Zach welcomes Angela L. Shaw back to the podcast to talk about what it looks like to both create opportunities for yourself and model inclusive behaviors as a leader and more. She also offers people of color three points of advice on how they can navigate the process of creating your own opportunities.
Connect with Angela on LinkedIn!
Zach: What’s up, y’all? It’s Zach with Living Corporate. Now look, we have great guests on the show. Y’all should know this, right? And every now and then we get folks who come back to the show because, you know, we had such a great conversation. And look, I don’t want people–if you came here one time, don’t get in your feelings, okay? You can also come back, okay? These people just happened to come back, and we love the fact that they came back. If you’re listening to this and you were only on the show one time and you’re like “Dang, well, what’s that supposed to mean about me?” Listen, hit us up, come on back, okay? That being said, we do have a returning guest, Ms. Angela Shaw. [kids cheering sfx] Angela, how are you doing? Welcome back.
Angela: Thank you, Zach. I’m doing fantastic. I am on top of the world. I love my life. And thank you so much for letting me come back. I’m super excited to talk today.
Zach: Oh, nah, nah, nah. You know what I’m saying? I mean, you know, when we found out, you know, you could come back, I was just over here like [that ain’t no problem sfx]. You know, it’s not a problem at all. Like, I’m excited that you’re here, you know what I mean? Now look, the last time we spoke you were–you know, we were talking about professional reinvention and how you really, like, created an HR career for yourself, and really–you’re also the president-elect of [?] Austin, right?
Angela: That is correct.
Zach: Right? So you were appointed, you know what I’m saying, as president, but you were not yet, you know, anointed as president, you know what I’m saying? So what have you been up to since then?
Angela: Well, Zach, I’m president this year all year. [what it do baby Kawhi sfx, both laugh] And I’m making it count. And I want to say the reinvention continues. Like, it doesn’t stop. It is a continuous thing. I am continuously trying to reinvent myself and stay relevant. This year as president has been so humbling, but it has been so successful and so wonderful. My platform as president is #PushForProgress related to diversity and inclusion, so I really in my chapter try to model the behavior that I think everybody else should have when it comes to being inclusive. The board, my board, they’ve gotten on board with that. They are also modeling that behavior. Our meetings have been successful. We’re having great attendance. We just had our annual conference, and Zach, let me tell you, we had not one but two inclusion keynotes, and they were fire. They were fire. I feel like it’s something that my organization had not seen before, and it was successful, and it was uplifting, and it was allied behavior, and it was just–it was wonderful. I’m just–I’m so blessed and, you know, just living life. I mean, I’m fortunate to love what I get to do every day.
Zach: So let’s take it a couple steps back. You talked about–’cause again, you kind of gave me, like, an overview, right, but I gotta slow it down. So you talked about folks practicing and you modeling inclusive behaviors and then people practicing inclusive behaviors. What does that mean to model inclusive behaviors as a leader?
Angela: We all have bias. I know a lot of diversity and inclusion people talk about the bias that everybody else has, but I think as a leader in the space you break down your own bias first. So I know I have bias. I’ve had them, you know, just growing up with my experiences. It is difficult to not be hardened by your experiences, but I had to unpack my own boxes first. So I had to look at what my bias was, and how do I go into an organization like AHRMA in a city like Austin with long history–you know, 69 years this organization has been in Austin. How do I go in and unpack my boxes and be the leader that everybody wants to follow? And so I speak to everybody. I say hello to everybody. I give before I get. I make connections, you know? I model the behavior that I want everybody else on the board and in my organization to have, because for me diversity and inclusion is grassroots. That’s how I think about it. So every person that I can touch and make them want to activate their power–power is dormant until you activate it, and not activating it is the same as doing something negative with it. You’re complicit. So I encourage everybody to activate their power for inclusion, and I model that behavior first.
Zach: I got you. Okay, so what I’m hearing is you’re coming in, you are engaging people groups that you may have implicit biases or even, like, conscious bias of, in the effort of making sure that they are–that they feel included and that they’re a part of the organization, and then your board members, be they white men, black women, Latinx, trans folks, like, whoever, they are also engaging and reaching out across their cohort [?] to make sure that they too are being inclusive and that they too are, like, making sure that people feel as if they have a voice and that they are empowered to speak up and things of that nature.
Angela: Absolutely, and we do actual things, like have greeters that greet everybody who comes to a meeting, that introduce themselves, that take them into the room to a seat and introduce them to other people. We have a new member orientation that I attend, every single one, so that I can stand up and tell everybody welcome and how grateful we are that they’re there and that they support our organization. You know, this is actual behavior that we all have in activating our power for inclusion.
Zach: Really helpful, and I love that. So when we talk about inclusion, a large part of inclusion really is all about, like, redistributing power or ensuring that other folks who have been historically disempowered have a voice and have some type of authority to make actual decisions, right? It’s not just that they sit at the table. You have to have a voice at that table, right? What does it look like for you in your chapter to support folks actually have a voice and having power?
Angela: Yeah. So our actual board is diverse, so whenever I was thinking about adding people to the board or talking to people about coming onto our board, I was very intentional in my outreach. So I didn’t want the board to just look like one thing. I wanted people to see males and females. I wanted people to see different ethnic groups. And we have a diverse board, so that was the first thing. And then it was, you know, selling my vision to everybody for them to understand where I was trying to go with that and make sure that they were on board with it, and they’ve all been on board with it. The result has been that people who attend our meetings and who attended our conference have also been diverse. So there had been historically underrepresented people who did not always feel welcome for whatever reason, right? They didn’t feel welcome. You know, that’s no longer the case, so I know for sure that [HR&P?] are talking about the Austin Human Resources Management Association and probably a little bit around the state and nationally. We are inclusive. We are saying it and we are walking the talk too, so this is not just talk. It is we’re having behavior, and you can see it and you can feel it.
Zach: [to this day sfx]. I’m listening to you. I hear you. [both laugh]
Angela: Zach, it’s the truth. I’m telling you the truth.
Zach: I’m–hey, what you want me to do? I already got the soundboard for you. I mean, [straight up sfx]. I mean, okay, I heard you. Hey, you’re preaching. I’m just here. I’m listening. I receive it. You talked about unpacking your boxes, right? So for you to unpack your boxes and really, like, be honest and open about your biases, that takes a certain level of trust, right? Like, you can’t just come in here–so let me just give you an example, right? [laughs] So, like, if you was at work, right, and I’m not–this is not your job. Let’s just say–let’s put the heat on me, okay? So let’s say I’m at my job and, like, my boss, who’s a white man, you know, is trying to be honest about his biases, right, and all of a sudden he says, “You know, Zach, I just have to tell you, I just never really liked the blacks.” I’d be like [record scratch sfx]. Right? Like, I’d be like, “What do you mean? You can’t just say that.” What does it look like to safely communicate and share your biases in a way that facilitates conversation and trust?
Angela: Yeah. So I think if we talk about your boss making that statement to you, obviously there is, on your part, needs to be some understanding. So one, they felt safe enough to even say that, so you’ve created a safe space to have a conversation. So we’re gonna give cool points for that. So it’s not a situation where you attack, it’s a situation where you listen. So you ask questions about “Where do you think that comes from? Is it about how you grew up? Is it about experiences you’ve had?” I mean, helping that person unpack their boxes. If it’s the other way around, like, “How do I feel safe to go into a situation and, you know, say something about my bias?” For me it took a lot of practice to be able to do that. So just as a public speaker who talks about diversity and inclusion and a lot of different situations and circumstances, I’ve been blessed to be in a lot of different places, to be able to have these conversations. I’ve gotten a lot better at being able to say the words. And they don’t always come out right, but I think you get back up and you keep moving. If you need to apologize you do, and you keep moving. I mean, that’s the only way we will have real action. So as a speaker I’m actually very vulnerable. I do that on purpose, because I want to connect on an emotional level. I want to be seen as a real person. These are real situations and issues that happen. I’m a real person with real feelings. Everybody else that you encounter who is an underrepresented group are not. Everybody has real feelings, and so I always want to connect on that emotional level. So, you know, I’m okay with being vulnerable using my real experiences, talking to people about what has happened to me, but not just what has happened to me, but how it made me feel. And then I think the rest of that though is that what do I do about it afterwards?
Zach: What do you mean? Like, what do you mean when you say “What do I do about it afterwards?” What does that mean?
Angela: Right. So I’ve had situations where I feel like I didn’t get opportunities for jobs, that people didn’t, you know, give me an opportunity to even get in the door and have a conversation with them. So what would I do about that? Well, I created bodies of work that people couldn’t deny. So people will ask for recommendations, right? So in Austin, if somebody asked for a recommendation for an HR person, whether it’s hiring or they need a connection or whatever, that’s what I’m saying. I put in work to be on that list of people that somebody’s gonna say, “You should talk to her.” You know, for me, I think I’m to a place where I’m not gonna apply into a black hole anymore and hope that somebody’s gonna give me an opportunity.
Zach: Hm. You’re gonna have a real conversation.
Angela: Yes. I have created bodies of work that will get me in the room to have the right conversations.
Zach: That’s real talk.
Angela: That’s what I mean. What did I do afterwards? I created bodies of work afterwards.
Zach: I love it. You know what, this is incredible. If you had three points of advice, right, for people of color who are at a job, they’re seeking to, you know, create–they’re looking for something else, but they feel stuck, and they don’t understand what it really looks like for them to, like, create a new opportunity for themselves. It’s easy to be like, “Hey, create your own opportunity,” or da-da-da, but what does it look like to get beyond, like–’cause on its face, right, it seems kind of self-helpish. Like, “Just do it,” but there’s an actual science and process behind it. What advice would you give to the folks who are looking for, like, that practical advice on how they can navigate forward?
Angela: The first thing I would say is dream big, so know where you want to go. So whatever your biggest, best, brightest dreams are, write them down. Make them real. That would be the first thing. So know where you’re trying to go and make it big. [coin sfx] The second thing I would say is to connect with other people. So inside your organization, outside of your organization, people not in your department. Just connect with people. So you take the first step to get to know people, to hear their story, to make those emotional connections, so that when opportunities come up you’re in the conversation. People need to know who you are. You know, I’ve been saying a lot lately, “It’s not who you know, it’s who knows you.” [coin sfx] So how are you creating those opportunities where people know you? And then the third thing I would say is to take on any project that you have the opportunity to be on. So instead of whining or saying no or having an attitude or “I need more money,” take on projects. Expand your skills, you know? Expand your skill set. Do different things. Have lots of different skills in your toolbox. [coin sfx] And those would be the three things that I would say that anybody can do to get to that next step.
Zach: All right, y’all. Now, look, y’all heard Angela give y’all these points of wisdom. I even put the coin sound effect after the fact so y’all pay attention, so don’t be–okay, you know, you’re sitting around looking and trying to figure out what’s going on, and I’m looking back at you like [haha sfx]. You need to pay attention, okay? Angela, she’s giving you the wisdom, okay? Look, this has been a great conversation, Angela. Any shout-outs or parting words before we let you go?
Angela: Absolutely. I have to shout out AHRMA, my board, all of our members and volunteers who have helped make this a very, very successful year, and like last time, Zach, I have to shout you out, because you are giving people opportunities to tell their story and to touch people and to help and support people, and I think that that is fantastic, so thank you so much for that. You are lifting up people, and I want you to know that.
Zach: Oh, my goodness. Well, look here, thank you so much, Angela, and thank y’all for listening to the Living Corporate podcast. Y’all know where we at. Google us, okay? Living Corporate. We out here. We’re really out here though, so, like, just check us out. Just Google Living Corporate. ‘Til next time. Catch y’all later.