Webinar: How to Foster Inclusivity and Belonging in the Workplace

First Republic Bank
July 28, 2020

Watch a virtual event with Randi Bryant, a diversity and inclusion strategist and trainer, who provides insights for nonprofit professionals as they consider:

  • Addressing recent events with their team
  • Engaging in crucial and reflective conversations
  • Improving communication with colleagues of diverse backgrounds
  • Taking proactive steps to build an inclusive culture at their organization

Randi Bryant
Diversity and inclusion strategist, author, speaker and trainer

Read below for a full transcript of the conversation.

Todd Brantley - Good morning and good afternoon everyone. Thank you so much for joining us for today's webinar, "How to Foster Inclusivity and Belonging in the Workplace." We're thrilled to have you and thrilled to be having the conversation. My name is Todd Brantley. I'm a managing director here at First Republic Bank in the Business Banking Group based in the Bay Area and I'm also a member of the bank's Diversity, Equity and Inclusion Council which is also wrestling with these issues in how to make sure First Republic Bank is an agent of change in our community as well. Today's webinar is sponsored by First Republic Bank and also the Financial Executive Alliance. For those of you who may not know, First Republic Bank proudly works with over 4000 non-profits nationwide in various sectors including independent schools, social services, museums, art organizations, community foundations, etc. And the Financial Executive Alliance is a complimentary professional networking organization focused on senior financial decision makers in the nonprofit sector sponsored and administered by First Republic Bank. In way of housekeeping, we hope that today's discussion is interactive. We ask that you would use the Q&A feature at the bottom of your screen for any questions you have during the presentation and we will have a question and answer session at the end of the presentation. We are very pleased and grateful to have today Miss Randi Bryant delivering the presentation for us. Miss Bryant is a diversity and inclusion strategist, speaker, trainer and author focused on spearheading real change. She's cultivating conversations to tackle racial, gender and cultural issues by equipping individuals with the right tools and resources to foster open dialogue and create spaces where everyone feels as if they belong. And with that I want to turn it over to you Randi. Thank you again for having us to be here today.

Randi Bryant - Thank you so much for having me. This is my passion and I'm really excited to be here with everyone to discuss this very important issue, not just now but in all times. As we know we are going through a time of great change and a time that we need to talk about what's happening. I will be your host for us to talk about this. And like I was introduced like Todd just said, I have been in this field for most of my life, because frankly I think I was a person who was always trying to figure out how to belong. I was always one of something. And so, it's not just a professional endeavor for me, it is a personal endeavor. During today's conversation we are going to address the recent events and how you can deal with those. I'm going to give you some guidance about how to start and engage in conversations. I want to give you some advice also just how to improve communication so everyone feels a sense of belonging. And going from that, how to foster an inclusive environment. So let's get started. Without a doubt this is a time of great change and stress. Most of us are living through times that we've never seen before and we have an opportunity, an obligation as individuals and as organizations to address what's happening. So that involves communicating. How do you communicate during this time? During this time where part of us wants to just run away? And there is a system that you're going to use really most of the time. And it's going to start with pausing. I want to really encourage people, if you have not already to pause. It's normal for you to want to flee or fight. That's what we've always done. That's what our bodies train us to do. That is a very normal reaction. But unfortunately even if you want to, it's not time to flee. It is time to just pause. And as you see, a lot of people haven't paused and they've made some very detrimental decisions. Some decisions that I think will speak to the organization's long going. So it is a good time to just take a pause and to consider what you want to do before you do anything. I also encourage you to take that moment of pausing and encourage your entire organization to do so. Doesn't mean you're ignoring what's happening, but say, "Let's take a moment as an organization to pause." When you're pausing, you're going to reflect. And it's really important that you don't just act again. Like I said you want to reflect, what emotions are you feeling? How do those emotions affect your organization? Where does your organization stand if you're being honest? Reflect on what you've done and what you haven't done both personally and professionally. What has your organization done well and not done well? So this is a time to think and to gather, not just act. Also during this time you should educate yourself and encourage people to educate themselves. Because this is the real issue that I want to stress, in every organization there are insider groups and outsider groups. And this is the really interesting thing that is of note, the people who are in the inside group don't recognize that they are on the inside. They don't recognize their group-ness. It is not something that people are doing to be against someone, but it's just something that happens. We as human beings oftentimes group and we separate. So, it's important that you reflect to see, where are you in this group, okay? Are you the one who's setting precedents? Are you the one who is you feel as if it's more listened to? It's really important that you are aware of where you are so going forward you can be more empathetic and act differently with other groups. And then there're outsider groups. These are the people who are just trying to make it up or to fit in or to assimilate. These people quite differently from the insiders are very aware of their group identity and they very much don't feel as if they belong. They are very impacted by unconscious bias and they don't feel as if their contributions to the workplace are as recognized and seen. These groups, insider and outsider are not always based on race or gender or able-man or anything or age, it's just insider and outsider. And it's important to know that they exist because you can't do anything. You don't make any change if you're at least not aware. So during this reflection process, it's looking at where you are and how you contribute to those group dynamics and what you can do to make those better. So that goes to acknowledgement. When you're acknowledging you want to be honest, transparent and open. The many of the mistakes that have been made with corporations and organizations is that there have not been honest. It is better to say we have looked at where we are, we've reflected upon it and we recognize that we have a lot of work to do instead of saying, "We're great. “Everything is in a good space." Because what if I don't know if you've noticed that people are coming out and saying, "No, you really have not. “You really do have work to do." So, it is better to be honest and be transparent. And that builds trust immediately with the community, with your colleagues and with your customers by acknowledging where you are and how you feel. That comes in the form of a statement. It is important to at least acknowledge what is happening even if that is as simple as putting a statement on your website because silence in times like this is a statement. And as we said at the start of this program, everybody is experiencing what is happening right now. Regardless of what people's opinions are, everyone is experiencing something. And so, it's important that you acknowledge it or its means that you are being silent. And that is the greatest statement that you can make. So acknowledge it in some way. Once you've acknowledged what has happened and however you choose to do that, and that's personally like I said and publicly you want to commit. What are you going to do to be better? What are you going to do to continue to foster your inclusive environment? What specifically are you going to do? Most people will not be satisfied particularly the people within the organization. Your internal customers will not be satisfied with a broad statement of saying, "We value diversity," or, "We value our clients." They want to know specifically, what is going to change? What are your goals? And how are you going to get to those goals? And then you're going to implement. By now every step of your process should have involved your entire team. This is not creating an inclusive environment, is not a top-down undertaking. No one will believe that you're serious if it's something that is just involving the executive members. It is something that should be happening that is again inclusive. Which just makes sense, right? If you want to create an inclusive environment, doing so should include everyone. So during those phases where you are reflecting and acknowledging, you are including everyone in the conversation or at least representatives of different departments and people so everyone feels as if their voices are being heard because that is what diversity and inclusivity is. And then as you're implementing your programs, you should have set aside some metrics, some goal, some objective, some timelines, some measurable goals, so you can review and adjust. People always say, "How do we make inclusivity "something that we don't just do for a day "or something we just don't speak about?" That is you do it by making it a strategic plan. You do it by setting goals and objectives, holding yourself accountable for making the workplace more inclusive for everybody. It has to be taken way past a statement, but seen as something that you're doing across your organization that everybody is participating in, and that you're reviewing, adjusting as things are working. So what's the biggest key to all of this? Okay, the biggest key to all of this is not honestly the strategic planning, yes, that's very, very important, but it's connecting. Connecting throughout this entire process with each other, having conversations, seeing where people are. But I understand as a person who does this, that is way easier said than done mainly because we're frightened. We're especially uncomfortable with talking about conversations dealing with difference. The exciting thing I can tell you is that we're all uncomfortable. And so once you know everybody is in the same position as you're, everybody is feeling the same way you're, it makes it a little easier. I have been doing this like I said at the beginning of this presentation and I am still uncomfortable particularly when it's personal for me. It is not something that is easy, but it is something that can become easier and more comfortable. And that is about creating the environment. So these are some conversations you may consider having right now. And this goes to the process we talked about earlier. One is a conversation to acknowledge what's happening. And really you don't have to share an opinion, you don't have to share what you should do coz those are the things that scare us. Just say, "We see what's happening. “We understand that this is a stressful time for everyone. "This is a time of change." The second conversation you can have is to try to get an understanding how people are feeling. Employees, executives, your customers. Internal and external customers. How are people feeling right now? A conversation about your stance on racism. Like I said, if you don't say something, you're saying something. You're saying a lot. So just to say, "This is how we feel. “We do not tolerate. "We take a firm stance against racism." It's plenty. Explain it and people will really respect that. A conversation about the disparities that exist. Just saying that we recognize that there're insider and outsider groups, we recognize that people when they leave our buildings or our organization are dealing with some disparities that some of us may not. Just acknowledging that and having a dialogue and a conversation about empathy, a conversation about wanting to connect with people and understand how they feel and understanding that that's important. Those are conversations that you could be having right now. I'm not saying you have to, but they are just suggestions because oftentimes people say, "What should we be talking about?" And I understand. Those are just small. They could be 10 minutes. These are not big, large meetings. But these are some tips I want you to know. One: Recognize you're creating spaces more so than having conversations. So, oftentimes some of you who are on the phone are not the people who are going to be in the conversation. You're just responsible for maybe creating a space so people can have a conversation and feel comfortable. You can say, "We're setting apart these physical spaces "for people to talk. “We’re giving you these Zoom times "and spaces for people to talk." And set certain topics if you want to, but it's just setting the space not necessarily actually being there and facilitating. Secondly, if you are going to go on a large scale and have a large discussion, I very much, and this is not for employment reasons. I really do suggest you have a professional facilitate these conversations. A lot of sometimes negative energy comes about because people will assume, "Oh, you're a person of color, "then you'd be the perfect person "to lead this conversation." And that's not the case. It honestly takes skill to manage difficult conversations. And you don't want to make situations worse or make people feel uncomfortable. And lastly and this is very important, don't compel people to share. I have been reading story after story where people are complaining. That people are just saying, "Well, tell me how you've been feeling "since you've been here." Again it's about creating the space and the opportunity for people to share, but not making them for obligated because then that becomes another burden. Because again you're being empathetic, you're caring how people feel and talking about their pain may not be the best answer for that person. So let's talk about having these conversations. Let me give you some tips. There's no more important skill than to communicate. I cannot think of any profession where the ability to communicate well is not the most important skill that people have. It doesn't matter how knowledgeable you are, you need to be able to communicate and connect with people. But this is the problem. We all overestimate our ability to communicate well. We all think that we're fairly good communicators and usually we blame the other person. We say, "Oh, that person is just so hard to talk to." Or, "That person's just not smart." It is our responsibility. It is our responsibility to communicate with someone else. It is our responsibility when we're starting a conversation and being involved in one, it's our responsibility to communication. So it's something that we must work on. But we don't realize this because it's something we started doing as kids, but not really. We really just started talking, "Mom, mom, dad, dad." We didn't start communicating, we just started talking. So understand communication is a skill that you must practice over and over again. A very wise person once said, no, I always say that so much could be prevented and repaired if people understood that talking is not the same as communicating. And also realizing that it's a skill that you work on. Your goal of communication is that you leave the person with whom you communicated feeling respected. And that is extremely important. It's not about being just informative, it's not about being the smartest person in the room. People feel as if I'm a great communicator because I shared this information. If people didn't connect with it or they didn't feel respected at the end of it, it doesn't matter. It's not about being nice. And we oftentimes think that being nice is the answer, but honestly we'd rather feel respected at the end of something than someone being nice to us. So it's about being compassionate. Are you aware of the other person? Are you seeing them and recognizing their needs and then respecting those needs? But we avoid them. And let's talk about why we do. We're completely uncertain about how others will react and we like to be certain. We like to be aware. We want just definites and people aren't definite. Are we? None of us are. We're very scared that things will get out of control. And let me just be very clear that things usually only get out of control when we don't have these conversations. We don't want to offer a can of worms without having a solution. But listen, before you have conversations, I'm going to talk about you coming up with solutions before the conversations. We don't want to make things worse if that makes perfect sense, but again that goes to practicing your skills in being a communicator. We fear of being disliked. We fear of being the bad person. There's a fear of how we'll be seen, but I promise you the smartest thing to do is take control of how people see you and view you. And that's by having a conversation. That provides you more control than not saying anything and allowing people to come to their own conclusions about what you think. So like I said before, if you're being silent about what's happening in the country right now, in the world right now, people will then assume what your thoughts are about them and that's not the best. So again you're doing the same as what you did before. Pausing before you have these conversations, reflecting and acknowledging before you commit. So start with yourself before any conversation you're having even in stressful times. What is your purpose? That is such an important question to ask. What is your purpose? If your purpose is just to sound smart, if your purpose is, "I need to tell somebody how I feel." That's not a good time to have a conversation. So what do you hope to accomplish? What is the goal? And the goal just so you know should be a shared goal. It should be something that is not just a goal for you, but something that the other people around you will benefit from. So, for instance if your goal in talking to a minority colleague is just so you feel good about yourself, then you should not have that conversation yet because people can see the performative activism. They can see through it. The authenticity is important. So you need to work on getting yourself to a point where you can feel what the message that you're giving is authentic. So, be real about your emotions and how you're feeling. What baggage do you carry? Again some of this process started in the earlier time when you're thinking about what's happening in the world. What assumptions are you making about this person? Oftentimes and people will be offended coz you're assuming they feel one way when they don't. And you want to ensure that you have considered and dissected these assumptions you may be having. What buttons are being pushed? We all have them, right? We all come from different experiences and backgrounds. So how are you being affected? What is your attitude towards the conversation? And how is that influencing you if you don't want to have it? Consider, and this is what it means to be compassionate. Consider not assume, but consider how the other person may be thinking or feeling. And think about what your needs and fears are, what the other person's needs and fears are and how you may have contributed to the situation. Not just what's happening in the country, but what may be happening in your organization. Again, this prepares you to have a productive, compassionate, inclusive conversation. What's important too is to understand if there are any common concerns. Again, maybe you should not have the conversation if they're not any common concerns or common goals. And you want to focus on creating value. How can each of you grow? Why? What is the purpose for you having again this conversation? Is there value in it? And I'm giving you advice not just for today, but honestly this is something that you can look at and at all times. What is the value of you having a conversation that may be somewhat uncomfortable with other people? And what is the value to everyone involved? Because you want to mention that value when you bring it up, okay? You want to say, "I have something I'd like to discuss with you "because this is the value. “I have something, I'd like to talk to you about this "because I really care about how you're feeling "and I'm worried. “I’d like to get your point of view." So, again this is making a connection with the other person, not you talking. Are you up to talking right now? Do you have a few moments? I'd like to hear your thinking about something? I really would like for us to reach a better understanding because your opinion matters. But let me tell you the most important things that you can say and it's really mostly I'm just going to tell you this is how all of us are feeling and this is the best thing I can say to you. Say that, "I don't know what to say." The best way to open a conversation is with your authentic self and say, "I really don't know what to say, "but I care and I want us to connect." If you're feeling uncomfortable, people will begin to trust you when you're vulnerable and you say, "I feel uncomfortable but I want to connect." Only that will build trust and that is what builds connections, and that is what builds inclusivity. You're going to use "I" statements. You want to be direct not beat around the bush although we're very uncomfortable. Sometimes we do that. Be compassionate and be clear that you're seeing the other person and be open. Allow the other person to share if they want to. If this is about the other person and this is in all conversations, you should be listening more than you're talking. We oftentimes tell people, "I care about how you feel." And then we never listen to how they feel. We go on a whole long speech about how we feel and how we feel that they feel, okay? And a good way to help you hear what people are feeling is to ask questions. Open ended questions, targeted questions. "Can you extend you tell me more about that day?" Or, "How did I make you feel." See it as an opportunity to learn and grow and say, "I did not know and I am so happy you're telling me this." You never want to become defensive. You want to see it as an opportunity. This is all good and everything I'm saying sounds good. And communicating is always the best thing, but it becomes somewhat nerve wracking when we are, did I lose? It becomes nervous and more scary because we work in diverse environments. I may have lost it. Are we seeing the screen?

Todd - Yeah, bounced out for a second Randi. I think hopefully we're trying to get that back up. Sorry about that.

Todd - It says I'm screen sharing but I'm not seeing it anymore.

Randi- Your screen is there being shared. You just need to click on your PowerPoint.

Randi - It's not even... I apologize. Guys let's keep moving. I apologize. I can talk from it even if I don't see the PowerPoint. We're nearing the end of the PowerPoint right now. It's important that you are... And you guys do see the PowerPoint?

Todd - No, right now we're seeing the Harvard Business Review.

Randi - Okay, well, you guys are just going to see me. How about that? Hello, hopefully my makeup is good coz you're going to see me. I apologize I don't know what happened there, but the PowerPoint was near ending. And trust me this is what I do all the time. So we'll be fine I apologize for that. But diversity as we all hear about is a beautiful thing that adds to the richness of all organizations. But quite frankly it can create stress. Why does it create stress? It creates stress because we are all affected by difference. Difference creates fear in all of us. And I want people to own that, I want people to feel comfortable with accepting that we all are somewhat uncomfortable with difference. We feel as if that means that were racist or sexist or bigots in some way because we're uncomfortable, and I want to assure you that that is not the case. It is normal to be uncomfortable around difference. We were designed to be. That's how we were made to be kept safe because we were designed biologically to be affected by difference. And we also, our difference is heightened by the fact that we grew up in silos. We all most of us went to school with people who look like us, church, played on teams, grew up in families with people who are very similar to who we are and then we get into these environments that are very diverse, and we are not quite sure and comfortable how to react or we don't have the vocabulary on how to respond to other people that are different from us. And so we do two things: One thing that we do is that we flee. Kind of what we talked about in the beginning. And that means that we completely separate from people. We get into those insider groups we talked about, we do not associate with people that are different from us which of cos goes against inclusivity. Another thing we do when we do try to be inclusive and talk to people is that we oftentimes say things that are offensive to other people not because we are trying to offend, and I want to assure you no one typically is trying to offend people, but typically because we don't have the vocabulary. We do not have inclusive vocabulary. We weren't taught it because we were raised in silos. We lived in silos. So as I talked about our communication skills being something that we needed to continue to work on, those skills only need to be heightened and continue to be worked on when we are in a very diverse environment as all of us are. The world is changing. Everyday it's becoming more diverse. So it's our responsibility to continue with our inclusive education. Learning what does and does not offend people because oftentimes we will say things trying to be nice because we're uncomfortable. We will try to not see other people's difference to make ourselves feel more comfortable. So we'll say things like, "I don't see color." Which I assure you that all people want you to see them, or your lifestyle is your business, which if someone is bringing it up, they want you to know all of who they are. Inclusivity creating a place of belongingness is seeing somebody for all that they are. It is not denying any of that person. And so creating an inclusive environment is making everyone feel as if they belong, that they are valued, that they are heard, that they don't just have a voice, but their voice is just as valued as everyone else's. And so it does not mean in any way diminishing any part of a person whatsoever. That is inclusive vocabulary in helping you to create inclusive environments. So let's talk about if you do make a mistake, because guess what? You will. You will make a mistake. So again become comfortable with that as well. We become nervous because we feel as if we should be perfect and it's impossible to be perfect. It is absolutely impossible to be perfect. We are all uninformed, we already went through that. We talked about how we all have grown up in silos oftentimes. We're not aware of everybody and how everybody is different, and that is okay. So, we are uninformed about everyone. And once we accept that everyone's uninformed, it brings a togetherness in all of us because we recognize that we're on the same field right here. We are all dealing in a place of not knowing everything that's happening. So we're uninformed, but we're also good. So when you make a mistake, if you have offended somebody, my advice to you is or I plead with you actually you must apologize. You must own that you have offended someone. You cannot ever determine what is offensive to somebody else. Although it may not have offended you or would not have offended you, it does not mean that it would not or does not offend somebody else. So if I say, "You offended me." You have to say, you can pause and say, "I'm sorry. “I did not intend to do that. "Please tell me how I did so I will not do it again." Again we're going to the opportunity to learn because again we're all uninformed. Your apology should not have ifs. It should not say, "If I offended you," because the person has just told you that you did. So own that issue. What if someone has offended you? How do you deal with that? Again that's an uncomfortable conversation that you have to have. And most of us like to avoid those uncomfortable conversations. What I will say though is to have the conversation if it's important to you. And you can pause for a moment to say, again reflect. It goes back to reflecting on yourself. Is this someone has pushed a button with you? Is this is not fair assessment? Is this about you? Or did the person really say something that was offensive to you? And again your goal is to create an inclusive environment that the conversations keep going. And so it's important to go ahead and address that you were offended. If you don't, we naturally just separate from the person. Even though we say that we're just going to move on, we never really do. So it's better to have that conversation and say, "I really want us to have a great relationship. “I value your opinion. "I value our relationship in this organization, "but I want you to know what you said the other day. “I had an issue with and I want us to have a conversation." And you see there how I brought up the value for all of us. There is value in us having this conversation. And when you have these conversations, always, always always again, you want to state the value of why you're having this conversation, okay? If you feel as if you've offended someone and they're not telling you, it is worthwhile to go and say to the person, "I feel a distance between us and I value us, "I value our work relationship, I value this organization "and I know that we can only succeed here "and our organization will only succeed "if we have this conversation." So all of this, all of this is step by step creating inclusive organizations because you're starting to talk about things that before you did not discuss. You're starting to hold yourself accountable. You're starting to be brave and courageous in the things that you discuss, because again like I keep repeating, silence will never be the answer. And these aren't just conversations where it's just one-on-one, I'm talking about apologies that are one-on-one and offenses that are one-on-one. But understand these can be much broader than this, but it's setting the spaces to have these discussions. My feeling when it comes to creating inclusive environments goes back to where we started. It starts in the conversation. It starts first in the personal development. So the conversation you're having with yourself and looking at yourself, but then moving on to the conversations that you're having with other people. It moves on to you setting specifics for your goals as a person and as you want to grow, but also as your organization and acknowledging what you want to do and owning it. Setting metrics, measurable things that you want to do.

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