that we increase efficiency and productivity to help our customers as efficiently and cost effective as possible? Right?
I come at this from a realistic perspective, right? It's about running businesses, building teams, and scaling infrastructure, right? Find a couple of people, it doesn't have to be a lot, who want to do this with you. Give them a tour of duty, six months, a year. It doesn't have to be forever. Then you do two things. You have a goal and you do a mind map.
And, I'm going to walk you through those two things now. A mind map, all this is is a visual representation of what's in your brain, right? It's a white boarding exercise. It takes one hour, right? Simple. You could do this for annual planning. You could do this for tech, finance, any team in your organization can take advantage of them. I love it. I've been using it for 20 years.
Before, you start an annual goal, one of the questions I get asked after I give this talk is, "My boss won't let me. I want to do it. I found a volunteer. We're ready. We did the mind map. Everything's great. My boss is afraid. My boss says, 'We don't have time. We don't have budget.'"
I'm going to give you a secret. Tie your DNI goal to your boss's goal. If you get what you want, I get what I want, right? Make it easy. Don't give yourself extra roadblocks on this. That's the last thing we want. Come up with a goal. If your goal is to scale, if your goal at your company is to increase profit margins, if your goal is to launch new products and services for your clients, "Okay, we're going to do this through diversity and inclusion."
And, then go one step further and say, "I give you my word that if your annual initiative is at risk or behind in any way, because we might be spending too much time or too much money and quantify that, then I will put it on the back burner for three months. I will decrease my time." Make the deals up front before you get emotionally and tied to it. That will give you the runway and the freedom and the agency to spend a little bit of time on this stuff. And that's all we really are talking about here.
So, at Stride, we've been doing this stuff for five years. My company's five years old. Like I said, I've run many companies for the last 25 years. This year's DNI goal, our goal as a company is to grow about 50%, 5, 0 percent this year. So we need to hire, right? And we've been doing this for many years, and so we have zero tolerance in place, we have equal pay in place, we have some really cool initiatives in place. We've been increasing our benefits year after year.
So we made our goal. We're a New York city based company, and we actually made our goal that the employee base of our organization matches the population of the city that we're in. Pretty cool, right? So we're in New York city, so we match the population of New York city. New York city happens to have a diverse population, so I was really excited about this goal.
I am a female CEO of a tech company, so there's not a whole ton of us. Despite this, I'm not on the diversity committee. I'm not one of the volunteers. This organization at my company runs completely autonomously without me, and they came up with this goal. And, I think it's a really great goal and it's measurable, right? I know if we've achieved it.
So, then you have your goal. It aligns with your boss's goal. But, you have the agencies to spend some time focusing on diversity inclusion. The next step is fun. What can we do to move the needle on zero harassment, equal pay, retention and hiring? There is no right answer. You start to draw some stuff you say, "All right, well maybe we can generate content that talks about this stuff. Maybe we can put a diversity and inclusion statement on our website. That would be neat. Maybe we can put it out on a part of our website. Maybe we can email it to our employees. We think about our interview process. Maybe we can have a blind step of our interview process."
By this, I mean if someone applies and sends you a resume, maybe you black out the name of the resume before sending it to the hiring manager for the first time, so that the person has no concept of the race, age, gender, or anything else about the person applying, right? There's some things that you can do and there's lots of them, right? There's a hundred. I'm going to give you four of Debbie Madden's best tactics here later because I have them all. Just tell us the answer right?
But, the mind mapping, it's fun, it's easy, it's quick. Don't worry about if it's right. Don't worry about if it's formal. Take a picture of it on your phone, email to yourselves. It doesn't have to be memorialized. Don't shellac it. It's going to change later. Just start to give yourself permission to think about, how can I and my small amount of space that I've been granted, and granted my team of volunteers to move the needle on diversity and inclusion?
And, then for all of us who have jobs, one of the things that we do every single day is we make decisions on priorities. What are we going to do next? What are we not going to do? How do we prioritize in order, all of the work, right? This is no different.
The closer you can mirror the prioritization, the workflow system of your current team, the easier this is going to be, right? My favorite way to prioritize where to start, is create a prioritize backlog using impact mapping, right? Some of you may have heard of this, this may be a familiar concept to some of you. This may be a new concept for you.
Let's say, I want to get in shape. I can run a marathon. Probably with all the training and all the time it's going to take, it's probably going to have a big impact. Maybe, I don't know, I've never done it. But, maybe, but it's going to be really hard. So, maybe I want to do something, like I don't know, ride a bike once a week or something to start, right? Do something a little easier.
This is no different. And, it's no different than how you prioritize the rest of your workload, right? You see what has the highest impact and what has the easiest effort, right? And this is just a simple math of adding things one to six, right? The name of the game is to find the sixes, right? The stuff that's easy effort and high impact. I love this. I do it for everything.
I do impact mapping for everything. Where am I going to spend my time, because in today's work life, we all have a hundred things to do and we only have time for five of them, right? So this is like, blow this out of the whole diversity conversation. This is just, kind of, good common sense sort of thing.
So, getting back to our map, if we're going to do a blind step of our interview process, that probably has a three high impact. In terms of effort, though it's not that easy, but it's not that hard either, so give it a two. So, the total points here are five. Whereas, probably if I'm creating a diversity and inclusion statement, somebody on my team can probably do that in about 30 minutes. Depending on my approval processes, I might need to run that by someone else in HR, might take another hour. That wins, right? That's it.
In roughly three hours of time, I've given everyone in this room a framework. What is your initiative? What is your primary goal? You only get to pick one. Align it to your company's goal. Get a few people that are passionate about this stuff. Lay out what is possible in all the world, and just simply pick one thing. That's it. That's all I'm asking you to do. It doesn't have to be this thing. It can be your thing of your choosing. This is an easy one.
The simple fact of diversity and inclusion is, even though the world is, kind of, talking about this now more than it used to, which is kind of cool for now, there's two things that I believe are true. Number one, this is an evergreen topic, and it's hard work, right?
After this talk, we're going to have a panel fireside chat and we're going to hear from two banking leaders about their direct experiences managing diverse teams. It's not easy, when you are in charge of whether you are the leader of that team, a team member coming to work every day with people that you've worked with for 10 years, versus someone that joined, someone that's 20, 30, 40, 50, 60, someone that lives next to you, lives three hours from you.
Collaboration of diverse teams, maintaining that, harnessing that, it is just plain and simple effort. That's it. So, you have to commit to yourself, and to your team to put in the work. That's it. There's no quick fix.
Now, some things that have worked for me, and for all the companies that I've led and coached over the years, feel free to take these at at your will. This first one might seem surprising. One of the best things I've seen work for harnessing that feeling of true inclusion across all different types of people on a team, is to go on and ask your team members to find themselves a mentor that doesn't work for your company. And, ask them to find that mentor and as many characteristics as possible, be different as a person than they are. Right?
So, I'll take myself. I am 44 going on 28. So, I will pick a mentor that is not in my decade. I will pick a mentor that's maybe 30. I will pick a mentor that's maybe 60 years old. I will try to pick a mentor that is in a different industry, different gender, different age, different race, doesn't live in my town, right? I will try to pick someone that, just would be really amazingly fun to have a cup of coffee with once a quarter.
If you enable your team to do that, you give them the freedom. You open up that possibility that they have a lot to learn from someone that's not like them, someone that cannot fire them. You don't want this attached to their promotion, to their salary, to their health of the business. What you will create is an environment of people that are inherently spending more time with people that are different from them, and that will come back to you. I've seen this work wonders.
False positives. If you have a process, for this is when we get to hiring, for onboarding new people, and you think you have a diversity problem in your recruiting funnel. Every once in awhile, once a quarter, twice a quarter, someone that has failed to step in the process, send them through anyways and don't tell anyone.
You might be right. You might be wrong. You might steer them on. It's not a perfect system, but you've got to test it, right? What you don't want to do is make all these assumptions, and it changes the whole thing for no reason, when it turns out there wasn't a problem. But, you know, every once in a while do something the data tells you not to do, and then do it with intention and measure it and see if you were right or wrong. Really cheap, really easy to do.
This next one is harder and I understand that. Equal pay is something that I feel passionately about. I quit a job once over $2,000.00. It's another story, another conversation. But, I had a male counterpart, who was 10 years my senior. I went so far, as actually to survey the entire organization, went to HR about the whole thing. HR told me they thought I was being disserviced and I didn't get … I was being paid $2,000.00 less than my male counterpart and I walked out. So, that was interesting. Don't let that happen to you. Don't let that happen to someone on your team.
It's not true that we have to give raises only when the system says. It's possible, hard but possible, to give pay, out of cycle. It works wonders. Someone feels, "Oh my God, someone just gave me $1,000.00 and I wasn't due for a raise for six more months." Oh my God, that will last forever. Right? If you see someone that's clearly being disserviced, this is a tool, if you can do it, that has worked wonders. That person will be your champion for the rest of your life.
The last thing, this is fascinating and I learned this from one of my clients actually. They thought they had an inclusion problem. They thought they had a diverse team, but they were hearing rumblings of people not feeling safe to speak up. Different types of people, not just women, new people that had been there, people that were younger or newer to the organization.
And, so quite simply they had a weekly all hands meeting, and they would ask, "Whoever in the last week has felt they were in a situation where they couldn't speak what's on their mind, raise your hand." And, like 30% of the team would raise their hand. We're not going to ask you when. We're not going to call you on it. It's a simple, "Raise your hand."
Can you imagine how powerful, that you're standing in a a group of peoplee, even though I'm raising my hand, I see my team member raising her hand, raising his hand. I'm going, "Oh, maybe it was me. Maybe I felt uncomfortable. Maybe they felt uncomfortable."
Who knows? Really, I mean, this cost you nothing. Do it within one meeting. Do it within a trusted group. Really, really powerful stuff, completely free to do, a little scary maybe, but free.
Last step, then I'm done. Iterate. Is anyone familiar with Eric Reese's, Lean Startup in the room?
Okay, so Lean Startup, a couple of you are familiar with it, came out, I don't know, five or so years back, is this idea that instead of doing something and taking long periods of time until we get feedback. It's a concept that the sooner we can get something of value into the world, build it, we can then measure it and then learn from it. Build, measure, learn. It's a concept by Eric Reese, the Lean Startup. It's a really great book. It applies to every industry, every size of organization.
And, it applies here as well. Diversity and inclusion, as a concept, leading change for your organizations, leading change within your teams and your companies. You're not going to be able to go back and do this on Monday. It's going to be a process. So, the sooner you can embrace the fact that it's continuous, small improvement, build something, a little tiny bit, measure it, learn from it, and do it again. The more you can embrace a circular process, the happier you'll be, the easier it will be to move forward. The lower the risk will be, and likely, the more agency you will get to start on this path.
Watch the Video "Leading From Purpose: Clarity and the Confidence to Act in Times of Uncertainty"