Today’s superstar guest is Ginny Clarke (as I like to say, it’s Clark + E for Extraordinary!), Director of Leadership Staffing at Google, former Partner at elite executive recruitment firm Spencer Stuart, host of podcast Fifth Dimensional Leadership, and author of Career Mapping. Ginny is a known expert in diversity recruiting and talent management – NOT because she is a black woman but for her profound understanding of how global talent must be assessed, deployed, and developed in varying contexts for maximum success. It’s not about checking boxes; rather, it’s about fixing the entire talent system! Not only are POC and women underrepresented in most workplaces, but also attrition is highest among those groups as well. We discuss many concrete solutions, including:
- Empowering Chief Diversity Officers with authority to pull meaningful levers to impact change as well as a reporting structure that holds executive leadership accountable. No more window dressing or placing this role within a routine HR function.
- Conducting org-wide talent reviews to see what actual DEI needs are instead of hiring diversity without a baseline and clear objectives. In other words, ready, aim, fire.
- Identifying what competencies are table stakes to sustain organizational culture and which are unique to any given role. Diverse talent does exist to match those competencies, and it either needs to be tenaciously recruited or nurtured internally within a revamped talent management approach.
- Rectify compensation, development opportunity, mentorship gaps, and additional imbalances for POC and other diverse groups.
- Bring grace, empathy, and humanity to leadership behaviors…and rewarding the consistent practice of them.
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Episode 56: No BS Chat on Talent Management DEI w. Googles Director of Leadership Staffing, Ginny Clarke
Shani Magosky: Excellent. Let’s just get right into it. What does it mean to be a specialist, in particular, in diversity recruiting?
Ginny Clarke: Let me explain something, because I think a lot of people don’t understand this. They think maybe because I’m Black, I know a lot of other Black people and other underrepresented individuals, and [crosstalk].
Shani Magosky: Like many things, that would be a naive way to look at it.
Ginny Clarke: It’s very naive. I spent a number of years working in service after I went to business school. I had been a college recruiter coming out of undergrad at University of California, Davis. Then I hit this critical point in my career where my father died, and I wanted to really figure out what I wanted to do because I wasn’t loving being in the commercial real estate industry at the time.
I thought back, “Left breadcrumbs for myself.” as I say in the book, I always loved recruiting, I always loved going on campus, and I had done that for all the companies I ever worked for, even though that wasn’t my job. I love assessing people, I love understanding business issues, and that’s really what executive-level recruiting is. I networked my way into one of the world’s largest executive search firms, as you mentioned, Spencer Stuart. Before–
Shani Magosky: Creme de la creme, baby.
Ginny Clarke: Yes. Before I did anything as it related to diversity, I learned how to do executive-level recruiting. There’s an art and a science, there’s a very clear methodology, people tend to think, “Well, you just go in your Rolodex, you see who you know, you build a network, and you throw them at your clients.” It couldn’t be further from the truth. It’s quite a thoughtful, methodical approach.
Before, I’ve had to remind people this, because they look at me, again, as a Black woman and go, “Oh, diversity. Yes, cool. You.” and I’m like, “Actually, no, I could run circles around you, around, in terms of just executive recruiting. I understand.”
That was a foundation for me to really understand how does this work, what are the nuances, what are the impediments, why is it that more search firms aren’t tapping and placing underrepresented individuals? We can get into why that is. What is the diversity piece? It’s the fact that I understood process, and I know how to identify individuals in the market better than other folks. I’m more resourceful, I’m better networked in many ways. Let’s get clear. It’s executive-level recruiting, first, understanding all the impediments, the nuances, and then you can start going into the market once you understand what the objectives are.
Shani Magosky: Absolutely. Also, let’s be clear that diversity isn’t just people of color, right?
Ginny Clarke: No, no.
Shani Magosky: It’s gender, sexual preference, religion, birthplace of origin.
Ginny Clarke: People with disability, veterans.
Shani Magosky: Probably one of the most important pieces is mindset and filter, how we think, how we make decisions. That is what makes you– To me, that’s what I was thinking when I asked what does it mean to be a diversity recruiter. Meaning, because you see the full picture of a person, not just what their resume says in terms of where they-
Ginny Clarke: That’s right.
Shani Magosky: -worked, “Oh, great, that’s a brand name firm. Oh, it’s a woman, heck. Oh, it’s a Brown person, heck.” All that is superficial.
Ginny Clarke: Thank you. At the core of what I have always been espousing, is competencies. Competencies, to me, they are those things that are portable, they’re those things that allowed me to transition across industries five different times, and across roles and functions six or seven different times. What I was able to do instinctively, was to build a narrative for people and help them connect the dots to say, “Okay, I don’t necessarily have experience doing this thing, but I do have a set of competencies that I have developed by virtue of some of the experiences, and some of which are innate for me.”
Those are the things that I’m looking for in people, those are the things that I talked about in my book, relevant to an individual really needing to understand those things if they’re looking for a job, and as they’re managing their career. To me, that is the most integral ingredient for assessing talent. It’s got to be that, it can’t be just based on where you’ve worked and who you know, and what schools you went to. I’ve met some brilliant people who went to San Jose State, and I met some serious duds who went to Harvard, so we can’t use that as a predictor of success.
Shani Magosky: Absolutely. I just want to share a quick story with you along those lines. When I was a junior person at Goldman Sachs, I’d come in as an analyst, it’s mostly Ivy League, and many, whatever, the East Coast Liberal Arts Schools that are considered Ivy League ask, that’s where they do the preponderance of their recruiting. Then there was me from the University of Miami, and there were a few other people from state schools. There was a guy I worked with from University of Illinois, and what have you, and they had such high expectations of the folks from Harvard, and Stanford, and Duke, and, whatever.
Not to say that all those people weren’t successful, a lot of them were, but making the assumption that they were going to be more successful than people who came from a private, but not Ivy League school, like Miami, or a public state school, couldn’t been further from the truth. It’s like us, those of us– we had to work harder almost to prove ourselves, and once we did, the mindsets of some of the people who were actively recruiting, even in the HR function, were changed. I felt really good about helping them change that mindset, because they were like, “You know what, you work your ass off, and we need to hire more people like you who are scrappy.” What’s the word today that they use in– There’s even a book, grit, we had grit.
Ginny Clarke: Oh, grit, yes.
Shani Magosky: That’s a thing today. We had grit before we knew grit was a thing.
Ginny Clarke: That’s right.
Shani Magosky: That’s what made us successful, because we had competencies, tenacity, and not being entitled that other people didn’t have.
Ginny Clarke: Thank you. That’s right. Thank you. That’s so true. Now, just a pivot, and you might not be ready to go here, but I’ll take us there for just a second. You’re talking about some of these underdogs, right?
Shani Magosky: Yes.
Ginny Clarke: That Goldman Sachs, example. Layer in being African-American, or Latino, or, some other difference. I’m bringing up Black in particular, because of the historical, discriminatory behavior that’s been exhibited in this country. In my case, yes, I’m a fair-skinned Black woman. People even have said things like, “Oh, you have green eyes, you’re not really black.” I’m just like, “Wow, that’s downright ignorant.”
Shani Magosky: I get that you don’t look Jewish thing all the time, so I get it, but yes.
Ginny Clarke: Right. At the end of the day, people would see me, and I no wonder if I wasn’t where I was by virtue of some special program. I show I’m six-feet tall, I unnerve people with my height sometimes, so I spent a lot of my life trying to make other people comfortable, but still, I need to show up as evermore competent. There is this, as George Bush once said, and the only time I quote him, “Soft bigotry of low expectations.” Where people look at you and go, “Oh, you’re here. That’s great, but actually, we don’t expect as much from you.” There’s all kinds of micro and macro aggressions that still exist in the workplace for folks.
Shani Magosky: I’m going to go out on a limb and ask you a provocative question. What’s the worst micro or macro aggression you’ve ever faced in your career?
Ginny Clarke: There have been a few, quite a few if I– You know what? I’ve stuffed a lot of them down, but something that came to my memory more recently was, and I’ll say where I was at the time, and it’s not an indictment against this firm, but I was at Spencer Stewart, I was a partner. I was having a meeting with a more junior recruiter who happened to be Latino, and a researcher who was Filipina. We were talking about financial services, we were all in the financial services practice, and we were in a huddle room and that’s what we were talking about.
One of my colleagues walked by and stuck his head in and said, “Hey, what is this? A conspiracy?”
Shani Magosky: He thought he was being funny?
Ginny Clarke: He thought he was being funny. I was so stunned. I frankly don’t even remember what I said in the moment, but I did go to my office manager when we were at an offsite a few days later, and I told him about the incident, and I said I didn’t want to name the individual. I was really trying to point out to him that this is evident in the culture, and we need to be aware of this. He pressed me to get the name of the person, and I finally gave it up and he goes, “Oh.”
Shani Magosky: Like we all know about him already. We haven’t done shit about it but we know about him already.
Ginny Clarke: Yes, but it told me what I needed to know in terms of dealing with him or not and setting my expectations for how I would be treated, even though I was peer to him in the organizational structure. He somehow felt superior. In his own mind said that but it was clearly and completely inappropriate.
Shani Magosky: Absolutely. Of course, she didn’t mean to make you feel uncomfortable. The reason I’m asking is because people– I want people who are listening and watching to understand what it looks like. I think the more examples that unwitting– In that case, he may not have been on unwitting. I think a lot of people are unwitting, and they say things. I think it’s important for us to point them out, whether it’s the person who felt the offense, who gives the feedback, or someone who witnessed it. I think anybody can step up and give the person feedback and be like, “Hey, I know you probably didn’t mean this, here’s the impact of your words on me just so you know for future reference.”
People don’t know what they don’t know, and part of it is programming.
Ginny Clarke: I recall that I did approach the guy after I composed myself, later on, that day I did go on and say something directly to him. I got the usual oh, I was just trying to be funny. I knew better.
Shani Magosky: That’s the thing. The guy like that, if he doesn’t understand that it wasn’t funny after you told him it wasn’t fucking funny, then he’s got work to do. I think a lot of people would be mortified to hear that they unwittingly committed an aggression like that.
Ginny Clarke: He didn’t seem that upset, actually. He told me everything.
Shani Magosky: He gets the Heisman now.
Ginny Clarke: [laughs] The stiff arm, that’s right.
Shani Magosky: I have football on my mind because I am doing day one of a three-part virtual leadership retreat later this afternoon. One of our icebreakers for today was I asked everyone to show up in a t-shirt or a jersey from their favorite sports team, and of course, mine’s going to be University of Miami football, I have football on the brain.
Ginny Clarke: Nice, I love that.
Shani Magosky: [laughs] All right. Let’s talk about these competencies, because that is the key to identifying great talent of any shape size et cetera.
Ginny Clarke: That’s right.
Shani Magosky: What’s the best way that you would advise a leader to suss that out.
Ginny Clarke: At Google and at Spencer Stewart and every place I’ve ever worked in my book, I really tried to articulate and come up with a list. Google, we have a list of I think there are as many as 19 different competencies. We don’t expect people to have every single one, but we want, for example, the hiring manager, the leader to be able to say there are four or five that are non-negotiable, that are four or five that are table stakes, that anybody I bring in my organization is going to have, but then there are another four or five that are unique to this role where I need this individual to be able to offer me proof points.
The competencies are about behaviors. People tend to think it’s interchangeable with skills, and skills, yes, that’s fine, but I think skills are a little bit more discreet. You can have a skill as a welder, that’s your skill. Arguably, there’s a competency, but I’m looking for things that are a little less tangible here so that we can really think of them as deconstructed elements of things that you have done. For example, one of the leadership competencies that we talk about is operating in ambiguity, aspects of problem-solving. We want to know how people think. What would you do in this situation. There are hypothetical scenarios that we would offer during an interview, or give me an example of a time when you had to confront X Y Z, not just, “Did you do it.”
Shani Magosky: Absolutely.
Ginny Clarke: Those are just a couple of things that we’re real intentional about, and even to the point of arming the other panel interviewers because someone comes in at the senior level, they’re going to meet with four, five, six however many people over time, and we give the interviewers questions, these competency-based questions so that everybody is getting feedback that is as objective as possible to be able to make the most objective decision.
Shani Magosky: What it sounds like you’re saying is behavioral-based interviewing with targeting specific competencies and getting them to tell you– Getting people to tell you about their experiences or what they would do so that it shows you how they think is so much more important than are you a team player? Well, of course, everyone’s going to say yes, not no, tell me about a time you ran a team that had conflict? How did you handle it, or whatever.
Ginny Clarke: Yes, competency, you just said the keyword, it’s a small word. I don’t know if you realize that you said it, it’s how. How? That’s why I want tom know. When I’m on that, I also lead and created an internal mobility program for Google senior leaders. When I started I was brought in to lead diversity and then they said, “Would you create this internal mobility program?” which means I’m helping certain senior leaders find other roles within Google.
As part of that, my team and I will essentially coach them on, let’s look at your relationships, let’s look at before we’re putting them with other recruiters and other leaders to explore particular opportunities.
We want to make sure that their narrative is tight because a lot of them might have been here for a while, and they don’t really know how to talk about themselves in a way that is constructive. It’s like oh, well, they know me. It’s like no, you’re actually competing with external talent. You might want to allow us to work with you and it’s been so gratifying to see so many of them go oh, it’s the how, that’s what you’re wanting me to tell you, not just that I did it.
Shani Magosky: Setting them up for success with the people so that the people in their new world don’t go oh, gosh, he’s from whatever functional area, he’s from X he can never work out here in the real world.
Ginny Clarke: Or conversely, oh, I know him, and I think he’s a good guy. Let’s bring him on over. It doesn’t work because he actually doesn’t have the real competencies to do the role, especially in the senior ranks.
Shani Magosky: For sure.
Ginny Clarke: We tend to think people are a little bit more fungible, if somebody’s a general manager, and that can work really well. Certain people have those capabilities. At Google, for example, we tend to be a lot more siloed. We tend to like specialists and domain experts who are narrow and deep. It can be hard to convince somebody that you have the range to go across a couple of different domain areas. These competencies can help bridge that gap. I think the onus is on the individual to convince the hiring manager that they have those competencies.
Shani Magosky: Yes. I want to take a little detour off of something you just said and then get back on track, which is narrow and deep versus broad. I just love your opinion on that, because that’s actually something I talk to clients about a lot, especially those who are considering or in the process of changing careers.
There was an article, I want to say in The New York Times late last year, are you a tiger or roger. Meaning Roger Federer or Tiger Woods, and it was Tiger Woods grew from the time like before he could walk, he had a golf club in his hand, and that’s all he ever did. Narrow and deep golf versus Roger Federer was a broader-based athlete before he decided to pursue tennis. I’ve used that are you, Roger or Tiger. Just in your role, is one better than another, or does it depend?
Ginny Clarke: Organizations need both, but each organization should be deliberate about when they’re structuring it, what are they looking for, particularly the higher up you go, to me, the broader you need to be. A lot of companies suffer from having domain experts become leaders, because they’re domain experts, but they’ve neglected a big chunk of the capability set or competency set, which is leadership. It’s almost assumed, well, you’ve achieved, you’re such a deep subject matter expert, you’re so smart, surely you can figure this leadership thing out. That is just ridiculous.
Shani Magosky: Yes, it is.
Ginny Clarke: It’s risky. You’re setting yourself up for difficulty by not having super strong leadership. The breadth that I’m talking about is really around those leadership capabilities, in addition to subject matter expertise. Now, to the extent that you’re going for even broader general management capabilities, again, I think that there’s plenty of room for that.
My concern, I’m going to flip it a little bit, because I want to make sure that an organization is optimizing the people that it has. I would think you’re leaving money on the table, quite literally, to the extent that companies haven’t done thorough enough talent reviews, to know that an individual, and again, I’m talking at the senior level. The numbers aren’t huge, but at Google, there’s 4,000 senior leaders out of 120,000 people. That sounds like a big number, but in the grand scheme of things, it’s a very small elite group. We should know, we should be doing succession planning, we should be doing talent reviews for all of those folks, to be able to say this one needs development to get greater breadth to be more of service to the company, and importantly, to address that individual’s goals and objectives.
Maybe they don’t want to be too much of a generalist. They want to stay narrow. You’ve got a lot of engineers and technical folks who love that narrowness. Keep them doing that. Are they ready to be real broad leaders in that narrow band? Fine, if not make them an individual contributor, but understand what the capabilities are and the expectations as they align with the needs of the organization.
Shani Magosky: Absolutely, gosh, it needs to be a Venn diagram of what the company needs, what the individual is good at, and what they want to develop. The sweet spot is in the middle. Too many companies just say, “Oh, well, we need to move a chess piece here, and this person gets pretty good reviews, we’re just going to move them to Tokyo, or”.
Ginny Clarke: Yes, and it’s not done deliberately. We use, I’ll name a name, we use Korn Ferry as one of our partners in doing assessment work. We have someone who used to work there on our staff at Google, who is an IO psychologist, who really understands and can dig in on what are the organizational needs, and how are we assessing these individuals in a really, really rigorous way?
Shani Magosky: Yes. Actually, I was going to ask that question. Good. Now we’re getting back on track with the assessment thing. Thank you. What would you recommend to– Big companies like Google can afford to hire the Korn Ferries of the world. Small, medium-sized businesses, not necessarily. Are there any assessments that you really like in your experience that you think those companies can use in their talent management process?
Ginny Clarke: I’ll just I’ll throw it out because I use this in my book for individuals. Its strengths finders. There are a bunch of them out there. Find one that seems to resonate with the nature of your business, and use it. Strengths finders has a library of 35 different strengths. They’re along with competencies. They’re synonymous, in this case.
Shani Magosky: Absolutely.
Ginny Clarke: I don’t know that there is granular for particular functions as you want them to be. They’re more psychometric. I’m not a psychologist either. I would ask around and see what you’re looking for, but the main thing is, there are plenty of, I’m forgetting the institute. Center for Learning. There are lots of corporate resources out there for small to medium-sized businesses to be able to get their hands on this stuff. Literally, you could Google it, and you would be able to find– I know, it’s such a burden.
Shani Magosky: Its so cool to work at Google and tell people to Google it.
Ginny Clarke: You get my little home device over here didn’t just say, “Can I help you?”
Shani Magosky: I know, it’s so true. Hey, Google. Hey, Alexa. Hey, Siri. I know, anytime you meet someone with those names?
Ginny Clarke: Oh, see? Yes.
Shani Magosky: So funny. Now, let’s bookend this process we’ve been talking about of recruiting and talent management and so forth. On the one hand, we got to look before that at where does diversity, again, not just people of color, but diversity of thought, diversity of everything, where does that fall in the fabric of the culture? Is it in the C-suite, or is it like a low-level HR, mid-level HR function? I [crosstalk] we’re going to have a juicy conversation. I guess maybe let’s put it in the context of, where does a chief diversity officer really belong in an organization, and how can that help companies really take this more seriously than they have in the past?
Ginny Clarke: Yes, I’ve done a lot of Chief Diversity Officer searches, and I know a lot of people who serve in that role. I know and admire and very close to Google’s chief diversity officer. I’m going to be a little provocative here. Regardless of the individual, please hear me, this is not an indictment against any one person or the role itself. My concern is that in many organizations, the C-suite uses that function, that role, that office or Center of Excellence, as a crutch, and arguably with HR, because a lot of those Chief Diversity Officer roles report in through human resources. Sometimes there’s a direct report and relationship into the CEO or the COO, and all those things are fine. You can argue that, “Oh, well, I have access to the CEO and it’s embedded.”
The structure doesn’t matter, unless leadership is walking the walk. I fear that people are falling back on this term of culture, and it becomes this disembodied entity that no one is actually responsible for. I just want to make sure, regardless of where that chief diversity officer is sitting, that they understand what the true levers are, meaning, who are the most important individuals in an organization, what are their behaviors, and they’re able to influence some of their behaviors. That’s what a culture is. It’s an amalgam of the behaviors of the leaders of the organization.
You can walk around and say, “We have this wonderful culture, where everybody is respectful and loves each other,” but if you’ve got people in your organization who are doing not so cool things, not so cool things to people, then you’re kidding yourself. You’re in denial about this culture, because the culture is you.
Shani Magosky: Yes, and all it takes is one employee. All it takes was one barista at a Starbucks to deny the bathroom to a Black patron, and it exposed an attire culture, and then they are still actually paying for that, if you will, and trying to right the wrong and all that stuff. It just takes one person.
Ginny Clarke: That act is symbolic of what is actually at the core of the culture. That’s what we, “Oh.” People clutch their pearls, like, “Oh, my God, that happened here?” It’s like, I see it, hear it, observe it, I don’t want to say daily, but frequently enough to know that yes, there is this insidious culture,” and it’s comments like that former colleague from years ago, made that you just have to stop, you’ve got to call it out, and you can’t allow it at some point. You don’t tolerate it. They can’t be in your organization. You say, No, you get rid, you excise the cancer. You get rid of that toxicity.
Shani Magosky: Yes, absolutely. That’s another definition of culture that I like, is what leaders tolerated themselves and others.
Ginny Clarke: That’s right.
Shani Magosky: Companies that the CEO gets caught doing something, and the companies that are like, “No, out.” They’re making a statement, they’re like, “We’re not going to tolerate this at the CEO level, and so we’re not going to tolerate it at the IC level anywhere.
Ginny Clarke: Isn’t it a little amusing to you now that we’re seeing a rash of those kinds of actions by companies? They’re getting rid of this person or that person that does something wrong. They’ve been here for 20 years, and all of a sudden, they’ve been behaving this way, and now you’re getting called out on your own blasts, so you’re going to act. Okay. All right. Cool.
Shani Magosky: That’s kind of the difference between some people and others, is that some people got caught, and others didn’t, or just the mindsets, I want to say finally shifting. Let’s hope it’s shifting, like I said at the very beginning, more long-term rather than this is another flavor of the month type of anti-racism wave.
Ginny Clarke: It’s early to tell, but the conversations are different, and I’m relentless within Google of saying, “Look systemically. Don’t make this a knee-jerk reaction.” Let me explain why this has been happening. You need to understand why before you start trying to throw a solution at it. Understand the history. Understand the root causes of why this has been tolerated for so long, and why you were complicit in it. This isn’t about shame, but this is about, if we’re all smart people trying to fix a problem, then let’s start by analyzing it for all that it is, no matter how uncomfortable that might make you.
Shani Magosky: Yes. Absolutely. Speaking of analyzing, that’s a good segue to whether it’s run out of the chief diversity officer’s office or somebody else. How about a needs analysis first before we say, “We need a better diversity strategy.”
Ginny Clarke: No, no. I’m writing something for my own podcast right now. It’s kind of interrupting the regular programming because I’m so compelled to talk more about this stuff. One of the things I’m really calling out is, listen, this needs to be embedded, you know? You can rely on the chief diversity officer to hold people accountable, but the actual individual needs to be, that everyone should be accountable to is to the CEO and to shareholders, and to whoever the rest of the stakeholders are for that particular organization.
You can’t just dismiss this. You can’t shove it at somebody else and say, “This is your problem, go fix it.” This is not an isolation. This cuts very deep, and each individual needs to be confronting themselves on the most profound levels. This is personal, this is emotional. This is not a fix it, throw money at it, and it will be done next quarter or even in two years or five years. This is, “I’m going to behave differently because I have a different understanding about myself in the world and other people in the world.”
Shani Magosky: It takes practice, it takes commitment. I liken it to health. If you suddenly find out you have type 2 diabetes, well, you need to change your diet, you need to change your exercise, you need to probably take some supplements. Until you get it under control, you’re going to have to needle-stick yourself every day and get your sugar levels.
Those changes don’t happen overnight. You don’t suddenly get diagnosed and say, “Okay, I’m suddenly going to do the Paleo Diet, even though I used to eat Captain Crunch for breakfast, a big subway for lunch, and steak for dinner.” I want people to take the scariness away from it and look at it like any other change they need to make. Recognize where they’re off track. “I recognize I was eating like shit.” I recognize that I was committing micro and/or macro aggressions. I recognize I that I don’t know what it’s like to walk around with an identifying skin color that makes me different. I recognize that.
Stop taking the shame out of it, or the embarrassment, or the difficult conversations out of it, and look at it like another change.
Ginny Clarke: Well, it’s funny because I think there’s this sort of deflection where it’s like, “Oh, oh, you’re making me feel so terrible.” It’s like, “Wait a minute, this isn’t about you.” Let’s bring it back to me, and I’m not– Do I have anger and resentment? I’m not going to lie, I do, and it came up for me as in the wake of protest in a way that I didn’t even foresee. I literally was watching a video one morning shortly after George Floyd was killed, and all of a sudden something came up from, like, the depths of my root shocker area, for those of you who know that kind of energetic space, and I just burst into tears.
There was just all this pain and rage from decades of having observed this. My great-grandfather was a slave. My mother worked and grew up in Tuskegee, Alabama. My grandfather walked from Georgia to Mississippi to learn under Booker T. Washington and George Washington Carver. This is in my lineage. I’ve been to segregated places as a kid.
People tend to think, “We’re here, or you, Ginny, you’ve achieved so much, and you have a nice lifestyle and you’re educated, and you have a great job, and you’re an influencer.” Yes, and this is where I come from, and this is what I have had to put up with to get here. I’m not trying to shame you again, but I want you to understand, and understand, and not out of guilt. Don’t just whipsaw and say, “Then let me hire you.” You know? Just to assuage your guilt. That’s not useful to me, that’s not what I’m looking for. What I really want is for people to begin to appreciate, for example, and this is where I heard myself connecting some of these dots, so if we all agree that there has been systemic, institutionalized racism and discrimination against Black people in this country, and we now acknowledge that, for some, some people are acknowledge this, there is a subset, a minority, I’m hoping, that don’t believe Black people are equal, but most rational people understand that Black people are indeed equal in the eyes of God, biologically, intellectually. There’s nothing inferior about our constitution. In fact, if you think about what we’ve been through, you might argue that we’re pretty damn resilient.
All those things being said, now you look into a corporate construct, and you look at the Black individuals who are in those organizations, might it stand to reason that we haven’t gotten as far because of there inequities that are so systemic, and that we might deserve to be looked at. I’m not saying be promoted rapidly against everybody else, I’m never going to purport and suggest reverse discrimination, but what I am saying, look at us through a different lens. Now that you’re acknowledging it on a social level, bring that same acknowledgement into your organization, and say, “Wow, you know, maybe I’ve been holding you to a white norm, a white standard.”
Look at me for all of who I am, and I’m not like you necessarily, but I’m as good as you, or even better, arguably in some way.
Shani Magosky: That’s right. That’s the other end of the bookend, or whatever. Culture starts with the CEO, chief diversity officer can’t be just window dressing. That’s like, first. We’ve got recruiting by assessment, not just checking boxes, right? Okay. Then we’ve got the rest of the talent management process, which is, yes. What kind of development does somebody need, because of what has happened historically, to help them offset that? Is it presentation skills? Is it networking skills? What is it, right?
Ginny Clarke: Post a different manager. This same talent assessment that I’m talking about, you should be doing that for everybody, and identifying the low-performing leaders, because if you’re only assessing your leaders on the basis of what they’ve contributed to the bottom line, you are putting a lot of people at risk. Not all leaders are good managers, not all managers are good leaders, so make the distinction between who’s really leading well, and managing their team well. What kinds of attrition rates are certain leaders seeing? Is there parity? Are people who are of a majority leaving at the same rate as people who are underrepresented? I can tell you, in a lot of companies, there is not parity. You’re seeing more people of color and women leaving at higher rates. Why is that?
Shani Magosky: Because we’re not getting promoted and paid as much as White man.
Ginny Clarke: Well, and who’s making that call at the compensation situations? It is those who’s making that determination. This comes down to a person. Again, we talk in terms of what’s systemic, but we’re not rooting out some of those individual firestarters and those people who are part of that toxicity and that malignant elements that are making this not work for everybody. Do top grading. I’ve talked about this before. For the bottom performing, and it doesn’t have to be subjective. These companies do surveys. They are performance ratings that everybody gets from their peers 360. You have information that’s going to allow you organizations to rate your people. To the extent that you’ve got some chronic bad performers when it comes to people management, get rid of them.
Shani Magosky: 100%.
Ginny Clarke: You can put them through training, but how long is that going to take? To the extent that they don’t meet the expectations, are you going to dock their compensation? You should. If they don’t have any diversity among their team, that’s a problem. Look into that. Again, some of these things need to be tied to compensation.
Shani Magosky: Yes, I agree. Because that’s where the rubber meets the road. You hit people on their wallet, and they’re much more likely to make the change. I hope I’m just writing that down so I don’t forget it in the summary. Then let’s take it even further. Let’s take it into interfacing with customers and supply chain. Do we have diversity in our supply chain? Do we have diversity in our sales force? Do we have diversity in our customer service arm?
Ginny Clarke: It should be everywhere.
Shani Magosky: I wrote about this the other day on social media, I’m like, diversity doesn’t just live in a charge. There needs to be attention paid in every functional area.
Ginny Clarke: I jokingly said, maybe we should just defund HR. What I mean by that is, just get rid of them for a minute and see what happens, because I think a lot of leaders want to make that HR punt. You’re up. Diversity, fix it. You guys fix it, and call me when it’s fixed. No, this is a leadership issue.
Shani Magosky: Well, that’s a typical example of giving someone the responsibility, but not the authority.
Ginny Clarke: That’s right.
Shani Magosky: That’s part of why companies set HR up to fail when they give them big initiatives like this because they don’t have the authority to create the buy-in, or to adjust compensation to penalize or reward or whatever the case may be.
Ginny Clarke: That’s right. It’s not about the numbers. I want to reiterate that too, because I’m getting a lot of, “Well, what should we be measuring? I want to see two Black people and four of this, and let’s count in.” You have to count. I’m not saying you can’t. You have to measure your progress, but it shouldn’t be about, “Oh, I got another one,” because frankly, to me, that feels like now I got a bounty on my head. That’s reminiscent of being chattel again, being on the auction block. That doesn’t feel so good. If I know that that’s why you want to hire me, that’s downright offensive.
Companies need to walk a bit of a fine line right now. It means that they need to really get a lot of people like some of these chief diversity officers, and some of their strongest leaders. By strong leaders, I mean, those leaders who get it, who understand people. At the end of the day, that’s all I’m looking for. I want leaders who are broad, who are self-aware enough, who are non-ego-based, to be able to tap in and get people, all people. Those are the best leaders I’ve ever known.
I don’t care where you’re coming from, what your nationality is, what your race is, what your ethnicity, those things don’t have to matter, necessarily, for you to have empathy, for you to be curious, for you to want to get to know who I am at my core. Those are the best leaders, and those are the ones that are going to have the most diverse teams, and are going to be the most productive and the most effective. It’s been proven time and time again. We know this. It’s been for 25, 30 years McKinsey and others have been writing about how having diversity increases its financial performance, and yet, that’s not enough of an incentive. Now we’ve got all this social pressure, and everybody’s clamoring to get it right. You’ve had quite a few decades to get it wrong, and so you’re not going to turn on a dime, and you need to start listening to different people.
Shani Magosky: Then along with the diversity, goes the psychological safety, which Google re-popularized that term, five or so years ago, with Project oxygen. The best performing teams, what they all had in common was the presence of psychological safety, which means a lot of things. To me, the headline of what it means is that people feel free to be themselves in all of their range, and, even diversity within someone who isn’t diverse. You can fly your freak flag at work and not feel like, you’re going to be penalized or taken off a project, or that sort of thing.
Ginny Clarke: Maybe I’m a little old school, and I get it because I do think that that can be taken too far, that people will take liberties in what they’ll say without regard for someone else. That’s why I use that word empathy, because you can fly your freak flag and say what you want to say, that’s fine, but you are in a broader context. You’re part of an ecosystem where you need to respect and honor other people’s boundaries. I think sometimes–
Shani Magosky: Freak flag within a professional context. Too many people show up at work and feel like they have to act within a box of expectations, and maybe they’ve got this super creative side that they’re afraid to come out, or they’re just afraid to voice an opinion that differs from their leaders because they have a unique experience and that sort of thing. I don’t mean freak flag in the sense of like–
Ginny Clarke: I wasn’t taking it there. I know what you– [laughs] I just want– because I think there are generational differences, too. I’m well over 50. I come from a different generation where the corporate environment it was more rigid, let’s face it. Coming to Google was wonderful. And seeing this open environment, at the same time, I see a lot of millennials who don’t necessarily understand some of what I consider to be just common sense boundaries, but it’s not common. Again, it’s not to them and then so it is generational. There’re just certain things that you don’t bring up. The notion of bringing your whole self to work, there are limits to that.
Shani Magosky: For sure. Again, this reminds me of a story. Everything it reminds me of a story or song. This is mid-90s, again, Goldman, a lot of women in the analyst program that I was in junior level. Even back in the ’90s, it was skirts and dresses, which meant pantyhose.
Ginny Clarke: That’s right, yes.
Shani Magosky: I remember that what the first woman who went out on a limb and took a risk and wore a pantsuit. By the way, sharp, sharp pantsuit, pinstripe, whatever, got berated by a senior woman. I never want to see you wear pants in this office again. It wasn’t that long ago. Just thinking about the generational differences and how far we’ve come did like-
Ginny Clarke: Yoga pants and flip flops.
Shani Magosky: -if we couldn’t wear a pantsuit and now people are wearing hoodies and yoga clothes to work. [laughs]
Ginny Clarke: Not my thing. I have a huge wardrobe that I’d love to resuscitate, but not here, especially not working from home.
Shani Magosky: All right. I think that we have covered a lot of ground today. Is there anything else, is there anything I neglected to ask you that is important to share with the audience of Leadershifters today?
Ginny Clarke: I think I just want everybody to take a breath and just exhale, and let’s get grounded. I get up and meditate every morning. That’s the first thing I’ve done for myself, this morning and every morning. I want people to just focus in on what can you be doing? What can you do? What can you say to someone to express and extend grace, to ask for another level of understanding, to just appreciate and walk in their shoes for just a moment, someone who’s not like you? That to me is where we need to start and get back to some of just a sense of humanity and kindness and goodness and grace. I know that that sounds very airy-fairy, but know that I’m a hard-charging executive from way back. I am a fierce warrior, but at the same time, I understand that this really comes from a deeply personal space. I actually think that’s why we’re encountering this whole COVID situation. Now if I look at it on a meta-level, I believe that the universe is forcing us to go within and to really check ourselves and to get comfortable. I would use this as an opportunity to do that for yourself for the benefit of the organizations that you’re associated with for the benefit of the rest of society and for your families.
Shani Magosky: Yes, it’s like be the change you want to see. Right?
Ginny Clarke: Yes. Be that.
Shani Magosky: You’re so right. It’s like having empathy and treating people with humanity is not weak. It’s actually the ultimate form of strength-
Ginny Clarke: Isn’t it?
**Shani Magosky: -**right? To be able to suspend your own judgments and assumptions and stories, and have empathy for someone you don’t know or don’t know what their experiences have been. It’s a strength.
Ginny Clarke: Yes. There’s so much power in that, and that’s where I derive my power, frankly, and it’s that power over anyone. It’s power and confidence and calm and peace in myself.
Shani Magosky: Yes.
Ginny Clarke: The strength to go on and to say what I say to do what I do for the benefit of my son, for the benefit of others that I care about in my life, and I care about our civilization, I actually do. I know it sounds real– but I think we’re at a critical time where we’ve got to get it right. We need to wake up and understand why this is happening? Go to root cause in yourself and on a meta-level and say I need to be part of this change because it’s going to matter for all of us.
Shani Magosky: Yes, absolutely, thank you for adding that note to the end because that really is the most important thing. A company can do all the things we talked about today and have improved the infrastructure to have more diversity and more acceptance of opinions and all that sort of stuff. We could still have individuals who haven’t done that inner work, and they could spoil the whole soup in the experience, for everybody else. It is critical, leadershifters, and I know if you’re watching this, you do do your own work because so much of what we talk about is getting your own shit together first [laughs]-
Ginny Clarke: I loved it. That’s right.
**Ginny Clarke: -**before you do the rest of it. Well, Ginny, this was such a privilege to have you on the show. Thank you so much for all of your insights. If people want to reach you or get your book, what’s the best way to do that?
Ginny Clarke: ginnyclarke.com. G-I-N-N-Y-C-L-A-R-K-E.com. Book is on Amazon. Podcasts, they are available on all the different platforms, and you can find the listing for them on my site as well.
Shani Magosky: Excellent, Ginny Clarke with an E on the end for extraordinaire.
Ginny Clarke: Ah, you’re so wonderful, Shani, thank you.
Shani Magosky: Thank you, and leadershifters, thank you for joining us today. I hope this was helpful. I know we didn’t exactly go in a linear order but that’s sort of how I roll. I think you’ve got all the nuts and bolts of why this has to start at the senior-most level of the organization, and why it’s not just about window dressing and checking boxes that you have to really do your work. Do the needs analysis within your organization. Change the way you recruit. Get better at assessing competencies and hiring and promoting and developing people based on that and based on where they want to go. Bring it into all the other parts of the organization, and we promise you not just the research out there. We promise you that financial results will improve when you have more diversity of human beings and thoughts and opinions and people are kinder and more empathetic with each other.
With that, thank you for joining us. Until next time.