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Next Step Partners Kim Scott Trier Bryant

How to recognize and eliminate workplace injustice—and transform your career and organization in the process

Kim Scott, best-selling author of “Radical Candor” and “Just Work,” and Trier Bryant, a former US Air Force Captain who spearheaded DEI initiatives for the Air Force Academy, Air Force, and DoD joined NSP Partner Michael Melcher on his Career Stewardship podcast.

Studies show that more diverse teams yield stronger results. If you want the best from your people, you need different types of people at the table and you need to set them up for success. As a leader, one of your most important jobs is to eliminate the injustices that get in the way of people doing their best work. 

Bestselling author, operating executive, and entrepreneur Kim Scott published “JUST WORK: GET SH*T DONE, FAST & FAIR” in March of this year. In it, she tackles a stubborn problem harming both individuals and the larger economy: we—all of us—consistently exclude, underestimate, and underutilize some people in the workforce even as we over-include, overestimate, and over-promote others.

Just Work offers practical suggestions for what we can do, today, to clear away the distraction, injustice and inefficiency of inequity so we can just work. In addition to the book, Kim has co-founded a company of the same name with Trier Bryant, a former US Air Force Captain who spearheaded DEI initiatives for the Air Force Academy, Air Force, and DoD, to help leaders create more equitable workplaces.

In Episode 27 of my Career Stewardship podcast, I talk with Kim and Trier about their mission to give leaders practical tools to create an environment in which everyone can collaborate and respect one another’s individuality. 

Bias and Injustice are Business Problems

Over the last year, the justice case for equity has moved front and center. But there’s also a business case for diversity, inclusivity and equity; fair organizations accomplish more.

Trier says, “Ultimately, we need people to come into our organizations and do their best work to meet [their OKRs and organizational goals]. In order for us to get the best from our talent, we have to set them up for success. We have to eliminate the workplace injustices that are just noise. They get in the way of people doing their best work, being included, having a voice at the table and being rewarded equitably.”

We also talked about how this isn’t about good people versus bad people. Anyone with a brain is biased.  We all operate with a variety of cognitive biases. For example, we tend to make decisions about what is immediately around us (availability bias) and what we most recently have been exposed to (recency bias). 

Our brains are designed to filter some things in and some things out. But as thinking, caring, human beings, we can become conscious of our biases and make decisions that elevate others and the organization.

Doing Our Part to Overcome Injustice Together 

When injustice occurs — as it likely will — Kim shared four roles that a person can play. Our responsibility differs depending upon our role. 

  • The person who is harmed. When you are harmed, you get to choose whether and how to respond. This is the only role with choice.   
  • The person who has done harm. Your responsibility is to pause, listen and address what you’ve done. It’s important to come with real empathy and set your ego aside.
  • The upstander. You have a responsibility to stand up and intervene — be an upstander, not a bystander. It’s important not only to hold the person who has done harm accountable, but also to signal to the person harmed that you see it and are doing your part to overcome the injustice together. 
  • The leader. Your role is to prevent future injustice from occurring. Think creatively from a systems view about how to create a good organization where people can do their best.

You’ve likely played all four roles. As Kim said, “Sometimes we can play all roles in a single meeting.”

How to Respond to Bias, Prejudice and Bullying 

At first glance, workplace injustice may feel monolithic. But Kim and Trier shared a framework that breaks injustice down into specific component parts and provides guidance on appropriate responses to each.

  • Bias = not meaning it. With bias, you want to invite the other person to see and understand things from your perspective rather than judge or punish. When responding to bias, us “I” statements. “I feel excluded when you refer to us as ‘you guys.’” 
  • Prejudice = meaning it. A person has a right to their beliefs, but they can’t impose those beliefs on others. In a workplace, you can’t say and do whatever you want. It can make collaboration impossible. When responding to prejudice, appeal to the law, HR policy or common sense. Use “It” statements. “It goes against our company’s values to say that.”  
  • Bullying = being mean. Bullying creates an emotionally unsafe environment for the whole team. If you are a leader, one of your fundamental roles is to create consequences for bullying. When addressing bullying use “You” statements. “You can’t talk to me like that.” or “What’s going on for you here?

Over the course of our 20-minute conversation, Kim and Trier shared a great deal of wisdom, including:

  • The problem with most unconscious bias training
  • The value of teams that include diverse types of people
  • An excellent way to structure organizational value statements
  • Tools to speak up in ways that are productive for the whole team
  • Writing a code of conduct to be clear about what is expected  

About the Career Stewardship with Michael Melcher podcast

This 5-star podcast from career expert, Michael Melcher, will help you figure out what to do to advance your career.

Each episode offers best practices, stories from the field, and bite-sized tips to help build your career success in both the short and long term. 

As one of the partners at Next Step Partners, Michael is a seasoned expert on developing leaders, building inclusive work environments, and helping senior professionals make career transitions. A former lawyer, foreign service officer and startup CEO, he has navigated several career transitions himself.

Subscribe to Career Stewardship with Michael Melcher on Apple Podcasts, Spotify, Stitcher, Google Podcast or your favorite platform. You can find additional resources on the show website: CareerStewardship.com.

About Kim Scott

Kim Scott is the author of Just Work: Get Sh*t Done Fast and Fair as well as Radical Candor: Be a Kick-Ass Boss Without Losing Your Humanity. Kim co-founded the company Just Work LLC with Trier-Lynn Bryant to help organizations and individuals create more equitable workplaces.

Kim Scott is also the co-creator of an executive education company and workplace comedy series based on her best-selling book, Radical Candor. Jason Rosoff and Kim co-founded the company Radical Candor, LLC to help people cultivate caring and candid relationships at work by implementing a feedback-first culture.

Kim was a CEO coach at Dropbox, Qualtrics, Twitter, and other tech companies. She was a member of the faculty at Apple University and before that led AdSense, YouTube, and DoubleClick teams at Google. Earlier in her career, Kim managed a pediatric clinic in Kosovo and started a diamond-cutting factory in Moscow. She lives with her family in Silicon Valley.

About Trier Bryant

Trier Bryant is Co-Founder and CEO of Just Work LLC. She’s previously held leadership roles at Astra, Twitter, Goldman Sachs, and proudly served as a combat veteran in the United States Air Force as a Captain leading engineering teams while spearheading diversity, equity, and inclusion (DEI) initiatives for the Air Force Academy, Air Force, and DoD.

Trier has an unwavering commitment to employees within organizations to create a more equitable, inclusive, and thriving workplaces producing prosperous companies.She has been featured as an influential DEI practitioner by several publications and outlets from USA Today to CNN and SXSW.

Trier earned a B.S. in Systems Engineering with a minor in Spanish and Leadership from the United States Air Force Academy (Beat Army, Sink Navy) where she played Division I volleyball. She enjoys spending time with her close-knit family who taught her to live by the family motto “…good enough isn’t.”

Are you interested in providing resources for your team members to help them manage their careers or build better workplaces? 

Next Step Partners provides virtual leadership programs and individual coaching to companies and organizations that want to support their employees’ best development.

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