Kim Scott is the author of Just Work: Get Sht Done Fast and Fair as well as Radical Candor: Be a Kick-Ass Boss Without Losing Your Humanity.* Trier-Lynn Bryant and Kim co-founded the company Just Work LLC to help organizations and individuals create more equitable workplaces.
Kim is also the co-creator of an executive education company and workplace comedy series based on her best-selling book, Radical Candor. Jason Rosoff and Kim co-founded the company Radical Candor, LLC to help people cultivate caring and candid relationships at work by implementing a feedback-first culture.
Kim was a CEO coach at Dropbox, Qualtrics, Twitter, and other tech companies. She was a member of the faculty at Apple University and before that led AdSense, YouTube, and DoubleClick teams at Google. Earlier in her career, Kim managed a pediatric clinic in Kosovo and started a diamond-cutting factory in Moscow. She lives with her family in Silicon Valley.
"You can't possibly do your best work if you are being harmed by the way you're being treated by your colleagues..."
- Kim Scott
Trier Bryant is Co-Founder and CEO of Just Work LLC. She is a strategic executive leader with distinctive Tech, Wall Street, and military experience spanning over 15 years. She’s previously held leadership roles at Astra, Twitter, Goldman Sachs, and proudly served as a combat veteran in the United States Air Force as a Captain leading engineering teams while spearheading diversity, equity, and inclusion (DEI) initiatives for the Air Force Academy, Air Force, and DoD.
Trier advises leading companies like Equinox, Airbnb, SoundCloud, Alto, Rockefeller Foundation, and others on their talent and DEI strategies. Trier has an unwavering commitment to employees within organizations to create a more equitable, inclusive, and thriving workplaces producing prosperous companies. She has been featured as an influential DEI practitioner by several publications and outlets from USA Today to CNN and SXSW.
Trier earned a B.S. in Systems Engineering with a minor in Spanish and Leadership from the United States Air Force Academy (Beat Army, Sink Navy) where she played Division I volleyball. She enjoys spending time with her close knit family who taught her to live by the family motto "...good enough isn't."
"Whatever problem you're solving, whatever OKR you have... your people are the ones that get it done. So we have to optimize for that experience!"
- Trier Bryant
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Patrick Gallagher: Kim, Trier, welcome to the show. Thank you both so much for joining us.
Kim Scott: It's great to be here.
Patrick Gallagher: This is so exciting, I think, to make a quick remark. whole reason why this conversation happened was as soon as you both launched the book, Just Work, one of our members reached out to us and says, you absolutely need to have a conversation about Just Work and even so much so connected us with your team and connected us via email because I think both Jerry and I were dealing with the imposter syndrome of like, "Oh man, should we reach out? Like, how could we make this conversation happen? This would be so exciting!"
And they just go ahead and went forward and connected us and it was really, really special. So I think all of that to say, we are so excited to have you both joining us on the show
Kim Scott: We are thrilled to be chatting with you all.
Trier Bryant: We are! Eng leaders! Right?
Patrick Gallagher: Yes.
Trier Bryant: I mean what a powerful group in our industry.
Patrick Gallagher: Yeah. Yes. So I wanted to kick off the conversation to set some of the context because when I was reading, Just Work, specifically on the chapter of recognizing systems of injustice, specifically on the topic of oblivious exclusion, I came across a quote that I thought would help set the context of our conversation. The quote met me where I was at and captured a lot of the things that I was personally confronting while reading the book.
So the quote is:
"If you're the leader, the fails here may feel especially discouraging. You've worked hard to avoid the worst kinds of things that can happen. You did it because you care. You don't think of yourself as biased or prejudiced. It's hard to imagine yourself as discriminatory. Which is the problem... you are all about good intentions, not hard questions. You were looking at the organization. You wish you had not the one you have. And you need help understanding what's really going on around you."
And so this quote really felt like it hit me where I was at. And that's the purpose of our conversation today. Is to help people not only understand workplace injustice, but to gain the powerful tools, to ask the hard questions and to take action to eliminate workplace injustice.
And so, I guess probably the best place to start is at the beginning. And so I think Kim, to focus on you really quick. You know, your first book, Radical Candor is one of our communities all time favorites.
So why Just Work? What was the origin story for writing the book?
Kim Scott: Well, you know, if you write a book about feedback, you're going to get a lot of it. And believe me, I did! After Radical Candor came out. In fact, I was giving a presentation at a tech company in San Francisco, and the CEO of the company a person who I had been then close colleagues with for the better part of a decade. One of my favorite people, somebody I really liked and respected, and one of too few black women CEOs in tech.
And so I'm at her company, I'm giving this Radical Candor presentation. And when I finished, she pulled me aside and she said, "Kim, I really love Radical Candor. I think it's going to help me build the kind of culture I want. But I got to tell you, it's a lot harder for me to put it into practice than it is for you. Because the moment I offer even the most compassionate candor, I get slimed with the angry black woman stereotype."
And I knew this was true and her words made me have sort of three simultaneous revelations.
The first was that I had failed to be the kind of colleague that I want to be. I had failed to be an upstander for her. I had been sort of in denial about the kinds of things that were happening to her in the workplace. Moreover, I had been in denial about the kinds of things that were happening to me in the workplace. If it was harder for her to be radically candid than it was for me, it was harder for me than it was for my colleagues who are men.
And last but not least, I had failed to be the kind of leader that I wanted to be. I wrote that passage, Patrick, that you just read, really for myself. Because I care deeply about creating that are fair, where everybody can just get their work done and enjoy doing it.
And I had failed too many times. So that was when I decided I better sit down and write, Just Work.
Patrick Gallagher: I really resonate of denial. I think, especially reading that passage in that whole section in the book. I think that's the big experience for leaders in a lot of tech companies is sort of the denial and ignorance of the things that are going on in their organizations.
Trier, you've led several huge DEI initiatives and transformations across a couple pretty notable organizations, the U S Air Force, Goldman Sachs, Twitter and Astra. So how did you and Kim first connect to co-found Just Work the organization together? How did this new amazing relationship kick off between you two?
Trier Bryant: Yeah, well, Kim gave me an early version of the book. And I had the opportunity to read it. And two things came from that. One, it was such a powerful read for myself and just really sharpening my own perspective on the experiences that I had in my career.
You know, when we jump into the framework and we talk about the root causes of workplace injustices, and one of the things we'll discuss is bullying.
If you would have asked me. Patrick, "Trier, you ever been bullied in your career? I would say, no. Have you met me? Have you worked with me? Like you come for me, I'm going to come for you." But then I read Kim's book and the way that she just takes these human experiences that are very nuanced, and gives you this language for you to name it. Cause you can't solve things that you can't name.
And so for me, I could never address being bullied in my career because I didn't name it in that way. That's not how I viewed it. And so I thought that was like really powerful for me and just caused me to have a lot of different reflections on my previous career experiences.
And then the second thing was being a DE & I practitioner. You know, if you know Kim and you're familiar with Radical Candor, she's going to give you a two by two, and she's going to give you a framework, right! Something that's practical and tactical to put into your toolkit. And we need more of those frameworks in the DE & I space to give leaders, to give individuals, to give organizations. So that we can, you know, shift this conversation of DE & I, diversity equity and inclusion from talking about it and all the reasons why it's wrong and why we should care and why we should focus on it. To actionable solutions that we can put into place.
And that is what I think is so powerful about the Just Work framework. So I went to Kim and I said, "Kim, this is amazing and how do we get this into as many organizations and to as many leaders as possible."
And that's how we have Just Work the company.
Kim Scott: And I, of course was thrilled to hear that because, another one of the things that I learned after Radical Candor was published is that no matter how good a book is. And I really think Just Work is a great book, People rarely change their behavior because they read a book. so I really was excited to have the opportunity to work with somebody like Trier who has deep expertise in how to roll these ideas out in a way that is safe and practical and going to be effective.
Patrick Gallagher: That's great. I'm so excited to dive into framework. I think the thing that stands out to me about Just Work, both the book and the organization is the fierce commitment to action. And I think that the simplicity of the framework, I found myself almost right after reading the first chapter, being able to apply it. Or at least become aware of the framework in these different interactions.
And so I'm really excited to share some of those tools with our audience. But I think the first thing I want to illustrate is to really capture why this matters and the impact of workplace injustice. Because I think for a lot of people, this can be invisible. And understanding both the systemic impact that has on our organizations at work, but also on an individual.
So I was wondering if you both could just share a little bit more about why "workplace injustice" and the concepts of Bias, Prejudice and Bullying are such a big deal and the impact that has on our organizations, and I guess, especially the individuals that work on our teams?
Kim Scott: Yeah, I think that both the collective and the individual impact are really important to consider. So, you can't possibly do your best work if you are being harmed by the way you're being treated by your colleagues.
And there was a period of my career where I felt like my employer had worked really hard to hire the very best smartest people. And then they told half of us to sit down and shut up. And that was like, "Why would you do that? Like, why? Don't you want me to do my best work?"
And so I think one of the things that I really am focused on is, I think we all know, especially in tech, that humanity's superpower is its ability to collaborate. We can get things done together that we could never dream of individually. And so you want to create organizations that are optimized for collaboration. And that don't allow one person to coerce another.
I had really never met anyone who genuinely wanted to work in like a 1984, everybody's marching in lock step kind of environment. We don't want to demand conformity. And yet we so often do without even realizing... what we want to do is respect individuality. So how can we offer some respect, some collaboration so we can get shit done fast and fair?
Trier Bryant: Yeah. And then also, as the organizations continue to diversify their teams and think about representation and acknowledge so much research and data that's out there that says, "the more diverse perspectives you have on your team, the better your solutions are going to be, your revenue is going to increase." Like the data is there.
However, if we're going to bring in these underrepresented professionals we have to just acknowledge, what does inclusion mean? And how do we, again, optimize for our talent to be the best that they can be?
And so it's really interesting. I feel like every time we talk about this, Kim, something else comes up. But like, it takes me a while. Like the title Just Work. I read it as like, Just Work. Like let's rid of the shit and just work, right?
Kim Scott: Hmm.
Trier Bryant: But then it was like, I had this aha moment, like two o'clock in the morning. And then I texted Kim and I was like, you also meant Just Work. Like the justice of it.
And then we were doing another podcast and someone was explaining, and then there's a third lens, right, Just Work. And so it's really powerful. So it's all of those things combined doing the work in an equitable way and optimizing, you know, what we get from our talent so that we can, again, yield the best results within an organization.
Because nothing, any company wants to do, whatever problem you're solving, whatever OKR you have... your people are the ones that get it done. So we have to optimize for that experience.
Patrick Gallagher: Wow. So the third meaning was, helping unleash people?
Kim Scott: Yeah, so that they can do the best work.
Patrick Gallagher: That's great. So, I guess this brings us to the framework to dig in because I'm sure now at this point and people are like, "Yes this is what I want to create in my world. I would want to remove the shit and I want to allow people the experience to be able to contribute their best selves to work."
And I think so much of our own systems, our structures and ourselves get in the way of that.
So can you break down for us? What are the root causes of workplace injustice and introduce us to the Just Work framework.
Kim Scott: Yeah, it's tempting just to call it the shit, but let's dig in! Let's get our fingers dirty and again, define the shit.
So I think the root causes are Bias, Prejudice and Bullying. And I think too often we conflate these three different things and they are very different.
So bias we'll define as not meaning it.
Prejudice, we'll define as meaning it.
And this was tricky for me. I mean, very often in my career, I want to believe no one could actually... but they do, unfortunately actually consciously believe in one group's inferiority sometimes. So you gotta confront that.
And then last Bullying is just being mean or meaning harm.
Once we can disentangle these three different Then we can know how to respond both as individuals, as leaders and as upstanders.
Trier Bryant: And then when we're also talking about these root causes of workplace injustice, we also have to name like what are the different roles that people play?
The roles that we talk about are the person being harmed, an upstander, person causing harm, and a leader.
And these roles are very different and they also, you know, warrant different responses in these situations.
So, you know, we talk about if you're a person who's harmed, you choose a response. And this is the one this is really important because this is the only role that we feel you have a choice. But we want to empower folks and leave folks with the tools that you don't default to silence.
You'll hear us talk about defaulting to silence a lot. Because too often, we default to silence because you don't know what to say. We don't know what to do.
But if you're a person harmed and you choose not to respond, that is your choice. But in all these other roles, we really want people to at least have some type of idea or some type of tool that they can refer to, on how to respond in those situations.
So for an upstander, you know, their role is to intervene. An upstander is a bystander that does intervene and goes into action. And the other thing to call out about being an upstander is you're not like swooping in to save a damsel in distress or something like that. You're being an upstander to the injustice. To the injustice. And you're intervening on behalf of the injustice that's occurring.
Then for the people who are causing harm. Their role is to listen and to address. And this can be challenging and this can be difficult. But really coming from a place of empathy and understanding to listen and address.
And then finally, leaders have a role to prevent these workplace injustices from occurring. And we know that they may happen. But if they do happen, what are the mechanisms that we can put into place and the structures so that we don't reinforce this behavior or perpetuate this behavior within our organizations and teams.
Kim Scott: So that's bias, prejudice and bullying. Those are the roles. Then the plot thickens. What happens when you layer power on top of bias, prejudice, and bullying?
Then you get discrimination, harassment, and physical violations. So we can talk about those things as well. But let's start with bias, prejudice and bullying.
Patrick Gallagher: A lot to dig in here. And I I really appreciate the distinction. Let's start with bias? How do you recommend people to become aware of, or interrupt their own biases that may come up that are not on purpose or they don't mean it?
What would you recommend for someone?
Kim Scott: So if you're a leader, what you want to do is you want to make it, EXPECTED. You want upstanders to be expected to intervene. And right now the default is to silence. So I'll share a story with you about time when the right thing happened. Which doesn't happen often enough. And then Trier can talk about how to actually operationalize this.
This friend of mine Aileen Lee was going to a meeting with two colleagues who are men. So they file into the conference room and they sit down at the conference table. the people from the other company, all of whom were men, started to file in.
The first guy sits across the table from the guy to Aileen's left. The next guy in, sits across from the guy to his left, and then they file on down the table. So Aileen is left, dangling alone at one end of the table. And so sort of subtle unconscious exclusion.
And then Aileen starts to talk. And the people on the other side of the table respond to what she said, but they respond to the men who are with her. It's as though they have spoken and not Aileen.
And so this happens once it happens twice. We've all seen this happen. And Aileen's business partner's getting increasingly uncomfortable. And eventually he stands up and he says, "I think Aileen and I should switch seats."
And that was all he has to do They switched seats, the whole dynamic in the room changes. Everybody realizes what's going on and they change their behavior. And it was much easier for him to do that as an upstander than it would have if Aileen had stood up and said, "let's change seats..."
It would have been like bias heaped on top of bias she would have been called abrasive or bossy or whatever.
And so, it was easier for him A. And then let's take a look at his motivations. It's both senses of Just Work. First of all, he cared about Aileen and he didn't want her to be treated unfairly. So that was the justice part.
But also, Aileen had the expertise that was going to win his team, the deal. And he wanted to win the deal! He knew they couldn't Just Work if the other side was not listening to what Aileen said.
So, that's why he did it. So he wasn't sort of trying to protect Aileen as some kind of, as Trier said damsel in distress. He wanted to stand up to the injustice and he also wanted to win the deal.
So that almost never happens. So what can leaders do to make sure that kind of thing happens more often?
Trier Bryant: So, what we discuss in the framework is called "Bias Interrupters." And so what bias interrupters are, it's a shared vocabulary and norm that teams and organizations can create people understand when and how to interrupt the bias.
let's start with a shared vocabulary. What is the word or phrase that your team or organization is going to use so that whenever someone hears it, that they know, "Hey, someone is exhibiting bias behavior attitude."
That person is calling them in. We like to say not calling them out, but calling them in for the feedback. And it's a learning moment for everyone. I bet that, you know, Kim and I will interrupt someone's bias at least once on this podcast. It happens all the time.
And so we know it could be something like, "Hey, bias, alert."
It could be, Kim and her editor, they used "yo."
Kim and I are teaching a course right now and we throw a "purple flag", Purple because of the book and, you know, just throwing a purple flag. whenever we throw a purple flag, everyone knows, "okay, There's bias. We're calling someone in and we're calling that in to disrupt that."
So then what's the norm that happens after that? And this can be a little tricky because this can be uncomfortable for some, and depending on the culture and the people it can be threatening if someone feels like, "Oh my gosh, I made a mistake. Oh no!"
But that's not the culture that we want to instill. Right? Again, this is about a learning moment. This is about having a growth mindset and we should want that feedback so that we understand how to have the most inclusive language as possible.
The norm can be when someone, you know, calls you in and says, "Hey, purple flag." All right. Say what it is that you're calling them in for.
And then they could say, "Oh yeah, that's a good call. Yeah. I've been working on that."
I would say the most common one is for folks that are trying to get rid of "guys", stop saying guys, they'll be like, "Yes, I know I'm working on that. Thanks for flagging that. Okay."
And then we just move on and we go back to work.
But what happens if someone's calling you on something that you're not familiar with? So then we recommend the norm to be, you know, you can say, "Hey, thank you for flagging that why don't we connect after the meeting? And we can have a conversation and learn more. Cause I'm not quite sure what you're actually calling out."
One of the norms that we have in the class that we're teaching is that because it's on Zoom and you have the chat, someone can throw a purple flag, even in the chat. And then also drop a link or a video, an article, or just provide the explanation there so that everyone has that moment to learn creates that learning moment for everyone.
And then also, you can continue to, again, like we'd need to get shit done, right? So you can continue on with the course and the meeting, but you are interrupting that bias so that we're not letting it go unchecked. That will just perpetuate that from happening in the future.
Kim Scott: So, this is kind of a departure. In Radical Candor, we talk about the importance of criticizing in private. But if we don't point out, if we don't interrupt bias publicly, we're reinforcing it. We're doomed to continue making the same mistake.
And the other thing I have found about bias is that it's difficult to change our it's. It was easy for me to say "you all" because I grew up in Memphis. But for example, in the book, someone pointed out to me, a bias buster who I hired actually Breeze Harper. I recommend if you need, good bias buster or hire Breeze Harper.
she pointed out to me that I often use sort of ablest site metaphor. Sloppy site metaphors. And so I would say "I see" when, what I really mean is "I noticed", or "I understand". The problem with that is that it kind of implies that people who are blind don't understand which of course they do just as well as those have vision.
And so I really wanted to change this and I wanted to change it again for two reasons. One because words matter to me. I'm a writer I did not want to use sloppy And two because another one of the people who was helping me to edit the book is Zach Shore, who's a historian who's blind. And the last thing in the world wanted to do was to use language that would harm Zack. Because I care about him.
And so I really thought I had worked on it. I thought I had gotten it. And I decided I better, sort of quantify my bias. So I did a search right before I sent the book in. And in a 350 page book, I used these kinds of abelist site metaphors 99 times. 99 times. I was stunned. And so we really need to have people pointing this out all the time. If we're going to change it.
Trier Bryant: And one thing I want to just call out, and Patrick and Jerry, is because this is so funny... cause I know how engineering managers think. Right. I can just see so many folks right now, their wheels are turning and they're like, "Okay, this is great, but Just Work, trier, Kim, can you just give me a list of like of the things, right? That we should, all of the words, all the phrases. And that, and that just doesn't exist! And it's interesting because our clients have literally asked for this, right? Like give me the list?
There's so many things, but what you should think about is your proximity to people who have different experiences, different intersections than you, those different biases will come up. And so just thinking about that and acknowledging that it may be different.
And what's been really interesting, we even been in sessions where people have flagged things that we've said that we're unaware to us. And it was like, "Wow, I didn't know that, you know, that's so interesting."
And so it's going to be your proximity, but to be open to when someone's calling you in and to take it as a learning. And again, if you're changing in your attitude behavior or something that you says, allows for someone to have a more inclusive and Just Work experience where they're not thinking about that. But they're able to think about their work? Again, we're going to optimize for what you're going to get from your team.
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Now back to the episode.
I was thinking... cause one of the things that you mentioned in the book, Kim was about "making it personal" and thinking about people specifically when you're talking about bias or prejudice and the role that you play in it. So when you were mentioning, you know, ablest language and sight I have a friend in the sightless community, Jeremy who went blind in college. And so that story really resonated with me because then I was able to really personify that to really important person in my life and friend...
And I think about that, man, like I actually do use that type of language all the time. Totally unconsciously, but it does have an impact, especially on him.
And so personalizing that impact.
Kim Scott: Yeah. Just think about somebody you care about. And then it becomes much easier to make the change because you don't want to hurt someone you care about.
Patrick Gallagher: And I think the challenge to kind of dig into some of the challenges a little bit, cause I think about my fear as a leader is like, I'm going to say the wrong thing... And one of the things that I'm. Yeah.
Kim Scott: You will Yeah,
Trier Bryant: say
Kim Scott: I will. We will.
Trier Bryant: We all will. Yeah.
Patrick Gallagher: I was hoping we could talk about that a little bit, more, because I feel like that may be a common fear that a lot of people listening in is like, "I'm going to say that I'm going to say the wrong thing. What do I do?"
But reading into some of the things you talked about, how to set this up with your team around calling people in, and raising purple flags or throwing purple flags, is there sort of the prerequisite of, making mistakes.
So do you have any advice on how to frame or set the expectation when you're introducing bias interrupters in a way where people feel invited in. Is it something that you have to repeatedly revisit? What's the way to help embed it within the culture to make it accepted and understood and repeatable?
Kim Scott: I think one of the things you can do as a leader is lead by example. And so one of the CEOs who I work with was trying to eliminate "you guys." Trying to stop saying "you guys" when he was addressing the whole company and, enough of the women, but at least a third of the people there were women.
And at first he decided that he was going to try to do this in private and not in public. Not tell people what he was doing. And then once he had broken the habit, he would announced to everyone else.
And he realized two things. One that it was actually very helpful him to make mistakes in front of people. To be willing to say the wrong thing. And to explicitly say, "I'm working on changing this. I want you all to point it out to me."
And then for people to point it out and if he, slipped up and didn't say you all he would say "Why did no one point it out to me?"
And so now all of a sudden there's an expectation that you've got a call in even the CEO of the company. He realized if it wasn't pointed out to him regularly, he wasn't going to be able to change the habit on his own because it was so deeply ingrained. So I think leading by example is one important thing that leaders can do.
And also just saying if you have a meeting and nobody interrupted any bias in the meeting then that was a failure. That was a failure in that meeting because I promise you, at least one biased thing gets said in every meeting, in every company, every day. So there's a lot of it out there . This is why it's useful to differentiate it from prejudice or bullying. It's expected that we have it AND it must be crucially expected that we change it. That we identify it and change it.
And you want to sort of adopt a growth mindset around this.
Trier Bryant: And the bias interrupters, another distinction is, it doesn't mean that you're the... person that's interrupting it means that you're the person that feel any harm about it. Again, you can interrupt bias as an upstander.
I will tell you as a black woman, right now, especially doing this work in this moment, it's incredibly hard and it's draining. There are times where people will say something and I'm just exhausted. And I'm like, "I'm just not in the mood right now. I don't have the energy right now to call it out, get and let people know like you know, language..."
But Kim doesn't let anything fly! Like Kim will throw flags all day and she holds people accountable. And honestly, it's really nice that she can catch things that... I think one of the things that we've, thrown flags on and I've thrown a flag on Kim and it, I think this makes it more aware is, Kim at one point in time, she used, slave/ master language, saying, "Hey, whatever's on my calendar, I'm a slave to my calendar." And I was like, "Hey, purple flag."
And as soon as I said "purple flag," Kim goes, "I can't believe I said that!"
And she was like, okay, thank you. Right. And then a couple of days later we were talking about something and we were in conversation and we were talking about an agency problem for an HR people team where you know, she said you have multiple masters.
And I was like, "purple flag." And she was like, again? How?! Right. And it's fine. But then in future conversations, when someone else uses that language, Kim can a flag and acknowledged that I don't have to.
Bias interrupters the responsibility is not on the person who may be harmed. You can be an upstander and call that as well. But again, as you're learning these things, it out. Call people in when you recognize this and you learn this. And so that it can be a teachable moment for everyone.
Patrick Gallagher: I have a couple follow up questions.
As we're talking about language, words matter so much. There was a quote when I was reading, I think it was the First Capital article that talked about the work that you two are doing. And I think Trier you were quoted talking about like how to respond to the "word police." For somebody who's like, "Well, why don't we have to be so focused on the words that we use?!"
And Kim you'd mentioned in the book about, it's not necessarily that singular instance that causes the harm. But it's sort of the straw that breaks the camel's back on someone's lived experience.
And so I was wondering, you know, Trier can you share a little bit more about, you know, how do you navigate a conversation where someone's like "Why do we have to have word police? And why does this matter?"
Can you share a little bit more about how do you confront that person who may be resistant to being mindful of language and how that impacts our ability to create more Just Work.
Trier Bryant: I was working with a leader at of our clients and they came and they told me a story that they had just had a... this is a senior leader at a company, and they had just had a meeting where the team was giving updates on revenue and they had absolutely just had a fantastic Q2. Went above and beyond whatever was expected for their results, for their KPIs, that quarter.
And afterwards very senior leader went up to the person who was doing the presentation and said "This is great! This is so exciting! Like this is going to be great for the board. Everyone's going to be so excited. You absolutely killed this work! And you killed that presentation!"
And the person said, "Hey my family and I are from a place in the world right now where a genocide is going on. So I would appreciate it if you could use different language besides 'killing a presentation.' Because I quite frankly don't want to be killing anyone."
And, you know, that leader took that feedback. But it didn't sit right with them. And so in our next conversation, they told me this story and they were really frustrated and they were just like, "Are we just in the point where I can't even give feedback to great performer on my team that lets them know that they did a great job on the project..."
And leader was so focused on receiving that feedback. Being called in for that feedback and was just really angry. I said, "You know, they're a great performer. They're doing a great job..." And I said, "Do you know what that person left that meeting, thinking about? The language that you used versus how they're going to then exceed the metrics in Q3. When you could have just apologized and said, 'Hey, I appreciate that feedback. And maybe ask, "where are you in the world that a genocide's going on?' Did you ask for someone to even share that? And you didn't follow up with any conversations? Like how did that make that person feel?"
And I was like, if I were you as a leader, I would be willing to say and do everything within reason that would make my employees feel included. Make them feel like they are supported. So that they can continue to go on and do great work."
And I was like, "I would not be surprised if that person's performance did not increase or maybe just be stagnant beyond that experience because of now that burden that they're carrying of that experience." Right.
And that leader had not thought of it and followed up. Apologized. And did have a conversation of what was going on in that part of the world and in their community.
I've never had that feedback given directly to me. But ever since that story was shared with me, I have not told anyone, "Hey, you killed it on a project" or anything.
There is a really great training that leaders could take at Goldman Sachs called "Subtle Yet Significant." And it was subtle changes that leaders could make that would yield a significant change from their people.
To me, this is an example of a subtle change that you can make that will yield a significant impact with your people.
Patrick Gallagher: Subtle yet significant. So powerful go, go ahead, Kim.
Kim Scott: I think it's important to remember that communication, and I'm going to just flag before I say this. This is an ablest metaphor. So if you can think of a better way to say it, I would love to know it.
So... good communication though gets measured, not at the speaker's mouth, but at the listener's ear. If you're not willing to understand how your words land for another person, you are gonna fail as a communicator. And so I wouldn't say "Oh! Everybody should not be so sensitive!" But rather, you know, you should learn how to speak in a way that is going to work for the person you're speaking to.
One of the best moments at business school came when we were doing a case in which FDR invited Keynes to come and give him an economics lesson. And at the end FDR didn't really get it. He didn't get Keynes' ideas. And the professor said, "Who was stupid, Keynes or FDR?"
And everybody's like, "Oh, FDR was stupid! And he was like, "No! Keynes was stupid. Cause he couldn't explain it!"
I think that's just really important way to think about communication. You've got to communicate with another person in a way that they can hear and that they can understand. That you're not shutting them down to further communication.
I'm sure that each one of us on this podcast has a "Red Word" a word that if you use it, I'm not going to hear another single word... the conversation may as well be over. my word is probably different from Patrick's, is different from Jerry's, is different from Trier's. We need to be aware of what each other's red words are and not use them.
Patrick Gallagher: I guess to use some engineering language, to increase efficiency and throughput. It's about if you simply change your language you increase your efficiency and throughput with communication. had an idea was inspired about changing language to be less ableist...
Communication is not about point of delivery, it's about point of receiving. Does that help fit?
Kim Scott: Perfect. I like it. Especially for engineers. like it.
Patrick Gallagher: I was hoping we could, talk about a couple of the other actions within the framework to address bias. Specifically I was hoping we could talk a little bit more about "I-statements" and how a couple of the different roles can use those to help as you say, hold up a mirror to bias, to help people become aware of it, acknowledge it, and to be able to move past it.
So can you help us better understand what are I statements? How do you use them? And how do you make them effective in conversation with people?
Kim Scott: Yeah. So an I statement sort of invites the other person in to understand what they said in the way that you do.
So for example, early in my career, very first day of my very first internship of my whole career. I'm working at a bank in Memphis. And an executive at the bank comes up and he says to me, "Oh, I didn't know they let us hire pretty girls as interns."
And so I know this is bias. I know he doesn't really mean it the way that it sounds to me. But of course, I didn't know what to say. So I didn't say anything. Which is the default to silence that too many of us in to. And of course I didn't. I was 18 who can blame me.
But fast forward, 30 years... Now, I'm the author of Radical Candor on writing a book, a new book, Just Work. I still can't think what to say! It is hard to know what to say! And I was talking to a guy who I'm on a board of directors with and he said "Here's what you could have said, that would have stopped me in my tracks."
He said, "If you had said, I don't think I can work here because I don't believe you will ever take me seriously when you refer to me as pretty girl."
He said "That would have been it! I never would have used that phrase again."
So, course he was right. An "I statement" just explains to the person how you are experiencing what they're saying. Or it can correct.
Sometimes people will assume that have a different role than I do. There, I tell a story in the book about this guy who ran up to me and asked me to go fetch him a safety pin right before I was going. And all I had to say was "I'm the speaker. I don't work here."
But it was hard for me to think.
So when you are experiencing bias, use an I statement, invites the other person in to understand the situation from your perspective. Also, if you're the upstander, statement is a great way, or a leader! To sort of point out bias to others. Which is very different from what you need to say if it's prejudice or bullying.
Patrick Gallagher: We will definitely dive into that in a second, because I think. You know, as we escalate sort of the levels of injustice, we definitely want to equip people with those.
So with I statements, You know, from an upstander perspective, this may oftentime happen like within a team, or after a team meeting.
And so I was wondering if we could talk a little bit about that particular case study example. Is there a way that you would recommend approaching somebody who may be exhibited bias in that meeting and to help them leverage an I statement?
Kim Scott: Sure. I mean, one thing you could say is, "I don't think that you meant that the way it sounded."
Is an example. So you're just pointing out it sounded to you. And you're also sort of saying, "I don't think you meant it the way it sounded."
That's another example. And you can, as the upstander you don't have to wait till after the meeting. Again, I really recommend pointing out bias in the moment. because if one person is making that mistake, a lot of other people in the room are making that mistake.
And so it's really useful to everyone, especially if there's a norm, like the example I gave of Aileen partner stood up and said, "I think Aileen and I should switch seats!"
And the whole idea of an I statement is, you may not know what is going to come out of your mouth next, but if you start with the pronoun, "I..." then you're going to think of something.
So part of this is about momentum. Is about saying something. "I..." and then seeing what comes out of your mouth next.
Patrick Gallagher: And to synthesize a couple of points here. It's about saying something and see what comes up, but the permission of making mistakes and making that okay, to say something and then to deal with the fallout.
So this reminds me of a story. I think we talked about this beforehand, but I wanted to bring it up here. We were doing an event on removing bias to the technical interview process. And, you know, synthesizing a couple of points of what we talked about so far, going back to language matters. We were talking about removing either hypermasculine language from your job descriptions, because we were specifically talking about female candidates are more likely to opt out.
And in this discussion, we were talking about other practices to remove bias from the technical interview process and, very much so like in tech, in terms of the demographic, we had one woman engineering leader on the call and she was sharing the impact of how she personally self-selected out of applying for jobs because of the language and everything we were talking about.
And then in that same sentence, a male engineering leader sort of interrupted her and did the whole mansplaining thing, explaining her experience to her about being a woman engineering leader.
And in that moment, I didn't know what to say, and I didn't know how to address that or intervene or to be an upstander in that moment. And both Jerry and I on that call were just were speechless, so we didn't know what to do.
Trier Bryant: Yeah, I probably would have said something like one, I said, Textio if, everyone didn't catch that. But Textio Is a fantastic tool and platform help recruiting teams and hiring managers remove bias from their job descriptions. It's fantastic. If y'all don't know about Textio like everyone should be using it. It's really wonderful tool.
But we're talking about the hiring process that is power, right? So you're talking about hiring managers. So that very quickly then turns into discrimination because bias or prejudice plus power is how you get discrimination.
But in that moment, I do want to just give you, like, what I would have said I would have just cut the person off and said, "You know, I think that she understands that concept because like we have her here she has been explaining that."
It's so interesting how often that happens. And I also feel that a lot of times when someone finds themselves in that situation, it puts the candidate, again because of a power imbalance, in a difficult situation, because I've even found myself in that situation where it's like I'm not going to say anything. I'll just fall back. But that's how I would've handled it you know, when I was younger in my career. I think that that would have been an I statement that I would've used.
Kim Scott: I think, often humor can backfire. But often humor when it is when it is used well is "haha... ah-hah!" It helps people understand something that they were previously unaware of. So saying think Bob... I'm just gonna call this guy Bob... I think Bob, you are giving us excellent demonstration of mansplaining, thank you! Now let's hear from Sue about what is going on."
So hopefully Bob doesn't like then punch you in the nose. But... it's over Zoom, so we're safe from that kind of physical violation. But hopefully Bob has a sense of humor and can laugh.
I mean, because mansplaining to me is in particular funny. Because it's so ridiculous! There's this great passage in the book about woman who wrote a book about a photographer. And this man at a party starts explaining her own book to her! Not realizing that she's written it. And she's so caught up in her role as ingenué she doesn't even realize he's talking and her friend keeps having to point it's, riotously funny
And so I think if we can point this out and sort of laugh about it. That's a good use of humor for mansplaining. If you can do it. But I also want to encourage you to just cut yourself some slack. Trier was very kind and said " I always notice."
I do always notice, but I don't always speak up the way I wish I did. So I think, try to not give into the default to silence, but be kind to yourself, Patrick.
Patrick Gallagher: I was hoping we could escalate a little bit to the level of prejudice. And to talk about how to approach confronting prejudice. I fear conflict. And when we get to the levels of prejudice and bullying, I start to sweat to think about like how do I do that? But the stories that you've shared of like the impact that, that has on somebody, when you have an upstander who is confronting injustice and it's not reliant upon the person being harmed. And the impact that has on people is astounding.
So, can you share a little bit about what are it statements? How can people use those to confront prejudice and how do you do that well?
How to confront prejudice using “It Statements”
Trier Bryant: I was working at a company once and this company was definitely known for hiring the best and brightest. And we were hiring for another recruiting leader and at the end of seeing multiple candidates, we were debriefing. And it was very clear the debrief that the top candidate was a black woman who came in. And she interviewed with her natural hair, the way that I'm wearing my hair right now.
But as all the interviewers were just talking about how great the candidate was and we would be so excited to go to offer. The hiring manager said, "Mmm I'm not quite sure we're actually going to be able to extend an offer to her."
And so I dug into that because I was very curious, like, I mean, this candidate blew everyone else out of the water. They were clearly the candidate for the role. Exceptional.
And so when I pushed back on them and say, "Well, why wouldn't we be able to go out to offer with her?"
And the hiring manager said, "Well, Trier we can't put her in front of the business with her hair like that. Her hair is not like yours and mine..."
And at the time I wasn't wearing my hair natural, I had on, I had my weave and extensions and my hair was like straight and long. That's not what my hair, natural hair looks like.
But, the difference between prejudice and bias is that hiring manager meant it. Like they really believed that they could not put a black woman wearing her natural hair in front of the business to get the job done.
And so in that moment an it statement is much more appropriate. Because you don't want to invite someone in with an I statement, right? Because that person believes whatever stereotype or, wrong generalization, degrading generalization that, they may have. And so you have to focus on the prejudice.
So an it statement, that I didn't say in the moment, cause I said a whole lot of other things. But the it statement that, you would say is like, "Hey, it is illegal to not hire someone based off of how they wear their hair."
Which in California is with the crown act. right. Or "It is against our code of conduct"
which is what we talk about in the framework of like, how do you prevent prejudice from happening in your organizations is having a code of conduct, right? What is it that we expect from our employees to their attitudes or behaviors and how they act? Because you can believe anything that you want. But you can't come in and impose your beliefs on others. So a code of conduct those guard rails so that, you know, we can hold people accountable to that.
So it's statement again, like "It is against our code of conduct or our HR policies to discriminate against someone because of how they're wearing their hair."
So the it statement focuses on the prejudice versus bringing them in on how it makes you feel, because if that's what they believe, they don't care how it makes you feel.
Kim Scott: Another way to think about an it statement is just to appeal to common sense. "It is ridiculous not to hire the most qualified candidate because of her hair."
So if the law's not on your side, if there's not a good code of conduct or HR policies, you can always rely on good old common sense for an it statement.
Patrick Gallagher: I know we're coming up on our time. I was hoping we could talk about Bullying and You statements before we formally close. Because I think when you get to the level of Bullying, that's, then people causing harm on purpose.
And so how do you confront bullying?
Kim Scott: So my daughter taught me a lot about this when she was in third grade.
So she was getting bullied on the playground and I was sort of coaching her to use an I statement. "When you do this, I feel sad."
And she banged her fist on the table and she said, "Mom! He is trying to make me feel sad! Why would I tell him that he succeeded?!"
And I thought, "Gosh, that is a great point. Why would you?"
And so we talked about it and realized that a You statement would be more effective. "You can't do that to me. You can't talk to me that way."
Or if that seems like it might escalate in a way that is damaging. Just to ask the person a question, "What is going on for you here? Why are you talking to me like that? Why are you doing that?"
So it may not seem like a major consequence. But it puts you as the speaker in the active role. You're not in the submissive role. You're not in the passive role, you're in the active role. And that is really a good way to push... if an I statement and invite someone in statement pushes them away. And that's really you want to do with a bully.
I mean, in an ideal world, there's a leader who creates consequences. Either for compensation consequences, conversational consequences, or career consequences. But the world, as we know is often not ideal.
Patrick Gallagher: I'm sitting here frustrated, but also excited at the same time, because we have barely scratched the surface of, of Just Work in the framework and I'm sitting here, I'm like, "but I have so many questions about the systemic issues and designing the workplace to reject injustice and to create a more just work environment."
I'm sitting here also thinking about like, "I want to dive more into the consequences and building out that out as a structural leader."
But I know we're short on time. And so all I can do is sit here and just, tell people you need to read the book, you absolutely need to read it. You need to not only read it, but put it into action. And then on top of all of that, if you want to reject workplace injustice, bring in the Just Work team to help you integrate it into your organization.
And I think there's a quote that you all have shared... "You may not like to think it this way, but if you are not consciously designing for systemic justice, you're creating systemic injustice at your company."
And I just I've been reflecting on that because that's been from my reckoning in reading Just Work. Is that a lot of it has been, I haven't been consciously aware of and designing that within our workplace. And so, the book not only is empowering. It is staggering, the stories are incredibly actionable.
So Kim, thank you so much for writing it And Trier, thank you so much for helping organizations transform and apply it!
Kim Scott: Patrick, thank you so much, Jerry thank you! So excited for this to come out. And to continue the conversation.
Trier Bryant: Yeah, thank you so much for having us and for believing in it and sharing this with your audience so that they can, you know, put this into practice within their teams and organizations as well