Mo: Hello, hello, hello and welcome to this week’s everyday inclusion and belonging where we chat about everything, diversity, equity, inclusion and belonging under the sun.

I hope everybody is OK. It has been a wild couple of weeks. A wild couple of months everybody. I hope you’re staying safe and staying sane and all the things.

As it is, we are all in this together. I’m super excited to be joined by TaChelle Lawson and we’re going dig in and talk about the topic of brand and diversity and inclusion. TaChelle let you introduce yourself, I never do folks justice so tell us about yourself and let’s dig in.

TaChelle: Yes, thank you so much for having me. My name is TaChelle Lawson. I am the president of Big Brand Strategy Firm. I am a proud Las Vegas native an I love everything brand, that’s my world. And then I’m just incredibly passionate about diversity and inclusion, particularly inclusion. Diversity is something we can’t get around right? I’m going to walk out my door and I’m going to encounter someone Asian and Hispanic, someone disabled right? Like that’s a fact we can’t get around that.

Inclusion Is A Choice

Inclusion is something entirely different right. Inclusion is a choice, so you are either choosing to include or you are choosing to exclude, and so really strong brands understand the power of inclusion and they make it a part of their brand strategy and that is what I want to talk about with you today.

Mo: Yeah, so you and I met, actually we’re both certified women owned businesses, and we met in conversation and we quickly started chatting about a lot of the sort of performative kind of stuff that’s been happening by brands and by individuals around diversity and inclusion.

You know, starting I think this year there have been so many opportunities to watch that sort of slow-moving train wreck happen. Some of them, you can just see and it’s like oh no, no, no, don’t say that.

Yeah, so let’s talk about brand an inclusion.

And let’s start at the sort of the big picture. Um, what does that even mean when we’re talking about brand and inclusion, and what does that look like?

TaChelle: So, it’s such a broad, broad topic right when you start talking about inclusion, but when you start to really, really narrow it down, it starts with your core values. It really is. It just starts there. So, one of the things that I focus on when I’m going in and helping a brand either rebrand, develop or just try to get their act together is to look at the core values and say, are the people that are currently employed lining up with your core values?

Core Values In Business

Because I feel like what happens is, and I’ve actually had this conversation many times. Is if I pulled your employee roster right from an average company. I pulled your roster. Most of them are going to satisfy the diversity need, right?

How many of them are going to be in leadership positions? How many of them are going to be in key decision-making positions is another thing, so that’s the diversity component. But when we actually start to look at it from a brand component, how many of those employees actually line up with your core values?

Right, so we’re trying to, we’re trying to tick the marks of making sure that we have enough Blacks and Hispanics and Asians, but if they don’t line up with your values, it doesn’t matter. Right?

Mo: Absolutely and I think even one of the things that we’ll say when we’re working with organizations is say, go take a look at your social media feeds at your about us page at your leadership page. And let’s talk about your employment brand.

You say that we might um, check the box on the diversity. It’s really rare to see that actually, that box checked well for, particularly when we’re talking about the leadership rings and so many people are wanting to change that, which is fantastic. And you change that by aligning what I’m hearing you say right is, then your core values actually have to flow through.

And you know, because if you’re bringing in and remember, diversity is a perspective, right? We’re all a part of diversity. So, if we’re bringing in a cross-diversity spectrum of folks and then putting them in an environment where they all have to act and behave in a way that is inauthentic, and there has to be codeswitching.

There is no point in having that diversity in fact, you’re harming people by putting them into that environment.

TaChelle: Completely.

Mo: So then how do you help you know? How would I know from that core value standpoint TaChelle, that this is that we’re on or off?

TaChelle: It’s having that conversation with the employees right, it’s first defining your core values. What are they? One of the examples I like to give is If I’m impossible meats, I probably don’t want to hire TaChelle because I’m a carnivore, right?

So, we’re immediately misaligned. I may have every other thing that you’re looking for, but that one which happens to be probably the most pivotal to your brand I’m not aligned with.

So, something as simple as that. Now I’m not saying that every employee needs to be a non-meat eater, but I live my life by how much meat I consume in a day. I want bacon, I want chicken I want steak. So, I’m immediately not a good fit, right? And that’s not a bad thing, it’s very important that you are on the same page.

So, my point is, if I am a carnivore and I come in an I have everything else that you’re looking for as leadership, you should tell me look, you’re great, you’re this, but I just don’t think that we are aligned because there’s someone that’s going to come up behind me that will be. So, don’t look at me just as ticking two diversity marks for you, right? Black and woman. Look at it as whether or not I’m going to align with your core values.

Because if you’re looking at it from that perspective, you’re taking care of the inclusion part. This person is going to be invested, they line up with the values, the diversity part is going to come.

If you are really looking at the core values and what this person brings to the table whether that person comes in and is 40 years old or disabled or an ex vet, Black, white Hispanic, they’ll end up with the values. You’re very well rounded and that’s what we speak to.

Mo: And I think when there are a couple of things in there like first define them because I think there are a lot of sort of fuzzy or there are a lot of core values that are on the wall but not really lived.

TaChelle: Or they’ve changed right. As corporations listen, this year alone there has been some changes to some core values. At the very least, there should be right.

I mean, if we’re just being very honest, there should be some changes to a lot of corporation’s core values. So, identifying what those are is key and then making sure not only that you’re living up to them, but that it actually makes sense because you also see people or companies develop core values that make no sense for their organization. It just sounds cool. Well, American Express has this, so we’re going to do this. Well, American Express lives by completely different set of rules.

Core Values Is How We Behave

Mo: Well, I think that’s the thing that where some of the performative stuff can come in. If we’re saying that there’s a core value or making a statement but that isn’t actually how we behave. That isn’t how we make decisions. Your core values are your DNA, and so that’s, I think a lot of the and that can backfire, right? If we’re putting something out there as a core value, and it’s very contrary to how we actually behave.

TaChelle: Exactly the core value ties into your the actual brand, right. How you live your life, how this brand is expressed right? That goes into the promise that you make to your customers and to your employees. That should line up with your core values right. Which means you have to be OK with being held accountable to that promise. And that promise is directly connected to the core values.

It has to speak to the personality of the brand. The core value should determine the voice, the personality. So, the core guys are really at the very center. And again, if we’re looking at those values as the core, like as the actual center of the brand then the diversity part is going to take care of itself.

And then you’ve created a brand that is rich in inclusion. Because this group gets it, their invested right. And you’re you understand that they understand the mission. The goals, what we’re going after.

That is, it’s a beautiful thing when you in it’s very, very few teams that I’ve worked with are that like dialed in as far as like completely lined up with the values, they understand the promise that they’re making publicly right, like when we see these big corporations that are coming out making these statements, I cringe.

Mo: You know there are a couple that seem to be doing it right, and I know who I think there. I would love to hear your expertise on this. You know that that their brand promise and their core values and their living it and it’s all lined up. Can you give us an example so other people can say oh, I can see what that feels like?

TaChelle: I would say, my favorite right now, and this is probably because it’s one of my all-time favorite brands. Which is Disney, right. And it’s not because I’m a Disney princess girl, it’s Disney’s promise right, is to the imagination.

Importance Of Responsibility

Right, so basically just being a kid at heart. Of course, now that I’m talking about it, like their value that I speak all the time is escaping me, but that is at the core of who they are. That is what they hired too. I also find Disney to be incredibly impressive because they owned up to the areas that they were very weak when it came to diversity.

And I think that that’s very powerful. Sweeping it under the rug and pretending like we’ve been getting it right all these years. Is just very weak and it’s also something that consumers we just no longer accept that anymore. We will accept fault if you own up to it and I’m very impressed with the fact that they’ve owned up and said this is something that we need to really get better at.

I’m more impressed with the fact that they have embraced something that I am very passionate about, which is having uncomfortable conversations.

Mo: Yeah.

TaChelle: Right, so I’ve been, I mean I do not call myself a diversity and inclusion expert, that is not what I do, however I have gone through my entire life as a black woman, right. And I have worked in corporations, I’ve worked with some of the biggest brands out there that are not easy to navigate in as anyone, let alone being a black woman, right.

So, I appreciate being able to have very uncomfortable conversations about what some of the black experiences have been, and they’re listening.

That is very impressive to me.

Mo: I’ve seen a lot of companies getting it right this year in terms of really taking a hard look. Doing the listening and admitting we have a long way to go, but we’re committed to doing that. I think that’s very different than the companies that I’ve been seeing doing the performative stuff where they just come out and say, we’re going to have 20% more blah blah blah and then there’s a vacuum around that promise.

That’s the difference that I see is when there’s this bad like all talk, no action. You know here in the West we say big hat no cattle.

TaChelle: Say that again.

Mo: Big hat no cattle.

TaChelle: Yeah, and you’re absolutely right, and so that’s why I say I cringe.

You can tell the difference in the in the companies that are committed, right. They’re saying listen, we knew that there was something off we didn’t know it was this bad.

Let’s commit to the work. We’re making these commitments over the next three to five years to put these systems in place. Have these conversations, they’re not just again going back to what I consider to be a cop out. We’re going to hire more Blacks, we’re going to hire more Hispanics, we’re going to do this. OK, that again takes care of that diversity part. What about the inclusion?

Mo: That’s why I said the slow-moving train wreck, because we’re going to see all this activity around hiring and putting folks into environments where they’re like bye.

So, it’s going to be really, really expensive and really, really harmful to a lot of people. Yeah, so I think that’s that you know the brand that is near and dear to me that I’ve just seen live it, live it, live it and then also do a lot of reckoning this year and work is Patagonia.

TaChelle: I think you mentioned that when we spoke that’s my brand managers favorite brand is Patagonia.

Mo: Yeah, right, because you see the decisions that they make all across the board and now when their talking about inclusion they’re taking a look. They’re taking a look at, you know their product’s, they’ve always looked at their supply chain from an environmental standpoint.

But they’re looking at it now from a diversity and inclusion standpoint. And a piece of this is there are also choices that are being made about where money is being spent, where hurt is being spent, so that’s going back to that core values, right. Like here’s what we’re doing, here’s our mission and we’ll tie back to that.

I want to talk for a second about the difference between when we’re talking about core values and the hiring side of things.

Diversity Is Not Inclusion

I loved your example with Impossible Meat, that would be a great one for me because I try to avoid meat as much as I can. So, I think there’s something, the shift from their culture fit to be because the culture fit you keep hiring people that look the same, so you’re to a culture ad, and so I think it’s taking those core values and mission and making sure that there is both the broad, it doesn’t mean we’re all going to act and look and behave the same way.

TaChelle: No, no, not at all. I could not be more against that mindset.

If my life depended, I could not be more against it, and so that’s what I think the beauty is. If you’re actually looking for the diversity, like let’s dial that in a little bit more. The core values is the basis, right? But if 10 people come in just like Mo, you don’t need to hire all 10, right?

So, if TaChelle comes in and let’s pretend for this argument sake, I don’t eat meat, I do, but let’s pretend I don’t eat meat. Look, I’m a steak and red wine girl steak and bourbon, that’s my life. Should have married a cowboy.

My thought is, so if I come in and I actually not a meat eater, we’re probably set to be a pretty kick-ass team because just in this conversation our personalities are polar opposite, but we’re lined up on those values and that is the power. It’s the values that sets the tone, but we don’t need a bunch of mini me’s right. Like that’s very weak.

You want the diversity in mindset, you want diversity in experience you want diversity in culture. All of those things will take care of themselves, that does not mean that all of the core values.

Because we come from different backgrounds doesn’t mean that we can’t align on the on the core values of the company.

Mo: Yeah, excellent. Give me one, two, three things, start with the core values, other things that I can do as a brand and even as an individual in my own brand around inclusion.

TaChelle: I would say my favorite right now is having those really, really uncomfortable conversations. I feel like every one of us has our own stage. We all have our own platform to be able to speak to opportunities to bring awareness around inclusion. So, I’ll give a quick example. It’s a little crude, but it’s the point will be made. So, about a year and a half ago I started wearing my long locks.

Words Actually Wound

I posted a picture, I just done my hair red and someone, this is on my Facebook someone actually commented. Now this is a woman I used to work with in a leadership position, commented and said, oh, I like it as long as it doesn’t smell.

An I said what the hell is she talking about like that was weird.  So, some of the comments that came in were pretty aggressive. I DM’d her and said, have you ever been around someone with dreadlocks? And she said no. I said so, let me ask you this can I assume that you smell because you’re about 60 pounds overweight?

She was incredibly offended. I said, you understand my point, I’ve also heard that people that are overweight smell.

So, if you’ve heard that people with dreadlocks smell, and I’ve heard this, we’re both just going around with false truth spreading a bunch of this nonsense, right. So, be mindful that words actually wound.

Mo: They have the power to bring us together or rip us apart.

TaChelle: And so that to me was an opportunity for me to say yeah, no, that is not acceptable. Here’s an opportunity for you to also learn something. Be mindful of what you’re saying. You lead teams, which led me to believe oh my God, I hope no one on her team has hair like mine.

Mo: Right, right, you know it’s interesting that just today I was just in another conversation and we were talking about black women and hair and the microaggressions around that. I was in a conversation yesterday around gender identity and gender-neutral pronouns. But in all of that was around language and actions.

Flip The Conversation

Yeah, there’s so much in this, where a flip the script is such a powerful thing to do. Would you say that? Would you do that to somebody that’s in the dominant group? Or like another coworker or somebody that you know, like flipping that script like, would you say that to Bill about his hair? Or about his you know bald head, or you know, like that flip the script is so powerful and the willingness to go there.

Right, and have that conversation because inclusion is folks that are a part of this series know.  Inclusion is messy and it’s hard.  If everything feels really easy, people are stuffing some stuff down, and because we’re never going get it right all the time, we’re going to make mistakes. We’re going to say things, we’re going to do things, and it’s the trajectory of positive change an all of us staying curious and engaged. And willing to go there.

Not willing to just leave that comment out there.

TaChelle: No, absolutely not. And the thing was it was very important to me like, this this is not coming from a place of malice. I honestly don’t think about your weight or what you eat or anything, but when you make statements like that, right? Like it leaves it open for anyone to make a statement about something that is just first of all, unnecessary.

Mo: Or to start believing that.

TaChelle: or to start believing that truth, sure.

Which is probably even worse, especially considering she has never even been around anyone with this hairstyle. But I think that the uncomfortable conversations is probably my absolute favorite right now. Because I think it has the most power to drive real awareness, right.

So, I’ve had a couple of conversations around what it looks like to have those conversations. Because like you said, they’re not always comfortable.

And I like to compare it to women who do uncomfortable things on a regular basis, right? Like we do things to ourselves all the time. Tweezing, waxing, plucking, spanks, high heels, like we put ourselves in uncomfortable situations every single day. Having an uncomfortable conversation will run in the other direction, like in those high heels, in the spanks, it went like we’ll run.

And I’m saying embrace it because that has so much power. Do we really want to go through another twenty, forty, fifty years like the last? I would hope not. And it only changes by us getting uncomfortable, having those conversations, and knowing that it’s done out of love, right? Like I believe in tough love, but it’s still love.

Mo: Yeah, I think when we think about what we’re trying to do is see each other’s humanity, move forward, get better. There is something that gives me hope right now and that is I’m seeing more white women being willing to give up the privilege of comfort.

Because comfort is a privilege.

TaChelle: It most certainly is.

Mo: Engaging in these conversations and not putting it on the people from underrepresented groups to be the ones that are starting those uncomfortable conversations or engaging right. To lean into it versus run away from it.

TaChelle: Very well stated Mo, very well stated.

Mo: Alright, leave me with one last truth bomb around inclusion and brand.

Core Value Truth Bomb

TaChelle: I’m going to have to go with my favorite and that is to remember inclusion is a choice.

Right, it is a choice. You are either choosing to make someone feel included or to exclude them. There is no in between. It is one or the other right? So be mindful of your actions and be mindful of how segregated and how isolated some groups actually feel. Or just labeling of someone.

I can’t tell you how many times I’ve been labeled angry simply for calling behavior out, right? I’m sure I don’t have to tell you because just being a woman you get you get called a bitch or for being to the point, right? I get called angry. And we had this conversation we did right. Like you get, you get to be a bitch and I get to be angry.

Either way it’s not OK for us to be labeled for speaking up on something that we feel is the right thing, especially when you’re doing it on or doing it in the best interest of a company. You’re doing in the best interests of a brand, right? You’re doing it in the best interest of your teammates, of colleagues, or just in humanity like we all have a responsibility to be our absolute best.

Right, so inclusion is something that we need to be very, very mindful of, and know that we’re choosing to make someone feel excluded.

Mo: I love that. Inclusion is a choice, anchor to brands, have those tough conversations so many so many fabulous truth bombs that you dropped TaChelle. Appreciate you joining, y’all if you’re not following her on social media, do that. She and I just connected a couple months ago and already I’m just learning and getting so much great stuff from you so really appreciate it and we will see everybody next week, continue getting out there, choosing inclusion and do the next right thing.

TaChelle: Thank you so much, Mo.


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