But I want you to see my color (and your financial bottom line needs you to)

But I want you to see my color (and your financial bottom line needs you to)

You may have heard that the former Chairman of Starbucks, Howard Schultz, said the one line that many of us have heard throughout our lives, “I don’t see color”. Here’s my response to that statement.

Dear Howard Schultz (and everyone else who has ever said, “I don’t see color”),

How are you?  I hope you’re doing great and enjoying your day.  Can we chat for a minute? I really appreciate the fact that you’re a direct, logical thinker so hopefully you won’t mind me being direct.  I get what you’re trying to do when you say you don’t see color.  I understand the sentiment behind that statement.  You are trying to say that people are people and as Michael Jackson put it, “It don’t matter if you’re black or white”.  That may work in songs, but it can really hurt individuals, and more importantly, hurts businesses in the real world.  I’m sure you’re wondering “how can that statement hurt anyone?  It literally means we’re alike.”  I’m so glad you asked.  Let me tell you a short story.

We haven’t had the pleasure of meeting but thanks to a quick Wikipedia search I’m going to go out on a limb and say you were, at some point, a huge Seattle Supersonics fan.  I also use to work in professional basketball for the Memphis Grizzlies, so I know the level of devotion to that team that comes with those relationships.  Imagine for a second that we’re back in 2006 and you invited me to a game to sit with you in your box.  Your only caveat was, I had to “supersonic” it up.  I had to go all out and dress in head to toe supersonic gear to show that you (and as your guest I) were superfans.  That really mattered to you because the Sonics were a part of your identity.   Obviously. I’d comply and I’m sure I’d have a great time. 

Because I’m a proper southern lady, I’d send you a thank you note that may go something like this:

Howard, Thank you so much for the awesome experience!  I had a great time and haven’t stopped telling everyone about my time at the game.  While reflecting on it yesterday I realized something, I don’t see you as a Seattle Supersonic fan.  I just see you as a basketball fam.  The team you claim to be a part of is cool and all but that’s irrelevant, I’ve listed you in my phone contact as Howie the B ’ball fan.  Thanks again!

How would that make you feel?  Would you feel like I just took something that was a part of your existence and dismissed it for no reason?  When you saw me next would you try to hide the fact that you loved the Sonics because you felt like that made me think of less of you?  Would you invite me to another game?  My guess is that would have been my one and only time as your guest because I refused to acknowledge something was a part of you. Being affiliated with the Sonics helped define who you were, and I ignored it and chose not to see it.  The same is true when people say they don’t see color. 

But hey, we’re all adults and I sincerely believe your heart is in the right place on this so we can move past misunderstandings like that… right?  Probably, but at what cost?  The true value of diversity is the unique and varied perspectives of each different person but if all people are the same (we’re all just human) how do we capitalize on the unique and varied perspectives? We’ve all heard that 2 heads are better than one and that’s true but only if those 2 heads come from different perspectives.  So, the questions businesses need to ask is how do people gain different perspectives? 

The answer is easy, from experiencing different things.  If you and I walk into the same store and interact with the same clerk to buy the same item, we will not always have the same experience.    That’s because the world interacts with us differently.  When I ordered an expensive glass of bourbon at a bar ($50 a pour) the bartender asked if I was sure I could afford it.  I doubt that’s ever happened to you (so now when I design customer service training programs, I’m certain to address how to handle a situation where you are concerned you may not get paid).  When I was potty training my daughter, I learned that the automatic flush toilets aren’t good for children.  Do you know why, have you experienced that?  It’s fine if you haven’t (but since I have, I can help organizations determine what type of toilet to install where).  We’re not suppose to have the same lives as anyone else but if you don’t see my color you may miss the unique ideas, I can bring to the table that come from walking through the world in my body instead of yours.  If you don’t see my gender, you’ll miss the things I’ve experienced that you haven’t, and you may miss the unique ideas I can bring to a marketing campaign or product design meeting because of it.  If you don’t see value in our economic differences, you may miss out on the way to position a product to someone in my tax bracket as opposed to yours. 

Seeing my color and gender and socio-economic status and education and neighborhood and sexuality and everything else about me that makes me different from you is the only way to truly see me as an individual and to truly benefit from the ideas and knowledge that I bring to the table. 

Seeing me for the unique individual I am is what gives me the confidence to represent the groups you need to hear from in a meeting.  It makes it ok to add the black perspective or female perspective or southerner perspective and every other perspective I can add.  If a person doesn’t want to see my color, then I feel like they don’t really want to see and work with or even talk to me. 

Like I said, I get it, this stuff is hard and awkward and uncomfortable but ultimately, I want the same thing you want, the ability to add to the success of every group I’m a apart of.  I want to feel comfortable sharing my knowledge to make every organization and company I work with better.  I want to be seen. 

Sincerely,

Christy Pruitt-Haynes

A married cis-gender black mother and aunt from Nashville who was raised and educated in the south and loves travel, wine, coffee, laughter, debate and music

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Christy Pruitt-Haynes Consulting works with organizations and individuals to help them on their quest towards professional excellence. If you’re facing significant change, unprecedented growth or stagnant results Christy Pruitt-Haynes Consulting will help by providing customized tools to solve problems, increase employee engagement, improve leadership capabilities and increase profits. As a Speaker, Trainer and Coach, Christy will provide diversity of thought, enhanced communication, improved leadership and a maximized corporate culture. CPH Consulting will help grow your business!

What is the TRUE Value of Diversity?

What is the TRUE Value of Diversity?

Most would agree that the true value of a team lies in its ability to solve problems, enhance performance and meet organizational goals better than any one individual can. As true as that notion is, there is one caveat that must be discussed; it only works if each of the team members brings a new, different, and DIVERSE mindset and point of view to the conversation.

When a well-known TV conglomerate wanted to increase its ad and subscriber revenue it created and offered different channels. Another way to phrase that is it DIVERSIFIED its product offerings. When a political hopeful wanted to gain support from an additional segment of the population they hired individuals who knew, understood and represented that demographic…in other words they DIVERSIFIED their staff.

Imagine for a moment that you are on a game show, you get to the final question and you have no idea what the answer is but you really want to win. You have one opportunity for someone to help but who do you call? You could reach out to your best friend. The person you grew up with, went to school with, partied with, cried with and celebrated with. They are your go to person. They have your back. They want you to win…but can they really help you? If you went to school with them didn’t you learn the same things? If you grew up with them didn’t you have the same experiences? If you learned the same things and had the same experiences, don’t you know the same things and conversely not know the same things?

In that situation, you need the person who learned things you didn’t, did things you couldn’t and experienced things you never knew existed…you need different knowledge and skills…you need DIVERSITY!

Diversity isn’t just about checking certain boxes on a form. It’s more than making sure your organization, city or group looks a certain way. It’s about forward movement, growth and excellence. It’s about doing things in a better, smarter and more efficient way. It’s about maximizing profits and minimizing risk. Diversity is about business success!

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Christy Pruitt-Haynes Consulting works with organizations and individuals to help them on their quest towards professional excellence. If you’re facing significant change, unprecedented growth or stagnant results Christy Pruitt-Haynes Consulting will help by providing customized tools to solve problems, increase employee engagement, improve leadership capabilities and increase profits. As a Speaker, Trainer and Coach, Christy will provide diversity of thought, enhanced communication, improved leadership and a maximized corporate culture. CPH Consulting will help grow your business!

When Diversity Goes Wrong…

When Diversity Goes Wrong…

Shea Moisture may be the latest company to join the ever-growing list of companies committing diversity faux pas in the marketing arena. They join the ranks of Pepsi, and Baby K’Tan by sending the wrong marketing message (seemingly by accident) in an advertising campaign. Even though other companies have committed similar mistakes, theirs may be one of the more obvious offenses with potentially detrimental results. Why you ask??? Because they committed the number one marketing sin, they alienated their core market!

In case you haven’t heard what happened, let me give you a quick recap. Shea Moisture is a hair care brand that makes several products. Those products are OVERWHELMINGLY used by African-American women.  How overwhelmingly you ask, well according to the market data company InfoScout. African Americans have a marketing index of 824 compared to Caucasian having an index of 53, Asians of 96 and Hispanics of 123.  That means, compared to their average consumer, African Americans are 724% more likely to buy their products while Caucasians are 47% less likely.  724% that’s huge!!!! Shea Moisture is sold in the African American section of the hair care products aisle (did you know grocery stores haven’t been fully integrated yet…but that’s a conversation for another time). That is a well-defined core audience that should determine every decision Shea Moisture makes regarding everything they do… right?  Well, they didn’t.

In their most recent commercial, they cast 4 women, 1 woman who most assume to be multi-racial and 3 who appear to be Caucasian. Suffice it to say, their core audience was not happy! Consumers like to see themselves represented in the commercials for the products they buy. They want to feel the company understands who they are and that the company is talking to them directly. In a company where more than 90% of their sales come from African Americans, this was a miss…and the internet went crazy! People are calling for a boycott and asking consumers to stop using all Shea Moisture products.

But are people acting too quickly? Maybe Shea Moisture was trying to diversify their market. Isn’t that how companies grow? It absolutely is but, and this is a really big but, they must be careful how they do it. When a company has a strong core audience and they are attempting to reach out to a new market they have to tell their core what they are doing.     

For example, when Apple went from being a computer company to a lifestyle brand that sold everything from computers to phones to watches, they started the shift with their “Think Different” advertising campaign. They told their customers “we are changing”. When Starbucks went from being just a coffee shop to selling tea they announced their plans, talked about a partnership with Teavana that was coming soon and made sure they let everyone know they were still all about the coffee.

Shea Moisture didn’t do that. They didn’t run a campaign that said they were expanding their market, they didn’t say “don’t worry we are still and will always be here for you”. They simply ran a commercial that did not reflect who they were or who they sold to. They went against their culture and ignored the people who made them successful…and they didn’t even tell them why.

The key to successful growth will always be diversity – diversifying your products, diversifying your audience, and diversifying your revenue sources. However, like all diversity, it must be done in a way that the consumer understands.

Imagine you are a member of a gym. Everyone at the gym lives in your neighborhood because that was the unwritten rule of membership. The gym historically catered to your neighborhood. Suddenly, the gym started offering memberships to people 10 miles away. They put up billboards in other cities, they ran ads in other states and they didn’t tell you why. As a long time member, your first thought may be, are they forgetting about me, am I going to be pushed to the side and not receive the attention I’m used to getting, am I no longer good enough.

The truth may be, they are opening new locations and trying to build interest in anticipation of that but their lack of communication to you, their core audience and current members, puts them at risk of losing you to a shiny new gym who is paying you the attention they used to give you.

Shea Moisture (and all other companies out there with clearly defined bases) people understand you wanting and needing to grow. Everyone gets why you want to expand your market but can you give us a heads up? Can you assure your core, the people who made you the huge success you are today, that you are still here to support them? A little communication goes a long way in the consumer marketing world and your core needs to hear from you!

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Christy Pruitt-Haynes Consulting works with organizations and individuals to help them on their quest towards professional excellence. If you’re facing significant change, unprecedented growth or stagnant results Christy Pruitt-Haynes Consulting will help by providing customized tools to solve problems, increase employee engagement, improve leadership capabilities and increase profits. As a Speaker, Trainer and Coach Christy will provide diversity of thought, enhanced communication, improved leadership and a maximized corporate culture. CPH Consulting will help grow your business! You can reach Christy at Christy@ChristyPruitt-Haynes.com

Oops, I did it again…how to turn your mistakes into a great thing for you and  your organization.

Oops, I did it again…how to turn your mistakes into a great thing for you and your organization.

As a child the one thing I never wanted to do was disappoint anyone. I was the kid who only required a look from Mama to let me know I needed to stop what I was doing and make a different choice. I, like many people, felt that making a mistake was a bad thing, then a wonderful thing happened, I messed up. Not a small oops but what I thought was a catastrophic, world ending, no one will ever speak to me again mistake and you know what happened…very little. The world still spun around, my family still loved me and my career (at that time as a student) continued.

Fast forward a few years and I still hate to make a mistake but I have completely changed my frame of thinking. I learned one truth…If no one dies it can be fixed.   Fixing doesn’t mean un-doing, forgetting it ever happened or  even mean that you won’t have to deal with the consequences of making a mistake but it does mean we are typically able to recover (and often move ahead) from a mistake. These three steps can help you turn a mistake into an opportunity and recover with grace, style and your positive reputation intact.

1.     Be honest – There is a natural tendency to want to cover up mistakes but what message does that send your supervisors, co-workers and customers?  That gives them license to question both your ability and integrity. On the flip side, when you own up to the mistake as soon as possible you show that not only did you catch the problem before they had a chance to bring it to your attention but you were honest enough to let them know so it didn’t cause any further harm. People don’t expect perfection but they do expect accountability.

I once sent an email to a potential employer and I wrote, “My goals is…” Unfortunately, like so many others, I seem to be a better proofreader after I hit send on an email. I was horrified but needed to recover. I sent a follow up email that said, “My apologies to the readers and my 2nd grade grammar teacher. An extra S just jumped on the page and insisted on joining the party…” There was a chance they would have read that sentence and not noticed my mistake but that was a chance I wasn’t willing to take. By owning up to it I had a chance to show I did in fact have a grasp of English and it made them laugh. More importantly they knew that I was a person who took responsibilities for my actions. Negative into positive!

2.     Offer Solution – Saying you made a mistake is step 1 but correcting it is an even bigger step. As soon as you realize a mistake has been made think of a way to minimize its affect.  Offer to stay late to redo the project. Send a revised report to your boss. Draft an apology to your customer offering to fix the problem and an additional token of your company’s appreciation. Making a mistake can be bad but pawning your mistake off on someone else to fix is infinitely worse! Noticing a mistake before someone else does and coming up with a great solution proves that you are resourceful, attentive and diligent. Negative to positive!

3.     Make regular deposits into your reputation account – People forgive people that have proven themselves to be competent and capable. People remember the good over the bad when they believe that person always makes a genuine effort to do the best they can. The key to being “allowed” to make a mistake is to do it as infrequently as possible. Innovation and creativity are always great but when you prove to your employer and customers that you know when to take risks and when to play it safe they will trust your instincts and forgive your mis-steps.

Mistakes happen, they always have and always will. A big part of business (and life) is taking limited information and making our best-informed decision. Ideally, we would always get it right the first time but in reality we won’t, so having a recovery plan is essential. Don’t be afraid to act out of fear of making a mistake and don’t let a mistake define you or your career! Remember, there are very few mistakes that can’t be covered and corrected by paint, cheese or humor! Share some of your professional mistakes and recoveries with us. What did you learn and how did you make a potentially negative situation positive?

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Christy Pruitt-Haynes Consulting works with organizations and individuals to help them on their quest towards professional excellence.  If you’re facing significant change, unprecedented growth or stagnant results Christy Pruitt-Haynes Consulting will help by providing customized tools to solve problems, increase employee engagement, improve leadership capabilities and increase profits. As a Speaker, Trainer and Coach Christy will provide diversity of thought, enhanced communication, improved leadership and a maximized corporate culture.  CPH Consulting will help grow your business!