267 : HR & #BlackLivesMatter [Part 1] (w/ Chris Michel)

Zach sits down with Bloomberg LP’s American Head of Diversity & Inclusion Chris Michel to discuss this moment of racial reckoning we find ourselves in following the tragic murders of George Floyd, Breonna Taylor, Ahmaud Arbery and others. Chris shares how his personal planning and goals have been impacted coming into a new organization as an executive, talks a bit about what he’s excited to achieve at Bloomberg over the next 12 months, and explains why he believes this moment is actually spurring a movement.

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TRANSCRIPT

Zach: What’s up, y’all? It’s Zach with Living Corporate, and you know what we’re doing, right? Every single week we’re bringing to you a few different things, ’cause really Living Corporate is–it’s one podcast, quote-unquote, but there’s, like, multiple content series on our podcast, right? So, like, on Tuesdays we have Real Talk Tuesdays. That’s where we have these, like, long-form conversations like the one we’re about to get into today. And then on Thursdays we have Tristan’s Tips. So those are, like, you know, 1, 2-minute career tips. Then on Saturdays we switch it up and we either have See It to Be It with Amy C. Waninger, and that’s, like, we go into someone’s role, right, how they do their job, typically a Black or brown person–always a Black or brown person, actually. And then we also have The Link Up with Latesha. We have some news for The Link Up with Latesha, exciting news, but I’ma wait on it. But I’m just saying, like, be excited. Ask, you know? Ask Latesha about what’s going on with The Link Up with Latesha. Let’s get some hot goss going on. I can’t even say ‘hot goss.’ I don’t know. It’s just a funny term, ‘hot goss.’ But yeah, no, ask her about–y’all know Latesha. Hit her up on Twitter, ask her what’s going on with The Link Up with Latesha. Ask her what’s new with that. Okay, cool, cool. So like I said, every single week on Tuesdays we’re coming at y’all with some real, real content, and this Tuesday is no different, right? We have Chris Michel. Chris Michel is the Head of Diversity and Inclusion, Americas, at Bloomberg LP, a senior HR executive with significant experience in leading talent management programs in multinational organizations. Extensive familiarity with global Diversity & Inclusion matters in addition to a proven track record of success in broad-based talent initiatives including Employee Resource Group management, recruitment, training, community engagement, program development and senior management advisement. Strong interpersonal skills with the ability to positively influence outcomes. So look, the next thing you’re gonna hear is me talking to Chris, and, like, yo, I’m really thankful and excited for this conversation because–and you’ll hear me say this, like, I was just expecting some… I don’t know. You know how some people be kinda Hollywood on you, you know? They kind of come on–especially when they, like, formally represent their companies. They can be kinda [eugh,] you know? Just not as authentic. And I try to push ’em–y’all hear me try to push ’em, but sometimes they’re not really pushable, but I be trying. Anyways, that’s not the case with this conversation. I was really thankful and excited for the fact that he was able to come on, be real, and I’m excited about hopefully having him back. He’s definitely a friend of the show, shout-out to Chris, and yeah, next thing you’ll hear will be our conversation, and until next time, we’ll see y’all. Peace.

Zach: Chris, man, welcome to the show. Thanks for being with us. Man, how are you and your loved ones doing during this time?

Chris: I’m doing well, and the family’s good. We’re fortunate that we’re here in the city, New York City, but nothing untoward has happened to us in the last six or four or five months, so we’re very fortunate that we’re all well during this time.

Zach: That’s a blessing. So let’s talk a little bit about your work and the climate at this moment, right? So, like, I’d love to get your opinion. You know, I’ve asked–we’ve had Howard Bryant on the show, we’ve had Robin DiAngelo on some months ago, but I’m curious to get your perspective on why you think there’s been this collective call to consciousness regarding Black equity and justice today and in ways that have really dwarfed previous instances of Black folks getting murdered by the police. Like, why do you think this moment is so unique? 

Chris: Yeah. So I think what’s interesting about this is that people–like you said, this is not the first time people have seen the murder of a Black man or a Black woman on video, right, but what is different about this time in my opinion is with the murder of George Floyd, what we saw is that the man at the center of all of it was at a point where our system is supposed to take over. George Floyd was handcuffed. He was prone. The police officer was sitting on his neck–well, two others that we didn’t see were sitting on his neck, right, but in that moment I think we saw the lack of humanity that Black folks have been trying to insist has been taking place in terms of these interactions between police and Black people for a long time. And so that particular incident, again, our system was supposed to have taken over, right? George Floyd was prone. He was not moving. He was not a threat yet. Derek Chauvin, I think his last name was, sat there, and even in the face of people begging him to get off of Mr. Floyd’s neck, you could just see in his face at that moment that lack of humanity, that moment he decided to play judge, jury and executioner, and it was–again, I think white people saw the truth in what we’ve been saying for years in that one moment, and I think that the pandemic and the politics of the moment have all come together right now to really get people who are in the majority population to see that, you know, what we’ve been saying for a long time might actually have some legitimacy, and because of that I just think that this particular catalyst has been very different. I think people’s eyes have really been opened. There was no grey area, right? You know, some of those videos that we’ve seen in the past, you know, somebody who wanted to doubt could say, “Well, why did they run from the police,” or “Why did they fight?” There was no fight. George Floyd was on the ground. He was handcuffed. At that point he should’ve been taken to jail and processed and judged by a jury of his peers, but that police officer refused to do so, and again, I think the truth, our truth, came out in that moment, and that’s why people are reacting very differently than they have in the past. 

Zach: I mean, let’s stay there, ’cause you’ve been in this space for well over a decade–I’m not calling you old. But you’ve operated, again, in this executive leadership capacity, right, and I think about one, like, Living Corporate as a platform, right? We’ve had Black men who have been on the platform. We’ve had a couple of Latinx men as well, but we don’t typically have a lot of Black male executives on our platform. Like, straight up, Chris, I’ve had conversations with folks offline and they’re like, “Look, you know, love what you’re doing. I appreciate it. It’s a little too radical for me. I need to make sure I take care of whatever, whatever,” but I have discussions–I have mentors of course as well, and we talk about the fact that, like–and this is not exclusive to Black men. Black women face this and then some, but I’m talking as a Black man ’cause that’s who I am and I’m talking to you, another Black man, right? But I think about the higher you get, like, that tightrope and that safety net gets smaller and smaller, and that tightrope seems to get even more and more narrow, and I think about the fact that you’ve–you know, I’m projecting a little bit because I’m making assumptions about just–as I read things, Ellen McGirt’s written pieces in Fortune Magainze about being Black, a Black executive. I’m just curious, considering that you typically are moving in these majority-white spaces, how do you feel diversity, equity, inclusion and belonging is shifting in this moment as a response, and do you think it’s just a moment, or do you think there’s something more to this that’s longer lasting? 

Chris: Yeah. So I think the moment is actually spurring the movement, right? You know, when I first came into the workforce–and, you know, again, like you said, I’m not old, but I’m not young either. When I first came into the workforce, you know, there was no place for a discussion of politics or race or religion or sexual orientation, you know? You just weren’t supposed to talk about those things, right? You were supposed to come in, do your job, and leave all of that stuff at home, and, you know, companies can’t do that anymore, right? We have to address these human characteristics, which is why people like me have a job, right? Because when I think about our organization, our organization is made up of all different backgrounds, and we address not just the questions about race, we address questions about sexual orientation, disability status, whether or not you served in the armed forces, gender. You know, all of these things make up our workforce and they make up our customer and client population, right, so we have to, as an organization, really consider that, right? So now when you think about this particular moment, it is a chance now for us to really sort of push on this notion that, you know, these differences that we all have really do make us stronger. You know, one of the things I’ve been really encouraged by is, and this sort of goes back to your first question, is it’s not just Black folks out in the streets marching. If you look at these protests–I mean, look at Portland. Portland is 5% Black, right? You’re talking about the population, 5% Black people. You’re talking about 61 straight nights of protests it is at this point, and there’s no Black people there, right? So I think that a number of different backgrounds, different walks of life, different dimensions of diversity are realizing more and more that, you know, our differences make us stronger really as a people, and that really does translate into our workplaces. So I really do think that this moment, right–and God knows it’s unfortunate that the death of George Floyd and Breonna Taylor and Ahmaud Arbery had to occur or did occur, but it is a catalyst. It’s almost like, you know, Emmett Till, right? It’s terrible what happened to Emmett Till, but Emmett Till really was the catalyst for a lot of the gains that we saw in the ’60s, right? Even though it was in the ’50s when he was killed, you know, a lot of the movement began sort of at that point, and I think that George Floyd’s death is no different a catalyst. I think this is gonna be–it is a real catalyst for us to turn that moment into a movement, and we’re seeing, again, a much broader coalition of people coming together to say, “You know what? We need to make changes in our society,” and again, does the fact that we had been cooped up for 3 months in the house prior to this happening have something to do with it? Quite possibly. Does the fact that we are more politically divided as a nation than maybe we’ve ever been or maybe we’ve been since, you know, the middle 1800s? I think that may have something to do with it too, but I certainly do believe that this moment is spurring a movement.

Zach: You know, it’s interesting you talked about Emmett Till. I didn’t even think about this, Chris–and I imagine you can relate to this–my grandfather is older than Emmett Till would be today, you know what I’m saying? ‘Cause there’s this narrative that, like, these things were such a long time ago. It’s like, “This was less than a human lifetime ago,” right?

Chris: Absolutely. I mean, if I think about it, I was born a year after Martin Luther King is assassinated. So I was born in the decade that, you know, all of this huge change took place in the country, right? The Civil Rights movement, blah blah blah. It was 6 years before I was born that three men went to Mississippi, two white men and a brother were killed in Mississippi for marching for voter’s rights, for advocating for voter’s rights. That’s only 6 years older than me, right? So this stuff is not–it’s not old, right? So it’s interesting. I don’t know if you’ve seen this. You know, you go around social media and you see there’s this graphic, right, and if you look at it there’s, like, a red–it’s, like, a bar, right, and it’s like all this time, right, there’s been Jim Crow and segregation and slavery, blah blah blah, but it’s only the last, you know, 50 something years that we’ve felt like we’ve had sort of the full rights…

Zach: On paper.

Chris: On paper, correct, of all of our fellow citizens, and we’re still fighting for it. I don’t know if you caught some of the funeral yesterday and some of the eulogy that Obama delivered, but we’re fighting this stuff today like–my mom was a marcher in the ’60s, right? And she was fighting the same stuff then, and we’re still fighting it today.

Zach: It’s wild. So, you know, shout-out to Dr. Jason Johnson. We had him on, but we were talking about, like, the cyclical nature of history, right? So things just kind of repeat, and I remember when I was in college–’cause I was late to the game, I remember my history teacher in college, a Black man, he was ranting about–like, at the time I felt like he was just going crazy hard about the fact that, you know, the civil rights legislation that was passed in the ’60s was really just a double-click on the rights that we should’ve gotten during refirmation, right? And so, like, now, to your point, to President Obama’s eulogy, the words he spoke, he was talking about voting rights and restoring the rights. [laughs] It’s just nuts, and I’m laughing–it’s almost like you laugh to not cry, but it’s like, “Man, we’re eulogizing a man who got his head bashed in for rights that we’re fighting to re-establish in one of the most critical–the most critical–election season of my lifetime,” right? So okay, let’s talk about this. You’re less than 18 months at Bloomberg, right? I looked at your LinkedIn. I peeped your game, right? So, you know, most executives they come in with a 100-day plan or some type of, like, medium or short sprint for what they’re gonna accomplish to kind of shape things around. How if, at all, has how you initially planned on doing this work shifted in light of the confluence of events we’re talking about with the economy impacted by a global pandemic related to global anti-racist protests around the world as a result of the murder of George Floyd and Breonna Taylor and all these other people, Ahmaud Arbery and the countless Black trans and non-binary folks that have been murdered. Like, what if, at all, has this moment done to your personal planning and goals coming into a new organization as an executive?

Chris: Yeah. It’s only accelerated it, you know? When I came to the company, when I came to Bloomberg, it’s funny. I had a chance to sit down with our chairman maybe about a week into my tenure, and we sat down and we met, and he said to me, “What do you think we need to do more of? What do we need to do better?” And you know, look, representation was a big part of it, so “We need more women at the top of our organization,” and this is nothing–I’m not talking out of school here. Most organizations need more women at the top of their organizations. Most organizations need more people at the top of their organization. Most organizations need to think about how they engage with their LGBT and with their disability and with their veteran populations, and we do that to different degrees across those different populations, but what I said to him specifically was, you know, we need to push harder on Black and Latinx execs in our organization, people at the top, people leading, and he said to me, “You know what? You’re 100% right,” and so the great thing is that Bloomberg has really given us the platform to push hard on all of that, but specifically on identifying and accelerating Black and Latinx talent. Now, as we came to this inflection point of the murder of George Floyd, it only allowed ust o accelerate. You know, I’ve said this a bunch of times at work over the last couple months. You know, look, we didn’t just start talking about race, right? It is now easier for us to have more of these candid conversations because, you know, all of us are having these candid conversations, but we didn’t just start talking about it. So if nothing else it’s helped us really accelerate and push the gas pedal even harder to really put things in place to drive equity for all different backgrounds in our organization, but again, it has allowed us to really put a laser focus specifically on those two populations.

Zach: You know, it reminds me of the fact that more and more articles are being published right now about how millennials and Gen Z professionals are engaging their work and the workplace compared to Gen X and Baby Boomers, specifically around, like, fulfillment and social justice and work-life balance or, more transparently, work-life blend. Like, double-clicking on that, do you feel as if there’s a generational divide within–and I’ve never asked this question before, but I’ve been really curious about it. Do you think there’s, like, a generational divide, like, within the Black working cohort? So this is what I mean. So I kind of alluded earlier, I don’t talk to a lot of Black male executives on the record on Living Corporate, and typically, you know, it’ll be kind of like a, “Man, you brave,” or “Wow, this is really cool that you’re doing this,” right, but most times the feedback I get is “Look, just keep your head down, stack your paper, and you can help your people in other ways by the money that you make, but don’t go around creating trouble for yourself or making waves,” and I think that there’s–to me there’s some tension there, ’cause then you’ve got this younger generation–and I think it’s short-sighted and ignorant to say that, like, this generation is more of an activist generation than others, ’cause we just got done talking about the cyclical nature of history so that’s not true, but I do think though when it comes to, like, this professional context, this corporate context, there seems to be a bit of a head-butting of sorts here. Do you think there’s any, like, veracity to that? 

Chris: Yeah, somewhat. I think that there’s some validity there. I do think that our younger generations I think expect more and expect more sooner, and I don’t think that’s just Black necessarily, right? I think that’s across the board when you talk about the younger generations, like Gen Z and millennials, but talking about, you know, history being cyclical, if you think about the Boomers, the Boomers and my mom’s generation, right, those are the people that stood up and marched in the ’60s and agitated and pushed for more for us, right? And those of us–so me, right, in Gen X–we were able to take advantage of that. And, you know, it’s funny, right? So I sit and I deal with a lot of younger Black employees. Some of them come to me for mentorship. I deal with them just in the course of my work, and I don’t have to tell them necessarily to slow down or to not fight for what they want. In fact, what’s interesting is I will tell them–because this has benefitted me in my career–you know, I think you gotta raise your hand. I think too often, we as Black people in particular have been sort of schooled, right? Like you said, “Put your head down. Work hard.” And we have to do that “work hard” part, right? The work I think is table stakes, but we have to advocate for ourselves as much as anything else, right? So I really do advocate and tell people, “Listen, you gotta let people know who you are. You gotta tell ’em what you want, ’cause if you don’t tell ’em what you want they’re not gonna know.” So related to some of the earlier conversation, one of the big discussions we’ve been having–and you’ve probably heard this in doing some of these podcasts–is I’ve heard a lot of Black employees in organizations, not just ours, saying things like, “I shouldn’t have to tell you how to solve racism. I shouldn’t have to tell you,” speaking to white people in power. “I shouldn’t have to tell you what to do here.” And while we certainly can’t solve for racism or discrimination–we don’t sit in the power structure that way as Black people–but we certainly can speak up about what’s wrong. If we sit back and kind of cross our arms and say, “Well, I’m not gonna say anything,” how do the people in power know what it is that needs to be fixed? And moreover, why would they attempt to fix it, right? ‘Cause it’s not benefitting us, it’s benefitting them. So why would they fix it, right? So I really do feel that, you know, I like the advocacy of this younger generation. I do think that in some sense, you know, there has to be a recognition that things don’t happen overnight. Look, if I could go to any workplace I’ve ever been, snap my fingers and make, you know, all of our underrepresented population, make them leaders of people and put them at–you know, of course I would do that, right, but that’s not realistic. There’s a process. There’s a time that it takes. But, you know, I don’t mind that advocacy. I don’t mind that–agitation is probably not the right word, but I don’t mind that “pushing for more.” I think that’s important, because we seem to be–we as Black people–traditionally the group that hasn’t done that, and so I’m okay with that actually being the case. Push for more, you know? Ask for what you want. Be that person that is looking to get more out of the career and your experience in an organization.

Zach: And to your point, I think–so I agree that, you know, we have more power even now, right, even while our humanity is being challenged, and we see it in a variety of different ways, right? I would say frankly, like, the historic oppression of Black and brown people speaks to the very power that we have, because if we didn’t have power there wouldn’t be such a consistently oppressive effort to take it away. So I agree that we have more power than we realize often times, and I think we do cede that power when we cross our arms and don’t speak up. At the same time, I’m curious your thoughts on the idea that we have also seen what can happen either, you know, immediately or over time, passive or active backlash when people do raise their hand and call out what is wrong. So I think my challenge to you in the position that you sit is, like, what does it mean or how do you mitigate that? ‘Cause there’s legitimate fear that folks have in speaking up. And I recognize there’s ways to do it on the respectability–I get that, I get that, but I’m curious to get your reaction to that thought.

Chris: Yeah. So look, it’s my job, right, to set up systems and to set up an environment where our people, and all of our people, right, not just Black people, are empowered to engage with their managers and empowered to point out, “Hey, something’s wrong here and we need to fix this.” One of the great things about working at Bloomberg is that we’re a very flat organization, right? So there’s not this crazy hierarchy where, you know, there’s all the execs that sit up on the 30th floor, and you got this special elevator to get there. Like, we’re not built like that. We’re built where if I need to go and speak to Peter [?], I can literally go and walk by his desk, and if he’s there I can just say, “Hey, Peter, got a second?” So we’re set up at Bloomberg to be collaborative and to have access to those people who can make decisions or to offer up a good idea or to point something out when you see it. Now, again, it’s my job to really enhance that, right, to make our Black employees or our Latinx employees or our gay employees feel like they have the ability to do that, because to your point, right, there is a fear that if you become the nail that’s standing up you get knocked back down, right? But what we’re doing is trying to create an environment that that’s not the case, right, that the nail or the squeaky wheel is addressed, and if there’s an issue, we try to adjust, we try to address that issue such that it is not an issue anymore where our people feel we have an inclusive environment. 

Zach: You know, you’ve talked a lot about time and experience. You’re–I don’t want to use the word established because that’s a loaded term that can mean a lot of different things, but the point is that you do sit in a place where there are few of Black and brown folks, to your point, not to mention gay and trans, non-binary folks, but you sit in a unique place. As you look back, you know, if you could go back and tell 25-year-old Chris three things, what would those three things be?

Chris: Huh. [laughs] Well, so interestingly, from a work perspective… you know, I’ve been pretty fortunate that I’ve always been one to sort of stand up and advocate for equity and advocate for underrepresented groups. I guess that’s why I do what I do today. So I’ve never really had that fear, and I don’t know why, and I’m not saying everybody should, but that’s just something I’ve been fortunate to be able to kind of overcome. You know, I think what I would tell the younger me is really more sort of on a personal level, and I think this will help you from a professional standpoint. The first thing I would say is, you know, I would think back around just being more responsible with [?] and credit, you know? I came out of school, and it was like I started making a little money, and, you know, you start spending money on silly things. You know, they give you 15 credit cards ’cause now you have earning potential, you know what I mean? I would go back and say, “Hey, man. That’s not smart, because it’s gonna take you time to build that back up, ’cause you are gonna screw it up.” The second thing I would say, and this is gonna sound specific, but again, I think it has a bearing on longer term, don’t get engaged to that girl. [laughs] And I say that only because, you know, look, you’re trying to build a career. People are having children at an older age now. There’s no–and I talk to my kids about this, I talk to people I mentor about this. You know, there’s no rush to start on kind of the adult part of your life, right? So take the time, build your career. One of the great things about my wife–and, you know, she kind of has a similar outlook on life. She’s always telling my daughter, “Look, if you get married before 30 you and I got problems,” so it’s really about establishing yourself, you know? Knowing what you want out of life, knowing what you would like to do in your career, and that’s not easy to do when you’re, like, 22, 23 years old, but you’re still trying to figure it out, right? So the third thing I would say is, “Look, maybe go back to school,” right? I look at my own career and, you know, I’ve gotten pretty far without the benefit of a graduate degree, but I wonder, you know, if I’ve gotten this far without it, you know, would I be able to go a little bit further if I had it, right? So extra education is never a bad thing. You know, I find this moment where this sort of anti-intellectualism we’re seeing right now, I just think that’s terrible, and the other thing I’ll tell you, what’s interesting, I was at a panel discussion some months back at Bloomberg, and we were talking, and there was some advocate who came in, and his position was, “Well, you know, you don’t need to necessarily go to college to be successful, and college is too much,” and I think that’s a dangerous statement, especially for Black people. 

Zach: I super agree. That’s wild reckless to say.

Chris: Absolutely, and we still have to cross a much higher bar, right, to break into places like Bloomberg or places like most of the other, you know, Fortune 1000, big corporations. You know, we have to clear that bar, and if we don’t have that base credential of a college degree, it’s gonna be that much easier for us to be excluded. So I always push back against people who–you know, you’ve heard this a lot in the past couple years. “Yeah, you don’t need college, and–” Nah, I don’t buy that.

Zach: It’s just such a wild, privileged–it speaks to privilege, right, and I was talking to some other folks about–you know, off-mic I was telling you about where I work consultancy-wise, and I’ve had these discussions with executives in the context of my job and I’ve been like–when people talk about the future of education, it being, like, you know, you won’t need a college degree, I said, “Look, there’s gonna be at least a 20, 30-year-lag between white folks and those other people in the majority not getting degrees and Black people not getting degrees, because that’s just not where we’re at, man.” Like, it’s hard enough, to your point about graduate degrees, for me to do the things–like, when people meet me and I tell them about the things that I do, people just assume that I have a graduate degree, Chris, so when I tell them that I don’t there’s a little bit of a look that I get, right? And that’s just me with my little ol’ bachelor’s. I can’t imagine–when I say I can’t imagine, I’m saying I literally cannot imagine being able to do the things that I’ve done with no college degree, and I think about my siblings–I got a little sister, I got a sister who’s 20, I got another one who’s 18 and I have another one who’s 15 and another one who’s 16, and so that’s that Gen Z. I can’t–all of them are going to college. Now, are they gonna go and do their–are they gonna go to community college? Sure. They’ll mix it up or whatever, but the point is they’re going to have a degree. That’s not a debate at all. So yeah, I’m right there with you. It’s funny. I want to react to something else you said about just, like, rushing, right? So I got married and closed on a house within a week of each other, and I was 23. 

Chris: Wow, that’s crazy. I mean, hey, look, I don’t–

Zach: No, no, no. I’m not saying that to argue with you. I’m saying–I told people before, I’m like, “Look, I love my wife.” Like we talked about before, I have a 4-month-old. Very thankful for the life I have and don’t regret getting married, don’t regret getting married in the time I did, but I do regret the timing of how I did that, right? So the spirit of what you’re saying I receive and I respect, because I think I was so excited to–you know, I graduated college a year early and I was excited just to, like, get to work and stuff, but now I’m 30, and I’m like, “You know what? Like, this is here now. Like, I was rushing to get to this, and I’m about to be doing this.” I mean, shoot, even if I hit a lick I’m gonna at least be doing another 15 years, right? [laughs] So it’s like, “Man.” There was no–there wouldn’t have been harm, and I remember at the time there were people who are like, “Why are you moving so fast?” And I kind of felt–you know, it was that young, some of it had to do with also being a Black man, kind of like, “Man, what you talking about? Don’t tell me what to do. I got this. I know what I’m doing,” da-da-da, but I look back and I’m like, “You know what? Nah.” Like, they were right to ask. They were definitely right to at the very least ask, and when you look at the statistics of how these things typically go, I’m not common, so it’s super fair for them to ask and question and challenge if I was doing the right things. So I’m right there with you. Let me ask you this. Let’s get back to Bloomberg again. So it’s been less than 18 months. What are you looking forward to achieving, and what are you excited about as we think about we’re coming–I can’t believe the year is really almost over, frankly. We’re gonna look up and it’s gonna be December. Like, what are you excited about achieving in the next 12 months?

Chris: Yeah. I think, you know, most important is to capitalize on this moment, you know? We’ve talked a lot about the moment today, right, and I want to capitalize on it. I want to build more equity across all dimensions of diversity in our organization, and I want to hold our leaders accountable for all that they say they’re gonna do. So, look, all of these organizations, right–I’m sure you’ve read all the statements that have been made and all the ads that have been out about what we’re gonna do and this, that and the third, and it’s great, right? And we put out a great statement. [?] Bloomberg put out a really great statement, but believe, you know, my job is to hold our leaders accountable, and that is my plan, you know? We’ve got very detailed plans in place against which we’re gonna measure success, and that’s really my push, right? If I look up and–if we have this conversation again next summer and I’m getting ready to go on vacation, I want to be able to sit and say, “Here was the plan. Here was the five things they said they were gonna do, and four out of the five are done, and the fifth one is on the way,” right? It is really taking–again, you hate that the moment exists, right, but capitalizing on the moment and really holding leaders’ feet to the fire, holding the organization’s feet to the fire to drive this notion of equity in our organization, to build a more inclusive organization. And look, I’ve been doing this for a long time. You know, I think we do it pretty well, but there’s always room to do more, always, and my plan is to certainly make sure that in the next 12 months we’re gonna really push hard on closing that gap of doing more.

Zach: You know, Chris, this has been a dope conversation. I’m gonna tell you–so Living Corporate has a platform, we’re independent, which gives me freedom to, like, speak frankly. So let me say this–you know, I was nervous. I was nervous about this one. I was excited, but I was also a little kind of like, “Hm, let’s see.” You know, man, you’re not really Hollywood at all. You didn’t really give me that Heisman kind of corporatized answer, and I appreciate that. You know, I didn’t know if Mike Bloomberg was kind of swoop in and try to, you know, tell me to stop talking, and I appreciate you. I appreciate it. This has been genuinely a franker discussion than I’ve had with others, off-mic even. So before we let you go though, any parting words or shout-outs, man?

Chris: Parting words? Look, man, I would just say to your listeners, you know, this is a moment, a unique moment I think for us as Black people, to advocate for ourselves, to push for more, to drive for a more inclusive world and more inclusive organizations in which we work, and so we should certainly do that, take advantage of this moment. Another parting word I would say, “Get out and vote.” If you do nothing else, to the point that you made, this will be the most important election in our lives, right? My first vote quite frankly was for Jesse Jackson in 1988. That was the first time I voted.

Zach: Oh, wow. Power to you. That’s dope. That’s a dope thing to say though.

Chris: And I don’t miss elections. I don’t miss elections because my mother marched in 1965 in Alabama and got busted upside the head for marching, so I don’t miss elections. I don’t miss small elections, I don’t miss big elections. I don’t miss elections, and so… people fought and died for our right to vote, and I really–you know, I know if the guy you didn’t want running is not there, that doesn’t matter. Elections are binary. Black people, we don’t ever have the choice, or very rarely do we have the choice, to vote with our hearts. We often have to vote with our heads. So I would implore all of you listening to go and vote with your heads in this election. And then, you know, the last thing, you talked about shout-outs, I’m gonna quote one of my favorite hip-hop songs, and there’s a part that goes, “Mom and Dad, they knew the time,” and, you know, my mom and dad have prepared me well for this life. I’m fortunate that even as I’m 50 years old now my mom and dad are still here and they still provide me with the guidance and the uplift to go out and do what I do every day, so more than anything I want to shout them out and thank them for giving me that. And thank you for having me on.

Zach: Man. Yo, so thank you, and shout-out to Top Billin’. [both laugh] And look, y’all, this has been Zach with Living Corporate. You know what we do. We’re having conversations every single week with leaders, executives, thought leaders, public officials, influencers, activists, professors, anybody really with the goal of centering and amplifying marginalized voices at work. You know where we’re at. I’m not about to list all the domains, man. You know we’re all over Beyonce’s internet. Type in Living Corporate and we’ll pop up. ‘Til next time. This has been Zach. You’ve been listening to Chris Michel, executive, mentor, advocate, leader. Peace.

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