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On this episode of Dare to Lead

This is Part 2 of my conversation with Aiko Bethea, friend, colleague, and diversity, equity, and inclusion expert. We take the foundations from our first conversation and build upon them with strategic and sustainable action items that we can take to create nonreactive, intentional, accountable, and transformational change. It’s a master class in the power of integration and the importance of a learning mindset.

About the guest

Aiko Bethea

Aiko Bethea is a leader, builder, and connector. She successfully navigated leadership roles in government, philanthropic, and corporate sectors, and in each sector, she created and served in inaugural roles to meet growing organizational needs and visions for evolving. Aiko is the principal and founder of RARE Coaching & Consulting, a consulting practice focused on coaching leaders and organizations to remove barriers to inclusion.

Aiko also co-leads The Daring Way and the Dare to Lead communities of Brené Brown Education and Research Group, serving as Senior Co-director. She partners to oversee development and implementation of the overall strategy for the facilitator communities, as well as the specific diversity, equity, inclusion, and belonging strategy and oversight of the global 1,000+ member facilitator community.

Prior to this, Aiko served as Head of Diversity and Inclusion at Fred Hutch Research Center. And for over seven years, Aiko was with the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation, where she served as a Deputy Director. Aiko has served on several boards and provided pro bono support for nonprofit boards, and she is deeply engaged in community-building.

Aiko earned her B.A. from Smith College in Northampton, Massachusetts, and her Juris Doctorate from the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill. She is a graduate of the Hudson Institute of Coaching at Santa Barbara and is an ICF professional certified coach. Aiko is a Certified Diversity Professional and is licensed to practice law in Georgia. She is highly sought-after as an executive coach and consultant.

Show notes


Brené Brown: Hi, everyone. I’m Brené Brown, and welcome to the Dare to Lead podcast. Oh, I cannot wait for you to hear this conversation today. There were so many deep learning moments for me in this conversation. It’s Part 2 of a conversation with Aiko Bethea. Part 1, we were going to get into this incredible article that she wrote for Medium about, “Okay, organizations, academia, philanthropies, you’ve put your Black Lives Matter sign up and you’ve committed to anti-racism work and equality, and so now what?” So we were going to talk about this Medium article, but I asked her to back us up a little bit in Part 1 and say, “Let’s define all these big terms: Equity, Inclusion, Diversity. Let’s talk about what the core of real change looks like.” And we never got to the article. I can’t even tell you the number of emails we’ve received about this episode. Instead, Aiko really walked us through how… And this is one of the big sentences for me, how anti-racism work is never transactional. If we want it to be transformational, it has to be relational.

BB: And we just stayed in that conversation, and we did a very tough role play where she played a Black woman leader who just got finished doing her presentation who then afterward felt unseen and questions were directed at the men in the room, and how I, as her leader, just empathic miss, after empathic miss, after empathic miss, and what it takes actually to connect in those moments. So incredible podcast number one with Aiko. In today’s podcast, we get into, “Now what? How do we move from, yes, this is right, yes, I’m going to support this, to real action and accountability?” We also talk about why Black History Month is important and five things leaders need to know about doing Black History Month, engaging in Black History Month in an important, integrated, relational way. And so I’m so excited for you to hear this conversation, I think based on just how much I learned and how many moments I was like, “Damn, I have just been coached… ” I can’t wait for you to hear it.

BB: So before we get started, let me tell you a little bit about Aiko, who is a friend, a colleague, a diversity, equity, inclusion, and belonging expert, a masterful facilitator, a leadership coach. She describes herself as a leader, a builder, and a connector. She successfully navigated leadership roles in government, philanthropy, corporate sectors, and each of these sectors she created and served in inaugural roles to meet growing organizational needs and visions for evolving. She is the principal and founder of RARE Coaching & Consulting, a consulting practice focused on coaching leaders and organizations to remove barriers to inclusion. She also co-leads the Daring Way and the Dare to Lead communities, which are our facilitator communities at Brené Brown Education and Research Group. She is a senior co-director, she partners to oversee development and implementation of the overall strategy for facilitator communities, as well as really leading the specific Diversity, Equity, Inclusion, and Belonging strategy in this global community, and in our organization.

BB: Prior to this, she served as head of diversity and inclusion at the Fred Hutch Research Center, and for over seven years, she was with the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation where she served as a Deputy Director. She’s on several boards and has provided pro bono support in for non-profit boards, she’s deeply engaged in community building, she has her BA from Smith College, her MA and her Juris Doctorate, aka law degree, from University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill. She’s a graduate of the Hudson Institute of Coaching at Santa Barbara, and she’s an ICF professional certified coach. She is a certified diversity professional and she practices law in Georgia. Aiko Bethea is going to rock your world.

BB: Alright, Aiko welcome back, Part 2.

Aiko Bethea: Glad to be here. Awesome to see you.

BB: Awesome to see you too. I could never get enough of you. And you’re probably not the same, but… Okay.


AB: Absolutely not. Our conversations are super fun.

BB: Okay, so we planned on a one-episode podcast where we were going to talk about this article that you wrote and published on Medium, it was kind of right after George Floyd’s murder, Breonna Taylor’s murder coming into the news, and we started talking about Diversity, Equity, Inclusion, and Belonging work. And we never got to the article because we’re you and me, and just for everybody listening, if you haven’t listened [chuckle] to Part 1 yet, we have received hundreds, if not thousands of emails about that podcast.

AB: Awesome.

BB: Yeah, let me tell you specifically what people were talking about, they were talking about one, that they were grateful that we didn’t push into content we planned to talk about, and we stayed in the conversation where we were… Which is something I always have to work on. They were grateful for how you walked us through that Diversity, Equity, Inclusion, and Belonging work is not transactional. It’s relational, if it’s going to be transformational. So let me say that again, that Diversity, Equity, Inclusion, and Belonging work is not transactional. If you want it to be transformational, it has to be relational. Did I get that right?

AB: Yes, yes.

BB: Then the third thing they were so grateful for, it was our role play. You played a Black female executive who just gave a presentation… I was your boss, I asked you how it went. And we role-played how many opportunities there are to tap out of difficult conversations when someone shares a tough experience. So I want to just start by saying thank you for that first episode. Thank you for that tremendous Part 1 of our conversation.

AB: And thank you for inviting me.

BB: It’s powerful. I want to get into not only the Medium article that you published last summer, but I want to get into something you just published on Black History Month. So let’s go to the Medium article, and so much of your writing feels like this to me: urgent, right now, but never reactive. Tell me where you were when you wrote this Medium article called, “An Open Letter to Corporate America, Philanthropy, Academia: What Now?”

AB: So I agree with the way that you characterize it, the urgent, right now, but not reactive, and I think we talked about this last time in the podcast too, about action bias, and from whose perspective is it urgent like it’s been urgent for many of us forever. So the idea of just running into action when you’re not even prepared or equipped is dangerous, and it’s harmful, so it’s the idea of also having intentionality around something. When something is important to you and you value it, not only is it a priority, but it’s also something that you’re going to deal with intentionally, and so oftentimes people think about priority as yesterday, versus this is a priority in terms of, we want to do this well and right and get the impact that we intend versus, oh, the quicker you get it done, that means it was a priority. No, it’s a priority because it’s that high-valued and important, and so people confuse the two, and that’s when I think harm also happens.

BB: Wow, this is like… What’s the nice way to say? Calling me out, and not just about Diversity, Equity, Inclusion, and Belonging work, but all work that when we say, “This is a priority, it’s reactive, it’s about yesterday,” instead of, “This is a priority, so let’s invest time to get it right, to be strategic and sustainable.”

AB: That’s right. And if you don’t take the time to approach something like that, it doesn’t matter how quickly you get it done, because it’s just going to be a mess or a big cluster. [chuckle]

BB: Yeah.

AB: Yeah, if you don’t approach it, you’re not going to get the impact, you’re not going to get the value, you’re not going to get the learnings and the sustainability, the danger with this approach to work that has to do with emotional awareness, people’s feelings thoughts, fears, which now we categorize kind of like the EI work, is that you’re doing harm to people, and that equates to re-traumatizing people or actually bringing more trauma into an organization. And that’s why it’s even more important to be intentional. Can I share with you an example?

BB: Yes, please, I’d love it.

AB: So this example has come up not only with coaching clients, but also with organizations. So after the murder of George Floyd, we saw a lot of organizations not only rushing out and making statements, but holding conversations within their organizations and not having somebody who is skilled and equipped to actually facilitate and navigate those conversations, being reactive, so that means you just jumped in and said, “We’re going to have this town hall and talk about these things.” So what happened on the back end is that there was more fracture happening in organizations in terms of colleagues who were Black, who were actually listening to their colleagues saying, “Oh, I just didn’t know,” or “Why is this even important, why should we even be doing this, what does this have to do with the work?” So imagine hearing that after you just saw a George Floyd murdered, now you’re coming to work thinking, “Wow, finally people are going to talk about this and actually create space and say, ‘This is important,'” this is what you hear, that’s what you hear, because there was no container set, there were no parameters. There was no intentionality, it was just, we need to talk about this, with the sense of urgency, now, but reactive. So no intentionality.

AB: So it actually cost people to feel more excluded and more ostracized and even hurt, or a client who… Their organization is having the White at Work series. I would say there’s actually a lot of these series happening, and the people who are participating in them, who are the under-represented folks, the Black folks, etcetera, are actually just traumatized being in there and feel like they have to be on there. Dread having to go and be a part of that, and there was no intentionality, there was no lens on thinking about who are we trying to help? Who’s centered in this conversation? What does the win look like? So not being responsible, not having that intentionality, not owning what you just don’t know, is actually creating more harm to people, and that is not what this work is about, it’s not about checking the box, it’s not about saying, “Well, I really need to learn more, and so we’re going to learn more, and we’re going to talk about… Because I’m ready for it. We talked a little bit about this with the action bias instead of thinking about, actually, I don’t want to do more harm.

AB: I want to make sure that we’re talking about equity and I’m being accountable, and also we’re changing our system. So we’ve been seeing the very opposite happening, no matter how well people’s intentions are. The road to hell is paved with good intentions.

BB: Yeah.

AB: Yeah.

BB: I think I’ll take it a step further too. And you and I have done some work together where we’ve seen this together, and it almost can get worse because then the fracturing happens because it’s reactive, it’s not well thought out. Blackness is not centered, people are not equipped or talented or skilled, people are not moving out of the way to let people who know how to lead this lead. The fracturing happens. And then kind of white leadership says, “See, this is why we don’t talk about these things. They’re so sensitive. This is why we don’t talk about these things. It just makes them worse when we bring them up,” not, “Wow, did we fuck this up? Like, did we make a mistake? Did we handle this correctly?” Not that, but it’s taking the result of something not well planned, not intentional, with the wrong people leading, and using it as evidence of why you shouldn’t do it. Does that make sense?

AB: Yes, absolutely, I agree with that 100%. And when something is this challenging to address or to deal with, we’re always looking for confirmation bias.

BB: Yeah.

AB: Yeah. [chuckle] And so there that goes, of course. So yeah, absolutely agree.

BB: So you write this open letter to corporate America, philanthropym and academia, and do you have the letter in front of you by any chance?

AB: I do.

BB: Do you want to read the first paragraph for me?

AB: Sure, okay, so, “We Black folx exhaled just a little bit, when we saw the letters to employees and to the public from Target, Wells Fargo, University of Minnesota, and even Melinda Gates. Maybe they see us now? Maybe our murders will not just go quietly into the night after a hashtag is stamped in front of those we’ve lost on the frontlines of racism again? Will anything change for me at work, or do I need to get ready to gird up for the standard onslaught of debilitating aggressions?”

BB: Keep reading, if you don’t mind.

AB: “The fact that some of the leadership of these organizations were awake just a bit or impacted enough to recognize that they should respond to this national crisis, could be a tiny glimmer of light. From any of these CEOS and companies this was the first time a statement about racism or the trials of Blackness was ever publicly acknowledged. Now we ask you: Do you know what needs to come next? Do you know that sending that letter to the public and to your employees does not end with a period? In fact, there should not even be a comma. Keep moving. There’s work to be done-work inside of your company, in your leadership teams, among the Amy Coopers and Karens who are making decisions, who are active aggressors, who look like your mothers, daughters and wives. All too often the focus is on white men. There is work for everyone. Here are some steps you can take now that you penned those letters that reflected on how soul crushing this week has been and dedicating your support to Black employees.”

BB: Love every word of it. Okay, let’s go through these… Can we go through them together?

AB: Yeah, let’s go.

BB: Number one, stop demanding the business case for investing in Diversity, Equity, Inclusion, and Belonging work, just do it.

AB: Yep. So that’s where most companies start, which is, “Hey, why should we invest in this? What’s the value in it?” I will tell you that as a person, a Black woman also as… When you think about our LGBT communities, etcetera, for you to have to get in front of people and say why it’s important that you be seen, that you be valued, that you be treated equitably is such an insult. It’s a reminder of why I don’t belong here, because now you’re saying, “Can you make the case of why we should even see you, why should we even make sure that you’re visible and heard, why should we actually consider and look at the practices we have that might actually be ensuring that you’re getting paid 64 cents on the dollar to white males. Why should we do that?” [chuckle] So to even go in and demand a business case versus doing something because you want to be equitable, that you want to make sure that your workforce is being heard, that you’re not missing any amazing ideas and voices, that you’re not actually underselling people, that you don’t want people to come to work feeling like, nobody wants me here.

AB: Why am I here? And oh my gosh, I’m going to have to deal with that leader who’s… who yells all the time, who’s handsy? All of the things that we know, who’s not going to acknowledge my gender pronouns intentionally, so if you’re okay with that, then that’s an issue, but if you don’t want a workplace like that, then DEI should just be a part of what you’re doing in your organization to make it the best possible. Right?

BB: Yeah.

AB: So asking for a case for that, it’s just off. It’s off not to be doing that.

BB: And it’s also kind of a reminder of the deep dehumanization that undergirds, I think white supremacy, make a case why you should be treated as an equal human being, which is the flag for me that I don’t want to work here.

AB: Absolutely.

BB: Yeah, you are… What’s the word for succinct? You’re just on fire here, okay. Two, ensure that race is an overt topic addressed within your organization and not overshadowed and ignored by cognitive diversity, gender diversity, etcetera. So what do you see happening that compelled you to write, make sure race is not overshadowed?

AB: I think that if you really are trying to make sure that there’s equity in your DEI Belonging work, then you’re going to acknowledge, especially if you’re based in the US, in organizations based in the US, that the conversation about diversity, began because of racial inequity, that’s where diversity in corporate America started happening, was because of the legal acknowledgement that, wow, we are discriminating, we do have systemic barriers against people of color, specifically at that time, it’s focusing on Black people. So now, fast forward into where we are now, and we think about how many of these laws have landed… Their greatest beneficiary has been white women, and it’s not that you don’t want women, whatever their race to actually be benefiting, but if you are specifically saying white women, then you are creating even a greater chasm between equity of people of color and white people by saying, “Yes, we have more women, but all the women are white,” and it is very easy if you are not comfortable, if you have not done your own work to say, “We’re going to talk about everything but race,” and you may even be doing it unintentionally.

AB: There are lots of leaders who are white women who definitely have to deal with sexism and misogyny. White women who are also part of our LGBT+ community, who have to deal with transphobia, homophobia. Yet even within these communities, we have racism. And so to still not speak to racism, but I’m going to talk about all these other things, is creating another devastating chasm and disparity when we talk about racial equity.

BB: I’ll say too that, check me on this and maybe help us all think through it, I will say for white women in leadership, to bring up race, I think for many white women is scary because it taps into centuries of betrayal of Black women by white women.

AB: See, girl, I wasn’t even going to go there. But since you said it… [laughter]

BB: I think it’s true. I think we need to talk about it. I think there is a… I am woman, hear me roar. Black woman, can you please get the door? Kind of thing. And it’s how oppression works, oppression systemically works, so that as we’re trying to claw our way out of it, if we end up standing on the backs or heads of other people to get out of it, that’s just what we have to do. But just don’t call it freedom yet, right?

AB: Right. Absolutely. And I do think the driver and the power behind all these -isms is the idea of scarcity. And being able to feed people with this idea, there’s not enough. And so therefore, how dare you actually bring in Black people? Why do you want to share the vote? We’re going to give it to women. But if you keep arguing for Black people, then you’re not going to get it at all. So we’re really talking about white women or what have you. I mean, there’s just so many aspects. Even when we talk about the ADA and the benefits around ADA again, has helped more able-bodied people versus anybody else who it was intended to. When you think about, Hey, that moment when I’m pregnant and God, I know I appreciate it, doors automatically open and curb cuts and all of these other things. That’s the one area the majority of people who exist will experience at least short-term disability.

AB: But when you start thinking about who’s it for, you’ve got a community of people who are part of our disability community who’ve got to fight for it tooth and nail and prove this is why it’s important, versus people thinking about all boats rise, and it is moral and it’s the way you humanize people, and the way you visibly see people as being able to support them and figure out what it is, and believe them when they say, “I need this.” Versus making them have to prove every moment. “This is why it’s really hard for me to be able to see. This is why we need street signs that are sounds that actually let me know it’s safe to across the street.” Like it just sounds insane to say, “You have to fight for that.” But it’s very much how it lands. But that idea of the scarcity mindset pits us against one another and holds us all back for sure.

BB: And definitely a deep history with white women betraying Black women. And also like we saw it in the LGBTQ early laws where the gay lesbian lobby said, “Okay, we won’t include trans folks. If we can get this passed, we’ll start fragmenting and orphaning part of our community in order to get legislation.” And some people think, “Well, that’s how you do it.” My philosophy is, I don’t think the playground is safe if anyone’s getting beat up on it. Even if it’s not me. And so I think an organization is not… The psychological safety we need for innovation, for trust, for creativity, for performance, an organization is not safe until everybody’s safe.

AB: Yeah, I absolutely agree with you on that. It’s funny because when you think about the gatekeeping around culture, it’s mainly run by majority is white women, when you think about HR teams. And so you think about perpetuating… If you haven’t done your own work, you’re going to, by default, be perpetuating harmful ways of acting and behavior. And like you said, there’s a long history, specifically with white women in this, and there have not been, I think, the types of explicit conversations that need to happen about that. And even the ownership about what it meant, even from in this country specifically about enslaved people in ownership and what that means. And it’s not… Again, going back to the scarcity model, it’s not to say, “Oh, you don’t experience pain and you’re not subjugated also. But hey, can we shine a mirror on the way that you’re perpetuating it so that that can stop?”

BB: There’s two things I want to think about right now, linking to our other podcast. When you said proactive, investment, relational, sustainable, not knee-jerk, quick and get it over with, so we can say we did it, interviewing Edith Eger, Dr. Edith Eger, a Holocaust survivor from Auschwitz, parents killed the first day they arrived, just this remarkable tale of resilience and trauma. And she said something to me that when she said it, I wrote it down to talk to you about it. She said, “Do you know how you spell love?” And I said, “I think so, but I have a feeling I’m wrong.” And she said, “It’s T-I-M-E.” And so, if what you’re really trying to do in your organization is create love and belonging and safety, this cannot be a knee jerk, we’ll pick the groups we want to advocate for, not the ones that are scary to us, personally. How do you spell love? T-I-M-E. Take the time to do your work and take the time to do this work well.

AB: Yes, I love that. I love that.

BB: I thought it was really beautiful. Okay. Three, build in accountability measures and enforce them for aggressions and discriminatory behavior and completely do away with excuses like, “They didn’t intend that. They didn’t know.” So you have underneath that, “shift this into, you must understand the impact of your actions. What are you going to do so that you are aware and intentional? You are accountable.” So accountability measures. God, we’re really seeing that right now. What’s happening?

AB: I think if you even look at the through line through all of this, it’s very much what… Everything here is urgency, intentionality, it’s accountability, it’s transparency, through the whole thing. When you say, “What are we seeing right now?” I see a lot of the accountability is happening outside of organizations, because it’s the consumer saying, “What the hell? Look at what I saw in your ad and in your article.” “Oh, man, that person on your board said this. Is this what you stand for, too?” It is the power of social media, it’s the power of voice, it’s the power of grassroots movements. It’s the power of those people who aren’t going to show up in your employee engagement survey because they’re in the minority, in terms of numerically. So the voices out on the street in terms of, “Hey, I’m not buying your stuff anymore.” Alright? You all suck. There’s also that conversation about the cancel culture, right? How terrible it is, how bad it is. But also recognizing this is the power of people to finally say, “No. No more,” and you’re accountable. I should not have to be compelled to have to give 3rd, 4th, 5th, 60th, hundredth, thousandth chances for people.

AB: And this goes back to the idea of doing your work. And I believe… And you know that one of the things you and I definitely have in common is that you can hold people accountable in a way that’s empathetic and generous. You can hold boundaries and still be generous and empathetic towards people. And if you’re really about this work, you’re also going to be craving for people to hold you accountable. You don’t want to keep doing that thing over and over again. You want to be the learner and you want to get on top of it, and you want to learn and make sure that you are not hurting people, you’re not dehumanizing people, and you’re not perpetuating a system that you say verbally and in your statements or whatever else, that I’m an ally and I believe this. Well, part of it is holding yourself accountable and inviting people to hold you accountable.

BB: So I want to dig into a couple of things here. So I did a podcast where I said, “Look, holding someone accountable in a respectful, boundaried, empathetic way, and then that person feeling shame is not the same thing as shaming somebody.” Right? I can’t be responsible. So if you say to me, “Brené, I want to circle back and give you some feedback. The way you showed up in that meeting around this issue felt really privileged and really lacked some awareness about what folks could be experiencing. And I want you to know that because it seems not aligned with who you are and what your messaging is.” And I go into a shame spiral, which hell, yeah, there’s a very big likelihood that I could, in that moment when I realized what I’d said or done, that’s not you shaming me. Right?

AB: Yep, that’s exactly right.

BB: That’s you holding me accountable and me feeling shame. And this is a tough issue around race, because everyone wants to believe they’re the exception from the systemic racism that they were surrounded by growing up, but we’re not. The other thing is, I don’t think accountability equals cancel culture, do you?

AB: No, no. I actually think a consequence can be cancel culture. But I think the accountability is an expectation and an invitation to take ownership and then to take a path of correction. I do think that if you are denying that, you’re refusing to take accountability, you’re not going to be a learner, you’re anchoring down. Then that boundary, that boundary might look like someone canceling you. I’m not going to continue to engage with you, because this is what my boundary says for me to take care of myself, or what have you. Or what my values are, and therefore I’m going this way. And I think that that’s valid, but accountability is actually inviting somebody to also make amends and to get it right.

BB: God, I’m so grateful for the invitations that I’ve received. They have been painful, several of them have sent me into… I didn’t have a choice, teaching race, class, and gender at a university that is the most diverse in the country. I grew up not having a choice around that in the classroom, and especially when your name on the sign-up sheet is Cassandra Brené Brown. People think…

AB: [laughter] With an accent over the E. It is like, “What is with these people with the white lady in front of the classroom?” Yes.

BB: They would say, “Are you the TA?” And I would say, “No. I’m Brené.” And they’re like, “You Black?” I’m like, “No, uh-uh.” [chuckle] Yeah, and so I would make mistake after mistake after mistake. Some of them like three-page letters, single spaced. It was either I have to leave or I have to change my mindset to, I’m here to get it right, not to be right. And maybe the teaching comes from genuinely changing. And I think one of the things I think about the podcast with Harriet Lerner, man, do people not know how to make real apologies. You cannot protect your ego and make a good apology, right?

AB: Right. I think even in… When we say, Hey, have a learner mindset, a lot of people don’t understand what that means, because for them, it’s about perfection. It’s about getting it right all the time. But if you’re a learner, that means that you expect to get it wrong because you’re learning and you expect to make mistakes. So there’s always a note of humility there. And it means if you’re going to learn something, that means that when you make that mistake that you know you’re going to make because you’re learning something new, that you’re also going to turn the page and try to find all the details and go back to explore, how do I learn more to get this better? How do I hone my craft and get better at this? And that’s the learner mindset. And I think in your book, you call it the idea of learning, rising strong. You’re going to get it wrong. You get back up and you get in there, and that’s what a learner does. Otherwise, you’re not learning anything, you just mess up and you go into the cave.

AB: So it’s that curiosity, it’s that expectation you’re going to fail and get it wrong. It’s the humility in knowing you’re going to get it wrong, and then it’s that, “But I’m going to do what I need to do to learn, to start getting it right. Because I want to learn, I want to get better.”

BB: Do you think there’s also a part of that that’s acknowledging the teachers, the work of the teaching, and standing down and letting other people stand up and amplify their voices as opposed to learning from folks and then trying to be the voice?

AB: Oh gosh, absolutely. I think that hits under the note of humility. Being able to be quiet, being able to listen, being able to see people in their perspectives that are different. The example that you gave earlier about the idea of the accountability and being able to call somebody in, Brené, what you said was, blah blah and this is how it landed. There’s another aspect of this, which I guess people would say it is either a teaching mindset or a coaching mindset, which is when you’re teaching somebody, you don’t want them just to get the information right. You want them to actually be able to get the learning. Right? So what I might say to you instead is, I might say, instead of saying, “Brené, what you did was… Blah, blah, blah, blah,” which is kind of directive. And I’m just saying, “This is it,” and you’re sitting back and you’re kind of like the spectator listening and taking it in. Oftentimes, what I’ll do because I’m still learning, even though I’m holding somebody accountable and I’m giving you feedback, I’m learning in that moment.

AB: And I’m actually saying, “Hey, Brené. Can you tell me, when you used this word, or when you phrased it like this, what were you thinking or what does that mean to you?” because now I’m getting a chance to understand what was going on with you, what did that mean, instead of me jumping to my own conclusions. And I learned so much by inviting the person to explain to me… And that’s a lot of times when I’ve come to the conclusion of saying, “That wasn’t their intention,” even though I know what their impact is. So now I can go into the mode of saying, “Oh, so let me tell you… ” even though I know your intention, how this went. And I would… Instead of telling them what to do differently say, “So now that you know how it landed on me or others, what would your choice of words be or how would you reframe that?” Because we’re adult learners, most of us, so that it gives somebody the chance to be in the learner mode and to teach themselves versus me directing you and saying this was wrong, and this is… Even if I’m saying it in a great tone. But that idea of letting people learn and me learning from you, because I’m coming in thinking, “They’re going to tell me something I don’t know because I don’t know what’s underneath that. All I know is how I experienced it. So let me figure this out. Let me ask.” Does that make sense, Brené?

BB: You’re welcome. Everybody, for a master class in coaching. Like this was just a master class in coaching. I’m just taking it in that good teachers are as curious as good students. Wow, thank you for that, Aiko. That is just… By the way, Aiko is a tremendous coach and does a lot of that with leaders around the world, so you could see that in this master class right here. Because now, you’re not giving me what to say next, you’re helping me understand my intention or the absence of one. You’re teaching me how to link my behaviors to my intentions, and you’re teaching me the impact of what happens when my behaviors are misaligned with my intentions. That is a learning that I can take and apply to a million things in my life, not just this situation.

AB: Yes, so I want to take this back to our other note about action bias. When you are in a space and you’re just going, going and you’re like, “Oh, okay. You did that wrong, this is how you do it.” You think you’re teaching somebody, but once you go away, they don’t understand the why underneath that. Versus saying, “Hey, Rick. Why did you choose to do this this way? What were you trying to accomplish? What was your mindset around this? What was the win of this approach?” Now, you know what? I might think I already know why because I’ve been around the block a few times, but oftentimes, especially when we start thinking about generational gaps and things, I’m learning some things about how Rick thinks, some consideration I may not have even had at all. And then my critique may not even be accurate anymore. But the fears I’m feeling from your folks, that’s where the gold is. That’s where you’re actually going to save time. So taking that time to coach, it takes more time, but you’re going to learn, as the coach or the teacher or the boss or whatever, and your person is going to have a chance to… All the things that you said, make those connections, but you are going to save time. But I love that I’m going to learn from you because I didn’t even know that’s how TikTok worked. “I’m glad. Okay? It makes sense. That’s why you put it on that platform. I get it now.”

BB: Wow, I’m telling y’all. This was the master class in coaching. Barrett’s sitting in the room with me during the podcast, and she’s over there just shaking her head like, “Yes, yes. Like, this is so helpful.” Aiko, thank you. This is what’s missing so often because how do you spell love? T-I-M-E.

AB: Yeah, you just said it. I was going to say it’s the T-I-M-E. Yes, yes.

BB: It’s the T-I-M-E. Okay. And one of the things that Aiko was referring to, if you haven’t read Dare to Lead, which she and I both do Dare to Lead facilitation work, and sometimes together, is that one of the things that emerged from the research that took me by surprise, but I think makes sense is that we have to attend to the fears and the feelings of the people we lead. And if we don’t do that, we end up playing whack-a-mole with problematic behaviors because we never unpeel down to the fears and feelings. And I think we just got a Aiko Bethea master class in how that looks and feels. So, thank you. So good. Okay. For “compliance reports, including all allegations of discrimination, harassment, or other forms of inequitable treatment should be shared quarterly or annually with senior leaders. Awareness by leaders should be elevated as opposed to having the old school ‘containment’ approach where reports are contained only within HR and/or Legal.” This is still a huge issue.

AB: It is.

BB: We are 90% containment in the organizations I work in. What about you?

AB: Yeah, absolutely. And it goes back to, why is it? It’s because people are afraid. You’re more attentive to your fear of what could happen if this gets out versus fixing it and addressing it and understanding why is this happening, and how do we make sure it doesn’t happen again? Instead, you’re in a containment because that’s about fear.

BB: Yeah, it’s really interesting. My daughter, her freshman year in college, did a Title IX study and report. And she called me one day and she said, “Jesus, Mom. I can’t figure out who’s been held accountable. There’s no list anywhere, I can’t get to the data. And don’t they understand that makes us more afraid? It’s not like we’re thinking, ‘Oh, there’s no data, so there must be nothing dangerous here’.” And I said, “You know, that’s a legal containment issue.” Yeah. Don’t call yourself transparent or authentic leadership, or whatever those words are these days, and not let people know what’s going on.

AB: That’s right.

BB: “Five, avoid limiting metrics to demographic representation and counting the number of ethnic groups, gender, abilities, sexual orientation, etc. Expand metrics to include: What does retention look like for under-represented groups? Review the numbers and reasons for voluntary and involuntary departure. What does the promotion rate and bonuses look like? What does compensation look like? Employee engagement surveys?” So this is like quantitative versus qualitative, in some way. It’s like we’re not just counting people, we’re examining and interrogating the experiences of people. Is that right?

AB: That’s right, that’s right. What’s the story? What’s the story this data is telling us? Not just, what’s the top line item. When people are doing DEI, I have my hands up in quotes here about DEI work. They start talking about just diversity, we’re going to count people. And look at this, “Hey, we’re at X percent. We’re at Y percent.” But they’re not looking at how many of those people left, and then you just replaced them with new people. So the story underneath that, why are people leaving and you actually really aren’t changing your culture, you’re just getting better at collecting people, different people. So that story underneath is so important.

BB: That’s right. And as someone whose home is more in academia, I can tell you that recruitment efforts to get a diverse student population mean nothing by the second semester of their freshman year, unless we are helping kids out who are first generation college attendees, that we’re meeting the needs of people. And I think there’s movements across universities to do this, but it’s still just things that we do. Like, “Hey, we’re shutting down for a two-week fall break.” Well, some people don’t have anywhere to go. And when their work-study stops, they don’t have a way to eat. And so it is not just about numbers, right?

AB: That’s right, that’s right. And we saw this really with COVID, if we ever saw it before schools closing. What happened to my scholarship? This is actually how I live. As a matter of fact, I give some of my scholarship money back home, too. So all those things and where am I going to live? And it impacts my whole family. Or this is where I go because it’s safe and it’s not safe for me at home, but just making these blanket decisions and not thinking about the impact.

BB: Which, I guess, leads us to a very quick walk to why representation matters and why you need leaders who look like the folks you’re serving. But I say the folks you’re serving, I mean, not only your customers or your students, but also the employees you’re serving must be represented.

AB: That’s right. And the people who are there, because you’ll get that thing about the story about, “Well, the pipeline… ” blah blah blah. Well, you better make sure whoever’s sitting in those seats is a learner, is going to listen and he’s going to be proactive about ferreting out some stories and narratives. If you’re going to sit here and say, “Hey, we can’t find people,” which we know is always problematic, you best make sure that the folks who are in those seats are leaders. And when I say leaders, that means that they have emotional intelligence, they’re learners, they’re going to call themselves out, they’re going to pivot… So that’s why we say DEI isn’t this segmented piece of work, it’s leadership work.

BB: Oh, I love that. Can you read this last line before we get to number six? Do you have that last paragraph, because I think it’s very lawyer-y of you. Aiko is also a lawyer.

AB: The part about… In parenths?

BB: Yeah. Well, the whole thing, starting with, “Be as transparent… ”

AB: Gotcha. “Be as transparent as possible about the metrics and disparities. Have a plan to hold your organization accountable for change. This should include annual leadership report outs to the organization. I’m very aware of legal risks associated with this degree of transparency, but I’m also aware that lack of transparency doesn’t change the actual facts concerning disparity. It merely serves to hide them and leave them unaddressed.”

BB: Boom. And this is from our master coach, Aiko, who’s also a lawyer. So yes, right. Okay, so number six. “Every annual budget should include a sustained budget for [diversity, equity, inclusion, belonging] line items as a standard business cost that is not limited to your HR budget. Funding for diversity, equity, and inclusion should not be relegated to what is ‘left over’ or be the first costs that are cut.” How often do we see this?

AB: That’s right. Speaks for itself. I’m afraid for all these chief diversity officers that are being hired because we know when that stock value goes down, wonder who’s going to be the first to go? Or when there’s not change overnight, who’s going to be considered not doing their job?

BB: Number seven. Do you want to read that to us?

AB: “Learning and development opportunities on biases, aggressions, and other matters that have been categorized as ‘DEI matters’ should be labeled as leadership training and development, as this is precisely what this type of development is. Too often, this important work is marginalized and stigmatized once the title diversity, equity, or inclusion is attached to it. To be a successful leader, one must be competent and aware in these areas.” That speaks for itself, right?

BB: It does speak for itself. And here’s one thing I want to say. Like we go in, both of us, again, individually and collectively, into big Fortune 100 companies and do work. One of my kind of litmus test of whether I’m going to work with you or not, is I want a CHRO and/or a chief diversity officer that reports directly to the CEO. If all that stuff’s filed under operations or somewhere else, and that the state of your people and the effort to create equity in your people is not woven into the top highest level of leadership, I just can’t work with you. That’s just not a mountain that I can climb without help. I need the structure to be in place. We just go back to that quote that I’ve been obsessing on and talking about in all the podcasts, James Clear, Yeah, “We don’t rise to our highest goals, we fall to our most broken systems.” I don’t want to see leadership training that doesn’t have DEIB integrated into it, and all DEIB work should be a part of leadership work. It’s just… Frustrating.

AB: That’s right.

BB: Okay, eight. “Such leadership development should not be relegated to ‘parachute’ training that is a ‘one and done.’ Develop communities of practice, conversations, and actionable behaviors that are expected and modeled… Accountability to ensure modeling will be integrated in performance review check-ins [and] throughout the year… [and] consider having communities of practice specifically for your people managers.” So what’s the watch out here? What do you see that led you to creating number eight?

AB: The onset of everyone’s getting unconscious bias training. [laughter] And that’s it. And now we all know we have biases. And what ends up happening is that people leave saying, “Now I got it. Check the box. I’m good.” Or, “Oh, I did the White at Work series. I’m good,” versus recognizing, no, no, no, no, no. How do you put it into practice? Back to our point. If you just have these one and done trainings, that’s a transactional approach, right? “Hey, you went. Check the box. Go ahead.” The transformational approach is, “Okay, so what did you learn? What’s going to change? What’s going to be different? Why is that going to be different? Okay, so what’s your commitment now? Okay, so when we have your performance check-in, what are your commitments in terms of what you’re going to do and what we’re going to see that’s different? How has your mindset changed? What has this work even meant to you? How have you felt so far?” So really asking those questions to make sure that you’re being introspective. As we said, you can’t do this work… It is relational. But it’s relational, not only with the people around you, but relational in respect to yourself.

AB: How are you internally growing and shifting? How are you seeing the world differently? And this has to do with everyone. So I want to make sure that people also understand this isn’t just about white folks, too. This is about me saying I have to be a learner, and I realized, “Oh, man. You know what? I wanted to punch that person in the neck because they said this.” But because I’m in learner mindset, I realize now that I take the time to ask and learn, I see where they’re going. And now I can actually figure out what’s going on here and how to address this, versus being mad, going off punching somebody in the neck, I can actually figure out, okay… And it may be at the end of the day, I just need to have a different boundary with this person. Or it’s, now I can be more impactful in actually being able to call them in on something, because now I understand.

BB: I’ve read this article probably five times at least, and I re-read it this morning before our conversation and I kept thinking of this word. I kept thinking of the word integration. And I write a lot about integration, and I love it because the root word of integration is integrare, the Latin birth of it, I guess. And integrare meant to make whole. And I think when things are transactional, we are never quite whole. It’s not until we’re integrated and we create all these questions, Okay, what are you trying? What’s sticking? Where are you running into problems? What feels too scary to try? Define what a community of practice is for us and why you think they’re so important for new leaders?

AB: I think a community practice is a type of container, right? So you’re dealing with things that are shared perspectives. You’re learning from each other. The hope is that there’s psychological safety there. You’re able to say out loud, I got this wrong, I think I got this wrong. How are you all dealing with this? So to the idea of sometimes no one is shaming you, but somebody just says something about race and now all of a sudden, you’re in the shame spiral and nobody said anything else while in the conversation. What happens with the community of practice is that you’re able to name things. You can name what is causing you discomfort or shame, or the incident or what have you. And now you have this community of people who are listening, supporting you and hearing you, which means that now you’re getting that empathy. So now you’re going to experience some discomfort, and likely for many of us, shame along the way. But if I have this community of practice, I can be shame resilient. I know I have a place to go to share and to hear and to learn and to provide support, and that is important. And also I say specifically for people managers, because there are things where you need that safety of being able to learn and being okay with not having a gotcha moment.

AB: But being able to be vulnerable and say, “Well, what about you?” So that you can learn together and you feel like you have people who have your back who are going to want you to get better, who are going to call you in, who are going to hold you accountable. We know that with culture shifts the things that really help culture change is not just rules and new regulations, but social accountability. So it’s having that person next to you who’s your peer saying, “Hey, I just heard you say this. Tell me more about why you said that.” And then listening to your story and perspective and saying, “Well, let me share with you how it landed and let’s talk about what can be different.” That social accountability is what’s going to because the culture shift, the behavior shift and invite people towards transformational change, right?

BB: Yes. And that’s daring leadership. It requires vulnerability and courage. Hard.

AB: So it’s not a community of practice where you’re just going in and learning a new module. It’s you’re having real conversations and sharing experiences, learning and listening.

BB: This next one is like… I know this is like a hard one for both of us, “the highest levels of leadership must initiate conversations on the DEI belonging topics. This should not be just left to human resources and your employee resource groups.” You see that too much, right?

AB: I mean, Black History Month. I’m like, everybody is texting their Black ERGs, “What are you all going to do for Black History Month this year? What do you have on the agenda for us, for the Women’s Leadership Group. Oh, so are you guys going to deal with that? We’re finding more X, Y, and Z, people, men, people are really afraid with what’s happening with Me Too. Can you guys help us with this?” “Sure, as I’m dealing with it myself, the sexism, misogyny, let me put together your celebration month and put together an agenda while I’m leading my team as well, and while people are giving me the side eye and asking me why I’m causing trouble. Sure, let me do that for you.” [chuckle]

BB: Yeah, and while all the work is normally unpaid.

AB: Exactly, exactly. And you know how I feel about that.

BB: So again, it’s so funny because sometimes people will call and say, “I really want you to come talk to our company about vulnerability, and it’s really important and it means a lot to us.” And I’m like, “Well, who’s going to be in a conversation?” “Well, I think it’s an all-hands, everybody. I mean, the leadership team won’t be there, but everybody.” I’m like, “No, thanks.”

AB: And that’s not everybody, just let you know. [chuckle]

BB: Yeah, that’s not everybody and that’s not interesting to me because I’m not your like…

AB: Yeah, they just want to be preaching to the choir, right? [chuckle]

BB: Yeah. Okay, ERGs, Employee Resource Groups, “should be working beyond the three Fs, food, fun and festivities. Are you including their perspectives in product development conversations, leadership needs…? Leverage them for strategic strength that will also support their individual professional development? [They’re] the most undervalued and under-utilized business resource.” Have you seen people do it well?

AB: I see people starting to do it better. I think there are some organizations that have started really thinking about bringing their resource groups in to inform everything from product development. Also looking there for, where are our leaders? To an extent, being an ERG, you are being a courageous leader. Because you’re telling people, “Yeah, you have to see me as a woman. You have to see me as somebody who’s Black.” Whatever that ERG is, you’re saying, “This is me. I am affiliated with this group, and it’s a part of my identity that I’m not hiding.” Just by being affiliated, and if you’re a leader as well. So these ERGs, if they are being impactful beyond food, fun, and festivities, then they are going to likely be counter culture. They are going to be a part of resistance, discomfort. And to do that, that’s where you probably want to look for leaders, too. People who are going to speak truth to power.

BB: I love that.

AB: Yeah, but there are people who are starting to do it well. Something about ERGs, too, it does provide tribal safety for people who are grappling with lots of the same types of systemic barriers and issues. And at the same time, able to create certain pathways. So one thing that has not been the most popular thing that I have been really pushing on organizations to do is that these groups be intersectional and that you also… They not become echo chambers because it has such a power for impact. So what that looks like is if you have a women’s ERG, that somebody on that steering committee or advisory group or what have you, should be a male. Because otherwise, what you’re going to do is find that you’re talking to the same people and preaching to the choir versus getting this other perspective and inviting yourself to be a learner about what is going to create this shift? What is it that’s going to make this impactful because we have to go beyond just us? It still means that your voice and experience is still centered, but you’ve got to have people see themselves as being part of the fix.

AB: We’re almost letting people off the hook by not creating that space. So in a Black ERG, yeah, I need somebody who’s white who’s going to be right here too because I need to understand how are people thinking, how are we going to make it different? The last thing I want to hear is somebody saying, “Well, I don’t feel comfortable in that group. I’m the only white male, and I don’t think it’s for me anyway.” Versus, no, we actually have somebody on our leadership team, and we need you to be there. And guess what? When you do feel uncomfortable because you’re the only one, everybody in that group feels like that every day. So this is part of your learning process, too, and we need you to be in those conversations.

BB: Can you imagine what it’d be like for an ERG, for women or for Black folks or whatever the ERG is, for a senior leader to walk in and say, “I want to be a part of this?”

AB: Yeah, and we’re starting to see more of that. And I think part of that work is senior leaders getting that coaching where they are going to be courageous leaders. And they’re going to show up in a room where they don’t know anything, they are not the experts, and they have to be the learner. And there might be uncertainty, risk, and emotional exposure. But they’re saying, “Sign me up. Sign me up.”


BB: Aiko’s just putting the definition of vulnerability for us right there, uncertainty, risk and emotional exposure. Let me ask a question that… It’s a push-back question. So you’re a white male leader and you show up in my women’s ERG, and I’m like, “Shit. This is the one place where I felt safe and now you’re here and I don’t.” Do you see that come up?

AB: Oh, man. Absolutely. And that is why I say that the perspective and the voice that an experience is centered, is whatever that ERG is. I don’t care how many people who are white or what have you going to a people of color ERG group, the idea is you’re coming here because you’re going to be learning, because this is a perspective that’s actually being shared here, but would love to get your input. And that’s why the governance and structure is so important to be able to say, “Hey, this is what our container looks like.” So these people know what it actually looks like to be a learner. So you’re coming in and what we’re not going to have is a lot of mansplaining, but we want to make sure that you’re also hearing our perspective and our experience, so that you know what it’s like. Not because we need you to come here and tell us how to run it or what have you. But we know that there’s power in creating space for people to learn. And I will just make sure this caveat is there, is that ERGs have the space and autonomy to be able to say, “Hey. Yeah, we want to have a closed space where you might be talking about something that’s very in-group. Like we’re sharing our coming out stories with each other to connect and bond.” And being able to say in that team or ERG distribution list, “Hey, we’re going to have this function and it’s targeted for people who are… Identify as LBGT+.” We want to have the sanctity of the space to share with each other.

BB: Yeah.

AB: And I will say nine times out of 10, if not 10 times out of 10, people honor that. And they’re like, “I don’t have any business being there.” But I’m going to be at the other one where you have Janet Mock coming and speaking because I need to learn and I need to hear this. Or I’m going to be at the one where it says how do I need to show up, to turn up to help and support this? Or I want to be here to listen and learn.” But when there are things and spaces that are very in-group, to have that space honored and protected.

BB: Yeah, I mean, 25 years of sobriety. So to me, it makes total sense. Closed group, open group. We’re having a special closed group meeting, we’re having an open group meeting. Yeah. You have to ask for what we need, right?

AB: Yes.

BB: Okay, 11. “Hold memberships, company-funded, in local, regional and national membership groups that elevate equity so that your employees are able to continue their development and have communities of support, and so that your company is investing more broadly in the work. In philanthropy, this might look like membership groups like the Association of Black Foundation Executives or Asian American Pacific Islanders in Philanthropy.” So investing in broader networks. Okay?

AB: That’s right.

BB: Twelve. “Assess who is policing or acting as security on your campus.”

AB: Yeah. So a lot of people don’t think about this. And I actually shared one of my experiences on here. So oftentimes, especially now when there’s all this conversation about the police and defunding the police or what have you, well, a lot of us feel unsafe on our own company’s campuses. When I’m coming or bringing my sons to campus… And this is what happens to me. They’re like, “Who are you? Why do you belong here?” I remember I reported my backpack… I couldn’t find it. And I found it and the security person actually stopped me, asked to look in my backpack. I’m the one who actually reported it and it is mine, and guess what? I’m also in leadership here. Like would you have done that to anybody else? So it’s the idea of many of us don’t even feel safe at our own workplaces and campuses. I never brought my kids to campus at that location again, and I assertively and aggressively started looking for my next position because I felt unsafe that the security at this place pulled me over, searched me and didn’t even look at my badge in terms of I’m the person who reported this. And it happens in so many ways in companies and organizations.

BB: Yeah, I had a friend that told me that when she got to court to try a case, she was walking in with her colleagues, who were three white lawyers. And they all went through and she got pulled aside. “What is your business in the court today?”

AB: That’s right. It’s humiliating. It is humiliating. And when your colleagues stand by and don’t say anything either, that’s some craziness. Now I’m really leaving and I’m going off, but that happens all of the time, or back to our point about believing people. And when I share that this just happened and someone… “Oh, they didn’t mean that. Oh, that wasn’t their intention.” So that idea of believing your colleagues and being an advocate. Stop going around telling everybody you’re an ally and just be one. Be one and show up and stop telling everybody you’re an ally and actually act like one.

BB: Yeah, which is never going to be comfortable.

AB: No.

BB: If you’re looking to be an ally, not a performative ally, but a real ally, and you want to be super comfortable, I don’t know that allyship is going to work out well for you.

AB: Oh. No, no, no, no. It’s not. It’s just going to be performative. And just know that first time when you speak up and use your voice, your voice is going to shake. You’re going to feel like your heart is jumping out of your chest. And guess what? You’re going to look back and walk out and be like, “Damn it, I did it.” And the next time you’ll do it again, and you’ll do it again. Yeah.

BB: Yeah, and it’s why the intentionality has to be there because I feel like there’s a continuum… And tell me if you agree or disagree, a continuum that on one side, there’s a performative allyship, and on the other side, there’s savior allyship. As opposed to real allyship, which is, you’re not saving people nor are you trying to maintain the glory of your whiteness while kind of helping folks. It’s like this uncomfortable middle space of respecting self-determination and autonomy, not looking for a hero award, but also doing uncomfortable things. Does that make sense to you or…

AB: Yeah, it does. And it’s basically having a handshake with yourself that I will humanize people and I will be on the part of ensuring that people have spaces to survive and thrive. And when I see that being breached, I’m not going to stand for it. You also have that continuum. You have them on the two different ends, a performative and then charity-driven kind of behavior is that those are the differences in behaviors. But I do want to point out that people on both ends of those spectrums can be in both places, doing both. And the commonality in that is that you have in both of those ways, you’ve centered yourself.

BB: Oh my God.

AB: That’s the commonality between that, right?

BB: Yes. So maybe it’s not even a continuum, maybe the savior stuff and charity stuff is filed under a form of performative allyship. But oh, my God, yes. It’s the centering.

AB: Yup. But it also goes back to that definition of empathy, right? Perspective-taking. When you’re in these two parts, you’re really not empathetic, you’re just thinking about yourself. You’re kind of self-absorbed. If you’re actually practicing empathy, you would be able to step outside of yourself and take perspective of others and be in the practice mindfulness and think about why am I doing this and what’s the output and how is it impacting other people? What’s my intention here?

BB: God, that’s so good. Dang, that’s good. Thank you. Okay, I want to go through, just in five minutes very quickly, so five minutes. Leaders, this was a short Medium article. We’ll link to everything in the episode page, five things you need to know for Black History Month. You want to read the five to us?

AB: Alright. So number one is, “as quickly and urgently as those Black Lives Matter statements and ads were issued, CEOS, executive directors and board members should pen updates to the public on: What are the actionable commitments your company will make or has made? What are the measurements of success to date or anticipated?” Again, that’s the accountability, right? And the transparency part.

BB: Walk the talk. So not just fast to put your Black Lives Matter with your brand on it, but now what are you actually doing?

AB: Yup. What you did, what you going to do. Yep. Number two, “leaders make a point to be present for any Black History Month sessions, which hopefully builds muscle and fortitude for employees to be action-oriented and accountable for stewarding an inclusive and anti-racist culture. Also, proactively stress to people managers why it’s important that they show up and encourage team members to as well.” Number three, “CEOS take the time to open the month with a townhall or a note to the full enterprise reminding employees why proactive efforts to be anti-racist are critical for the organization and even for employees as individuals. There’s a specific sentiment and system of anti-Blackness that requires leveraging Black History month as a tool to counter and to condemn anti-Black mindsets and actions.” Number four, “no one should fix their mouths to say there isn’t enough budget to do Black History Month justice… No one.”

AB: Number five, “if you’re not naming racism and white supremacy, we don’t want it. The reason why there’s a specific month dedicated to Black History is because white supremacy silenced, erased and dismissed Black voices, Black existence, and this continues today.” So the two not to dos. Please don’t “send updates on past Black History Month figures. Your employees are not in the second grade. Unless it’s so very pertinent to your organization and world, don’t do the weekly ‘Black Person You Should Know’ post. If you’re looking to elevate specific Black people, discuss why the lives of these individuals were cut short, Trayvon Martin, Breonna Taylor,” and hopefully people get that.

BB: So let’s stop there for a second. So the weekly Rosa Parks email…

AB: Just stop. Right. Stop.

BB: Okay.

AB: Don’t give me a MLK quote either. Stop.

BB: Yeah. No, I get it. And do you want to say more in case where people are like, “Oh, I just sent, I’m doing Rosa Parks this week, MLK next week, Fredrick Douglass the following week…

AB: So this is the difference between transactional and checking the box. What is important to Black History Month in your organization? Why are you really elevating it? Because we got a different issue if they don’t know who MLK, Frederick Douglass and folks are. But the reason why people don’t know it’s the most important and why Black History month should be elevated is because there’s white supremacy. I would rather you tell me what the organization is doing and how it’s committed to doing work that is going to make the place more inclusive and less anti-Black, than getting an MLK quote. Like, I want to know what you’re doing to stop the system of white supremacy.

BB: I have a question for you. How do you spell love?

AB: T-I-M-E.

BB: Yeah, because it takes 20 seconds to send those things out versus the effort. Okay, I love it. Alright, number two.

AB: The not to do. “Let your Black affinity group or employee resource group carry the weight on this. In fact, every ERG should be participating in Black History Month and carrying the banner on anti-racism and confronting anti-Blackness. Leadership should reach out to Black ERGs and ask how they can support their efforts. Leadership should do this frequently for every ERG, and any leader who can, pause and acknowledge the importance of this work.”

BB: That’s a flip, right? That’s a flip, as opposed to saying, “How can you help me?” The leader saying, “How can I support you?”

AB: That’s right. And that’s the leader saying, “I might not know, I’m here to learn. Please teach me and let me know, tell me what I need to do to support you.” Instead of being the knower, “This is what we’re going to do. This is the plan. Can you guys bring the speaker in?” Versus, “You know what? Tell me what you need from me. How do we make this happen? What does support look like, right?

BB: Yeah, what does support look like? This is important to me. It’s important to the organization. What does support look like? And if you’re going to spend a lot of time and effort pulling this together, we need to make sure you get those hours back somehow, either you’re compensated for them or you get them off.

AB: That’s right, that’s right. And the other thing that’s really important about a leader saying, what does support look like, is that you’re shifting from power over to power with. And so that’s part of the power of white supremacy, is that it’s power over. And so now you’re asking, you’re saying, “I’m sharing power with, and I want you to tell me what to do.”

BB: Okay. Everybody, we’ve been to class.

AB: Alright.

BB: We’ve been to class. Aiko Bethea has taught us up today. I love it. Okay, anything that we haven’t talked about that you want to say?

AB: Gosh, you know what? I think there is something, and this is another power flip that I’m going to do here because it’s super important, especially during COVID to me to say this, is that… I just want to say this and I think people will get the message is that I am a co-parent with somebody. And I will say that the work that I am doing and the effort and the time that it takes means that I am leaning in, and to have a partner in this work who supports it is so important. And I just want to say that because we are always… We are often women power, women, we do this on our own, and I just have to name the privilege that I have to do this work by having folks who support me. I talked about Wes and Ben last time. I was like, “Well, the only reason I can manage Wes and Ben is because Tom’s in this.” And I feel like it’s so important because we don’t do that. We don’t do that a lot. We always say the wind behind a strong man is a woman or all this other stuff, and I just want to be able to have a little bit of that flipped and say why that’s so important, and to name that and to show appreciation and gratitude is really important.

BB: It’s really beautiful. Can I join you in that and just say, I also couldn’t do it without someone who is 100% excited about what I’m trying to do in the world. As a co-parent and a partner, and I don’t think we stop enough to say that.

AB: Yes, yes.

BB: I think that from daily things like, “I’ve got carpool. Sleep in this morning, because I know you were up late preparing for something,” to a thought partner. So some gratitude for Tom and Steve feels really important. Because I don’t think I would have made it through, COVID for sure, but I don’t think I would have made it through the other 50 years of my life either.

AB: Yes, yes. And we just have to take a moment to name that. People see us and they’re like, “These women are doing it, and I need to do it myself, too. And they’re doing it… ” Like, “Nope. It takes a village.” And to name those folks is important, so thank you for giving me space to do that.

BB: Yeah. You ready for some rapid fire? We got new rapid fire because we went through the Dare to Lead rapid fire. Yeah. [laughter] This is my favorite part. Ready?

AB: Sure.

BB: You’re called to be brave, but your fear is real. You can feel it in your throat. What’s the very first thing you do?

AB: Pray.

BB: The last TV show that you binged and really loved.

AB: Girl… “Billions” probably, or maybe it’s “Your Honor.”

BB: One of those, “Billions” or “Your Honor?” Okay. “Billions” is tough, man. They need some… Yeah, okay. One of your all-time favorite movies.

AB: “Love Jones.”

BB: Okay. A concert you’ll never forget.

AB: I would say it was a televised… It was a Prince concert because I’ve never gotten tickets and now I never will get tickets to see him live, so seeing it televised.

BB: What’s on your night stand?

AB: Oh, God. Water bottles and damn to-do lists that are old and never got done. [chuckle] I write these lists on the back of envelopes and I just thought, “Wow, they’re there. They’re all like under the water glasses.” But, okay.

BB: Favorite meal of all time.

AB: I meal that I’ll never get again, but my obachan, my grandmother, made amazing Japanese dishes.

BB: A snapshot of an ordinary moment in your life that gives you real joy.

AB: A picture of me and the boys asleep. They’re babies, I was knocked out and we were just knocked out on the couch.

BB: All just cuddled together?

AB: Yup. Yeah.

BB: Oh, love it. Aiko, thank you so much for your time, your insight, your wisdom, your master class. You’re a walking example of how people can be both fierce and kind. And the need to separate those is just some weird thing that we have because you’re one of the fiercest people I know, and you’re also one of the most generous and loving people I know. So thank you so much.

AB: Thank you so much for saying that. Thank you.

BB: Yeah, it’s true.

AB: I feel warm and fuzzy. [chuckle]

BB: We’ll end on warm and fuzzy.

AB: Okay, awesome.


BB: Isn’t it just amazing to be on the receiving end of such a master class about how to approach things, how to think about them, but also the gift of specific language is just incredible. You can find Aiko online at @rare_coach on Instagram. It’s at R-A-R-E, underscore coach on Instagram, @AikoBethea A-I-K-O B-E-T-H-E-A on LinkedIn. She’s Rare Coach on Facebook and her Medium articles, we’ve got links to those on our episode page. Just go to, click Podcast, Dare to Lead, and then you’ll find all the podcast pages. As always, everyone can listen to both Dare to Lead and Unlocking Us for free right here on Spotify. I’m grateful for you, this community. Stay awkward, brave, and kind. Learner mindset, be there to get it right, not to be right. We are almost our own practice community, which I love. And I will see you next week. The Dare to Lead podcast is a Spotify original from Parcast. It’s hosted by me, Brené Brown, produced by Max Cutler, Kristen Acevedo, Carleigh Madden and by Weird Lucy productions. The sound design is by Kristen Acevedo and the music is by The Suffers.


© 2021 Brené Brown Education and Research Group, LLC. All rights reserved.

Brown, B. (Host). (2021, February 8). Brené with Aiko Bethea on Creating Transformative Cultures. [Audio podcast episode]. In Dare to Lead with Brené Brown. Parcast.

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