Jackie Ferguson: Thanks for joining me for a special podcast series. We're calling way beyond the checkbox. I am joined by some special guests to discuss today's topic, fads, fatigue, and WTF moments for DEI practitioners. Welcome to the show friends. Thank you for joining me. Will you each introduce yourself? Susie, we'll start with you.
Susie Silver: Hey, well, thanks for having me. And it's lovely to see all my friends and colleagues. I'm Susie silver, she, her pronouns, and I'm a senior consultant with the diversity movement and beyond the diversity movement, I am an artist. That is what I love to talk about just as much, um, DEI work, but I've been an artist really my whole life.
And I have a studio in downtown Raleigh. I'm also an entrepreneur at heart. I've had a few businesses here and there and, uh, you know, really love the community. I am a wife. Uh, my amazing wife Anne is wonderful and I've got two kids who are seven and a half and three and a half. And really just, I, I mentioned it, but I love community and I love friends and just meeting people, hearing stories and, uh, just interested in a whole bunch of
Jackie Ferguson: different things.
Kurt Merriweather: Kurt Merriweather VP of products and co-founder, uh, at the diversity movement and so excited to hang out with not only my colleagues, but my friends, uh, to toast, to all the stuff that we've done. Um, let's do a toast
Jackie Ferguson: so quick. Those they're all drinking, BT, dubs, podcasts, and friends,
Kurt Merriweather: podcast, and friends.
And so, uh, by day, thinking about ways to help organizations, uh, be innovative with DEI, uh, products and ways that they work. But apart from that, I just have, uh, some eclectic interests, a musician. If I had the courage to pursue music, uh, probably wouldn't be honest gas right now. Um, music is my first love.
I've always loved. Listening to music and playing music. And it kind of informs most of the things that I do. Um, I, uh, have four wonderful kids, uh, ranging in ages from, uh, out of the house. Uh, no longer on the payroll,
living in New York, living her best life. Like literally right now, she just sent me, uh, a text with hanging out with some friends of ours who paid for dinner for her. So she's loving life right now. Uh, New York, uh, my son miles who we Susie and I have a miles, so
he has a miles to share that.
Kurt Merriweather: So he's back from NC state, uh, hanging out with us and then two other, two other ones, uh, Ellis, uh, I need to write a book about a, so this is a freshman in high school.
There's so many Ellis stories and then Reese, who's a, the budding cheerleader. Uh, but I family's really important to me. Um, one of the reasons that I'm here is because, uh, my mom was here. Uh, and so we had an opportunity to just personally to celebrate her most recent birthday this past week. So I'm just excited and blessed to be able to do that by being here.
So, you know, music, family, friends, uh, trying to stay active and healthy, and then doing some entrepreneurial things on the side as well. Uh, so my goal obviously is not to have any free time. So, uh, here we are
Jackie Ferguson: here, mom. Thank you, mom.
Kurt Merriweather: if you're listening. This is for you maybe rubbed. It was all we talk about later.
Jamie Ousterout: Hello everyone. My name's Jamie. Oh, Strout. She, her pronouns. I am the head of client services at the diversity movement. So that means I'm the main point of contact for our clients and get to really provide a. And help our clients move forward on their diversity, equity and inclusion journeys. So I am very fortunate to work with wonderful clients and wonderful friends and colleagues as well.
Um, and you know, so happy to be a part of your lives. Susie was just at her studio and amazing. Kurt. And I also share a love of music. Um, although I'm definitely can never go professional. I like to dabble with the piano, um, community, I think is the theme that, that sees the end. Kurt, you both brought up and that's really important to me.
Being a part of the Raleigh community. So I serve as board co-chair of Raleigh city farm, which is a local nonprofit, um, that grows food and produce to serve our community. And we donate lots of produce to, uh, other nonprofits that are fighting food insecurity and access. Um, so that's really important work to me, uh, being a part of the community, helping friends, family.
I have a husband, Dave, who is a scientist. So I was an English and history major. He's the science guy. So together, I think we compliment each other nicely. Um, and yeah, just so, so happy to be doing this work as an entrepreneur before, as well, had my own consulting firm. And then Jackie and Curt won me over hold me.
I'm doing my own consulting work to joining this amazing team and being as, uh, Don or CEO calls it the DEI Avengers. So I'm happy to be here today and to be a DEI venture with all.
Jackie Ferguson: Well, thank you all so much. Yeah, go ahead,
Laughing: Kirk. I
Kurt Merriweather: failed to, uh, shout out Valerie, my wonderful wife. Uh, so I wanted to do that in case she's listening and he him pronouns.
So I just wanted to make sure I added those two things. Thank you,
Jackie Ferguson: Kurt. All right. Well, thank you for those wonderful introductions and allowing our listeners to get to know you a little bit. So we're going to jump into question number one, tell us when you are most frustrated as a practitioner, what happened and then all names and companies need to be changed for privacy.
Jamie Ousterout: Well, I'm happy to go first.
you know, to be honest, there are a lot of frustrating moments. And for me, one of the, the big ones, when I become what I call fiery, Jamie, Jackie now fiery
Kurt Merriweather: Jamie Monday, love me some fire regime
Jamie Ousterout: is, uh, around data, data collection. Um, and that's something that's because it's so important to have good data and be able to track progress.
And so, you know, it was, was working with the client to try and figure that out and just kept coming up after roadblock, after roadblock. Um, and so that was, that was really frustrating. Um, I think, you know, even to the point of tears, I just want to know the data so that we can make change, but we were able to collaborate with the client, collaborate with other teams, pull in the right people and, and make progress.
And there's still, you know, countless issues. And I feel like data and Kurt, you've probably have some things to say about that being our VP of products, but how important it is, but how tough it is to have accurate data. Um, so that was sort of one piece. Certainly there've been lots of other personal moments as well, but I'm going to save those for some of the later questions.
Jackie Ferguson: You don't want to share a personal moment, Jamie.
Jamie Ousterout: I mean, I can all, I think for me getting some emails, some of that, that pushback, when, you know, we work really hard to send out a really good. Communication and you get just certain employees that aren't there yet. They're not ready and no matter what you say, they're not going to be happy.
And they're going to write some really tough emails. And I know Jackie, you and I have even read some together and support each other. Like, what is this? Like, how can someone actually think this is especially hard when you work so hard on something too, and you almost, you have to separate, you know, this isn't a personal attack.
This is the work that's. And so that's, that's something else that I'll share, but I'll turn it over to my other colleagues to comment
Jackie Ferguson: Susie and Kurt,
Susie Silver: my current I'm like, yeah,
Kurt Merriweather: yeah. Um, I think some of the most frustrating moments for me are when I talk to leaders, when we named, um, our course and even this, uh, podcast beyond the checkbox.
But there are leaders who are literally checking the box and I get upset because first, you know, passionate and believable in what we're doing and the impact that it can make, but also the public stances that leaders make in front of the companies that they are charged to lead and their employees believe what they're saying behind closed doors, based on the conversations that I've had.
It's clear, they're checking the box. And so that's, that's probably the hardest thing for me is to see the, you know, the dichotomy between what's expressed publicly versus how they appear to behave, um, in a tighter circle and having seen some of those interactions. It just makes me sick, quite frankly, when I see that, and it's hard for me to do the work that we need to do when I see a leadership team, that's not on board, but the reason that I want to do it is because the employees deserve better and I'm really doing it.
And when I find myself in those kinds of situations, I'm doing it for the team, uh, in spite of what I see. And so that's, that's the hardest thing for me is to see that disconnect between the public persona versus what the true thought processes behind the work that we do.
Jamie Ousterout: I just want to comment on that Kirk, cause I remember there was one time where I was frustrated too, about they're not buying into this and you said we're doing it for the employees, not for the leaders.
And that was such an important moment for me. And I really, I still think about that. And so I appreciate that perspective a lot. And just wanted to comment on that. I love that. Yeah. It's it's.
Susie Silver: Those points are amazing. And I think a little bit further on, on both of the points and Kurt, uh, specifically with the leadership one that the public facing than what's happening internally and also, um, it digresses slightly with organizations that have appointed a leader, maybe it's.
Chief diversity officer or a senior manager, whatever the position is. And it's generally a department of one, it's a team of one. And then these expectations of, so not so much for myself, which I know I'm digressing from the question I plenty of things to share, but I think that's something that is frustrating for us to see because we're working right alongside a lot of these teams of one.
And finally, maybe we have been brought in to help or to support, or we know so many people in the community that have these roles and they've been brought in. And it's, it's almost as if they're set up, um, for, for the not having success because there's these expectations of so much changing and the pace, and, and then there aren't enough resources, you know, financially or time-wise and, and all these different things.
Um, and that can come from leadership quite often, you know, you're going to come in and be the one person that. Change it all and save it all. And here you have this harsh timeline and this harsh budget, and really that's unrealistic. And that's very frustrating to see of colleagues outside of our organization and just how hard that is for them.
So it's a bit of a digression, of course, from the, from the question and the points made. But I just, for some reason that popped into my head and I thought, well, we need to share that because, um, that's for our community as a whole as practitioners.
Jackie Ferguson: Thank you, Susie. I appreciate that. Now, getting a little bit more into the nitty gritty, I'll share a couple of stories that experiences that have frustrated me.
One, I was talking to a senior leader of an organization and no matter what I said, this senior leader was like hesitant, but when Kurt said the exact same thing, He was like, oh, that's a great idea.
Laughing: I do recall. And
Jackie Ferguson: I was like, oh, cause I'm like, I just said that. And he, for whatever reason, right. Gender bias, whatever.
I think it was a gender bias. He was not into it. So then I started, you know, and Kurt has, first of all, Kurt says things in a way that's just so much more lovely than I say them, like very direct, but it's the same thing thing. And I'm like, oh, so I'm sitting there like blinking, like the, the, you know, the blinking meme guy.
That's like, when I'm like, that was one of the things that you're irritated me because you can see bias, even though they're like, yeah, let's do this diversity thing. They're still human. Right. And they're still moving through those things. And that was a tough one. And then for me, when I have conversations about race in particular, because I'm biracial, that can be tough, especially when I'm in a room with like, uh, you know, a mixed race crowd.
Cause if I'm leaning on the, you know, you know, we're all learning this together, start from where you are. Right. Then I've got this group over here. That's like, yeah, she doesn't get it. Right. And then if I lean into, you know, critical race theory, which by the way, just for everyone listening is American history.
This just to know, but if I'm leaning into that, then the, the people that are new to diversity. Looking at me, like I just bit the head off a bat. Right. Okay. Where do I go? How do I think of the middle lane? Right? Cause you had a message both sides and then find the happy medium. So it's a tough business.
Like it's tough work. It's emotional. It's scary for a lot of people it's against what they grew up believing for a lot of people. So kudos to everybody that's doing this work because it is, it is hard work.
Susie Silver: Yeah. Jackie, can I, can I add to that a little bit? I'll I'll digress into some really personal things.
Of course being part of the LGBTQ plus community. Now I've, I've had. So much personally, of course, of loving myself, accepting myself that I have gone through and you all have heard my story. Um, but that has been hard in spaces as well, because I often challenge assumptions in many different ways. Um, when I walk into your room or I'm, you know, in a zoom room and that could be on race, that can be on ethnicity, that could be on all kinds of different things.
And I really have known and acknowledge and accept that I have put myself willingly into, uh, an education moment for a lot of people, which I have done that willingly and I will continue to do so. I'm very passionate about it. It's part of my purpose, but it is emotional and it is tiring and there's that emotional labor component to a lot of what we all do.
Um, but being in that space of, you know, I, I, I don't visually represent stereotypes. Um, for a lot of people. And so to challenge, you know, what people have grown up knowing believing. So sometimes it's, well, how could you be part of this community? And, you know, I always ask thoughtful questions and response to some of those things, or, you know, I'm speaking about my own community and still having people, you know, come up immediately or raise hand and say, well, I just it's like they shut off, you know, and, and not willing to listen.
Um, and just let's, I always talk about the noise, taking away some of the noise and let's, let's connect human to human. And so getting through some of that, and that can be day after day, it could be one hour to the next, depending on how much I'm doing in one day. And so I think that fatigue and. Being faced with that day after day.
It's interesting. But I do remember the root of my why, and that helps reground me and kind of recenter my why and it's, I it's okay. That I challenge assumptions. Um, and so I could go a lot on that, but I think she meant what's, what's difficult or what's been frustrating of just, well, I'm glad you're here, but you know, I, I mean, I have said, I don't agree with your, you know, you all know my thing about the word lifestyle, please don't use it for many reasons, you know, but I don't agree with your lifestyle or I don't, and I'm, I'm, I'm human being in front of you speaking generally pretty openly about my story as much as I can, because it's a human component it's beyond me is what I feel.
And so I just wanted to mention that because I can sit somewhat, not of course the same, but in that space of that, um, emotional part of things and how hard it is some days. Here and hold
Jackie Ferguson: all of that. Yeah, absolutely. Anything else before we move on to a new question, I want to make sure we're giving space for
Jamie Ousterout: this.
Well, I know one thing that Susie just kind of was talking about it, but I've certainly come up against this of, you know, I'm a certified diversity executive. I've been doing this work. Yeah. Well, you're a white woman. What do you know about this? Because people only think about race or they only think about gender.
They only think about one component of diversity and that can be really tough. And I find it's less from leaders than it is from folks that are kind of the, in the day-to-day. Well, what are you going to teach? Um, about this DEI stuff. Cause they just see what I look like and that's it. So that's been definitely something that, you know, can, can be frustrating and it's like, you know what, I appreciate that.
But we all have different perspectives or some knowledge that I'm here and we're working together and we're, you know, moving, moving forward together and learning and all of these things. And that's what I say upfront. And then, you know, turn off the zoom and I become fiery Jamie I'm like, why are they questioning?
Susie Silver: She usually slacks me and then it's like, so this happened again, but it's true. I'm glad you brought that up because sometimes it does happen when both of us show up on screen at the same time. But thank you Jamie, for mentioning that it is for you.
Jackie Ferguson: Yeah. Yeah. It's and the thing about it is like, if you're looking at diversity from a race perspective, The two of you can't understand what Kurt and I experience navigating the world as black people.
Right. But it takes all of us together to move this forward in organizations and businesses in our community and whatever. Right. So we have to work together and, and putting people in boxes is counter to what we're all trying to achieve. So, yeah. Yeah. Kurt, anything to add before we move on,
Kurt Merriweather: th the one thing I will add to that.
So I've had occasions to talk about jurors. George Floyd was first murdered to talk about my own story and the things that I've experienced walking into rooms and having assumptions about who I am and what my capabilities are and all those different kinds of things. And when I try to get people beyond race and to talk about, well, the reality is racism piece.
But it's just the tip of the iceberg and people still get stuck. And so then I kind of deal with this mental challenge that I have when I'm saying, well, I don't want to be, uh, not true to who I am because I'm a black man sitting in front of you, but at the same time, I think I'm going to make more progress.
If I can convince you that you're going to be able to unlock the talents of everybody in front of you, by having a different view of diversity that goes beyond race. And so for me to even get past that point where people say, well, okay, that's great, but let's come back to race again. And so it's, it's sometimes difficult for me to get beyond the initial, what you see at first blush kinds of reactions from folks.
And so then there's the, am I being true to people who were also black in the organization by talking about moving beyond. How long should I spend talking about? Cause I don't want to not acknowledge it because it's part of who I am. So that's something I struggle with when I'm talking to folks is how much time to spend there, because I know that there are other folks who come at it from a different perspective where it is very much about race and trying to dismantle systemic racism.
And I do believe systemic racism exists, but at the same time, I believe the power of thinking about how to build strong teams going beyond that is where the power is not talking about critical race theory for three hours. So that's the struggle I have sometimes is am I. Being am I trying to move past too?
I am too quickly. Uh, and people try to push me back to, well, we're just going to talk about diversity and diversity equals race. So let's talk about your experience so I can understand. Um, and so that's, that's part of what I struggle with sometimes when I'm having discussions with folks.
Jackie Ferguson: Good point.
Jamie Ousterout: you. Sorry. One more comment. I do think those are so important though. You know, when I've heard each and every one of your stories, because it's what, you know, what we say, proximity builds empathy. So when you understand and you hear these different perspectives, or I'm talking to my friend, who's Muslim and he's sharing experiences that he's had, you know, I, it just makes you want to hopefully do the work.
Right. Um, and, and so, you know, I do think it is hard Kirk's, it's that, that split of. The personal, the then going, going beyond your own personal story, that personal piece people, you know, that's important. It's really important.
Jackie Ferguson: Absolutely. So the next question is what do you do, right? When companies think they're ready to prioritize DEI, but they're really not committed.
And we, Kurt, you talked about this a little bit as like, you know, when you share all the things that are inequitable within our systems and workplaces, and some people are like, oh my God, like, forget it. Right. That's too much stuff. Right. And you know, they're like, you know, let's just go back to, you know, black history month and the 28 days.
And I, I'm not going to do more than that. Right. But you know, how do we address that? Right. How do we. Get people to understand that this is important. And then what are your frustrations like in the conversations that you have? Like, when are your, when are you like, you know, WTF, right? Like this is sort of, I feel it, but so I, I want to give space for, for that question
Jamie Ousterout: would like to, yes, I guess I'll start as well, because you know, we've been really fortunate in that. So many of the clients we have really truly are committed and certainly there's always some that within organizations that aren't, or it takes them a while to get on board. Um, but really for the most part, folks really aren't committed, but we do hear a lot.
Well, I just don't have time for. 'cause they feel like it's this big thing. And obviously we try to do is say, well, no, it's, it's a bunch of little steps and it doesn't have to be these big milestones. It's about celebrating the wins along the way. Um, and really looking at it as a sustainable journey. But there are some folks that just, they don't get that.
And even after, you know, we'll go through the whole assessment process, share all the insights and they'll question it. Well, I don't know, just maybe one person said that, so it's not really a problem. Right. And they'll try and kind of brush it under the rug a little bit. And with those folks, you know, I just have to tell myself they're not ready and just kind of keep in touch and make sure, because again, thinking about that employee, that's having those issues.
We need to be there for them, but there are certain folks that just are, aren't going to get it yet. And it, maybe it's going to take a little bit longer for them to come around. So definitely have experienced that frustration. But you know, for the most part, I feel very. Happy that many of our clients really do.
Care, and they really do want to make a difference. Um, so it's, you know, every day is different. Some days are great and you don't see the progress that clients are making. And it's like, yes, you like, look at this thing you did was amazing. And then other days it just feels like the world is falling apart.
Susie Silver: I think, um, you know, Jamie and I worked so closely together, uh, just on kind of our side of things with, with, uh, clients and, and, and we all work with clients and we all work with our people. I think, you know, creating a sustainable plan and something that is like Jamie said, bite size. So one, we provide the insights, but I really love our action plans because it does break things down where sometimes not being on, on board or kind of, it just seems like it's too much, as Jamie said, it's this big thing.
And I don't know if we have time, how are we going to do this? And then that spiral happens. I mean, that's a natural reaction for a lot of people for any of us, if something big is coming at us. And so. You know, I think whether it's with us, which I hope, or it's something that people are listening and kind of taking on themselves as think about what is attainable and what's actionable.
And to me, this is a personal statement. Nothing is too small. We want to keep that journey and progress heading forward and celebrate those wins. But I think that creates more buy-in and those are conversations we can have. Hey look. Okay. We've got all. Let's pick one thing, let's talk about this. Let's break this down.
So that's more on the strategy and sustainability side. Now, sometimes those emotions and just kind of that general buy-in and, um, Don's done it all, all of us have done it where we just take leaders and do one-on-one conversations. So that is something when I kind of get to the frustration level or the WTF level, take a deep breath, usually have a conversation with Jamie or somebody else on our team.
And then we create a plan for us as well. How can we show up for our clients, the people in our community that really do ultimately want help. And
Jamie Ousterout: what's the root,
Susie Silver: is it fear? Is it true? Not wanting to buy in all these different things. And we can generally get to that route and at least get somebody open to listening.
Like that's a win, you know, and then we can work from there. So those are a couple of different things and angles, I guess, to, to create, um, some more of that buy-in and sustainability. Yeah.
Kurt Merriweather: Uh, I think the thing is kind of take a step back as everyone is saying, and, you know, we're all really good at what we do there.
There's no question about that, but the reality is we're trying to counteract sometimes decades of mindset. So it doesn't matter what I say in the half hour, an hour, a week. I'm not going to counteract with somebody's belief system is created over the period of years and years. So the first thing that I think about was, okay, well, that makes sense.
If I was in this situation, I might not be on board either, because then it starts to threaten who I am and how I think about things, my self-concept and a variety of other things. So kind of stepping back for a minute and thinking about what that person might be thinking about, and then trying to think about different ways to talk about what they might be saying and apply different analogies to it.
So I'll always think about physical things. As an example. So what people say in the context of diversity, equity and inclusion, but you applied different, uh, ideas to it. You know, there are a few analogies, one is physical therapy. If somebody said you were in an accident in order for you to walk properly, you're going to have to go through these exercises.
Well, you know, I mean, I looked at the x-rays, they weren't that bad. So I'm thinking it's just going to go away. Well, turns out you're not going to regain full motion, range of motion until you do these exercises. Well, yeah, but can you do it for me? Can you just do the exercises for me in that way, then I
just do that. Then I'll figure out, you know, I'll figure out how to, how to cope with it. But if you will, that doesn't make sense in that context. And so what you start to do is explain things in analogies and ways that people think about, but then why are you playing a different way to think about diversity equity, income?
Another one is I just can't figure out how to find people really well. If you applied that to customers and said, you know, I just can't find any good customers. I've been out there looking, and I just can't figure out how to grow my business anymore. Well, that doesn't make any sense. If the leader said that over time, they wouldn't have their job anymore.
That's true. So it was a function of the right process thought process and also a function of the commitment. So if this is important, then what else are you doing? That's important. And if you say you don't have time for it, what you're saying is that it's not important, not as important as something else.
So how can we make this important? How can we give you time so that you can devote to it? And I remember talking to leaders about, okay, well, let's figure out how to flip, fit this into what you're already doing. And then once leaders or members of the organization, figure that piece up. What Jamie you Jamie.
And I've seen transformation in the organizations when people have really thought about that differently is the getting rid of the, I don't have time a rationale to, wow. I didn't really think about it like that before. The key thing is really to focus on getting somebody to change their mindset somehow.
And, you know, we're all, uh, thinking about different ways that we can do that every day. And so that's, that's the thing I try to do is step out of the frustration, but there are some days where there are people you're talking to that you recognize, there's nothing you can say, there's nothing you can do.
They think the way that they do. And you just hope that, you know, I'm not going to try to convert the people who can't be converted and then move on to somebody else who can be
Jackie Ferguson: absolutely. So let's take a moment and for our audience, as you can see, I've got some incredible coworkers and colleagues that say amazing stuff like, oh, wow.
Like, wow, I didn't ever think of that. Right. But let's take a moment and talk about like, when you put your hair up at night, not you Curt
when you put your hair up at night and you're just in your slippers are on and your sweat pants, what is your WTF for me? It's stuff like, well, can you help me out with what I should say to women of color? Right. Like, well, what, what women of color, like, there's, we're not all the same. Right? We don't experience the same things.
And then it's like, oh right.
You ever thought of that? And I'm like, what the hell? Right. So what's your, what's your WTF? I want, like, this is like double gulp of whatever it is. And tell me what irritates the hell out of you about the job?
Jamie Ousterout: I don't have an answer yet, but Jackie, I always have slippers and yoga pants or sweat pants on and the zoom world I do right now, I do for all of our clients out there.
I think I've told many of our clients. I'm always wearing my slippers and this zoom world when I have to dress up. It's you know, it's tough.
Jackie Ferguson: I'm going to tell you, my mother bought me slippers. Hi mom. My mother bought me slippers for Christmas 2019. And I've worn these slippers every single day.
Jamie Ousterout: Oh yeah.
Jackie Ferguson: It's a time to replace those slippers daggy. Probably Christmas assignment. Yeah. I'm in sweat pants every day and slippers every single day. If I have to wear pants now, I'm like, what?
Jamie Ousterout: I have the UTF moment. I know that
Susie Silver: is the D
I'm glad you brought that up, Jamie, because same, same. Yeah, I got the, you know, my blazer usually and like, you know, something and then it's yep. It's fun outfit. Okay. What's the I'm thinking at night WTF moment.
Jamie Ousterout: I feel like Kurt has a gym. I could see it. Yeah.
Laughing: Go for it.
Kurt Merriweather: What? They're like pet peeves when I'm talking to people when he starts a sentence with no offense, but
Jackie Ferguson: oh yeah. That's a good one.
Kurt Merriweather: Drives me crazy. So you're trying to soften the blow, this light. It's like a microaggression
microaggression. I'm just going to put a little cushion on the microaggression. I'm about to give you. And I hate that. Yeah. If you're going to call them to have a conversation, let's say what you need to say. I have the courage to say what you're going to say. Don't try to sugar coat it with the no offense, like pre free conditioned that you're going to say.
Susie Silver: That's excellent. That's a great,
Kurt Merriweather: had that on a few, on a few different occasions. Um, kind of sidebars with people and you know, a parent, you know, I don't know if it's because they feel like I'm approachable. They can talk to me. They can say these kinds of things, but that, that, that's the thing that at night bothers me.
Jackie Ferguson: Now, Kurt, like, let's talk about you for a second. So you, you know, you have a MBA from Stanford, right? Are you the approachable black guy, right? Like, are you,
Kurt Merriweather: I'm probably the, the, well, I have a black friend, so I might, I might be the black
Laughing: friend. It'd be
Kurt Merriweather: certain circles. Like I can help people reduce their guilt a little bit by, by being the black friend, depending on.
So yes, apparently for some people that's true.
Jackie Ferguson: Kurt is available for a fee to be your black friends,
Susie Silver: although that might, yeah.
Kurt Merriweather: Yeah, we do. We need to add that as a service offering. If we haven't already chained.
Jackie Ferguson: I think, I think
Susie Silver: on that, um, a couple things for me, which I'm being somewhat repetitive as I hear. And I actually use it as an example of a microaggression or kind of curries. Well, you don't look gay. What does that mean? Like I get that all the time and, and like, I've also just talked about, um, which again, I will flip into.
An education moment and ask questions and let's have a conversation, but really at the end of the day, that is really exhausting. And that would be a big w TF. And then also, and I love my people, those of you listening. So it's okay. I'm going to say right now, before I say this it's okay that this has happened.
We're just going to establish some new boundaries. I think that, um, outside of this work and this I'm curious, actually, if this is, this happens to you all, um, the texts and calls at night and on the weekend from people not in our organization, like if any of us text or call, Hey, we need to talk about friends, really, really wanting knowledge, wanting help with a situation at work, wanting, you know, the advice of DEI people, you know, in, in the space.
And again, my default is to answer immediately to pick up the phone. Yes, let's talk, but I have had to be very cognizant of. Some new boundaries, which are really hard for me, cause I want to help. But that sometimes actually makes me go this 10 o'clock at night. And like you had all this blow up at work and I know you need help for tomorrow morning, but I, you know, I also need some space.
And so I think that's it, that's a personal thing, you know, but I'm curious if that happens to all and again, my default is to help and I always wind up helping and I'm learning on some of the time boundaries. Sure. I can talk to you. It's going to be tomorrow at the end of the day. How does that sound?
You know, things like that, but that can make me go WTF. I just sat down, you know, I'm about
Jackie Ferguson: to go to bed. Not happened to me. Okay.
Jackie Ferguson: I have a very, I have a very clear rule that if you didn't give birth to me, I didn't give birth to you. Or we're in a situation where I could give birth to your child. You may not call me at that time.
You may not text me at that time. Right? That's it reasonable hours like,
Susie Silver: well, you didn't just record. I'm an auto response
Jackie Ferguson: communication. It'll
Jamie Ousterout: be one 800 call.
Jackie Ferguson: I'm going to be honest. I had this conversation with a relative and I said, this exact thing to her. I said, okay, you're six o'clock in the morning texts.
I'm not doing that. If I didn't give birth to you, you didn't give birth to me. Or we can't, I can't give birth to your child. You can't text me in the morning like that. That's a, no, thank you.
Susie Silver: I have witnesses now. We're going to hold me accountable and it's not all the time, but I think, you know, some of the WTF goes to maybe it's this, the misunderstanding of the emotional labor.
One of walking in this world as we are beautifully, each individual as we are and diverse. And then in this work, this line of work, really, if you're not in it and embedded in it every day, it is hard to truly understand that the emotional labor side of it. And, and I think we, you know, and I'm trying to be more cognizant of that to protect our team, my productivity and my commitment to us, because that's where the burnout comes and all that.
So those are my WTF moments. Jamie, putting you on the spot?
Jamie Ousterout: No, I don't. I mean, I feel like I have something to contribute to. Yeah. Y Y Y um, I think a lot, you know, some of it too is I get, well, you can't be an expert. And then on the other side, it's like, what your DEI, like, you should be the expert. Why don't, you know, the answer to this very specific question, because I don't know
Jackie Ferguson: everything.
Jamie Ousterout: that's right. That's right. Um, so my, you know, my more, it's less so for work because, you know, again, the people that we're working with generally do, like, they want to be there and I really do want to be there for them. And I want to be able to answer their questions, but it goes back to Susie what you're saying, but they're paying us to, it's not like we're just giving this out for free.
The way that certain friends, you know, might be in. So mine is more, I think from friends and family who don't always get, why, why the hell are you doing this DEI thing? Um, and that's been probably the. W WTF moments for me. And I know I've shared with all of you and you've all been there and it's, you know, it's just like trying to change the world.
Why can't you be excited about this?
Um, so I think that that's where more of my WTF of, well, Y Y you're not an expert. And then why aren't you, like, I can't be the right amount of ex expert. And we always say all the time, like, we're, even though we are DEI practitioners, DEI experts, we're learning every day. And, and I think that's so important to remember and to, to share with people because it makes them feel better too.
And we're all, like Jackie just said a few minutes ago, we're all trying to get better together. It takes all of us to do that. So just because, you know, DDI practitioner, I'm not the expert, but I do know some things maybe you should listen to me. So I have difficulty with that kind of fine line of, uh, you know, how people perceive me.
Jackie Ferguson: So smart. Thank you for sharing that. Well, let's lean into that really quick. So how do we navigate? Cause w we'll put this out right before Christmas, right? How do we navigate the holidays with family members that are not on this DEI journey? Like what do we do when someone's saying something where you just want to hit them with the Turkey drumstick,
just beat them with a Turkey drumstick. What do you, what do you
Jamie Ousterout: do? Oh, I'll go first on this one. Since I was last on the last one. Um, I do try to practice what we preach as much as I can and ask open-ended questions. What makes you say that? You know, why do you, why do you think that, um, And then that can, can open up the dialogue.
And Jackie shared something with me the other day that I've ingrained into my head, which is, are you open to a different perspective? And then if they say yes, then you can start sharing. And for me, I'm, you know, deciding when is it a learning moment? And when can I share something that maybe will move someone further along on their journey and when am I not emotionally prepared or in the right state to have that conversation and in trying to decide, but for me, you know, I want to set a good example to the next generation.
And I want them to know that I accept each and every one of them for who they are. And so when I can say things that will impact them, I try to make sure that I'm, that I'm doing that as opposed to, if someone's just trying to get a rise out of, you know, miss DPI.
So that's, that's one of the things, the other thing too, um, is that again, because so many people just immediately go to race is to open it up. And so I've been able to relate to people cause I'll bring up, you know, our, our partner, John Samuel, this man who's blind. And I'll talk about his story. And people are like, oh, I didn't think about that.
Because sometimes people aren't ready. Sometimes people aren't ready to talk about sexual orientation. And, but if you can, you know, talk to someone about a different element of diversity that maybe they hadn't considered before, that tends, you know, then they get it and they start to see it. And I've done that with a few family members and it is.
Oh, yeah. I never thought about that. And so we're moving from that critical. Why are you doing this DDI stuff to curious? Oh, how, how do you do that? How do you talk about disability or accessibility? Um, so that's something else that I try to think about, um, as well, and bring it back to that person and that person's, you know, experiences and we all had different upbringings and all of that.
Um, even if it's family, you know, it's, it's still very different. Um, so those are some of the things that I try to keep in mind, but I'll be honest. I'm very good in front of clients when it comes to my own family or friends, sometimes it's, it's a little bit more difficult and fiery. Jamie comes out even
Jackie Ferguson: more fiery.
Susie, and Kurt. Kurt. I'll let ya,
Kurt Merriweather: uh, I think with family to Jamie's point, it's harder because you've got this built in history and. Your family members know how to push buttons. Uh, that's true, the right or the wrong thing, depending on how you think about it from their point of view is the right thing.
Cause I'm going to
Jackie Ferguson: try and get a sip of wine
Kurt Merriweather: to extinguish the fiery Jamie back out. But that's the challenge is that when you've got, when you have a relationship with somebody there, there's a whole, there's another dynamic at play. Um, where, and I've been reading this book about the back and having conversations. And one of the triggers in when you're having a discussion with somebody is the relationship feedback.
Plus what they're saying, plus the truth of what they're saying. So if you add all those things together, Then as the evening is even more difficult. So that's why you get so upset because it's about the relationship. I know what you're doing. You're trying to get a rise out of me. So the first thing to do is to separate the relationship first and then say, okay, how do I approach this?
And get family members to understand, especially when they're confronting somebody who confronting a belief or something that's counter to what they believe is it's not about agreement because that's think that's where people get stuck. I'm not getting you to agree. I'm not trying to get you to agree.
What I'm trying to get you to do is understand. So if you can understand where this other group might be coming from, as opposed to agreement, all I'm trying to get people to do is have space for having great relationships and having great ideas and creating the right environment. That doesn't mean I agree.
And so that's where a lot of the tension comes and family where you're trying to convince somebody that you're right and they're wrong. And you're going to get them to agree to this other point of view versus no one. I'm not trying to get you to do that. If you have a conversation with somebody to understand their point of view, are you going to lie?
You're going to know less after the conversations or not. I haven't, I haven't been in part of a conversation where I known less afterwards. So at the very least I'll know the same thing that I knew before, but I'm not going to know less. And so it's being able to shape things, shape that conversation that way, but it is really difficult because of that relationship piece.
So if you can remove the relationship from the conversation and then pretend you're talking to a client artists. I think that's the key, but you know, that's, that's me saying this with a glass of wine in my hand, on the podcast versus doing it. Face-to-face with the person that I've got the history with
Jamie Ousterout: and we'll call each other on, you know, upcoming holiday on Christmas, see where we're at.
Susie Silver: I need to start a text
Kurt Merriweather: How did it go? Yeah,
Laughing: exactly. Are you okay Susie?
Susie Silver: Yeah, I mean, just echoing what both Kurt and Jamie said another, um, you know, small addition is the decision to, uh, make sure you're psychologically safe, you know, and what is productive and safe and oftentimes. You know, conversations or just even physically being in a room, uh, depending on what's going on is not necessarily safe.
One physically too emotionally. So, you know, kind of taking assessment, um, to keep yourself in that safe space and then, you know, kind of, uh, branching from there. And, um, you know, I, I listened to, I have to look this up and maybe we can figure it out and put in the show notes. There was a podcast I was listening to with, with an, my wife.
And I've used this a lot about listening and, and Kurt, to your point about that agreement. So listening, this is paraphrasing. Listen, listening is not always agreeing or endorsing. And so if we can get to a place where we're listing. Kurt to your point. It may not agree. We may not endorse. Of course we want progress cause we're passionate people.
And we, you know, we want to have these really productive conversations in action, but that has really helped me as well and focus on my own listening as well as how I question. Um, but my, my main thing to add would be that safety.
Jackie Ferguson: I love that for me. I have my work SMR voice there. I'm very safe and easy to talk to.
But if you see me in the street, it's going to be a different
Jackie Ferguson: because I will tell you what I think in the street. So for those people who have done my privilege walks or have been in a, in a session it's different. If you say something crazy in the street, I'm going to address. And it, and it's not cute.
I'm just letting you know,
I I'm listening and like taking notes on all this like amazing advice and the, the way that I really feel. I'm just going to be honest. The way that I really feel is like Jamie said, sometimes people aren't ready. Why not ready? This is not new stuff. Right. When he takes a sip of wine
and I'm like, like, this is not new. Like, this is not now introduced. Like George Floyd's murder did not, did not create like, uh, a light on racism that existed in this country for centuries. Right? Like, oh God, They're unfair to black people. Did you know that? Right?
Like come people, like you gotta get it together. Like people need to get it together and stop pretending that this should isn't happening. And it's not real. But if you see me in the street, I'm just letting you know, it's a different Jackie, when you get on the zoom and my sweat pants,
Jamie Ousterout: I do have another that. Oh yeah. So I was thinking about the WTF moment and my, the other thing that's really frustrating. Why are you making this political? And we email her and I
Susie Silver: go,
Jamie Ousterout: well, we hear it frustrating. So it's like, I'm not in it's to your point, Kurt. Like, I'm not trying to make you change your vote.
I'm not trying to make you do that. But I'm trying to wake you wake up the hell up. So what's happening and it's not political. And that, that becomes very frustrating. Um, or, oh, you're just being woke and it's like, no, it is. And
Susie Silver: the political and you're too sensitive. You're just too up political and sensitive.
That's it. Thank you for unlocking that, Jamie. Yes.
Jamie Ousterout: I thought of it earlier and I was like, wait a second. I have it. I have my WTS moment.
Kurt Merriweather: Yeah. Just to add to that. Mine is more minor coming out where you have people talking about, well, I don't really like to talk about what I do publicly, but I donate to these causes so that somehow validates the other stuff that you're doing, all the microaggression is all the rage and all this other stuff that you're doing that makes it okay.
Because you don't talk about the donations you're making the. Oh, my gosh. Yeah, it drives
Jamie Ousterout: me crazy.
Jackie Ferguson: First of all, just, just for our listeners, treating people with respect and creating environments where they feel safe is not a political thing. When we say that, can we acknowledge that first? And if you're making it political and Jamie are so right.
Cause they're like, you know, politically correct. It's political, it's not political. It's just human rights, human dignity. What? Nothing is political about that. That's exactly
Jamie Ousterout: right. We can talk about what it
Susie Silver: feels like to be a political pun, but we won't, maybe we won't tonight. Just, just on that. I mean, but exactly right.
It's not political, but some many underrepresented communities have been in the ponds of. That's
Jackie Ferguson: right. Yeah. So that's fine. So friends, as we begin to close out, I want to ask one last question and that's for those of us that are in this world for DEI practitioners everywhere, how do you practice self care?
And I'll start this one. So I like reality TV and a drink. So if I can have like a drink and a bag of chips and watch thousand pound sisters, that's my self care.
Laughing: I've never heard of that.
Kurt Merriweather: who brought you 600 pound life probably.
Jackie Ferguson: And first of all, for those of us who have not lost our COVID. Which is me when you watch thousand pound sisters, you're like, oh, I'm good. I'm snatched as a MF. Right?
Laughing: Kurt drinks, mine.
I love that show.
Jamie Ousterout: Okay. Well, my, my show, because I'm similar where I will just like some red wine as I have tonight, I will just rewatch the show Outlander. My husband's name is like, how many times have you seen this show? Because I will go back and I read something that during the pandemic in particular rewatching, things that are familiar is actually very comforting.
So I know everything that's going to happen. There's not suspense in it anymore, but just rewatching. It brings me comfort. So that's, that's, that's what I do. I would like to say that I also do yoga, which I do, but. The other opposite side of it, I'll try to do yoga. Like last week I realized, why am I so great?
I, that one day Suzy, just like you. And I think I talked to you Kurt too. And I said, I just feel like the wind is out of my sails. And, uh, I was just like, oh, I haven't done yoga in days, like all week. And that's part of it. So that does help keep me emotionally, mentally grounded as well, then Outlander
Jackie Ferguson: love
Jackie Ferguson: Susan
Susie Silver: Hm. Okay. So I'm gonna in honesty, I am well, one, I really need to practice more. Self-care I'm pretty terrible at it. And I have to really admit that. So I'm admitting it here in front of. Colleagues and friends and also whoever's listening. So hold me accountable. Um, I have a tendency to want to make sure everything is okay for everyone else, um, before me and I'm working on that.
And, um, when I do kind of settle into even what would be considered small, but it is big. I do, I really love rewatching shows as well. So
Jamie Ousterout: Schitt's Creek is,
Susie Silver: um, the office and I love the great British bake-off. It just makes me happy and I really enjoy baking. And so I really do kind of TV is my escape because are my mind is just, and we're answering so many questions, we're just firing all day long.
And so that kind of helps me zone out. And then I it's called. Technically really it's just a shower, but I just kind of stand and I really do care about the environment and I feel bad about wasting the water, but sometimes I just stand there. I just stand in the shower and just breathe. I mean, so that's kind of my place because no one can, well, usually if my kids are sleeping, then I know I'm safe because I'm like, oh, I finally got here and then mommy, I thought you were sleeping already, but that's kind of my, that's my space.
Um, and I do really like going outside. And so sometimes it is during the day and Jamie and you and I hold ourselves accountable for this, like, Hey, just go outside for a few minutes and just get the sun on my face. Take a really nice, a breath of fresh air. And so that's really good. So I'm working on it.
Love some shows really like some snacks with you on the chips. Chips are hard to keep in the house. Um, and. Yeah. And also spending time with an, my wife. I mean, we're just kind of in it in the phase in life where sometimes it's like, oh, Hey, good morning, good night at the same time. So when we can hang out, that's really awesome.
And self-care as well.
Jackie Ferguson: Awesome. Thanks Suzy. Kurt
Kurt Merriweather: self care. I'm also working on, um, what I've started doing is what I call think walks. So I'll like leave the house and to start walking and use that time to kind of think, let the sun hit my face, let the fresh air hit me a little bit. And then it usually doesn't matter how long the walk is, even if it's only five minutes long, but there's something about leaving.
And I don't know if it's like a metaphor, but leaving the house. And then coming back in is almost like I'm leaving the situation. Now I'm coming back into it with fresh eyes. So that. Uh, think about things a lot differently. And then, um, my guilty pleasure in terms of TVs, I will watch a Bourne movie from end to end.
I've probably seen
porn can get he's got amnesia and he doesn't know what's going on. If he, if he can do it, then I should be able to figure out what I need to get done. So
my alter ego.
Jamie Ousterout: But Jason Bourne do
Kurt Merriweather: what would
Laughing: Jason do? That's how you figure it
Kurt Merriweather: out. I would not use the violence, but everything else, you know, I would call Jackie for that for
not being, I'm just calling you for the, the street, the street, uh, street talk.
Jackie Ferguson: That's true.
Jamie Ousterout: The walk thing is right. And I think I've shared it with someone on this hallway. There's this, uh, meme, sorry, I have to share this and it's this Eagle. Yeah, please do walking, you know, with his talents. It's so ridiculous. He shared it with me. Yes. I'm going on a stupid walk for my stupid mental health and it's so true.
And that's exactly Kurt. What I was thinking when you were saying like, so I try and walk as well in our neighborhood and I'm crying every day. I'm not on a stupid walk from my stupid pencil. Uh, look up listeners, look up that mean Google it. It's great. I promise you want me to it's awesome.
Jackie Ferguson: And mental health is very important.
Emotional wellness is so important, no matter what you do, but especially as DEI practitioners, we have to be very aware and conscious of that. Well friends, thank you so much for spending some time with me tonight and sharing a drink and having a good time. I really enjoyed all of your insights and you know, you all are so smart.
I love working with you. I love learning from you and thank you for being vulnerable on this way beyond the checkbox podcast. Thank you for spending some time with me. Thank you.
Jamie Ousterout: That's very nice. Very fun. Cheers and word.
Jackie Ferguson: Good.
Jason Gillikin: That was fun.
Laughing: Thank you,
Jamie Ousterout: Jason.
Jason Gillikin: Yes, you did.
Jackie Ferguson: With all this like amazing like consultative advice. And then her they're like, okay, like really?
Jason Gillikin: And current take the wrong way, but I'm just kidding.
Jamie Ousterout: I don't mean to offend
Kurt Merriweather: you. You got it wrong. Don't take this. The wrong way is another thing, but no offense. Yeah.
Jackie Ferguson: The worst. Goodness.
Susie Silver: I know. I'm going to think of like here, go ahead, Jason. Sorry. No. I said, I'm going to think of things for the next five days.
Jamie Ousterout: Here's another one that we're getting back together on the 26th to see how Christmas one that's true.
Kurt Merriweather: That'll be
Jackie Ferguson: right. Did you survive the holiday season? Well, thank you all so much, Jason, for interrupting
Jason Gillikin: at dinner, just bring your phones and record, you know, pull up voice memos and just grab that and we'll turn it into an episode.
Jackie Ferguson: Oh my goodness. I love
Jamie Ousterout: that. I love it. Well, no, this was fun, Jackie.
Jackie Ferguson: I appreciate it. Thank you. Appreciate it. I think it's, it's good for, for people to see that we're real people, right. And human and funny. And how frustrations, so I appreciate your taking some time. I know.
Today we continue our WAY Beyond the Checkbox series with fads, fatigue, and the “did you really just say that?!?” WTF moments DEI professionals experience. Recorded after hours with drinks in hand, we’re joined by VP of Products and Innovation Kurt Merriweather, Senior Consultant Susie Silver, and Head of Client Services Jamie Ousterout.
Listen to this episode on Spotify or Apple Podcasts.