Workforce Transformation: How to Create Diverse Teams?

Workforce transformation, talent acquisition, and building diverse teams are critical to the success of any organization. On this episode of CXOTalk, two prominent business leaders discuss challenges and solutions to attracting, supporting, and maintaining a diverse and talented workforce.


Nov 18, 2022

According to the Harvard Business Review, diverse teams drive innovation and organizational intelligence. Many business leaders now realize that diverse teams can bring expertise and a range of viewpoints, to help their organizations better solve challenges, drive innovation, and attract and retain talent.

In this episode of CXOTalk, two prominent business leaders discuss challenges and solutions to attracting, supporting, and maintaining a diverse and talented workforce.

The topics discussed include:

Christie Hunter Arscott is an award-winning advisor, speaker, and author of the book Begin Boldly: How Women Can Reimagine Risk, Embrace Uncertainty, and Launch A Brilliant Career. Christie is a leading expert on how we can harness the power of intentional risk-taking to create more dynamic and vibrant careers and organizations. A Rhodes Scholar, Christie has been named by Thinkers50 as one of the top management thinkers likely to shape the future of business. Christie was also selected for the biannual Thinkers50 Talent Award shortlist of the top global thought leaders in the field of talent management.

QuHarrison Terry is a growth marketer at Mark Cuban Companies, a Dallas, Texas venture capital firm, where he advises and assists portfolio companies with their marketing strategies and objectives. Previously, he led marketing at Redox, focusing on lead acquisition, new user experience, events, and content marketing. QuHarrison has been featured on CNN, Harvard Business Review, WIRED, Forbes and is the co-host of CNBC’s Primetime Series – No Retreat: Business Bootcamp. As a speaker and moderator QuHarrison has presented at CES, TEDx, Techsylvania in Romania, Persol Holdings in Tokyo, SXSW in Austin, TX, and more. QuHarrison is a 4x recipient of Linkedin’s top voices in Technology award.


QuHarrison Terry: In diversity, you have to ask yourself, where is the movement happening? Is it nonexistent? Are you just going to sit there and sink, or are you actually going to stay afloat by putting in the work and being a part of the change?

Christie Hunter Arscott: If you are not feeling some discomfort, you are not doing it right. And discomfort, by nature, is hard. We don't like to sit with awareness of our own privilege or our own backgrounds or how we have our own affinity biases. We're all biased and recognizing that is hard.

Michael Krigsman: That's Christie Hunter Arscott and QuHarrison Terry.

Christie Hunter Arscott: My work is really focused on building dynamic and inclusive, vibrant organizations where women and under-represented employees can rise and thrive, and also helping individuals build bold and brilliant careers. I do that through a mix of research, writing, and publication, speaking engagements and lectures, strategic advisory work, and coaching. Thanks for having me.

Michael Krigsman: QuHarrison Terry, you and I have known each other for a while now, and I'm delighted to welcome you to CXOTalk. Tell us about your work, QuHarrison.

QuHarrison Terry: By day, I work with Mark Cuban. I am the head of growth marketing at Mark Cuban Companies, so I help Mark execute all the crazy growth ideas that he has for his portfolio companies and onward.

By night, I like to think of myself as a future thinker. I'm constantly obsessing over emerging technologies and the impact that they will have on our lives. That's led me to writing some incredible books, most recently The Metaverse Handbook, and I'm always thinking about how can we add diverse perspectives in the conversations and the technologies that we're building.

What is diversity?

Michael Krigsman: We need to start by asking what is diversity. Christie, do you want to take that one first?

Christie Hunter Arscott: [Laughter]

Michael Krigsman: It seems like, in a way, it's kind of an obvious question, but maybe not so easy to figure out.

Christie Hunter Arscott: Many of us have seen the image of an iceberg, and what we see of a person is only 10%. Really, below the waterline, there's another 90%.

Diversity exists in the visible and invisible aspects of individuals. So, it might be that you see race and ethnicity, perhaps. Maybe you see gender or age. That's above the waterline.

But underneath, there are invisible aspects of diversity. It could be aspects of someone's socioeconomic class, their degree or area of study. It could do with how they work and working styles. It could do with mental health and disability (whether it be physical or mental).

There are so many different aspects that go into diversity, whether it be religion or veteran status or sexuality or how someone identifies from a gender perspective as well. There are many, many different aspects. I could go on to the laundry list, and I'm sure Qu can add many more, but I like to think about in that way, the invisible and visible aspects in the iceberg.

QuHarrison Terry: I will add some color. When I think about diversity, and when I'm working with teams, the way I like to visualize it is I say, "Hey, we've all been in a store. We all know the candy aisle within a store."

There are usually a few sections of candy. You have your nice assortments of high-priced chocolates that probably taste good but way too overpriced. Then you have your gummy bears and your gummy worms and the gummy candy.

Then you have that section on the end where it's an assortment, and it's a variety pack. It includes a little bit of chocolate, a little bit of gummies, a little bit of things and candies you've never probably even heard of, the things that don't sell that they don't put in there.

I like to think of diversity as much more akin to the diverse assortment of candies than not because, when you buy that bag, you're getting some Skittles. You're getting a Hershey's. You're getting M&M's. You're getting some Mexican candy you probably have never seen or heard of before.

But you get a change to try the varied assortment of different textures and your tastebuds get to get enlightened. That applies not just to candy but also to your team, your environment.

When you work in an environment that has the same perspectives, guess what, you're going to hit it. You're going to hit the mark, but you all see the same thing.

Christie Hunter Arscott: Yep.

QuHarrison Terry: So, when something happens that blindsides you, there was never any lighthouse that said, "Hey, what if we thought of this?" There was never any ah-ha moments that said, "Hey, what if we just went the opposite direction? Maybe we can solve all of our problems by thinking about it from where we've been not where we want to go?"

It's hard to put in practice. Even myself, when I go to the apps on my phone every day, there's an app called Apple Music. When I open it up, I listen to the same five artists. Right?

I can't even be diverse with my own music assortment or my own music choices. It's like, how can I be then diverse in my own thinking and executive abilities?

It's something that you have to actively put in the forefront. You have to actively seek.

I like the iceberg analogy because whenever you think about creatures of water, on top they look like they're just chillin'. But underneath, there's a lot going on.

In diversity, you have to ask yourself, where is the movement happening? Is it nonexistent? Are you just going to sit there and sink, or are you actually going to stay afloat by putting in the work and being a part of the change?

Why are diverse teams smarter and perform better?

Michael Krigsman: As I have spoken with so many business leaders on CXOTalk, the really good ones have emphasized to me the importance of having diverse teams, of having multiple perspectives, of not getting caught in groupthink, and bringing in fresh ideas because, if you think about innovation, fundamentally, innovation is doing things new. If you're going to do something new, that means you need fresh thinking.

Christie Hunter Arscott: I think that's so critical that it's just not a good thing to do in terms of prioritizing diversity. Also, there are so many fascinating studies around just the impact of groupthink around the risk profile of organizations and also the impact on innovation, as you shared. There are so many different aspects on why this is critical to prioritize from a business perspective.

Michael Krigsman: Why is this topic of diversity just so hard? It's emotionally charged, and it's difficult. What makes it so difficult?

Christie Hunter Arscott: Qu, I'll let you take that one first. I have, again, lots of thoughts. [Laughter]

QuHarrison Terry: I mean go for it. You wrote the book, so I'm here.

Christie Hunter Arscott: [Laughter]

QuHarrison Terry: I've got two copies. I've got the Kindle copy and the audiobook, and I have the physical.

Christie Hunter Arscott: I love that you came with props, Qu. You're showing me up today. [Laughter]

QuHarrison Terry: I mean you wrote the book on it.

Michael Krigsman: All right. Well, then I'm going to hold it up, too, again, and you get to see—

Christie Hunter Arscott: Yes. [Laughter] The greenscreen.

Why are diversity and inclusion so difficult to discuss?

Michael Krigsman: --the greenscreen version of it. There you go. Okay, so, Christie, go ahead. Tell us why is this so hard.

Christie Hunter Arscott: It is so hard to talk about. And whenever I'm working with executives on this topic, I really share that discomfort is part of the process of building a dynamic, vibrant, diverse, and inclusive organization. If you are not feeling some discomfort, you are not doing it right.

Discomfort, by nature, is hard. We don't like to sit with awareness of our privilege or our own backgrounds or how we have our own affinity biases. We're all biased and recognizing that is hard.

The other thing I will share is something I always talk about with my clients, which is asking them a really critical question. That is, do your outcomes match your intentions?

That is a hard question to ask. But the premise is that the majority of executives that I work with, they deeply care about this. They have great intentions, but their organizational profile does not reflect those intentions.

What I always say is, how do you make your outcomes match your intentions? How do we close that gap, because we know, in any other area of business, you measure what matters?

You would never ask your CFO not to report on the bottom line. You'd never ask your marketing person not to look at the penetration and the impact of their marketing and markets and how that's led to business.

You always have metrics that matter. Diversity is no different. But being real, measuring those things, and being honest that our outcomes don't match our intentions, that is difficult, as well as the discomfort around our own biases.

QuHarrison Terry: This question reminds me of a moment that I had. It was a moment of realization that I had about a year ago.

We were filming my CNBC show called "No Retreat" and we were bringing companies out to this farm in Vermont. Oftentimes, the CEO would bring their group. Whoever reports to the CEO and they felt like they were instrumental in making change happen at their company, they brought this group.

We filmed several episodes, but what shocked me was we saw a little bit of the same. We saw the CEO would bring their two top-tier reports, and those top-tier reports would have an assortment of people that reported in to them.

None of the people actually did any of the work that would create the change in an organization actually started showing up on the farm. So, what we did is, by like the fourth episode, we actually started to do our own recon, and we would find who is the actual lieutenant that is getting things done. We would bring them.

Then the changes that would manifest or be seen is, within their own organization, you would see that there was elite societies. That's going to happen in any org. We're creatures of habit.

When we started to break that, we would have them go through challenges that were very, very uncomfortable. One of the challenges is we took people to this cold pond. We would make sure you got in that cold pond. It's like 30 degrees outside, and you're getting into a body of water that's like 20 degrees.

At that point, that's when we started to see diversity really, really, really be leveraged because it was like, "Hey, anyone that's got an idea that will get us out of this water as quickly as possible, we're going to leverage that, and we're going to execute against that."

To Christie's point about alignment of expectations and outputs and outcomes, I mean there was no better way to actually visualize that and see it. Part of me was like, "Huh." I'm going to take this back to some of the teams that I have.

You're not always going to be able to take your executive team to a farm in Vermont and put people in a cold pond, but what you can do is you can replicate some of those processes internally by just saying, "Hey. Let's do something different. Let's bring the people."

We already know who is always going to get called when a problem or a crisis needs to be solved or mitigated in a company. Let's bring a few people that wouldn't get called, particularly. Let's see what they have to say. And let's consider that input.

If you start doing that, you'll start to see that, hmm, maybe we should try to get more perspectives of people that aren't men in the room. Maybe we should try to see what talent we have already on our team. That's when you start to really see what you can do when you don't have the people that you would always lean on.

That was a long-winded way of getting to that question.

Christie Hunter Arscott: No, it was so good. Yeah, Qu, it actually just made me think of one thing that I've always encouraged people to do around diversity.

Your example just brought that to light, which is, instead of walking into a room and looking at who is around the table—the decision-making table or the putting our fires table, as you said, whatever that may be—walk into the room and ask yourself who is not sitting at the table who should be invited. That simple mental switch can really help us build more diverse teams and also have better crisis response, as you pointed out.

QuHarrison Terry: You have to level set that, though, because if you put someone that has never been at the table, at the table, they're going to be silent because it's the same way if you're in a relationship and you don't create a safe space. What's going to happen is you're never going to hear. You're going to get these passive-aggressive motions from your partner.

The same thing is true. If I've never been at the table and you invite me to the table, I'm going to feel weird. I might not feel empowered. Guess what. I might not say what I have to say, and you might miss the moment.

Then you'll say, "Well, that person doesn't need to be here. They didn't say anything when they were here."

Christie Hunter Arscott: Yes.

QuHarrison Terry: Changing that situation matters a ton.

Christie Hunter Arscott: Qu, you're absolutely right. Studies show that you can't have tokenism, and you need a critical mass of people from a certain group or identity to actually feel comfortable speaking up.

One suggestion is there are processes that people at the table can adopt to elevate the voices of others. One was a process that was actually done in Obama's Whitehouse, which is amplification.

They found that the women were sitting at the table, their ideas weren't being heard. They were hesitant to talk, or their ideas were being taken and then repeated by someone that had a different kind of political stance in the room, and then, therefore, they were being heard.

What they did was they decided that they would amplify each other's voices. So, if your point of view wasn't heard, I'd say, "Qu, I'd like to go back to what you were saying," or building upon what Qu said and really creating a safe space where their voices are amplified through others. That's one of many tactics you can use, which is good.

How can organizations become more diverse and inclusive?

Michael Krigsman: Fostering that sense of awareness, Christie, that you were just describing when there's not this perceived feeling of desperation. If you're desperate, you're going to try anything. But if you're not so desperate, then you're talking about disrupting yourself, and that's not so easy.

Christie Hunter Arscott: I agree. When I come in and work with clients there are so many different triggers. Sometimes there's not a case of desperation, but this is something that is personally and professionally really important to a leader or executive.

Others, they're like, "This is not urgent now, but I know that the workforce is over 50% women and increasingly diversifying from a race and ethnicity perspective. And if we don't capture that talent, we're losing out on critical perspectives."

Sometimes it's something like, "Well, we're trying to reach diverse markets. How can we create products and services for those markets without the insights of individuals on our teams that represent them?"Even though those may not seem like crisis moments, those are real and pressing business issues.

QuHarrison Terry: Now, to build on that, Christie, in your book Begin Boldly, I haven't finished it, but there are some points that I do want to talk about.

Christie Hunter Arscott: [Laughter]

QuHarrison Terry: You know there's only so much time in a day.

Christie Hunter Arscott: [Laughter]

QuHarrison Terry: You talk about aspiration to action.

Christie Hunter Arscott: Yeah.

QuHarrison Terry: And moments that everyone can do to try to shift the paradigm and see these diverse perspectives. What was the impetus of even considering that?

You're writing this book, and it's like the target audience is women. But it's very rare you'll see someone say, "Hey, I know your boss isn't listening to you, but here are some things you could do to change that."

I thought that that was an interesting juxtaposition because, oftentimes, if I'm not being heard or acknowledged, leaning in is not the first thing I'm going to go into. If anything, I'm going to try one or two, maybe a third time, and then I'm out.

I'm going to be like, "All right. It's not worth seeking more input."

Elaborate on the aspiration to action framework because I thought that was really good.

Christie Hunter Arscott: A couple of things. One, I should mention. I kind of mentioned this at the beginning. I work with organizations, but I also work with individuals through coaching. The book is targeted towards individuals.

It's not to say, "Oh, women need to be equipped (or employees) to really push the boundaries," like you said, "but we're absolving new organizations and leaders of any responsibility."

You're right. Organizational culture change needs to happen so that we do hear these voices. But in parallel, I want to equip people to navigate the state of play as it is. You have to hit individual and organizational at once.

The aspiration to action, this is what you were getting at, Qu, and I love this idea because, again, it's most people I've met throughout my career. If I say in front of a room – I just did it the other day of 500 people – and I say, "Who desires to be bolder and braver in their career?" everyone stands up. Right?

There's deep aspiration for building brilliant careers through boldness. But that isn't followed by action all the time. When I talk about the book, I talk about what are the barriers that prevent us translating those aspirations into action, and how do we address them?

I think, oftentimes, we get into something I call analysis paralysis. We overthink about the approach and how to take action, and that actually delays it. I just encourage people to err on the side of action.

Herminia Ibarra, she's at, I think, London Business School now. She was at INSEAD, and she wrote these great books around the fact that we're usually told to analyze then act. But we do a lot better in our lives if we acted more and then analyzed.

It's really on this kind of process of, like, let's err on the side of action, experiment, and then kind of scale it over time. Yeah.

QuHarrison Terry: I love that. Just to carry on because, if you read further in the book, you then go into the put it into practice section.

Christie Hunter Arscott: Yes.

QuHarrison Terry: You have this agile experimentation chart. If you've been to business school, you've seen it.

But you flipped it. You made it all about intent, and you made it basically a mental. You've basically built a mental model for taking risk.

Christie Hunter Arscott: Yes.

QuHarrison Terry: And did so in a way where you can analyze all of the risk that you're about to take. I've never seen that. What was the impetus of creating this model, and how have you seen it used since the book has been out?

Christie Hunter Arscott: The impetus is that most of us want to take risks, but risk has been labeled (when we think about the word) as something that we want to minimize or mitigate or manage. But really, we need to be seeking risk. But it's hard to do that with all of the mental negative connotations we have around it.

I'm not saying, "Go out. Be bold. Take any risk." No, that would be foolish.

What I'm saying is, "Here is a toolkit and techniques and a model to help you be an intelligent risktaker." It's like I'm not telling you – and I write this at the beginning of the book – like, you've never been paragliding. Put on a paraglide and jump off of a mountain.

But I am saying, here are the tools, techniques, a guide, a toolkit that you can do, so you can be an intelligent risktaker. That's some of the background around that.

Michael Krigsman: Christie, you talk about courage.

Christie Hunter Arscott: Yes.

Michael Krigsman: Why do we even need to talk about courage in this case, right?

Christie Hunter Arscott: [Laughter]

Michael Krigsman: You're working in a company, and you're in meetings. Courage? Why?

Christie Hunter Arscott: As you know, there are three mindsets that I think are really critical to being a successful risktaker, and one is the curious mindset, the second is the courageous, and then there's the agile mindset. What I talk about in the courageous section is that, to date, I think that there has been too much focus on confidence and not enough on courage.

If I had waited to feel confident to write this book, to get on a live TV show, to talk in front of thousands, I would never get anything done. If I waited to feel confident before any bold move in my career, it would have delayed progress.

And 100% of my clients, that's the truth. There is no such thing as being fully confident before you make a really big, bold move or a risk because, by nature of risk-taking, you know that you could have positive or negative outcomes.

The key is, instead of saying, "Do I feel confident before I make this bold move?" I say you can be courageous in the absence of confidence. Confidence is not a prerequisite for success.

Michael, to your question, like, why I focused on this, it's during my research, I traveled around the world, and I interviewed a lot of successful senior women leaders. A lot of them, I read their bios, and I was just starstruck. I was like, "How can I even interview these phenomenal human beings?"

But I walked in the room, and a lot of them didn't show up courageously. They showed up with self-doubt. They showed up asking, "Why are you interviewing me? You can edit out my comments. This is what I still grapple with. I still don't know how to do this."

And I thought, "Gosh, the most successful people don't show up confidently all the time," so confidence is not a prerequisite for success, but courage is.

What they did tell me was they showed up in the face of fear, did something that scared them every single day, and were courageous even when they lacked self-esteem, even when they felt self-doubt, and that was really where the focus came from.

What is the distinction between courage and confidence?

Michael Krigsman: Qu, you've been on television. You've done a lot of different things. Talk about your thoughts on this aspect, this distinction between being courageous and showing up to do something, even if you're not 100% confident.

QuHarrison Terry: Create the expectations. There's a principle that I have been living by here recently. It's called the everyday philosophy.

What are the four or five things I'm going to do every day regardless of what's happening, regardless of how I feel, regardless of what's going on in my life? It's through that I find the courage, the stamina, the energy to keep going.

We all practice something every day. If you own a smartphone, you check your notifications every day. If you work in a corporate organization, you're probably glancing at your email every day. Hopefully, you brush your teeth every day. [Laughter]

For me, I'm always thinking about what's the future, so I have a journal that is online. I don't promote it that often, but I do vlog every day, and I ask myself what's the future. I share that online.

There's a small community there that reads it, but I don't do that for the publicity. I do that so that when I do enter spaces, I do have things that I can pull from in recent memory.

Or, as a writer, I'm sure, Christie, you can attest to this. The best way to keep content going as a writer is to never stop writing.

The breaks that I've taken between books have been probably the most arduous points of my writing career because, when you're under that deadline when you're working with a publisher and they're saying, "Hey, this manuscript is due," or "We need this chapter now," you're in this flow, so it's not that hard for you to finish a chapter.

But as soon as you're done, if you stop writing, and you try to come back to it a week, two weeks, or even a month later, what happens is you're slow. You're like, "Oh, man!"

What used to take you moments to put down a paragraph now takes you a whole day. Until you get that rhythm again, it just sucks.

And so, there are things that I do personally and professionally every day just to keep that cadence. When that big, grandiose moment or opportunity shows up in my life, I might not be ready and I might not have all the courage because I've never done it before, but at least I've put in the work and the practice so that way I can show up as the best QuHarrison.

Michael Krigsman: What advice do you have, Christie, for women who feel that need to have more confidence or who are concerned about their own feelings of confidence? What advice do you have to be courageous and to show up in a way that will help them get noticed and stand out in the workplace?

Christie Hunter Arscott: It's really important to have a toolkit, and toolkits and techniques, to take risks, whether it be raising your hand in a meeting when you don't usually offer a point of view, or whether it be presenting to a client, transferring companies, or starting an entrepreneurial venture.

I think that having a method to assess risks – and this is something like Qu just mentioned earlier – what is your framework for doing that is really helpful because sometimes we don't know how to approach risk-taking or being bold. Actually, that's part of the reason that I wrote the book.

I was talking with my editor when we were creating it, and this I actually included in the book. We take risks all the time. Getting in our car is a risk. But we probably went to a driver's class. We probably have an emergency number. We probably know who to call if we have a flat. We probably have GPS on our phone.

Risk-taking is no different in your career. You should have a support system. You should have a method. You should be trained in it. That's really the way that we need to approach things. That's helpful.

Then the other last point I'll make is don't go at it alone. No woman is an island. I personally think this whole concept of being self-made is absolutely false.

Everyone has had someone contribute to their journey in some way, shape, or form. We're all part of an interconnected community. If you're going to be bold, one of the most important things is to strategically build your support network.

What is the role of HR in fostering diverse teams?

Michael Krigsman: Arsalan Khan, who is a regular listener and asks great questions, talks about HR (coming from Twitter). What's the role of HR in all of this?

Christie Hunter Arscott: I think HR is a critical, critical partner in building a diverse and inclusive organization. I also think, though, that there needs to be a partnership with an executive sponsor that's very visible in some way, shape, or form because this cannot.

Building a diverse organization, the entire onus cannot sit with HR. It has to sit with the business leaders and executives of the organization, and it has to be built into the business, into the very fabric of the business.

Then I think where HR really comes in, and the expertise of HR, is that when you look at your people processes, when you look at your policies, how inclusive are they? An example would be how are meetings scheduled, and are they scheduled at certain hours that only certain people who don't have caregiving responsibilities can make?

How are you recruiting people? Are there names and universities on the resumes? Is that causing any bias? Are there referral programs that will build a more homogeneous organization rather than a more diverse organization?

Really looking at recruitment, outreach, then recruitment and selection, also looking at how to prevent attrition and performance management, and how to interrupt bias in those processes, that's where the HR lens and support is so critical.

On the relationship between corporate culture and creating diverse teams

Michael Krigsman: What about culture? I'm curious in both of your perspectives on the role of corporate culture in either strengthening institutional bias or demonstrating institutional openness, the tone of the organization.

QuHarrison Terry: I think it comes from the leadership. I agree with what Christie said in the sense that your leadership is your greatest. That's the greatest internal marketer that you'll have.

The leaders that you've chosen that have some key for or mission critical stance in the organization that have visibility and are representative, they contribute the most here to culture because they set the standards.

Now, the thing about it is sometimes they are challenged or tasked with creating outcomes that lead to great monetary gain or have these short-term outlooks. That's when you see the greatest cultural conflict.

If I'm pressed and tasked with getting the most sales and hitting the revenue targets or hitting the projects that have been instilled within the leadership team, then I might have to default to what I know because taking that risk, for me, might entail losing my job, might entail getting our department cut or cutbacks, or maybe I'm not going to be a leader anymore. And so, then it becomes a question of short-term versus long-term.

Oftentimes, when it comes to the short-term game or the short-term outlook, your culture is going to stay the same. If you have this larger point of view or perspective and you look at that, then you have the opportunity to take the risk and say, "Well, what would this team look like if we had more people of color or more women involved?"

What if we said we're going to shift half of our staff where they can work remote, but we're going to actually expect higher expectations from our remote workers because they have more fluidity and flexibility on their time? We're commanding more of them, but it's on their own time. If you want to work at 1:00 a.m. or 3:00 a.m., cool.

But you have to realize it's going to take some time to get there. That's what I think we've been missing on the culture front.

Christie Hunter Arscott: You could have an amazing culture code. You could have great policies and procedures. But culture also ultimately comes down to the day-to-day actions of everyone taken in aggregate in that organization will make the culture as well. Looking at those behaviors and what's repeated, what's accepted, that is so important.

If you look at the work in diversity, that's where the micro-aggressions and micro-inequities happen or the biases come in, in terms of who gets feedback, who doesn't, who's called to these high profile or high visibility opportunities, and who is not? Who is invited? Whose successes are attributed to an individual versus a group? Those kind of things are really where you need to look and do a deep dive around the habits and day-to-day behaviors because that will ultimately make the fabric of a company.

Advice for business leaders on how to create diverse teams

Michael Krigsman: What's the solution? How do we get a handle on the problem in order to address it? There will obviously be significant resistance, in many cases. Otherwise, the problem wouldn't exist in the first place.

Christie Hunter Arscott: Diversity isn't unique in the sense – diversity initiatives and resistance to them is not particularly unique in the sense that any change and transformation effort is going to have resistance. I have never worked on a change project that hasn't had those that want to maintain the status quo.

I think the most important thing for organizations to think about is this is not necessarily unique. We've faced resistance to change in the past.

Maybe we implemented a new IT system. Maybe we changed; maybe we had a merger and acquisition. Maybe we changed office location. Maybe we moved to a remote or hybrid workplace. All of those things have resistors, and so the key is then building engagement, stakeholder buy-in, but also realizing that resistance is a natural part of any change effort.

Michael Krigsman: What is unique or distinct about this type, about the resistance to building diverse teams? Is there anything unique about it, or is it just garden variety resistance to change?

Christie Hunter Arscott: Some of it, I feel like, is a general resistance to change, as I mentioned, and it's comparable to other transformation efforts. Some of it is unique, though, because diversity work can be deeply personal and certain groups can feel threatened. That threat happens on a personal and almost identity level, like, "This effort is not about me so, therefore, it's me versus them," and that can happen.

That is something that I think is unique. I think it's really important to clearly state your why.

There's this quote that says, "People don't buy what you're selling. They buy why you're selling it," and I think that a mission-driven organization that clearly says why this is important to the executives and to leadership is absolutely critical.

Also, really sharing what this is and it isn't. Diversity and inclusion efforts have the opportunity to benefit an entire organization irrespective of how you show up and what your visible or invisible aspects of diversity are or aren't. I really think, if you make this about inclusion and culture and performance and leveling up an organization, then it becomes less divisive.

Michael Krigsman: You're basically talking about removing or lessening the personal aspect.

Christie Hunter Arscott: There will be some level of people that will not be onboard. I've had to have very difficult discussions with my clients, and I'm like, "You can do stakeholder engagement surveys, and you can build buy-in, and you can talk about this in an inclusive way that's really focused on building your best culture and attracting the best and brightest and most diverse teams."

But ultimately, you will have some resistors, and that is natural. That is okay. You can still make progress.

There is part of building buy-in and framing and communicating this in a really compelling way. But there's also ones where you just sometimes have to cut your losses and move forward and know that not all change efforts have everyone on board.

QuHarrison Terry: When it comes to creating things, just an African American individual that's done a lot of the things that people would say, I mean from raising venture capital to starting organizations to leading and having executive roles like I've done, I've done a lot. I think there are some challenges because of the identity thing that Christie just mentioned where she says that you almost feel like it's you against a certain population.

Some of the things that I've done to reset that thinking is, I get that my perspective is uncommon. I am I am the minority and, sometimes, what I might feel or what I might be facing is something that no one has ever heard. Not by way of they don't care or they don't respect it. It's just that I have to convey that.

Oftentimes, when you're frustrated, you're never going to be the best communicator or the best person to convey said feeling, and so it's like being your true self pretty much all the time helps because then people get a chance to understand your perspective and get to see your identity.

Quite frankly, there's this book by James Clear. It's called Atomic Habits. If you want to learn more about—

Christie Hunter Arscott: I was going to bring that up earlier when you were mentioning your habits every single day. I was like, you sound like—[laughter] I was like, the habit stacking. [Laughter]

QuHarrison Terry: Yeah, habit stacking. Right. Well, I mean, in that he talks about also your identity is comprised of what you do. If you run every day, you are a runner, and that's how you see yourself. Well, if you identify as a Muslim or as black or as a woman, and that's who you are, there are certain things where you shouldn't conform within an organization so people get to see you not only when you're happy, but also when something is now wrong because they can get a pulse.

Oftentimes, society and just the corporate culture forces us to conform and say, "Well, hey, it's always been done this way. Maybe I should hop on the train and just kind of play ball." But the thing is, when that doesn't work in your favor, you have nothing to stand on, no background.

It's tough because this is more of an individual thing than it is an organization thing. But as an organization, what you have to do is trust and respect the people that you hire. You can't neglect their opinions and thoughts just because they don't align with the times that you might see.

There's oftentimes a vision there that the diverse groups of people within your company might share and might not share. But it's your job as an organization to bring all those minds together and lead. The true testament of a leader is knowing when one group is being underutilized and not heard and reaching out, as a professional, like individually saying, "Hey, what's going on here?" and listening.

What I've learned in my career is just like listening is the name of the game once you get past a certain stature because, once you get a certain point in your career where you're at the CXO level, you probably all, we all have, very much the same skillsets and abilities. But our ability to listen and understand at real depth does play a big, big, big part in creating diverse environments that work at scale.

Michael Krigsman: What advice do you each have for women or people of color working inside a company who are experiencing, they feel, just bias or subtle discrimination? It could be overt discrimination. What advice do you have? Christie, do you want to start?

Christie Hunter Arscott: It's really easy to get disheartened when you feel in an out-group or a minority or that there's a perceived difference is causing an impact to your career. As hard as that is, I think it's important to recognize that the world reacts differently to women and underrepresented individuals, whether that be from a race or an ethnicity or sexuality perspective – whatever it may be. That is the harsh truth.

The key is for us then to equip ourselves to navigate those situations. There are so many different tools that you can use to negotiate more persuasively, to raise your voice in meetings, to be more persuasive, to build a greater network because you might not be – someone might not have a natural affinity for you and, therefore, you may fall outside of their traditional networks. The key is to seek out mentors and coaches and tools and techniques that you can equip yourself with to really navigate that.

We need to get in the driver's seat. I know that's broad, but the hard thing for me is, I could give you a bunch of different tools and techniques, and it would be a laundry list at the end of this session.

I do think, though, the key is don't be in the passenger seat of your career. A senior executive woman said that to me. She's like, "Don't get taken for a ride."

Another mentor of mine, Betsy Myers, she was COO of Obama's campaign and head of Women for Obama, and then worked for Women in the Whitehouse. She said to me, you know, "Take victim out and put power in."

Although organizations in the world may be slow to change, although we may seem in a disadvantaged position, the key is to get in that driver's seat, put power in, and take control of the wheel. Get the tools and techniques in your toolkit. There are so many different ones that people can use around networking, persuasive communication, amplifying your voices, and more. Some of them, we've talked about today already.

QuHarrison Terry: You're going to have to get really good at communicating your skills and expertise. If you don't know how to communicate who you are and what you can do, you're already at a significant disadvantage. Regardless of your situation, you have to be okay asking for what you want. Sometimes what you want might not be available, and you have to understand that if that's what you feel like you're worth, you have to still stick your hand out and stay rock steady on it because the minute you waiver on that, you're going to just deter your own growth and personal achievements in your own career.

There are books out here. There is obviously Christie's book Begin Boldly.

Christie Hunter Arscott: You are my new agent. [Laughter]

QuHarrison Terry: [Laughter] No, I mean I'm just keeping it reel. I'm keeping it real.

You know there's also another book that I find because, obviously, Michael, you're not the only person that asks us these questions. I have people on my team that ask me these questions, people I've led before that seek advice.

There's another book by Rachel Rodgers. It's called We Should All Be Millionaires, and that book was really good because it starts off with this black woman who is a lawyer, and she talks about her struggles raising a family, being in North Carolina, and really seeing how to get to seven figures and what the path was. I thought it was a very easy read, and there's a lot of great advice, especially to women that are looking to start careers in corporate America.

There are tons of books and tons of resources. Learn your learning style and never stop approaching the knowledge because the minute you stop doing that, that's the day where you're going to be stagnant. Guess what. You're already living in the past that you're trying to prevent.

If you're thinking future, you're understanding that the future is diverse. If you're not going and seeing how other groups are getting it and breaking through their own glass ceilings, then you're going to be stuck in your own golden cage, and it's going to be hard for you to progress.

That's my advice to people that look like myself or might be a woman trying to start a career in the corporate landscape that is pretty arduous right now.

Michael Krigsman: Christie, what advice do you have for business leaders who want to have diverse teams but it's somehow not happening? They're not sure what to do. How do they create diversity?

Christie Hunter Arscott: Be honest with yourself. Do my outcomes match my intentions?

Then track those outcomes. Then, irrespective of your intentions, then invest.

I always say, treat diversity like every other area of the business. You need to invest resources, money, time. Get external experts or hire someone internally to do it.

This is not a volunteer initiative. There needs to be measurement, metrics, scorecards, resources, executive support.

Just like your finance function, just like your innovation function, treat it just like those, and that's the best way to set yourself up for success.

Michael Krigsman: "I want to do this. I think it's important. I can't find enough qualified women." Respond to that, please.

Christie Hunter Arscott: I hear that almost every single day. "I can't find enough black individuals. They're just not applying. I can't find enough women. I'm in an industry," tech, finance, whatever. "It's just a pipeline issue." No.

Let's think about what you can do now. One, where is your outreach going? Is there bias in your catchment? How are you looking at that? What is the language you are using in your job ads? What are the prerequisites you're requiring, and is there some selection bias in your pool? What does your selection process look like?

Start there on the things you can control and, in parallel, start investing and building the pipeline earlier. Going to schools, going to universities; you can have a long-term benefit while also doing short-term quick wins and really being honest about the fact that there are people out there and your processes, if revised, can actually catch them.

QuHarrison Terry: Women have only had about 50 years in the contemporary workplace as we know it. In that 50 years, we've seen them become millionaires, billionaires, presidential candidates, leaders of world initiatives. And if you can't see the talent that's already happening and is manifesting in front of you, then you have to ask yourself, "Are you fit for the job and the role?"

As a leader, your job is to recognize the shining stars. They are there, and they've had less time than men in other groups.

Michael Krigsman: Christie, final thoughts on this topic of building diverse teams, if you can summarize everything you know in a tweet-sized bite.

Christie Hunter Arscott: My tweet-sized bite are, do your outcomes match your intentions? If not, it's time to invest strategically and close the gap.

Michael Krigsman: QuHarrison, everything you know about this topic, if you would summarize in a tweet-sized bite for us, please.

QuHarrison Terry: You're the average of the five people that you spend the most time with. If you're trying to build a diverse group, look at the five people around you. If they're not diverse in age, gender, income, or even ability or religion, you're probably not going to build a diverse group.

Start with the five people around you. Make that a diverse group. Then try to make your teams and your organization more diverse.

Michael Krigsman: With that, a huge thank you to Christie Hunter Arscott and QuHarrison Terry, thank you both for being here with us today.

QuHarrison Terry: Thank you for having me.

Christie Hunter Arscott: Thank you so much.

Michael Krigsman: A huge thank you to our audience. Now, before you go, please subscribe to our newsletter. Just hit the subscribe button at the top of our website and subscribe to our YouTube Channel.

QuHarrison Terry: Go buy the book. Go buy the book.

Christie Hunter Arscott: Yeah. [Laughter]

Michael Krigsman: And buy the book. Buy the book. Buy both.

Christie Hunter Arscott: Thanks, Qu. [Laughter]

Michael Krigsman: Buy both of their books.

I was looking around for QuHarrison's book. I put it down here.

Christie Hunter Arscott: I know.

QuHarrison Terry: It's all good. This is Christie's show.

Michael Krigsman: Hold on.

QuHarrison Terry: This is Christie's show.

Christie Hunter Arscott: [Laughter] Yeah.

QuHarrison Terry: Yeah, I got it for you, Mike. There you go right there.

Christie Hunter Arscott: Yeah.

QuHarrison Terry: There you go.

Michael Krigsman: All right. There we go.

Christie Hunter Arscott: Yeah, both of them.

Michael Krigsman: Perfect. All right. Buy both of those books. They're both really good books.

Thanks so much, everybody. I hope you have a great day and check out We'll see you next time.

Published Date: Nov 18, 2022

Author: Michael Krigsman

Episode ID: 769