How Readers Learn Through Stories and The Power of Being Vulnerable, Raw, and Relatable
Invisible Stories Episode 6 with Tony Byers
On today’s episode, I speak to Dr. Tony Byers, author of The Multiplier Effect of Inclusion: How Diversity & Inclusion Advances Innovation and Drives Growth.
Dr. Byers is best known for leading and revitalizing Starbucks’ highly respected and successful Diversity and Inclusion function and programming. As Head of Global Diversity and Inclusion, Dr. Byers developed and led the company’s strategic direction to drive engagement, innovation, and business growth. He now speaks and consults worldwide on effective strategies for building support for diversity programs among senior leaders.
We have a fascinating discussion that weaves in and around how we tell our story and the impact doing so can have.
In this episode we discuss:
- Out of all of the knowledge you share in your book, people remember the stories the most we don’t have to use fiction or create a story, we can use the real story, so just tell it, tell it accurately, allow people to see themselves in that particular story, and if they can, they are positioned to make different decisions as a result of the lesson or the moral of that particular story.
- The power of someone coming up to after having spoken and saying That’s my story. You just described my experience.
- How, we as authors, must answer the question for the reader—why do I, as the author, care so much about the subject matter? Which is illustrated through being vulnerable and raw
Enjoy the episode!
The Multiplier Effect of Inclusion by Dr. Tony Byers
Dr. Tony Byers, a global expert on Diversity and Inclusion, believes that “having” diversity doesn’t work without leveraging inclusion. The book is ideal for professionals responsible for leveraging diversity and inclusion initiatives, and for leaders interested in the benefits of inclusive environments.
His insights and strategies will help your organization design a process for inclusion to build, retain, and effectively leverage diversity. The Multiplier Effect of Inclusion will evolve your thinking about D&I from “counting” heads to making heads count!
- Timestamp: 4:11: “So some of the stories that I shared in the book parallel to what I do when I speak. So there may be a story on an example on how to do something better, or I might show or talk about innovation around the creation of the ice cream cone, earlier on where one person was making a waffle cone for waffles, and the other person had ice cream and they decided to bring the two items together to create a waffle cone. And so that example of how different thinkings, or different modes, or different perspectives, different individuals come together to create something new, is something that would be seen in both spectrums, in both speaking and in writing. But then there are some stories where I am talking about individual leaders and their struggle with diversity and inclusion and how through working together we were able to unleash certain things. Some of those stories might not show up in a speech, they might show up in a book. Or vice versa, they might show up more in a speech and not in a book. I think the biggest difference for me is maybe two-fold. One, when you are speaking, you definitely want to have the story correct and want the story to be instructive and you want the story to help so people can see themselves in this situation so they can think, “huh, maybe that’s something that can work for me.” So I am always trying to make sure the story’s correct. That being said, there is a bit of an outlier there. If the presentation is recorded, which we should always assume that it is. I am always trying to be careful about the story. Now, when you’re writing it, you’re trying to tell a story again to still help the reader or the person who is interested in this, to understand how she or he might see themselves. And one of the things that’s hard about writing is getting over the mental hurdles that I just wrote this down, and this is one of these things that is going to live longer than if you heard me speak for 45 minutes at a large conference that wasn’t recorded. It is in this book. And so every story, every perspective, what I had to wrestle with internally, is I just wrote this down, and it’s going to be around for a long time for other people to read. That’s a little bit of a challenge for me personally.”
- Timestamp: 7:20: “I told a story that happened in high school. Unfortunately or fortunately for me, that was a while back, so I need to make sure that some of those details are accurate when I’m telling that story. Or if I told a story that was more recent and I’m talking about other actors who were in or were involved in that particular story, I am telling that story from my lens or perspective, and I want to make sure that the way that I structure the story, and the way that I tell the story, is as accurate as possible from all different perspectives of the individuals that were involved. Now, the outcome and how I assess it and how I utilize the story as a lesson about how we can be better, that’s all my perspective. But the actual telling of the story I want to be accurate. Because I would hate for someone to read a version or section and say that’s not how it happened, Tony, you are totally wrong. Now, they can say I don’t agree with how you assessed it, which I’m ok with. But if they tell me it didn’t happen that way, I think I would be out of sorts if you will if that was to occur.”
- Timestamp: 9:16: “The stories are designed to help people be better. So we don’t have to use fiction or create a story, we can use the real story, so let’s just tell it, tell it accurately, allow people to see themselves in that particular story, and if they can, they are positioned to make different decisions as a result of the lesson or the moral of that particular story. That was my goal. I want people to think about how I can get better in the subject we call diversity and inclusion, and the first thing is for me to be accurate and get it right. And the next thing is up for the reader to decide how they want to relate to a story or what they want to do different as a result of hearing this story.
- Timestamp: 10:42: “I had all of the above: reservation, concerns, all of the above. So in telling the story, I wanted to share the story so that people could have an answer to the question of why do I care about the subject so much? And so being able to tell the story of how you’ve been impacted by exclusion versus inclusion at an early age, and how that has shaped my life to do the work that I’m doing right now, I wanted people to know that I care. And I care because I’ve lived it, and it’s been my experience. You know, it’s that old phrase, “people don’t care how much you know until they know how much you care.” And so one way to be able to illustrate that was to share my personal story. The other reservation was, I kept asking myself, I had questions back and forth about the relevancy. Like, ok, that story’s not that important, that happened 40+ years ago, dude, why don’t you just stay focussed on how to advance innovation and drive growth. So it was a lot of back and forth with me personally and with you and others to say is this story appropriate. Now, as a result of that, people who have read the book they remember that more than just about anything. That story really sticks with people. I had one person who met me, and she came up and basically gave me a hug like this story that I shared had happened recently, and she apologized for me having that experience. And although it was nice, it was one of those things that caught me off guard, because some people can see and feel that story, and that anchors them in the why. Why are doing this, why do you care? Why this position? And so it answers a lot of questions for people when you are able to tell that story.”
- Timestamp: 13:53: “I do on occasion have people reference the story, and some people say “That’s my story. You just described my experience.” Which is troubling, from like you’d hate for more people to have the experience, but also, just reassuring that you’re not the only one that has an experience, and if you’re feeling that, and you can write it down in a way to help other people process it, then you are contributing something to the larger society that is good. So you are helping. Then there are parts of the story where individuals look at stories of leaders that they are trying to impact. And say, the person that I’m working with is a leader in organization X or Y, they’re very similar in their thinking pattern, how did you help them move through? Some of the other aspects is the strategies or steps that we use or at least that I talk about or describe from my personal experience and some general research that talks about the behaviors, people are really gravitating toward that. You know, one of the most interesting stories or I don’t even know where it shows up in the book, but I just talk about diversity and inclusion as a subject, as a topic, inside of organizations. It’s been one of those things that we’ve just talked about for a long time. You know, 60 years we’ve been having this conversation. And people are still not satisfied with the outcome for one reason or another. And that’s probably a different podcast. But what I share the perspective of, I’ve never once actually just met somebody who says “Tony, I’m not for diversity and inclusion.” But everyone talks about “but what do you want me to do?” And it’s these practitioners really spend a lot of time talking about this movement from awareness and understanding and some other general moves and policies and hiring decisions, to actually doing something different. So to focus on the behaviors and inclusive behaviors and how do you drive more of that inside of the organization. It’s actually contributed a lot to some of my consulting.”
- Timestamp: 18:54: “You spend all this time trying to get to this place called “done”, whatever that is or wherever that leads you to. And then as soon as I felt like I was at the done mark, my head was already spinning about oh, but you could have… and you should have… and what’s next is… And so the book just bites you, and it kind of hangs around at least sits on your shoulder, left or right shoulder. And kind of nudges you every once in a while to say, hey, get going! And not only that, you get family and friends, and their attempt to be supportive of you, and inspired by you, and almost scare you. I was talking to my aunt the other day, and she’s like “you’re in a house now, you need to get that next book done!” And I’m like, “Let me just live off the first one for a little while longer.” But you get a lot of encouragement from the outside, like get it at it, you’re supposed to be writing. People want to support you but it scares you at the same time.”
- Timestamp: 20:55: “Practitioners, you’re in the middle of trying to lead change inside of a large organization. The last thing you want to do is sift through a bunch of theory to figure out how it is applicable to you and your situation. I wanted this to be almost like a user guide, user friendly. And the way I thought about it was, let me tell you this story of what happened, let me give you an example of where I’ve seen it play out, and let me tell you what you can do in order to apply this to your current situation. So it was really intentional about here’s the hook, here’s an example, here’s what you can do. And at least at the moment, I would love to keep that same format. Because I want people to use it. I don’t want it to sit on the shelf.”
- Timestamp: 23:10: “I gotta tell you, I had a lot of anxiety around the size of the book. Some opinion on what group you talk to, it should be at least 250, or it should be 300. And I remember just having these conversations with you like “Is it enough?” And you’re like, “Yeah, is it done?” “I feel like it is.” “Then it’s enough!” And I was prepared to come back and fill it with a bunch of theory. We need an extra 100 pages, guess what I can give you a bunch of theory and research. But is that what people really want at this point in time? So I am happy that our process, your process, the way that we worked together to come to what felt right, it was reassuring to have a team on the other side to say, “that’s it! We’re done.” I was always looking to hear that word, “Done.” Tip to you, Jenn, just tell everybody at the beginning that they’re done and they’ll feel so much better.
- Timestamp: 26:38: “For me, I’ve always resisted this title called “expert”. It somehow pushes you over into this circle of oh, he’s an expert because he wrote this book. I just am not used to it, and that’s not how I see and think about myself. So for others, there is a higher level of expectation or maybe even esteem either earned or not, or just the way people interact with you when they find out you’re an author. And that has taken time for me to get used to me. I’m on airplanes and somebody says “What do you do?” “Well, you know, I wrote a book.” “You wrote a book?” By the time we’ve landed, this guy’s pulled up, ordered the book on Amazon. And that’s the next thing that you’ve gotta get used to. People will say are you on Amazon? And they pull it up in front of you and show you your book on Amazon and they show you them clicking it. It’s kind of embarrassing.”
- Timestamp: 31:12: “If I got to the point where I am not humbled or embarrassed or slightly eh, let me just sign this. Then why are you doing this then, Tony? Those authors who are telling their stories will get there, and their stories will touch people. And people will want to connect with them. And that opportunity is such an important opportunity to kind of make the world a better place, that we should be humbled by it, and grateful for it.”
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