In recent weeks, most of our team meetings have been spent talking about the horrible murders of George Floyd, Breonna Tayler, and Ahmaud Arbery and the ensuing protests and peace marches, here in America and abroad. Our team ardently supports civil rights. We want to do something while not being tone deaf.
We’ve made donations to Black Lives Matter and NAACP Legal Defense Fund. We’ve signed petitions and marched. We are supporting black-owned businesses and are looking into black-owned businesses that might need pro bono consulting. We are looking at how we can most effectively be part of the forward momentum of this essential movement.
It’s a confusing time. It can be difficult to know the “right” way to help. Our team has had heartfelt conversations about being our authentic selves. One of our core philosophies in business consulting is to encourage our clients to lean into their strengths. The idea being you will get more output from doubling down on what you’re naturally good at. We’re now looking at ways to do what we do best and contribute in that fashion so our desire to help is matched with who we are. We aim to increase our impact.
While we define our course of action, we’ve found a few inspiring examples of high-profile leaders doing more than sharing a hashtag.
A few years ago, there was an interview with LinkedIn Co-founder Reid Hoffman, who talked about high-impact volunteering. His LinkedIn formula also applies to influencing change: the number of people touched X depth of impact X time = social impact.
Hoffman emphasized the power of volunteering not just hours but your expertise. If you are a computer whiz, help a non-profit with their internet system. If you are a PR pro, help them with media outreach. If you are an operations guru, help them improve their processes and cost efficiencies. Make a commitment of time AND talent. By contributing your skills, you help them amplify their voices and reach their goals.
If you don’t have time, how about money? In early June, Andreessen Horowitz announced that it is launching a fund designed to invest in underrepresented and underserved founders. The Talent x Opportunity (TxO) fund will start with $2.2 million in donations from the firm’s partners, then be invested in by a small group of seed-stage startups for the first year. Andreessen Horowitz may not be social activists but they surely invest well. They are using their greatest strengths to make a difference.
Use your voice! Amazon founder Jeff Bezos recently used his platform to directly defy racist thinking. The company has pledged $10 million to organizations working on social justice. Amazon CEO Jeff Bezos received a profanity-laced email from a customer who criticized the company’s support for the Black Lives Matter movement and threatened to take his business elsewhere. To his credit, Bezos responded with, “Good riddance.” On his Instagram, he said “This sort of hate shouldn’t be allowed to hide in the shadows. It’s important to make it visible… And, Dave, you’re the kind of customer I’m happy to lose.” Bezos spoke up and out to make his position and that of his company clear.
Black author, educator and civil rights leader Howard Washington Thurman said, “Don’t ask what the world needs. Ask what makes you come alive and go do it. Because what the world needs is more people who have come alive.”
We all need to come alive or, as we say these days, “stay woke.” Do what you do best to advance equality. Listen to your black colleagues, friends and community members. Learn. Speak out and up. Take a deep look at how you operate and the decisions you make. Assess what your natural skills and talents are and think about how you could leverage them to help forward social justice and civil rights.
Join us in being open to doing more and leaning into your strengths.