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Small Ways to Support Inclusion in the Workplace 

Posted April 1, 2024
Debe Rapson, Fractional CRO & Co-Founder of Women in Revenue, discusses the importance of giving back and tips to support others in meetings.

Debe Rapson, Fractional CRO & Co-Founder of Women in Revenue, joins our host, Camela Thompson, Go-To-Market Thought Leader and B2B Insights Expert, in this episode of the Revenue Marketing Report. Debe discusses the importance of giving back and tips to support others in meetings.

Today we are going to be talking about small steps everyone can take to support diverse co-workers. It is such a great pairing with our other two days because there are strategies we can employ in meetings, one-to-ones, or other places. What are some that have worked for you?

“That is a great question. Ensuring that we are lifting women up and allowing them to be heard and to be their authentic selves, just tactically coming from that place in your heart, are important tactics. Asking questions and listening even when those questions can be hard. I think doing that and really listening to people and helping them get to the place for alignment. Those are some of the tactics that I have used. There are all sorts of tactics that you can use in group situations as well as to make sure that everybody around the table is being heard. And, by the way, that is not just for the only woman or two, or the only person of color or whatever is the diverse person is sitting around the table. I think that it’s facilitating that for the people on our teams, making sure that everyone gets to weigh in.”

Yes. I like something that you said yesterday: don’t necessarily assume what somebody says. Ask them what they meant. I love that. I’m a huge fan of nonviolent communication and I think a lot of principles there help with everyone. Having been in this field for as long as I have, I have trigger points. When somebody says, let me finish my thoughts, the first thing is, is this person shutting me down or am I going to get my turn. I have to reserve my reactions, just observe and watch. But, it is also an opportunity to go talk to them about whether am I stepping over you in conversations. What prompted that? Have a tough dialogue.

“Absolutely! I have said that to co-workers who cut me off, look, let me just finish my thought. I do that but always make sure that I come back around and ask, I really want to hear yours. Usually that happens when we are jumping the gun because we are excited about whatever it is that they have said and we’re thinking and not listening. But, yes, that is a thing. We’re all talking through computers, so we’re not breaking bread together as much. We are not shaking hands. We are making eye contact, but that’s through the computer. What we have to do is remember that there are things going on behind people. There is a whole world of things going on behind their computer in the other room and you never know what just occurred. Maybe somebody’s relative just died or you never know where people are coming from.

“Sometimes we come in with our pretty strong personal agendas and it is just important. Most of us are not doing lifesaving work here. We can all take a big deep breath and realize that nothing is probably truly mission-critical or that is going to save the world. Sometimes, it’s taking that step back at that moment and breaking and listening and trying to seek to understand where people are coming from. I think we are all somewhat isolated and so you never know exactly where they’re coming from. These are the tactics I try to adopt. It is hard. It is hard to do. I am certainly not perfect at it. But I do try to seek to understand and be real with people, whether it is people that I am leading on my team or my leadership peers. Be honest. Keep it real. Be understanding and realize nothing that we’re doing should get anybody so whipped up.”

Right. And if you think about how many times your partner can still surprise you after all this time, we don’t know everyone fully and we’re not that great at reading body language. Some of us may be, but statistically speaking, we are not great at picking up on stuff.

“So true. It really isn’t. It makes it a lot harder being seen through a computer screen. You’re living in your head with your agenda, whatever your agenda is for the time that you are spending with someone. When you think about those interactions with people where you have a miss and I think that they’re common. Just coming again, building that trust one-to-one because we are somewhat isolated. Building that trust one-on-one and any time we can get in person with people, the better. And just so that people understand where we’re coming from, and why we are acting the way that we are or feeling the way that we are. Why we might have responded in a certain way. All those things become important. Also, proactively call out that behavior when you’re seeing it happen. It may not be occurring to you or with you, but you might be observing it around a table.”

Yes, I think that is a good point. I think one of my favorite things I’ve learned over the years is to assume positive intent until proven otherwise. We live in our inner monologue for so long and not necessary what is actually occurring.

“Yes. 100% true. We all come from a different place, different families, and different values,all of those things. For example, the way people look at a budget. If you’re sitting around the room with your executive team and everybody’s got different values around how they make decisions around their budget. For example, helping each other out with making decisions or collaborating on decisions. Or saying, hey look, I have some excess from something that didn’t happen over here. How can I help?

“Those are interesting sorts of conversations, just different values about the way that people make decisions and how they interact, how they talk about their team hiring and how they lead.  Everyone comes with their own sets of views and values.”

Yes, a couple of things I’ve seen that work over the years that I like to try is making space for people in meetings, even if it’s not your meeting. Who wants to say something, why don’t we hear from them?

“Yes. Joe, looks like you have something you want to share?”

Then, make sure people are acknowledged for having the idea. I can’t tell how many times I have heard a male CEO say – no, it was actually Joanne.”

“Funny you mentioned that. I’ve been thinking a lot about that lately and I am focused on doing that. It’s something that I didn’t think that much about before, but I especially feel it for sure in my fractional role. I work with new clients every six months typically, which means that you’re starting over with a new team, a new team to build trust with. And, usually that change is disruptive to an organization. One of the tactics I have begun focusing on is giving people credit, making sure that I am calling it out when somebody has a great idea. I can see how people appreciate that since we are coming up a lot, so that is a great call out.”

What are some of the other things and tactics that you see as to just help people in those moments?

Make yourself available as a coach or mentor for people outside of your department. I’ve appreciated that when people have done that for me and I have tried to carry that on and I still hear from people I’ve worked with in the past. I think Debe made a great point in our first episodes that being a woman in leadership can sometimes be influential on who you are hiring. I have always been surprised by people who say, I felt a lot more comfortable because I felt like I had representation. Kind of sad, but at the same time, uplifting.

“Yeah. no totally. I see that and it forms strong bonds and it can be surprising how much reach and influence you can have as a woman in leadership. I sometimes forget that since I don’t think about that power, if you will, and influence that you can have by helping people and it’s important to also show that humility and how can I help you with your career. 

“I’ve found that over the last five to six years, what has inspired me to go back into leadership is the work that I’ve been with Women in Revenue. I’m Co-Chair of the board and that work inspired me to give back to other people and not just women obviously, but for sure women lifting themselves on my shoulders and it is something that I never had when I was coming up. There were very few people that were ahead of me that I could look at as a mentor and I think that it’s important. Camela makes a good point about people outside of your team in doing that. I am totally going to grab you to be a mentor at Women in Revenue.

“I think you would be amazing, get you involved, but that giving back and helping people is such an enriching experience. It almost feels as good for me as it does for the other person when I’m giving to them. I am always so grateful when people are willing to do that for me too.”

Absolutely! I’m so grateful for an early boss I had who hit it home that networking is important and you need to take advantage of all of those opportunities. I think the more people we coach to get face-to-face with other folks and have conversations be a little bit vulnerable, You make friends for life.

“I know. I used to be bad at that.”

Me too.

“I used to feel like I was such a tough guy and I had to be like that all the time and I don’t know. I think the more secure we get in our own skin. I’ve found that to really benefit me, it takes just being real to the next level. “

Yeah. I am very operational and I always wanted the numbers and work to speak for itself and that is not how life works. I have had to relearn and relearn that politics are real and you’ve to make trust relationships and establish trust. It’s just the numbers don’t matter if they don’t trust you as a human.

“They won’t trust the numbers if they don’t trust you as a human. No, it’s true, and again, that’s what is  hard about the moment that we are all not being in offices, not being in person with people, that can be challenging to create that type of rapport and build that kind of trust. It takes an investment of time and we’re all in back-to-back meetings all the time.  So you have to manage your calendar and ensure that you make time, not only for yourself during the day, but also for those sorts of conversations and for those mentorships types of conversations will make for me, at least, that is what makes working fun is the relationships. That is what makes life fun, for me, is the relationships. But then, I am a salesperson, so that is what I love.”

I’m an introvert and I feel the same way. Introverts can like people too. 

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