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“Take time to educate yourself and learn more” With Michelle Murphy

We must first acknowledge that our society is not equitable today and understand why. Take time to educate yourself and learn more about the inequalities in the world, in your country, in your community, in your workplace. As part of our series about ‘5 Steps We Must Take To Truly Create An Inclusive, Representative, and […]

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We must first acknowledge that our society is not equitable today and understand why. Take time to educate yourself and learn more about the inequalities in the world, in your country, in your community, in your workplace.

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 Michelle Murphy.

Michelle is the Vice President of Diversity & Inclusion (D&I) and Talent Management at Trane Technologies — a global climate innovator. Michelle leads the company’s efforts to create and sustain a Progressive, Diverse and Inclusive (PDI) work environment, deeply integrating PDI principles into HR, functional and business processes across the company. She works closely with company leaders and a strong network of diversity champions, Employee Resource Groups (ERGs) and Inclusion Networks to accelerate the company’s diversity and inclusion journey. She is a founding member of the Women’s Employee Network and served as chair. Michelle also leads Talent Management globally and is responsible for the talent strategy.

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 Illinois in an industrial area called the Quad Cities encompassing multiple towns and about 300,000 people. Fun fact — it is the only bend along the Mississippi River where it flows east to west instead of north to south. Growing up, I thought my family was a typical middle-class family. The more I’ve reflected on that over time, I realize it wasn’t so typical.

I was fortunate to grow up in a home with two parents who were real partners who both had full-time jobs and shared responsibilities at home. Like many parents, they worked hard so my brother and I would have access to more opportunities than they did. My family upbringing and early experiences are clearly responsible for my views today. I now realize it was unique in many ways. One way that has served me well is that I was raised to believe I can do whatever I am willing to work hard enough for and was never held back for any reason, especially not because I was a woman. Equality is at my core. I believe everyone should have equal opportunity in life.

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?

There is a book called “Nine Lies About Work” authored by Ashley Goodall and Marcus Buckingham that has really helped me challenge and reframe the way I think about how companies set up human capital strategies and the corresponding processes. Given my role as the leader for D&I and Talent at Trane Technologies, creating the right processes to support an inclusive environment is really important and difficult at the same time. I appreciate the perspective the authors shared about potential. Everyone has potential. And things like motivation and external support will impact how someone decides to use their potential. It’s liberating to think everyone has potential and we can encourage people to realize their full potential knowing the end result doesn’t have to be the same. There are a lot of ways to right. I consider this especially as we re-design our company’s talent strategy. Some individuals are naturals and have ambition that matches their ability to deliver both the what (results) and the how (behaviors). It’s important to develop and retain them. And it’s just as important to realize everyone’s potential — get to know your team individually and provide each person with the right kind of support they need to thrive.

Do you have a favorite “Life Lesson Quote”? Do you have a story about how that was relevant in your life or your work?

“It isn’t luck.” When I was growing up and something good would happen (example: got the internship I wanted), I would say that I was lucky. My Dad was always quick to point out, ‘it isn’t luck’. He was referring to the hard work I had put into earning the good thing that happened. Even though there are times I still feel lucky, I am also able to confidently acknowledge the role I played in earning it.

How do you define “Leadership”? Can you explain what you mean or give an example?

For me it’s simple — leadership is demonstrated by followership. You earn followership by setting an inspirational vision, being trustworthy, speaking the truth, and respecting others.

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?

It’s the nature of my role to often be part of emotional discussions. Especially as we continue to lead company-wide efforts around equality and inclusion. Before I participate in these types of meetings, I know I need to get grounded. I use a few simple breathing techniques. One of my favorites that can be done anywhere is to take a deep breath in, breathe out and end with a smile. You would be surprised how the action of smiling actually calms and reframes your brain and attitude. It’s also helpful for me to take a break and get out in nature. We all need to take time to care for ourselves.

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?

This is a sensitive topic with a long history, and we are all approaching it from different backgrounds, experiences and perspectives. I think what is different now is that people are seeing undeniable proof of racial injustice. We are being exposed to the truth and can’t rationalize it away. This exposure is also surfacing deep-rooted systemic issues that must change. I think we can use this boiling point for leading change. Change requires looking at the truth and demanding action and it starts with each one of us. As an individual, we can choose to do something — choose to learn and educate ourselves — choose to be part of the conversation and stand up for what is right, to behave differently. Together, we can strive for unity, equality and justice in our communities and in our companies.

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?

I’ve always approached D&I like a big change initiative. We are asking people to think and behave differently than they’ve been taught. Sometimes it seems obvious that you should be respectful of another’s perspective and still inclusive even if you don’t agree. But that simple fundamental disconnect is at the heart of conflict we see everywhere and therefore is not so simple.

In a company or business, I believe the approach has to be holistic and leader-driven to be truly effective. At Trane Technologies, we’ve been on a journey for the last decade to build a more progressive, diverse and inclusive workplace. Our efforts are guided by a dedicated diversity council, comprised of leaders in our company, who provide thought leadership and advocacy for our diversity and inclusion efforts. We’ve grown our strategy and from having one Employee Resource Group (ERG) — the Women’s Employee Network — to more than eight ERGs and 15 Inclusion Networks. We celebrate heritage months to increase the understanding about different backgrounds and perspectives. We’ve created forums for employees to come together and talk openly and courageously about dimensions of diversity and ways to be more inclusive. These actions have helped us drive change and we recognize we’ve come a long way and still have a long way to go.

Over the years, we’ve become an industry leader in diversity and inclusion efforts. For example, early on we recognized the need for more women at all levels in the manufacturing industry, especially in leadership. We were the first in our peer group to commit to achieving gender parity in our leadership roles by signing on to the Paradigm for Parity. To support our commitment we also have strong leadership development programs in place designed to accelerate development for women and help them be ready for the next role. Equally important has been our commitment to the CEO Action for Diversity & Inclusion — the largest CEO-driven business commitment to advance diversity and inclusion in the workplace. Our CEO hosts calls with employees and shares his perspectives and role models inclusive behavior from the top.

In addition, an evolution of our commitment to underrepresented groups was the launch of an initiative to Advance Black Leaders in our company. We had to take a hard look at our representation and be accountable. We are focused on creating more opportunities to recruit Black Leaders into salaried positions and provide the development needed to ensure their retention and advancement. In 2019, we launched our inaugural Black Leader Forum, an opportunity for 50 high performing and high potential Black Leaders to come together to focus on their development, inclusively engage with senior leaders — including our CEO — and contribute to our vision and strategies. We intend to continue this and extend the offering to additional underrepresented groups — Latino, Asian, Military Veterans, LGBTQ.

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?

Put simply — we know that diverse and inclusive teams outperform homogenous and exclusive teams. Diverse and inclusive teams are more innovative, collaborative, better at solving problems and better suited to push what’s possible.

Diversity and inclusion has to start at the top, though. Our leaders have to demonstrate this diverse and inclusive mindset in every way — from recruiting and hiring to offering training and development opportunities. Our leaders are directly responsible for promoting and cultivating an inclusive environment where our people have a great sense of belonging.

On a more human level, when people from underrepresented groups see someone that looks like them in a leadership role, I think it instills a sense of inspiration and hope. They understand that they, too, can achieve a leadership role. It’s difficult to aspire to be something you haven’t seen.

Ok. Here is the main question of our discussion. 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.

We must first acknowledge that our society is not equitable today and understand why. Take time to educate yourself and learn more about the inequalities in the world, in your country, in your community, in your workplace.

We need to clearly define what equitable means and what “good” looks like. Define the end vision. There are so many ways to right and we all have different ideas on what this means. If we could get clear on what we are trying to achieve, I have no doubt we could achieve it, collectively.

Each individual has the opportunity to influence and create equitable processes and environments to be part of the solution. We can start now by doing the simple things first. Speak up when you see something that is not right. Reach out to and connect with others to expand your network and your understanding of equality. Choose to be inclusive — if we don’t intentionally include we will unintentionally exclude.

The business community should find ways to come together and lead societal change through leveraging existing community partnerships where trust is already established with the community.

Education creates opportunity and helps diminish “isms” like racism and can help solve for socioeconomic inequality and poverty. We need a deeper learning and understanding about the root causes of these two issues. Education can help solve for many things but when access to education is limited, larger issues develop. We must address the socioeconomic constraints that create disparity in access to education and healthcare. This also includes workplace talent development and getting people access to additional education and training needed to succeed and grow.

We are going through a rough period now. Are you optimistic that this issue can eventually be resolved? Can you explain?

I am extremely encouraged and optimistic. There is a greater awareness that there is a challenge and we need to take advantage of the opportunity the recent outcry has created for us as a platform to drive real lasting change. I am encouraged by how many people are speaking out and working together to ensure an inclusive and respectful environment and am hopeful that things will continue to progress this way for a better and more peaceful future.

How can our readers follow you online?

You can follow me on LinkedIN or stay in touch with what we are doing at Trane Technologies through our TwitterFacebook or LinkedIN pages.

This was very meaningful, thank you so much. We wish you only continued success on your great work!

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