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Feb 20, 2024
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74. The Business Case for Diversity

74. The Business Case for Diversity
This week Jeff's guest is Shan Cooper. She is the Founder and CEO of Journey Forward Strategies. Shan’s impressive background includes being the first Black Woman to be VP and General Manager of a division of Lockheed Martin, overseeing 8,000 employees. She also served as the executive director for the Atlanta Committee for Progress, and is the former Chief Transformation Officer at West Rock. Shan and Jeff delve into the nuanced challenges of fostering diversity and inclusion while navigating organizational change. Shan's insights underscore the necessity of understanding long-term business cycles and addressing incidents of discrimination head-on. She shares the sobering experience of grappling with racially motivated violence within the company, highlighting the importance of creating a safe environment for dialogue and swift action against discriminatory behavior. Shan and Jeff underscore the significance of cultural competency in business interactions, emphasizing the need for leaders to invest in understanding diverse perspectives, and the pivotal role of effective leadership alignment and communication in driving organizational transformation. This insightful conversation advocates for clear communication, robust training, and modeling of desired behaviors to facilitate meaningful change within the workplace, ultimately fostering a culture of inclusion and driving organizational success.


Intro: Duration: (04:04)

Opening music jingle & sound effects

Jeff Hunt:

This is Jeff Hunt, CEO of Goalspan and host of Human Capital. Today we're going to talk about both the financial and non-financial benefits of embedding diversity, equity, inclusion, and belonging, or DEIB as most people know it, into your organization's culture. The challenge for leaders is that there are many reasons it's difficult to implement.

Including resistance to change, unconscious bias, lack of awareness, a fear of retaliation, or even ineffective leadership. For leaders, this is clearly an uphill battle. After hearing this, you might be asking, why would we want to take on all of that when we can barely get our jobs done every day? The reason is that there's now a large body of compelling research to help you understand how DEIB should be a core strategy.

I'm going to share five studies that validate this. Number one, according to McKinsey, companies with more diverse leadership teams financially outperformed their less diverse counterparts. Number two, a study by Boston Consulting Group showed that on average, diverse teams produce 19 percent more revenue.

Three, Gallup concluded that companies with inclusive cultures experience 22 percent higher profitability. And greater levels of employee engagement and productivity and number 4 glass door found 67 percent of job seekers consider diversity and important factor when evaluating companies. And lastly, 5 found inclusive workplaces have on average, 39 percent lower turnover than their counterparts.

All of this confirms that the business case for DEIB should be, is a strategic advantage. Today, to help me unpack this complicated topic, I'm delighted to welcome Shan Cooper, the founder and CEO of Journey Forward Strategies. Shan's impressive background includes being the first Black woman to be VP and general manager of a division of Lockheed Martin, overseeing 8, 000 employees, She also served as the executive director for the Atlanta Committee for Progress and is the former chief transformation officer at Westrock.

She's been recognized with numerous awards including the Lifetime Achievement Award from the Atlanta Business Chronicle and Chan currently serves on multiple boards of major corporations. Welcome, Shan.

Shan Cooper:

Thank you, Jeff. Delighted to be here with you.

Jeff Hunt:

I'm so happy to jump into this conversation and I think that based on our initial conversations before we hit the record button, it'll be a spirited and hopefully, enlightening conversation.

Shan Cooper:

I think so. I think so. Let's do it.

Topic 1. Who or what inspired you along your career? (03:02)

Jeff Hunt:

So, before we talk about this topic at hand, I'd love to have our listeners get to know you a little bit. Can you start us out by sharing a short thumbnail of your career journey? What did this look like for you?

Shan Cooper:

Oh, absolutely. Jeff. First, the first part of it was confusing and not real clear.

I had the opportunity to join Lockheed Martin Corporation where I spent the bulk of my career, and it was just fantastic. Had a chance to work with human resources or area, then transition to the operations as you spoke of went left there, went over to West Rock. So I left airplanes as I like to say planes and went to paper.

Paper and packaging and then went to people as you talked about a committee for progress. And so, I have had a very diverse career, but I've enjoyed every moment of it. The key for me was being in roles that allow them to have an impact on the organization. So I've been very blessed in that regard.

Jeff Hunt:

And who inspired you most along the way?

Shan Cooper:

So, 2 responses to that question. 1st, of course, we have my parents. I was the 1st of my family to go to college and I was just determined that I was going to work hard and do my best so that I could take care of them. And thankfully, that has worked out great in terms of the company.

I've always been blessed to have great mentors. And I can't talk enough about the value of having good mentors who tell, you know, who will give you the good, the bad and the ugly. And I've been able to do that, but I'll call out 1 person. That's Linda good. And Linda goodness still in my life today. She was a powerful force at Lockheed Martin.

I was there and really taught me. In many ways, the financial acumen that I need to have having transition over from a human resources, functional staff role to an operations role. And we often need those kinds of people. And so I'll give a shout out today to Linda Gooden, who's just awesome.

Jeff Hunt:

I love that story and, you know, it's people like Linda that can really change a person's life. And it's a reminder. For me and hopefully all of our listeners to be actively engaged in either mentoring another person, if you have the skill set to do that, or to seek out a mentor in your life, whether it's in business or elsewhere, right?

Shan Cooper:

Yes. We, and we all need it because we all have those blind spots, right?

Parents tell us that we're perfect and we believe it, but the reality is in the corporate world, we all could use a little help.

Topic 2. Is DE&I moving forward in the workplace? (05:18)

Jeff Hunt:

Absolutely. No question about it. Well, that's inspiring. And so going into this topic a little bit, Chan, there are so many political and societal issues fighting the EIB advancement, the number of job postings for chief diversity officers dropped by 48 percent in 2023.

And more than 40 lawsuits have been filed by activist law firms against minority hiring or venture investment programs. I'm just curious about what factors you think are contributing to all of this.

Shan Cooper:

Well, Jeff, unfortunately, I think when you think about the world of DE& I. I think we have lost the connection between why D and I happened in the 1st place.

D and I was work that was needed to actually create value for organizations. And what's happened is, unfortunately, it's become politicized, in society. And so companies. Unfortunately, corporations find themselves in a position where they're now having to get involved in these societal issues.

That wasn't the case, you know, years ago, right? It was just deliver the product to your customers, make your money, you know, support, you know, give back to your shareholders and continue creating value. And so what we've done is we have lost the connection between D and I and value creation. We have also became, you know, defined D and I very small, very small parameters and it's representation.

So when I work in that space, I would tell you, we didn't use diversity as terminology when what we were talking about was representation. Now, you can't have talk about diversity and not talk about representation, right? That's absolutely true. So you can't hide. You can't get away from that. But what it should be more about is understanding that we have a culture and environment.

Where regardless to how your package, right, you can come here and help us create value for our shareholders and for the clients. And so, because we lost that connection, people now see it as, I, when you lose, you know, as a black woman, I, when you lose as a white, you know, male, and that's that was never the intention of the work.

And so that's why this is the statistics that you talked about in your opening of all this research that shows how powerful and value creating it can be, but we've gotten the stories misaligned. And I think that's what's happening and I'm sad to hear actually that statistic because I think now given all the change that's happening in within organizations, right?

All that's happening, all that's been driven by cobit and things beyond that. We need these roles now more than ever to help us understand the employee experience. And so I said, I would just say, we've got this misalignment that's happened.

Jeff Hunt:

That makes sense, really connecting the dots to the value, um, because that's such a compelling reason.

If the value is there, uh, you would do it. And I'm wondering if that disconnection to value is also some of the reasons why we're seeing something in, in the whole DEI space that's similar to what we see in ESG or for those listeners that are not familiar with. You know, environmental, social and governance issues where it's called greenwashing.

So we have this situation going on where companies will, check the box on some of these strategies, but they're not truly transformative in the organization. They're just more of a mirage for shareholders or vendors or or customers. And are you seeing similar things in the space as a result?

Shan Cooper:

Yeah, I think you've nailed something there, Jeff. And again, it's because we haven't again, we haven't made that link. We haven't aligned on those things, and because we're not we're being so driven by external influences. Right. To your point, we just, we just wanna check the box. So we're not called out.

We don't want our company called out anything. Right. We're gonna check the box. Yes. We, we've done it, we've done that. But the work of de and I, because it involves people, it's hard work. And because you really have to understand what's important to me as an employee, what's important to you as an employee and others, right?

Again, it goes back to the employee experience, right? And always remembering that. When we come to the workplace, we bring a lot with us. I grew up in South in the South. I grew up in Alabama and the Bible built, right? My dad's a pastor. I bring some of that to the workplace, right? You may have a different experience or someone in the team that may have come from New York.

Or California and so we bring all of our lives experiences to the workplace and so those things can't be ignored. But somehow we get to have to get to a common language, right? And be able to talk about these differences, but talk about how we leverage them again to create value. And it can't be the check the box exercise, because guess what people know that when you do that, they know you're serious or not.

Jeff Hunt:

Absolutely. And really another way of what you're saying it sounds like is really that these different experiences that are brought from different parts of the country or the world or. The sort of family of origin where we all come from are additive. They're not diminutive. Right?

Shan Cooper:

Yes. And that's how you have to see it. Right. And you have to create space for that. Honor that respect that, but then have a real, real clarity of route around why this work is important. What it means to us as a company, and, you know, oftentimes we make assumptions, right? So I'll give you an example. We had a women's affinity group at Lockheed Martin, right?

And what we heard from women was, you know, gosh, work life balance is important. Our culture at the time was around heroics, right? So, if you didn't work 16 hours a day, Jeff, you know what? You weren't working enough, right? And so you're not a real team player, right? But the reality is not only what we heard was that not only was, work life balance release, and I would say work life integration, but not was that important to the women in the organization.

It was important to the men in the organization because guess what? They too were experiencing elder care issues. Right. They wanted to be at their their kids, sporting events and what have you. So we had to step back, look at the culture and what experience we were creating for them.

Because were we really rewarding those employees who were at the office 16 hours? Not necessarily that they were working, right? Right. We sealed that old mindset. If I saw your car in the parking lot, I felt you were more committed. We had to check ourselves on that. And so it's, it's so many things that organizations have to look at.

It takes time, right? And effort and commitment and investment to do these things. But even though those small things that we make assumptions about that, we have to check our assumptions too, as well.

Jeff Hunt:

Absolutely. It feels like so many of these things are like flexing a muscle. You have to really work that muscle continuously or it's going to atrophy. Is that correct?

*Shan Cooper:

Yes, absolutely. You're absolutely right. Absolutely.

Topic 3. The operational aspects of implementing DEI (11:43)

Jeff Hunt:

When you think about moving the agenda out of HR and into business and operational aspects and of the company what are the ways that we can do that?

Shan Cooper:

Right, but 1st of all is really, you know, if it sits in HR, when it sits outside of HR, so I was part of the HR organization, but I reported to the CEO.

So reporting structure matters, right? Because what's important gets attention and people know, right? If it's going to be important or not. So where it sits in the organization is really, really important. And then the person who's doing that for the organization really has to understand the business.

And so you can't create the business case for the work if you don't understand the business. And that's why when I mentioned a little bit earlier, because I really want to understand how do we make money in this company? Because at the end of the day, that's what it comes down to in many cases.

And so understand the business and how it operates, then I can take a step back and really begin to say, okay, how can this work of DNI contribute again to value creation? So it's all from my perspective in that regard. It was about people. It was about. A talent pipeline, it was and the primary reason for me was for the leadership team was that, you know, here we were an organization that thrived off of having scientists and engineers and physicists.

It really is rocket science and Lockheed Martin. And, but as we noticed that we were building the pipeline, the future, many of our young people weren't seeing it.

And so what were we going to do as a company to not only just build a talent pipeline with the same pipeline for us, but for the country is how we saw it. So the mission and the purpose was big for us. But we knew the benefit would be great. Of course, if we could really begin to look at this and that was where our discussions around diversity and equity and inclusion, that was where it would begin.

We saw real clear alignment as I talked about earlier with why we need to do this work. Not only we talk about the pipeline, but we also want to keep our current talent. You know, we were known in the industry for developing great leaders and great talent. So people would often come and try to get our people right.

So we had to have an environment that would that would keep the current talent. And so it was working both ends of that spectrum, but understand that we're not going to be able to deliver to our customers, meet our commitments if we don't have the right talent. And the organization, and that's why I challenge companies before you even start down this diversity journey to really be clear about why you are doing this.

Why are you doing this? Right? And then we could take a step back and say, well, who's studying who needs to be where? And so that's the beginning of the of the foundation of our work really being clear about why we need to do this work and then having the right people. The other thing we had to do was we had to be trained on it.

So we're going to develop a common language. And so there was a lot of training that happened around D. N. I. right? And it gave people an opportunity to voice. Their perspective on and it wasn't always positive messaging that we received. But people knew that in the company, they could say, I'm not comfortable with this, or I don't understand this, or why are you guys trying to social engineer?

Right? Things. Right. But it gave us a chance to talk about it. And that's what companies have to be willing to you can't manage diversity in this work via memo and talk about this.

Topic 4. The importance of knowing your business (15:20)

Jeff Hunt:

For sure.There's a couple of things I'm reflecting on Shan that you just shared that seemed to be really important.

Especially for people that are in positions of leadership and influence that are listening. One of them is truly understanding the business model. Because if you look at implementing these types of strategies, it almost always circles back to the CFO role. The CFO is going to want to know, what is the financial case for what we are doing?

And if we can, that sort of supersedes everything. If we can nail that, then we can move on to actually developing those strategies and implementing them. So that's one of the things I was reflecting on. The other one is that what you said in a number of different ways is that it's critical to actually be able to understand why this story is important.

And how to tell the story internally, so that being done through training, through communications, through connecting the dots for employees about why are we even spending all the time on this so that they can truly understand that it's outcome driven, it's results driven, it's going to positively impact them, not negatively impact them. Does that resonate with you?

Shan Cooper:

Absolutely, it does. And when you're looking, when you understand your business, so for a business like Lockheed Martin our customer cycles for our products were decades long, right? So you're not going to, you're not selling a product that you're going to sell in a week and deliver in a week.

It's, you know, sometimes those things get delivered over years of time, right? And that's why that continuity and talent is so important. That's why the training is so important. So understanding your business model is going to also help you shape. How you talk about it and how you addressed what's happening in the environment.

That makes sense. And Jeff, I'll be the first to say that we didn't always get it right. People will often point to and talk about the shooting that we had within Lockheed Martin, right? Right. Where the shooter, as best as we understood, the shooting was race driven. And this person didn't want to be trained around diversity and inclusion, right?

And in that, you really have to have an environment, right, where people can voice. Their discomfort, but you'd have to address that kind of behavior to head on. And so you got to call it, I'm going to name it right and just say, this is not the workplace. We're going to be. And you can bring yourself remember that person probably in a group in Mississippi, probably had some historical perspective on race.

But again, you can't allow that kind of thing to linger in the workforce. And when you see it and you hear it, you've got to call it out and address it and deal with it. For sure. I'll tell you what, that incident opened our eyes though. It opened our eyes and said, you know, no, no, no, we've got to get this right.

And we've got to ensure that everybody's playing. We've got to ensure that people are trained to know how to even call that out and what to do about it. Yeah.

Jeff Hunt:

Yeah, and sometimes these the most difficult circumstances and events and traumas are what are the catalyst for true change. Correct?

Shan Cooper:

Absolutely. You're absolutely right. And there was nothing worse. I tell you, that was when people talk to me about my career, I will tell you being a part of the team that had to reopen that facility and being a team lead for the work. It was the worst day of my career. And we're probably 1 of the toughest things I've ever had to do, particularly, you know, having to tell a family, the parents not coming home today.

And so it gave me a greater sense of accountability and responsibility for the work, but I don't want companies to let it get to that. I expect them to be real mindful when you start to do the work that it's hard work because you're dealing with humans, right? That have different perspectives, different values, different upbringings and all of that.

And you got to make space for all of it. But then move forward right to where you really need the company to be right.

Topic 5. Talking about race relationships in the workplace (19:17)

Jeff Hunt:

Absolutely. So, before I ask this next question, I want to set the table for it a little bit. Race and race relations are difficult topics to discuss in general, and they sometimes feel even more difficult to discuss at work.

So people typically avoid them. It seems like there's an opportunity to improve engagement if we are able to have healthy conversations around racial and ethnic differences, and I'm coming at this. question from the perspective of being an older white male. So I have to actually put that out there. And I'm asking you, Shan, to only share of your experience, which may not be that of some of our listeners.

And my question is, why is the topic of our racial differences so difficult to discuss in the workplace? And what can we do about this?

Shan Cooper:

Right, and Jeff, that is a powerful question, and I hope your listeners will continue to have discussions beyond our discussion today. I think there's a fear, right?

There's a fear that if I say the wrong thing, I'm going to get in trouble. If I say the wrong thing, I'm going to be fired, or I'm going to be sued, right? Nobody wants a lawsuit, right? So there's this fear about how do I talk about it, right? And my belief is that we get spun up around the word and terminology and the work of diversity because we haven't dealt with the topic of race.

Right? And so I like to encourage people to talk about it in the context of history. Not the history that we want to make up, right? Or think that we have, but true history, true history. Because I think understanding history helps us shape our collective future. And so if I can create a safe space, right?

In the workplace where we can talk about it and we, and we tried to do, and we did this where we can talk about it and really ask questions. Because sometimes people are just curious and when people ask questions, I know sometimes it's hard not to be offended. Right? But I've asked people to give people grace.

Because. People are coming from coming from a place of inquiry. Inquiry in most cases, and not judgment. Right? But if you can't ask a question to understand anything else, we wanna know any other new knowledge, right? We ask questions, right? Yeah. But if you can't do that in the workplace without it being a safe space, we're never going to move forward around the topic of race.

And so I love the fact when you can have a conversation around anything. 1 of the questions you'll laugh about this. Jeff 1 of the questions I got was Shan. Uh, we have the safe space conversation, right? Was she how is that? Black women's hair can grow overnight. You know, what is that all about? Right? And so I had to talk about, you know, the hair is a crown glory, you know, in the black, in the black race.

And, you know, it's, it's, you know, it represents, represents who you are. And so, yes, I may have longer than day. I may have short hair tomorrow, but it's an expression, right? Of who you are. And people should be able to ask that question. What's the thing about weave? And it sounds silly, but when people are curious about that, let's talk about it.

Let's ask, let's put them in a safe, we can ask those questions. Right. Right. And I think that is, and it gets back to culture though, Jeff. It gets back to the environment that we're creating where people can have those conversations again in a safe place. But right now, everybody's fearful. You know, we think we don't want to be seen and get caught up in the politics.

We don't want to be seen in a certain way, but then a lot of curiosity out there. And so I try to ground initial discussions and let's talk about history. And so the history of our country, the history of our state, and let's, talk about that and then talk about where we want to, where we want to be in the future, but we don't want to go back to that.

Right? No. And doing that, In a way that we are emotionally intelligent, right, but inviting those conversations, but we have to have that safe space. Otherwise, we're never going to have those conversations and so I'll spend my tenure, confused and not understanding. You'll spend your team confusing and not understanding.

And we're just not talking about it. Whereas we would be a much more powerful team if we just got it on the table. So we could spend our energies on what value creation.

Jeff Hunt:

Thank you so much. What a thoughtful response to a difficult question. I really appreciate that. And it just sounds like that that the main takeaways from that is we really need to season our conversations with grace and allow people to inquire without shame and judgment, but. An opportunity for connection.

We also need to have leaders be able to create cultures where there is an opportunity for open conversation. That is a safe a safe opportunity for open conversation. Very much appreciate that. as you look at your experience. At Lockheed Martin, and this is shifting gears a little bit.

You had the opportunity, Shan, to engage with and to learn about many different cultures around the world just because of the nature of that business you were in. And I'm curious what you learned most from that experience.

Shan Cooper:

Oh, my God. Just an incredible, incredible journey. You can imagine growing up in small, small town, Alabama.

There was not much diversity, right? Not much of a worldview. But I had the opportunity to your point to be in an organization where we were in 72 countries around the world. I had an opportunity to travel to these countries and it was always enlightening for me, but I'll give you a real specific example, Jeff.

So when I stepped over to be the VP and general manager in aeronautics, You know, delivering military aircraft around the world to our allies. I actually hired a protocol officer and people thought that was like, what are you doing? That's nuts, right? But I wanted to have someone that would tell me, okay, here's the country that's coming in to receive your aircraft.

Sham, here's the colors you can wear, or you can't wear, right? Here's when you can and cannot extend your hand in greeting. And so having someone that made sure that I was culturally. Sad, right? As I did, my job was really important and she was so helpful to me. So when my customers came into the country, I knew exactly what I need to do to really honor them.

Right? And that's why I say, you know, just being open minded around this. And so I learned a lot, uh, particularly in that role around various cultures, but it was intentional, right? I wanted to get this right. I did not want to start an international incident, Jeff. And so as a woman, the first woman in that role, right?

I'm certain my customers, when they were coming up, they weren't expecting to see a woman delivering, you know, an F 22 or C 130, right? Right. And I had Middle Eastern customers, right? Um, they had a world view about women in their countries and I didn't want to disrespect that. But what was more more wonderful for me is that they understood our culture as well.

And so I was easily accepted. Sure. I still follow the cultural norms, right? Particularly around the handshaking and when I could extend it or when I could touch them or not, but we were just equal and respectful. And guess what? We got business done. And so I learned a lot working in a company like Lockheed Martin.

It was important to me. And so I studied cultures. Have degree in religions, right? And oftentimes it is religion, right? That separates us. And so, it was important to me that I understand that the different cultures and it was fascinating. I just enjoyed it. I enjoyed it a lot.

Jeff Hunt:

That's such a great testimony for our listeners because there were a few things that you did.

That were real, I think, very much key into the success of that 1 was the recognition that I don't have it all figured out. I don't necessarily I don't have the competency to know what to do in a specific situation. So I'm actually going to hire somebody. to help guide me in that rather than make an assumption or be a little bit egotistical in it and thinking that other people will adapt to me.

So I really value and appreciate that. And it requires some investment and time and effort to make that happen. But it sounds like you, Achieved a successful outcome as a result of doing that.

Shan Cooper:

And Jeff, I absolutely did. Like I say, Pauline was fantastic. And I just were able I was able to retain our key customers and continue to further build those relationships because the company really did take a chance in many ways.

Right? Putting me give me the opportunity for that role. And so I wanted to make sure I got it right. And I love it that, you know, your point that I hadn't thought about it that way, but. Sometimes we do get to be pretty egotistical, right? Yeah. It's easy to do, right? When you're in a leadership role and you got the big title and the big job, what have you.

But I've, I've always been one, a leader who understood my limitations. I know what I'm good at. I know what I'm not good at. At the end of the day, it's always been, I keep the end game in mind, right? The mission in mind. The mission here is to deliver to our customers and to our shareholders, right?

While taking care of our people. So my mantra was always mission first, people always, it was about taking care of my people. Yeah. Take care of the team.

Topic 6. The importance of change management as a leadership competency (28:33)

Jeff Hunt:

Love that mission. Yeah. So when I think about. The most important leadership competency. 1 of the things that rises the top to the top is change management.

And I'm also connecting the dots between a lot of the things that we've discussed around initiatives and creating cultural change internally and embedding these things into our organizations. And I'm wondering. I know that you're highly competent in this area, and I'm wondering if you can share a little bit about the importance of change management as a leadership competency in an organization's ability to achieve not only these more micro issues, but also macro. In achieving its overall vision and strategic objectives, right?

Shan Cooper:

And Jeff, I'll tell you, that is absolutely critical. And I think, as I'm working and seeing other companies, even for the boards I sit on, it's becoming more and more important of a leadership capability. And so I think about change management and being, you know, the 1st thing, what you're really trying to do is change the mindset and behaviors, right?

Of the team. And that doesn't it's not easy. No, but the tool that I've used to process. One is just a simple process where first ensuring that people understand why we have to change. So we often say people resist change. I disagree with that. I said, people often get confused about the change because we, as leaders don't take the time to explain the why of the change.

Sometimes people just don't know how. To change because we haven't explained that either, nor have we thought about training them right in terms of how what we need them to do. Sometimes they resist because they don't understand the incentive, the incentive for for changing. Right? They don't understand the business, the actual core business implication around that and.

Most times people don't change because they don't see role models change because we don't change as leaders, right? We put them. Here's a mandate you to do this differently, whatever, but we don't operate in a way that causes people to change. Right? And so I think. Those 4 areas, so we can find a way to get people to understand and have their own personal.

Ownership of the change, right? And that means as a leader, what you got to talk about it over and over and over the messaging becomes critical. But then you've got to start as a leader changing the processes in the organization that supports the change. They want to see the structure sometimes has to change.

So you're reinforcing, right? We're changing and I'm changing all these processes and systems, right? So that it facilitates the change, right? But I'm going before I hold you accountable to the train, but I'm going to invest in you. I'm going to train you. So, you know, exactly what I need you to do. And then you're going to see me behave differently as a leader as well.

My questions are going to be different. How I engage with you is going to be different. And so, but what happens is we get so caught up in knowing where we've got to go as leaders. We assume that people know why we're doing it. I can remember working with 1 leader and I said to him, what change management model do we use?

And he looked at me and said, a change management model. He said, no, we tell them to change and they just do it. Well, you know, that never happens. That doesn't even happen about children. Right? Come on. Right? And so I knew that I was going to have a hard, hard job. Right? Um, but. If we can take the time to do those, just force their heart things for things, right?

Then people, then you'll get to people's mindset. And once you've got my mindset, where I understand, yep, I understand this. I can own this with you. Then I'm willing to change my behaviors. And so, but people leaders. It's, it's work to do that, right? It's time to do that. And because oftentimes as leaders, we don't have the time, right?

We're running. We've got so many people we've got to answer to, right? When you, and you have to always own it. You can't delegate this as a leader, right? But what you've got to have is complete alignment with your leadership team. Because that's the help that you can have to help you do that. And I had to learn that the hard way that I didn't have to be up all the time.

I didn't have to be facilitating discussion all the time. I had a leadership team there, right? But we had to make certain that we were absolutely aligned. And I would tell you a lot of the transformations that companies are talking about today, they fail because of the lack of leadership alignment.

Topic 7. Lightning round questions (32:45)

Jeff Hunt:

Okay. You ready for some lightning round questions?

Shan Cooper:

Yes, let's do it. Let's do it.

Jeff Hunt:

The first one, Shannon, is what are you most grateful for?

Shan Cooper:

Oh, I'm grateful for my family. They just mean the world to me, I tell you. I live my life, faith, family, and then career. And that's what I believe in. And uh, they're just my life. They're it. They're it for me.

Jeff Hunt:

What's the most difficult leadership lesson you've learned over your career?

Shan Cooper:

Oh my God, the ability to listen. And to recognize that as a leader, I'm not gonna have, I may have the title, but I won't always have the answers. So I gotta listen. Decisions at the lowest level of impact.

Jeff Hunt:

Who is one person you would interview if you could living or not?

Shan Cooper:

Living would be Michelle Obama. I just think she's just fantastic. I've been mistaken for her several times, which is not true. But anyway, people think that, uh, and then, you know, not a lot. And 1 of my heroes growing up in America was Colin Powell.

And I know people will expect me to say Jesus because my dad's a pastor. I would say Colin Powell, uh, and I use a lot of my, one of the, one of the things that he helped me with was understanding that in a leadership role, you're not always going to have the data that you need to make decisions. But if you've got 70 percent plus your gut and make the call, that sounds like strong leadership to me.

Jeff Hunt:

Yes. I love it. I love it. Do you have a top book recommendation for our listeners?

Shan Cooper:

You know, I'm reading, I'm reading, uh, two right now. I'm reading CEO Excellence. And I forget who it's by, but it's a great, great book. And then I just recently, well, just wrapping up a book called Remarkable by David Sawyers.

And I love that book. It's another culture perspective, but I love it. Those are two that I would recommend.

Jeff Hunt:

Well, I really appreciate that because I interviewed David Salyers on my podcast and discussed his book. So if you're listening to this and you want more information about the book or you want to sneak a peek, then go back and listen to that episode with David. So yeah, he's awesome.

Shan Cooper:

He's awesome.

Jeff Hunt:

Amazing. Now, have you, what's the best piece of advice that you've ever received?

Shan Cooper:

I'm asking smart questions, the ability to ask smart questions because you can't get people. You can't tell people what you're in a leadership role, but sometimes you have to be able to ask smart questions to get them to discover where you need them to go.

But in the process, you often learn as well, but if you can ask smart questions and listen for the answer, you get to better decisions, I think, as a leader, so love that. That was the number one teaching. Yeah, number one, number one.

Jeff Hunt:

Curiosity is a superpower, isn't it? Yes, it is.

Shan Cooper:

It really is. It really is.

Jeff Hunt:

Well, Shan, I've really loved our conversation, and you've given us so much to think about, and I'm curious from you, speaking of curiosity, What would you say is the most important 1 or 2 takeaways that you want to leave our listeners with today?

Shan Cooper:

Yeah, I'll just say this. I say, you know, mission 1st people always and just understand the mission, whatever your mission may be in for your organization, it will not work.

Or become evident without your people. So just take care of your people, people, always, right? Just take care of your people and they will take care of you, your customers, and your shareholders.

Jeff Hunt:

Shan, thank you again for such a wonderful conversation.

Shan Cooper:

Thanks Jeff. I had a great time. Thanks for including me.

Outro (35:59)

Closing music jingle/sound effects

Jeff Hunt:

Thanks for listening to Human Capital, if you like this show please tell your friends and also take the time to go rate and review us. Human Capital is a production of GoalSpan, your integrated source for performance management. Now go out and be the inspiration to other humans, and thank you for being human kind.

Human Capital — 74. The Business Case for Diversity
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