Higher Digital has just published the next installment of its new audio interview feature, transformed. Every other week we interview experts on higher education, digital transformation, and the challenges and promises represented by both. 

This week, President Joe Gottlieb sat down with Kim Wells, an award-winning executive education and career development educator and Advisory Board Member at Higher Digital. They discussed DEI (diversity, equity, and inclusion) and it’s many facets in higher education – from code switching to how higher education leadership can cultivate these principles at the institutional level.



Transcript

Joe Gottlieb:

Welcome to transformed a Higher Digital podcast focused on the new whys, the new whats and the new hows in higher ed. In each episode, you will experience hosts and guests pulling for the resurgence of higher ed while identifying and discussing the best practices needed to accomplish that resurgence culture, strategy and tactics planning, and execution people, process and technology. It’s all on the menu because that’s what’s required to truly transform.

Joe Gottlieb:

Hello and welcome to transformed a Higher Digital podcast focused on the new whys, the new whats and the new hows in higher ed. My name is Joe Gottlieb, President of Higher Digital. And today I am thrilled to be joined by Kim Wells, award-winning executive education and career development educator, corporate transformation and inclusion consultant, and master certified executive coach. Kim has spent the last 25 years championing next level corporate transformation at executive development initiatives at premier consultancies, including Booz Allen and Hamilton, Vantage Consulting, Universe Communications, and his own private practice Askum Intelligence, LLC, but he’s best known for his work at the iconic Howard University School of Business as the executive director of executive education and the center for career excellence, where Kim leads a portfolio of executive certificate programs and Howard University School of Business’s very own Executive MBA program. Kim also has extensive current and past advisory board experience. We are proud and fortunate to have him on our advisory board here at Higher Digital. And he also serves as the chair of the National Board of Executives for the Black Alliance of Colleges and Employers or BAC. He , Kim has also served on past national advisory boards that have included the National African American Association of Human Resources, where he served as the Chief Architect of their Global HR Leadership Institute. The National Association for Colleges and Employers or NAC, Interview Stream.com, Monster Campus, Boxwood Technologies, Chair of the Monster.com National Diversity Career Fair Initiative, and as a past President of the Maryland Career Development Association. Kim completed advanced executive leadership programs with the Wharton School of Business, Cornell University, the Harvard University School of Business, and has a Master Coaching Certification with a Behavioral Coaching Institute. Kim also completed his master’s degree in Organizational Communications and Development at Howard University with concentrated studies in Organizational Performance Systems and Instructional Design and his bachelor’s degree way back when at the College of New Jersey and Sociology and Organizational culture. So with that welcome to transformed Kim.

Kim Wells:

Thanks for having me, Joe. I’m glad we have finally had this opportunity to chat.

Joe Gottlieb:

So you might ask, what do we want to talk about?

Kim Wells:

Yeah, yeah. What , what, what do you want to talk about? I know we talk about a lot of things, but I’m always impressed with your insights and , and in your thoughts around higher ed, I’m so impressed with your background. Um, and , uh, I look forward to chatting today.

Joe Gottlieb:

All right. Well enough about that. Let’s dive in. I know I want to talk about diversity equity inclusion, which is such an important topic more and more and more and more because there’s work to be done. There’s practice to recognize, and I think also some great excitement to be held about, about the future of our society. Of course, I’m an optimist. And therefore, when optimists see challenge, they look to connect with people that are having success and are helping extend that success to others. So that’s what really gets me excited when I talked to you. But before we dive into that massive and fun topic, I’d like you to just give a brief summary of your story, Kim, cause we’ve talked about this, I think your story is very, very interesting and it’ll help our audience think a little bit about how your point of view was curated given your background.

Kim Wells:

Okay. Yeah. From humble beginnings , I am originally from New Jersey and I was so fortunate to grow up in such a dynamic , black community within for instance, but then also that general scholarly academic community as a whole, which has so much impact on my thinking as a young man and has really kind of driven me, most of my life, I mean my whole, my entire life, I mean our Witherspoon Corridor community was also the home of the noted leader Paul Robeson. I mean, you had all kinds of amazing professionals and working class people living next doors , the story you hear often in black communities, but it’s so fascinating. It actually happened in Princeton. Literally my mother’s family lived two doors down from Paul Robeson’s family and they knew him as the Robesons, you know, it wasn’t anything special. But you saw that. One of my neighbors was a producer for NBC. The other neighbor was a really a sanitation garbage man, you know, great guy and outstanding, but amazing ethics around how he did things. But I’ll tell you what was, what we took for granted was I would go up on Nassau street, have a slice of pizza, go across on campus and chit chat with professors. It was just amazing. I mean, just talking about the things of life , meeting students , participating in youth development programs. I mean, I have people such as John Rogers, who’s the big CEO out of Chicago Artemis Organization as a basketball coach. And I mean, it’s just amazing things were happening in that community. But I think it was also very reflective of what’s happening in the world. I remember my grandmother who came from a pretty prominent black family in the community, quite frankly, her brother, which I’ve mentioned to you in past discussions , uh, attended Howard University back and completed , uh , graduated in 1946. So that was something that just, wasn’t very common in those days to have people and that type of educational experiences in your family. But we would talk about how, at one point they were actually concerned going on campus, you know, because of some of the tensions of the time and Princeton has a very unique history, although it’s a very progressive Ivy, it also was very much known as one of the more Southern Ivys, which is what some of the terminology used back in those days. And so there were some tensions, but then again, there was this, this optimism in town , and my father, he worked at the university , he was Assistant Foreman of Facilities Management for 30 years. Literally when I say I grew up in the shadows of Princeton, I know that campus backwards and forwards just shadowing him and being a part of getting to meet students many, went on to do exciting and unique things. But Princeton was such a big part of who I am. I always tell people it’s in my DNA, literally our family goes back to at least six generations of recorded history that we’re aware of in the town. And so, I mean, it’s just very much part of who I am. It really drove me again. I was the big paper boy in town and I had professors on my paper route. I had everybody, you could imagine all giving me advice, insight, all followed my career from you know, undergrad, which was at the College of New Jersey and very excited and very proud to be a Lion from TCNJ. Finally , um, answering the family tradition of coming to Howard. I kind of shied away from it at first, but I did come from my master’s work. I went on to do some other exciting things, which you’ve mentioned , later, but Howard was also very significant, but I always learned that people were human beings first and there was always this opportunity within the human experience to learn from one another. We did learn in that community and I think we’re going to talk later about code switching, but quite frankly, I think the faculty at Princeton code switch, they would talk with us, connect with us. We would connect about our experiences, what we were learning. You’re invited to sit in on classes and do things. I mean, I’m talking about as a young person, so it’s not officially on my portfolio, but I consider myself very much a part of Princeton University more than people would think. But also we learned that there’s challenges that we had to address. We had to get prepared for it. We had to consider always our mindset and really the challenge to be a leader so we could talk on and on.

Joe Gottlieb:

I think you’ve already given us many opportunities for some very fertile follow on and I can’t help, but mention it, just recognize, what a metaphor for social connectedness at , uh , with diversity, the , the paper boy, right? Like as a paper, boy, you became an important resource to that community, but you in , but it was in a method that often had chance encounters on imagine , um, with, with people in the community and therefore over time relationships , um, uh, you , you, you, if you had to collect, you had those relationships,

Kim Wells:

That was always the interesting part of the job. Okay .

Joe Gottlieb:

You might be, you might be getting up before them on delivery, but what came out of the collections ? You knew what , when people were home. So anyway, let’s , let’s, let’s, I want to start with a little bit of data. Um, and you and I have talked about this study before, but McKinsey just, well, in 2017, they repeated a study. They did in 2015, and it’s the sort of study that anyone talking about these topics optimistically would want to see, actually prove out in the data. And that is that what they were measuring at the very highest level. They were measuring the correlation between diversity in organizations and those organizations ability to produce better than average , uh, profits in this case as measured by earnings, before income tax margin. And so what this study observed again with even, I think greater clarity is that after talking to a thousand companies, spanning 12 countries, they found even more so in this case, the top core tile in ethnic diversity had a 33% more likely chance to outperform the average on EBIT margin. And so what that sort of sets us up for is at least the starting proof point for the potential health of an organization, if you presume that an organization has to be healthy and at least has to be effective, maybe we should use effective at achieving its profit mission. Now , not all organizations are all about profit , um , but they clearly were looking at for-profit organizations. Uh, otherwise they’d be using a different scale, but I think this just sets up this notion that it’s something that we all want to believe is true. And we wonder sometimes if it can be true and how it can become true and what some of the mechanics are. And so the study goes on to point out , um, several things that they observed at these companies that were , that were having this success. So then when they looked at these organizations that had this more advanced diversity and were accomplishing the greater than average EBIT margins, they talked about a few things. It has to start at the top, but it has to galvanize the organization. The CEO has to be personally involved, but they that see us to articulate and cascade the CEO’s personal commitment to galvanize the organization around diversity, equity and inclusion. Um, the other point was define your priorities and , and build them into your, your growth strategy of your business. Because if you’re not building into the growth strategy of a business, it feels like an exercise and anyone, everyone tires have an exercise and no for-profit corporation can typically sustain exercises that aren’t somehow accruing at least a strategy, right. Um, and ultimately they wanted to make that manifest in retaining the right talent and strengthening decision-making capabilities in the organization. So I want to stop right there because those are the two sort of the observed correlated behaviors of these organizations that ha had hired diversity and higher , uh , business performance. And so we know that this can be challenging, but , but how do you resonate with some of the findings of this, of this, of this study? And I want to also get into the, some of the practices and the challenges of accomplishing this.

Kim Wells:

First of all, I love the work McKinsey’s doing. Um , they are way out in the forefront in , in the diversity equity inclusion issues, and there’s other great , um , reports out there. I like Baileys and reiners , and there’s several great works that are coming out. Uh, but at the end of the day, I think what they’re doing a great job is there they’re really locking in on what are these very specific metrics issues, and how is this whole concept of diversity affecting how we show up and get things done in organizations. So I’d like to sometimes start with a simple analogy , um, um, former athlete, wasn’t a big star or nothing like that, but if you’re an athlete, you can only perform, but to a certain level, if your team is not healthy and all on the floor. And so that affects the performance, no matter what the potential is, the standard is the standard. And that standard is, is, is going to be competitive. It’s going to be highly engaging. Let’s just use the NBA playoffs are happening right now. Um, but if your team’s not healthy, it is not going to perform at its highest Heights, right? And, and , and, and top performance, and certainly not going to achieve that outcome of an NBA championship. And I think it’s very similar with D and I , um, and organizations having an , a culture of equity and inclusion is really about let’s look at, based upon the market based upon society. What are the groups, you know, what are the groups that are available , um, to participate? Why are they in the nation? What’s the mindset of the individuals? Um, we also know that organizations that are diverse tend to be more innovative. There’s a lot of research around that. Um, and so that’s part of the reason if , if I may drop a little nugget while United States is , is, is, is, is so competitive. And as a leader in the world, it’s really about that diversity that’s, that’s influenced and enabled our cultures. And , um, are , are , are thinking about how do we approach problems and how do we approach circumstances that have been barriers in many parts of the world, but we come up with ways to approach it because we’ve had different voices that are sharing solutions from different perspectives. So , um , bringing it back in to some of the things you’re talking about , um, if an organization is healthy, if people feel welcomed that people feel that they’re in alignment to actually engage be , if we’re talking about the inclusion piece of this, if people feel there’s true rewards. In other words, we’re seeing equity from a couple of standpoints. Okay. It’s is it fair treatment? Do I have equal access? Um, is my performance properly rewarded in the organization? Um , um, and also, you know, is that a fair treatment across the organization? So , uh , is , is an African-American female. Who’s contributing, going to have same access to decisions, same access to clients to have them put in , will they be appropriately compensated , uh , when they do fully engage, that’s up to leadership to make sure that that’s happening. Um, that’s that’s, but it’s up to individuals too . So we could go into a lot of places or come at this from a number of , um , perspectives. First, it starts with you as an individual bringing , um, your talents. There’s a lot of courage involved with this too , Joe . I mean, again, I, I, I’m going to take you to, it might be more of a , um, I don’t know, a foundational working class approach to this. Okay. You got to be, you have to be courageous and that’s both leaders and the individuals to come to the table, share your knowledge , um , want to wanting to be engaged, going back to studies like McKenzie , et cetera. It’s really about how are we setting the stage for people to then bring their talents and skillsets to the table? Um , how are we positioning them to enable various aspects of what we do as a business? Are we positioning people to say , um, what they see as a possible challenge? You know, are we positioning people to give insider input? It sounds like you were going to say something else .

Joe Gottlieb:

I , yeah, no. I think first of all, I love the way you’ve framed this with even the basic example of the health of a basketball team. Right. But as we talk about the health of an organization operating, let’s say in a given country, let’s, let’s, you , you mentioned us in our , our unique circumstance here, which is both empowered by diversity, but struggles with aspects of diversity, as we know, right. So why are people here and be part of this? So that, that defines the market to a degree, right? So if we, if we want to be successful occupying a market and we want to, we want to maximize our market share, it would be good to understand the whole market and it’s a diverse market. So on the one hand, this is about business performance, understanding markets, and it takes a , um , it takes an awareness of those markets through direct representation, right on your team to help you understand those markets. But then on top of that, not just retaining that talent, that’s diverse, but then back to then the decision-making process part, that’s actually having voices that are active and included and have equitable , um, you know, roles in the machine, so to speak so that you really can advance not just your understanding of market segments, but your, just your ability to innovate. And as I heard you talking about this grind grounding and in health, and, and thinking about diversity of role players , we could be talking about anything. We could be talking just about gender. We could be talking about all white, all male , um, but just background, right? Like you could be at any level, you could be talking about either an isolation to a smaller group and a lack of inclusion, or breaking that down and saying, we’re going to wind up with a better solution. If we can effectively harness our perspectives. Now we all know that too many voices at the table don’t work. So, so the unfortunate counter force here is that good practice has to find a balance between, between inclusion and focus. Yes . And we already struggle with that even under the least diverse conditions, because that’s just leadership and management practice. That’s, that’s hard and can be hard for people that don’t know how to find that balance. But I imagine in your role, being, being able to help many corporations figure this out, you’ve helped them overcome some of those balance points.

Kim Wells:

Absolutely . So really the , the balance starts with really awareness and , and, and defining our mission. What do we want to be ? Um, how are we going to , um, how, how are we going to be authentic to being who we want to be in the marketplace and as an organization? Um, it’s very interesting because as the world, you know , um, and, and the various markets in the world become more calm , approachable, more attainable for all of us to engage with. We’re seeing that we have to constantly go through this process of redefining who we are, what our mission is, what our purposes , how we want to engage as organizations. And I find that , um , in working with different organizations, at one point, you come to having these conversations of who are we today? Who do we want to be? You know, who do we want to have at that table, right. To have a conversation with , and then what are we really seeing as our outcomes in 2021? You know? And so that is that place where we start to look at what, what is the real mission, the purpose. And then let’s then from there, start to establish what’s that balance. What’s, what’s the over all organizational culture going to be about what kind of culture do we want to have a , do we want a culture where , um, um , some voices drive what we do, and , uh, we continue to achieve at that level , um, there’s discussions out there where like you take, for instance, Hollywood, where they leave over 30 billion on the table annually, because they don’t want to enable, or, or, or Greenlight projects within certain , um, ethnic diverse communities , um, or projects, like, say for instance, and , and some of the black movies and , and some of the other ethnic movies and entertainment initiatives , um, because it, the thinking we can speculate, but many think it’s because there’s already an established ecosystem of producers and suppliers and, and , and that’s who we’re going to continue to feed in this process and not necessarily , uh , is it our priority to, to make the money over, you know , the business. So there’s , there’s these other institutes that come into play. So

Joe Gottlieb:

That’s actually, I think you set up a nice , uh, I noticed that the McKinseys , this particular McKinsey study focuses on inclusion and diversity, but, but not equity. And, and, and I don’t, I imagine that’s not a , um, uh, an oversight , um, I’m sure McKinsey covers that topic in other places, but I wonder out loud based upon what you just said. Is there any conflict between equity and capitalism because capitalism, the free enterprise system, we know that it can often reward short term , um, short-term performance and struggle a bit with the long-term game of evolving to future performance, right? Strategic investments needed to produce future performance. It’s very hard for wall street to bake that in and look past immediate performance. And so many, or most organizations, particularly public, publicly traded organizations find themselves in a set of constraints where it takes exceptional leadership. In my personal opinion, really exceptional leadership to maintain great progress on both strategic trajectory, towards vision and quarterly performance that is required to keep their investors satisfied and not panicking or, or thinking short-term and reacting. So I wonder out loud, right? Like you were just, you were alluding to it, right? Like, so even in Hollywood, there’s a thing that works. There’s a money machine that knows how to churn out profit. Um, and, and, and, and yet you look at a movie like black Panther and, you know , uh, and you, and you can’t help, but observe that that is , um, a market opportunity on display in a way that somehow was masterfully, creatively made universal in terms of its appeal. But that’s not necessarily what we’re talking about. Right. We’re talking about deeper investment perhaps into these sorts of returns. Do you see any conflict there and w how have companies dealt with that? Like making progress on the mission to be more inclusive and equitable and the need for short term performance?

Kim Wells:

Yeah. It it’s, it’s always to , to use your phrase a balancing act. I mean, we are a capitalistic society. So the end of the day businesses feel they’re, they’re designed , um, and their goal is to make mine, but along the way, can we address the broader societal issues? Um, and at the same time, make money, how can we kind of , um, communicate design and build a capitalistic system that can also address these issues , um , that can build heal and , and, and, and evolve our society as a whole . And it’s , it’s, again, if we can go back to, or just even consider the whole sports analogy again, I mean, when, you know, as an organization you want to win, sometimes that takes making difficult traits. Okay. Sometimes that requires patience , uh , putting systems in place where , uh, again , um, we’re able to identify top talent where we can find ways to , uh , onboard that talent position them in the right place to be successful. And , and all of those steps , um, pain points, quite frankly, because I mean, what we’re trying to do is, and I don’t know if this is really realistic in all cases in a capitalist society, because at the end of the day, it’s just like, there’s no participation trophies it’s about winning. And so, but I think what’s overlooked in the context of DNI is that you have a whole nother talent pool. That’s also committed to winning. So how do we bring them to the table? I mean, just again, look at what happened again. I don’t want to make this a sports analogy, Whatever today, today we’re , yeah, we’re a sports . So today , um, but when, when you start bringing in the , uh , African-American players into the baseball league, and , and once you started singing , those teams started saying , wow, this is a sacrifice, it took courageous leadership , uh, to, to make those decisions. They understood the , the impact in, and also some of the consequences of bringing some of these players in the challenges for the players, as well as the , um, the perceptions , uh, in , uh , you know, by the other fan Bates, by the rest of the fan base . But we also , at the end of the day, if I can get a Jackie Robinson, I was so blessed to meet his wife years ago. If I could get him on this team and we can sort through these issues, this guy wants to win. We want to win. And guess what magic happens, we start baseball games, but there’s a lot of work that goes into this. And again, it starts with leadership. And, but , but like I started with you today. It also starts with a Jackie Robinson who says I’m willing to bring my talent to the table in this new environment, and also indoor what I have to endure , uh , to be successful. So it’s a challenge for everyone on all sides, but there are pathways to success in this thing, and people are doing it.

Joe Gottlieb:

Yeah. You remind me, and I often forget this, but you remind me that the same free enterprise system that is very quarterly performance obsessed, let’s say is also the system that rewards new entrance that are looking for a new formula to have success. And , uh, what a great analogy , uh, you know, Jackie Robinson and , and, and, and his, the way he helped change baseball. And, and, and, you know, obviously that’s that trajectory has, has been enjoyed to great, great lengths , uh, as it, as it played out. And so let’s, let’s turn this though, then to let’s turn this towards the higher ed. So how does let’s think about how higher ed on both levels in terms of understanding markets, which would be as measured by recruiting and enrollment , um, and also improving decision-making capabilities, have you seen any uniqueness in the way higher ed can make progress , uh , on DEI, in concert with their mission and their vision and their strategy as an initiative ,

Kim Wells:

You know, higher ed historically has always been about , um, enabling, empowering , uh , different social economic groups. I mean, when you’re thinking about the Agra cultural technology, early universities, the a and T type universities , uh, when you’re thinking about , um, even a Howard or founding , um, we initial students at Howard were a teacher and ministers teachers and ministers, and again , uh , ways to empower and enable , uh, the community higher education has always really had that as a part of its DNA. And , and really , um , how it’s designed to try to enable, empower , prepare people to move up social economic scales, et cetera. I mean, Howard university, another great example, how Howard , um , many would claim , um, almost single handedly created the black middle class, right, because of its evolution and preparing professionals and legal , um, um, medical professionals, business professionals, scholars that now enable the community to evolve , um, and also start to engage with the general community. So higher education. I think we get it, but what we’ve never had as clear pathways and how to do this. And I think given our world, and what’s happened over the last 30 years, the evolution of more coming to college than any other time in history, right? I mean, given the accessibility online education and so forth , um, w w it’s it’s it , and , and also global accessibility to education , um , this is all growing and it’s changing and it’s evolving and it’s making us all have to kind of rethink who are we and where do we want to be in the future? And how can we make for , um , given some of the studies, you mentioned like the Mackenzie’s , but it’s all very applicable to higher education, where you have diversity. When you have inclusion in the process , um, you start to see more innovations are seeing different thinking, different approaches, different research coming out of those institutions, you know , uh , we start to empower students and learners to go to different places and spaces to , to have impact, right? So I mean, universities against it starts at the top. We have to be just like any kind of a corporate entity and look at who do we want to be? Where do we want to go? How’s the world changed in Cosa . We know the world can change, right? That’s any less than from 2020. And so how do we want to adapt? Um, and what’s that going to require a bus, as far as our infrastructure, our alignment, the type of talent that we bring in to the organization , um, the kinds of decision processes in place, you know, who’s going to have a say , um, how, why is that important? We , we know the full pause when you don’t have inclusion. You know, we can talk about, say burger king, who recently on a woman’s history day , put out , uh , an email, somebody in their executive team. I probably need to be careful on it , but it said, you know, women belong in the kitchen. That’s because there was an input, you know , uh , from various levels in , uh , I would dare to say, diverse members of the organization to say that might not be a good idea, but these things happen when people don’t have the ability to chime in. People don’t have access to the decision process, higher education. It could be everything from identifying students, engaging those students, recruiting students, creating , um, enrollment and admissions processes that are seen as, as accessible, equitable. We’re looking at the same things. I mean , um, I mean, there’s always been this debate around sat scores and all these standardized tests we have to continue to look yet to research. Is this the best measure of a talented student ? Okay. And , and we need to do, continue to look at the research. Let’s look at the outcomes of the student that came in, didn’t have the best sat versus a student who a lot of promise in their environment, but came to our environment and still perform . So there’s something else inherently happening in that circumstance and that situation. And we have to look at that at , at higher education. Um, what happens when we have a Dean from a different background, okay. Who does that inspire? What could inspire, you know , um, how does that change our approach and how the world deals with us ? I’m so excited to see what’s happening up at work. And they brought in an African American woman, and it just exploded as far as conversations and discussions and opportunities for Warren warden is always going to be worn there . And one of the most amazing business schools in the world. But when you bring in an African-American woman, now you have a different perspective coming from her, but also the world looks at you, different the world engages with you differently. Okay. Because they want to have, Hey, maybe we can have a different kind of conversation with words . Now let’s hear what they’re thinking. I mean, again, I’m S some of the suspect what I’m saying, but some of it is just, we can just trace it back. We can, if we want to do some kind of media research, we could see how Wharton was in the news this year for what they, what their decision and how that new leadership perspective has really enabled, empowered. I mean, I can talk, I don’t have data for this, but I know how many more students that I’ve talked to in the Potomac DMV area that have considered board. And I never did before protectively black woman. And so it’s like, okay, so now we got something different and, you know, we’re , we’re, we’re cooking something different up here because we are, we’re encouraging others to see the possibilities to envision themselves. Um, and then they’re also seeing, and hearing the conversations coming out of war , where before that was a culture that J they just really, it really wasn’t on their radar. It really was not a part of their mind, you know , they’re thinking.

Joe Gottlieb:

It reminds me of the power of symbolic leadership, right. Where I, you , you just reminded me of how I felt when , um , Obama was elected president. Right. And, and it was about a country that stood for something, but without something like that happening, it had reached a little bit of its ceiling in terms of how clearly communicated and symbolized , uh, it all was. And so, like you said, with this shift at Wharton, something, they probably were pretty darn effective at talking about and exercising as an organization. Now it becomes even more overt, but then kicks into a new gear. Right. And so, and now the responsibility of both parties think about it, right. And, and Obama had to be smart and careful and about this, right? He couldn’t over-rotate, that would cause people to feel like he was just leveraging the role to advanced in appropriately opportunities, right. For quote, unquote, his kind, whatever that means. But instead he had to help, help make more visible the workings of a, of a society that has these principles and foundations. And now I wanted to make sure that they were more , um, broadly visible and consistently , uh, manifest. Right? So it’s actually a fun segue, right? So Obama , um, uh, is known for many things, but it turns out that Harvard business review has helped help promote him in a , in a special form. I think you’ve seen this video, right. You mentioned code switching, and I’ll just define it quickly for our audience that not familiar. Um, code switching is when you, when you exhibit different behaviors, based upon who you’re interacting with at the basic, at the most basic level. And the video is interesting because it’s when Obama had a chance to get into the team USA basketball locker room in 2012, and the video clip that HBR shares on code switching is he first shakes hands with a white assistant coach. Who’s all excited to meet the president. And then he S he , he turned from this, you know , white assistant coach who is just shaked hands with very cordially and, and Kevin Durant’s right there. And of course he immediately, you know, they’re into a handshake and a bit of a backslap embrace. And it’s very, they’re very different. I’ll just say it’s very comfortable, but it’s very different. And so, so Obama using one behavior with one person and an interaction with that one person based upon perhaps what he either believes is going to be successful or thinks that person might need, or just naturally he just default without knowing it into that behavior more typically, right. How it differs from one to the other. So the fun question I want to ask you is can an organization code switch can an institution code switch? I think that’s where this topic gets a little interesting for our discussion.

Kim Wells:

That is a good question. Um, goodness. You know, I , I thought about this , uh , when I saw , uh , the question and , um, I really believe that they can, and then let me tell you how , um, when you are trying to engage a particular market, you can’t speak the same language you can’t even have. Um, at the same , uh, like there’s all the stories of organizations have changed names of products because, you know, the , the really the translation was very different, you know? Um, it’s like Nova was no go, right? So in this and the Latin markets, you couldn’t use that name or it was changed . So I think they can’t . And I think it’s almost like a, it’s a skill set that when it is , uh , optional, like, I mean, again, when , when it’s to our advantage and what it is used in a healthy manner, it can actually be a type of a brilliance that you can bring it it’s really, almost gets to the heart of what the D and I conversation is. Um, a, an organization that can code switch means, again, it depends on your definition of coats, which there’s, there’s some philosophies out there. There’s people trying to claim the term, but , um, in the African-American black community, that’s always been the case, you know , um, you know, when you’re, when you’re amongst your people. And I think that’s across a lot of different communities and a lot of different ethnicities and tribes, you’re going to see some, maybe English, isn’t the first language at home. So you’re talking your language and eating your foods at home, and when they go somewhere else, you eat, McDonald’s, you know, you know, I mean, I just, I feel that it’s a very natural part of what happens in many cases. Um, I do think organizations can harness that power to their advantage meaning , um, and , and, and again, we’re always talking about in an appropriate manner, but where they too can , um, adapt to the environments that they’re engaging with. I mean, again, as a university, you can’t go, you can’t recruit all from the same places, speaking the same language , um, um, really talking to the same students with the same profiles, you’re going to have to get to a place where, and this is again where the inclusion piece becomes very important, where you have different levels or different types of, excuse me, in different types of events, sites that prepare. So when we go and we’re speaking to students in a particular part of the country , uh , we have to be cognizant of the politics in that area. We have to be cognizant of the socioeconomic conditions they may be facing. Um, again, it’s not being inauthentic. I think it’s almost being respectful of the conditions that you’re engaging. Um, and you’re going to have to, and let’s, let’s, I don’t want to get too far away. I know you, and I like to have fun in our conversations, but you’re going to talk about different statistics about retention. You’re going to talk about , uh, depending on the community, maybe there’s a lower social economic environment that you’re going into. So in that community, you might want to talk about how our university does an excellent job and firm in preparing students to advance in their careers and to reach different statuses or have access to different places or different types of opportunities, different conversations, you know, maybe the conversations , how do we finance the institution again? I think it looks , it all depends on how Joe , you look at code switching. Um, I think where some of the research has shown it can be stressful for some, if it’s, if it’s seen as , um, required just to, to, you know, on a lung . I mean, again, it’s like, if you’re outside of your style, your type, you know, was just think about your classic NBTI kind of discussions. Okay. If you’re out at type and you’re working out a type you’re going to get stressed over time. And so that means you’re , you’re trying to adapt to a culture that , um, yeah , it’s just not natural. And so

Joe Gottlieb:

Myers Briggs is a great reference point here because it brings you back to something that’s a lot less, well, it’s sensitive for reasons of personality, a spectrum, like comfort levels, comfort zones, and personality types. It’s, it’s a billion miles from any sensitivity of D and I, right. Like, so w well, no one thinks of it that way. Right. But it’s just another form of being different than if we, if we’ve, and we’ve been motivated to understand those differences and not only transcend them, but harness them using, using though that Myers-Briggs technique. There , there are others, but Myers-Briggs has played obviously a huge role in terms of their, their market , uh , uh, share . And like, but I like that kind of analogy because it helps remind us that we’ve cracked these problems before. And so tapping into the power of that diversity via on one plane in one dimension, let’s say, because we were motivated to get the results of that. Um, it’s just a helpful lesson in terms of how we might tackle it in , in other areas that are more sensitive,

Kim Wells:

Well said. I mean, if I make two to that point, again, going back to the history of Myers-Briggs, it was designed for, for realignment of the American war for force during work war time, right. To bring more women to the forefront and , and , and different groups, by the way, to help position them , um , in ways that they could really help to enable the, even the manufacturing, the whole development, the war machine that was happening during world war two, I believe it was. So it was like, again, yeah. So it’s, again, the power of diversity to position realign , to utilize our resources, utilize the talent. I love to it, the brands that are around us, you know, to really win, to win, to , to really get out there and make things happen, to do new and exciting things. I think when institutions see D and I , you know, not just as this, these policies we have to enable and, you know, just stay out and be compliant with regulations, with federal funding. And yeah, that’s all important. We don’t want to dismiss it totally. But it’s also about how are we going to create these vibrant communities where people can come from any walk of life onto our campus and , and , and contribute, bring their full self, their brilliance from their communities, from their families, you know , um, their research and studies from high school or whatever to the table. I mean, you’re, you’re a Cornell grad, right? That’s why my son was a 4.71 students. So this is daddy brag taught any IB in the country. He went to Cornell. It was a couple of reasons. We did our homework. It was the diversity at Cornell. Wow. Her city across the administration, it was the diversity, even their president , uh, excuse me, excuse me, their Dean at the Dyson school, where he ended up going, right. Um, there was a black female, and that was, you know, it was game set match at that point. Um, and their, their history, you know , uh, alpha Phi alpha, the first black fraternity was founded at Cornell university. So I mean, trust as the, as the kids say, so I’m going to be a little common here for a minute, Joe. I know you’re a big scholar and academic, but, but trust and believe kids are doing that research. They’re going to go places where their brilliance will be embraced and where there’s opportunities to succeed. So you’re going to have kids like my son, and I can tell you dozens of others that make their, their college decisions based on what they see as the culture of that institution. And there’s some that won’t go to places. I won’t say names of institutions, but they weather , uh , it’s , it’s, it’s, it’s , uh , for academics, et cetera. I had young people come to me from around the country. My, my son, my daughters , uh , friends, groups , uh , groups like MLT. And some of those students I’ve worked with over the years, come to me. What do you think about this institution? My mom and dad think this. So people always forget, mom and dad have a lot of stay still . And these things, my uncle Jerry says this, and then my grandma thinks this, these are conversations happening. And they’ll say not so sure. It’s not always the history hasn’t been , um, the best , um, you know, in that community or that part of the world, or et cetera. So it’s not always because they don’t want to go to a place with great laboratories and resources and facilities and great leadership, but it’s also the history and the culture of the environment. And, you know, we have to do better at developing , um, evolving those narratives, you know, so that people feel , um, welcomed, you know, and, and that’s whether it’s those people happen to be deans or presidents, or whether they’re freshmen, you know, they want to feel, they can go someplace where they will be embraced , uh, where their brilliance will be received. And it will be an alignment to really do new and exciting things. Um, they’re not going to go, that’s why Howard does so well. I mean, I don’t want to make this about Howard today, but we can track students that also are applying to the Cordells and the Princetons of the world, but they know when I go on that campus, I will be embraced. There’s a history of embracing people like myself, and that outcomes are fantastic.

Joe Gottlieb:

I think that’s the most powerful force here and a great call to action for higher ed institutions to tap into that market force of choice , um , in a market that has evolved at the end of the day. And I think what, we’re, what we’ll start to see more and more is that those that have not embraced it will be in a, more of a niche market over time. And those that have, will be part of the growth opportunity. And, you know, that’s, maybe that’s a little optimism shining through and there’s change required to get there. But what’s exciting is the fact that the market force is active and at work, and we’re going to get to watch it play out. So , um, Kim, thank you so much for joining me today. It’s always a pleasure to talk to you, but to do it in this form, I think, and to be able to share it with others is particularly satisfying. Um, so I wanna , I wanna thank you. And of course I want to thank our guests for joining us today. Hope you have a great rest of your day and we’ll look forward to hosting you again on the next episode of transformed.