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. How can organizations and people remove the barriers to equity?
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.
Sarah Noll Wilson 0:00
Hello, and welcome to this week’s episode of Conversations on Conversations, the show where each week we explore a topic to help us have more powerful conversations with ourselves and with others. I’m your host, Sarah Noll Wilson, and this week we are continuing our conversation from last week with Tara Jaye Frank, author and thought leader, and amazing leader who wrote the book “The Waymakers,” which is powerful and impactful. If you haven’t listened to last week’s episode, I encourage you to do that now. And now we continue our conversation with Tara J. Frank.
Tara Jaye Frank 0:39
I know you wanted to talk about the fence sitters, I don’t know if you want me to just, to say anything about that.
Sarah Noll Wilson 0:44
That’s where I want to go-
Tara Jaye Frank 0:44
So go ahead.
Sarah Noll Wilson 0:44
No, I do. Because it, it just, it literally just came up today in a conversation, where somebody recognized that their organization had some very real opportunities, and they’re- this individual’s incredibly passionate, and this is something, well, there’s two different things. So let me make a note, I’m going to come back to this one in a second, because I’ll forget her and I don’t want to, but they said, you know, the, the leadership, the leadership isn’t ready, which is, that’s where I want to go. That’s another door I want to open up later. But, but she’s like, there’s like, there’s like a dozen of us that are really passionate about it. But then she goes, but I’m the only one who’s courageous enough to say something. And it made me immediately took me back to your 20 60 20 rule, or like that, that framework of, you know, we’re not, not going to make the changes by moving the people who are really resistant. And this actually makes me think of the conversation we had previously with Dr. Nika White. And she said, I’m not, I’m not interested in the people who are saying, hey, I don’t, I don’t see color, and I don’t, I don’t do this. I’m interested in the quiet people in the back who are paying attention, but they’re not speaking up, and she said, so I want to go after those quiet people. So, so talk to us about the, you know, and if people, as you’re hearing this realize, oh, maybe I’m a fence sitter, I, you know, invite you not to shame yourself, but to go how do you, how do you get off of it? Because I think of it as sorry, let me finish this thought, and then I want to hear from you, is a number of years ago, when I was overseeing the leadership development efforts, we were doing this massive cultural clarification reshift. And so many people were what, I would describe the fence setter as wait and see. Right?
Tara Jaye Frank 2:36
Yeah, same thing.
Sarah Noll Wilson 2:36
Yes, totally same thing. I like your language better because it’s a stronger visual. And then like, I don’t know, Sarah, we’ve done this before, and I’m just not sure, I’m just gonna kind of wait and see. And my question is always, well, what role do you want to play, and making it, making it successful this time, right? So, so talk to us about fence sitters. What do they look like? And why, why is it so detrimental to progress? Because that’s one of the- I’ll stop talking.
Tara Jaye Frank 3:04
Yeah. So I’m going to share a little bit of a story, and I talk about this in the book. So if you’ve read the book, you’ve read it, and if not, hopefully, you will get the book so you can kind of read it more fully, but when I was first bringing executive teams together to talk about race and racism, I was asking all of them to read Dr. Martin Luther King Jr’s Letter from a Birmingham Jail in its entirety. And then we would get on the Zoom. And I would simply just ask them, okay, tell me your name, where you grew up, and a reflection from the letter. And they would share different reflections, but every single time more than one person would say, the part that really struck me is where he talked about the white moderate. He says in the letter that he’s more disappointed with the white moderate than he is the Ku Klux Klan owner, right, or the White Citizens councilman. And what he’s saying is that with the Ku Klux Klan and the White Citizens Council, he knows where they stand. He understands that they hate him, and people like him, and they do not want him to have equal rights. But the people who claim they do, for them to essentially be benign in this particular journey, was the more disappointing realization for him. And so what, what executives were saying to me is, I read the part about the white moderate, and I was thinking to myself, that’s me. That’s me, in this situation, in this moment in history. I’m not, I don’t consider myself racist, I don’t hate black people, I don’t feel like I’m doing anything to harm anyone, but I’m not necessarily doing anything to help the situation, either. And I think it’s because I don’t know what to do, or I don’t want to get it wrong, right? So all that was kind of happening. So when they would ask me, well, why are we stuck? Like, the other thing they said about the letter is the thing that really freaks me out, is it feels like it could have been written today. You know, it was all these years ago. But they’re like, it feels like it could have been written today. Why are we stuck? And I’d say, it’s the fence sitters. Anytime we go through any major change, you have 20% of the people, right? Like we talked about on the front end, let’s go, let’s change, 20% of the people, it’s increasing a little bit, I probably say we’re more like 25% of the people on the other end, like, I like it this way. Don’t touch my stuff. And then you have the rest of the people in the middle sitting on the fence, waiting and seeing, observing, maybe feeling badly about what they see, wishing it were not happening, but not seeing themselves as playing an active role in changing it. “The Waymakers” was written for those people, Sarah. “The Waymakers” was written for those people. It is my invitation to all the people who don’t like that inequity is a thing, who believe that we should be more equitable, who believe in the idea of inclusion but are not playing an active role in facilitating it. And I know, because I’ve been with them, I’ve spent time with thousands of them. I know that oftentimes, those people are sitting on that fence because they do not know what to do once they get off, and they feel insecure about doing it. So when those people get off the fence, and into the equity arena, when those people are equipped to lead differently, when those people realize that they are not alone, they are part of, at least 40%, you know, if not a little bit more, when they realize they’re not alone, and they get the courage to lead forward in a bolder, braver way, we will tip the scales. Until then, it’s the 20% fighting against the 25%, and a whole bunch of benign, nothing happening.
Sarah Noll Wilson 7:20
Tara Jaye Frank 7:22
Sarah Noll Wilson 7:23
Or sympathy! Right, or-
Tara Jaye Frank 7:24
Benign, or sympathy.
Sarah Noll Wilson 7:26
Yeah. And, and, you know, and then there’s shades within it too, from the standpoint of, right?
Tara Jaye Frank 7:30
There are, there are lots of shades.
Sarah Noll Wilson 7:31
You know, then you’ve got the performative, and you’ve got the-
Tara Jaye Frank 7:33
Yes, lots of shades.
Sarah Noll Wilson 7:35
It’s- ah, boy, I had a thought, and I lost her, and let me see if I can grab her back for a second.
Tara Jaye Frank 7:41
I love that you’re calling your thoughts “her.”
Sarah Noll Wilson 7:42
I do, I talk to my brain all the time. She has a mind of her own sometimes. I don’t know if this is healthy, but it works for- It works for me, but-
Tara Jaye Frank 7:52
Clearly it works, clearly.
Sarah Noll Wilson 7:55
There’s a, there’s a, there’s a practice that we’re really passionate about. We call it, it’s from the work of “Immunity to Change,” and we, and so something that’s coming up for me, is, you know, having a courageous audit of what am I doing, or not doing, that’s getting in the way of me wanting to show up in this way? And, you know, and, and I know from my experience, right, there’s, I’m so, I’m so fortunate to have really, really great friends who aren’t afraid to push me hard on stuff of, and also being clear about my intentions of why I’m doing it.
Tara Jaye Frank 8:33
Sarah Noll Wilson 8:35
My friend asked me very pointedly are you doing this because you want to be seen as a good white person, or you’re doing it because you want to make change? And I was like, oh shit. And in the end, I was like, I think in this moment, it’s not because I can- I know there were moments when it was the former. And yeah, there are times, and probably it’s always the both, but, but that-
Tara Jaye Frank 8:59
I mean, but kudos to the humanity, honestly. Because the honest answer is sometimes it’s both, but I didn’t realize that, I didn’t think about it that way.
Sarah Noll Wilson 9:13
I didn’t realize it until you named it, and then I was like-
Tara Jaye Frank 9:15
Sarah Noll Wilson 9:16
-like, oh boy. Yeah. Okay. It was like, oh, there, yeah, there was definitely, there were definitely times, and, and I think, I think if I may talk to my loving fence sitters for a moment-
Tara Jaye Frank 9:27
Sarah Noll Wilson 9:28
Tara Jaye Frank 9:29
I do love them, by the way, because we need them. I mean, that’s why I wrote the book for them.
Sarah Noll Wilson 9:34
Yeah. And your, your yes, your, that. Yes, that came through for me anyway, that came through really loud and clear. And, and also it makes me think of Michelle Kim’s book “The Wake Up,” of, right, like this isn’t, we shouldn’t be dismantling this. It will serve all of us, right, when we can take care of the people who have been most marginalized, it will benefit everyone when we can strip down the masks of, of the rules, if you will, of, of white supremacy culture. It actually serves all of us in patriarchy, and to like, be our true authentic selves. But, so a couple of thoughts, one, I have to remind myself that whatever discomfort I’m feeling, it pales in comparison to the pain and the cost. That being a black woman in America, that you’ve, you know, it’s like this, this discomfort of being called out, or this discomfort of doing it wrong. The- oh, I remember, I got the thought, that, that, that idea that silence is a message, you talk about it in your book, it’s something that Dr. Nika White and I talked about, it’s something that’s come up in other conversations, is that inaction is action, right? Inaction is sending a message. And are you okay with that? You know, really asking like, are you okay observing, and not, not playing an active role? Because I think it can be, it can be easy to feel like, oh, because I feel bad that like, somehow I’m doing something, and that’s not the same.
No, it’s not the same at all. And, you know, the other thing that I hope comes through in the book, and it comes through my work anyway, is when I say I believe in the creative potential of everyone, that includes the fence sitters, like, what I want to say to people who have been on the fence is, I believe, and I want you to also believe in your capacity to lead differently, in your capacity to expand your idea, right, of what is possible, to broaden your skill set, right? When it comes to leading, to be more empathetic, to be more courageous, to make an impact in places you never thought you could. I believe in the creative potential of everyone, the people who have been left behind, and those who have inadvertently left them behind. And if I didn’t, I couldn’t do the work I do, to be honest.
Yeah. I do, that was a section where somebody asked you, I don’t remember the exact question, but it was “what gives you hope-”
Tara Jaye Frank 12:18
Yes, ask me if I thought what I was doing make, makes a difference. In so many words, he asked me “Do I think it makes a difference?” Yeah.
Sarah Noll Wilson 12:26
Let’s I- Oh, okay. One of the, one of the, one of the framework, I don’t know if frameworks is the right word, but just descriptors that you talk about, is what does talent need. And there’s four that you listed off, and you mentioned them earlier. And, and there was one that just, I’d never heard it said in the way that you said it, because we often will say people want to be seen, heard, and know that they add value, but yours are to be seen, to be respected, to be valued. And the one that like almost like caught my breath a little bit, and made me misty, was and to be protected. And, and I think, you know, for me that, that idea of sometimes, sometimes in the workplace, we get so technical in our language we get- we forget that we’re dealing with humans, who, you know, who are complex, who are coming- you know, who’ve experienced hurt, who might still be experiencing, you know, hurt in the workplace, that we forget that you have a living person, in your, in your, in your realm and your world. And that idea of being protected is, that was, that was something that, yeah, when we talk about psychological safety and all of that, but there was something about the, that language that just landed differently. I’ve never heard it said in that way. And so I would love to hear you break that down. And then you know, you quickly talked about it before, but what does it look like when it’s not? And one thing I will say to people who are listening, that I especially appreciated about, I don’t remember if it was in this chapter or the other chapter, but when, you know, it was when you were breaking down the research you did, it wasn’t lumped together, you were breaking it down by different groups of, and just, and painting that more detailed picture of, of the human experience that I just, I really appreciated. So, so let’s talk about what does it mean to be seen? What does it means to be respected, to be valued, and to be protected?
Tara Jaye Frank 14:33
Yes, thank you for asking me this question. Because honestly, the research is, I think, one of the most powerful parts of the book. And the reason why, is because I do get really specific about what different- how different people define being seen, or invisible. How different people define being respected, or disrespected, and the impact that those emotional states have have on their relationship with the company. So I find it to be one of the most instructive chapters in the book, because it is the most human chapter in the book. So when I say people want to be seen, I mean they want to be represented, you know, in the company, in leadership, in rooms where decisions are being made. They also want to be credited for the work they do, right. When they’re not credited for the work they do, it makes them feel invisible. They want to be noticed. We’re in this room, oh, hey, Sarah. You’re here. I’m glad you’re here, right? So they want to be represented, credited, and noticed. When I say they want to be respected, I mean for their, not only for their personhood, because sometimes we, you know, I talked about this in the book, sometimes we talk about inclusion, and we talk about belonging, and then we end up talking about, you know, making people feel welcome. And I know why we get there. But we oversimplify, like, people don’t go to work just to be welcomed. It’s nice that we welcome people, that is a kind thing to do. But that does not make people feel they belong, welcoming them is not the same as belonging. So what people really want is to be respected for who they are and how they are. That includes what they know, what they’ve done before, what they think, what they decide, right. So when you respect me, you respect not only my personhood, but you respect my expertise, my decisions, my ideas, my experiences. When I say people want to be valued, yes, with pay and promotion, but also appreciation. The research showed so clearly that people feel devalued when they work their behinds off and don’t get appreciated for it. Like, yes, bonuses are great. I’d like that. Yes, a raise. Yes please, promotion, all that. But sometimes it was as simple as I feel overworked and undervalued because no one was showing them appreciation for going above and beyond. And then when I say people- oh, go ahead.
Sarah Noll Wilson 17:17
No, what I was gonna say is, and you know, and one of the things you speak to, and we know through research and stories and experiences, and we know that largely if you are a person of color working in a white dominant culture, you have to do what- you have to work harder, right? Like, or there’s a sense of you have to do even more work to, to,
Tara Jaye Frank 17:39
There’s a burden of proof.
Sarah Noll Wilson 17:40
There’s a burden of proof, right? That’s, yeah.
Tara Jaye Frank 17:42
And I talked quite a bit right about the burden of proof in an earlier chapter. But yes, there’s a burden of proof, you have to provide additional evidence of your competence, right, at almost every turn. So, and then to be protected is, it’s psychological safety, yes. But what it looks like, in real time, is to be buffered, like people to provide air cover for you, you know, when you’re doing something new, or when you make a mistake. It looks like being defended in real time. So if we’re in a meeting, and somebody says something racially insensitive or offensive, and nobody comes to my defense, I feel unprotected in that moment. So protection is certainly, you know, I feel protected as a black person in this space, as a black woman in this space, I know that I am physically and emotionally safe here. But the psychological part of it is, can I bring my, you know, unique perspective to this conversation? Can I talk about my experiences relative to this decision we have to make? Can I push back on the status quo here because I see this differently? Because I come from a different perspective, do I feel safe to push back on the status quo, or challenge this norm, or identify a risk that I have visibility to, or am I going to get blamed for it? So these are the kinds of things, this is how it shows up. People who feel protected, they raise red flags when the red flags should be raised. They bring up the big ideas when the big ideas might get you off the dime, right? They challenge norms so that you can have a better, more, more creatively tense conversation, that might get you to a better business outcome. That’s what protected people do. Unprotected people sit back, they, they weigh the risk benefit ratio of almost everything they say and how they say it, which means ultimately, they’re not contributing fully. The business is not getting maximum benefit, and they won’t be perceived as leader-like because they’re not taking risks. So that, that’s the thing that leaders have to cultivate. It’s not enough to say I have not destroyed your protection or your psychological safety, you actually have to cultivate that on purpose. And of course, in the book, I talk about how.
Yeah, and you, I, if I’m remembering correctly, so I’m not going to get all the details, but I’ll get the essence. Maybe like a month or two ago, you did a video on LinkedIn where you talked about how often or how not- how common it is to give to, to give a team member of color an assignment, that’s a stretch assignment, without that, am I remembering this?
Without the scaffolding.
Sarah Noll Wilson 20:44
Without the scaffolding, without the support, without the- And so that was something that was coming up as, as you were talking about that, that protection of am I, am I, am I alone on the branch by myself, or do I have the support to take that risk? Because the, you know, the other, the other point that you make, as, you know, just a really important reminder, is that and when, when there’s a failure on the part of say, if I were to fail, it doesn’t get applied to all like-
All white women.
I mean, it might, it might get, it might get applied to women, but like, it’s certainly not going to be all white women, right? Like, but if, if, if you do something, it’s more likely to be applied to, see that’s why we shouldn’t put black women in power.
Tara Jaye Frank 21:27
Yeah, because there are so few data points. So what’s happening in our brain, is we’re trying to understand someone, or a group of someones according to the data that we have available to us. So if I know fifty white men, I know they’re all unique and distinctive, and they have nuances and quirks and all this. So if Jim does something, I know, because I know fifty white men, that that’s just Jim, because I already know that John is not like that. And, you know, Richard is not like that. And so, and so because I know them, if I know one black person, and that’s the only data point I have, if they do something, I don’t have anything else to counter that data point. So my brain wants to extrapolate it and say, Well, this is what I know about black people. What Tara did. So in the workplace, how that happens, is if I give Tara, you know, this really big job and give her a shot to do it, and she fails, now I’m like, oh, I don’t know if we should put another black person in there. We know what happened the last time. But we never do that to Jim. We don’t say I don’t think we should promote any more white men. You know, Jim didn’t get it right. It sounds ridiculous when I say it out loud, but it happens.
Sarah Noll Wilson 22:46
There’s a couple of things that are coming up for me. You know, one is that idea of so often, I hear and I see organizations wanting to jump to, We just need to hire more racially, well, they’ll say diverse, but what they really mean is racially diverse people. And it is, it’s a problem, I mean, on one hand we need representation, on the other hand, and something that you teased out, is the fact that just having more employees isn’t as valuable as also making sure that our leadership team is representative, that we have, you know, we have diversity on all different levels. And so I’m curious to hear your thoughts on that.
Tara Jaye Frank 23:26
Well, I’m just going to share an example. So as you know, I have lots of stories in the book, like real stories of things that happened with clients, things I experienced as a consultant, right, et cetera. One- there was one company that had actually really good black representation in their organization. So, meaning, the representation in the company mirrored the US Census, right, like it, they were represented, but they were all at entry level. They were all really deep in the organization, no one, there were like two or three, who were in leadership positions. And I did a series of listening sessions, and one of the black people actually said to me that on the floor, in manufacturing facility, he said on the floor, they call this company “the plantation.” That is what he said to me. And I will never forget it. Because what struck me in that moment, is that when people do not see themselves at higher levels of play, when they don’t know that their interests, their perspectives, their needs are being represented in important decision making conversations, inconversations about culture, and policies, and even products and solutions, they do not feel part, right, of the organization, they do not feel they can aspire to higher heights, they don’t feel like they can grow. They simply feel like they are just worker bees, you know, making the donuts. And they’re, they don’t have anything to aspire to. So it’s problematic when we favor representation and we forget that that representation should be at all levels and in all places in the company.
Sarah Noll Wilson 25:32
Yeah. And you, I mean, you go on to talk about, right, the limitations of when teams are homogenous, how that limits you. And what was else was coming up for me as we were thinking about that- my brain, the glitches-
Tara Jaye Frank 25:50
So many ideas, girl.
Sarah Noll Wilson 25:52
There’s so many ideas, I can’t-
Tara Jaye Frank 25:53
Where’s your chocolate? You need your chocolate juice.
Sarah Noll Wilson 25:55
I will have some later. And I’m gonna buy some of that-
Tara Jaye Frank 25:59
Sarah Noll Wilson 25:59
-kind of chocolate. Vosges. Such a fancy-
Tara Jaye Frank 26:03
I’m giving her a free commercial.
Sarah Noll Wilson 26:07
We’ll tag the link for those of you who are listening, we will tag the links-
Tara Jaye Frank 26:10
Sarah Noll Wilson 26:10
-in the thing. Okay, so let’s just, just real quickly for listeners, because I think this is such an important study to understand, is the McKinsey study on women in the workplace, you know, because part, I mean, there’s so many things that perpetuate it, right, the Infinity bias which you talk about it. Again, a quick sidenote, I will sell, I will be a commercial for your book every day of the week. Because you, you explain, again, things that you, you’re either familiar with, you hear about, you know about, but sometimes hearing it through a different voice and connecting it, but that infinity bias of, right, we collect with, and we like people who look and sound like-
The Infinity bias, yep. We trust and surround ourselves with people who are like us, basically.
Right. And, you know, and a quote that I’ve shared on previous episodes is my colleague, Gilmara Villanova Mitchell, she always says you can’t be a great leader if you only know how to lead people who look and sound like you.
Tara Jaye Frank 27:06
That’s right, and so many do. So many only know that. They’ve only ever done that.
Sarah Noll Wilson 27:12
Right. And, and so the McKinsey- I mean, it’s so fascinating, and depressing, and devastating when you see the percentage of people who enter the workforce, and how that decreases as people move up the food chain into leadership positions, and so in some industries it’s even more pronounced, right. I did a lot of work in the banking industry, and it’s- the total number of people is 60% women, and only 2% are in senior levels of leadership.
Tara Jaye Frank 27:47
Sarah Noll Wilson 27:47
And, and I don’t, I’m not going to ask you to if you don’t know the numbers off the top of your head, but the main thing that is so striking, is that every group but white males decrease from where they start to senior leaders, white men are the only group that actually increases their, their roles as they move up. And it’s something substantial, like they start at, I think it was 35 or 45%, and in leadership they operate at a 66%. And-
Tara Jaye Frank 28:26
And women of color decrease the most.
Sarah Noll Wilson 28:29
Right. Like, substantially.
Tara Jaye Frank 28:31
Yeah, and the way I- you know this because you’ve read the book, but the way I talk about that in the book is kind of through that whole power core concept. So in any given entity, right, the people who have the power are in the middle. And in the middle is all the good stuff, you know, the insight and the access and the opportunity. And the more different you are from the people in power, the further removed you are from all that good stuff. And we need the insight, the access, and the opportunity in order to grow and get to higher levels of play, so we sometimes make assumptions that that stuff’s going to trickle down and out. And it doesn’t. It does not, it does not.
And I think, I think that sometimes, well intended, my well intended HR colleagues think that well, we’re just going to create a career ladder lattice. And we’re going to talk about how to, but there’s so much unspoken, I mean, in any culture there’s so many unspoken rules. There’s, there’s knowing who actually has the power, how do you influence them, how do you have those connections? And-
And the choices we make every day, like I talked about in “Waymakers” and the behaviors we exhibit every day. So again, you can have, this is why I talk about the three levels of culture, and why that’s so important to me to have this discussion, because the three levels, right, as I talked about in “The Waymakers” is the claim, or what we say about ourselves, the policy, or the rules we put in place to reinforce what we say about ourselves. And then there are the norms. So my frustration has been as a consultant kind of watching all this unfold, is that we’ve been so focused on the claims, what do we want to declare about ourselves as a company, we’ve- then we’ve been super focused on the policies as we should be, I’m not knocking it, but again, that’s a systems lens, we say we’re going to change this policy and that policy, now we have flex work, and now we have partner benefits, and they’re feeling all good. But they do not transform their norms, they do not clearly define what it looks like, and sounds like, and is like to lead, inclusively and equitably, every single day. They don’t monitor the degree to which their leaders are actually doing that, they don’t hold people accountable when they discover that they’re not. Like, that’s where this breaks down. You have policies that are all the rights, you’re, you’re requiring, on paper, all the right things, but you’re not translating that for people in a way that they know what to actually do tomorrow when they go to work. That, that’s why I wrote “The Waymakers” the way I did, that’s why when you say it’s, it’s dangerously simple, it’s because I know from being in these companies, that people have their claims and their policies, but leaders do not know what to do every day. They don’t know how to translate it.
Sarah Noll Wilson 31:29
And imagine, imagine- we, one of our first episodes we did with was with Dr. Cris Wildermuth, we were talking about humanizing the workplace. And we, we talk a little bit about this, of just, think of how many hours and how much money is spent perfecting the statement, perfecting the values, perfecting, I don’t know, the mousepad that you’re going to print the values on or whatever. I mean, there’s so much time spent on the claim, and again, and just literally- sometimes no time, spent really educating people, and that part, holding people accountable to it. And we, we, we- it is so common to see what we lovingly call brilliant jerks, right? And it’s, you know, what you, what you tolerate is what you value, right? What you accept is actually what you value. So it’s like, I don’t care what’s on your wall, I’m curious, you know, this person keeps getting this feedback, or rewarded.
Tara Jaye Frank 32:31
Right. And like, the way I think about it, is what you tolerate is sometimes what you value or sometimes just what you’re willing to accept for the benefit that you get. So the way I think about this, you know, as I shared with you already-
Sarah Noll Wilson 32:45
I appreciate that reframe.
Tara Jaye Frank 32:47
Well, I like to I like to compare everything to like real life things that people can relate to, because I think it helps make it real. So like, let me give you an example. I talked about in the book, how, you know, I was married before, and then I got divorced, and then I got remarried. So there was a period of time when I had three young children, like, in my house, just me trying to make it work. Well, let me tell you what, I’m, I’m a writer, so had all the good words about how our household should run. Right, I had all the good words about the rules that I had in place. But, you know, when those kids now and then would break those rules, and it was gonna cost me too much time, or too big of a headache, you know, for me to actually hold them accountable in that moment, I didn’t always do it. And so do you think my claims for what kind of household I wanted to run and even my rules mattered at all? Nope, because when somebody showed up at 9:30, with a chocolate bar, and I knew that taking the chocolate bar was going to cause a fit that I was then gonna have to spend 30 minutes trying to unravel, and I was tired from a full day of being an executive, so I didn’t do anything, who got a chocolate bar the next night, too? So this is, this is what happens inside our workplaces. We spend all the time on the claim, we spend all the time on the policies, and we do not spend enough time on the norms, and it’s a missing link because the whole middle of our organizations, they do not know what to do or they don’t believe you mean what you say you mean.
Sarah Noll Wilson 34:27
Right. I mean, I mean that’s such a, like, the gap between espoused values and actual behaviors. And, and then, and then, then, then to just connect it further to another point you made, because again, these are patterns that we see in organizations, is then the, the norms, the behaviors is put, is the, the, is pushed down to the team members and the employees. And, and I can only imagine how often you see this in your work, that it is more common than not, that you have this very passionate, you know, usually an HR person who we’re talking to, or comes up and, and they go, we really need this, but I’m going to be honest, my leadership isn’t, you know, on board. And, but, but we’ve started these ERG groups, and we have these committees and, and one of the practices when we’re working with leaders is work avoidance. How are we avoiding the real work? And I’m like, committees without power, authority, and resources is one of the sexiest work avoidance and most common work avoidance that happens.
Tara Jaye Frank 35:36
Ding, ding ding!
Sarah Noll Wilson 35:37
Oh, almost always. Yeah, with, with diversity, equity, inclusion work, it’s like, that is the, that’s the box we’re going to check, hey, we’ve got ERGs, they’re not actually gonna, we’re not gonna give them any budget, we’re not going to give them any resources, and we’re not going to attend, and we’re not going to have conversations, and-
Tara Jaye Frank 35:54
I have a thing about ERGs. I know I talked about it in the book, I want to say for anybody listening, ERGs are very nice. I think that you should have them, they combat isolation, they do not drive equitable outcomes. They do not, by themselves, create inclusive cultures, they combat isolation. This is a totally different benefit. Then the benefits brought about by equitable and inclusive leadership, which unlocks opportunity, which unlocks, right, innovation, which unlocks all of those other things. So ERGs, yes, yes so people don’t feel alone, so they have other people they can be in community with, they can share their experiences, they can get ideas, they can bring ideas forward. But they do not in and of themselves solve your equity and inclusion problem. Full stop.
It has to start with the leadership. I mean, that’s one of the things that.
It has to. And just so you know, when people call me, and they sometimes do, and they say I’m really passionate about this, but my CEO is not supportive, I say I am not your person. It just doesn’t work.
Sarah Noll Wilson 37:16
I just- I just said that on your behalf. I said- okay, said I don’t know, I don’t know her as well, but here’s what I know about her. I’m not actually gonna recommend her, because based off of what you said. And I will say, even- we try really hard in our work to pick, you know, align with right clients, but sometimes it can be easy, well, let’s, you know, let’s see if we can get a door in, let’s see if we can open up, and now it’s just like, nope, I mean, even that has given me more courage to just be like, no, it’s just not how can I support you. Let’s be the Daisy and the onion patch, right? Like, how can I, how can we help you, but the reality is, is, this is, so I don’t want to say it’s a waste of your time and money, but it’s, it’s not going to move the needle.
I have fired clients.
Tara Jaye Frank 38:05
Just because I’m like, you know, I’m sorry that you’re experiencing this, but it is clear to me based on A B and C, that your leadership is not genuinely committed to this change at this time, and that’s fine, but I’m not the one. I just, like, I am all about impact. I used to say in the beginning, you know, I don’t, I don’t drag cats out from under beds. That’s the way I think about it. Like somebody’s under there, somebody’s under there with their, like, claws in the carpet, you know, they’re, you’re, you’re right on the floor, like come on, you can do this. They reach out, they scratch the crap out of you, that’s not my idea of a good time. I don’t do that. Somebody might, but it’s not Tara Jaye Frank.
Sarah Noll Wilson 38:54
That is, oh my god, I’m done, I got makeup in my eyes and now my eyes are burning.
Tara Jaye Frank 38:59
Oh, no, the burn.
Sarah Noll Wilson 39:01
It’s the, that is, that is the most accurate description-
Tara Jaye Frank 39:06
I just don’t, I just don’t, I can’t.
Sarah Noll Wilson 39:08
You know, because well, I mean, even, even when, when you’re working with people who are willing, I mean, I know this from talking with all of my friends who are in the DEI space, because I mean I’m always saying, boy, you all, you should make three times as much as anything that I’m doing, because the cost is so different. The, right, the- what you’re navigating, and the emotional burden, and the navigating other people’s- it’s just, it’s, it’s just at a different level that even with people who are willing, there’s, there is a cost to you doing this, I would imagine.
Tara Jaye Frank 39:08
There is. Yeah, there is, because it’s hard. It’s hard to depersonalize it, but depersonalize it you must. So that, that takes a lot of energy. Like, I, you know, I was doing some work with a sports organization once, and we were meeting with a board of directors for one of their regions. And there were a lot of people in this meeting, and we were talking about how to get more black and brown people, you know, into their facilities. And he basically said to me, well, look, the people who come to our facility have said, point blank, they don’t want black people in there, so what do you expect me to do about that? And, you know, those moments, I haven’t had many of them, because not everybody’s like, that bold with it. But if- that’s hurtful, so in the moment, you have to figure out, you know, how you’re gonna respond to these grenades that sometimes people throw, or, you know, sometimes it’s not always that bold, sometimes it’s just a little bit more subtle, but still insidious. So it can certainly be emotionally taxing. But, you know, I think if I did not believe that I was purposed for this work, that I was, you know, that I am a bridge builder, and that I’m supposed to build bridges, I would not be doing it, because it’s hard. It’s hard to stay in it with people, but, you know, what I want everybody to know, like, I am here. I am in it with you. I think if people read “The Waymakers,” they will feel that they will know that we will be, I shared this with you before, we will be launching on-demand courses by the end of the summer. The reason I wanted to do that, is the only people who can really benefit from my immersion experiences, from my education, my capacity building work, is when their company has invested in it. So for any individual, like the people who call you and say I’m really passionate about it, but my CEO doesn’t care, like there’s no way for me to serve those people outside of this book. But these courses will be a way, because as an individual, they can then, you know, experience what, what other people experience when their companies actually invest in it.
Sarah Noll Wilson 42:00
Yeah, it’s, and I, you know, as we’re, as we’re winding down our conversation, I cannot, I cannot express enough, I say this with the absolute confidence, that your work is going to become a foundational brick in my work, in my world, there’s, you know, there’s different fields of practices that we refer to, or we direct people to, or we quote from, partly because, you, I’ve been on my reading journey for the last, you know, half a dozen years or so, and I think the thing that struck me about yours that, that, that made it so accessible for me, not only, again, not only, not, not just in how do I support clients, or how do I direct them to you, or get them to your book, but also just as a person, when I think about the company I’m trying to build, as I think about how we’re scaling, how do we be more intentional about it, how do we think about these things, is there’s so many practical things, there’s so many things like, I don’t know how someone could read this book and go, I don’t know what to do. Right?
Tara Jaye Frank 43:21
That blesses me.
Sarah Noll Wilson 43:22
Now, the challenge would be, it would be where do you start, because I need to go, there’s so many, what’s the one or two that I want to start really building into a habit, that I want to see. And I, and I say this with, it’s already changed how I show up in conversations, there’s already been moment- it’s only really, I’ve only been reading it for the last two weeks, and there’s already been moments that I’ve interrupted differently, because I saw them differently because of, of your book and your work. And-
Tara Jaye Frank 43:57
Thank you so much for that. Thank you so much for that, because Sarah, you’ve written a beautiful book, and you know, this, you pour your whole self headlong into it. And you don’t really ever know, you know, how it’s going to land on people outside of your own brain. Because you think about these things all the time, you know, and you, you use these concepts all the time. And so, hearing you reflect that back to me, means more to me than you can possibly know. You know, I’m, I’m so focused on impact, I always have been. And it just, it matters to me that it is working for you, because I, I want it to work for leaders, so that leaders can work better for their people. That is the end game for me.
Sarah Noll Wilson 44:45
Yeah, it, I mean, instantaneously, it felt, I mean things were- again, I am such a firm believer that when we can see things differently, right? We can’t unsee it, and now we get to choose differently, and you just laid out such a, I wouldn’t even say it’s a roadmap, I mean, I just think it’s a, there are some books that I know I’m always going to be going back to over and over and again, or oh, the situation came up, oh, I think that, you know, that, that it’s so, it’s so rich with insight and stories and heart and humanity. And I mean, I have to tell you oughta, I mean, I already knew I loved you before
Tara Jaye Frank 45:28
Same, same, same.
Sarah Noll Wilson 45:28
-we needed you on the show, but the quote- because I’m a curiosity girl, this, this is our whole foundation, is just, you know, how do we be curious when it’s hard? How do we be curious- I mean, there’s always things we don’t know. That’s, that’s, I mean, it’s just my motto. There’s always things I don’t know about myself. There’s always things I don’t know about others. And, and so, so this quote of curiosity breeds familiarity, familiarity makes way for trust, trust builds relationship, relationships open doors of opportunity, and the only way we achieve equity is together. Tara, before we leave, I have to ask you the question we always, always ask, if we can be curious for a second. It feels so jarring, I’m gonna be transparent. I just want to end on that note of just, you’re amazing. But I, I want to honor our ritual-
Tara Jaye Frank 45:38
Yes, I love rituals.
Sarah Noll Wilson 45:52
-of closing out our show.
Tara Jaye Frank 46:24
Give it to me.
Sarah Noll Wilson 46:25
Okay. Since this is a show that’s about Conversations on Conversations, what is the conversation with yourself or with someone else that has transformed you? And you can share whatever you would like us to know.
Tara Jaye Frank 46:39
Yeah. Well, I actually talked about this in my book launch party. Recently, when I was asking for help with “The Waymakers,” like testimonials, and all that other stuff, you know, you need that kind of help. I was initially afraid to reach out and to ask for that. Because I’m not very good at asking for help. Which is really weird, because I’m really good at giving it, but I’m not great at asking for it. And so I had to, I had a life coach who was kind of helping me, I had to talk to myself about the fact that people wanted to help me. Like, that’s the conversation I had to have with myself. Tara, people want to support you. They want to help you, not just that they will, you know, but that they want to, and that really did change things for me, because you know what, there’s a point you can get to with just hustle and grind, and then beyond that, you can’t without help, without somebody making a way for you. And so as much of a waymaker as I consider myself, I’ve always considered myself, as much as I’m trying to inspire and equip other waymakers. I had to remember and realize that I need them too, still, and will continue to, and give myself the permission and gather the courage to ask for what I need.
Sarah Noll Wilson 48:16
I love you. I love-
Tara Jaye Frank 48:18
I love you too. You’re so sweet. So many people told me how much I was gonna love you. I’m like-
Sarah Noll Wilson 48:24
Oh, well that’s good.
Tara Jaye Frank 48:24
I believe you, you don’t have to convince me, I believe you, and they were so right.
Sarah Noll Wilson 48:30
I, I don’t know when I started to follow you, but- getting a little misty. Anytime you talk, I listen. You have had such a profound impact on me and really in a fairly short amount of time. I mean, I think it’s only been over the last year and a half or so that our paths have crossed in a more consistent way. And I say this to everyone who’s listening, you need to follow Tara on LinkedIn, you need to follow her on Twitter, she puts out great content on both, and you will be better for listening, and then doing better because you, you received her insights and wisdom, and I’m just, I’m so, I just don’t even have the words. Okay, so we need to get the book into people’s hands. So we will include in the show notes- also, if you send us a message, so for those of you who are listening to this, for the first 20 people who reach out to us at podcast at Sarah Noll Wilson dot com, just send us your name and your address, we will gift a book to the first 20 people who reach out, because we- I really do believe in this work, and I want to get it into as many people hands as possible. And-
Tara Jaye Frank 50:03
Thank you so much for that.
Sarah Noll Wilson 50:05
Yeah. So again, people, podcast at Sarah Noll Wilson dot com if you want a copy of “Waymakers.” Tara, thank you so much for being you for being the waymaker you are for so many and helping us learn how we can build better bridges to a better world.
Tara Jaye Frank 50:23
Thank you so much, Sarah. This has truly been a gift to me. You couldn’t have known this, but especially on this day. So I’m just grateful, honestly for the time we had to spend together, and for your support, and your love as well. So thank you, and thanks to everyone listening.
Sarah Noll Wilson 50:42
This completes our conversation with Tara Jaye Frank, there is so much that I am chewing on, I don’t even know where to begin. I think that one of the things that has been so provocative for me, is that idea of thinking about what does protection look like and how in every single moment, especially for those of us who have power and authority, we can make a difference and make a way for someone else. And a reminder that we will be giving away 20 copies of her book “The Waymakers,” just send us an email at podcast at Sarah Noll Wilson dot com with your name and address, we’ll make that happen. So the first 20 people who send us an email at podcast at Sarah Noll Wilson dot com asking for “The Waymakers” book will get one sent to your home. And if you’d like to find out more about the work we do and how we can help your team have conversations that matter, check us out at Sarah Noll Wilson dot com. You can also pick up a copy of my book, “Don’t Feed the Elephants!” wherever books are sold. And if you like the show, if you’ve been following us for a while, if you’re a new listener, 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 the incredible team that makes it happen, but you’ll get access to some pretty great benefits as well. And if you haven’t yet, I am asking a favor that you please rate, review, and subscribe to the show. You can do this on iTunes, Spotify, or other podcast platforms. This helps us get the word out, it helps us increase our visibility, and continue to bring on amazing guests each week. A huge thank you to our incredible team who makes this podcast possible, to Nick Wilson, our producer, our sound editor, Drew Noll, transcriptionist, Olivia Reinert, and marketing consultant, Kaitlyn Summitt-Nelson. And a big, big old thank you to Tara Jaye Frank. I have been looking forward to this conversation for some time, and I am leaving deeply changed because of her book, and because of this opportunity to be with her. This has been Conversations on Conversations. Thank you for listening, and remember, when we can change the conversations we have with ourselves and others, we can change the world. So don’t forget to rest, rehydrate, and we’ll see you again next week. Bye everyone.
Transcribed by https://otter.ai
Connect with Us
- Subscribe to Sarah’s newsletter
- Support the podcast on Patreon
- Buy The Waymakers: Clearing the Path to Workplace Equity with Competence and Confidence
- Find Sarah: LinkedIn | Twitter | YouTube
- Find Tara: Facebook | LinkedIn | Instagram | Website
Sarah Noll Wilson is on a mission to help leaders build and rebuild teams. She aims to empower leaders to understand and honor the beautiful complexity of the humans they serve. Through her work as an Executive Coach, an in-demand Keynote Speaker, Researcher, Contributor to Harvard Business Review, and Bestselling Author of “Don’t Feed the Elephants”, Sarah helps leaders close the gap between what they intend to do and the actual impact they make. She hosts the podcast “Conversations on Conversations”, is certified in Co-Active Coaching and Conversational Intelligence, and is a frequent guest lecturer at universities. In addition to her work with organizations, Sarah is a passionate advocate for mental health.