Pay and promote people fairly and transparently; wage/salary transparency as a rule makes it harder to discriminate and helps ensure a response, should something happen. I had a college job where nobody knew quite why some were getting raises and others weren’t, and it fostered resentment towards management and fellow employees. It’s hard to run a successful business when the majority of the employees are on bad terms with one another.
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 Dayna Steele and Scott Schroder.
Dayna Steele is a rock Radio Hall of Famer, successful entrepreneur, creator of the Rock Star Principles podcast, author of numerous books, motivational keynote speaker, and was the 2018 Democratic candidate for the Texas 36th congressional district. With no political experience, she took on 7,500 square miles that included the 4th largest city in the US and also some of the most rural areas in the country.
Scott Schroder served as Dayna’s “body man” during her 2018 run for Congress in Texas, and prior to that, was politically active in college while attending the University of Mississippi as a political science major.
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?
Dayna — Pretty typical middle class Texas family in the suburbs. It all changed for me when I auditioned for the student radio station at college — not because I wanted the job but because I wanted a date with a local deejay. I never got the date but I did get the job and over a 20+ year career became a Texas rock radio Hall of Famer.
Scott — The same, although I grew up in the district where Dayna ran for U.S. Congress.
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?
Dayna — “How to Win Friends and Influence People” by Dale Carnegie. It is a book that has been around for a long time with several updates, but good networking habits never go out of style. My husband says I collect people, my mother collected people. I’ve never met a stranger and come by it honestly! Which served me well when I decided to run for Congress.
Scott — “Black Reconstruction” by W.E.B. Du Bois. I think understanding the Reconstruction period of U.S. history helps put our current situation into perspective and does a lot to explain how we got here.
Do you have a favorite “Life Lesson Quote”? Do you have a story about how that was relevant in your life or your work?
Dayna — It’s what I say all the time, “The more you do to help someone else succeed, the more you will succeed.” You can call it karma or whatever, it is just and tried and true method I guarantee for anyone and everyone.
How do you define “Leadership”? Can you explain what you mean or give an example?
Dayna — Good leaders are good listeners. Listen to your employees and listen to your customers. Then act on what you learn — it’s not about you, it’s about them. I get up really early and organize/delegate for a few hours. During my run, my wonderful staff staged an intervention to stop the dozens of emails they would each wake up to. I listened, stopped bombarding them with early emails and, we got a lot more done in relative peace.
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?
Dayna — I walk and walk and walk. Walking, without any input (no music, headphones, podcasts, etc), is not only good exercise but it also clears my head and gives me time to either relax and think about nothing — or — problem solve with the extra space I make in my brain. I walk first thing every morning, after lunch, and at the end of the day. I walk about a mile each time. And, we have rescue dogs, so they appreciate it!
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?
Dayna — The internet is both a blessing and a curse. Moving forward, we have to find a way to use it for good and for truth. And, I think we do that be voting in people who are decent, honest, work with integrity, and genuinely care about others. The role of government isn’t to make a profit, it is to take care of her people. ALL of her people. My slogan when I ran that I still stand behind 100% is, “Healthcare plus education equals jobs.” Healthy, educated people work, create jobs, create opportunities, and make the world a better place. Everything starts with healthcare and education.
Scott — I am not sure this country is any more or less racist or sexist than it has been at other times in my life or throughout its history, but I do think people are fed up. There is more friction than many of us may remember from different eras, but that is only because people are fighting back.
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?
Dayna — I personally try to use social media for good to promote things as well as other people, groups and events promoting diversity and inclusion. I’ve digressed and had my snarky moments, but for the most part, I try to do good. And, I ran for Congress to help promote diversity and inclusion. Our staff was our own rainbow coalition — we tried to bring many in to get involved in the process.
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?
Dayna — Because your talent pool and customer base is diverse. Why limit yourself?
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.
Dayna and Scott:
1. Pay and promote people fairly and transparently; wage/salary transparency as a rule makes it harder to discriminate and helps ensure a response, should something happen. I had a college job where nobody knew quite why some were getting raises and others weren’t, and it fostered resentment towards management and fellow employees. It’s hard to run a successful business when the majority of the employees are on bad terms with one another.
2. Make sure there are clear processes for dealing with discrimination and relevant parties are kept informed.
3. Diverse management helps stop a lot of problems before they start. Do what you can to make your board of directors and middle management look like your future customer and current employee.
4. Speak up when you see a problem. Stop looking the other way. Early on in my radio career, I learned to speak up and ask for the same pay and consideration the male deejays were getting. It was more often than not met with confusion by management because they didn’t even realize what they were doing. It had always “been done that way.”
5. Keep learning and asking questions. Embrace and learn more about the many religions in our world as well as atheism. Learn about the humans on this planet. We are all more alike in what we want and need than most realize.
We are going through a rough period now. Are you optimistic that this issue can eventually be resolved? Can you explain?
Dayna — Yes, I am optimistic. It took us a long time to get here and it will take a longtime to fix but each and every day, more good people are stepping up and getting involved — either as candidates or volunteers or just speaking up for the first time, standing up for what is right for the human race and for our planet. Yet, my three young adult sons aren’t so sure, so read on for Scott’s answer. He is the same age range as my sons.
Scott — I don’t know. My experience as a 27-year-old has been one crisis after another, with none of them really being resolved in a positive way, and I struggle to think of a single person in a position of real power who was responsible for these crises who has been held accountable, legally or professionally. They’re all still running things. It’s never too late to start, though, so I have to hold out some hope this country can live up to its ideals, if we can ever agree on what those actually are.
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. 🙂
Dayna — Michelle Obama — I like her initiatives, her gumption, her sense of humor, her decency.
Scott — Dusty Baker — One of the most consequential LGBTQ+ allies in baseball history, as well as something of a Civil Rights elder statesman, not to mention a life spent playing and managing in my favorite sport. His stories of Hank Aaron would probably fill the entire lunch.
How can our readers follow you online?
You can keep up with both of us at www.therockbusiness.com.
This was very meaningful, thank you so much. We wish you only continued success on your great work!