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E104 | Unleashed, Hiring Diversely And The Truth About Leadership with Frances Frei

Leadership isn’t about you, says Frances Frei, co-author of Unleashed: The Unapologetic Leader’s Guide to Empowering Everyone Around You. Leadership, according to Frances, Professor of Technology and Operations Management at Harvard Business School, depends on how well you unleash the potential of other people. 

Frances has not only carried out extensive research investigating how leaders create the conditions for organisations and individuals to thrive. She also regularly advises senior executives (famously turning around the toxic culture at Uber), to implement large-scale change initiatives and organisational transformation. This involves addressing and embracing diversity and inclusion as a lever for significantly improving performance.

In today’s challenging podcast episode, Frances discusses her new book and shares some fantastic takeaways about how to create a business that plays to the strengths of minorities. Because if you’re only hiring white men, you’re only fishing in a pond with 25% of the available talent. 

The businesses that will be successful in the next 5 years will be the ones that actively bring on board the remaining 75% of talent that aren’t being fished. 

This is an incredibly insightful conversation packed full of great, actionable advice. We hope you enjoy it as much as we did.

On today’s podcast:

  • Leadership is about empowering others
  • The pros and cons of recruitment legislation
  • Why you can’t find the diverse employees you’re looking for
  • Use an indignities list for your next hire
  • Unconscious bias during recruiting and promotion
  • The trust triangle


How to Hire Diversely

If you’re wondering how Uber turned its toxic culture around, it was all down to the work of one phenomenal person – Frances Frei, Professor of Technology and Operations Management at Harvard Business School. 

Frances has recently co-authored Unleashed: The Unapologetic Leader’s Guide to Empowering Everyone Around You. A book that is making waves in the current climate. Because the true challenge of leadership they say, is figuring out how to help others unlock their full potential.

According to Frances, leadership isn’t about you, it’s about how you empower those around you. So if you’re wondering how to build trust in your organisation and how you can change the culture of your company, Frances is someone you want to listen to. 

The benefit of diversity 

In this latest episode of Mind Your F**king Business Podcast, Frances shares her thoughts and provides fantastic takeaways for how to create a business that plays to the strengths of minorities. 

We all know and understand the power of diversity in the workplace. This isn’t a new concept. The benefits of a workplace diversity include: 

  • The variety of different perspectives gleaned from different outlooks
  • Higher innovation and increased creativity among employees
  • Improved decision making and faster problem solving
  • Higher employee engagement and happier in their work
  • An enhanced company reputation and higher profit yields
  • Better recruiting results and retention rates
  • Reduced employee turnover rates

So if we know this, why are so many organisation’s recruiting processes set up to solely recruit white males? 

Fish in the diversity pond

According to Frances, if you’re only fishing in a pond with 25% of the available talent, you’re going to be unable to compete in the next 5 years with the organisations that have gone fishing deliberating in the pond with the other 75% of available talent, and landed them.

And it all starts with leadership. 

“We found that the most effective leaders were so much less interested and concerned about themselves, and were really disproportionately paying attention to others.”

The truth about leadership

Leadership isn’t about having followers, it’s about empowering those around you to achieve the best they can. 

Which is why we are still having the conversation about needing to increase diversity in the workplace. 

“That’s at the root of many of the diversity conversations that are going on right now – that when we typically assume similarity, and when we’re confronted with difference, it goes haywire.”

Meaning, says Frances, that the vast majority of organisations have a recruiting practice that focuses on one singular profile. They have recruiting practices, development practices and promotion practices that are reliably working to recruit and serve white men. And these processes are great at doing just that. But not so great at recruiting or serving great black women, for example. 

Empower your organisation

It’s all good and well to therefore set up your recruiting practices to recruit diversely, but if the rest of the organisation isn’t set up to support them, your efforts will be for nothing. Be the example you want the rest of the organisation to follow. 

And if great leadership is about empowering those around you, you need to empower everyone, even those who are different to you. 

“If you want the best of everyone, you’re going to have to learn how to do it for people that are similar to you, casual and straightforward and also for people that are different than you.”

How to hire diversely 

To hire diversely, don’t lower the bar, that doesn’t help anyone. Change is hard, but once you’ve done it once, you can keep on doing it – like attracts like after all. 

“Doing it for the first one is hard, doing it for the second one is easier.”

But why are you struggling to find the diverse employees you’re looking for? Frances says because you’re doing white male recruiting for women and for people of colour… if you’re reliably producing one thing, don’t assume it’ll work elsewhere. You need to adapt your process. 

“Anytime you do something that’s not traditional, it’s gonna take hard work until it doesn’t, like as soon as you get good at it, it won’t take anywhere as long.”

And if you think it’s hard for your organisation to recruit diversely, try standing in the person you’re trying to recruit’s shoes. It’s even harder for them.

The indignities list

For every niche you’re trying to recruit, meet them where they are, don’t expect them to come to you. Whether that’s at a conference for Women in Tech or the 1844 group for Black Lawyers in NYC, whatever your requirements, go and find them. But don’t be disheartened if they say no. 

Go after the people you know in the niche you want to hire from and ask them for their indignities list. This is a list of nicks they’ve suffered or have seen people in a similar position suffer with – whether that’s during the recruiting phase, onboarding, in the first year, at promotion, or even when they retire. Ask them to list out every indignity they know and then take that list and convert it into a dignities list. 

Change is tough

The obstacle to making progress is an emotional one, says Frances, you have to be willing to acknowledge that you haven’t done it in the past. And that’s a tough thing to realise. 

“It’s really hard, you have to acknowledge that, wow, our processes really are reliably set up for white men, and they’re not reliably set up for black women, or whatever combination you’re going to do.”

But you can do something about it, if you acknowledge that you’ve got a problem. 

“If you can’t acknowledge that, what will happen is, every time we give you guidance on what to do next, you’re still gonna want to go back to go and say, ‘But wait, I’m not really sure we have a problem’.” 

It’s all fixable says Frances, and quickly too, you’ve just got to want to fix it. 

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