SnackWalls

E72 L. Michelle Smith: Rockstar Leader

December 07, 2020 Mike Roberts Season 1 Episode 72
SnackWalls
E72 L. Michelle Smith: Rockstar Leader
Chapters
SnackWalls
E72 L. Michelle Smith: Rockstar Leader
Dec 07, 2020 Season 1 Episode 72
Mike Roberts

Having a case of the Mondays? Today's guest is sure to help kick start your week. L. Michelle Smith is an executive business coach, accomplished author, and empowering figure who brought a refreshing perspective to the show. Enjoy! 

Finding diverse talent is not a challenge, but many companies just don't know where to look. From L. Michelle’s experience, the middle of the leadership pipeline is spewing out overqualified and high performing women of all backgrounds that can be easily recruited. She believes that the current systems in place to join the workforce are ingrained with implicit bias. It is exciting to see large software companies begin to break the paradigm (ex. required CS degrees) and find new ways to be more inclusive. L. Michelle has found that many companies get shortsighted when they think of filling the pipeline with diverse candidates for entry level roles only. Add seats to the board of directors and fill them with people of color. Then move down in the organization and continue diversifying. Once your leadership team is set, then it is more likely that apprenticeships and other programs will be successful.  To retain diverse talent, she believes the key is to focus on women and other marginalized groups. Studies have shown that women of color, specifically Black women, are double outsiders in companies simply because of their chromosomes and melanin. Leaders in organizations need to go over and beyond their comfort level to make sure that talented people of marginalized groups are not overlooked.

L. Michelle Smith is the CEO/founder of no silos communications llc a media and consulting company that blends talent development and strategic communications to develop high-performing, women executive leaders. She is the author of No Thanks: 7 Ways to Say I’ll Just Include Myself: A Guide to Rockstar Leadership for Women of Color in the Workplace. L. Michelle is also the creator, executive producer and host of The Culture Soup Podcast® which is heard in 38 countries and has been consistently at the top of the rankings on Apple Podcasts in the Business/Business News and Business/Entrepreneurship categories.


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Show Notes Transcript

Having a case of the Mondays? Today's guest is sure to help kick start your week. L. Michelle Smith is an executive business coach, accomplished author, and empowering figure who brought a refreshing perspective to the show. Enjoy! 

Finding diverse talent is not a challenge, but many companies just don't know where to look. From L. Michelle’s experience, the middle of the leadership pipeline is spewing out overqualified and high performing women of all backgrounds that can be easily recruited. She believes that the current systems in place to join the workforce are ingrained with implicit bias. It is exciting to see large software companies begin to break the paradigm (ex. required CS degrees) and find new ways to be more inclusive. L. Michelle has found that many companies get shortsighted when they think of filling the pipeline with diverse candidates for entry level roles only. Add seats to the board of directors and fill them with people of color. Then move down in the organization and continue diversifying. Once your leadership team is set, then it is more likely that apprenticeships and other programs will be successful.  To retain diverse talent, she believes the key is to focus on women and other marginalized groups. Studies have shown that women of color, specifically Black women, are double outsiders in companies simply because of their chromosomes and melanin. Leaders in organizations need to go over and beyond their comfort level to make sure that talented people of marginalized groups are not overlooked.

L. Michelle Smith is the CEO/founder of no silos communications llc a media and consulting company that blends talent development and strategic communications to develop high-performing, women executive leaders. She is the author of No Thanks: 7 Ways to Say I’ll Just Include Myself: A Guide to Rockstar Leadership for Women of Color in the Workplace. L. Michelle is also the creator, executive producer and host of The Culture Soup Podcast® which is heard in 38 countries and has been consistently at the top of the rankings on Apple Podcasts in the Business/Business News and Business/Entrepreneurship categories.


SnackWalls is powered by San Diego Code School: https://sdcs.io

Please share like and subscribe for more reach 🙌🏾

Mike:

Welcome back to the SnackWalls podcast. I'm Mike Roberts, your host, and we are here to talk about increasing and maintaining diversity in tech, beyond the perks. While companies think they can lure people in with unlimited PTO and dogs in the office. We're here to talk about how you keep them. All right I'm going to throw it to our special guest for today. In a few sentences can you tell us who you are and what is it that you do?

L.Michelle:

Yes. My name is L Michelle Smith. I'm a certified executive and business coach and I am the principal at NSC Coaching. And of course my media company is No Silos Communications, LLC. My job is to ensure that we have women leaders, especially women of color who can lead like rockstars. We develop them and we advise the companies that they want to lead.

Mike:

Nice. We need more representation there. So I'm excited to have this conversation. So let's just jump right into it. I'm hearing from some leaders in tech that finding diverse talent is a challenge. What are your thoughts?

L.Michelle:

Its not a challenge, you just don't know where to look. And in a many, in many cases, what people's work life reflects is their personal life. I believe there's a straight line between the two and there's no separating it. So the object would be to expand your network and expand your reach. So many companies just stop at HBCUs, but you know what, here's the thing. Why can't you find people at HBCUs? Several of me and my friends, we finished PWIs or, you know, predominantly white institutions. We soar there too and college, isn't the only place to go because I work with women of color, especially, in women, I know that the middle of that leadership pipeline is spewing out overqualified, high performing women and women of color. The job market is full of these ladies. Either they're getting pushed out or they're hanging on by the skin of their teeth and you can poach them very easily or, we are starting businesses. So there are a number of black women, women of color who are over-indexing when it comes to entrepreneurship. And many of these women would be open to what I call "extrapreneurship" instead of that side hustle, because that's what Ray Ray does not very high-performing over credentialed women. We are extra preneurs. So we would be open to running your organization and also running our company. But you also need to be open to that paradigm.

Mike:

Yeah. I mean, you got to open up your eyes and you got to be looking in the right places. So I agree a hundred percent.

L.Michelle:

Well, and so often, not just the professionals, but the companies think either, or. When moving into this new fractured digital and cultural economy, you need to be thinking both, and. And that means to get more people who are qualified, those transformational leaders, that's an entrepreneurial mindset. So you can't skip over the entrepreneur and think, oh yeah, they're there, they're going to do that for 20 something odd jillion years. Many of us are hired guns.

Mike:

Yeah. And I liked the idea of that, the path is not necessarily this like linear college pipeline. And instead people that are entrepreneurs are going to come from all different types of, you know, skilled through all kinds of routes and like their path is going to be maybe more complex, but they're going to have a variety of those, transitional skills that they can take and apply in your business and be super successful. So I love that answer. So what do you think about the push to remove some of the, you know, what I might call barriers like CS degrees for many software engineering roles?

L.Michelle:

Well, I think it's, it's good to look at these things because there is implicit bias ingrained in so many of these systems that we have and because it's unconscious, the leaders believe it doesn't exist. So all of these structures need to be rethought. I love the idea that there are huge software companies that are looking at getting rid of the qualification of even having a degree because so many of these tech positions require that you go back and get recertified and recertified and recertified. And if you're up to speed on those, there's no degree that will catch you up. So it's really exciting that people are beginning to start to break the paradigm and begin to see new ways to bring in more inclusion.

Mike:

So to that point, do you think an apprenticeship pattern would work for some of these kinds of roles and companies?

L.Michelle:

They would, but you know, I think we get shortsighted when we think that the pipeline begins at school and the entry-level position and apprenticeship typically means that we're getting somebody out of college. We need to start to fill that entire pipeline up with diverse candidates. And that means that you start from the top too. So you need to be looking at your board and deciding, okay, let's, multiply by addition. You don't have to subtract if somebody is thinking, oh, we got to give up a board seat to do whatever. Start with the board, add to the board, then look at your senior leaders, see what's wrong there because I guarantee you, if you get that right, coming up from the bottom apprenticeships and all of that stuff, solves for itself. And everyone at the top needs to be mandated to pull from their networks and from the bottom of that company. And, you know, it's, it's really interesting because again, I look at women and women of color that are stuck in the middle and we start to thin out around that director level, AVP, senior director, by the time you get to VP, especially on the five fortune 500, we begin to amazingly disappear. And it's crazy because I look around in my network, there's plenty of Black women, women of color, Asian, Latinx that are ready and over credentialed and amazing, but they tell some of the same stories.

Mike:

Yeah. And so to that point, so attracting talent is one piece. We've talked about that. What, what do you think organizations need to do more of to retain diverse talent?

L.Michelle:

Let's stop, not centering women and women of color and other marginalized groups. You have to understand if you go back to the catalyst research in 2017, that followed up women in the workplace from mckinsey.org or McKinsey and Company and leanin.org that called women of color, especially black women, double outsiders. The reason for that is by the very chromosomes that we have in the melanin, in our skin. It makes us doubly on the outside, not centered. So if white maleness is centered, even if it's not conscious where people are sitting there thinking, well, we're just going to block her out. I'm not saying that there are those that do that, but not the majority of people. I believe that the majority of people are good people and they want to do well. You have to go over and beyond your comfort level and making sure that black women and women of color are not othered. So that means that when you have your circle around the table, do something extra to pull somebody else in, because what we're seeing, again, people are getting stuck in that pipeline or they're spewing out in the middle and you've got to make sure that they make it past that. So the underlying assumption is that there are people in your company already who can do the job. So stop overlooking them. Yeah.

Mike:

Yeah. And it's about being a sponsor, right? Being, being able to pull them in and give them a seat at the table that they typically wouldn't be able to kind of get to on their own. And to your point, it's not, it's not a zero sum game. This is additive. This is bringing someone new, a new perspective into the room, adding their life experience and changing things. And I really liked the part where you talked about the having to be comfortable being uncomfortable. I talked to people in the early part of their career about that. Like in software, you're going to have to get comfortable being uncomfortable. We're solving really hard problems that maybe no one has solved before. That's our job. Our job is coming in to solve business problems. And so it really is important for people to not feel like when you're being pushed to be a little bit outside of your comfort zone, that that's a bad thing. Like that's what, that's how change happens.

L.Michelle:

Can I add to that? Because I spend the time working with the women. I spend time working with those, even men, male leaders, and the deal is this. So many of us through our generational, exposures from our parents and even our grandparents in some cases, and even just culturally in our, in our own circles, we get into habits. And one of those habits is that we stay loyal to one company, no matter what. And we aren't agile enough, like our friends who are millennials who showed us, and we resented, that they would pick up and leave within two to three years to go get that next opportunity. And the beauty of that is, we didn't know it back then, but now we know now we're down to companies, not even keeping people, but more than three to five years and probably less. But if you're hanging on to dear life for this company, that means that you are shutting out the recruiters and the hiring managers that are calling you. Cause I know they are. And you're saying, you know what? I am going to muddle through. I'm going to hang on to this percentage of an increase every year. And the little bitty bonus that I have to argue over every year, instead of going and doing what Boz Saint John has shown us is the secret sauce. Bet on your brand, pick up your credentials and go to the next thing that's good for you. And I think that if more of us did that and not went with the old paradigm, get that good job, stay with that good job and that good company put your head down. Don't merchandise, your work. What is a personal brand? Um, you know, don't kick up any dust. No we're saying do just the opposite and seeing how many of these other companies will discover us a little better.

Mike:

And be careful if you're a company because people are going to start leaving, right? So that's how you maintain. That's how you make sure people stay.

L.Michelle:

Pressure on the system and continue to understand what our value really is. And many of us don't understand it. We haven't done the research to find out our market value. We haven't done the hard work to understand our story and what value we bring intrinsically how many people can't even say, what problem they saw, you ask them what they do. They will say, here's my job title. Here's my name. And we could dig under that. And I'm seeing what we're really worth. You could walk tall inside of those buildings and walk to.

Mike:

Yeah, absolutely. So man, this has been phenomenal. This is one that may be hard pressed on, and that is, who is someone like yourself that you'd like to acknowledge as a leader? And you might be a good guest on podcasts like this.

L.Michelle:

Absolutely. Now there's several in my book and we'll get along around the book in a minute, No Thanks Seven Ways To Say I'll Just Include Myself. There are, several expert voices and executive leader voices, and many of them started in STEM in there at the CEO level. You need seek out, Cynt Marshall. She is the first female NBA CEO ever in time. Of color or not. She is a sponsor of mine. She's a mentor of mine too. And we started at an AT&T together. Now it may be tough to get her cause she's a rockstar. And that's what this book is about. These rock stars, right? And how to become a rock star leader. But this woman has found a way to maintain herself, the continuity of her authenticity, and still run the business like a rockstar. You're going to hear me say that word a lot. Cynt Marshall is a wonderful person. She is a double E by training and she ran diversity and inclusion, which was her, her big, Swan song in corporate America in the fortune 500 at the fortune 10 where we both worked at AT&T. So, you know, when the Mavericks got into a little trouble, what did they do? And this is what they do with a lot of black women. High-performing black women. They go and call us. And because we are innovative, we can make something out of nothing because we're creative. We can do things with small resources and turn them into innovation because we run to the risk and makes ourselves a transformational formation leader. And we are overqualified. We can go in there and clean that thing up. And go onto the next thing and Cynt Marshall has done that. That's one, I'd also say you need to seek out Cheryl Grace, Cheryl Grace is at Nielsen, senior vice president of consumer engagement. She is the one that churns out the data year over year for consumer markets and the segments. Those underrepresented groups to show what the buying power is. And let me tell you, those are the numbers that I was using when I was working at the fortune 500 and trying to move programs forward. Very, very insightful lady who has some great things to say about not just diversity inclusion in marketing and PR, but also in retention and talent attraction. Um, there's some others.

Mike:

All right, well, those are definitely two, I'm gonna put on the radar now and see if we can have them come on the program. You know, I'm just a humble little, you know, this is a little program, so I don't know if we're going to be able to make that happen, but I'm gonna try to reach out. I'm gonna try. So last, second last question. What, where can we find out more information? What's, any shameless, let's put this book that you just dropped a little hint about.

L.Michelle:

Yeah. So first of all, No Thanks, you can go to NoThanksBook.com and it gives you all the information about the book, but it is a guide to rockstar leadership for women in the workplace. Okay. And ultimately it is an executive coach in the book. And the idea is that so many women, because they're stuck in the middle, don't get to see the perks that everybody else sees as that senior leader or executive leader. So they may not ever have a company pay for a resource like me. So I'm offering access throughout the book. We have affirmations because at the core of the book is understanding your value, but understanding that there are real, real obstacles in bias, in rejection, in politics, in all of these things that you have to fight racism, they're there, but you have all this negative stuff that comes at you. And even what my mentor, coach Trudy Bourgeois calls the itty bitty committee. The negative self talk that comes at you with talks you out of soaring. We have to counter that with affirmation. So there's seven in the book. That's what the Seven Ways To Say is all about. But the hero in the book is understanding your value. The villain in the book is fear, but we do some really interesting things with applied positive psychology and a clinical psychologist that shows us how to flip white privilege in our favorite favor, and also use the pockets of black privilege and other privileges that we may have in education and financial and corporate to move forward, despite.

Mike:

Absolutely which we will continue to do. Right? Yeah. This is a continuation.

L.Michelle:

And I would also say, if you want to find out more about my coaching practice, go to NSCCoaching.co.

Mike:

Awesome. We'll throw all that in the show notes. So people will have links so they can get to you super easy. And the last question, this is the most important question. Of course. What have you been snacking on lately? What's your favorite snack?

L.Michelle:

You know, I like dark chocolate, But I'm also gluten-free and naturally dark chocolate is gluten-free, but usually when you get it, you don't know if it's, you know, without the impurities and all that good stuff. So Kind is the name of the company. And they have something called bark and I get the almond honey dark chocolate.

Mike:

I have had Kind dark chocolate before it is good.

L.Michelle:

It is yummy, and you dont feel like you are missing up, you know, the calories and definitely staying away from gluten and in my case.

Mike:

Nice. All right. I like it. So L Michelle, this has been fantastic. I really do appreciate you coming on the program. Thanks so much. The San Diego Code School is a proud sponsor of the SnackWall's podcast. The San Diego school is leading companies to tech equity. The tech enabled apprenticeship program is a venture whose heart is to do a lot of social good and do good work. You can help San Diego Code School, secure funding for change by hiring developers, bringing a team in to relieve your backlog or becoming a program sponsor. You can visit us on the web for more information at HTTP colon slash slash S D C S.io