I’m strongly considering changing my title from “CEO” to the newly minted “CAO” — Chief Apology Officer.
1. Don’t make wrong assumptions.
As Mom always said, “when you assume, you make an ass out of ‘u’ and me.” With one of my white male CEO friends, I assumed that he wasn’t interested in doing anything about the topic of diversity in leadership in the business community in Portland. With my puppy-dog excitement to help, I offered to make whatever connections I could to nearly all of the same people he was already collaborating with. It would have been a much better approach to not make any assumptions, ask insightful questions, and listen before projecting my own views immediately on the situation.
2. Meet people where they are in their journey.
I’m passionate and super impatient — the definition of an entrepreneur. These two qualities mashed together can be a disaster. Here’s what I’m incredibly passionate and impatient about: I love Portland. I love the people here. I love access to transformational, awe-inspiring outdoor adventures with family and friends. I love the collaborative nature of business here. I feel fully alive and free in Portland.
3. People + issues are not black and white. Nuance is critical.
In my exuberance of wanting change now, it’s very easy for me to see things through a binary lens. As an entrepreneur, I prefer forward motion and action over nearly any other option. However, I have learned valuable lessons from other leaders that it can dramatically build the foundation of a movement to slow down, build authentic relationships, and listen. There are many times in the past where communities of color have been burned by one or more excited white guys with good intentions and no staying power. There are so many more sides to the equation in equity work than just “go” or “no go.” I’d like to believe that the work we are doing with community business leaders on the Greater Portland 2020 Council is building that collaborative alignment towards building a movement across the region in galvanizing a commitment to invest in diversity in leadership.