Harvey Mackay Academy's Blog

Dr. Tony Byers: Legendary Leader Interview

Cliff Jones: Hello Ladies and gentlemen, Cliff Jones with Harvey Mackay and I’m pleased to introduce with us today to you Dr. Tony Byers, PhD Global Diversity and Inclusion Expert. Welcome Tony.

Dr. Tony Byers: Thank you Cliff I appreciate the opportunity to be here with you this afternoon.

Cliff Jones: Great to have you back with us. If you don’t know Dr Tony Byers yet, he is a contributor at Harvey Mackay Academy, and a Global Diversity and Inclusion Expert, graduate of Fielding Graduate University. Quite an accomplished a background including a book new book coming out. We’re going to talk about and this conversation next 20 minutes or so, Ladies and gentlemen, if you’re listening on the street smarts podcast or watching the video is about the kind of impact Tony and his team is having with leaders in the realm of diversity and inclusion corporate level, and is it fair to say Tony, small business owners as well or among your audience, your readers when you speak and span the globe?

Dr. Tony Byers: Absolutely, absolutely. We see a lot more small business leaders leveraging this work as well. So excited about that.

Cliff Jones: So, uh, I want you to talk about you, but ladies and gentlemen, just in the way of introduction Dr. Byers is a former Director of Global Diversity at Starbucks. I want you to talk about that so our audience knows the impact you were able to have working with Howard Schultz and the other leaders at that company prior to that you were H.J. Heinz Company in the leader of global diversity and inclusion capacity and you are Manager of Corporate Diversity at a H.J. Heinz Company and prior to that Diversity Development Specialist at Cargill. So these are Fortune 1000 global leading in many cases, publicly traded companies that are big time on the radar, and that’s where you developed your reputation as an expert in this field. Tell us about that.

Dr. Tony Byers: Yeah, certainly. So thank you again. I’ve been fortunate. I’ve been fortunate enough to be able to interact with some of these organizations and organizational leaders sharing a perspective around diversity and inclusion. But just real quick, prior to working with those corporate organizations, I also taught at two universities. I was born and raised in Minnesota. I taught at the university, a State University in Minnesota and Metropolitan State at a chance to do some adjunct work with University of Wisconsin River Falls, so manager of adjunct work for the University of Minnesota in the graduate school and this all developed through my graduate studies on the subject of diversity inclusion. It’s funny now I got into the corporate world. I was doing some general working with some organizations that were experts in culture change and I just finished my dissertation, which was a big support for senior leaders among diversity programs.

Dr. Tony Byers: And right after I’ve finished at someone at Cargill had a chance to read a white paper that I wrote on the subject and they called me. Cargill was based in Minnesota in Minneapolis. I was there. They called me in and asked me about the work that I was doing, getting leaders involved. And we had this interesting conversation on the phone and I went and sat with that organization and we developed a process that we developed a strategy I should say, where we were looking at how they could leverage some of that work inside of Congress. I remember going home being super excited about this opportunity to meet a consultant with Cargill and Cargill, Sydney, this job description, which they believe would be perfect. I looked at their job description, says you need to change it here, change it, then change it. They’re trying to give him my best to send it back to them and they sit back, sit, and I’m telling you this, understood. We weren’t looking for you to critique this, we will need you to actually do this. And that was my foray into working with more of these global organization, Cargill, large global organization and having a chance to manage adversity program with 47 different business units in Western Europe and throughout North America. Really gave me a broad perspective on how this work can be applicable to leaders across the globe.

Cliff Jones: Why this field? Why takes such an intense focus, especially an academic focus, a lot of work. You have a PhD, it’s a doctorate in the field. We’ll talk about the new book again, but what, why, what really motivates you and why is this such a big deal now for, for leaders around the world at all levels? I think everybody who’s interested to any subject has a story to tell about it. I suppose short version of my personal stories is growing up in Minnesota. I happen to have went to a high school that went through a desegregation process one year prior to my arrival and when I arrived at that school we had to quit, took early retirement. We’ve had teachers who were not interested in working with students who come from and they use this word, urban environments or diverse students. And then we have teachers who quit and stay, which you know, they quit on us, but they still in the environment when we walked in, when I walked into a classroom. But I was able to feel his deal with. It’s like when a teacher did not want you to be president, you can feel the environment. My classmates who were also from my neighborhood knew that certain teachers didn’t want us in their classroom. They talk with their backs towards us and engage us, and as a result of that, what we discovered is that our performance was not as high as it could be. It was basically because we didn’t care. We didn’t care about us then we don’t really care about here. And then you could go to a classroom environment where a teacher being a teacher, doing what teachers do and engaging and really creating an environment for us to feel like we were just students and in those classrooms our performance was high. So early on in my life I had a chance to understand that if you can create the right type of environment, you can increase levels of performance. And so when I fast forward and start to look at organizational culture, organizational change, how our organizations can be innovative, creative, and drive growth through the value of diversity inclusion, I’m able to think about some of those personal experiences I had in my past and applied it to cultures or environments and leaders that I work with from then until now.

Cliff Jones: So formative years, early experience, right? You didn’t feel good not to be included in the classroom. Therefore, you and your friends basically return the favor, you detach, you do whatever you want to do. Now, a lot of young men and women get into sports. A lot of men and women get into arts, you know, all sorts of good, good things. But when that happens, there’s a tragic consequence not only in the classroom, but for employers. Do you want to talk a little bit about what goes wrong when there is a lack of awareness and commitment to diversity and inclusion?

Dr. Tony Byers: Yeah, certainly. I think when you have a lack of awareness, lack of practice, the behaviors and people equate that to being a lack of commitment, what goes wrong then you don’t get high levels of engagement, performance, discretionary effort. You lose the best ideas. You lose the ability to try to drive and create something that’s innovative and new because a leader practices what I call a fixed mindset, meaning they only see one way of doing things and so they don’t learn to take advantage of other opportunities to do a process or to come up with an idea that can help that company and that team move towards innovation and growth. So here’s a different example about just the environment because not everyone wants to go into environment, hugs and loves. I’m not saying all of that, but when I am saying is that if you look at research, they say that exclusion. When people are being excluded, it operates in the same area of the brain as pain. And so if individuals are feeling exclusion, there may be the brain is operating or processing that feeling in the same space where where they experience pain. And so what the brain does is it tries not to experience pain. One very few people probably go and look for opportunities. So you retract from an environment and then that doesn’t allow you to bring your best self and when you’re thinking about growth, there are these opportunities for companies where they’re looking at their growth curves and as that starts to flatten out, they have to actually think of something that’s new, creative, innovative, some way of creating a new growth curve. And my belief is that you can create a new growth curve curve by bringing in diversity practice in the behaviors of inclusion. And that serves as a multiplier for these ideas. And those are the things that advanced innovation. And that’s where the advanced growth. Looking at the research, we know companies that do this well, there are 40 percent more likely to expand your current market share, 75 percent more likely to catch a brand new market just by practicing this behavior. So when we start to move from diversity and inclusion, we can think about it as, oh, it’s bill software. Do I need to create an environment where everyone’s those love? You can have that attitude which my mindset, fixed mindset, or you can take a growth mindset and you can say, actually, this is about what we do to help drive and advance the business to help drive and advance our and our team members.

Cliff Jones: Let’s go back to the basics for everybody listening. Ladies and Gentleman, Dr Tony Byers, diversity and inclusion expert with us today on Street Smarts. Talk about what diversity is and what inclusion is because we can’t assume everybody knows exactly what you are an expert.

Dr. Tony Byers: You know the challenge of being an expert is he’s got long definition, so I’m going to give you a short definition. I like to make it simple. I tell people that diversity is a noun it describes who we are. It’s that person, their background and experiences. It just the gender, ethnic identity. It’s all of those things. It’s sort of describes who we are. Inclusion, I like to think of it as a verb. It talks about what we do and so when I go and talk to leaders, I say, would you be interested in supporting diversity? I haven’t met a lot who say, no, I don’t really want to do that. They’re all say, yeah, I’m actually supportive of diversity, but there next question, ask is Tony, what do you want me to do? And so it’s hard for me to tell you what to do for diversity. Easier for me to tell you what to do for inclusion, because those are a set of behaviors that you should be practicing that leverage the diversity that you have. So ones a noun, one describes who we are. Yeah, the others a verb. It describes what we do and then they’ll put those two together, allow us, if we leveraged this correctly, it serves as a multiplier and advances our innovation and business growth.

Cliff Jones: Let’s talk about fundamentals of business. As Harvey Mackay says, there are a million words in the English language. If leaders can’t learn and practice one of them, uh, extremely well, they just can’t be successful. That word is h-i-r-e, hire. So when we’re hiring from a diversity perspective, we’re looking to build a diverse of skills skills that fit the roles and responsibilities called for by the strategic plan of action based on the goals. And objectives of the organization, strategic planning, 101. So that’s one level of diversity, but give us an example of a deeper level of diversity in, in how a leader like me, small company or large, maximizes the approach to hiring and then motivating, including for maximum ROI. You’re talking about performance outcomes, 40 percent superior to those that don’t practice these behaviors for inclusion. So what? What is it really underlying this that makes the biggest difference?

Dr. Tony Byers: It’s a great question now. So thank you for asking that one. So here’s actually what happens. Well, not every company with many companies, as we start to think about the process of hiring, one of the things that we do is we try to find people and hire people that we believe will be a good culture fit. We want them to have different skill sets or backgrounds, but we also want them to fit inside of our organizational environment because we believed that when they’re a good cultural fit, that in a short period of time a person came gel with the team get up and running and we can come to new ideas. The problem with cultural fit is that cultural fit has a tendency to be based on who you are as a person. So here’s an example. We go out someone and hire someone who looks like us, who acts like us, who talks like us and went to the same school at one and similar to the one we went to, and then we bring that person on the ideas onto the job. When we say give us a creative and innovative idea that we’ve ever thought of before. It becomes too when you hired someone who’s very, very similar to you now, what I’ve discovered with some organizations is that they’ll say, okay, Tommy will go out and hire someone who is different background experience, perspective, whatever that is and allow them to come in and contribute to our organization. So I’m going to use a images of shakes just to kind of give people a visual. So if I have five, six people in my team and five of them are squares and I decided to hire one triangle and my team because that is me practicing going out, having diversity. Well, what ends up happening is that all of the squares on that team expect that one triangle to act like a square, so that’s where we say, now we recognize your different Cliff. You might be different type of diversity will come act like us if you want to be successful here. So the challenge is with some of the hiring has been we want to make sure that we have diversity in thinking, diversity of perspective, diversity in backgrounds. Those are all important. One way that we know is that there’s a that can help is that there’s a strong correlation between some cultural diversity and perspective background or an idea for a hey, so having that becomes important. Then it is how do I create an environment where I’m leveraging diversity? To me, Cliff, that’s the key. It’s not having it because an organization can be diverse and not inclusive. It’s really about the ability of the leaders to practice and tap into that diversity that makes them stronger. That’s how you get to the growth in the marketplace. That’s how you get the innovation, innovative ideas. That’s where you get the best of having a diverse organization is when you practice those inclusive behavior,

Cliff Jones: So if we as leaders, managers, hiring people, professionals, bringing the right people to the skill sets we need and the cultural value personality, a culture emerges, not necessarily the culture defined by the leader or leaders, but the culture defined by the collective contributions of a diverse group because that’s the beauty of diversity and and in that regard, how do we as leaders, because our leaders love street smart stuff, they can start using right away. What do you tell our leaders, viewers, and listeners about what they can do starting right now to make a bigger difference at home, at work and everywhere in between?

Dr. Tony Byers: Yeah. It’s a good question because a number of things. I try to recommend seven different behaviors but that people can practice to drive inclusive environments, but one of them that I like to talk about more than others is well maybe to being really curious. How do you as a leader practice curiosity and how does that curiosity drive you to interact with individuals who have a different perspective? A different background, a different way of doing things than you. If you are one of those leaders that can engage and a curious manner, you’re able to extract information and ideas from your team that are different than just having a status quo or interacting the same way so curiosity becomes a big driver, but of all the drivers there is one called consistency, that’s really, really important because I’ve met leaders will say, well Tony, I was curious once and I didn’t even get the right idea yet, what one time we were curious and so really identifying with those behaviors are going to practice and if curiosity is one of those, how do I consistently display that behavior with my team so that I’m creating a culture that they understand that the behavior of curiosity is something that we value around here. It’s not something that we’re going to try once because we saw this wonderful podcast. We heard it from somebody who studied this subject before.

Cliff Jones: You got to be curious and be consistent. A third thing maybe that people can use?

Dr. Tony Byers: Be a change agent. You have to be committed to driving that change inside of your environment. I mean because if they get innovative ideas, creative ideas, those ideas might go against the way that you’ve practiced it before and it takes a person to want to be a change agent that’s actually going to drive towards this because we believe this to be value valuable for us and we want. We expect the outcomes to be big because you can be comfortable at all which is not one of those where you look for ideas that you think are new but they’re comfortable to you or you can be as cutting edge and you can look for ideas that are very different than your environment and you can advocate for it or be a change agent for it. So you can be a change agent for an idea. You can be a change agent for the way that your team works and operates. Then you could be a change agent for the culture of your environment so that you’re shaping and training people to respond to this type of work or to this type of behaviors with very little effort from you. And that’s when it becomes what I like to say a habit. How do you build habits so that people start thinking this way without having to spend effort and time to be effective.

Cliff Jones: So really what you’re saying is because change, effective change, lasting change only happens over periods of time through repetition. Leaders, right, when we act curiously, we’re curious kind of a consistent basis and we’re committed to being an agent of change in our organization as leaders. Right? And carries right through to the community level and can impact everybody, all business owners to teachers, to civil servants. Everybody are communities which are at each other’s throat and seems diversity, inclusion, uh, couldn’t be a better time to be in the business you’re in. And to that point, you’re about to launch a book. You’ve got the title prominently, brilliantly. Great Marketing team there. By the way, the multiplier of inclusion, how diversity and inclusion advances innovation and drives growth. Tell her about the book and, uh, where we can get it. Because this is, this is a must read for leaders.

Dr. Tony Byers: Thank you very much. So the book is, it is based on my 25 years experience working in this space. And what I’ve been able to filter down and think about them, what are those questions? What are the ways in which we should be thinking about this subject? What can we start doing, make this practical and real that people can engage in and start doing right away. A lot of the books are around diversity inclusion on retinal and know most of the authors, I think they’re great, but it’s written for diversity. Leaders can be highly theoretical, can go into a lot of concepts, and when I was inside organizations and now on the outside of organizations, I received number of calls from organizations invited me to help them think about their diversity strategy. Am I going the right direction? Where should we start? And there’s a series of questions and a series of things that I always ask every single organizational leader who invites me to talk about the subject. And so one day I was just thinking, you just put this all in a book. Then that way that those individuals can go grab it, you don’t need it individual. And that was the impetus for the book. I wanted to try to find a way to make a contribution to the subject of diversity and inclusion and I wanted to find a way in which all organizations, for profit, nonprofit, community out wherever you are and organizational systems and you can take it and apply and once we all get better at this subject, then we’re building the habits on how to drive a more inclusive culture and become more innovative and creative. So the idea for me was what’s the contribution and I think that can make, what’s the information that I can put it in the book to give people at least direct reflection questions to right starting points and behaviors to practice that they can put into place right now and how can I make sure that it can be beneficial to them. That was my attempt. So the book that just came out in mid September. I’m excited about it. I’ve got some nice reviews from friends and unsolicited reviews from other individuals. It is available on Amazon and kind of an online book places, but we’re just getting started and now we’re at a place where I’m having more and more conversations like this that talks about how can we get better in this subject and that was the goal. So super excited about that.

Cliff Jones: Big wishes for huge success. Harvey, and I look forward to having you as a contributor here at the Academy. Everybody, if you don’t know this, Dr Byers spans the globe, is a professional speaker. You’re a member of the National Speakers Association where we met in Dallas recently, had the honor of meeting you there through Kathy Paper. Of course we saw you in action and we thought we gotta have this guy a shot show up at the Academy. Your work, the timing couldn’t be more important. You’re obviously, you know, the track record with Howard Schultz and your corporate pedigree, your, your education, your PhD, just. Nope, no question in our minds that you’re going to be a continued success. I want you in closing to talk a little bit about the things we can do from a diversity and inclusion standpoint at home as parents and leaders, because Harvey and I are deeply committed to helping the next generation of emerging leaders, uh, you know, in the real world at work and at home, so, so in closing, share some things that relate to diversity inclusion that we can practice at home, not just at work.

Dr. Tony Byers: That’s first time I’ve had that question, so that’s good. I think one of the things that can, that can help is one exposure and how are you exposing your family and yourself to different cultures, experiences, perspectives. Persons involved in church on Sunday, just look around, see what your church looks like and ask questions about how can you get your person goes to a store or go to a sporting event or you go to any other type community event. Just to look around and ask yourself, am I exposing myself and my family to different perspectives, ideas, interaction. If not, find ways in which you can increase that, that particular exposure. The other thing is, is I think that’s important in light of where America finds itself right now, is this whole notion about understanding different perspectives. The other side of the coin, every idea that is out there, there is a different perspective and it’s not about drawing a line in the sand and having an argument or fight different perspective is actually more about what does it do that can learn from that perspective and how am I engaging in a way that’s going to allow us to move forward. So it’s a really. It’s a different mindset as opposed to my way’s the right way. Uh, and so how do we say, how do I teach you how to engage? How do I teach you how to understand? And then how do I teach you how to practice the concept of inclusion? That’s when it’s hard because when it’s easy and when we all agree, cliff inclusion’s great, we all agree. We’re saying the same thing. I could bring this different voice in where we have different voices and different perspectives and behaviors of conclusion become challenging and that then we need to find ourselves at our best. So those are two things that I would offer a given the question.

Cliff Jones: Well, those two, I would say exposure touches a home for me in a big way because I had the privilege of being a university student able to travel to overseas to France and live study and work among people from a completely different culture. And it was probably one of the biggest eye openers in my entire life. And it’s fair to say that the exposure you’re talking about has to do with getting out in the community, being openminded and receptive to different kinds of music, philosophies, world views, religious views, find the common ground. Not necessarily always have to be right because we see the cost of being right. And I think what I heard is when it comes to truth, absolutes, everybody has an opinion of facts. You look at any big issue, scientists, included and, and they’re trying to agree on the facts and it looks often like agreement, but you look at any championship team, you look at MackayMitchell Envelope Company, 50 plus years in business, you talk about diversity, inclusion and, and the impact of that. It’s many generations of jobs, stable jobs, jobs that are people will enjoy coming to work, feel like they’re being heard and valued in the workplace. They’re treated like family. Therefore there’s less turnover. There’s higher productivity, more innovation. You touched on creativity. All of these virtues are the byproducts of leaders being willing to be curious, consistent, right? And then also committed to being agents of change. If so, is that a fair, fair summary of your wisdom today?

Dr. Tony Byers: Summary of their wisdom I try to impart today and you know real quick is just the mind is a muscle and so the more we exercise it, the better or more effective it becomes. So if exposure happens at a young age, a challenge and be open and be consistent. We practice that the more it becomes an every day. So whatever the experiences, when we talk about creating exposure, even if it’s just across the street, the town across the state, once you start to build a muscle and how to increase that exposure and how to respect that, you can do it at different levels at different times when it’s needed, but you gotta start somewhere.

Cliff Jones: Ladies and Gentlemen, Dr Tony Byers, author of the new book The Multiplier Effect of Inclusion, how diversity and inclusion advances innovation and drives growth. As leaders, we all want more innovation, more growth. We want a happier places of work, more productive, creative. We come back and see us soon, Tony.

Dr. Tony Byers: Oh, I appreciate this opportunity and I look forward to the next one.

Cliff Jones: Thanks Dr. Tony Byers, ladies and gentlemen, if you don’t have a free membership at Harvey Mackay Academy, get one today. Thanks very much for listening. I’m Cliff Jones. We’ll see you next time.

About the Author Harvey Mackay, Founder & CEO

Seven-time, New York Times best-selling author of "Swim With The Sharks Without Being Eaten Alive," with two books among the top 15 inspirational business books of all time, according to the New York Times. He is one of America’s most popular and entertaining business speakers, and currently serves as Chairman at the MackayMitchell Envelope Company, one of the nation’s major envelope manufacturers, producing 25 million envelopes a day.

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