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Episode 018: A Conversation on The Waymakers with Tara Jaye Frank, Part 1

A Conversation on The Waymakers with Tara Jaye Frank Part 1

Part one of Sarah’s discussion with author Tara Jaye Frank on her new book, The Waymakers: Clearing the Path to Workplace Equity with Competence and Confidence.  What does it mean to be a Waymaker?

About Our Guest

Tara Jaye Frank is an equity strategist who has advised and educated thousands of Fortune 500 executives across multiple industries and large member organizations. Her work, fueled by a deep belief in the creative power and potential of everyone, focuses on building bridges between people, ideas, and opportunity.

Before founding her culture and leadership consultancy, Frank spent twenty-one years at Hallmark Cards, where she served in multiple executive roles, including Vice President of Creative Writing and Editorial, Vice President of Business Innovation, Vice President of Multicultural Strategy, and Corporate Culture Advisor to the President.

Tara resides in Dallas, Texas, with her husband, two of their six children, and their three dogs. She is also a proud Spelman Alumna and a member of the Executive Leadership Council, Network of Executive Women, Delta Sigma Theta Sorority, Inc., and was recently named a 2022 SUCCESS125 honoree by SUCCESS Magazine, and is listed among CORE Magazine’s 100 Most Influential Blacks in 2022.

Learn more at tarajayefrank.com  and wearethewaymakers.com

Resources Mentioned

Episode Transcript

Sarah Noll Wilson
Hello, and welcome to this week’s episode of Conversations on Conversations, where each week we explore a topic to help us have better conversations with ourselves and with others. I’m your host, Sarah Noll Wilson. And I know I say I’m excited every week, but I am giddy. I’m giddy to introduce you to our guest this week. I promise you, have a notepad, bring a highlighter, as I read her book I went through not one, not two, but three highlighters, because I was highlighting so much. So our guest is Tara Jaye Frank, and let me tell you a little bit about her. Tara Jaye Frank is an equity strategist who has advised and educated thousands of Fortune 500 executives across multiple industries and large member organizations. Her work is fueled by a deep belief in the creative power and potential of everyone. Focuses on building bridges between people ideas and opportunity. Before founding her culture and leadership consultancy, Frank spent 21 years at Hallmark cards- I love your career, it’s, I can’t wait to dig in, where she served in multiple executive roles, including Vice President of Creative Writing and Editorial, Vice President of Business Innovation, Vice President of Multicultural Strategy, and Corporate Culture Advisor to the President. Tara resides in Dallas, Texas with her husband, two of their six children, and their three dogs. She’s also a proud Spelman alumna, and a member of the Executive Leadership Council Network of Executive Women, Delta Sigma Theta sorority, and was recently named a 2022 Success 125 honoree by Success Magazine, and is listed among CORE Magazine’s 100 Most Influential Blacks in 2022. She recently authored this unbelievable book that just published on May third, “The Waymakers,” which I’ll hold up for those who are joining us virtually. Tara, welcome.

Tara Jaye Frank
Thank you so much, Sarah. It’s always weird to hear somebody talk about your background and the things that you’ve done, it’s like who are they talking about? Oh, that’s me. I am so happy to be here with you. So, so happy. Thank you for inviting me.

Sarah Noll Wilson
What, what else would you want people to know about you? You know, we’ve had other guests like I’m listening to this and I’m listening to you say the bio, but that doesn’t say anything about, you know, these components of my life. So what else would you want our audience to know about you?

Tara Jaye Frank
You pretty much nailed it, other than my strange obsession with dark chocolate and Riesling. I mean, I kind of feel like that’s all you missed. Everything else is in there. You know, my husband is Captain America in my own mind and heart, so he’s my favorite person. I do have lots of children. We have a new granddaughter. So yeah, no, that, you know, you got it. You got it.

Sarah Noll Wilson
Okay. I have a question. Always into dark chocolate? Was this a new thing? Because I know for me, when I was a child, it was too bitter. And then at some point, something shifted and it became the preference.

Tara Jaye Frank
Why do I love this question so much? Yes, you’re absolutely right. I did not-

Sarah Noll Wilson
We’re digging deep here. This is-

Tara Jaye Frank
I know, we’re going, like, to the heart of the matter. I liked Hershey Kisses chocolate formula when I was a kid. So milk chocolate, it was a lot sweeter as I got older, for sure. Yes, I developed a love for, a deep and abiding love might I say, for dark chocolate. I’m a bit of a chocolate connoisseur. Like, I’m actually a chocolate snob. My husband makes fun of me all the time. People will give me a chocolate bar and sometimes he’ll look at it and be like, she’s not going to eat that.

Sarah Noll Wilson
Okay, wait, wait. So inquiring minds need to know, and by inquiring minds I mean singular me, about chocolate. What’s your favorite?

Tara Jaye Frank
So I love Vosges chocolate bars, like I don’t know if you’ve ever had Vosges, V. O. S. G. E. S. I believe they’re based in Chicago. Woman owned, chocolate, like chocolatier. Like, gourmet chocolate bars. They’re really good because they’re also interesting, like, she has a bacon bar, you know, a black salt caramel bar, like, I’m interested in just the combination of all the things I love inside and around dark chocolate.

Sarah Noll Wilson
I love this about you. And now I want that. I want the candy. I need to get that chocolate bar. All right-

Tara Jaye Frank
You can order it but that’s sometimes problematic because, you know, it’s hot now.

Sarah Noll Wilson
Right. Even I’m melting when I’m out there right now in the-

Tara Jaye Frank
Yeah, no, me too.

Sarah Noll Wilson
-the heat. So, I, you know, one of the things we’ll spend quite a bit of time on is, obviously is the work that you’ve done, and the the book that you’ve just released. So first and foremost, congratulations. It is no small feat to write a book, and to write and work on a book during the pandemic is incredibly difficult. And to write a book that is so practical, powerful, there’s almost a dangerous simplicity in it. And, and I’m not exaggerating, for the audience, I did go through three highlighters, I started with yellow, I moved to green, and then I had to finish up with pink because there was so, there was so much, and so, first, I just, you know, from an author to author, what was the experience like for you going through the process of writing this book, because I’ve heard you in, in the book, you even talk about how there’s this deeper calling for you of this is, this is the work that you were supposed to do. So what was that experience like?

Tara Jaye Frank
Thank you for asking that. I will tell you that I knew I had another book in me, but I wasn’t sure yet what it was supposed to be about. And then March 2020 came, pandemic, May 2020 came, the murder of George Floyd, the summer of 2020 came, which I think about as the calm before the storm, meaning all my clients, you know, companies pressed pause on everything they had intended to do, culturally and from a leadership perspective, because they were trying to figure out how to survive this pandemic that none of us anticipated and were not prepared for. And then in the fall, you know, late summer, early fall, they kind of started calling back and began asking me to do things with them and for them, that we had not ever done before. And a lot of that clearly was bringing people together to help their leadership, I work mostly with high level leaders, help them understand racism, the deeply entrenched, right, roots of racism, the, as I talk about it in the book, the sweeping branches of racism, and all the ways that racism may be, could be, is impacting their talent today. So it shifted the focus of my business a little bit, like, I was already working on diversity, equity, and inclusion. But it really shifted it, it made it a lot more pointed. And I realized that the bridge builder in me who has always been there really had to come forward in a very overt and courageous way. Because building bridges is what people needed right now, bridges of understanding, right, bridges of of insight, bridges between individuals, bridges between where companies were now and where they wanted to be tomorrow, like, it was just one big, massive, you know, bridge building requirement. And I needed to figure out how to help. So the idea for the book came in that place, like, in that time when I just saw what leaders were needing most and what they were struggling with. So that was, that was really clear to me. I will also tell you, I went through a lot of back and forth just about how I wanted to publish the book. Who I wanted to publish the book. Do I need an agent, or do I not need an agent? I did this proposal and 72,000 versions of it. Like, that whole part of the process was really stressful for me, because what I wanted to do is just write the book I knew people needed, and then get it in there, doc on hands. Like, I am not, I have a chief operating officer because she is brilliant at process, and it is not my thing, meaning I’m an innovator, I’m a pioneer, I have an idea, I think you need it, I want to get it to you. I don’t want to go through 75 steps, right, because we need to capture it for some reason later. Like, I’m just not good at that. So, you know, finally kind of navigated my way through that. And then somebody asked me last week, Sarah, how long did it take you to write the book? I will say I had 25% of it written prior to spring of 2021 just in pieces and parts. And I wrote the rest of it in three months.

Sarah Noll Wilson
Wow. I mean-

Tara Jaye Frank
It was like, downloaded to me, if that makes sense. Like, it came pouring out. You and I both know the editing process is is long and arduous, and that was true for me as well. But the writing, it just kind of came up.

Sarah Noll Wilson
I mean, it’s, you know, it’s, it’s, it’s maybe over simplistic to say three months, but you’ve been thinking about this, experiencing it, working with leaders. And that moment of crystallization of this is it, I, for people who haven’t gone through the process of writing a book, it’s an incredibly vulnerable process, or it can be. It certainly, it certainly was for me, and, and to hear, to hear your process, and to hear, again, just in the time of doing it, also just, you know, what’s coming up for me as I’m hearing you, is like, this is clearly the book that needed to be written, right. This was the book that, this was the work that you needed to put out. And also, it was very clear from reading the book, this is the book that we all need.

Tara Jaye Frank
Thank you for, for saying that. I appreciate it. Yeah.

Sarah Noll Wilson
I, well, and I had shared that with you when I, when I started reading it. And this is something I’m not shy about talking with my ADHD, it’s really hard for me to stay focused on a book for more than the half of it, you know, it’s sort of I get out of it what I need to, and it’s not a disparaging to the, to the author of the content. I couldn’t, I couldn’t put it down. And now I feel like I need to go back and process it a few more times. And, and something that I realized, for me is where, where I am in my journey, both as a business owner and the work we’re doing, my journey as a white woman, right, what’s the role I’m playing? It felt like, truly, it was, oh, this is the book that I’ve been waiting for to connect dots that were loose for me and I didn’t know how to connect it, I didn’t know how to how to see even more clearly the role I could play in the work we were doing. And, you know I was reading it on the plane and just aggressively flipping and highlighting and, “Oh, yeah!” And the person next to me is just like, what is, you’re having this out of body experience.

Tara Jaye Frank
Like, are you okay?

Sarah Noll Wilson
I was listening to my classical Disney music that I do when I ride on planes, and just, you know, processing it. So let’s, so let’s get into this idea of “the waymakers.” That is such a intentional language. It’s so descriptive, it’s a noun and it’s a verb, right, of way-making.

Tara Jaye Frank
You nailed it.

Sarah Noll Wilson
Talk to us. Yeah, talk to us about- it’s kind of like leadership, I always say no, it’s not a role. It’s an act. So talk to us about what does it mean to be a waymaker?

Tara Jaye Frank
Yes. So waymakers are people with a heart to lead, who open doors for those who have been left behind, cast aside, remove barriers, right, remove the obstacles out of their way, and, as I like to say, assures them through to higher levels of contribution. I think about it, to your point, as a very deliberate act or series of acts. So I want to say, to be clear that the idea of ally ship is something I’m passionate about, something I believe in, I see waymaking as different than how we have come to describe ally ship.

Sarah Noll Wilson
Say more.

Tara Jaye Frank
I think that, I think the way experts mean ally ship is similar to way makers but I think the way people have come to understand ally ship is more passive, than how I explain and expect waymaking to manifest. So when we talk about ally ship, I think people think it’s being a cheerleader. I think people believe it’s being a defender at certain times when a defender is needed. I think people believe that it is being supportive of people who need support. And, again, all that is important, I am not disparaging the idea of ally ship. I see way makers as this, so let’s say you and I, Sarah, work together in an environment, and you are of a marginalized group or historically excluded group. And I am a high level leader with power and position. Waymakers would see you be like I don’t know her. I probably should. Would first maybe try to get to know you. If I saw a light in you, I would reflect it back to you on purpose. Do you understand, do you see the gifts that you have that are distinctive, you know, that are differentiated, that I believe could add value to this project or to this business or to this team? Are you aware of them? Here are some ways you can cultivate them. I may also say hmm, my peer so and so has a job opening up. While Sarah may not have done this exact thing before, I believe with the skills I’ve seen her demonstrate, and the interest, the aspiration she has, she would be a good bet for him or her in this particular role. I’m going to go on and advocate for that, I’m then gonna help her make sure she understands what success looks like in that role. And if I feel like there’s something in the way between where she is and being successful in that role, guess what, I’m going to move it. That, to me, is way making. Some people would call it sponsorship, but it’s more than speaking your name in a room you’re not in. It’s more than putting you in a role, it is literally making a way. So it is, it is active, but it is not an act, it is a series of conscious and deliberate acts, that helps you get to your ultimate, right, contribution.

Sarah Noll Wilson
I’m just sitting with all of that. I mean, there’s so, so, so much there. And, and one of the things that’s coming up for me is, you know, that differentiator of ally ship is you’re, you’re aware, but it’s passive. Whereas what I hear you say is, you’re, you’re very aware of, going back to your language, all the branches, all the branches of racism show up. All the branches where other systems of oppression show up, right, of sexism, and homophobia, all of that from the standpoint of and you’re trimming them along the way. Like as you were talking, it’s a very aware, and that, that was something that, reading your book, was your showing in so many different ways. What it looks like, again, not just to, to be supportive of someone, but how do we, for example, how do we need to see, understand patterns of bias and feedback? And what does it look like to interrupt it in that moment? What is understanding that, that if somebody has been experiencing, you know, oppression, and, and is a marginalized individual, that their sense of self and identity has, I mean, there’s been such a cost-

Tara Jaye Frank
That’s right.

Sarah Noll Wilson
-and that in hearing that language of, and I see your light, and I’m going to reflect it back, that, that it’s, it’s more than just, hey, I’m supporting you. It’s I see the whole landscape, and I’m going to do everything. I just, I’m, I’m saying this out loud, not to repeat what you just said, part of this is me processing it and wanting to internalize it for myself, because it’s, it’s so powerful. And-

Tara Jaye Frank
It means a lot to me honestly, to hear you say that, because I do, you know, I thought about this book when I- I’m also a strategist, right? So when I went to write “The Waymakers,” I didn’t just kind of say I need to write this book, and talk about these things. I also stepped back and I said, what do I want the book to be comprised of? Like, how do I make sure that this book is true, right, that it is useful, that it is insightful, and also inspiring, because I believe that people need to be not only equipped to make a way, but also inspired to make a way. I think both those things need to happen, which is why the sub-title is “Clearing the Path to Workplace Equity with Competence and Confidence.” That’s like, really, you know, purposeful for me. So I asked myself all those questions. And that’s why, quite honestly, you know, we did the body of proprietary research, right, that I talked about in chapter six, getting those hundreds of stories from employees across all dimensions of difference about times they felt seen, respected, valued, and protected. And times they felt invisible, disrespected, you know, under appreciated and scrutinized. It’s why that research was done. It’s why we interviewed 30 D. E. and I. experts, right? Who, whose experience, it sounds so silly when I say it, but whose experience spans literally 600 years and 100 companies. It’s, it’s why I tapped into my own observational experience and experience experience, right? It’s- all of those pieces and parts for me, had to come together in this book, because I didn’t want it to be just another opinion piece. And opinions are beautiful, like don’t get me wrong. Some- I know people who have the most glorious opinions, you know, that ever existed. And I’m inspired by those opinions. But for me, this was a, I was writing a tool. And I wanted leaders with power and position to not only read it, but to use it, to use it to make a way for somebody else.

Sarah Noll Wilson
And I will, I will say, from my personal experience that, we have a philosophy that we lovingly say “theory is great, tools are better.” Right? Theory, theory is valuable, but knowing what does it actually look like in practice- and not always, what, what really struck me, because I’m also a firm believer that micro actions can lead to macro impact, right, that sometimes I think that, you know, I’ve, I know I’ve experienced this for myself, I know that, and anytime that we’re doing any kind of work with leaders from a cultural perspective, sometimes things can feel so overwhelming, it can feel so complex. And, and I would argue that- we use the language of adaptive leadership, of a technical problem versus an adaptive challenge, which, I made the connection in your language, there’s system issues, and then there’s human problems, right, and we need to, to work on both. And I think when it comes to dismantling racism and systems of oppression, it’s like, the greatest adaptive challenge we are facing, there is not one solution. And so it can be easy, and we’ll talk about the fence sitters here in a moment, which, boy, I tell you what, I’m seeing it everywhere. I mean, I, it’s come up in conversation, I feel like I’m just just, I’m just going to be the conduit for the Tara show of here’s all the insights because, because, and so then the complexity and the uncertainty, and then you add in the emotional heat, can, can go oh, I don’t know what to do therefore I’m going to step out, right, that- and I say that, as, right, as a white woman, it’s really easy to go “it’s overwhelming, I’m going to step out.” And, and what was so nice-

Tara Jaye Frank
Can I? Oh, sorry. Go ahead.

Sarah Noll Wilson
Please, no, please do.

Tara Jaye Frank
No, I was gonna say, you know, what’s so powerful about what you just said, and I think I said this in the book, but if not, I’ve said it since, that the work is not easy, but it is simple. So when, when we started you were talking about, you know, it’s deceptively, or dangerously simple. That is on purpose. Because to your point, we really, we make this so hard in our minds. And the reason why we make it so hard to lead equitably and inclusively, is because we are afraid of doing it wrong. So think about anything in your life that you were afraid of doing wrong. You make it super hard in your head, like, I have anxiety. I’ve had Generalized Anxiety since I was young. I didn’t drive till I was 21. Do you know why? Because every time I thought about getting my license to drive, I started making it so hard in my head. Oh, my God, and there are all the signs, and there are all the cars, and they’re going a different way than you, and then there are like, the on-ramps, but then you have to merge to get off and be at the right rate of speed. Like, I did all this in my head to convince myself that I wasn’t going to be able to do it because I was afraid to do it. This is what leaders do when it comes to leading equitably and inclusively. They make it super complicated because they are afraid to it wrong.

Sarah Noll Wilson
And, and, and then ironically, or maybe not ironically, and then the act of not doing anything is causing the very harm that you’re trying to avoid.

Tara Jaye Frank
That’s right!

Sarah Noll Wilson
Right? It’s like it’s, you know, I go back to, I sat in on a really powerful session with Minda, Minda Harts who- I mean, I think this is a quote, I have so many quotes that are just seared into my heart now, and this is one that I swear I say once a week to myself and to other people, “nobody benefits from your caution, but so many can benefit from your courage.” And, and you know, and that, that, that fear of doing it wrong, I feel it. I certainly work through that myself as a white woman on this journey. And one of the things that has shifted, was realizing that, and in the moment of doing the wrong, if that, like when that happens, not if, let’s be real. It’s not if, it’s when.

Tara Jaye Frank
Yeah, exactly. Yes.

Sarah Noll Wilson
Yeah, it’s, and I’m, I know, I’m- I will learn. And I know I will do differently. I know it might not be comfortable, but, but I would rather do it, try it. It’s- we had we had, this makes me think of, we had a- hold on a second. Let me, I want to get the image of her in my head. We had a client once who said I’d rather get caught trying, you know, when it comes to trying to do things differently, trying to create a more human first approach, like, I’d rather get caught, caught trying. And, and one of the things I’ll say, right, when she said that, it was like oh, hold on. I need to be paying you for all this wisdom for this language, that- for people, so for people who are listening who might see themselves maybe in my story experience, or as we’re talking about, you know, the fear of doing it wrong. You, you, you show how, basically any interaction you have with somebody is an opportunity. Every, every interaction you have when people are talking about somebody is an opportunity, and-

Tara Jaye Frank
Every single one.

Sarah Noll Wilson
Every single one, yeah.

Tara Jaye Frank
To make a way, yeah, we have way more opportunities to make a way in any given day than then we think, and your point earlier, you know, when we were talking about how complex we make this, I always try to be really careful because you cannot address racism at work, you cannot address equity at work without also addressing systems. Like I’m not saying in my book, that systems don’t matter. That’s not what I’m saying. What I’m saying is, as long as we only talk about it as systems work and not as human work, we’re going to continue to think about this work in a very distant, emotionally distant way. Because we think about systems as separate, distinct, detached things from us as people, we think about them as a series of- you know, a bunch of strategies, and tactics, and metrics, and goals, and monitoring systems, and forums, like, when we think systems, that’s what we think about, there is nothing about that, that makes me feel inspired, or powerful, or able, or present, or connected. And without that, we don’t get to know people who are not like us in a deeper way. We don’t see them for who they are, we don’t notice the moments, we have to recognize them to credit them, to care for them, to show up for them. And so for me, the human part of this is getting left behind, because everybody’s saying this is systems work. This is systems work. So that’s kind of what I was trying to balance in “The Waymakers,” like yes, and. Right? Yes, and.

Sarah Noll Wilson
Yeah, it’s the it’s the like, here’s the technical stuff we need to fix, here’s the transactional, and here’s the transformational, and together, right, but it’s a multi-prong approach, and, and there is something connect- so connected to that, yeah, because the human problems need human solutions, I think I underlined that, and I starred it, and, and I think you even use this term, this is heart work. You know, there’s a couple of times where you mentioned of I can’t, I can’t teach you to care. Like, if you don’t care, but, but, but can I create experiences or opportunities for you to be connected on at a, at a human level. Yeah, what was-

Tara Jaye Frank
Which might make you care.

Sarah Noll Wilson
Which might make you care, exactly. For people who are listening, I, I tried to distill my, you know, all of my highlights, all of my six pages of that into, so there’s a quote, you said, “Sometimes we’re, we’re in a work environment, we make compassion too complicated. We’re so busy trying to be appropriate that we fail to be human.” And one of the things that it struck me, it made me sad, and I understood, was when you talked about that you found that one of the most powerful ways to get people to tap into their empathy, was to hear stories from people they know, people who are in their- and that, you know, that, it struck me for a couple of reasons. One, because I’ve seen companies lean into, lean into we want to hear from our colleagues of color to share their experiences-

Tara Jaye Frank
Right. Tell me your black stories.

Sarah Noll Wilson
-but but it wasn’t done purposeful. It wasn’t done safely. It wasn’t done with intentionality of why are we doing this? So I’m curious to know, because I could hear in reading your voice, that there’s a real tension for you in this being the reality. And I will just really quickly share from experience that, you know, when we’re talking, when we’re doing our work about avoidance, we talk about power dynamics, we talk about, and we’re trying to bring more of that in. And I know that me talking about that intellectually, isn’t the same as when somebody goes I actually don’t feel safe speaking up in this group, because I’m the only black woman. I mean, this just happened on Tuesday. And this beautiful moment of courage, and the the team received it, but it was hearing her talk, seeing her pain, and this is what makes me sad, is that that’s what shifted people to go, oh, we gotta, we gotta think about this differently. So I’m just, I’m curious to hear more from you.

Tara Jaye Frank
Well, it is, it’s a dilemma. You know, it is a dilemma. Because on one side we say we don’t want to, you know, ask people to access their trauma for your insight or understanding. Like, when you say it like that, you’re like, that’s not cool. You know, it’s not appropriate to do that. It’s not, it’s not human to do that, we should not be doing that. But the flip side of that coin, to your point is, until I hear someone I know and care about tell me something hurts, it remains somebody else’s problem and opportunity. It’s, it’s like we, we observe that those people over there are suffering in this way or with this thing, and we remain in this sympathy posture. Like, oh, those poor people dealing with those poor things. But when someone in our circle, someone we know, someone we work with every single day, someone we respect, you know, someone we’ve solved problems with, when they say I have this pain, I’m dealing with this thing, I’m struggling in this way, we’re like, huh. And that’s where the humanity comes in. So what I’m not suggesting, which some companies did, is that we have a town hall forum and ask three black people to come and each tell their black story for 10 minutes, so we can all listen, and watch, and gawk, and shake our heads, and go, oh, that is terrible. And then leave the town hall and be like those poor black people. That is not the right way to do this. And many companies did do it. And I have close friends quite often

Sarah Noll Wilson
And are still doing it.

Tara Jaye Frank
And are still doing it. Close friends who called me and said, my company asked me to do this. I said, tell them no, no, that you will not do that. Now, what I have facilitated, though, is bringing together intimate groups of people across difference. To help everybody understand the State of the Union, if you will, what are the macro issues at play here? And then ask them to draw out their personal lived experiences in ways that we can actually discuss. What did you hear? How did that land on you? How did it feel to say that out loud? What does it mean to you in your day to day work experience? How does this manifest? What can these people here who work with you every day glean from that, so they can lead differently? To me, you can, if you access the trauma, you better have a damn good reason why. And everyone better understand what they’re actually going to do with it. I probably talked too long, just like, but like-

Sarah Noll Wilson
No, you don’t, it’s-

Tara Jaye Frank
I was trying to explain it.

Sarah Noll Wilson
No, you can you take whatever time you need. I’m just gonna, I mean, I’m thinking about experiences I’ve been part of where it was, oh, nobody asks us the trauma, or, you know, or you hear the stories of it. And, and also, you know, and I also think what’s different, and what I hear from you is, you know, and you tell the story about the woman who reached out to you the night before and said, how honest should I be? And so, I mean, part of what also makes it different is that you create a container of safety and a container of healing, because I think that’s, that’s one of the things that has become so abundantly clear for, for me in this work is, we, we, we work with a lot of leaders, we work, we facilitate a lot of difficult discussions, right? Like that’s, however, when we’re talking about trauma, it really needs a nuanced expert, trauma informed approach, of creating the space for the people who are receiving, and how to do that at, you know, and how to activate them, and what do we do with this so that it isn’t just that, you know, we remain in a sympathy posture, that phrase, and, and to take really good care of the person who, who was courageous and took that risk in speaking up and, right, and, and helping them. I don’t want to say recover, but navigate what, what, it was probably a, could, could be a traumatizing experience.

Tara Jaye Frank
For sure, for sure. And you know, what I always do after someone reveals themselves in that way, is I really intentionally use it as a coaching moment for everyone who heard it. So it’s, you know what I mean? Like, it’s one thing to say to the person who said it, wow, what an experience that is, here’s what I think about that, or how I feel about that, or how I’m responding to that. But I try to just be really intentional about the, the helpful way, the supportive way we should hear it, and respond to it. So you know, something like that took a lot of courage for you to say that, I’m sure that people in this room probably didn’t fully appreciate or understand that you’re carrying that particular burden. This gives them the opportunity now, right? To see what you’re experiencing in a new way, and to think through how they want to show up from here on out as a more supportive, enabling leader. So I’m very intentional. It’s like, okay, you just accessed your trauma, you shared it with us so that we can be wiser, right, about what you’re experiencing, and now I’m actually going to coach in 90 seconds everybody else in this room about how they can appropriately receive that and change tomorrow. Like, it’s, you know, it’s all you know, because you’re in the work, it’s really intentional.

Sarah Noll Wilson
Can I, can I be an apprentice? I just want to, I mean it’s so- I don’t even know where to go. And there’s so, there’s so much skillfulness, intentionality, and care, and awareness that I mean, you, you, clearly you bring to the table. And, and it’s incredible. I don’t, I’m a little, I’m just gonna let, I’m just gonna be speechless for a little bit. And, and hearing that-

Tara Jaye Frank
You’re so sweet.

Sarah Noll Wilson
-because, because, it, boy, that. Okay, let’s talk about fence sitters, because that, that idea of we remain in sympathy, and, you know, one of the things that I was thinking about, just for my own journey, because I realized that I thought I knew. I thought I knew enough. I thought I understood it, and I understood, I understood racism in the history, and I thought I understood it. And it wasn’t until, right, I had people close to me who were willing to share, that I started to see differently, that I started to hear differently, that it was like, I thought, I just, I thought I understood, and I thought, not, you know, proud, but this is the thinking, but I’m a good person.

Tara Jaye Frank
That’s right, girl.

Sarah Noll Wilson
And I, you know, right? And so I want to, I want to talk about a couple of things here, because one of the things, like, good people and good intentions, like I want to, I want to go into that space. If you’re okay, I want to read a section, although there was one area where I’m like, I just wanna-

Tara Jaye Frank
Do it.

Sarah Noll Wilson
-read it. Okay, so, the, the real- and I literally just shared this with a client right before we got on this call. Because it was just, it was right there. And suddenly now I even saw that differently, right, of here’s, here’s language. So the real culture change is not about good people or bad people, it’s about choices, ownership, and discipline. To believe, to believe equity can be achieved by relying on leaders to be kind and to do the right thing, suggests that inequity exists because some unkind people did some wrong things, which clearly oversimplifies a system designed and propagated to advantage some and disadvantage others. And, and also that, you know, I, I can connect to that the limiting belief of but I’m a good person, and we label ourselves as well I’m good, and they’re bad, instead of no, I’m just human. And there are times when we show up good, there are times when we, we cause harm, there are times when we’re showing up from a place of bias, unchecked bias, right. So I just, I don’t even know what my question is in that, but I just, I wanna unpack this idea and then explore that idea of the fence sitters, because, anyway, yeah, we’ll just start there. That’s your, you like that messy introduction of the here, here’s thirteen doors I want you to consider opening.

Tara Jaye Frank
I honestly love it, trying to figure out how to walk through thirteen doors at once is my specialty. You know, here’s the way I think about this. And it’s kind of connected to the idea in the book where I talk about what I learned in the research, which is that many black and brown people enter the workforce with a psychological safety deficit. So that idea in there is, sometimes I say to leaders, you know, you- people do not feel psychologically safe. And they respond to me, and they say, but I didn’t do anything wrong. I didn’t do anything to harm them. And I say, I understand that, but they came in with a little bit of a deficit, and so it’s not enough for you to not do anything wrong, you actually have to do something to cultivate the safety. Yes, you did not destroy it, but it is not present, and so you need to create it. So this idea of, you know, I’m a good person, I didn’t do anything wrong, you know, I want to do the right thing, as I talked about in the book, assumes too much. It assumes that just because you’re a good person, you know what the right thing is. And when it comes to effecting experiences that you’ve never had, and that you probably haven’t given much thought to until 2020, I think that assumes too much that you know what the right thing is. It also assumes that even if you know what the right thing is, that you have the courage to do it. I always like to liken these things to our, like, normal life. Do you know what I’m saying? Like, if you make a mistake in a relationship that means everything to you, and the person on the other side of that is really angry. Do you all- you might be a good person, and maybe you didn’t upset them on purpose, and you wanted to do the right thing, but you did not. You don’t always know what to do to reconcile that relationship. And even when you do know the right thing to do, it is not always easy to do. So this idea that it is sufficient to be a nice person and to be kind, and somehow inequity is going to write itself, is, is false on those two levels. One, being nice is does not automatically mean you know what to do and that you’re brave enough to do it. You know? And the other piece of it is sometimes it’s, you have no impact on the situation. Like you, I didn’t do anything wrong, you have no impact on it. But if the situation starts in a bad place, you have no impact on it. Right? Like you’re thinking I didn’t do anything. And I’m saying you didn’t do anything. Like you didn’t do anything. You didn’t make this any better.

Sarah Noll Wilson
Right, right, right, right.

Tara Jaye Frank
And you could be, but you didn’t. And you’re not. You know? I think I got through nine doors, not thirteen, but yeah, we’ll keep talking.

Sarah Noll Wilson
You, you got through nine, let’s hit the rest of them and then I’ll add a few more. Our guest this week has been Tara Jaye Frank, and you can join us next week for the conclusion of our conversation. And we want to hear from you, you can reach out to us at podcast at Sarah Noll Wilson dot com, or find me on social media where my DMs are always open. If you’d like to find out more about our work and how we can help you and your teams have conversations that matter, check us out at Sarah Noll Wilson dot com. You can also pick up a copy of my latest book, “Don’t Feed the Elephants!” wherever books are sold. And if you’d like to support the show, please consider becoming a patron. You can visit patreon dot com slash conversations on conversations, where not only your financial support will sustain this podcast and our amazing team that makes it happen, but you also get access to some pretty great stuff. And if you haven’t already, please rate and write a review and subscribe to the show. And you can do so on iTunes, Spotify, and other podcast platforms, this helps us get the word out and continue bringing on amazing guests each week. Thanks to our incredible team who makes this podcast possible, to our producer ,Nick Wilson, sound editor, Drew Noll, transcriptionist, Olivia Reinert, and marketing consultant, Kaitlyn Summitt-Nelson. And a big final thank you to Tara Jaye Frank again. Please join us next week for part two, where we will continue this incredible conversation. This has been Conversations on Conversations, thank you so much for listening and joining us this week, and remember that when we can change the conversations we have with ourselves and with each other, we can change the world. So please take care everyone, make sure that you rest and rehydrate, and we’ll see you again next week.

Transcribed by https://otter.ai

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