Toi B. James is an author, empowerment coach, and Diversity, Equity, Inclusion and Belonging consultant who's purpose is to ensure everyone knows they are empowered to be exactly who they...where ever they are.
RedInk Enterprises LLC is a boutique coaching and consulting firm specializing in inclusive engagement and communications. Our services include 1:1 coaching for individuals and business leaders, group coaching/facilitation and DEI&B strategy for organizations. Here, at RedInk, we provide collaborative, transformational experiences to help ensure every individual is seen, heard and respected, creating an unyielding sense of belonging in all populations.
In this episode
Toi B. James of RedInk Enterprises argues persuasively that without Belonging, DEI (Diversity, Equity, Inclusion) programs will miss the mark on impact. "Culture is not what you say it is. Culture is dictated by the collective.", Toi explains. Employees must feel valued. You want your staff to say "I like what I do and I like working here". It is only with this attitude that you will get the most out of your employees. And belonging is what gives each member of an organization a purpose and sense of ownership. Toi explains in detail what a business owner needs to do to successfully implement a DEI&B program. Listen to the end to take advantage of her free gift.
A glimpse of what you'll hear
01:50 DEI only goes so far without Belonging
03:24 Belonging is what gives each employee a sense of purpose and ownership in the organization
05:04 The business case for Belonging
06:32 How to implement a DEI&B program
07:58 What actions must a leader demonstrate for the organization to take this initiative seriously
10:35 How the decision maker benefits from instituting a DEI&B program
15:19 Learn about Toi. Email Toi at contact @redinkenterprises.com
(Note, this was transcribed using a transcription software and may not reflect the exact words used in the podcast)
Centricity Introduction 0:04
Welcome to the Best Kept Secret videocast and podcast from Centricity. If you're a B2B service professional, use our five step process to go from the grind of chasing every sale. to keeping your pipeline full with prospects knocking on your door to buy from you. We give you the freedom of time and a life outside of your business. Each episode features an executive from a B2B services company sharing their provocative perspective on an opportunity that many of their clients are missing out on. It's how we teach our clients to get executive decision makers to buy without being salesy or spammy. Here's our host, the co founder and CEO of Centricity, Jay Kingley.
Jay Kingley 0:43
I'm Jay Kingley, co founder and CEO of Centricity. Welcome to another episode of our Best Kept Secret show where I am happy to welcome Toi B. James had a Red Ink Enterprises and author of Talk About It. Red Ink Enterprises provides one to one coaching for individuals and business leaders, group coaching and facilitation and D E I and B strategy for organizations. She is based in Atlanta, Georgia. Welcome to the show Toi.
Toi B James 1:16
Thank you so much. Thank you so much for having me.
Jay Kingley 1:18
Toi, I, you know, do a lot of reading, I talk to a lot of business executives, people, arguably any company's biggest asset is always top of the list of things to talk about. And in recent years, we have seen the rise of what is called DEI, diversity, equity and inclusion as being foundational components of any organizational strategy. Now, every time I have someone take me through what they're doing on D E and I, it always seems to me like it's starting from the company's perspective. And the company is saying to its workforce, look, guys, we need to have diversity, we need to be, you know, have equity and inclusion in our workforce. But it seems to me that the direction is a little bit off. What about from the employees perspective, as opposed to the company's perspective perspective? Toi what do you have to say, on this issue of how we get organizations to come together in a much more impactful fashion?
Toi B James 2:41
That's a great question, Jay. What I will say is, you're right, everyone's familiar with diversity, equity inclusion. And when you add on belonging, people are just like, so why is that? So let me just kind of start by defining what this all is. Diversity really is just a numbers game, number of people in a room equity, fairness, inclusion, everyone in the room has a voice. Belonging is making sure everyone in the room is comfortable having a voice and that they want to share. So when you focus on on, for example, belonging, inequity, diversity, inclusion will fix itself, because everyone will want to be there, they'll bring their best selves, they'll do their best work, they'll innovate, and then they'll be your biggest cheerleaders. So yes, belonging is absolutely key.
Jay Kingley 3:29
Belonging is what employees really all of us are really seeking, that we have some purpose in what it is that we're doing. And we feel like that we are the organization we represent the organization because the organization is us. It seems like so often, when you leave out the B, this is the organization lecturing to its workforce, about why the organization is a good organization. And hey, if we're a good organization, you should be honored to be a part of it. That doesn't seem like in and of itself, that is going to give anyone a sense of belonging and ownership.
Toi B James 4:13
No, because when you when you actually think about belonging, when you're talking about what culture is, culture is not what you say it is. Culture is dictated by the collective. So what are your employees saying? Do they feel like they're included or that they belong? And so if their voices are not heard and valued, and that's a really, really important word valued, they're never going to say anything. They're just going to be worker bees, you got to get the bare minimum, but when you just ensure that they feel included and like and is that they belong, because that's true. It's a true statement. They go in every day and they're like, I like what I do, and I like working here. You will actually get the best out of your employee.
Jay Kingley 4:55
One of the things I've always observed Toi throughout my career Here's how when you look at academics and research, that they're typically 10 to 20 years ahead of what's actually implemented in the business world. I'm wondering what research is out there that shows the power of belonging?
Toi B James 5:18
Wow, I will just say in recent studies, belonging actually increases job performance by 56%. That's a lot, right. There's a 50% drop and turnover risk, also huge. There's a 75% in production in sick days, which is great employee retention. And if you're thinking about that, in a framework of 10,000 10,000 per person, 10,000 person company, that's a $52 million savings.
Jay Kingley 5:51
Now, there's real power in this idea of belonging, it's not just a concept. But it's something that when you do it, right can move the needle.
Toi B James 6:00
Absolutely. When I add like the World Economic Forum, the more diverse your employee basis, it's like a 20%, higher rate of innovation, and a 19%, higher rates of innovation, revenue, these are all numbers that you can actually quantify within your own organization based on belonging, as well as diversity, equity inclusion, which has already been done. But I wanted to make sure people understood it just kind of get a sense of how important it is to the business, as well as the employees that they started.
Jay Kingley 6:32
So given that this important program of belonging is lagging, I think a little bit where the rest of the DEI efforts are. What is the right way for an organization to look at putting in an effective D E I and B strategy?
Toi B James 6:55
The right way? First, I would say, find out and assess what your employees are thinking. Don't do a survey, talk to them, collect all that information, and draft your own DEI story. And make sure that it's honest, because you can only start from a place of truth, right? And it's okay, if it's not what you think it is. Most companies aren't where they want to be. And once you do that, you'll go back, you'll assess, you'll determine how do we educate our leaders? How do we educate our employees? What is our messaging? How do we communicate this? Where does this come from, and I will say that all of DEI and B communications should filter from the very top. Because it's important to the organization, if it is actually important, the President, and all of his direct reports will see it all the time, and they will explain their own why? Because it's critical. And it's not just about having a business imperative. It's really about making sure that your employees know that you care and that they're valued.
Jay Kingley 8:00
But it surely has to go beyond just words. What kind of actions when you look at the senior executive team, because I agree with you. If it's if the leadership doesn't embrace this, then why would they expect anyone else in the organization to embrace it? But let's go beyond the words, what type of actions would signal to the organization that leadership is dead serious about making this a reality?
Toi B James 8:29
Now, once again, you've done surveys and assessments. And you've articulated that to the employees and you understand your story. And you know what your truth actually is, you develop the strategy, what that can consist of, again, is with regards to education, with leadership education, as well as employee education. It also you can have forums, you can bring other people in to talk about its importance and how it actually impacts the industry. Not just the people kind of issue, but how it impacts the industry. Make it make sense. And once you do that, and people understand that what you're what you're saying you believe that you actually do the work, you walk the talk, they'll follow behind you and those who don't, will leave.
Jay Kingley 9:17
And I would think there's a lot of implications for needing to train, middle level, upper middle level management, who are working with frontline employees, to make sure that those employees feel like they have a voice feel like they have to say and feel like that their points of view are valued.
Toi B James 9:37
Again, it starts with senior leadership, but it also has to filter down all the leaders because these leaders, these middle managers are those who work with the teams the most. So if they are not walking the talk in the same way that senior leadership is it's never going to work. So you really have to hone in on their education and that really does. I know a lot of consultants come in and they do a training One or two, and then they're gone. What I'm saying is, you can do the training of content, whatever the topic is microaggression, unconscious bias, all of that. But you have to include some form of facilitation because you have to get people talking to each other. Because to me, that's always key, you will not get to the heart of the matter, unless you know what the heart is. But you also have to know how to hold space for whatever comes up, because these are topics when people are afraid to tell their truth. But that's what you create a sense of belonging and like, come as you are, we're here to talk about this, because we want to do is form a culture where you are able to be who you are, to, and to do the best that you can do as who you are. Because you're enough,
Jay Kingley 10:44
You've laid out I think, with the challenges, how companies should be looking at it, what it is that they need to do differently. Which begs the question of, let's talk about benefits, let me first talk about the decision maker. So if I am going to be that leader, and if I'm going to get out in front of the DEI and B strategy for my organization, how is it that I'm gonna benefit?
Toi B James 11:15
That's actually a really good question. But what I would remind everyone is that you can't be a great leader, if you're not an inclusive leader. What does that mean? That means that everyone would see you in that space, like, oh, my gosh, this person is a great leader, I want to work with him or her. Or I want to hear what they have to say, your entire network would recognize that you were doing the right thing. And let's look at you as a thought leader in this space serving in your industry, because although this is what I do, necessarily, everyone can be a DEI and B specialist. They all we all own this, this is not something one person can do. So you can step into that space, necessarily with that title. But you can be viewed as someone who was always inclusive, was still a strong sense of belonging, a person that everyone wants to work for, or work with, if was someone who will be recognized for their contributions. Because, again, it's not just a business imperative. When it comes to human and human relations, it's just a right thing to do.
Jay Kingley 12:21
So I'm with you on that. And I think that if you're in that executive role, you're there, because you are a leader. And it's time, as you said earlier, that you walk the talk. And this is certainly a way to establish your bona fides and credentials and be perceived as a leader by the organization, not to mention outside stakeholders. Let's talk for a brief moment about the hard benefits to the business. I know, earlier, you you had sprinkled some things out there, but sort of tie it together for us. When these types of programs get implemented. What's the bottom line impact to the business?
Toi B James 13:03
Again, it's like you can, it's more revenue, it's just really just that simple. You can earn more money by being more inclusive. And the example I like to give is singer philanthropists, business owner, Rihanna, she actually saw this as a challenge. She recognized like, oh, so these makeup companies don't want to be inclusive I'll do it. Oh, well, this lingerie company that they don't want to be inclusive will I'll do it, and she's done it well, she makes sure she has a diverse population at the table working with her to understand what their needs are, what their desires are, what they will and won't buy. And she's done incredibly well. She is a billionaire now. And it's not because she recreated the wheel, she just saw the spokes that people didn't want to touch and grabbed them.
Jay Kingley 13:55
So I think you have put forward a very compelling argument as to the as to how critical that sense of belonging is for all of the workforce representing the society that we live in. And if we are going to win the talent war, and I think that is the subject that is foremost in people's mind, it's not enough just to attract people if you can't retain them, and you aren't going to retain them if they don't feel like they belong. And as that reputation gets out, you're either going to find yourself a magnet that attracts the talent because everybody wants to be part of a winning team. Or you're going to be the other side of that magnet and repel the talent to your competitors, which is not going to have a happy ending. So we are going to take a quick break, and then we'll be right back to learn more about Toi.
Centricity Introduction 15:03
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Jay Kingley 16:01
Welcome back. Let's find out a bit more about Toi. So Toi, let me start by asking you, what are the pain points that you tend to address for your clients? And why do they need you to get rid of that pain?
Toi B James 16:17
I'll say some of the pain points that I address very specifically, is one telling the DEI and B story. And being very honest about what that is, and helping you craft that creating and reviewing educational content through the DEI and B lens to ensure that your messaging is inclusive, and that those who are reviewing it recognized as inclusive and that they see themselves to reinforce the sense of belonging. But what I also do is Coach leaders and teams to ensure that they can really talk about the things that matter, because again, these are very sensitive topics, which is why kind of scares some people, some organizations, and it's really not very difficult to do. I am trained in this space, I know how to hold space, there's very little I haven't heard, and this is what I absolutely love to do.
Jay Kingley 17:09
I want to now explore with you. What makes you great at doing this work, I always like to remind people that we all have a lot of competition. And certainly the D E I and merging B market is a very, very crowded market. And what clients are looking for is not just hire someone who can do that work, but they want to hire the best person out there that can really help them do that work. So Toi, what is it that makes you best at doing this DEI and B work?
Toi B James 17:42
That's a great question. What I will say is I'm hyper focused on creating inclusive cultures, I don't proclaim to do everything. Like mentioned, there are a lot of people in this space. And a lot of people look good at other things, what I tend to do is be hyper focused on inclusive communications and engagement. And by that it's one on one and group coaching, is educational content is you know, just ensuring that organizations can tell their own story, what that looks and sounds like how inclusive that really is, and making sure that all the voices are gathered. And the messaging is clear. That's really what I'm hyper focused on and what I'm good at. And the reason why is because when I'm going to try and certify diversity coach, which means I am trying to really listen for things that other coaches are not in a whole spaces in ways that other coaches are not allowed to do because the topics are so sensitive. I am also a certified diversity to belonging facilitator. So I am accustomed to having very sensitive conversations with individuals as well as groups and teams. And I also again, as I mentioned before, I love to do this because I care about people. I care about every single person, even if we disagree, that's okay. And you could bring that disagreement to me and we can talk it out. And we can figure out where we can meet. And even if we don't, that's okay too. But what we're gonna do is build a space and a place where we all feel like we're included and belong.
Jay Kingley 19:17
I encourage everybody to go to LinkedIn and look you up connect with you see the career path that you've taken to get to where you are today. But I'm interested in something a little bit different. Not so much the what but the why. So my question to you Toi is, what's the thing whether it be in your personal life, or your professional life? That would most explain to our audience why you do what you do.
Toi B James 19:46
I have been in corporate America for about 25 years, and I have experienced harm is probably the best way to say it. And what I don't want is for other people to experience the same harm or a certain level of harm that may be different than what I've experienced it all in the workplace. We spend so much time there with people who are different than us. It is a one place that most people actually have experiences with people who are different than themselves, what I would like to do is create a very safe, brave space for people to work and thrive. And so within that 25 years of experience, I'll just tell you a really brief story. And that is my first job right out of college, my manager was preparing for his role listing was leaving, and I was told, No, you can't be promoted, but you're going to have to train the person we bring in who I will say it was the fear of persuasion, which was not fair. And I was hurt. But what I did do even back then was write, the CEOs say, Hey, this is what happened. This is the timeline of my interactions with leaders in your company, I just want you to be aware of what's happening, because I don't want anyone else to go through and actually call me and apologize, I wasn't trying to sue, I just want I wanted to do that for awareness. And I'm still that person. And I want everyone to work in a space where they can totally
Jay Kingley 21:10
Toi only have you enlightened us on the importance of belonging as part of a Diversity, Equity and Inclusion Initiative. I also think that even inspired us to really reach up and do better than we have been doing, and making sure that all the people that we work with, feel like they are part of our organizations. Now I'm very confident that we have listeners out there that want to continue this discussion with you, what's the best way for them to get in touch with you?
Toi B James 21:51
Oh, sure, they can explain. Search me by looking up my website at www.redinkenterprises.com or email me a firstname.lastname@example.org. All one word.
Jay Kingley 22:05
And we'll put that in the show notes to make it easy for people along with your link in address. Now, before we go toy, I absolutely thank you for giving us a different perspective, and educating us on how we can do a better job for organizations and for most hosts, they would say that was more than enough. But I'm not most hosts. And I'm really an advocate for our listeners. And as much value as you've added. I'm going to challenge you to do a little bit more for our listeners. What can you offer them Toi?
Toi B James 22:47
Well, thank you for the opportunity to support your listeners. But I can do is provide a discount on my book that you mentioned earlier. It's called Talk About It :12 steps are transformational conversations, even when you disagree, very practical book to give you steps using coaching techniques though it's like a little coaching guide in your pockets. So you'll get a percentage off by using the code: thebestkeptsecret. And of course I will make sure you get the information and include on our website.
Jay Kingley 23:20
Thank you Toi for that. Listeners. Let's take advantage of Toi's generous offer Toi thank you so much for coming on the Best Kept Secret show. Fabulous discussion today. To all of our listeners. Let's continue to crush it out there. Until next time