43. Best Boss Books + Becoming a Better Ally

Episode 43: Best Boss Books + Becoming a Better Ally (Summary)

The holidays are coming, so today we’re assembling a list of the best books for bosses, so you can get to shopping and help others boss better. Plus, a story about recognizing privilege and becoming a better ally. It’s all ahead now, on Boss Better Now.

Links:
To learn more about Joe Mull, visit his website ​Joemull.com​.
To hear more from Joe Mull visit his YouTube channel​.
To learn how to invite Joe to speak at an event, visit ​Joemull.com/speaking​.
To check date availability or to get a quote for an event, email ​hello@joemull.com​.
To explore options for coaching from Alyssa Mullet, visit ​Joemull.com/coaching​.
For more information on the BossBetter Leadership Academy, visit Joemull.com/academy.
Email the show at bossbetternow@gmail.com.
To leave comments, ask questions, or to message us visit our Boss Better Now Podcast Facebook Page.
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Transcript – Episode 43: Best Boss Books + Becoming a Better Ally

Joe:
The holidays are coming so today we’re assembling a list of the best books for bosses so you can get to shopping and help others boss better. Plus, a story about recognizing privilege and becoming a better Ally. It’s all ahead now on Boss Better Now.

Alyssa:
You’re listening to Boss Better Now. Please welcome speaker, author, and turkey brine master, Joe Mull.

Joe:
Well, greetings once again, BossHeroes and welcome to the show and that’s right- There ain’t no turkey like a well-brined turkey cause a well-brined turkey don’t stop! Let me tell you about the importance of turkey brine. We are in the month of November. Our Thanksgiving holiday is just around the corner here in the states. And let me tell you, if you’re gonna do a turkey, the brine creates the shine, my friends! It is the key to a moist, juicy turkey. Tell the truth – that turkey that your mother-in-law makes every year — it’s dry as hell, isn’t it? You know why? She doesn’t brine. And with that, let me welcome to the show my friend, my cohost, professional coach extraordinaire, Alyssa Mullet. Hello, Alyssa.

Alyssa:
Wow. I feel like anything that comes out of my mouth will not meet the level of lyrical mastery that just occurred with your whole brine rap. I don’t know what….poetic?

Joe:
I don’t believe that was…You know what? I’m going to tell you, honest to goodness, that was total stream of consciousness. That was just me riffing.

Alyssa:
Oh, I noticed! I know!

Joe:
I have,

Alyssa:
I don’t know if that is more impressive or scary, listeners. I am not quite sure.

Joe:
That’s it! That should terrify. Yes. Again, this is what it’s like to live with me. I am wildly more entertaining to myself than I am to anybody else in my orbit. I guarantee you that.

Alyssa:
Aren’t we all? Aren’t we all? I mean, I chuckled to myself out loud sometimes. I’m like, “You’re good, Alyssa! Dang, you’re good!”

Joe:
So, are you…do you do the turkey at Thanksgiving? Do you celebrate in that way? Are you, do you have a routine? Are you cooking? Are you not cooking? What’s your jam when it comes to the turkey?

Alyssa:
Well, it’s been so long since I feel like I’ve had some semblance of a normal Thanksgiving, but yes, traditionally it’s, uh, my husband and I are cooking and specifically we are a brine family as well. So, we do have common ground there. Um, but then for our family, like the piece de resistance is the method in which the turkey is cooked, which is deep frying. So, brine that baby up then fry her and sizzle her in.

Joe:
Drop it in the oil.

Alyssa:
Yes. Yes!

Joe:
Yes. Deep-fried turkey is exceptionally well done. Um, we brine and then we cook it in a roaster on top of the counter. Um, this was something that my mother-in-law introduced me to a few years ago and actually works really well. Sometimes I’ll also bag the turkey, so I’ll brine it, and then I do aromatics in the cavity, like celery and cinnamon sticks and onions, things like that. Um, and then wrap it in a bag and put it in the roaster. Um, we had to watch the temperature there though, cause the bag can melt a little bit, but um.

Alyssa:
Yeah. No one wants that.

Joe:
I can make a turkey. I, there are like 11 things I make well, okay — maybe four, but a turkey is one of them. I am a big fan of the brined roasted turkey. Deep-fried is good too.

Alyssa:
Yes. Awesome. That’s…all of what you just described smells like…I should be lighting a candle that smells like all of that right now.

Joe:
That did make my mouth water a little bit. Truth be told, I’m ready. I’m ready for some, uh, some turkey, and don’t be ‘poultry’ with the seasoning. See what I did there. That’s a dad joke. You’re welcome.

Alyssa:
Yikes! Yikes.

Joe:
Well for the first part of our episode this week folks, because the holidays are coming, one of the questions that I get asked often is: What are your favorite books to recommend for bosses” or “What are the best books for bosses?” Because those are actually two different questions. Cause my favorites aren’t always on the list, but then some of the things on the list may not be my favorite, but they’re sort of tried-and-true things that show up on the list from time and time again. So, what I thought we’d do today, Alyssa is we would talk about our favorite books that we might recommend for people who are leading others. And we might also talk a little bit about the tried-and-true books that show up on all the lists every time someone writes a list about the best books for leaders.

Alyssa:
Okie Dokie.

Joe:
So, what are the books that spring to mind for you? If, if, if a member of your family called you tomorrow and said, I got a promotion, I’m a manager. I got to figure out like what to do. Um, and by the way, I am embargoing any reference to my books because I don’t want that to sound like a … a like soft sell.

Alyssa:
Propaganda?

Joe:
Right. Forget that for a minute. Everybody here knows I’ve written some books about this and let’s talk about other books. So, I, you are always so generous with that. And so, I mean that in the spirit with which it is intended, you don’t have to say, well, the first book I’d give them, Joe is yours. I mean, cause I know that’s true, but let’s talk about the second book that you might recommend.

Alyssa:
Okay. So, uh, you could put anything, uh, by Brene Brown, obviously on that list for me. Specifically, what has been most helpful for me and understanding myself and how I orient to my teams – The Gifts of Imperfection.

Joe:
Okay.

Alyssa:
That’s … that’s um, my pick for, for Brene, um, I don’t know how our listeners might feel about this, but I, again, in trying to be the best human that I can be, um, and understanding the other humans for which we are responsible for leading, I would recommend anything to do with the Enneagram.

Joe:
Yeah.

Alyssa:
It’s another tool. Okay. Uh, to just understanding yourself and how other people might be reacting, their behaviors, and how that can inform how you lead them. Uh, I particularly love The Sacred Enneagram. Um, that’s my pick. Um, people have heard me talk about, uh, Quiet by Susan Cain before. Again, if you’re an introvert, and even if you’re not, you are surrounded by maybe introverts, I would highly recommend that book so that you can, again, understand those folks. Atomic Habits by James Clear. Uh, I love, love, love that. Um, Leading with Character by Dr. Loehr. L-O-E-H-R. Um, this is a fantastic book, and it comes with a journal and, you know I’m a journal junkie! Um, what I have not yet read, but is in my stack right here is Burnout by doctors, Emily and Amelia Nagoski. Um, and I think that that is going to be a key read for how the season that we’re, we’re all going through right now, um, and trying to understand tactics and strategies and how you would complete the stress cycles and all of the rest of this stuff.

Joe:
Yes!

Alyssa:
The last recommendation that I have, and this is not, again, specifically a professional leadership book, but I will say that if someone called me up and one of my family members, one of my dear friends, and said, you know, I’m trying to take myself to the next level. Just want to be the best leader I can be. You just want to be the best human you can be and you’re a female. You could read this book, certainly if you’re a male too, but womanhood, this is the Bible now Untamed by Glennon Doyle. You must read this book. That is, that is all. That is what I wanted to say.

Joe:
That’s a pretty great list! You’ve got some real diversity of thought and ideas and authors on that list. I love it! Um, mention for me, so you talked about Atomic Habits, and I felt like you kind of gave a, a really concise, succinct reason tying the book to leadership roles for everything, but I didn’t quite get it on that one cause it’s a great book. So, tell me why Atomic Habits is a really great resource for leaders.

Alyssa:
So, number one, it helps me understand human behavior. What we do and don’t do and why we do and don’t do it, right?

Joe:
Yes.

Alyssa:
And it, number two, teaches ways in which we can build our own habits and how you can do that very specifically. I mean, it gives you atomic level instructions on how we change our habits. You know, one of the specific strategies that I learned from that book is, um, I think something called chain…chain habits? I can’t remember the exact terminology he uses for it there but being able to link one thing that you already do every day in your routine to another habit that you’re trying to establish.

Joe:
Cool!

Alyssa:
So, for instance, if you’re trying to like, you know, add taking a vitamin to your schedule or whatever, what about linking it to when you brush your…after you brush your teeth? You know, making yourself more effective in any capacity possible, and that certainly impacts you in the workplace.

Joe:
That’s great stuff. Atomic Habits continues to sit in my “tower of guilt”. So, I’ve had it for a while. I love to buy books. I don’t get to read as many of them as I would like. Um, that’s, uh, an atomic habit. I need to create an atomic habit. That’s one I need to create. Um, and so I haven’t, I haven’t consumed that one yet, but it’s sitting over there in the large stack of books, that I’m really excited to read, but haven’t gotten to yet that I once heard a friend of mine affectionately refer to as his tower of guilt — which is the perfect name for that stack. Um, good stuff, Alyssa. Thank you. Um, I had a Brene Brown book on my list too. Uh, but it was Dare to Lead. Um, it’s interesting. A couple of years ago, I posted a question on LinkedIn: What’s the number one most important skill for a leader to be successful as a leader? And the overwhelming answer was vulnerability. And I feel like, okay, if you want to measure the impact of someone’s work, uh, in a really big kind of way. I mean, three, five years ago, people would not have answered that question in that way.

Alyssa:
Absolutely!

Joe:
And so, I really attribute that to some of the great work that she has done. Um, uh, I’m a fan of Crucial Conversations, right? Um, Tools for Talking When Stakes Are High. Uh, this book has five authors, Grenny, McMillan, Switzler, Patterson, and Gregory. And, uh, they actually had a brand new third edition coming out. Um, actually it might, it might be out right now by the time this episode is released, um, which really gives you a model for giving feedback. There are actually organizations that teach their methodology to leaders, uh, as a way to become better communicators in the workplace. And so, um, really a rich, uh, resource for leaders. I’m a fan of, oh goodness. So many books. Um, It’s The Manager by Clifton and Harter. So, this is based on Gallup’s research about the roles that bosses play in the workplace and employee engagement. Uh, it gets a little bit academic, but there are so many really great insights in there. One of the things that they find that the most effective leaders do that have the highest levels of employee engagement is that they are a part of a team of other managers. Right? And then they gathered together to learn how to, and to continue working on being better managers. Um, we see patterns of, you know, the best managers read books, the best managers are continuous, lifelong learners. They read books about leadership. They read books by Brene Brown. They listen to podcasts about being a better boss. Um, and that book really keys in on, on some of those insights. So, I really liked that one. My favorite book to recommend to leaders though is a book I’ve read a couple of times, I have it dog-eared. I have little flags in it. I adore this book. If you’re only going to read one book this year, it should be mine. But if you’re going to read two, I am a big, big fan of Daniel Pink’s book Drive: The Surprising Truth About What Motivates Us, and what he has written is just an absolute, um, beautiful summary of the social science research around motivation. And what he says is that if you want people to go forth in a self-directed effort, they need autonomy, mastery, and purpose. And he talks about what that looks like, the psychological underpinnings of those three things. It is a how-to manual to inspire and motivate employees. And one of my all-time favorite things to recommend to leaders.

Alyssa:
That sounds awesome! Oh gosh, I hope everybody can like rewind this and, you know, take down the list and we’ll put it in the show notes, right? I mean, we should…

Joe:
Absolutely! If you go to BossBetterNowpodcast.com and you click on this episode, you will scroll down and you will see an entire transcript for the episode. And we will link to every single one of these books on Amazon. You can just drop them in your cart or multiple copies and, uh, gift them to the people in your world as well. Um, let me finish this segment with the other promise that we made, which is what are the tried-and-true books that tend to show up on the list the most? Like if you go and Google best books for leaders and you put in the year best books for leaders in 2019, best books for leaders in 2022, the same books keep ending up on this, on these lists. Um, one that shows up over and over again is One Minute Manager by Ken Blanchard and Spencer Johnson. It was written originally in 1982. It is slim. It’s a hundred pages. It’s common sense, but it is a how-to manual for bossing. And they actually are releasing a new edition, which is pretty cool.

Alyssa:
Oh! Cool!

Joe:
Um, the other one that shows up on the list all the time is How to Win Friends and Influence People by Dale Carnegie, right?

Alyssa:
Yeah.

Joe:
That’s sort of a tried and true, fundamental book about how to network, and communicate, and build relationships. Um, I see What Got You Here Won’t Get You There by Marshall Goldsmith on a lot of lists, which is, again, about how, hey, most of the time we get promoted because we were technically sound, or we have experience, or we’re creative, but then we get into leadership roles and it’s about people problems. And, uh, so what got you here isn’t going to get you there and so you need to prepare yourself. Um, Good to Great by Jim Collins, which is a classic. Um, that’s been around for a long time. These are the books that, uh, tend to show up on a lot of the leadership lists the most. Are there any others that you see Alyssa or that we haven’t mentioned?

Alyssa:
No. I think that that is all that is in my stack and all that I can put in my, I have my own, you know, guilt tower/shame tower, but I do work through them. The most important tip that I can, I can tell folks out there about books period, is I learned the most important thing, or I was reminded by a book from Jay Shetty called Think Like a Monk that said, guess what? You don’t have to read the whole book in order to have read the book. You can give yourself credit. If you only read the portions that you’re most interested in, you can flip to the table of contents and pick out the chapters that are most important to you. And then put the book back up on your shelf and say, I read that book.

Joe:
Or you can listen to the book, guess what?

Alyssa:
Yes!

Joe:
We’re in an audio-rich world. And you can listen when you work out. You can listen when you drive. You can listen when you walk your dog, you can listen in all the same places where you listen to us, uh, and consume in that way. There, there are way more ways to consume this kind of content nowadays than ever before. And so, uh, thank you, my friend, for bringing your thoughts to this. I’m going to recommend one more book that feels to me like it has earned a rightful place on lists of –  of important leadership books, really just in the last 12 to 15 months. Um, and that is the book How To Be An Antiracist by Ibrepm X Kendi. Uh, this is a book that in the aftermath of the George Floyd travesty and all of the social justice issues that have long been simmering and key, uh, erupting into public consciousness from time to time, but then really were ever-present for many months in 2020 and into 2021. I saw a lot of people self-selecting to read this book to better understand how to be better advocates and, and specifically, uh, how to become anti-racist in their organizations and in their leadership roles. Which is a very specific thing. Uh, and so I imagine that going forward, and probably for years to come, that when people write lists of books that are important for leaders to consume and to think about how to really have influence in their organization, that this book could end up being on those lists much in the way that some of those older, tried, and true tomes that I mentioned earlier are. So that’s How to Be an Antiracist by IbramX Kendi. Definitely worth checking it out. What about you listeners? What are your favorite boss books? We’ve been asking you that for a while, and we’d love to hear from you shoot us an email over Boss Better Now over at bossbetternow@gmail.com or you can drop a comment below the video. If you’re watching online, if you’re live streaming, the episodes, we’d love to hear your thoughts about your favorite or best boss books.

Joe:
And we come, once again, Alyssa, to our Camaraderie Question of the Week! As you’ve heard me say in 42 previous episodes, bosses build camaraderie on teams, by making it easier for people to find things in common with each other. That’s why every week we give you a question, you can use it meetings to facilitate connection and build camaraderie. Our question this week is as follows: What did your parents do for a living and how did that influence who you are today?

Alyssa:
I swear your timing on these is like impeccable. Um, my dad literally just retired last, uh, in the past month. And so, uh, I don’t even know how many years, I mean, he’s 65. So, all of his adult life, uh, he has been a laborer, uh, specifically, a welder. And, um, my mom, um, for most of my childhood, um, was primarily a stay-at-home mom. Um, that being said, she continually had side jobs, she cleaned homes, um, she still does that. Uh, and, uh, the other main thing that she did was, um, I had real-life, baby dolls. Meaning we always had other kids in our home. She was always a childcare provider. Um, and she has many, uh, unrelated by family ties, nieces and nephews who call her Aunt Deb or Miss Deb because, uh, of her impact, uh, in that kind of community. Uh, how it impacted me. Um, I would say I felt a real need, especially early on in my career, um, to be anything opposite. I needed to get away from, uh, the kind of blue-collar environment. And so, I really poured myself into, um, the professional realm and being, uh, that business lady. And, um, so I took the only route that I possibly could in terms of, I went to a two-year trade school because that was what we could afford and that was with loans. And then I worked. I got my foot in the door and worked my way up because that’s what I wanted. I climbed that little HR ladder as quickly and as fast as I possibly could. Um, and I kind of defined myself for a lot of years, more than I care to admit, on that fact.

Joe:
The…you know what? That…boy. Our stories are similar. That’s interesting. Our mom’s stories are similar. Um, it’s great that you can see yourself in, in all of those kinds of experiences. And I see myself in a very similar way. So, my, my parents got married when they were 19 and 20 and, um, excuse me, they got married when they were 17 and 18. They had me when they were 19 and 20. So my mom had me, my mom and I are 20 years apart. Um, I’m 44 right now, which means that my daughter would be 24 if I was following her timeline and that just knocks me out. Right? Um, but that’s the way that it was in the, in the seventies that wasn’t unheard of at all. And, um, so in the first part of her life, she also was a stay-at-home mom with the kids, uh, while my dad went off. And, uh, he worked in home building and ultimately started his own company. When, uh, there was a point where my mom had a t-shirt printing business, but then my parents got divorced and we moved to a different part of the state of Pennsylvania. And my mom had to take a, an office manager job, which eventually led her to get her insurance agency certificate. But my mom had to go back and finish her GED and that’s all the education she had in her life. And so, she had to fight and scratch and claw for everything that she ever needed to know in order to make a little bit more money. And I grew up in a house where we didn’t even really live paycheck to paycheck. There were some weeks where it was like, well, are we going to pay the electric bill or are we going to buy milk? And I’m not saying we were poor. We were never, we never went hungry. I don’t want to want to over-dramatize it. Um, but there were very lean times sometimes. And so, I think what I got from my mother was, um, a real appreciation for education and for what it takes to move up in the world. And, and I kind of saw that experience and thought, I don’t want to have to decide between electricity and milk. And so, what, what is it going to take for me to not live and kind of repeat that, um, and, and take all of the, um, incredible love and support that my mom had for each of us to try to be ambitious. And my mom instilled in me a love of reading and a love of learning. My mom was always learning and loved education. And so, I got a lot of that from her. My dad also contributed to my ambition in a different way. I think that’s probably the big thing that I take from this conversation is: I am ambitious because of both of my parents for very different reasons. Um, my dad built houses and, um, so I’m kind of handy. I know a little bit about a lot of stuff. I can, I can kind of fix a lot of stuff and I’m not, I don’t shy away from bigger projects between what I know and what I can find on YouTube. I could probably figure it out. Right. Um, but my dad worked, God, he worked, um, you know, 15, 16-hour days in the hot sun putting roofs on, he worked weekends and, um, would often have to hire laborers who were unreliable or weren’t as invested in the work as he was. And he scratched and clawed and built himself a pretty successful business and was able to earn an income above and beyond what you might expect for somebody who only had a GED. Uh, and so, uh, interesting isn’t it that both of my mom and dad could not be more different from each other. Like my sister and I, how are you ever married? Right? Um, but that’s just the way it goes sometimes. So, so I think that’s the story of who they were. And I think they both contributed to education and ambition for me in very different ways.

Alyssa:
Um, thanks for sharing. I think this is an awesome question. If you have the kind of team that you want to get to a, a deeper level of understanding about, um, this is a beautiful question to be able to ask.

Joe:
And of course, acknowledging that maybe not everybody has parents, or if you have people on your team who are going through a tough time with parents, who recently lost a parent, the timing of the question might matter. You might want to ask, uh, what did your parents or guardians do for a living? Right? Just to be as inclusive as possible. Uh, but yeah, it’s a fun one. It can lead to some interesting conversations and some depth of understanding about people. And that’s the Camaraderie Question of the Week.

Joe:
All right, folks, remember you can get original videos, encouraging messages from me, subscriber-only access to our training and events, breaking news, and more by signing up for my twice-monthly Boss Better Now emails. They are free and we never sell your info. It’s just another way that we try to achieve our mission of filling workplaces with better bosses to sign up and get all that good stuff in your inbox. Just visit BossBetterNow.com.

Joe:
All right, Alyssa, we’re going to wrap up today, uh, with a story and a clip. Sorry for the little delay on our, our jingle there. I just, wasn’t finding the button. Um, I wanna share with our listeners and we’re going to end our episode with this today. Cause it’s, I hope it’s stuff that really gives people a moment of pause, um, on becoming a better Ally. So, we launched our Boss Better Leadership Academy, um, coming up on a year ago now. And one of the things that we knew was going to be essential for that recurring every month you get a piece of leadership content subscription, um, was content around diversity, equity, and inclusion. What bosses must do to create equitable and inclusive workplaces. And so, we were very thoughtful about how to kick off that content. And so, we created a, uh, very short, micro-course video. Um, that’s only about 12, 13 minutes long of me sharing my story about how I encountered, uh, privilege for the first time, uh, early in my adult life. And then we used that to talk about some of the different ways leaders can show up and create more equitable and inclusive workplaces. So, I leave you this week with this clip from me, which includes a story about becoming a better Ally. Enjoy.

Joe from Recording:
21 years ago. I got my first full-time, grown-up job. After college, I accepted a full-time position in the residence life department at a large public university in the Midwest. At 23, I was the youngest and least experienced person on staff. And so, from the start, I just tried to listen more than I talked and learn from everybody around me. And things were going pretty well for the first few weeks as I settled in and got to know my colleagues. Near the end of the summer, at a staff meeting, we started discussing the diversity training (that’s what it was called back then) that was coming up in a few weeks for the student workers returning to campus. We were exploring what kind of experience we wanted to facilitate for them when I decided to chime in. “I think that what we should really aim for with this exercise is to help students understand and acknowledge that, on the inside, we’re all the same. For me, I try not to see color. It doesn’t matter.” Instantly everything in the room seemed to freeze. My comments hung in the air for a moment as if suspended above the table. Among my colleagues were two black women, a Latino woman, and a Vietnamese man. It was as if I had thrown cold water on everyone where they sat. I was confused. I thought that what I had just shared was virtuous, kind. I thought I was showing up in the most just way that a person can. Seated on my left was Leah. She was the most senior hall director and the sort of de facto leader of our staff. We hadn’t talked much. I didn’t know her well at that point, but I vividly remember her turning her chair to face me and then scooching forward. And what she said next, I’ve never forgotten. “Joe, I appreciate where you’re coming from. What I want you to know is that I’m Puerto Rican and that’s a huge part of who I am. If you try not to see color, then you’ll never see me for who I am and what makes me me.” “Oh.” “And Joe, we are not all the same. My heritage, and my culture, and the experiences I’ve had every day as a Puerto Rican woman are very different from the experiences that you’ve had in your life so far.” Her words were dripping with kindness. It was like she was teaching a child and she was. I don’t remember what else was said or what happened after that. But I remember feeling naive and embarrassed at my own ignorance. Later that year, between the two semesters, our whole staff went on a one-day team retreat. We used a church basement for the meeting, which had couches and recliners and big pillows set up for a comfortable day of working together. We were in the middle of an exercise that required us to share some of the more formative experiences we had growing up. ResLife staff love to sit in circles and share. Jason had become my closest friend on staff, and he began talking very candidly about when he realized that he was a different race than his parents. Jason was a Vietnamese orphan adopted by white American parents and brought to the US as a baby. He talked about hearing racial slurs as early as elementary school. He talked about grown adults speaking to him and about him differently because of how he looked. On and on, he went. He described meeting the parents of his students in his residence hall during move-in just a few months back and repeatedly being asked if he was a ‘foreign student’. He said it took his own parents a long time to understand their privilege and that he admittedly resented them for it at times. “Hold on a second, Jason, what do you mean by privilege?” I had never heard that term before. Jason said, “Well, Joe, because you’re white, you don’t have to endure a number of things that nonwhite people have to deal with on a regular basis. That’s a privilege.” “Like what?” “Well, for one thing,” he said, “you’ll never wonder if you were pulled over because of the color of your skin.” “Well, I guess that’s true, but as long as you’re not doing anything wrong, you’re not going to get pulled over in the first place.” My colleagues in the room, who don’t look like me, laugh. Then Jason asked me a question, “Joe, we’re the same age. How many times have you been pulled over?” “Once, by last count.” “I’ve been pulled over 19 times and I never ever speed.” When Jason said that I was shocked. “Why were you stopped?” He laughed and said, “DWA. Driving While Asian.” All the other people of color in the room laughed, but only a little. Jason then went around the room, asking everyone else there how many times they’d been pulled over and for what reasons. The experiences of the black and brown people in the room were very different than my white colleagues and I. They told stories of being stopped, interrogated, asked about drugs, even handcuffed for no reason. They talked about all the hard lessons they had to learn about where to drive or not drive or with whom and when. And these were all things that I had never had to think about before. For the next hour, they told dozens of stories of everyday life as a person of color in the US they described being ignored and restaurants being, uh, followed aggressively by security while shopping and even being detained for shoplifting with no evidence. There were stories of being denied loans, or credit, or promotions despite being qualified in every way. For the first time in my life, I started to understand that some of my colleagues and I lived in different worlds. I left there stunned by the safety and justice and the assumption of good intent that I had enjoyed my whole life. In the 20 years since then, I’ve worked to better understand and acknowledge my own privilege and bias. I’m a straight, white, middle-aged, middle-class, cis-gendered, non-disabled American. I check the box for every majority group. And so, every one of those descriptors is a bubble that leaves me unaware of what many others, who aren’t like me see, and feel, and experience every day. Every one of those descriptors grants me power and privilege, much of which I’m not even fully aware of. I’ve made a promise to try and become a better Ally and advocate. After all, how can I go out into the world and create a safe workplace for people from all walks of life if I don’t commit to understanding the very real experiences and differences of others? And that of course brings me to you. By virtue of this leadership academy subscription, I’ve made a promise to help you boss better. I’ve promised to help you show up as the kind of leader who knows how to meet the complex, emotional and psychological needs of your people. In order to keep that promise, we must engage in an ongoing conversation about creating equitable and inclusive workplaces. But I know that for some of you, these will be hard conversations. I know that you might object to the framing of an issue or some of the topics we explore. If that happens, I want to invite you to reach for a habit and a mindset that might be the single most important tool a boss can have curiosity. If you can seek first to understand, even in the face of disagreement or discomfort, you might uncover insight and perspective your employees desperately need you to have. Because right now, there are people on your team who are suffering. Many are doing so in silence and have been for a long time. I’ll invite you to try to be open to what’s to come. For now, I want to leave you with four behaviors that I’ve tried to adopt on the advice of those from underrepresented groups on how to be a better Ally. First, when social justice issues or events, feature prominently in the news, don’t act as if nothing is happening. For some folks on your team, it can’t possibly be business as usual in the face of fear or pain. If your interactions don’t acknowledge the very real, very traumatic circumstances of what’s going on for some members of your community, you’re not caring for them properly. Plus, you’ll come off as sheltered and tone-deaf. Second, don’t ask people from underrepresented groups, how they’re doing in the face of national news or trauma. I know that sounds weird to say, but despite being well-intentioned, it just demands that people describe the impact that everything is having on them. The truth is when things are happening, you already know how they’re doing. They’re struggling. So instead say this, ‘Hey, I can’t imagine what you’re going through. How can I support you?’ Third, don’t ask someone from underrepresented groups to teach you what you should do or say to be a better Ally. It’s not their responsibility to do the work of filling in your educational gaps. People have been speaking and writing on these topics for decades. So, use Google, read books, watch videos, do the work yourself. And finally, don’t stay silent for fear of saying the wrong thing. Allyship requires speaking up, but it also requires trial and error and failure. Check-in on your team, acknowledge burdens, and adjust as needed to support individual employees. But most importantly, listen more than you talk, pay attention to the stories shared by those who aren’t like you, and try to reflect deeply on your own blind spots. Remember, there is no more important job for you as a leader than keeping your people safe. These conversations, and the ones to come, are an important component of doing just that. I look forward to doing this important work together.

Alyssa:
This show is sponsored by Joe Mull and Associates. Remember, commitment comes from better bosses. Visit JoeMull.com today.

 

 

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