Adopt a lifestyle of inclusion. We can all stand to take inventory in our personal lives to find where we’ve missed the mark on our support of diversity and inclusion. How many of our friends are of color? Who do we tend to congregate with at work? Who do our kids play with? Are we living in our own bubble or are there ways we can improve upon reaching out to other cultures and colors of people.
As part of our series about ‘5 Steps We Must Take To Truly Create An Inclusive, Representative, and Equitable Society’ I had the pleasure to interview Wendy Porter, CEO of Crowned for Success.
Wendy Porter is a Business and Life Coach, a successful entrepreneur and a professional businesswoman with over 15 years of experience building, running and operating multi-million dollar businesses. Her digital company Crowned for Success was dreamt up during her life-changing battle with cancer. Crowned for Success teaches women how to become financially independent by building a life and business they love.
Thank you so much for doing this with us! Before we dig in, our readers would like to ‘get to know you’. Can you tell us a bit about how you grew up?
I grew up in a small town in Indiana where we were one of few minority families in the neighborhood. My mother became a U.S. citizen after marrying my father and I became a first-generation Mexican American in a predominantly white middle-class town.
I lived there for nearly a decade and experienced a lot of challenges in that time. My mother being a very dark-skin full-blooded Mexican woman who spoke Spanish and not very good English, in this tiny town, she was a target for racism even if in several micro-aggressive doses.
This had a strong effect on me. I developed a sort of muscle and I proudly took on the role of defending other people like me. Those who may have been discriminated against or treated differently because of the color of their skin.
I believe this is where it all began for me. I knew my purpose was beyond myself and my family and my neighborhood.
Is there a particular book that made a significant impact on you? Can you share a story or explain why it resonated with you so much?
One book that has made a profound impact on my life is Crazy Sexy Cancer Survivor by Kriss Carr. I discovered the book while I was fighting cancer and was really in an angry, rebellious time in my life.
I was drinking and defiant and looking for the answers to questions like “Why me?” I had to face two surgeries and radiation therapy and before I knew it I had become a very angry person.
I remember my cousin sent me a package around the time I was officially diagnosed with cancer and I pretty much ignored the gift for a while. It sat on the nightstand for a while. But one night while putting my then four-year-old to bed she asked, “Mommy can I kiss the AOI that’s making you so sad?”
At that point, I knew this had taken over in my home and grew to have an effect on my kids. I had tried my best to shield them from it, never speaking about it around them but somehow they found out anyway. And it wasn’t having a positive impact on their lives.
So that night I went to my room and my heart began to break. I had a very ugly cry out with myself, on my knees, knowing I had to find some peace in this but not really knowing how. I found myself at eye level with the nightstand and there was this package I had ignored for a month. Inside was that book by Kriss Carr.
It completely opened my eyes to a new world. I could feel something shift within me and I devoured it. I read it until the sun came up and even just like being out on my patio, like the colors of the grass and the trees and the flowers just looked more vibrant. I had a whole new way of thinking. From that day forward I found the peace I was looking for.
I see cancer as a blessing in disguise now and it’s because of that book. I am a completely different woman, leader and cancer survivor.
Do you have a favorite “Life Lesson Quote”? Do you have a story about how that was relevant in your life or your work?
My favorite quote is actually one of my own. It’s one that I often share with my clients and that I’ve told myself: “You can’t be everything to everyone, or you’ll end up being nothing to no one and even worse than that, you end up being untrue to yourself.
We don’t go into business to be untrue to ourselves. If I wanted to be less of who I am, I would have remained in corporate America. It applies to my business and my life. It’s a sweet reminder for me and one of my favorite quotes because it’s really about finding out who you are, what is it that you stand for and what is it that you stand against.
Because these are the things you need to take and make apart of your business so that you are creating one that is rich in authenticity. A business that you feel good about, that you are proud to be apart of and represent.
I’m not a fan of Trump. As a result, I’m very vocal about that online, on social media and my belief systems are a strong part of what makes my business. I make no apologies about this. Has it cost me clients? Sure. But they weren’t my ideal clients anyway. I don’t need to serve everyone and where my message is lost on some, I’ve gained that much more with others.
How do you define “Leadership”? Can you explain what you mean or give an example?
I believe you have to really know yourself on many different levels to become an effective leader. That means knowing what your strengths and weaknesses are so that you can align yourself with and hire people who compliment you.
I also think authenticity is really important as a leader. You have to be able to show up as your authentic self, not only for yourself but your team and those around you. Living in truth and being able to lead by example is truly important. You can’t be afraid to call yourself out on your own bullshit. We all have our own stuff that we need to deal with and work out.
Many business leaders would like to blame their problems on their staff, but it’s our job as leaders to educate our staff and give them the autonomy they need to make better mistakes. And of course, people take better care of things that they own. So with the right amount of autonomy, the staff is empowered to make decisions.
In my work, I often talk about how to release and relieve stress. As a busy leader, what do you do to prepare your mind and body before a stressful or high stakes meeting, talk, or decision? Can you share a story or some examples?
I really have to give credit to my meditation practice. I’ve been practicing daily meditation for 10 years now. I meditate every single morning. I
My meditation is typically anywhere between 30 minutes to an hour and I don’t know where I’d be without it. It has created so much balance in my life that I feel completely off if I skip a day. My whole day goes to waste and I just feel like meditation has really been the anchor for someone like me whose mind is always all over the place. I’m always thinking of a million ideas. I probably come up with 20–30 business ideas in one day.
It’s really the thing that pulls me back into focus. Another thing I practice is anchoring. For instance, if you had an important interview and maybe you felt less than confident, you could think about a time you felt most confident. Say, it was while wearing a certain red lipstick. When anchoring you might put on that lipstick before your interview to bring you back to that time. It’s about “anchoring” an emotion with a tangible thing you can smell, taste, hear or feel. I practice anchoring anytime that I have a high-stakes meeting, or I’m not feeling like 110% and I want to really walk in with maximum confidence in myself.
Ok, thank you for all that. Now let’s move to the main focus of our interview. The United States is currently facing a very important self-reckoning about race, diversity, equality and inclusion. This is of course a huge topic. But briefly, can you share your view on how this crisis inexorably evolved to the boiling point that it’s at now?
I feel strongly that this came to a head when Obama was in office and a lot of conservatives were fueling the fires at that time. And while no one was as vocal as they are now about it or openly and blatantly vocal, there were definitely ways in which people played around the belt about it. For instance, the birth certificate issue. Then there was the ridiculous conspiracy about him being the Anti-Christ.
These people weren’t prepared for a black man in office and so for eight years you can certainly see how things were just bubbling up towards the surface and everything came to a boiling point at the time in which Trump was first in office.
And when the President does nothing to outwardly condemn racism and he’s quoted in fact referring to some on the side of racism as “very fine people,” what happened, in my opinion is that these people now had permission to come out and outwardly express their racist views.
So while Trump isn’t the reason people are racist, he’s the reason why people have become so comfortable being publicly racist. Racially motivated crimes and offenses against African-American and Jewish people and other minority groups are at an all-time high. Trump isn’t to be blamed for racism, but he has certainly been the permission racist people have always looked for to be proud, loud and public.
Can you tell our readers a bit about your experience working with initiatives to promote Diversity and Inclusion? Can you share a story with us?
One of the many diversity initiatives I was a large part of 10 years ago was while I was with the organization SHRM (Society for Human Resource Management). As a director there I managed 450 staff members and I headed the local chapters’ diversity committee.
A large part of the work was in creating campaigns about how to attract diverse groups to the workplace. What we found is that many corporate environments are at a loss in terms of how to recruit different ethnic groups because they often use a one size fits all approach. But when you’re recruiting these groups you really have to take in consideration their cultural background. You have to speak to them from their perspective. We would also recruit and teach staffing managers how to recruit more diverse candidates.
My platform CrownedforSuccess.com is a model company for Diversity and Inclusion and is the embodiment of what this truly means. 80% of our team is of a diverse background and we pride ourselves in diversity. We live by it, breathe it, we talk the talk and walk the walk. As a media company we offer content entirely focused on Black Lives Matter and there is always someone we are inviting to educate us on Black culture and other cultural influences.
This may be obvious to you, but it will be helpful to spell this out. Can you articulate to our readers a few reasons why it is so important for a business or organization to have a diverse executive team?
Having a diverse executive team and workforce has a direct effect on a company’s profitability. That’s not just my opinion. That’s a fact. There was a recent Gallup poll done that said that companies who hire a diverse workforce are more profitable.
So that’s first and foremost, your bottom line. I think it also pulls together different backgrounds and different cultures that can really speak to potential ideal clients of yours, because not every single client that you have is going to be of one background or culture. So having a diverse workforce of individuals who know your client’s cultures and can speak to them is valuable to any company. It also makes it a lot easier to recruit a diverse workforce. When you have an executive team that looks like your employees, when people go to work and decide what company they’re going to work for, they want to be able to see themselves working at that company.
When staff doesn’t see anybody who looks like them, chances are, they’re not going to feel as confident and as comfortable, working for a company where there’s not a single face that looks like them. This also reduces turnover as well, because employees are going to be more committed to staying with a company that understands their culture.
Another thing that’s important when it comes to a diverse workforce is that it fosters so much creativity amongst team members. So if you put a team of individuals together that come from different backgrounds and different cultures, you’re bound to have so much creativity come out of those teams.
Ok. Here is the main question of our discussion. You are an influential business leader. Can you please share your “5 Steps We Must Take To Truly Create An Inclusive, Representative, and Equitable Society”. Kindly share a story or example for each.
- Acknowledgment. We must acknowledge that inequality exists and that it ultimately is all our faults and all our responsibility to correct these wrongs.
- Adopt a lifestyle of inclusion. We can all stand to take inventory in our personal lives to find where we’ve missed the mark on our support of diversity and inclusion. How many of our friends are of color? Who do we tend to congregate with at work? Who do our kids play with? Are we living in our own bubble or are there ways we can improve upon reaching out to other cultures and colors of people.
- Quantify it. There is more than enough lip service about diversity and inclusion out there today. But how much has it hindered progress? What would it take to even the scale? These are questions that can be answered by putting a number to progress and making that the goal.
- Ask our diverse neighbors. We need the input of the community we’re trying to draw closer. This discussion doesn’t happen in a vacuum. We’ve got to actually do the work — the social work — needed to bring about change.
- Teach our kids and friends. Our efforts should really be contagious. Having a positive diverse workplace and community should be viewed as a great achievement. We should all be excited to share how we’re all doing our part to make the world a more welcoming place for people of all backgrounds.
We are going through a rough period now. Are you optimistic that this issue can eventually be resolved? Can you explain?
I have a great amount of reverence for our nation’s youth. They have really taken the lead on issues of racial and sexual inequality and environmental hazards. They were front in center in this year’s protests and I could see the effect they’ve had on local and national policy and the minds of their rigid parents. That’s where my optimism lies. This rough period is filled with energy that simply must die.
Is there a person in the world, or in the US, with whom you would like to have a private breakfast or lunch, and why? He or she might just see this, especially if we tag them. 🙂
President Barack Obama. I have a fangirl crush on him. I would love to have a conversation with him about his experience in the White House. I love everything about him. His sense of humor, his intelligence, his class and he’s definitely easy on the eyes. Sorry, Michelle, you have an amazing husband but I’m sure he wouldn’t be half the man he is today without you by his side!
How can our readers follow you online?