Cascading Leadership - The Show

How Lack of Representation in Sales Leadership Crushes Your Diversity Initiatives

April 16, 2023 Jim Season 3 Episode 19
Cascading Leadership - The Show
How Lack of Representation in Sales Leadership Crushes Your Diversity Initiatives
Show Notes Transcript

Representation in sales and marketing is extremely important for early and mid-career professionals. It is difficult for members of underrepresented communities to get interviews and job opportunities, as they are often labeled as not fitting the right culture. This conversation aims to explore the role that representation plays in the success of sales and marketing professionals. 

It is necessary to have inclusionary practices in order to create an equal playing field. Having more representation in sales and marketing positions allows for more diverse perspectives and ideas, which can lead to better outcomes. By promoting diversity and inclusion, companies can create a more supportive and successful environment for everyone.

When considering a career in sales and marketing, representation is a key factor to consider. It is important to take a look at the upper levels of the organization in terms of diversity; if you are not seeing faces that look like yours, then this should be taken into account regarding your ability to succeed. 

This is especially true in times of economic downturn, as those belonging to underrepresented communities are often the first to be impacted. It is essential to have a diverse team in order to achieve the best business outcomes. When looking for organizations to join, it is essential to investigate and consider the diversity of the organization.

This conversation is about the importance of representation and diversity in sales and marketing organizations. It has been proven through social science research that the more diverse an organization is at all levels of the organization, the better the business outcomes. Having somebody that looks like you, who comes from your background and experiences, is a source of inspiration and it is important for those in the early to mid career stages. 

Representation and diversity should not be seen as a nice to have but instead as a critical business imperative. Leaders have a responsibility to take inventory at all levels of the organization and see who is represented in the seats of power. This will lead to higher employee engagement and better organizational performance.

Organizations need to take a comprehensive approach to promoting diversity, inclusion, equity and belonging in their workplace. First, they should develop a plan to promote underrepresented groups within the organization. This should include succession planning, positioning, mentorship and sponsorship programs, and allowing the underrepresented groups to take the lead in driving initiatives.

Additionally, they should avoid taking a talent attraction approach solely focused on optics and PR, as it will fail if there is no representation beyond the manager level. Finally, they should make sure to commit to living the words they say, as candidates will be able to see if the organization is truly committed to promoting diversity.



Topic: Representation in Sales and Marketing: A Discussion for Early to Mid Career Professionals


"The Reality of Representation in Sales and Marketing: What You Need to Know"


"The Business Imperative of Representation in Sales and Marketing Organizations"


"Creating a Diverse and Inclusive Workplace: Strategies for Talent Attraction and Succession Planning"


"The Benefits of Diversity, Equity, Inclusion, and Belonging in the Workplace"

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 Struggling To Retain Your Diverse Employees? You May Want to Look at Your Representation in Leadership 

Struggling To Retain Your Diverse Employees? You May Want to Look at Your Representation in Leadership 

[00:00:00] Dr. Jim: hey everybody. Thanks for joining us. Wanted to have a quick chat and talk about representation in the world of sales and marketing. And this is especially important for those of you who are in the early to mid-career stages . The level of representation that you see within your organization is going to have a massive impact on your ability to navigate your career and the level of success that you're gonna have.

[00:00:26] Dr. Jim: Let me set the stage a little bit and lay the groundwork so you have a good idea of the role that representation plays. 

[00:00:34] Dr. Jim: So we all know as members of an underrepresented community in some sort, how difficult it is for us to even get a shot. At having conversations with leaders when it comes to sales and marketing positions it's exceptionally difficult for us to even get interviews because we're often.

[00:00:54] Dr. Jim: Labeled as not culture fits or some whatever other code words that [00:01:00] you want to put in there. So that's the reality of the situation. Part of the reason why we're having these conversations is to arm those of you who are early in your career with the ability to discern what's important with the organizations that you're looking to join.

[00:01:17] Dr. Jim: The other aspect that you need to consider i s that one of the issues with being a member of the underrepresented community in whatever shape that you define that is that whenever there is an economic downturn or some level of uncertainty that you're dealing with, it's oftentimes those of us who belong to those communities who are first in line to get chop.

[00:01:40] Dr. Jim: That is. The state of the world or the state of business these days, it's a reality and it might be uncomfortable for people to hear, but it is consistent with not only my experience, it's consistent with the experiences of a lot of people that [00:02:00] I've spoken with. So with that being said, here are the things that you can do about it.

[00:02:05] Dr. Jim: One of the things that I would advise as somebody who's been in the world of sales for quite a while. And has accomplished a lot of different things is when you are investigating organizations to potentially join, take a look at the food chain at the highest levels of the organization. If you're not seeing faces that look like yours, that is something that you want to consider in terms of your ability to achieve success within the organization.

[00:02:34] Dr. Jim: So let's talk through why that's important and some of the key things that you need to pay attention to. When it comes to sales and marketing, representation is critical. The data is out there, a diverse workforce, a diverse team in all the different dimensions of what that means, generally leads to.

[00:02:53] Dr. Jim: Better business outcomes. And this is proven out by social science research all over the place. And actually you can look at some recent [00:03:00] studies that have come out on s and p performance and the Fortune 500 performance. You can look at women led organizations versus male led sales organizations.

[00:03:09] Dr. Jim: A bunch of stuff out there. And the net net is that the more diverse an organization is at all levels of the organization, the better the business outcomes. So I only say, From a position of context, because there may be a lot of people that view this and think of d representation and diversity as a nice to have versus a critical business imperative.

[00:03:30] Dr. Jim: And let me be clear about it. Diversity and representation in all the different dimensions that it means is an absolutely critical business. Imperative. Don't let anybody else tell you otherwise because they're just not informed. So how does this relate, and why is this important for those of you who are in the early to mid-career stages and especially if you're in that sales and marketing function.

[00:03:56] Dr. Jim: Having somebody that looks like you, that comes from your background [00:04:00] that comes from your experiences, is a source of inspiration. So this is a signal that to you at the line level, you have somebody that you can look and see. That points a path or represents a path to your ultimate realization of your career vision.

[00:04:17] Dr. Jim: If you don't see someone like you in a seat of power, how can you even envision what success looks like? One of the guests that I had earlier on in season one of Cascading Leadership, Chike Rapu, cited this as one of the key reasons that he looked. When he was interviewing with organizations, and he's somebody who is now ahead of it at a high growth tech startup, 

[00:04:42] Dr. Jim: and that was his perspective. Some people might be listening to this and thinking that representation and diversity is something that's unique to certain groups or certain demographics.

[00:04:54] Dr. Jim: I would make the argument that the more representation and diversity that you have within your [00:05:00] organization, The better your organizational outcomes, your employee engagement and your overall performance as an organization is gonna be, even those folks that are in the majority in the American context are gonna benefit from having diverse viewpoints and experiences in their employee ecosystem. This creates a community within work where everybody is positioned to thrive and that can't be ignored. So if organizations are looking at trying to answer the questions, how do I keep my employees engaged? How do I retain my employees? How do I. Put my employees in a position for success.

[00:05:39] Dr. Jim: You have to look at how representative your leadership is at all levels of the organization and how that feeds down to the line level. Ignore it at your peril, because if you're only doing diversity from a performative perspective, you can expect to be bleeding [00:06:00] money i n terms of replacement costs because you will have a retention issue on your hands.

[00:06:06] Dr. Jim: We've been talking about why representation is critical from the perspective of an early career sales and marketing professional. We've talked a little bit about why representation is important from an overall business outcomes perspective. What about the customer perspective?

[00:06:21] Dr. Jim: If you are selling a product or service into the market and you don't look like, and your team doesn't look like the community they serve, and we are a global community, and guess what? The global majority is not white.

[00:06:37] Dr. Jim: So if your team that's going to market is not representative of the global majority you will have problems. So when you're looking at it from a sales and marketing perspective, your responsibility is to build a community of hand raisers that are attracted to your product, your service, your vision, your values, your mission.

[00:06:58] Dr. Jim: If you're saying all the right [00:07:00] things, but you're not representative of the community that you are saying those things to from leadership down, you are setting yourself. For a lot of problems from the revenue side of the organization. 

[00:07:14] Dr. Jim: What can leaders do to promote representation and diversity in all dimensions, in all aspects within their sales and marketing organizations?

[00:07:26] Dr. Jim: I would make the argument that you need to apply the lens of representation and diversity in all of those dimensions to your existing team and take inventory at all levels of your organization to see how. Who is represented, who is actually in the seats of power? Who are you showing at the highest ranks of your organization as a first step?

[00:07:53] Dr. Jim: And if you are thin, that's okay. Everybody's on their own journey in terms of being representative.[00:08:00] You need to put a plan in place that's gonna upscale and promote those folks that help you create an image that is appropriate to the world that you serve. Secondly, once you've done that, then you can look at the talent attraction model.

[00:08:18] Dr. Jim: If you are looking at promoting diversity within your organiz, And you're taking a talent attraction approach first, it's doomed to fail. And it's doomed to fail because you're candidates and the candidate marketplace knows what you're doing. You want the pr, you want the optics, but when the chips are down, you're not committed to living.

[00:08:41] Dr. Jim: The words that you say, because beyond the manager level, if there are no directors or very few directors or VPs or people on the board or people in the executive suites that aren't representative of the people that you're hiring, Your candidates are gonna know, and you're gonna have a problem [00:09:00] filling the positions that you have.

[00:09:01] Dr. Jim: So don't tackle talent attraction from a representation perspective or A D E I B perspective until you solve your succession planning and positioning internally first, do that. Now. Another thing that organizations can. You need to make sure that you're creating mentorship and sponsorship programs within your organization where underrepresented employees are connected with experienced professionals so that they can upscale their career path.

[00:09:29] Dr. Jim: And certainly, especially if you're in the US context, part of the majority, if you have initiatives that you're trying to drive from a diversity, inclusion, equity belonging perspective, from a representation perspective, and you're a member of the majority in the US context, let somebody else from that underrepresented community take the lead in driving that initiative, and that is going to speak more loud.

[00:09:55] Dr. Jim: Than you as a member of the majority leading and [00:10:00] driving this mission forward. So if you want better business outcomes, if you want better retention outcomes, if you want to attract more candidates,

[00:10:08] Dr. Jim: you need to look at an end-to-end diversity, equity, inclusion, belonging perspective with a representation focus at all levels of the organization. Hopefully this helps those of you who are listening who are in that early to mid-career stage for any leaders that are listening to this conversation.

[00:10:26] Dr. Jim: Put this into action and see the impact that it makes in your organization. I have all the receipts so I can point you to all sorts of social science research and business outcomes that legitimately point to this being the case. So this is not a feel good exercise. Don't take a performative approach to it because you know what your employees know, they see you.

[00:10:48] Dr. Jim: They're not dumb. So this has real world benefits for everybody that's involved, and I encourage everybody to take a real solid look at how they're [00:11:00] living and moving forward in this global community and this global economy. Ignoring this is at your own peril, so thanks for joining. Thanks for listening.

[00:11:11] Dr. Jim: If you feel that this conversation was helpful. Share it with somebody that can influence and carry this forward and move the ball. That's the ask. So tune in next time and I'll have more to say on another great topic that's relevant to early to mid-career professionals from underrepresented communities who are in sales and marketing.