For businesses to be successful and reach their full potential in 2022, there needs to be organizational inclusion and building a culture of acceptance, making sure that all employees are brought along and feel like they truly have a stake in that company. In this episode of The Can You Hear Me podcast, co-host Rob Johnson and Eileen Rochford interview the author of the new book Cultures of Belonging, Alida Miranda Wolfe, as they focus on building organizations that last.
Connect with Alida-Miranda Wolff:
LinkedIn- Alida-Miranda Wolff
Cultures of Belonging: Building Inclusive Organizations that Last
Ethos, a Full-Service Diversity, Equity, Inclusion, and Belonging Transformation Firm
The Need to Belong by Roy Baumeister
Rob Johnson [00:00:19] For businesses to be successful and reach their full potential in 2022, there needs to be organizational inclusion and building a culture of acceptance, making sure that all employees are brought along and feel like they truly have a stake in that company. In this episode of The Can You Hear Me? Podcast, co-hosts Rob Johnson and Eileen Rochford interview the author of the new book Cultures of Belonging, Alida Miranda-Wolff, as they focus on building organizations that last.
Eileen Rochford [00:00:54] Hello again, everyone, and welcome to today’s episode of the Can You Hear Me? Podcast. I'm Eileen Rochford, CEO of the marketing and strategy firm The Harbinger Group.
Rob Johnson [00:01:03] And I'm Rob Johnson, President of Rob Johnson Communications. Today's episode focuses on building inclusive organizations that last. And to do that we're going to have a conversation with someone that literally wrote the book on that, Alida Miranda-Wolff, author of Cultures of Belonging, which was just released on February 15th.
Eileen Rochford [00:01:24] Yes, we are so excited to have a leader here with us today. I'd love to give you all a little bit of background, so I'll start by telling you a bit about her and her experiences, and what led her to where she is today. She's the CEO and founder of Ethos, a full service DEIB transformation firm, closing the opportunity gap for underrepresented and underserved employees. Alida also serves as the learning director of the Women Influence Chicago Accelerator, which supports women identifying technologists to advance their careers and prior to founding Ethos. She was just one of 27 Latina women working in Venture Capital in the U.S. and one of the youngest directors nationwide in the industry.
She's a graduate of the University of Chicago and is also the founder of the membership organization Embolden, which is focused on scaling empathy through the power of female friendships and fostering deep and lasting connections between professionally oriented women. Aside from her work experiences, she is a certified mindfulness and meditation instructor, the classical guitarist and working artist. I mean, what an incredible list of accomplishments. We are very grateful for this opportunity.
Rob Johnson [00:02:45] There's only 24 hours in her day and she can do all of that!
Eileen Rochford [00:02:48] Well, we're so grateful for the opportunity to learn from you today. Thanks for being with us.
Alida Miranda-Wolff [00:02:54] I'm so excited to be here and am really just open and ready to have a conversation about what I've dedicated my life to, which is belonging.
Rob Johnson [00:03:06] And it's perfectly aligned with the subjects that we tackle on Can You Hear Me? So we're really honored that you joined us. As I mentioned, we spent a lot of time diving into best practices for companies and their leaders. And before we get to the book, why don't you talk a little bit about your background, the journey that led you to where you are today and to writing this book?
Alida Miranda-Wolff [00:03:28] So I always like to start by naming my identities. I identify as a white passing Hispanic, cisgender woman with an invisible disability. And a second generation immigrant, a survivor of gender based violence and currently a pregnant person. When I think about those identities, there are two reasons why I think they're important to name.
So the first is really from a point of accountability. I recognize that I hold both dominant and non-dominant identities. And I want to make sure that I can openly share what they are so that I can understand when to use my primary voice versus my secondary voice, when I can speak from a place of authority and lived experience versus when I should be platforming others.
The other reason, and I think this is very much tied to your question about the journey is because as somebody who has covered a lot of my let's call them disfavored identities or who passes within dominant groups because much of my difference is invisible, I am often being named by other people with identities that I don't relate to or identify with. And I'm not able to, without naming myself, express the parts of my identity that really matter to me. That process has been really important in coming to diversity, equity, inclusion and belonging. So when I think about my journey to this work and how I got here, especially as a business leader, there are just a few things that I would love to share that I think helps contextualize how I ended up in what was a very niche field when I started Ethos and now, of course, has been booming and exploding in a variety of different ways.
The first thing that I will say is that I truly have never belonged anywhere. So I moved 11 times before I was 16, and I grew up in a mixed household. So my maternal side, Cuban refugees, my paternal side daughters and sons of the American Revolution. So there's already a lot of difference to navigate. And I was raised by the Cuban side of my family while looking significantly more like the American side of my family. And it was just difficult to navigate between those worlds. My first language was Spanish, not English, and a lot of the cultural traditions that we associate with being an American are things that didn't happen for me until I was an adult and was in those environments. A really simple example is Thanksgiving. It was not a thing in my household, and I still don't like most Thanksgiving food. I may never. It's not what I grew up with. It's not part of my cultural identity. What I will say is there is a lot of pressure that I put on myself because I also change schools all the time because I was very bullied. I was bullied because of my weight. I was bullied because of my perceived difference. I was bullied because I was what you might call very precocious. And so when I was thinking about my life, I just kept saying, when I get to college, everything will get better. So I tried to get there as quickly as I could, and I started at 16 at the University of Chicago.
For a very brief period of time, I understood what it felt like to belong. And when I say you belong, I could go into this forever. But for me, when we're talking about a group context, belonging means feeling part of something greater than yourself that values and respects you and that you value and respect back. And that was the first experience I had at the University of Chicago. And so I was thinking to myself. This is great, I have my place, I have my people and in my third year of college, I got hit by a car and when I did, I developed mobility disability. I had to relearn how to walk. I had reconstructive surgery and all of a sudden this place that had been welcoming and supportive and had made me feel valued didn't really want me. What I mean by that is my own counselor told me I should take a leave of absence, not because I couldn't handle returning, but because the organizational system of the university at the time really didn't treat her disabled student well. And she had seen it too many times and didn't want me to go through it too. It was things as simple as it's an old campus, and not all of it was accessible at the time. So there were many situations where I literally couldn't get to class because there were only stairs, there wasn't an elevator or a ramp. I had a professor who recommended that I drop her class before she even met me because I would have some significant accommodations I needed. For example, I could not take handwritten notes and computers were disallowed in class, but there would be no other way for me to take notes. And basically, she thought I wouldn't perform to standard, and so she preferred that I did not take her class. So I had that experience, and I realized very plainly that this idea of belonging is not constant.
You don't just belong in a place and then you belong there forever. Social rejection happens, and a lot of it does come from transitional identity. That accident was a big deal for me, too, because I had been on a very specific path, which was to be a lawyer. When I say that I was on a very specific path, the week before orientation, I was in career services at the University of Chicago with careers and law. Meeting with the counselor pretty much every day. I started the undergraduate law review. I worked on the Law School Law Review. I brought LSAT providers in terms of tutoring and coaching to the organizations that I was part of and ultimately led my own organization to help people with LSAT Prep. I was part of Youth Chicago women in law. I took my LSAT two years early. I was a research assistant to two law professors at the University of Chicago.
I am the kind of person who, when I say I'm going to do something, I really do it. And what I realized is I had been offered an internship at the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission on the policy side with attorneys, and I had my car accident. I was recovering in the hospital. I was being advised to take a leave of absence. I went back to school five days later and I realized if it was just for that internship, I would have taken the leave of absence. It wasn't for me. I wanted to be an immigration attorney because of it’s relationship to my identity and the strong personal mission I worked with the Illinois Coalition for Immigrant and Refugee Rights, especially on the deportation support hotline. And it wasn't what motivated me. It wasn't what made me excited.
That's what led me to startups and Venture Capital. I can skip a bunch of this stuff now in between because it was a lot of higher education, nonprofit and consulting work. But I did land in a Venture Capital firm, and that's where I really came to diversity, equity, inclusion and belonging work. It's also where I started to understand some of what you all are talking about in your podcasts regularly, which is leadership styles, which is how you communicate across teams. I actually became the head of marketing there, and I was working on communication as a means of organizational change. So how do we shift the belief systems of our investors? How do we earn the trust of our community members and how do we make our portfolio company founders feel that we are their support system rather than an invisible hand making investments every so many years? There were clear representation problems and I felt them in my own experience, but also just looking at the numbers, it was undeniable. And so I came to the work and I started doing it there, and I learned a lot about running a business.
What made businesses fail? What made them succeed? You have an insider view in Venture Capital that I think does really prepare you for leading your own business and in watching everything in my portfolio companies went through, I swore that I would never be an entrepreneur in my entire life. And I had to kind of envision this life for myself as a second in command. I was really organized, really disciplined, really belief driven, and I was someone that people could count on. And there was just about everything that I could do, I was a generalist. And so that's what I was thinking and I was thinking about that would look like in terms of social impact. This DEIB situation for me became my calling, and there was a point in my last year in Venture Capital where I realized that I exist to teach love. Scale empathy and ultimately heal harm. And the way that I knew how to do those things was in this sort of structured equity approach to helping my portfolio companies build better foundations from the very beginning to have more inclusive cultures. And that's what really brought me to that point in my career and led me to found Ethos four years ago.
Eileen Rochford [00:13:19] You have just an incredible story, I mean getting the volume that you accomplished in that short period of time and what you endured while doing it is truly incredible. I haven't met you before today in person or seen your beautiful face before, but I have read your book and I told you at the onset before we started the show how much it moved me, and I can't wait to talk more about it. But just for a second, I just want to acknowledge just the impact that you've had on me and how amazing your story is and where it led you to is something before we dive into the book. I'd love to let you tell us a little bit about how Ethos was born. I just want to hear about it.
Alida Miranda-Wolff [00:14:09] Yeah, absolutely. Well, out of reluctance, so truth be told, we could be in a very different place than we are today. I do think I would have come to this work. Do I think I would have come to eat those exactly if it weren't for some totally serendipitous events? That's the question. To make a long story short, I generally would lead a short presentation and all of our quarterly investor meetings, and it was a big deal for me because I had started that role being told, that I wasn't a great public speaker, which I frankly didn't believe, but I understood I needed to prove that I was. So I asked for time in front of our investors every single quarter, and I promised that it would be delivered well and that it would add impact. I had been doing this for years. I had actually developed relationships with our investors because they had really liked my presentations, how they were shared and how I was engaging. At this point, I was on the public speaking circuit, not just because I was “a unicorn” in D.C., which I just want to emphasize is problematic in a variety of ways.
It did platform me, so I was leading our end of year investor meeting. It was December and my managing director had just finished sharing. Then I got up to talk about our accomplishments inside of our investor base and all that we had been able to achieve. All of the investors in the room, about 100 had contributed. Then I spent about five minutes talking about how we had had this incredible growth here. We had had all of this success. We were being featured in Forbes and VentureBeat as experts. We were nationally recognized as a pioneering Venture Capital firm. I talked about the team members who made that possible, the folks behind the scenes who were doing the work that allowed for our investors to be recognized like this.
When I looked at the back where my team members had been standing, they had all left during that portion. And so afterwards I basically said, Hey, what gives? I really meant that, I almost was teary eyed when I was talking about it and how much I believe in you and support you, and I'm proud of you and the insight of what we figured it was. It was an important part of the presentation and that was something where, let me just be clear, it was an interesting team. One of the highest performing teams I've ever been on. Delivery with excellence got basically encoded into me in a way that shows up in positive and sometimes negative ways in my leadership today. They were absolutely brilliant, and could get 10 times more done than any other team. Just absolutely excel. And the only real feeler on the team was me. And so I was often the therapist, I was called the therapist when I was ultimately leaving the firm. What people were concerned with was not the fact that I ran four of our five departments and they'd be absorbing that work. They said, “Where's our pressure ball going to go? Where are we going to go when we're going through emotional situations or we're feeling stressed or feeling upset, or we need extra guidance or belief?” and I thought, so I've been doing a lot of emotional work. But basically that instance made me kind of drop the loyalty because I always felt such intense loyalty to that team and to that organization.
I came in as employee number three during a total restructuring process, and I had grown with the organization to become a leader from being an associate in record time. I was on the front page of the Chicago Tribune business section for that role when I was twenty four. So to give you a sense, there were a ton of opportunities that they had given me and I had felt this really strong tie. And then I realized maybe other people don't feel the same way. And so the next day I was asked the question of “What do you want to do with your future?” from one of the folks who was at that meeting, because I was constantly being recruited by our investors, which was super against our policies. But it happened, and the idea was, you've outgrown your role here. Your section was so memorable and it's clear you've done so much. What more is there for you to do? And normally I would talk about where I could grow with the organization, and I just said, honestly, I want to run my own consulting firm and these are the things I want to work on. And I would have never said that if I honestly hadn't had hurt feelings. So when that happened, the person talking to me said, I 100 percent believe you should do that and I would invest in you if you did.
That's what planted the seeds for me and ultimately led me to a six month journey of building the strategic plan for Ethos of starting to develop the courage to do the budgeting, do the math, build the partnerships and the relationships to launch this business. What I always say is I can be very even tempered. It's necessary as a DEIB practitioner, it's rare for people to see me, for example, angry or sad. And that can be a disservice to me in my career because it means that I'm always keeping things very mellow. So if I had decided not to show that I was frustrated and angry, where would I be?
Eileen Rochford [00:19:56] That's right!
Rob Johnson [00:19:58] So Ethos, wouldn't, well no it probably would exist anyway. It was sort of the natural progression for you. But Ethos was also founded on, it sounds like you had EQ where others didn't get emotional intelligence and you were mindful of that. And others were like, Gosh, thank goodness, Alida's mindful of that because nobody else was. And it sounds like you were going to outgrow them anyway. But but having that EQ and others perhaps didn't. When you're sitting there sharing with how much it meant to be on the team and others were like, Yeah, we didn't think that was very important. These are all eye openers. This is all what kind of pushes you down this very unique path.
Alida Miranda-Wolff [00:20:37] It certainly was, and I had also been going through my own personal transformation during this time because of all things I went to South by Southwest maybe a year and a half before to write about the start ups and to get a lay of the land and see how we could be featured. It was something that absolutely my managing director, Pete Wilkins, was very supportive of my professional development and that's something that I give credit for because we were a small organization and we didn't have an enormous budget when I wanted to do something especially creative. He would say, “okay, let's do it, let's make it work.” That is something that I have always appreciated about him, even if our leadership styles are very different.
I had gone to South by Southwest and I had this bizarre reaction because the first day I felt miserable and it was because there were all of these artists and all of these comedians and all of these phones, and I got my degrees in English language and literature. I wrote a creative nonfiction thesis. I supported myself in college through ghostwriting, blogging and journalism with paid roles. And I was thinking to myself, Wow, I'm not an artist, and I should be.
So, I was going through this loop and I called my husband to talk about it. My husband is an incredible person in many ways. He is not a person who knows what to say when someone is distressed. He's very much the type who, if you're on the phone, is especially hard because what he knows how to do is like, sit very close next to you and just look at you a lot. But he's not really Luciani. So I called my best friend, and in talking to you, I realized I needed to do a lot more experimentation. And I had then decided I'm going to do as much as possible. So I started teaching on the side. I started coaching on the side. I got my degree from the School of the Art Institute. I became a mindfulness instructor. I did all of this while working in D.C. because I thought I just haven't tried enough things.
I should never be in a situation where I feel this void or whole, especially at this point in my life, that I'm not doing something that matters to me or that's purposeful. I should be going out and finding it. And that process has also led me to think about work very differently than my colleagues. So that's what I would say to you in terms of the EQ component. Yes, absolutely and I was on a team of people who saw D.C. as the one and only pass. For me, I wasn't enamored with the industry. I wasn't doing everything that I could to get into it and stay, which is how a lot of people approach it. It's a very difficult space to break into. It requires a lot of personal relationships. It's a very small industry that's also very high-profile. So, there is a lot of focus on their part on success metrics that were really tangible. Whereas for me, what I considered to be a success had a lot to do with the experiences of people.
That's why so many of our portfolio companies remain Ethos clients now because, here's something that I measured myself by that didn't really come up for other team members in the same way we had their client now. Today they were one of our first investments at my firm. I was talking to one of their leaders and they said to me, basically, “Alida, I know that you are the busiest person and yet somehow, every time I talk to you, I feel like I'm the only person. I'm the only person that you support and that you care about me and what I need completely.” That was something I valued in myself, I still consider that to be one of the highest compliments ever paid to me. That's a very different success metric than thinking about your portfolio company's annual recurring revenue and where that puts you in terms of your projections for what a return on investment will be in the next five to 10 years.
Eileen Rochford [00:24:46] That is a wonderful endorsement. As Rob and I are also consultants and hearing someone tell you that you make them feel like they're the only person in the room and that no matter what, you're always there for them, that is absolutely the highest compliment. Really amazing.
Rob Johnson [00:25:02] What a unique skill. I mean, it really is incredible because so many people don't have that. You run into people all the time that come up and see you in a room, and they're already looking past you to see who else is in the room, but to make people feel like they're the only one in the room. That's pretty special.
Eileen Rochford [00:25:18] Definitely. And I'll just observe before we move into some of the meat here. One of the things I'm loving about the story that you're telling us about yourself in your experience is how you almost identify the hard things about yourself rather than running the other way. Or, kind of burying yourself in the easy things you're naturally drawn to. You recognize, Oh, that's a growth area, and darn-it, I'm going to go grow there. I just think that's so great. So let's move into the book because it is a fantastic piece of work that is chock full of advice, chock full of thought-provoking information for me. I had a hard time putting it down, and as I said before, I realized I just needed to put the highlighter down because I was basically highlighting almost every sentence. And you're just kind of funny, but again, I'll give everybody the title. It is Cultures of belonging, building inclusive organizations that last by Alida Miranda-Wolff. Wow! And you must be also glad that you've done this. I believe February 15th is your launch date. So by the time our listeners hear this, it will be fresh on the market, right? We'd love to hear you just overview what's in here. What will our listeners encounter when they open your book and what might they learn?
Alida Miranda-Wolff [00:26:48] Absolutely. So the first thing I want to start with is that I wrote this book because I wanted to take everything that I've been learning and doing over the last 10 years and make it open source. My definition of scale is maybe a little bit different than other entrepreneurs and business owners. My definition is to help as many people as possible, and that means eliminating barriers to entry. And for us, everything we do for our clients is described in detail in the book so that if you can't afford us, if you don't have the authority to make that decision, if you can't work with us, you have the tools. And if you happen to have the time, you can put them in place. So one of the reasons this is coming up for me is it's changed a lot and I am very encouraged by the direction the DEIB community is going in, in terms of being more focused on coalition and solidarity than proprietary information.
When I started in the space, no one wanted to share anything with me DEIB because it was their secret sauce, and I can understand that from a business perspective. It also doesn't align with the value of equity, which I hold above pretty much everything else. And so I wanted to make sure that I was not feeding into it. If you really want this problem solved. Pay me my billable rate instead. Here's how I would solve the problem. Take what's useful to you and leave the rest behind. So that's part of the premise of the book. And the way that it's broken up is its two parts.
The first part is laying the foundation. So what is belonging? What are these terms DEIB? What does it mean to be strategic about this work? How do you build an actual strategic plan and there's a map for it in the DEIB? And then we move into the nuts and bolts in part two, which is the R2P2 model. So I want to emphasize that we do a lot of work with folks on community engagement, outreach, civic participation. That is not the core of this book, however, because what we say is if you are starting, that's not the place to start. If you have not gotten your own house in order, if you have not addressed the core pieces within your organization. It is my belief that you will end up perpetuating negative power structures and harm in the community you serve. So I really do believe in a more measured, slowly paced incremental process, because how are you going to say that you're making all of these transformations, let's say in your direct community when your team members haven't experienced that from you at all? So R2P2 is recruiting retention, promotion and protection. I added an extra chapter on onboarding because, while it's part of the recruiting process. If we just look at the data of resignations and this was before the great resignation. We see a much higher rate of resignation among those who identify as women and those who identify as people of color.
It's usually for one of two reasons. The first is the bill of goods they were sold when they interviewed was not what they encountered when they entered the organization. The second is, onboarding just doesn't happen. So the fact that they're leaving in their first six months is coming from three places. They don't feel part of a team or have strong peer relationships. They don't have clarity on how they would grow or what the future would hold for them. The third being really tied to this idea of feeling that they can't even do the job because they don't have the resources they need at their disposal, they're dealing with a lot of implicit information that really should be explicit or information asymmetry. They don't see a pathway to success.
No one wants to feel like they're bad at their job. No one, even if they really don't like their company, wants to feel like the problem is them. So if the company isn't giving them what they need to do well, then they won't want to be there. And the reason this is so important is without even knowing it. Part of our issues with hidden discrimination is that we help the people who are like us and we ignore the people who aren't. So what happens is we aren't giving that information to folks from dominant groups, maybe informally, but we are and it's not getting to the people who are coming from different groups.
Rob Johnson [00:31:27] That's really interesting, and I want to dive in a little bit more on the belonging in the book, you called the a core human need that many people hope to find at work. And, as you were mentioning how you went through the Venture Capital world and you took a leadership role in your companies diversity, equity and inclusion efforts, or DEI. We've been sitting here talking about DEIB because you added belonging. Why was it important for you to add the D to this acronym of DEI, which so much of the world the business world is focused on right now? Where does that fit in? And what's the relevance and what's the importance?
Alida Miranda-Wolff [00:32:06] What I think is funny is when I started, I got flak for using the E because everyone was saying D&I, and now it's the D, and people will say, why do you need to make such a long acronym? So it comes down to what these words mean and what they achieve. So the way that I define diversity is its variety. If you're talking about an enclosed group. It is how much representation from different identities do you have? It's not what they're experiencing, it's not how they feel about it. It is how many identities are represented. When you talk about inclusion, you are focusing on how someone feels inside of the group? Do they feel welcome? Do they feel invited in? Do they feel that way consistently or inconsistently?
Inclusion is something you can measure, but it's harder to measure than diversity because you can feel very included on your immediate team and not in your company or vice versa. You can feel really included in your company and not in your industry. So there's more variability to it. Equity is about both meeting the needs of your teams by providing equal access, but also understanding that individual needs are happening and will have to be addressed because of systemic power imbalances on the basis of social identity. So all of that together, you can't really make people feel good who are coming from social identities that are not dominant without equity. You can't put those processes and practices in place. But inclusion doesn't feel like it's enough whether people feel invited and welcomed in is important. I would caution folks from over investing in the term, because just being included doesn't mean you feel a sense of fulfillment, of purpose, of connection, of mutuality, of reciprocity. And that's where belonging has come in.
If you can get DEI right, you can achieve belonging, which Roy Baumeister showed in his theory is belongingness in the 1990s is actually a psychological need to feel belonging is a psychological need. It is associated with the concept of mattering. We need to feel like we matter in the world, to others, to ourselves. And the way that we do that is what he said to belong is to matter. So if we don't feel we matter, it doesn't really do enough for us in a place where we spend so much time and there are so many expectations and we develop so many of our social relationships. I add on belonging because in my view, it also creates accountability to the things we need in organizations to fully realize what our employees need, and that is relationships, resources and reciprocity. You can't feel part of something greater than yourself if you aren't in a relationship with the people who are part of it, too. It's the definition of isolation, right? You're on an island, you're the only one there. So you have to feel connected to other people who are part of your mission or part of your structure, part of your organization in order to have that sense of belonging.
Resources are necessary because how are you going to feel valued if people don't have enough time to spend with you if they don't pay you what you're worth, if they don't give you the tools that you need to do your work right? There's just a practical element. We need resources to be in good relationships and then reciprocity. This is where I think it's really interesting right now with the great resignation, because the way I'm talking about it, it's a little bit different than I was before. If reciprocity is about both feeling valued and respected and valuing and respecting your organization, that is a tall order because you have to be a part of something that you think is worth respecting and valuing. And a lot of folks during the great resignation will say, I have great benefits. I'm treated well by my employers and I really don't believe in what we do. I really don't respect the customers we serve. I don't respect the ethics behind what we put into practice.
This is where we're seeing a lot of folks flooding the social impact and nonprofit markets because they're looking for something they can connect to. Whereas before so much of the conversation was, our companies don't invest in us enough. They don't treat us as humans, they don't give us the lead that we need. And that's still true, and I don't want to underestimate that because we have a hundred and three clients for a reason. And it's that reason. But I want to emphasize that reciprocity, that sense that there is real give and take. Is so critical, and it's not that we're in diversity, equity or inclusion, and I feel that it is necessary to be able to achieve a higher level again. I'm going to use this word coalition, which I think is what we should be working towards in our broader society.
Eileen Rochford [00:37:09] That is just such an astute observation, and I'm thrilled that you're incorporating that into DEIB. I'll never say it another way. I'm curious, Did you pioneer that?
Alida Miranda-Wolff [00:37:24] No, I didn't pioneer it, but it was definitely not popular when I started using it, and it was a whole debate on my team because we already got pushback for using D&I versus DE&I by our clients. And there was this pressure to conform to how our clients named things because they would say it's going to be confusing for employees. We still have that today, depending on what it is, will adopt their acronym like JEDI, Justice, Equity, diversity and inclusion, or READY racial equity, diversity and inclusion IDEAS, inclusion, diversity, equity and accessibility. Sometimes we won't though, based on what they're calling it. But for us, adding the B for one, I've been doing this belonging research literally my entire career. And had been baking it into every process we developed. So there is just a sense of, we need to change to this acronym because it's how we do our work. It's part of being clear and transparent in our approach. But there is also just the element of it not being an acronym that was used very much. There were a few organizations who were doing it, mostly in social impact, exclusive spaces. So not in corporations at all. And there was a little bit of a gamble with it, but we ultimately decided it was worth it.
Now we're starting to see it more within organizations, especially during COVID, because belonging became a buzzword because of the real increase in social isolation and what is being called the pandemic of American loneliness, where we've seen a sixty one percent increase in severe loneliness in moms. So specifically new moms with young children and a 51 percent increase in people ages 18 to 24. So this idea of belonging has become way more popular and way more discussed. People have noticed that they were taking for granted, that they had that experience, and now they don't.
Rob Johnson [00:39:29] Those are all excellent points, and I really am glad you explained the B so well because a lot of people are familiar, as we mentioned earlier with the DE&I portion, but the B really does fit into its own place there. And so I think that's very important for you to explain that. And I thought you did a nice job of doing that.
Eileen Rochford [00:39:54] Would you mind if we kind of move in his direction of digging a little bit deeper into some of the elements that are included in the book? I'm interested in the tenants of the guiding tenants that you impart throughout your book. Would you be able to talk to us about several of those that maybe you feel are most important for any organization regardless of size or where they're starting in this effort?
Alida Miranda-Wolff [00:40:28] So I very much believe in the importance of setting a high level vision and matching to that vision because no set of circumstances will be the same. So how do we make sure that we are tracking towards an overall goal and have the flexibility and adaptability to pursue it based on the needs of our particular situation or organization? And that's where the tenants came from. So to quote Chidi on The Good Place, which is one of my favorite shows, “Principles aren't principles, if you apply them to some things and not to others.” The idea of these tenants was to say, this is what I recommend you track to no matter what, and the different pieces might need to change based on what situation you're in, what your organization is like, who is part of your organization. All of that stuff.
So if I start with just a basic tenant that is really early in the book, it's that the order of things matters. Why is that so important? Because if we introduce change into a system too quickly, the system will reject that change. We know that from years of systems thinking, work and research. And we need to understand that we have to meet people where they are for pragmatic reasons, not just these perhaps loftier ideals, but actually because we are going to get pushback and resistance from people who might have been our supporters. If we move faster than they can handle and are able to say, what do we need to put in place, there is a lot of foundational work that doesn't get done because we aren't thinking about our hierarchy of needs.
If you think about Maslow's pyramid, right, the fun stuff for leaders in HR teams and DEIB teams to do are all in this self-actualization part. That's the stuff where you see us get really excited and it's so inspirational and so creative. But what if we don't have a secure food source, safety source, shelter source? You don't care about your self actualization if you're struggling to survive. And that's why, while it may not be fun work, something like compensation auditing. What needs to take precedence over, let's say, personal development and growth. So I hear people say over and over and over again, “we're going to launch a mentorship program for underrepresented groups.” Sometimes they work.
I would say more practically, we should let your sponsorship program where you have people in the organization accountable to saying nice things about that person when they're not there and getting them put on projects and actively advocating for their promotion rather than just sharing their experiences and advice. But even before that, do they need a mentorship program or do we need to eliminate bias from our performance review scorecards? Do they need a mentorship program, or do we need to make sure that there are significant pay inequities? Do we need a mentorship program, or do we need to revisit our leave policies? Because if you are a parent, you're getting four weeks? And how are you supposed to engage in a mentorship program with all of your other work when you can't even get your basic health needs met? So the idea there is, you know, your organization better than I do, you determine what the order things should be, but it's really important that you start there as opposed to sort of this pick list of options that seem fun or cool or exciting or everybody else is doing because it's often the work that seems maybe tedious to some that actually creates the greatest life impacts for groups of people.
If we think about pay equity, I know it sounds really obvious so many organizations don't do it at all. They don't audit or they do their audits to protect themselves from liability as opposed to thinking about the needs of their teams. That's a generational wealth issue. We're not just talking about the one employee you have today. We're talking about generations of an entire group of people when that pay is adjusted. So the long term impact is greater than, let's say, doing neurodiversity training, which, by the way, we do neuro diversity training. We just wouldn't do it first.
Eileen Rochford [00:45:12] Right. That's a great point about generational wealth, and I appreciate you calling that out. Very important. With the time we have left, I would love it, if you could run through there.... There's kind of in each chapter of your book, you have a little bit of advice under each header. Would you mind recapping that? Because I think that that's actionable stuff that our listeners could really benefit from hearing, you explain? Would that be okay?
Alida Miranda-Wolff [00:45:42] Yeah, absolutely. So just for those of you who haven't seen the book and I hope that you will, and I'm really excited if you do basically underneath each quote, which is an idea from a thinker who inspired me, there is an idea for how you might enact that, a key idea. So if we think about, let's say, going through chapter four or chapter two, you can see that there's a certain takeaway.
For chapter two, its managers and leaders are expected to be experts and advocates on diversity, equity, inclusion and belonging. So are you able to define those terms? Can you talk intelligently about them? And can people in your organization say credibly that you know about these things? Because that's the expectation. If the answer is no, no shame, no blame. That's a place to start, right? If we go to chapter four, we're talking about this again, right? The order of things matters. If you introduce change into a system too quickly, the system will reject that change.
I think that one of my favorite ones, just from my point of view, is Principle 10, which is that safety is the foundation for everything that we do. Belonging, self-actualization, any higher order of needs cannot exist until people feel safe first. The reason that I think that's so important is your employees won't even tell you what they need for you. If they don't feel safe doing so, you will spend a lot of time diagnosing problems that might not be problems and solving things that may not need to be solved because people don't feel safe and safety can look very different. So understanding that the actionable takeaways figure out what makes your employees feel safe. You can ask them. You can anonymously survey and you can bring in an external party to interview them. You can focus groups, you can have them define the term and then say, okay, here are the things we need to put in place. I will tell you as somebody who does this kind of research in so many companies. The answers are actually often not the same. So this is a place where we think it's all going to be like, Do we have an anonymous hotline? Do we trust our H.R. team? And the answers are very wide ranging.
Safety can be tied to the physical environment. Safety can be tied to having healing circles. Safety can be tied to leaders actually publishing what they're going to do in a public format that they're held accountable to. So that's what I would say with each of these sorts of actions. The steps underneath are outlined in each chapter. But it's about picking and choosing the ones that make sense for you based on how we actually achieve this need?
Rob Johnson [00:48:46] It sounds like it's also about making sure you said before you can really dive into this work, you need to get the feedback from people within your own company, and this sounds like this is what the exercise is. So before we close Alida, would you please tell our listeners how they can get your book and learn more about Ethos?
Alida Miranda-Wolff [00:49:02] Absolutely. My book is available wherever books are sold. You can order online from Amazon Bookshop, Indiebound, Barnes and Noble, your local bookseller. I am at AlidaMirandaWolff.com. If you go there, I highly encourage you to sign up for my newsletter because you get bonus content that is not in the book. Specifically, an entire guide to how to build your own strategic plan with the actual worksheet boxes and a sample plan that we actually enacted for one of our clients. That's the piece that we hear people get most stuck on. So I really encourage you to visit AlidaMirandaWolfe.com. I also have the advantage of being the only person with my name. Seriously, Google it. Out of twenty-six pages of search results, it’s just me. It's easy.
Follow me on LinkedIn at Alida Miranda-Wolff and then I am on Twitter @AlidaMW. I check my Twitter and my LinkedIn. I'm on other social platforms. But if you want to talk to me, I wouldn't use them. Twitter and LinkedIn would be the best places.
Rob Johnson [00:50:10] We'll put those in the show notes too, right, Eileen?
Eileen Rochford [00:50:11] Absolutely. All of it will be in the show notes, and I'll second what you said about signing up for our newsletter and getting the guide. I did that and I found the guide to be a great companion to the book, so everybody should definitely do that and such useful information in here. As I said, I have to read your book again just to make sure that I get everything out of it that I know I can because of the examples that you give and the research that you cite. And it's not overwhelming. I just really found it to be so clear you're so you're a fantastic writer, too. So just hats off to you.
Rob Johnson [00:50:50] And thank you and thank you for being a guest today. We appreciate it!
Eileen Rochford [00:50:53] Very, very much, we thank you. It's been a true pleasure. And that will do it for another edition of Can You Hear Me? A special thanks to you for being our guest here today. Just such a pleasure. I've learned even more than what I learned when I read your book cover to cover, so everybody, please go check out Cultures of belonging. It is super hot off the presses, brand new. I can't wait to read all of the great media attention that you're bound to get from this phenomenal accomplishment. Alida. I'm Eileen Rochford, CEO of The Harbinger Group,
Rob Johnson [00:51:26] I'm Rob Johnson, President of Rob Johnson Communications. Alida, amazing comments today. We can't thank you enough. And we want to thank you all for listening. And remember, you can listen to this podcast wherever you get your podcasts. Apple, Google Podcasts, Spotify and more. Thanks for listening.