“It is a belief – a limiting, misguided belief – that if you do the right thing by people, if you move toward equity, if you take care of your people – that you’re going to go slower, you’re not going to meet your metrics, your profit margins are going to go down. You know how I know it’s a belief? Because you’ve never tried it!“ — Dr. Nandi Shareef, The Shareef Group
We keep using this word “transformation” and you’re probably wondering, what does that really mean in the context of anti-racism and DEI? Well, we’re incredibly fortunate to have Firefly collaborator Dr. Nandi Shareef on the show to break it down for us. In this episode, Nandi sheds light on the transformation process she helps leaders navigate through at organizations that have made the commitment to anti-racism and DEI. A journey that requires confronting our own limiting beliefs and behaviors is never easy, but in this conversation, Nandi shares why it’s required to keep up with the accelerated rate of change we’re all experiencing, along with a few incremental success stories.
Transformational Moments in this Episode:
- Why true transformation in DEI requires pointing the finger inward vs. outward
- What to do when the CEO Bubble bursts
- A BIG limiting belief about equity & performance, debunked!
- Why DEI Practitioners need to be selfish to be selfless.
Hear the Full Episode On:
Dr. Nandi Shareef is an award-winning transformational trainer and coach who knows first-hand what it means to disrupt the status quo as a proud Black woman founder and executive leader. As CEO of The Shareef Group, a boutique speaking and coaching firm that ignites the gifts and talents of global leaders to create a transformed world, she’s helped clients increase their income and savings by millions of dollars, establish themselves as entrepreneurs and executives, and give back hundreds of thousands of dollars in funds and in-kind donations to global philanthropic efforts. In the corporate world, she facilitates executive coaching and development for Fortune 500, high-tech, and start up leaders. Some of her corporate clients include Genentech, Squarespace, Prudential Financial, Own the Room, Airbnb, Facebook, and Google.
Dr. Nandi served as Head of the People Development Center of Excellence at Uber, where she drove the organization to adopt coaching as an imperative for leadership and team success and co-led efforts to transform a group of L&D professionals into a world-class product organization. As a former Practice Manager with KPMG and seasoned Organization Development practitioner, she built learning infrastructures for some of the most revered organizations in the world. She holds a Ph.D. in Organization Development, M.B.A., and an ICF Professional Coaching certification. She is a 2020 Pepsi x Essence Magazine She Got Now award winner and a 2018 inductee of The Millennial 100. Dr. Nandi is currently working on her first book, Impostor No More: How to Tell the Truth and Start Living Authentically, where she empowers others to embrace authenticity as the foremost imperative for creating an extraordinary life.
Jason Rebello: Welcome, Dr. Nandi Shareef, to Stories from the Field. I’m so excited to have you here. Oana and I both know you in some sense, but I would love to give you the opportunity to share with our listeners a little bit about yourself and for me in particular, I’m always fascinated with the journey, right? Your story arc – how did you get to where you are now and what is the coolest thing you’re working on. Whether it’s coolest or most important, or even the most meaningful thing that you’re working on right now. So, I’ll leave it to you. Tell us all about your greatness!
Dr. Nandi Shareef: Absolutely. Oh, my goodness! Jason, Oana, thank you both so much for having me on your podcast, thank you for conceptualizing this and recognizing the need for each of us as practitioners – whether we are coaches or HR professionals, or certainly doing work in the diversity, equity and inclusion space – we need the opportunity to hear Stories from the Field and to know that we’re not alone, and that there are people that are serving with us on this journey to do this great important work. So thank you both for what you do day to day but also for spending the extra time to invest in podcasts like this.
Okay, Jason asked about my journey and about who I am. For our listeners, again, my name is Dr. Nandi Shareef. I am the founder and CEO of the Shareef Group, which is a boutique speaking and coaching firm that ignites the gifts and talents of global leaders to create a transformed world. In my work, I am passionate about people and people wanting to change things and recognizing that the status quo is not okay, that we don’t get to align ourselves to mediocre but instead we get to reach for something that we didn’t even think was possible that we’ve only dreamed about or fantasize about, but we’ve decided to take a stand for ourselves, for our communities and for the world to be different.
And I get a chance to do that work in a few different ways, primarily executive development and executive coaching. We recognize that there are leaders all around the globe that own what I call a micro-economy, right? We have the greater economy which is the world itself or country but a company is a micro-economy and you have the opportunity to make the same changes and difference that a president and congress in the judicial system is making for a country inside of your organization, and so I support leaders in figuring out outside of the traditional measures of success, right? Your market share, your profitability, your revenue, but what does it actually take for you to be the company that you want to be? To embody that and as a result, who would our executive leaders within that organization need to be in order to make a difference? What I also love about my work is that you can find leaders everywhere, so it’s not just within traditional organizations, start-ups, and Fortune 500 companies. But we have leaders throughout our communities, we have leaders within households. Our mothers in these COVID times are actually taking the helm and taking the reins and all the work that they have to do as caregivers.
And so I tend to work with a wide breadth of different leaders throughout whatever industry or wherever they lead from and recognizing that not only can they create the change that they want to see in the world, but they can actually be the change that they want to see in the world, which I find is a very profound process. My journey is a bit more straight and narrow than most folks. I always tell people I am doing exactly what I thought I was going to be doing at 18 years old, you can track it all the way back to an NPR interview with Tom Ashbrook where he asked, “Nandi, what do you want to do?” And little Nandi is saying, “Well, Tom, I’d like to create trainings, and workshops, and conferences for leaders in order to help them become who they want to become and I eventually wanted to do that as entrepreneur.” And then over-
Oana Amaria: For you, that’s because it’s you though!
Dr. Nandi Shareef: It’s funny because what happened was I knew I wanted to help people, I knew that in the fiber of my being ever since I was five years old, I had this vision of me helping people. And then I realized I live in the United States and I was like, “Yeah, and I don’t want to be broke!” So how do I actually marry those two things together? How do I help people? But how do I also feel comfortable and confident in this conversation around building wealth, taking care of self, taking care of my family, and have them not being mutually exclusive, right? How do we actually marry them together and then we talk about identity? That’s sometimes isn’t talked about in the Black community, I am a proud Black woman. But sometimes it’s I’ve got to sacrifice myself. And if I’m sacrificing myself and it’s got to be in a non-profit or can’t make any money about it, and for me early on teenage years, I’m like, “No, there’s got to be a way to do both. What does this look like? And who do I get to be in order to make this happen?”
Dr. Nandi Shareef: And throughout the journey, I just took all of the steps that I felt were necessary in order to position me in this way. So from an educational background standpoint, I have MBA and I have a PhD, I spent some time in the consulting industry and building learning and development organizations across the company, and then also worked in the high tech and start-up space. And when I felt ready and prepared, and that is actually a big part of my story, always asking myself, “What are you ready for? What do you have the courage to do? How are you showing up for this conversation that you want to have in X, Nandi?” And when I reflected on that, in each moment in my career, I found a different challenge to take on. And it was only until much later in my career where I said, “Okay, I can see in the distance that entrepreneurship is possible, that impacting people through the lens of my own organization and through the lens of transformation is possible.”
Dr. Nandi Shareef: But it was after a number of gates, a number of milestones throughout my career where I saw either this works really, really well. And I see the impact that it can have on people and I can have out sized impact and doing this on my own or, “Wow, I actually see the gates that are locked, chained.” No key in sight and because of that, it reinforced the need and the desire to really move off on my own. And I do feel very blessed in that every door closed throughout my career has opened either another door or a window. So even though it was a straight path in terms of me always taking on roles and opportunities and organizations that made sense in that aligned with the end goal, I’ve been fired, I’ve been laid off, I’ve had managers who have given me really bad performance reviews, I have made major mistakes in companies and organizations. So I think in that regard, it was a straight path but it was bumpy.
Dr. Nandi Shareef: And there was a lot to learn about who I am, who I wanted to be and how I wanted to show up for the work that I wanted to do, and more specifically, the people that I wanted to help and I know we’ll probably talk about transformation later but that’s so much of what this journey is about. It’s about who am I being not what am I doing that really makes a difference. And maybe lastly, to speak to Jason’s earlier question around the coolest project that I’m working on, it all comes out. It’s the combination of all of this work. I’m writing a book currently called, Imposter No More, how to tell the truth and start living authentically. And a huge part of the journey about it being bumpy, are the times in which I lost myself, not that I lost sight of where I was going, I got here and that was always the North Star. But I can think back to some moments where I became someone different and distinct than who I wanted to be or what was needed for the people that I was helping.
Dr. Nandi Shareef: And I really have had to ask myself, “What about the situation called me toward that behavior or showing up in that way? And if given the chance now that things are on my own terms, how would I break free from the constructs that created that and step forward in my real authenticity in a way that not only does it forward me and take care of myself, but it forwards my clients and it forwards the world and it allows us to see what happens when we are all allowed and permissioned to be who we were called to be.”
Oana Amaria: And so interesting you always say that I’m always ready with a piece of data or research, but there is this new article that I read that talked about we feel like imposters because we’re trying to navigate a world that wasn’t created for us. So it’s not because we’re imposters, it’s because we’re going against the grain and everything around you is telling you, you don’t belong. And so who in their right mind wouldn’t question that, right? And I think that you gave me chills hearing the title of your books. I think that’s so powerful. We are lucky enough that we get to work with you and collaborate with you and change hearts and minds and beliefs, I hope, inshallah at the end of it all. But I think when people hear transformation, they have all these ideas depending on what movie they watched, what show they watched, what podcasts they’re following.
Oana Amaria: And so for those that aren’t familiar with what it is, even some of the key pillars and how that’s different from training, for example, I think a lot of people don’t understand the difference between content and process work, right? Coaching versus facilitating, et cetera. Can you just give us a super high level, give us the deets on transformation and what that looks like.
Dr. Nandi Shareef: It’s so funny that you would say that I have another client that I work with that is constantly undergoing transformation. And they use the word transformation to try and soften the blow around restructuring and organizational changes. And I’m like, “Man, this is really what is done, the essence of this work.” And I certainly get the need for change management but I chuckle every time there’s another part of the organization that’s, “Let’s go into the transformation.” Because what it signals to me is that, there’s a lot more educating that we get to do around this process. What I love about the essence of transformation, is that every single thing in your life can change with none of the circumstances in your life changing. And every time I say that, I get very emotional because so often, we think we are subject to our circumstance, when in reality we are senior to our circumstance if we choose.
Dr. Nandi Shareef: And so the process of transformation is really about helping individuals understand how they are relating to their current circumstances or their challenges or the opportunities that are around them. How are you interpreting that. And in turn based on your interpretation or your beliefs about what you’re currently experiencing? How does that then influence and inform and impact the results that you’re getting on the other side. So when we believe something, we oftentimes get an outcome that validates what we believe that all folks say, “If you think you’re going to be right, you’re right. Period.” And you will see the proof in the pudding. Some people talk about it as the Pygmalion effect in learning and development or if you want to go back on movies, My Fair Lady, whatever you believe, the expectations that you espouse are what you get. So the process of transformation is about really breaking the back of our beliefs, especially the ones that do not work, that are not serving us. And in the context of anti-racism and DEI, what we’re talking about are the beliefs that are creating inequity.
Dr. Nandi Shareef: The beliefs that are incubating bias and discrimination within organizations and within communities, and recognizing how those beliefs are ones that we have held so closely and so dear to us for many years that we don’t even recognize the impact that we’re having, or that those beliefs are having as a result. And the process that I take leaders through and take individuals through around transformation is number one, getting awareness. Are you aware, there are things that we know and things that we know that we don’t know. But there are also things that we don’t know that we don’t know. And we don’t know that we don’t know them. Those are blind spots, and nine times out of 10, they’re in the driver’s seat. And if you don’t even know that they are running the show, then you are also blind to the impact that they are having and therefore complicit when they have negative impacts on other people.
Dr. Nandi Shareef: So that first part is around, “Am I aware of everything that’s happening around me.” And once you’re aware, then you have the opportunity to choose. So, Oana talked about choosing earlier making a choice, you have the opportunity to make a choice. “Do I like the results that I’m seeing? Or am I dismayed by the disenfranchisement that they’ve created. And so because of that, I’m going to make a different choice.” Now, sometimes we don’t know what that choice is going to be, we know that we want to do something different. But then we have to go through the process of uncovering what difference looks like, which is the next part of transformation, which is breakthrough. Breakthrough is when you have a situation that you’ve always had a circumstance that you’ve always had but you bring new thinking to it. You bring an elevated conversation, you bring a new being how you’re showing up to it is completely different.
Dr. Nandi Shareef: And now all of a sudden, you’re able to break through and create them the last part of transformation results. Results that are distinct and different than what you’ve been able to achieve up until this point. But they only happen because you are aware and you made a choice about who you were going to be differently than who you’ve been up until this point.
Oana Amaria: It’s so interesting. So, in transformation work, we talked about upset and then awareness and then choice and that’s the part I feel like is really key to bring in because it’s not fun. The thing you realize, the thing that gets you to the point of awareness, something goes down, right? And I know my own personal life, there’s so many moments and there’s this quote that I know Jason knows, the hotter the fire the purer the gold, and I’ve always based on my character, based on whatever, based on the essence of when I have come to a point of upset, I tend to make the choice of like, “Okay, how can I better myself from this?” Right? And I think what’s so powerful about the example you gave is that, that actually that path is also the history or the origin of Firefly, right? Where I found myself, I’ll never forget this, I was in my office in LA and I was having a conversation with someone that I considered a mentor, and in that conversation the upset was, “I am who I am because of them.”
Oana Amaria: And to me, what was so incredible is in that moment, I chose me and I chose it that is not the story and that is not the definition of Oana, and I had the courage to see past that. And it demonstrates the fact that nothing changed about me, not my skill set, not my experience, not how I how up in the world, I mean, I have shorter hair now but to me, it took everything I had because it’s so easy to invest in someone else or in something else. And to have the courage and back to your question, what do I have the courage to do? My higher self in that moment said, “Oana, that’s enough, have the courage for it to be you. Have the courage to be good enough, have the courage to show up, have the courage to take space.”
Oana Amaria: I mean, you can’t see me right now but my heart is beating so hard even saying that out loud because it’s hard to put the bet on yourself to say, “I’m good enough, I’m ready, I can do this, I will make an impact.” Right? And that gets to the result piece. And again nothing has changed other than my belief and what I’m willing to do.
Jason Rebello: We’re in an incredible moment in history, I feel and I remember reading something but from my tech background when it comes to the rate of change, how fast things are changing, it has never been as fast as it is right now and simultaneously, it’ll never be as slow as it is right now, right? Meaning that we’re on this perpetual kind of speeding up as it relates to change. So I guess my question is kind of two parts, a, just in general what is the most challenging thing about doing this work, this transformation work and bookend that question with, in this world of this hyper accelerated change, which is not good or bad, most of the things that we talk about in the work that we do, it’s everything you have to see, the accelerators and the blockers of everything, right? The light and the shadow side of everything, so from that context, what is the most challenging thing right now? What is the most challenging thing as relates to the work that you’re doing and that we’re doing and how does this accelerated rate of change affect that?
Dr. Nandi Shareef: This is so good. One, I just want to reflect on what Oana to shared, I needed to take a moment to really process that and I think it connects exactly to the question that you’ve asked, Jason. The most challenging thing about transformation is the direction that the finger is pointing. Oftentimes when we go into organizations, they’re pointed outward. That finger is pointed outward at somebody else or something else that needs to change and then here’s what I’m going to do to help that change along. So in the context of anti-racism or DEI, we’re going to make investments into communities and I preface this by saying, all of these things are still good things. So making investments into communities, changing our strategy, trying to figure out what exists currently in our organization and what we can do to actually incubate inclusion in a different way. All of these actions absent of transforming who we’re being, are performative at best.
Dr. Nandi Shareef: You can do whatever you want to do, you can say whatever you want to say, but if you wake up tomorrow and you are the same person but just in this conversation, nothing has changed. There’s been no transformation, you just put some money somewhere. Our charge as leaders in organization and then the challenge that I find, it’s so funny, I have a group of leaders right now and they keep saying to me like, “Oh, this feels so much like organizational effectiveness work or this feel so much of…” It is! All of it is because if we are leaders and we are ineffective, it’s something we are doing. And when it comes to something we are doing, then it’s some way that we were being, and beliefs that we have that have informed our actions, have informed our processes or systems or structures that are now disenfranchising other people in a micro economy are reflective of the macro economy. The same things are happening.
Dr. Nandi Shareef: So it can be really difficult and it’s been very challenging to walk side by side with leaders and to help them move the finger from pointing outward, to focusing on the four fingers that are pointing back toward them, if you include them, right? Everything that’s coming back to them, that there are things that I need to change, that there is a worldview and a motivation and values that are so ingrained in me, have been here since childhood, I don’t even see when my inner 10 year old is coming out in a board meeting. Or when given my defense mechanisms, when I feel triggered, right? When we talk about the upset that Oana brought forward, when I’m triggered and this defense mechanism comes up, I’ve been unable to see how this process that I’ve implemented on this team helps me when I’m triggered but disenfranchises somebody that’s not like me at all.
Dr. Nandi Shareef: If I’m being completely honest, it’s a hard sell to tell leaders that, “There are someone different that you need to be, there are shifts that you need to make,” versus just telling them, “Here are all the things that you can do. And if you follow steps one through 20 to die, you have the recipe for an anti-racist organization.” I’m sorry, I wish, if I had it I’d sell it. And I actually wouldn’t be doing this work anymore. I’d be sitting somewhere out and chilling. But unfortunately, it takes the hard work, the hard work is not in the action. And this goes to your second part of your question, Jason, the rate of change is faster than it ever has been but also it’s gotten faster over millennials, right?
Dr. Nandi Shareef: And somehow, someone or many people have always showed up to the challenge of the change. What is different about those folks, than is different from the rest of us if we’re not including systemic advantage and privilege, right? But the difference is who they decided to be in the midst of change, how they decided to relate to change, the beliefs that they had about what they were looking to do. And then what steps they took as a result, those are the things that are different. So when it comes to the challenge of change, and the challenge that I experienced in transformation where the answer is one in the same, people who are ready to do and unwilling to be.
Jason Rebello: So much of what you’re saying is resonating on multiple levels, right? As this concept of transformation as a Buddhist and I practice Buddhism, this concept of Human Revolution is that the crux, that is it. We have to do the work to tap into the best version of ourselves. But in order to do that, we have to face the reality of who we are, right? And we have to be willing to be open to unpacking and discovering why we’re behaving in the ways that we’re behaving in the environments and the situations and with the people. And the beauty of it is that it couches that in the best mirror to be able to see clear, is how you interact with other human beings, right?
Jason Rebello: The other human beings are the pure mirror of the growth work that you need to do. And I’m always shocked that this, how we can separate our work life and leading companies that are all essentially made up of people where we’re developing products or services that are touching people and interacting with people, how we can separate because anytime you talk with leaders and they’re always doing some version of like girls work on themselves, on a personally but they can separate that that work needs to happen as much if not even more so in the context of the hat, that when they’re a leader or director or CEO or a founder, right? Fill in the blank.
Jason Rebello: So, I feel like one of the things that are connecting points that made is that again, there’s no separation, right? There can’t be any separation from who we are when we… Who we say we want to be when we say, “I want to be a better person and I want to grow,” and who we are when we’re with our spouses or with our teams at work or with the strangers on the streets, whatever the case may be. So I’m just reflecting that that’s what kind of came to the surface as you were sharing that is really powerful.
Dr. Nandi Shareef: Jason, if I could just add a little bit onto that, my mentor Sylvia Hai always says, “Outside of relationship, we are a figment of our own imaginations.”
Jason Rebello: I love that.
Dr. Nandi Shareef: And to me, what’s so powerful about that then in the context of transformation within companies, is what’s happening is leaders are living in a figment of their own imaginations, I always love to go back to the emperor who has on new clothes, HBR has an article about CEOs that live in a bubble, that is actually what happens, because you are not tuned in, tapped in, turned on to what’s actually occurring in your organization, how people are experiencing you, how are people are experiencing your systems, processes, policies, procedures. You think that things are going well, you look at the market, you look at your revenue, you look at your sales and profit and you say, “Well, I must be doing great.” And then you get surprised with an EEOC or a class action suit. And it’s like, “How was that possible?” Because you were not in relationship. And so you are actually living in a figment of your own imagination and now the bubble has burst.
Dr. Nandi Shareef: Someone told the Emperor they had on no clothes, and it’s hard. And it’s painful. So as DEI practitioners and people that are in this space, as much as we can bring the unconscious or the unknown or the background into the foreground and the conscious for leaders, we are doing them such a justice. But beyond those leaders, we are elevating the profile and the voice of all people in organizations who are suffering because our leaders are actually not paying attention and are not aware of the impact that they’re actually having.
Oana Amaria: So fascinating, we talk about like you said something that I think is really critical about the heart cell. I think the other piece around the heart cell is that it requires courage, courage to go against the things that have worked for you and that work for you. Right? SO when we think about our specializations are heuristics, the reason we’re in these seats is because it has served us and I don’t even want anyone to touch privilege and all the way it served us, right? But just in our tendons the way we operate in our roles, right? So when you think of these leaders and oftentimes they know how to… Their heart is there, the passion is there, It’s when it’s at the cost of their efficiency or at the cost of their org or the cost of their own art to their our own benefits. Right?
Oana Amaria: I think that’s the part one that’s really hard. And in our last podcast, we talked with Ryan and he talked about it being the throw up moment and I think I can really empathize with how we’re trying to get them to be adaptive leaders and to see around the corner. And we’re doing it to fortify them. We’re doing it as an individual, as a human being, but also in their orgs. And I don’t think it’s always received that way and I think that part is probably the hardest part for all of us in this world In the DI transformation world, because it doesn’t feel that way when someone’s telling you the truth because you’ve been in that bubble, right? So then all of a sudden, the bubble burst and all these things are happening and it can feel like you’re being attacked. And what’s being attacked are your biases, your blind spots and your tendency for, I don’t know, surrounding yourself with people like you would you get to that problem in the first place?
Oana Amaria: I think we can spend our entire time on that alone because it’s quite the deep dive. But I actually think this other piece is really important. And it’s how hard this work can be. And I know you and I, Nandi, have talked about how many of these projects could you really do in a year? Because it’s hard to show up with that energy, it’s hard to keep… People don’t understand what it takes to create the container for that experience that we create and transformation. So one, I’d love for you to talk about that, two, are there examples of transformation that are really meaningful for you? Because they’re all hard. So and their hearts like I think people also forget that we transform with them. So it’s not like you get to opt out through the nine months that you go with people on this journey or whatever that version would be. And so I’d love to hear what makes it worth it for you.
Dr. Nandi Shareef: Yeah, absolutely. I think about a couple of things, just around the challenge and the toll on me personally as a facilitator, and I know that practitioners that are listening to this podcast can really resonate with the fact that it will take a toll on you, it can be very challenging to do this work, to hold a container while also holding your identity. Right? We are still people and we’re still humans just as the leaders that we are helping are to. And I think, Oana, you were just sharing and what came up for me was seeing someone in the middle of the street, and them getting ready to be hit by a car and you yelling at them to move and them being upset that you are yelling. And not paying attention to the car that almost just hit them. And I think that that is one of the most challenging feelings and you sit with that for the entire experience.
Dr. Nandi Shareef: And maybe after nine months, you get some validation that it was worth it, that people have had their personal transformations and their breakthroughs, but a part of the transformation process is about things breaking and things being in breakdown. Breakdown is required for breakthrough. And so because of that, there are other roles and other opportunities that people engage in where you do something and you immediately feel gratified like, “Yeah, I just hit that sales number.” We just shipped this on time, whatever it might be for whatever your industry is. But for us, we have to sit in the valley with people for so long. First of all, we oftentimes are the ones that take them to the valley because we’re telling them that they have on no clothes, and they say what is going on. And then they have to sit in the pain of that awareness and try to get to somewhere else. And they have to hold themselves accountable to get into that point. That’s a long journey.
Dr. Nandi Shareef: That’s a long way of navigating. I think the moments that are most meaningful for me, is when people rightfully connect, doing the right thing by people with business results. It is a belief, a limiting misguided belief that if you do the right thing by people, if you move towards equity, if you take care of your people, that you’re going to go slower, you’re not going to meet your metrics, your profit margins are going to go down. That is a belief. How I know it’s a belief, because you never tried it. You have actually never seen what your organization looks like in equity. As a utopia of equity, you have no idea what could be possible. And so because of that, even just the things that leaders will say to you when they ask you to come in for your support, and they asked me to come in and they’re like, “Well, if we slow down.” No, you don’t know that.
Dr. Nandi Shareef: And so in the same way, especially when we talk about tech companies and founder led companies in the same way that you did not know if your idea or your product have legs, isn’t it possible if you give us just a little bit of space that you can find that this will move you even further than the way that you’ve been operating has moved you up until this point. But unless you give yourselves permission and give your support in your head of DEI, and whoever else is supporting this, an opportunity, you will never know. And you will continue to walk through this thing blindly. And you’ll let somebody else get the glory of what it’s like to take in everybody. And to really understand what happens when you get everyone brings their best selves to the table. So I think for me, the moment where it makes the most sense, where it’s most meaningful or when people say, “Wow, I actually see how when I make decisions this way, it slows things down because people are not bought in. And when people are not bought in, they don’t do what I’m asking them to do.
Dr. Nandi Shareef: They take time off, they’ve feign sickness, they drag their feet. And now I’m not getting as much out of my team as I want.” If I were to index toward equity and say everyone’s voice needs to be heard but also I don’t have the right answer but I may be able to pull and see who might and the context of the time that I have, well, everybody was a part of it. We’ve disagreed and committed, you got everybody on board, you move faster than you’ve ever expected. So to me, those are the moments that make the difference because that is the real connection. But it doesn’t seem like a connection based on the blind spots that we have as leaders, which takes me back to the point around transformation. It’s not about what to do. It’s about who to be and you would have had to be open in order to receive that gift.
Oana Amaria: I also to add to your point, I think what’s interesting is it’s also your fault as the facilitator the entire time. You’re telling them that they’re going to get hit by a car, which I think is whether, to be clear there’s the spectrum, right? And we always call it remedial DNI, DNI light, transformation DNI, depending on and it’s not out of judgment, it’s out of we meet people where they are and we meet organizations where they are. But sometimes it’s hard. It’s hard to go through a journey with someone and it’s your fault the entire time until they get it. And then they’re like, “Oh, and because of this program, we hired the head of engineering and it’s a woman and I fought everybody for it.” And those are the moments for us where it’s like, “Wow, that’s so rewarding, my goodness, it’s not for the faint of heart.” Right?
Dr. Nandi Shareef: Yeah, it’s really not. And I think this moment of it being our fault as practitioners, I think it’s so important to contextualize that around what we know about anti-racism or racism itself, supremacy, DEI. When people are unaware and you bring something to their awareness, they will fight you tooth and nail, that same leader that you were talking about Oana, two years before was fighting people and telling them that the woman that they were thinking about putting on the slate was not worth it, that they didn’t have enough education, enough background, they hadn’t managed a team that was big enough. And then that same leader, once they got a new awareness, we were able to transform. Yeah, they’re doing that. But what I take solace in doing this work is, I am bringing something to the foreground that you have either been completely unaware of or you’ve hidden it for so long. It is in the, Jason talked about this earlier, is it in the shadows. And we put things in the shadow because we don’t want them to be illuminated.
Dr. Nandi Shareef: And I really praise and uplift the HR teams, the DEI teams, the people teams that oftentimes are the ones that reach out to us because everybody else doesn’t know where this is going but they know where it’s headed. They know that it’s going to get rough before it gets better. And that takes some courage and bravery on their part to be willing to risk that level of upset so that their leaders can get the breakthrough in the illumination that they can so clearly see that the rest of the organization-
Jason Rebello: There’s so much, this is our podcast and I’m going to listen to this podcast a few times really later, just to be able to pull all these nuggets. That’s how you know it’s a fantastic session. It’s like, “Oh, I want to listen to this again.” Truly. My final question is, we’ve asked so much of you, what is your ask of us or to us, to the community that is doing this work? What is your call to action, if you have one? We would love to give you the space to feel free to ask. Yeah, just take it to another level, whatever your ask is we would love to hear.
Dr. Nandi Shareef: Be selfish, so that you can be selfless. In this community, what I so often see are helpers and givers and people who really want to make a difference in the world. And that is one of the most admirable, honest and powerful places to stand from as an individual as a human walking your path on this planet. The challenge I see, however, is we are so often giving and helping and pouring out that not only are we empty, we always hear the term you can’t pour from an empty cup but we are scraping our cups. And now you are damaged as a vessel. This work is not worth you being damaged as a person. And so what’s required of us is to pour in and to fortify ourselves. The responsible thing is for us to fill ourselves up so that what leaders are getting is the overflow. Can you imagine the difference between dipping your cup in a wonderful lake that has fresh waterfalls that’s coming out?
Dr. Nandi Shareef: It’s like, “Oh, I want to drink that.” Versus a bowl with stale water that’s been out for days. And sometimes that’s how we show up to this work, stale, uninspired, not ready to take on the challenges that come and then what do leaders get as a result but more importantly, what do the underrepresented folks who are really advocating for get from us? We are required, it is our duty when we talk about being leaders or being selfless or being servant leaders if you would to take care of ourselves in a way where we are modeling it and we’re we are giving so much that people have no choice but then to pay it forward and give to others. And then it’s a virtuous cycle. But it begins with us turning the mirror and saying that we are worthy and that we are worth it. And then being willing to align that as a way of being and as a belief system with our actions.
Dr. Nandi Shareef: And then you don’t even have to trust me, look at the difference in your work between after you’ve taken a vacation or you went to the spa for me, it’s like going to get a massage. After I do that, what am I able to do in the session the next day, versus when I’ve been running at 100 million miles an hour for the last three months with no break. And you’ll know that this is a point of view to possibly take on and to really try out and move through and thread through, I promise you. In the same way we tell leaders, you can slow down to speed up or we question their thinking, we need to question our thinking, that we have to do this work on e or that we have to do this work in a way that keeps us from being at our best.
Dr. Nandi Shareef: No, you get to have my best, which means you might get half the time but you’re going to get 500% more than he would have gotten if I were to just spread myself thin. So I’m asking each of you that are practitioners, that are listening to this podcast, be selfish, take care of yourself and the people that are around you, pour into the things that matter to you. Find your passion, do that work and then step forward and give your absolute best to organizations. They will thank you for it.
Oana Amaria: I know that was heard loud and clear on my end. Yes, ma’am. And yeah, I definitely feel like I got hit hard that you’re speaking to me, Nandi. But it’s such a powerful reminder, right? And to your point, how it’s the re-imagining we’re asking our leaders to do, so thank you so much for that and thank you so much for your time with us today.
Jason Rebello: Thank you so much. That was fantastic.
Dr. Nandi Shareef: Thank you both for the work that you are doing in yourselves and in the world. It’s truly making a difference and I am honored to be your partner.