ACE Leadership Symposium Takeaways

Posted by: Marion Mann on Thursday, April 24, 2014
The Chamber’s second annual ACE Leadership Symposium, designed to promote advancing minority leadership and corporate board service, included workshop presentations on “The Truth about Coaching and Managing Minorities” and “How Not to Be a Victim and Produce Results” with facilitators Charles Weathers and Anita Garrett, both with The Weathers Group based in Columbia, SC. Weathers delivered the keynote lunch presentation “Collaborative RelaAtionships to Advance Minority Leadership,” after which both facilitators answered questions from the audience. Key points from the presentation include: What can you do where you are, with what you have, by yourself? If you’re going to grow, excel and be effective, you’re going to need to work with someone else to make it happen. We know that diversity of backgrounds and thought can provide a major asset to our organizations. It’s time to put silos to bed and form alliances to advance minority leadership in order to advance our businesses, our community, and all of Upstate SC. Helping people helps all people. We need to lose the thinking that helping minorities helps minorities. It’s not about affirmative action, quotas, or having a rainbow in the board room. It’s about having diversity in skills and thinking. Minority advancement should not be an extra thing to do, but an integrated and cohesive strategy throughout everything we do. If we’re truly working for a greater good, we can put our energy toward a cause that is larger than us. The same 20% of minorities serve on our local boards. Who is going to replace them? If we want to advance leadership, we must move beyond the usual suspects. The same 20% of minorities are on our local boards. Weathers stressed the importance of developing their replacements. Grooming and mentoring individuals to serve in leadership positions will help guarantee the success of organizations and our community in the future. Break down the walls by asking questions. Weathers recalled a manager who, in trying to relate to a lesbian employee, searched for a special book for guidance. There wasn’t one. When he asked a peer for advice, they asked him, Have you spoken with her about it? He realized he hadn’t. When he did, it turned out they had the same family/financial problems, so empathizing was easy. People have more similarities than differences. If you are a good coach, you can be a good coach to all. We fail not because of a lack of skill, but because of a lack of will. We seem to all think we work together well, but the truth is we need to do a better job working together. For some, it’s a threat to work together as some people would rather be the king/queen of nothing rather than be a servant to something. Understand that division serves a purpose for some people – as long as we subscribe to this, we’ll never realize the success togetherness can deliver. Working together requires doing the work and holding each other accountable. For every person who works in your organization, you’ve told the public that you trust them. No collaboration or alliance can exist without trust. Weathers referenced Stephen M.R. Covey’s formula for the economics of trust: When trust goes down, speed will also go down and costs will go up. When trust goes up, speed will also go up and costs will go down. More important than trust is credibility. Credibility = Competency + Character. Ask yourself daily, Am I demonstrating the competency and character consistent with the responsibility I hold? Organizations don’t have relationships, people do. Organizations can’t assume that relationships will continue when the people who originated them leave – yet another reason to help cultivate and groom our future leaders. Weathers stressed the importance of relationship building with these five Is:
  1. Identification
  2. Introduction
  3. Interest
  4. Involvement
  5. Investment
You can’t expect investment until you’ve completed 1-4. People invest in one another other because they’ve been through some things together and have developed credibility. Once you’ve completed all five, it’s most important to take the time to share your relationships and open up your circle of influence in order to advance the conversation. Age diversity is a big deal today. Age diversity is common in today’s workplace with some organizations having up to four and five generations working together. Weathers noted his father’s generation and its 40/40 plan (work 40 hours a week/retire after 40 years/get a watch). Today’s younger generations go into jobs thinking they’ll be there for three years tops. All have something to teach one another, so create an environment that encourages sharing. We can hire diverse people if we diversify our circles. Weathers noted the all too often remark, There are no diverse people with the skills we need. Where are they? By cultivating and building necessary relationships, our eyes will open to the wealth of resources that exist in our community. Q & A Q: Do you think there’s a revolving door for minority talent? A: The biggest problem with good people is that other people want them. Building relationships with employees doesn’t stop with recruiting/hiring. Leaders must cultivate relationships and provide mentoring opportunities while the employees are there. Q from a middle school student: How should we prepare now for success in the workplace later? A: Start early in valuing yourself. When you value yourself, you value others and are able to find similarities and common ground. Be yourself, stand up for yourself and each other. Q from a minority small business owner: How do you explain to someone that you’re not going to hire them just because they are of the same race as you? A: Focus on competency, not color. You can mentor, but you can’t help anyone more than they are willing to help themselves. Business owners must hire competent people with the skillsets they need in order for their businesses to survive and thrive. Opportunity: In an effort to serve as a resource for connecting organizations with qualified individuals, the Chamber developed the Diversity Leadership Pipeline (DLP). This online tool allows individuals interested in serving in leadership capacities to provide their interests and contact information to be considered/connected when opportunities for volunteer leadership are presented to the Chamber. The DLP is online at http://www.greenvillechamber.org/diversity-leadership-pipeline.php. For more information about this and the Chamber’s CAPACITY initiative, contact Nika White at 864-239-3727. Upstate Diversity Leadership Awards Dinner May 6, 2014 at TD Convention Center: The Greenville Chamber and the Riley Institute at Furman, in partnership with Upstate Chambers, will host this tenth annual event to celebrate diversity and inclusion leaders in the region. Event registration and award nominations are online at www.GreenvilleChamber.org.

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