Since the murder of George Floyd, I’ve had friends and co-workers ask me: “What can I do to support the Black community?” I love the spirit and intention of this question. As a black man and the Global Director for Inclusion & Collaboration in Cisco’s Customer Experience and Sales & Marketing organizations, I am personally and professionally invested in this matter. So, while this is a question I think about daily, I am encouraged by how many people outside of the Black community seem willing to have this conversation now more than ever. My initial response is that it’s about leveraging the Power of Proximity.
At Cisco, we’re focused on building an inclusive future for all and I could not be prouder of Cisco’s commitment to racial justice and social equality. In my last blog, I shared that the ability to maximize the exponential power of diverse teams will be the single most important leadership capability of the future. By being proximate in an authentic, vulnerable, and transparent way, leaders have an opportunity to learn more about the minority experience, expand their social and emotional intelligence, and begin the journey to leading a more diverse and inclusive organization.
Expand your community
Building on this idea of proximity in society, I would encourage those who want to support the Black community to expand their own community. Think about the network of individuals you spend time with both professionally and personally. What does your community look like? Who are your friends? Who do you call family? Who do you communicate, collaborate, and associate with? Who contacts you for advice? Is there an opportunity to expand your network to include more Black people?
I understand the complexity and discomfort of having a conversation on the topic of race. In my experience, the awkwardness of the conversation and the vulnerability of addressing our difference is the process of building trust. I can sense quickly when others are willing and committed to truly learning about my experience.
Many people ask me how to build diverse relationships organically. I ask them to think of the last few times they interacted with someone who was different than them. Was it at work? Did you have anything in common? People then describe a positive interaction and I ask, what happened next? Most people indicate that they did not take the opportunity to continue the relationship. I challenge all of us to be conscious of our daily interactions, who we collaborate with, and the discussions we have with our professional and social networks. Invite diverse people into your community and into your conversations. Expanding your community provides opportunity for relationships to be formed and connections to be made.
Diversify your investments
The second action everyone can take to support the Black community is to diversify their investments. Where do you shop? What restaurants do you frequent? Who do you support in terms of coaching, mentoring, and sponsorship? What types of information, books, websites, podcasts are you using to develop yourself? Are you involved in community outreach? What if we all gave a percentage of our investment – our time, money and mind share — in support of the Black community?
What would happen if everyone in the world made a conscious effort to expand their community and diversify their investments? What kind of impact could we create? I implore us all to use this moment as a catalyst to create the world we’d like to see. I want to hear from you. Take two actions and add a comment about your experience, or other ideas you have on how everyone can support the Black community.