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Julian Newman of Culture Creative: “Better Listeners”

They Become More Successful: The organization will become a more winning, successful environment by tapping into the experiences and strengths of people with diverse backgrounds. For instance, just from an expansion standpoint, having a diverse group of people at your organization allows for a broader range of ideas and opinions. Someone of a different culture […]

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They Become More Successful: The organization will become a more winning, successful environment by tapping into the experiences and strengths of people with diverse backgrounds. For instance, just from an expansion standpoint, having a diverse group of people at your organization allows for a broader range of ideas and opinions. Someone of a different culture might know of different organizations to partner with or they might know where the best place is to put advertisements because that community is their lived experience. Diversity broadens the company and the company will be more successful.


As a part of our series about “How Diversity Can Increase a Company’s Bottom Line”, I had the pleasure of interviewing Julian Newman.

Julian Newman, founder and CEO of Culture Creative, is a nationally recognized certified diversity and inclusion thought leader. As a cultural intelligence strategist, author and motivational speaker, Julian has spoken to more than 100,000 people and groups nationally and internationally during the past 20 years. Since the launch of Culture Creative in 2014, Julian and his team have worked with more than 100 companies and non-profit organizations to develop culturally aware leaders, employees, and more empowered communities. Julian inspires people to believe in their inner-hero and be world changers.

Julian shares his leadership development expertise with corporate, non-profit, creative, and faith-based clients virtually. Julian has a unique gift of bringing people of diverse backgrounds together to find common ground and become more beautiful together. He empowers them with curated seminars, training materials, and lectures that are specific to a client’s needs.
 
Julian speaks on behalf of the National Diversity Council and serves as an advisor to the Disruptive Technologists Think Tank. He has published writings with various media outlets, including Relevant Magazine, and will be releasing a series of books and cultural intelligence reports in 2020. Learn more about Julian Newman and his agency at
www.culturecreative.org


Thank you so much for doing this with us! Our readers would love to “get to know you” a bit more. Can you share your “backstory” with us?

I am a California kid who now lives in the Midwest. I relocated years ago because I was serving as a mentor to college students for a non-profit organization. My relationship with racism was essentially centered on three different rules: (1) Historic, it happened long ago, for the most part, during the civil rights era, (2) Geographic, my dad was from the segregated South, in Alabama, and shared stories about his experience growing up, And (3) Episodic, every once in a while, in my world in California, I would experience racism.

I lived in a very diverse world. The school I went to, the neighborhood I lived in: it was all of us, not just some of us. It was a very diverse world: Middle Eastern, Asian and all parts of Africa. When I moved to the Midwest, I saw that racism was not historic, it was not geographic, and it was not episodic. When I think about that now it feels so naive.

My young daughters at the time were entering into kindergarten and they began to experience racism at incredible levels so I got into this work by trying to advocate for my daughters. I always say that my first clients were my two oldest daughters.

In addition to that, I love storytelling. I have a film degree. I love acting. I love writing. I’m working on a screenplay now. I love comic books. I love Marvel and superhero movies. I love the transition that comes with a hero digging in, pressing past the pain and helping the world by being fully themselves. I want to do the same thing.

Can you share the funniest or most interesting story that happened to you since you started your career? Can you tell us the lesson or take away you took out of that story?

Well, it’s not really funny, it’s more of an embarrassing situation for me. I was doing a training session for a group of teachers, administrators, and parents. The group consisted of people from different backgrounds, religions, etc. I was trying to illustrate a point to the group in terms of not overreacting and having the humility and the flexibility to navigate interpersonal relationships. I was discussing ways in which people can say “I got that wrong” and to be able to talk through some of those hard and uncomfortable conversations. In the process of me doing that, I used the phrase, “We are not going to be crusaders for justice.” I meant it as a joke, only in the context of the discussion. There was a Middle Eastern woman in the group who had a problem with me using the word crusaders. She started to explain the painful history behind that word. Even though I didn’t mean it in any derogatory way, I was referencing something that had something to do with someone else’s experience.

I had a dilemma: here I am being called out by a person in the session that I was leading. The irony is that I was being called out for the very thing that I was trying to tell the group not to do. I started to feel defensive and I started to tell the woman that she is being too sensitive. I stopped myself. I realized that me being defensive was part of my own ego. My desire to deflect and put the blame on her, rather than taking responsibility for my own actions, was part of my own ego. Before I started to go into my defensive crouch, I turned to this woman and said I was very sorry. That word wasn’t part of my history or my experience so I told her I was sorry for not understanding the heaviness of the word. I also told her that I was thankful to her for having the courage to speak up.

That moment created an opportunity for the group to be able to model authentic relationships and how to experience different cultures. It took the group to another level of authenticity, transparency, and vulnerability.

What do you think makes your company stand out? Can you share a story?

I think one of the things that makes Culture Creative stand out is that we begin with the end in mind. We ask the leaders of the organization to tell us what “happily ever after” looks like for them. We ask them: “What does the vision look like?”

One thing I like to tell organizations is that we have a Zumba process. Meaning, it is very inconvenient to take Zumba classes. You have to wake up, get dressed, get sweaty, do a lot of physical activity. But people who take Zumba have a vision of what their goal is: they want that beach body. It is the vision of that “beach body” that gives them the tenacity and the will to do Zumba. That is our approach at our company. Instead of focusing on the hard part, Zumba, we focus on the results, the beach body.

We start with the end product, the finish, and then build the strategy of how we want to get there. We ask our clients: “What is your company today, what do you want your company to be and what does your company have to accomplish to get there?’’

Are you working on any new or exciting projects now? How do you think that might help people?

I am writing a book, Beautiful Together. The book is a field manual of my company, Culture Creative. Beautiful Together focuses on the positivity of discussing diversity and inclusion. Oftentimes, when discussing diversity and inclusion, we think of it as something negative and talking about the negatives plays on the fears that people have when discussing the topic. One of the most important aspects in the diversity and inclusion space is how an organization perceives it. When a company views it through the lens of possibility, every investment becomes a competitive advantage. More than the right thing to do, it’s the necessary thing to do if your business is going to successfully navigate a rapidly shifting marketplace. When it comes to the diversity and inclusion in some organizations, the focus is on not doing bad things. Don’t say this. Don’t say that. Don’t offend anyone. Don’t get sued. Now, while this aspect of organizational diversity and inclusion has its place, by building strategy based solely in the negative, we just get to zero when goals are accomplished. Zero is not enough.

Rather than simply focusing on being in compliance, let’s look to creating environments where each and every person can achieve the highest levels of their human potential. What would it look like to leverage the collective, company-wide talent of every influencer and stakeholder? How would that change the trajectory of your business?

My book, Beautiful Together, discusses not just what we need to change but also who we must become and the positivity surrounding that. As we lean towards a pathway of togetherness, we are more beautiful together than separate.

What advice would you give to other CEOs or founders to help their employees to thrive?

My advice to CEOs would be to listen and learn from their experiences and the perspectives that they have. An organization has to be viewed as a multifaceted experience that encompasses everyone’s truth. The CEO sees the organization through a certain lens that reflects their own perspective and experiences. The managers see the organization through their own lenses and everyone in the different departments sees the organization through their own lenses. It takes collaboration, creativity, and the willingness to leverage the expertise and the talents of other people in order to make the organization function as a collaborative.

We are all blind, but we are all blind in different ways. And we all see in different ways. I see things in a way that you might be blind to and you might see things that I might be blind to. But if we can bind our collective sight to one another, then we can overcome the collective blindness that we all experience.

What advice would you give to other CEOs or founders about how to manage a large team?

I think that you manage large teams by breaking the large team into smaller teams. So you raise up leaders and influencers in the larger group and empower them to lead over smaller groups. That creates more opportunity, a variety of experiences, and momentum. We want to help organizations create environments where every person can operate at the highest levels of their human potential.

Ok. Thank you for that. Let’s now jump to the main part of our interview. This may be obvious to you, but it is not intuitive to many people. Can you articulate to our readers five ways that increased diversity can help a company’s bottom line. (Please share a story or example for each.)

When a company doesn’t engage in diversity and inclusion as a competitive advantage they will exhibit these symptoms: (1) Rigidity: Can’t Flex, (2) Redundancy: Waste of Resources and (3) Routine: Lack of Creativity.

Without diversity, an organization will have less rigidity and more flexibility. Without diversity, we duplicate our efforts because there will always be sameness and we become routine and predictable. For example, Michael Jordan was arguably the best basketball player of his time but if there were five Michael Jordan’s on the same team, then the team as a whole would be less successful. He needed Scottie Pippen and the other teammates because they all played a pivotal role in the success of the team. So even though, from a talent standpoint, five Michael Jordan’s would be more, it wouldn’t fit together properly. That is why diversity is important, it makes the team stronger because everyone will bring their own unique experiences to the organization.

So, five ways that increased diversity can help a company’s bottom line is:

  1. They Become More Successful: The organization will become a more winning, successful environment by tapping into the experiences and strengths of people with diverse backgrounds. For instance, just from an expansion standpoint, having a diverse group of people at your organization allows for a broader range of ideas and opinions. Someone of a different culture might know of different organizations to partner with or they might know where the best place is to put advertisements because that community is their lived experience. Diversity broadens the company and the company will be more successful.
  2. Better Listeners: Diversity gives the organization an opportunity to listen to different perspectives.
  3. Learn to Love: The organization will be better able to understand what it means to love and think about the bigger mission that is greater than the individual’s own self-interest.
  4. Growth: Diversity can not only help the organization but it will extend into people’s own lives. In order for people and organizations to do this well, it has to extend and be in their day to day life. My relationships, my dinner table, my lunch time, the people I spend time with in my life. It is all expanded because I am living it.
  5. We Become Better People: When the things we learn from others are put into place in our own lives, we essentially become that much better. We become better influencers.

When it comes to creating diverse teams and inclusive environments, as well as developing next level leaders we must have an appetite for the unprecedented. Prevention isn’t good enough. Let’s move the needle and stir the imagination. Let’s dream, expand, and make the world a much more beautiful place.

How have you used your success to bring goodness to the world?

One of the things that I have done to bring goodness into the world, and that has really meant a lot to me, is that I participate in a program that allows me to read books to 2nd and 3rd graders. I have been doing this for about seven years. I read rhyming books, educational books, pictures books. I get to make the kids laugh. It’s part of a program called Be the Dream. The idea is that we need African American men in elementary schools to fight the negative stereotypes that we’ve had. It is an opportunity that I have been given to influence the next generation of students and make the world a better place.

Can you please give us your favorite “Life Lesson Quote”?

I’m going to quote my late grandmother, who was from Mobile, Alabama who didn’t graduate from high school but she was the wisest person I’ve ever met.

She used to say “You are very special, you are very precious, and go do something in the world with it.” I never forgot that.

None of us are able to achieve success without some help along the way. Is there a particular person who you are grateful towards who helped get you to where you are?

I am grateful for my parents. They have been and continue to be great examples of doing your best whether it is easy or not. My parents are retired now and they don’t have Twitter or Instagram followers but they are very hard working people that challenge me and my sisters to do the best we can with what we have and I will always follow them.

We are very blessed that some of the biggest names in Business, VC funding, Sports, and Entertainment read this column. Is there a person in the world, or in the US whom you would love to have a private breakfast or lunch with, and why? He or she might just see this 🙂

I would love to speak with Ava Duvernay. I would love to have a conversion about her process to blend art, activism, and justice in her stories. And if I could choose two people, my second would be Brian Stevenson who wrote Just Mercy and he runs the Equal Justice Initiative. I would want to talk to him about the long walk of justice and perseverance through challenges and setbacks that his journey presents.

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