Branch Out - A Podcast from Connection Builders

An Open Discussion on Diversity – Christine Nowaczyk & Rich Grant

April 26, 2021 Connection Builders Episode 41
Branch Out - A Podcast from Connection Builders
An Open Discussion on Diversity – Christine Nowaczyk & Rich Grant
Show Notes Transcript

Creating an inclusive environment is key to a more equal society as well as success in our business and personal lives too. Here on the show today to discuss the important subject of diversity are Christine Nowaczyk,  Arizona Corporate Banking Executive for BOK Financial, and Rich Grant, Director of Business Development at Northlane Capital Partners. Rich and Christine bring their experiences of being minorities in their work environments to bear and share the ways that they are pushing the conversation about diversity and inclusion forward. We talk about the need for everybody in a team to work together to create an inclusive environment, especially the leaders who have the power to make decisions and hires that shape a company. To this end, they both weigh in on the value of simply being excellent as a way of reinforcing their value to their teams every day. We talk about the idea that diversity is achievable by simply being kind to other people and share some ways that can help us learn to listen to perspectives that are not our own. Our conversation also covers the importance of networking in success and the need to offer everybody equal opportunities to networks that can help them grow and flourish. For valuable perspectives on achieving a more diverse workplace and the professional and personal benefits of this, be sure to tune in today.

Key Points From This Episode:

  • How Rich is being intentional about having conversations about diversity in the workplace.
  • Christine’s thoughts on the value of treating others kindly toward the project of diversity.
  • How Rich sets an example as a Black man in a largely white industry.
  • Christine’s approach to conducting herself and staying strong in a male-dominated world.
  • The value of being good at what you do for encouraging diversity as a minority.
  • Rich’s thoughts on the need for management to be on board with the diversity project.
  • Not employing somebody as a token, but to recognize the value they can bring.
  • The need for upper management to give everybody in the organization a chance to be heard.
  • Different ways of learning how to see things from other people’s perspectives.
  • Creating a safe environment that lifts everybody up.
  • How Rich got to where he is by putting himself in uncomfortable situations.
  • Giving people access to mentors that push them so they can grow.
  • What Rich has learned about the willingness people have to work towards diversity.
  • Lessons Rich has learned about the value of networking for increasing diversity.
  • Normalizing a culture of inclusivity and diversity initiatives.
  • Encouraging diversity is about more than just a wish: It’s about having a plan.
  • Tackling the things that you can control as a way of encouraging diversity.
  • Encouraging diversity through recruitment but also enablement afterward.

Christine Nowaczyk
BOK Financial
Rich Grant
Northlane Capital Partners
Alex Drost LinkedIn
Branch Out Podcast LinkedIn
Connection Builders LinkedIn

Have thoughts or comments? We want to hear from you. [email protected]

[INTRODUCTION]

[00:00:01] ANNOUNCER: Welcome to Branch Out, a Connection Builders podcast. Helping middle-market professionals connect, grow, and excel in their careers. Through a series of conversations with leading professionals, we share stories and insights to take your career to the next level. A successful career begins with meaningful connections. 

[00:00:20] AD: Hey, everyone. Welcome to the Branch Out podcast. I’m your host, Alex Drost. I'm excited to have two amazing guests on here today, to have an open discussion about what diversity means to us. I'm joined by Christine Nowaczyk, the Arizona Corporate Banking Executive for BOK Financial, and a returning guest, Rich Grant, Director of Business Development at Northlane Capital Partners.

Rich, Christine, and I have an open dialogue about what diversity, equality, and inclusion means to us, and how we can affect change in our personal and professional worlds. I hope you all enjoy.

[00:00:52] ANNOUNCER: Connect and grow your network. We are on LinkedIn. Search for Connection Builders. 

[INTERVIEW]

[00:00:59] AD: Rich, Christine, welcome to the Branch Out podcast. I'm excited to have the two of you here today. Jumping in and talking to our listeners for a minute here, for anyone who's been following the show for some time knows that Rich has been on the show before. We did a great episode last summer that was called getting comfortable in uncomfortable conversations. And just speaking openly about this, it was really a time when I was first starting myself to explore a little bit of some of the diversity and inclusion issues within this country. It was after a series of events that opened my eyes up to it unfortunately, and Rich and I started a dialogue around it and said, “Okay, let's talk about it.” I don't think we ever expected it to be such a turning point. But I think for both of us, it was a turning point. There's kind of a series of events that have led us to where we are today and having Christine involved in the conversation here.

With all that said, where I'd love to start our dialogue here is just saying, “Hey, we're going to have a conversation about diversity, inclusion, and some of the challenges that exist today.” But in particular, some of the challenges that exist in the industry that we are all a part of. I'd love to just ask Rich, if you could start with sharing, looking back in the last nine months or so here, we've all had a lot of evolution in our own thoughts, and a lot of learning, what are some ideas that come to mind? Or what are some thoughts that come to mind when you reflect on your journey through this in the last nine months here?

[00:02:27] RG: Yeah. Thanks for having me, back on the show, Alex. And I really, really appreciate talking about this. Because as you alluded to the last nine months, and let's just label it all, 2020 changed media on many different levels. One, professionally. Two, personally. But the two intersect, right? Like that's what I realized last year is the things that are affecting me in my personal life, and that may affect me in my personal life, also have a lot to do with the professional world that I live in. And what I needed to do was, in the past, I spoke about intentionality, in terms of getting to a more diverse workforce, a more diverse way of life. I've adopted that intentionality. I found places where I can directly engage, educate, and at different times, even empower different people in my network, in order to make sure that this conversation doesn't die down.

I also have been humbled to know that I don't speak for everybody who may be on a journey or a path similar to mine, but it costs me absolutely nothing to hear them out. Listen, and then go back and see how I can apply that to make somebody else's life better starting with my own.

[00:03:48] AD: That was so well said. We could probably wrap up recording and call this an episode. Because I think honestly, I say that jokingly, but Rich this idea of personal professional and the blend between and understanding that especially talking to our audience and who our typical listener is, there isn't a clear definition between work and personal. It blends together and the challenges that we face in our personal life or we face in our professional life, really are one in the same. What's interesting, and Christina, I want to come to you with this, is you think about the kind of the need for diversity, the value of diversity, the value of diversity of thought, and being in a diverse room in a diverse workplace, that has a lot of benefits on both personal and professional side.

Do you have any thoughts that you can share around where you see that that line isn't clear? It's very blurry, and where you're, “Okay, I need to make action here. I need to bring change. I see opportunity behind that?”

[00:04:44] CN: Sure. Absolutely. I'm happy to be with you both. You're both terrific friends and have great respect for all that you do. I appreciate you let me coming along on this journey with you as we continue the conversation. But to your question, Alex, I think that there's really nothing more fundamental to our performance as either business people, as parents, as community leaders, than how well we treat and respect each other just as people. That's what it comes down to. It doesn't matter what hat you're wearing, whether I'm a bank executive, I'm a leader within the M&A community, a volunteer, a mom. How we treat, how I treat people, as human beings, is what it comes down to. And being willing to listen to others, being intentional about hearing their perspective makes me better, both in my job and as a person. So, Richard, it's to your point that it blends together.

[00:05:42] AD: Let's talk about that for a minute where I think it's really important. Sometimes we talk about diversity in the theme of the show, and in the segment that we're in right now in our podcast as a whole, is around diversity and inclusion and making sure that we acknowledge and address some of the challenges that exist in our world and in our industry. Where I think all too often, we get caught up in the wrong way of thinking. I'm only speaking from my perspective here. But I know that at times, you kind of say, “Okay, well, diversity is important, so therefore, I need to go learn diversity.” Well, what does that mean? What are you trying to affect? Christine, your point was, so spot on there. If you just treat other people well, if you just respect other people, and try to make the world a better place with interacting with other people, that's really the key to so much of your success, and so much of many parts of success in this world.

Diversity and the ability to accept someone for who they are, to understand the differences exist, and not being judgmental, but rather accepting and open to those differences is the critical element. Now, that's easier said than done, right? That's much easier said than done. And Rich, I want to come back to you and this one, we've talked a little bit about this in our previous episode, but you're a black man in a largely white industry. You have been in a position where you find yourself in rooms, that many people are much different than you. So, you've been forced to be as we talked about being in comfortable and uncomfortable situations. You've been forced to be in those uncomfortable situations. How have you learned to embrace that from your perspective and learn where that helps you as a person to really grow and to accept other people?

[00:07:25] RG: Well, I have to say, and we talked about it before being uncomfortable. Being comfortable in the lack of comfort, I've thought about it more and more, it's to make a sports reference, it's about reps, right? I continue to seek out places that I have not been before. When I last joined you, I was fortunate to be Director of Business Development for a professional service firm. Now, I've transitioned to a new role as a Director of Business Development for a private equity fund, investing in business services and healthcare service businesses. In either seat are not a lot of people that look like me, that come from my background, doing this type of work.

So, what I continue to do is acknowledge that, apply that in my approach and you and I have said it before, I'm always learning. But even when I am the one doing the learning, I can still probably teach a thing or two, in terms of how I conduct myself, what I can speak to as a professional, what I can bring to the conversation that may have been lacking before. And I know that a lot of it is not going to be profound in terms of what I'm bringing to the conversation. But it is impactful, because there are not a lot of folks out there that look like me. And guess what, I've done a great job really being empowered by the actions of 2020, to make sure that I create visibility to what I am doing to those folks. Hopefully, that makes them start off a little bit more comfortable than I started off, because you've seen Rich Grant, go out there and do it.

[00:09:15] AD: You're modeling the behavior that you want others to do as well, which I think is really important. I mean, really, it’s good leadership at the end of the day, but it's modeling that behavior out there. Christine, what do you think about that idea? What do you think about this idea of you have to model the behavior, you have to go out and you may be on the short end of the stick sometimes? You're a woman in an industry that's male dominated, right? I'm sure you've been on the other side of the table. I have no perspective on that. I've never lived through that. But how do you think through that idea if you have to model the right behavior?

[00:09:49] CN: I think you have to not only model the right behavior, but you have to repeat it. It goes to Rich's point about doing reps. You have to do it over and over again so that it becomes routine that it becomes normal. But it's shared loud enough by everybody that it just becomes how things are. It's not an intentional exercise that people just go through. It just is how things become.

I think all of us want to have a very comfortable sense of belonging in the business environment that we're in, in the communities that we're in. To Rich's point, it's up to a lot of us to help ease some of those anxieties that you get, by not being the same as everybody else. So, I do think it takes that repetition, it takes a welcoming environment, it takes many of us as leaders, it's a leadership competency to be inclusive in how we go about our jobs. It's just going to take time to move that needle. But I think if we all act that way, and we change our belief systems, so that it is normal, that's how we're going to move the needle.

[00:10:58] AD: I agree, that's really hard. That's really hard. How do you keep putting in the hard work? How do you find the energy, the momentum? I'll share for our listeners that the three of us sit on a committee together that is focused on this, focused on this very issue. Some of those calls you get done with them and you're just like, “Whoa, I’m drained. It's so much energy.” And then there's so much extra work to put it in, and the work is the emotional work. The processing and thinking through it and doing the right thing. How do you keep that top of mind? How do you keep moving through? And how do you balance all of that?

[00:11:29] CN: Yeah, and I think it was taking a step back, I think being really good at what you do is the foundation for all of this. You need to be confident in your abilities, regardless of your gender, your neuro diversity, your race, we're good at what we do. It's having that confidence to be able to advise people, to serve people, to be a financial professional, adding value to our relationships, that's the foundation and you have that confidence, and you bring that to everything that you do. And then you'll start to move the needle and influence folks because they want to interact with you not because of what you look like or where you came from, but because you add value. To me, the work is on that technical side of things, and then the social aspect of it, the change in culture will come. That's how I have been able to overcome it. I'm effective at what I do, which is why people want to interact with me, not necessarily of how I look. So, I don't think that there's any way to get around the hard work that it takes to be valuable and important within your own industry. So, if that makes sense.

[00:12:44] AD: I think it makes total sense. Rich, what do you think about that? Be confident, be good at what you do. How does that play into you and your journey in all of this?

[00:12:53] RG: Well, something that I think about is if you want to do something and you want to be good at it, you need to immerse yourself in it. I'm a business development professional, right? I need to be really good at a bunch of different things. But one thing I know I have to be good at is what is the value proposition of my organization, what is the goal of my organization, but also, be mindful of the people that I am targeting. What are they looking to accomplish? Can I be an enabler? Can I be somebody that helps them accomplish things?

So, you're absolutely right. You have to be good at what you do also. I say it often, there's no other way to say it. There's nothing I hate more than to see whether it's a woman or a man, black man, or anybody become a token hire, or a token participant in anything. That person that is on there, brings some value, and they should never be viewed as such. That is this something that I feel very strongly about. In order to achieve that, and to normalize participation of women, Latino, Black, Asian, whatever it may be, there's got to be commitment at the top of these organizations, at the top of these industries, at the people that everybody is paying attention to. There needs to be a commitment from that level on down, because without that, things really just live. 

They live on that public statement, or a public condemnation of something, or it's an amendment to company policy, organizational policy, but there's no act to it. Those are the things that I think about when I think about the approach to bringing on people and letting people be good at what they're good at. They're good at that, let them know Christine is excellent at what she does. She's doing it for years. Let her be good at it. The fact that she's a woman, yes, that might make her rare, but the fact that she's really good at what she does, that's probably even more rare. Because those are the people that people want to work with. They're really good at their craft.

[00:15:05] ANNOUNCER: This is Branch Out, a connection builders podcast.

[00:15:14] AD: I think that's very well said, as I hear it, and I'll just kind of say back in my own way of thinking through this. One, it's important to be good at what you do. You have to be good at your craft and you have to have confidence to go in, and that's how you overcome any challenge, right? You have to be good at what you do. I do fundamentally believe at that. To your point, Rich, it's not this idea of of token hires, or plugging someone in just because they fit a box to make the group more diverse. It's a bad way to start. You're putting someone in because they're capable, qualified, and can can do the work.

That said, where I also do believe it's really important is to step back and recognize that what is the work? What does it mean to really be good at what you do? And Christine, you mentioned the technical side, which yes, you have to have a certain level of technical capabilities, but we were chatting before we jumped on here a little bit and Rich, you're jumping into a semi new career, it's tangential to what you're doing. But you don't have deep diverse background in the technical capabilities behind this. But at the end of the day, as a professional, especially once you get to the kind of mid to senior level, it is so much more the EQ skills, so much more the interpersonal skills, finding someone again, like you, Rich, who you don't have the perfect background of a traditional person in your role, but can you figure it out? No doubt. No doubt. Are you capable? No doubt. Do you work hard? No doubt. Are you good at what you do? Are you confident? No doubt.

Stepping back and saying, “I want to build a diverse organization, a diverse group, whatever it might be. How can I find someone to put them in that is capable and qualified to do it? Not because of their pedigree, not necessarily because of their specific experience or specific education. While those things can be important in understanding some of that, at the end of the day, it's really asking, what is the work that needs to be done? And is this person competent and capable in going out and doing that work? Is that a fair statement?

[00:17:09] RG: Yeah. I think that's a perfect statement. Because it there is a commitment that needs to be done on a personal level to achieving success. My friends always make fun of me, because I always equate things back to sports references. In a championship game, you can win the championship. But to even get your shot at that stage, there's a lot of work that goes in that nobody gets to see. They get to see you play for the title, but they don't get to see the work that you've done, to put yourself in position to win a title. That is what goes into professional stakes for many of us. When I say many of us, I'm talking about the women out there in business, who minorities in business. There are all kinds of sacrifices and commitment that they have made to being the absolute best in their particular field. And that is why they have achieved what they have achieved.

Now, Christina, I'm sure you'd back me up on this. While you know, I would love to think of myself and you, you think of yourself as a professional. There are plenty others out there that can do this stuff that we do, that just are completely unaware that this is an option for them. It's not even a glass ceiling. They don't know that there's even a room with that opportunity.

[00:18:30] AD: Awareness.

[00:18:32] RG: And that is something that I think needs to be addressed for us to handle this diversity, equity and inclusion issue.

[00:18:40] AD: Let's peel into that. Christine, let me go to you on that. Let what is awareness? What does that mean to you?

[00:18:45] CN: I'm ready to jump right into the microphone. When we talked about this a little bit earlier too, about mentoring. Okay, so a couple of things. So those of us is leaders that are in leadership positions that can influence cultures within our organization really owe it to everybody that we interact with, to allow them a voice to express their opinions. And it's not us, speaking for them, but it's providing them a safe, comfortable environment for our colleagues, our community members to be able to share their experiences, their backgrounds. I think we talked earlier about providing an environment where we're able to lift others up by giving them that venue to express themselves very freely and without anxiety. I think the other thing that we have to do is be able to separate from fact and fiction and into your sports analogy, Rich. Nobody knows the hard work that goes on behind the scenes. You don't know where someone's coming from to have achieved that level.

So, understanding the situation and knowing what's real and not real and trying to get rid of some of those biases that we all carry with us, they're subconscious but they're there putting those aside and really looking at the facts of a situation are going to help improve things. And then also, looking at a situation, looking at a colleague, looking at a mentee from a different lens, really helps to open up the world of development for folks, providing a safe and encouraging environment for people to do their best. And the way they get somewhere, the way they learn something, that way they achieve something, maybe very different than how I got there, or how I would think of it. But looking at that other point of view, and embracing that point of view is going to help to develop other people.

[00:20:36] AD: It’s safe and comfortable environment that helps lift others up? I think that's really important. And for our listeners, just recognizing that the key to success in this, this goes much more broad than just the diversity side. But I think there's a huge part of this that is baked into some of the challenges around diversity, is you have to create an environment where you give people the opportunity to feel comfortable trying their best and to try new things, and in goes back to being comfortable in uncomfortable situations. In uncomfortable situations, you're going to make mistake. People aren't always going to do it the way you expect them to. People aren't always going to do it the way that you think it should be done. That doesn't mean it's wrong. It doesn't mean it doesn't get there. It doesn't mean you also can't mentor them along the way and help bring some guidance to them. But the key behind all of that is that safe, comfortable environment where you give people that opportunity to shine and to grow. That's fundamental. That's that's really important.

Rich, I'll go to you on this one a little bit here. As you think about this idea of a safe, comfortable environment. Do you look back anywhere in your career where you're like, because I had this opportunity, because I was in a comfortable environment where I was fortunate to be in a place where I was able to explore and to learn and make mistakes, you're able to grow yourself? Or do you see something the opposite maybe where you're like, because I didn't feel this way, it got in the way and it didn't let me achieve and kind of move to that next level?

[00:22:02] RG: Well, as I look back at how I got to where I sit today, it did take getting comfortable in the middle market investing community while I was on a media related side. But like I alluded to before, while my main job might have been related to the media side of the middle market investment community, I made a commitment to becoming a student of the community. Learning the role that a lender plays, that attorneys play, that CPA firms play, and the end game between intermediaries and private equity investors.

So, I worked really hard to get comfortable in that, in order to be able to put myself where I am today. So, my safe place became the middle market community because I was such a dedicated student of the community. But to get back to that point of mentorship, I have a little bit of evolution that I think mentoring needs to take on. I think that mentoring needs to move from a one on one, mentor-mentee model, to more of a community mentoring model. I think that if I had access to a young student, or a young professional that has aspirations to fit into a room that they have not been in before, that there are not a lot of folks like them, the best thing I can do for them is teach them how to network into that room, put them in conversations with the Christines, with the Alex, with the Richs, because that is what's going to help raise that awareness that I alluded to earlier.

Let them know that, “Oh, you would like to pursue a career in this sector, in the middle market investing community, or in the investing community overall? Let me introduce you to my friend here.” And furthermore, you create a level of relatability to people in terms of, I hate to use buzzwords, but trailblazers, but you put them in a room with a couple of trailblazers, they might see a lot of themselves. They might align and manifest path for themselves by having access to the Christines, having access to Alex, having access to Rich.

So, that is what I think about. I am where I am today because of the great business development professionals that I have had access to over the last seven years. They have taken me under their wing without formally taking me under their wing. They have let me be a part of the room. Let me be a part of the conversation. I appreciated that. And I was learning the whole time. I was recording it. It wasn't just happy to be in the room. It was what can I take out of this and where can I take myself forward by being in there.

[00:25:01] AD: Christine, what do you think about that? What do you think about that teaching approach?

[00:25:05] CN: I think that teaching approach is invaluable to our growth. I think the second that we stop learning is when we become irrelevant. You have to be open to learning. You have to be willing to make mistakes and fail, but you also have to be able to learn from those and make yourself better, make the situation better. I think anybody that is open minded that way will continue to grow and morph and take their career or their business to the next level. I think having the courage to surround yourself with people that may have different views than you, may look at things with a different perspective, will only help to make you a much more rounded and effective professional.

I love the idea of having mentors outside of your business. I don't want people that think the same way that I do. And I'll tell you over the years, some of my most effective and impactful mentors didn't even know they had that effect on me, because I was just learning by how they conducted themselves or how they reacted to a situation that I probably would not have, and they’re from industries outside of financial services outside of private equity outside of middle market. And they would question me and say, “Why are you looking at things that way? What does that mean?” Whereas if I were having a similar conversation with a mentor, a leader within my own shop, or my own the financial services industry, they would have probably not questioned me or questioned that. It encourages you to think differently.

I'll tell you, those conversations are not always easy, but they helped me to take a step back and reflect internally about why am I doing something this way, or why we always done it that way, and how can we grow or change and move forward. And I tell you, coming out of 2020, now is the time that if you're not reinventing yourself, or reinventing your company, or finding a different way to do things or to interact with different types of people, you are going to stand still and the rest of your community or industry is going to pass you by.

[00:27:04] AD: The world moves fast. The world moves really fast. 2020 taught us all how fast the world moves.

[00:27:10] ANNOUNCER: This is Branch Out, bringing you candid conversations with leading middle market professionals.

[00:27:18] AD: So, I want to give a thought, I want to share a thought and I want your reaction to this and Rich, I'll have you react first to this. A lot of my work here, a lot of my passion, what I enjoy is in and around networking. I use the word networking and not business development. Business Development is a byproduct of networking. It is certainly the function of generating some kind of opportunity to provide value and receive some level of compensation or some kind of opportunity out of it. I believe that's a core component of what many of us do in our career, but that the networking just the relationship building side.

Christine your point, and Rich, your teaching part and talking about meeting people outside and having kind of a diverse set of thoughts and learning all of this together, I've learned, this is just my own experience. Networking is so much of that for me. Right here, what we are doing on this call, yes, we're recording a podcast, yes, we're creating some content on it. But really in many levels, this is a form of networking, this is a form of having a conversation. This is a form of relationship building. And the more you do that, the more different people you talk to, different industries, different backgrounds, different experiences, different gender, different race, all these things that are really important to different, different, the keyword, they're being different, not like me, but different. The more of that you are doing, the more you're seeing new perspectives, the more you're learning, the more your minds open up. It doesn't mean that you're going to agree with every single person you talk to. It doesn't mean that every thought you have is going to be the right thought. But what it does mean is that the more of that you do, the more time you put into there, and really expand your horizons, it just makes you a better person. It opens your mind. It gives you more to work with and bring value to your job, your workplace, your clients in so many ways that has absolutely nothing to do with that revenue side of things. But just the the understanding things better.

Rich, I know you've done a lot of networking in your life. I know that that's been a huge function of of what you've done. Have you had similar experiences? When I say that, how do you react to that? What do you think about that?

[00:29:22] RG: All I think is I wish I would have learned how to network and the value of network younger in life. When I look at 2020, I took a tremendous leap by being a beneficiary of the network that I'm a part of and I use that to help take this conversation on diversity, past echo chambers and safe spaces. I didn't know who I can talk about with this issue. So, I started talking about it with everybody and what I uncovered in this community, where there are not a lot of people that look like me, not a lot of people that look like Christine. There are plenty of people that are committed, dedicated and willing to do the hard work that will make a change and create opportunities for those like myself.

I have decided part of what I can do. Sometimes you don't know what to do. But when you don't know what to do, do what you can't do. So, what I've decided, is I’ve decided to go to my alma mater, someplace that I have a connection to young black men, and I've connected with those young men, to teach them how to network, to teach them how to, “Hey, I'm interested in moving to Arizona after I graduate from Kogi University. I'd love to find a career in finance.” I'm going to teach them how to approach Christine, or anybody else that is in my network that I trust, and I'm going to teach them how to do that when they're 22 years old. 

Not later in their career, not when they're a seasoned professional, where your network can create a better title or anything. I want them to start off early. Because that is how we're going to change the communities that we are a part of both professionally and personally. We got to start younger. We got to think about creating diversity on the associate level of firms. And then once we've created that, let's teach them how to network to better opportunities at the firm that they work with is not present one.

[00:31:36] AD: I couldn't agree with you more on that. I want to say to you, I'm biased in this because again, in my work, but I think it is never too early start networking, if you aren't, it's also never too late. Wherever you are, just start. If you're not doing it, do it more. Make it what you're doing. There's so much value in that. Christine, I want to get your reaction to this. But you said this earlier, how well we treat other people, I do believe a core function of networking, and this is a lot of the teaching and the work that I've done really is helping you have the right mindset of it's really just about treating other people well, fundamentally. I say this semi jokingly, but like, just don't be an asshole. Just be nice. Go be nice to people, right? And it makes a big difference.

[00:32:21] CN: It does.

[00:32:22] AD: But the only reason that's a funny statement to make is because we all look around and say, “Man, if more people would just embrace that, it would make this world a lot better of a place.”

[00:32:31] CN: I always refer to a bumper sticker that I once saw that says, “mean people suck”. I mean, that's kind of my motto. But to the networking point, I think it's not, I don't use the word networking, I use the word connecting. My favorite thing to do is to be of service to others. I think if I were to take any young professional that wants to get to know people, wants to build their Rolodex, and that's how old I am, I still talk about Rolodex, wants to build their connections. But how can you interact with people and be of service to them? I know Rich wants to make an introduction or get to know a company, I happen to know them, I'm going to help Rich do that and I'm not going to expect anything in return.

That's the other thing too, it's really about being of service, what can you do to help others given your entire being. We all wear many different hats. I may be at a practice with my kids, I may be volunteering the community, I may be at the bank, I may be at an ACG middle market event, I wear all these different hats. And what can I do when I interact with you, Alex, to bring value to you based on my connections. I think you do that and you're selfless about it. One, you also take time to get to know people personally, that is my favorite thing. But I'm a social creature by nature. Some folks, it's not as comfortable for. I want to know what you enjoy doing. Do you like to spend time doing a similar interest as me? I'm a huge golfer. I'm an athlete, I would love to spend time with you doing that. And I think the more you invest in relationships, the more you're going to get out of your networking experience. To me, that's what it's all about. The revenue production, the business development will come once you build trust and rapport with people.

[00:34:16] AD: I think those are great thoughts. What's really interesting here. We jumped on to talk about diversity. We end up talking about networking. I think it's actually an interesting component here, for our listeners, and for those of us and I think there's many of us that sit here and say, “Okay, yes. I acknowledge that there are diversity and inclusion issues within this world and there's actions and steps that need to be taken.” No one individual is going to solve this problem and it's not going to get solved overnight. This is a long-term issue. It's a journey. There isn't necessarily a specific destination point. This is a process that we all have to put effort into. But to our listeners and to those of us that work in a professional services world and networking is a component of what you do, recognize how big of an impact you can make by being more diverse in your own networking, by being open minded in who you're talking to, and look to help add value to other people and build connections for other people. Help connect other people, help make intros, and recognize the impact of that can really have to radically change the trajectory of someone's life, and that's how we resolve this.

Again, it's not a short-term fix, but it's actions and steps like that, that will make a meaningful impact in the long run. And the reality isn’t – and Rich, you said this already. When you don't know what to do, do what you can. We can all go network. We can all go out and talk to people and build relationships. It's the simplest thing to do. Yes, you have to find time for it. But we can all make the time. If it's important to you, you find the time for it. Just talk to people. Just build relationships with people. People that are different than you, that think differently than you, that look differently than you, that work in a different field than you, and recognize there's so much value in just talking to other people.

[00:36:03] CN: Yeah, and I think Alex, that reminds me of a point we talked about when we all originally had a conversation. It's that normalization and you get to that by not just changing perceptions or expectations, but by just doing more with more people and including others, and being open to interacting with people outside of your normal world, expanding your universe of connections. So, I think normalization is something that we'll see happen over time. It's a slow process. But by doing what we're all doing, I think it gets us a whole lot closer.

[00:36:43] RG: Yeah, to jump in on the point of normalization is, thinking about that issue and that topic, because I think about it a lot. I think one of the reasons why we have failed to see a normalization of effective diversity initiatives, is because a statement of public condemnation is pleasing, right? You made it, people read it, maybe people applauded you for it. But that goes with a moment because there are business goals at the end of the day. And the business goals are going to always be a driver. That said, at the beginning of the year, I know there are several, especially this year, there's several organizational execs that said they were going to make a commitment to diversity. Well, guess what? That's their goal. But a goal without a plan is just a wish.

These things don't get normalized because several organizations make that wish. They make the wish to be a more diverse organization. They don't do the hard work of committing to creating a plan, finding the actionable items. Is a business development professional? I always think about what do I need to do right now? What do I need to do shortly? And what do I need to be able to do eventually, and then I get to work. It's the same thing with battling diversity, changing the diversity of your organizations. There are certain things you can do right now. Other things are going to take a long time. The three of us are on the task force for ACG Global. There are things that are out of our control, and there's things that we’re in our sphere of influence. At the Genesis, we have to attack those things in our control. So, that is what I think will help everybody get better at normalizing this.

[00:38:27] AD: Tackle what's in our control. I think that is such and I'm writing that down, because it's such a good way to look at this. So, I'm going to give a little bit of a recap here to our listeners. So, we were talking about the importance of diversity in many ways, but also generally, just learning from other people, growing from other people, being the best version yourself, being nice person to other people. And if I look at kind of top to bottom, we said okay, personal and professional. There's a very grainy line between those. It's very hard to distinguish those two and I'm a believer and you're the same person at home as you are at work. Knowing that this comes down to if it's important to you in your personal or professional life, then it's important to you as a person and you should work on it.

A huge component of being successful at really making a more diverse place and a more diverse community, really does come down to how well you're treating people. It's recognizing that just because someone else is different than you, it doesn't mean that that they're wrong, or that there's anything there. It's just accepting, “Hey, I'm going to accept other people for who they are, where they are and how they are.” Just treat them well. And that's so important. But we also made the point that it's really about reps, you have to be learning, you have to be out there doing it, or else you're never going to get better. No different than again, they say diversity, this idea of learning and trying to expand, for myself personally, my understanding, I have to continuously do work like this or do conversations like this to help me continually learn and grow in that.

So, I think for everyone, recognizing that is important, and then you really have to also create visibility for those that don't even understand that these fields exist. Those that are typically minorities that are unaware of this, unaware of a career, unaware of an opportunity that might exist, when you're out there trying to create that visibility, it is so impactful in helping people to really just see new opportunity they never thought existed before.

And then Christine, one of your points you made was you have to be good at what you do. You have to be confident no matter what, because at the end of the day, whoever you are, you have to really be good at it to gain respect and to be in a place. It comes down, Rich, you had said that the best way to do that is immerse yourself in it and whatever that is. Again, our theme is around diversity. But I think in any aspect of your life in your career, if you want to be good at something, immerse yourself. I want to be good at networking, good, go immerse yourself in networking. I want to be good at meeting people of diverse backgrounds, good, go immerse yourself in it. And that's how you become good at what you do and you become confident is by being there.

If you are on the other side, if you are in a leadership role, or you are controlling a little bit more of the environment, it's also really important for you to create a safe, comfortable environment that lifts others up. And I say that, again, a safe, comfortable environment that lifts others up, because this is all about creating the space for people to learn and to grow and to make mistakes, which is inevitable in that growing process.

We also covered this idea of really networking and the value of networking and teaching people networking and leveraging your network to both learn and gain different perspective for yourself, but also to help other people access and learn and see things that maybe they didn't understand before, and there's so much power in that network. And it's something that all of us listening to the show can actually go do. We can go and put that into action today. That really ties into, Rich, your comment of, when you don't know what to do, do what you can. Again, networking is something that we can always go do. How do you do that? Well, how are you successful in that? Go out there and be of service to other people without expectations. Go out there and just look for ways to really add value to other people, look for ways to increase your own awareness, your own understanding of a different situation, a different circumstance, people have different backgrounds. And I think there's so much power when we really go at things open mindedly and immerse ourselves in it and really throw ourselves out. 

So, with that said, that was a long-winded summary of our episode today. Rich, Christine, anything you want to add as kind of closing statements here?

[00:42:32] RG: I would love to just jump in and talk about one last thing. And that really is, as an industry aim to diversify ourselves in terms of the talent that we are bringing in, I think there's got to be a commitment that is twofold with talent development. One, we need to recruit and expand the horizons of which we recruit into these communities. Two, there needs to be an enablement, right? When you do recruit a young associate in or somebody perhaps switching their careers, and maybe they've been a great professional, adjacent to what they're doing now, there needs to be a willingness to develop that talent, past just the job they were hired for.

I think if you see a change in attitude towards those two arenas, you're going to see the diversity of our industry change, because not only will people come in, and yeah, there'll be uncomfortable at first. But as they get comfortable, they'll want to stay in the room. They won't say, “Yes, in your four years of working at this firm, it's been uncomfortable work. I need to do something else.” Now, they're going to know they've been invested in by the leadership of organizations to create a platform for them to succeed in the community. That's just something else that I really don't think is spoken about enough. But it's not just recruiting, but once you have recruited, really invest in that talent. Think about them being good at what they need to do today, but also send them to be good at what they can do in the future.

[00:44:17] AD: Well said. Christine, any reaction to that?

[00:44:20] CN: Well, that's certainly hard to follow, because I couldn't agree more with Rich. I think I would just remind the listeners that it is very clear that diversity and creating an inclusive environment is key to success in our business and our personal lives. It's what it's all about. So, I think it's incumbent upon all of us as leaders to set the stage for the younger professionals that are coming behind us, as Rich just said.

[00:44:54] AD: Could not agree more. Could not agree more. So, call to action for our listeners this week. In the next seven days, think about, you have two options here. You can go out and find and network with someone that is outside of your normal circle, find and expand your network, expand your horizon. Or alternatively, in the next seven days, make an introduction to someone that allows them to connect into a network they never would have had a chance to connect with before. Make that introduction for someone. Find a way to tee that up and make that happen.

So, either you're expanding your horizons or you're expanding someone else's horizons. But it's a simple task. It does not take that much time. In the next seven days, find time to go and do that. I think it will make a much bigger impact than you realize. Frankly, don't do it once, make it a habit. But as a call to action, I'm going to challenge you to do it in the next seven days here. So, with that said, Rich, for our listeners, how can they get ahold of you?

[00:45:50] RG: The best way to connect with me is via LinkedIn to practice what I preach. If we're connected on LinkedIn, I can better connect you to other people in my network.

[00:45:59] AD: We will make sure your LinkedIn is linked below. Christine, for you?

[00:46:04] CN: The same thing, what would we have done without LinkedIn? My goodness.

[00:46:09] AD: I don't know. I'm young enough not to know.

[00:46:12] CN: I'm the one that mentioned the Rolodex in our conversation. So, Christine Nowaczyk on LinkedIn is the best place to get me.

[00:46:21] AD: Awesome. Well, thank you both very much. I appreciate this. This has been a fun conversation and looking forward to talking to both of you again sometime soon.

[END OF INTERVIEW]

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