Relationships at Work - Your Guide to Building Workplace Connections and Avoiding Leadership Blindspots.

How To Find Belonging for the LGBTQIA+ Community at Work with John Volturo and Peter Galdolfo

August 15, 2023 Russel Lolacher Episode 88
How To Find Belonging for the LGBTQIA+ Community at Work with John Volturo and Peter Galdolfo
Relationships at Work - Your Guide to Building Workplace Connections and Avoiding Leadership Blindspots.
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Relationships at Work - Your Guide to Building Workplace Connections and Avoiding Leadership Blindspots.
How To Find Belonging for the LGBTQIA+ Community at Work with John Volturo and Peter Galdolfo
Aug 15, 2023 Episode 88
Russel Lolacher

In this episode of Relationships at Work, Russel chats with executive coaches and consultants John Volturo and Peter Gandolfo on the challenges faced by the LGBTQIA+ community at work and steps needed to be more inclusive.

John and Peter share their thoughts, stories and experience with...

  • The challenge of the rainbow glass ceiling.
  • Who is responsible for diversity and equity in an organization.
  • What to look for and do to ensure an organization was LGBTQ+ supportive before applying.
  • How organizations can support the creation of ERGs (employee resource groups).
  • How remote work can be supportive of diversity and inclusion.
  • Why the language and phrases we use matter in relation to inclusivity.
  • The ingredients to a successful ERG to support LGBTQ+.
  • Why listening sessions and who is included is so vital.

If you enjoy the podcast, please subscribe and share with others.
For more, go to relationshipsatwork.ca 

And connect with me for more great content!

Show Notes Transcript

In this episode of Relationships at Work, Russel chats with executive coaches and consultants John Volturo and Peter Gandolfo on the challenges faced by the LGBTQIA+ community at work and steps needed to be more inclusive.

John and Peter share their thoughts, stories and experience with...

  • The challenge of the rainbow glass ceiling.
  • Who is responsible for diversity and equity in an organization.
  • What to look for and do to ensure an organization was LGBTQ+ supportive before applying.
  • How organizations can support the creation of ERGs (employee resource groups).
  • How remote work can be supportive of diversity and inclusion.
  • Why the language and phrases we use matter in relation to inclusivity.
  • The ingredients to a successful ERG to support LGBTQ+.
  • Why listening sessions and who is included is so vital.

If you enjoy the podcast, please subscribe and share with others.
For more, go to relationshipsatwork.ca 

And connect with me for more great content!

Russel Lolacher
And on the show today we have John Volturo and Peter Gandolfo, and here's why they are awesome. John is a professional certified coach, PCC for short, (We love our acronyms) executive coach, C-suite advisor and partner at Evolution, which is a boutique coaching, consulting and investment firm helping organizations drive success through leadership and culture. Also the CEO and executive coach at strategic MGMT 360, which helps leaders with their immediate needs. He has this 2021 President of the International Coaching Federation trophy metal, I don't know how they do that, but still pretty, pretty lofty, and a couple of decades in corporate C-suite marketing and leadership roles. I'm not done yet. Even though my breath is running out, we've got Peter to talk about. He's a fellow partner at Evolution and ICF PCC certified executive coach, we love our acronyms facilitator and consultant. He's also flexing executive muscle muscle coaching at Gandolfo group, which helps leaders build on their natural strengths. Then there's that 24 plus years of experience in marketing management and consulting, where he worked with such organizations as Mattel, the Drucker Institute and the Ford Motor Company. Both are advocates for inclusivity, diversity, and a better LGBTQ+ workplace experience. Which is why they're here today. Hello, John. Hello, Peter.

John Volturo
Hello. Thank you.

Peter Gandolfo
Hello Russel. I wish I had you to introduce me every time. You've got such energy.

John Volturo
It was great.

Russel Lolacher
Anytime you walk into a room, I'll be your hype man. How's that? That work?

Peter Gandolfo
I love it.

John Volturo
That works, that works.

Russel Lolacher
So humble we all are. Perfect. So let's start... I have to start every episode by asking you each the same question I asked in every episode, which is what's your best or worst employee experience? You don't have to do both, just one or the other.

Peter Gandolfo
I can go.

Russel Lolacher
Go!

Peter Gandolfo
So my best working experience or employee experience was at my time at Mattel, I spent close to a little bit over nine years there half of my time was on the Barbie brand, which is having a bit of a pop culture moment right now. The other half was on our entertainment portfolio, I worked on the Disney business. And while I was there, my husband and I got married. And at the time, it wasn't even legal to get married in California, we actually had to fly to New York to do this. But there's a tradition at Mattel, that when people go through milestones, if if the team member has been there for a while, they will do something to commemorate it by by creating a special packaging or a special toy. And the team of designers made candles in our wedding suits in our likeness. And it was touching on so many levels. One it was customary for brides to be acknowledged in this way with dolls it wasn't so customary in that time for for grooms to be acknowledged. And just to really feel seen, and just for bringing my whole self to work. It was very touching.

Russel Lolacher
That's amazing. I can't ever talk that I don't think I've never been immortalized as a Ken doll. That's phenomenal. Top that John.

John Volturo
Yeah, I don't know if I'll top that. I have a different, a different version of a story. I had a similar one with my wedding too. But I'll tell you what, this one because it's I'm gonna say like my worst, actually turned into my best. So I had a situation where I just got out of college and I got my first job. I was in the entertainment industry in New York City where you think everything's really progressive and liberal. And I was ambitious, you know, I had grown up a welfare kid, I wanted to succeed in my life and show people that you can leave Brooklyn and make something of yourself. And I asked, What would I need to do to get a promotion at this first job that I was at? And they said, basically, uh, nope, you know, in a different way, you're gay, you don't really have a chance. So I knew right at that moment, like the glass ceiling that the rainbow glass ceiling that you've heard of occurred for me. But what it did for me is when I did go back to get an MBA and go back into the workplace, it made me recognize the importance of having really diverse cultures. And I built diverse teams everywhere I went because I was in leadership positions. And as a result of that, I had really high retention with my teams, a lot of loyalty, a lot of the ability to get things done. And it became a model for a lot of the other companies that I worked with it but then for the other groups, so it became something that diversity was modeled with my team and then it grew into something before it was even quote unquote, a thing. So that was that was a that was something that I always felt really proud of having that type of lens through which to look you know, and it came from having actually a bad experience.

Russel Lolacher
I don't want to go much further without touching on exactly what you had said which was the rainbow glass ceiling. Now, I haven't heard it as much. And it may be a common phrase in other industries, but I have not heard it much I've heard the broken rung or when it comes to women going up the corporate quote unquote, corporate ladder, but not the rainbow glass ceiling. Could you explain what that means for a lot of people who may not understand that?

John Volturo
Sure. For the rainbow glass ceiling, it's really this idea that for people who are part of the LGBTQIA+ community, there's this ceiling. We don't see people who are actually in really high level of executive jobs. And as a result, our ability to rise to top levels is much less. So we don't see that mopping modelled and companies don't actually see the benefit of bringing people up all the way because it's a risk for them. In many cases. So what happens is there's a glass ceiling you can look for, and similar to, you know, a glass ceiling of the broken run for women. It impacts your career, it impacts the long term growth that you have in terms of your lifetime income. And one of the things that needs to be done to break through the glass ceiling is for people like me, who rose to the top of you know, in a C-suite position to then bring other people up and then model it. And it's a responsibility that we will have no matter which group we're in. Because it's the only way we all succeed, we'll all have all the amenities. So when I experienced that glass ceiling, I knew that that wasn't going to be the end of me. I went, I got an MBA. And then when I went back to the music to the music industry in New York City, I made sure that I created that atmosphere of success for everybody else by modeling it with my leadership.

Russel Lolacher
So I'm kind of curious and I hear from your example. And I know from Peter's history of starting employee resource groups, or resource groups around LGBTQ+ and so forth... why are you responsible for changing diversity and improving diversity in organizations? Like, obviously, you are much more, you're passionate, because you are part of the, you know, the diversity, but whose responsibility is it?

John Volturo
It's a good question. You know, for me, I'll answer it just from my perspective, I think it's everybody's responsibility. I think it's everybody's responsibility. I also think it's always been everybody's responsibility. And people just didn't pay attention to it for various reasons, in different places in the country, all across the world. And for me, because I did have a position that had authority associated with and because I knew what it felt like to be marginalized, and others at work, and at home, I knew I could do something about it. And if I did something about it, maybe people would also do something about it on their teams. And it did, it worked. It worked for me. And it was prior to DEI initiatives that we're seeing today, this, we're talking about 20 years ago now.

Russel Lolacher
But we fixed diversity, it's on posters. We've got organizations that are talking about these, well, we've we've fix diversity, or any dei b by doing these grand gestures. By doing these advertising campaigns, where, you know, it's Pride Week, so all these organizations are suddenly the most supportive thing you've ever seen in the world. So how is there this such disconnect between this lip service, versus every survey I've ever seen about held LGBTQ+ are being supported in real life in the workplace?

John Volturo
So I think that's a good question. And I think that there's this misperception that we have equal rights and that there are no microaggressions, and then going to work every day is just rainbows and you know, unicorns like my kids would love it today. But it isn't that the reality is that the lip service that you hear is very real in certain companies, you know, like, for example, I am looking at the fortune 10, 100% of them have, you know, anti-discrimination clauses for both orientation as well as gender identity, but the on the grounds, the boots on the ground, and all the different locations of those offices across the country, the experience is different, because it's driven a lot by the people who work there and the values of that particular community. So we may not see a uniform actual execution of these rights that we, quote, unquote, have even under Title Seven where we're not supposed to be discriminated against. And that's where the actual tension occurs for many people. And remember, you may not know this, Russel, but just about 50% of the American workforce, who is gay is actually out. 50% of the people are not out for various reasons, including not feeling safe.

Peter Gandolfo
I'll share a personal experience that echoes what John just shared. i My first job out of business schools at Ford Motor Company, and they were highly rated on human rights campaigns. Equality Index, which in the US, is a metric that is often used. Just to measure how LGBTQ+ friendly an organization is, and I found their rating to be too high, and it was very affirming to me when I decided to go. And I quickly realized when you've got companies of any size, especially really large ones, just because a company has policies that are inclusive, it doesn't mean that everybody is living out those values. And those practices day to day.

Russel Lolacher
I think a lot of organizations don't get the... and you've illustrated it perfectly is they think, because it's their corporate culture, that's inclusive, they're fine, not realizing there's a million subcultures that are not because they people are people and to be blunt assholes are assholes. So they are different within those subcultures that cannot be overseen by an organization as large as a Ford, or so someplace. So you bring up a point that I wanted to talk about, which is, this show is very much about the employee journey and the employee experience. And you went in and applied to an organization that had this certification, that was, you know, saying all the right things as somebody that's applying for a new job. But are there red flags? Are there things, somebody from the LGBTQ+ community could be looking for to look for things that are supportive, or not supportive when they're applying for those jobs?

Peter Gandolfo
So what can someone look for other than the HRC rating...? I, I would be looking to, if I were interviewing with a company, I would be asking to speak with diverse, diverse members of their team. Yes, I would love to speak with someone that is part of the LGBTQIA plus community. But I'd also want to speak to people from other underrepresented groups and hear what their experiences, it doesn't guarantee that you're going to get the the full experience, but it increases the likelihood versus having people in corporate staffing or the hiring manager giving the stock answer that they would provide to everyone. I'd be looking at things like when I if I have the opportunity to interview in the offices, to what extent do you see people getting to express themselves? In the space? I'm sure we're all accustomed to seeing heterosexual couples showing photos of their families or their spouses? But where do you get to see the people that are underrepresented? How comfortable? Do they feel bringing their whole selves to work?

John Volturo
Yeah, I would add to that, Russel, that there are some tools that people can use to if you go to Glassdoor, for example, you're gonna get a good feel whether or not it's an inclusive environment. And I think another thing I would add to what Peter said, is try to figure out if the company is actually fostering psychological safety, if they have open communication, do they create spaces for people? And is there a sense of belonging, and one of the ways to see if there's actually a sense of belonging, that is kind of like a sideways view is to see how innovative the company is. Because if a company has truly innovated, innovative, it's getting a lot of feedback from diverse people with within the teams itself to help build something that's really next generation.

Russel Lolacher
What can an organization do, whether it's hiring, whether it's in the onboarding process, to be more inclusive, whether it's in their language in their steps? Like, what is it that they can do to be more welcoming, in that in that initial space for new employees?

Peter Gandolfo
I think, frankly, straight up asking the question of a new hire, what is it that you need from us to feel supported, and welcome here? For me, when I got hired by for it was them, paying to fly my partner out so that we could look at housing together and their official policy was No, we only fly out spouses that are married. And they were willing to look at the context of the situation, especially at that time, that wasn't even an option. And they they adjusted the policy to accommodate my need in that situation.

Russel Lolacher
You both had a bit of success when it comes to creating communities around like I said, ERGs and so forth. What did you need to be successful from the organization? What it because I mean, you're not an island. You have to you have to have some support in some way. What did that look like?

Peter Gandolfo
Yeah. When I started the Employee Resource Group at Mattel, one of the most valuable pieces of support was that there was an executive that was in charge of diversity inclusion. And while she put the onus on me as a member of the community to undo She ate the employee resource group. She was there to provide support where I got stuck, and where where I needed additional resources. So if it was in coming up with the charter documents she was she was there to help me in because she had charted that path with the launching of multiple other employee resource groups. I think the the second thing would be encouraging connection with the other employee resource groups. For me, I learned a lot from the black employee resource group, from women at Mattel from a lot of the others that come before me about what worked, what was challenging, how do they work through different obstacles. And then I think you need access to senior leadership, even when their initial reaction to what you're asking for might be No. So as an example, one of the things that at the time, Mattel was getting dinged on on the HRC quality rating was that we at the time, were not offering gender reassignment surgery to trans people that wanted to have have the surgery. And I give a lot of credit to the C-suite leadership at a time, that while their initial, they had hesitancy they were willing to sit down and have the conversation and talk through the scenarios. So a leadership that's willing to stay stay open to being wrong and to changing their minds.

John Volturo
Yep, I would, I would add that something that we all have to do and really do well and consistently and have a voice in is being advocates for ourselves. And I think, you know, talking about what Peter just said, it's whatever example matters for you. If you need something, the ability to feel safe enough to ask it, to me is almost a requirement within the workplace, you should be able to ask for what you need in order to be successful. And it should be something that addresses who you are as a whole person like Peter was just describing, rather than just a component of you, you know, the organization's could be much more successful. If you show up authentically every day, in a way that is unfettered, and you can get through your day without feeling like it takes extra energy because you're hiding things.

Russel Lolacher
I want to tap in just ERG one more question about that is around charters, because I find those interesting, because to be honest, I haven't seen a charter that wasn't immediately written and put on the shelf and never looked at, again, for almost any product or, or any initiative that an organization is putting together. But for an erg to be successful. Any community cessful the charter is one of the most powerful communications tools you can have. How did you use it, for it to be effective in an organization that maybe was a little resistant or didn't understand?

Peter Gandolfo
Well, I admittedly can't say that I used it the way that I would advise using it. But what I would coach people to do is to have a commitment to checking to revisiting it at least once a year, particularly as they're doing their goal setting. It allows leadership, especially if there's been a change over leadership to remind themselves of what the initial charter was, do we need to update it? How can we make sure that our goals are aligned with this charter? So they're more likely to achieve what it is that they're seeking to achieve?

Russel Lolacher
Yeah, I never thought I'd ask the "charter question,." but when it comes to, like something that's as important as this where people to feel inclusive, you need to have boundaries and understanding of what the goal is, and everything. And I find those to be extremely powerful, and just not used nearly enough. So I love the idea of least revisiting it. Because you can get buy in from executive and that executive last six months and they're gone, and you're starting at zero. Or even taking steps back from negative zero and a lot of sense. Negative zero is not a thing. Good math, Russel. So there's things that I've sort of seen that really help with making it easier for LGBTQ employees to feel seen to feel involved. ERG's being one of them. How do you see hybrid work models supporting that?

John Volturo
Yeah, yeah. So that that's great. I think that hybrid work models are really amazingly effective for folks who are part of more marginalized communities, especially LGBTQ+ folks. Because we are often afraid to bring our whole selves to work. And it restricts our ability to work for certain companies. And certain if you live in a state that maybe doesn't have a lot of big companies and you want to work for big corporation, it's located elsewhere, you can now have that opportunity. If you want to work in a state where you could also live openly with your family. If you're married and you have kids or whatever type of relationship you have. Maybe you're not going to want to move to a state that is trying to restrict your rights. So the hybrid workspace allows Do you to work for a company that may be one of those beacons of progressive progressivity, I guess, within a location that is not, and it affords that person who is marginalized the opportunity to work there. And I think that's really, that's really important because it comes down to safety for people. And if they have that extra level of safety, then it's great. It's great for people who are disabled as well, it's great for anyone who really has issues with moving to a certain location for fear of A, B, or C.

Peter Gandolfo
What we also hear from a lot of people from underrepresented groups, including people in the LGBTQIA community, is that when they got to work from home, they also got to avoid a whole lot of microaggressions. And if that was something that they were dealing with day to day, they would much rather stay at home and just get to focus on doing their job. That's not true for everyone. But for those that were experiencing it, it's really nice to have that option.

John Volturo
Yeah. It's it's much more subtle, though, Russel with hybrid work, right, because we're a lot of the micro aggressions actually happened within work meetings, people are overlooked. People are not asked to show their voice. So it's a little bit more difficult with the in a hybrid environment if you're doing something virtual, but it does offer the a person like Peter said to the ability to just kind of show up and maybe experience less of that kind of emotional turmoil that people who are part of the community experience because work is is just a reflection of what's happening outside of the office.

Russel Lolacher
So you bring up a very common scenario, the meeting, whether it's virtual, whether it's in person, I try trying to understand as well, the challenges that LGBT a member of the LGBTQ+ community may be experiencing that someone that CIS or other others that do not understand some of the challenges or may be dismissive of things that are quite impactful to someone in that community. What are some examples of the challenges that might be not obvious to those that are living in that world?

Peter Gandolfo
I'm still processing it. Are you thinking about challenges to the people that they serve from that community or more to the employees, Russel?

Russel Lolacher
More within the workplace? So for instance, say as a white CIS male, there may be I'm in a meeting, that somebody says something off the cuff that might not register to me, as quickly as those that are impacted or diminished by those same comments. As I work on my education, as I work on my awareness, I still need to I need to recognize that those are issues and that I am an other to that impact.

Peter Gandolfo
Yeah. I mean, I think that LGBTQIA people often will have a heightened awareness around things that might not land in a comfortable way for them, but also for other people. I can think of countless times where I've heard the the R-word said, to describe something that didn't make sense or wasn't working well. And I don't want to pretend that the reason that I noticed it and others didn't is because I was gay, but it certainly, it certainly bothered me. I even think about maybe some of the selections that a group might make for when and how they meet. Even something like a team building exercise. I've, I've been part of groups that have said like, let's go do a golf outing. But you know, what, there's a large percentage of the population that has zero interest in golf.

Russel Lolacher
I'm one of them. No interest.

Peter Gandolfo
And, and so it's okay, maybe we don't avoid things like that all the time. But how if we're going to do a golf outing one time, what would be something that would be appealing to the rest of the group that isn't interested in golf the next time?

John Volturo
Yeah, I'll tell you, I sat at leader, you know, the executive leadership table as a C suite or for many years, and always was the token gay person at the table. And I would hear things that they didn't really necessarily think were offensive. Like, they would call another coworker. Oh, he's not brave enough to do something. He's a sissy. Or they would say things like, you know, they would comment on the way somebody dresses like he dresses a femininely or he dresses like a woman. I've had all of these things that I've heard in meetings, where I've had to kind of, you know, hold the desk, so I didn't start Yeah, like right, and come calm down. And then they say, you know, that's not cool. You can't say those types of things. And it ranges from jokes to the sporting analogy that that, you know, Peter just mentioned and I'll tell you one thing, something for me personally, that I feel that I have shared this before, but I'm going to share it again. But even though it's not something I'm proud of, but when my husband and I were going through the process of having kids, I remember thinking, Now when I'm at that table with the other C-suite errs, I'm going to be able to have something in common with them. Because they all have kids. Because beyond that, I was just doing my job as a good marketer, you know, and building good teams. So you, you feel it from all different angles wrestle, and you hear it and experience, experience it from all different angles, and people around the tables, leadership tables, Team tables, whatever level, they don't feel very safe to stand up and say something like that's wrong. So it just perpetuates.

Peter Gandolfo
John, your share is reminding me of something really crude that used to be said, on a team that I was on, which was we were in client service. And if there was something where the client was going to be really difficult. And you needed to just take it, they would say you need to just bend over and bring the Vaseline. Oh, wow. And we would like people would laugh about it. And it was almost this normalized language. Listening to that, and in my version of who I am today, that's not okay. At all.

Russel Lolacher
Okay. Let's let's talk about belonging for a moment...

Peter Gandolfo
I'm sorry.

Russel Lolacher
No, I'm, I'm glad you bring that up. I mean, it's difficult to hear. And my empathy and compassion muscle is going huge right now. But at the same time, if people don't understand the impact of their words of their actions at work, they're not going to change, because they don't understand that there's an impact. It's this leadership, leadership, that doesn't understand the impact of their words, at work, and then just goes blindly on not understanding the wreckage behind them. So I appreciate both your honesty and vulnerability and sharing that. So thank you. Of course, you both were amazing champions. By creating this, I'm just getting the title here, Gay Men's Leadership Circle, or Circles, plural. So it was a peer group for directors, managers, and C-suite leaders. As I read it, could you explain what that is, because I want to, I want to give a sense of what belonging is supposed to look like in an organization that's championing this?

Peter Gandolfo
Sure. So there's a there's many different ways that people can engage in coaching One way is through one on one experience with a coach, an alternative that we wanted to create, in part to create a greater sense of community was a group coaching experience. So what we would do is bring together anywhere from six to 10. Leaders, they would often be from different industries, different stages in their careers, but all having the shared experience of being men who are part of the LGBTQ community, we've started to expand the language to be inclusive of our bisexual and queer participants, because frankly, some of the men that have signed up, don't identify with the label of gay. But the idea behind it is that we can have a mix of content that we would bring that would allow people on their own to process individually, potentially share some of what's coming up for them and learn from each other. In addition to that, there would be some coaching that we would do. And even if only one person was, let's say, Russel, you're the part of the group and you're receiving coaching from the group, everybody else gets to gets to learn from your experience, we may be processing something that is analogous to what it is that you're working on. We may be exercising our own skills in asking good coaching questions, so that we can bring that skill back to the leaders that we work with. The ultimate goal is that people are feeling a little bit less lonely in their leadership and able to make progress on the specific objectives that they have. Whether it's professional or personal.

John Volturo
Yeah, if I could add to that I say think of it Russel, and you know those for those who are listening as the ultimate safe space, where your identity is welcome. So that you can actually get the stuff done that you want. You can bring in your personal stories, you can bring in your work stories, and you don't have that barrier that film between who I am authentically and who I actually portray myself to be when I'm in mixed environments. So think of it as an ultimate, ultimately, the ability to do it safely, to get all the things that Peter just talked about done within a team and we see that we're able to help people move on humongous obstacles that you know they face every day, because they just feel like they can show up as themselves.

Russel Lolacher
So where do you start? You're a leader in an organization, you have no idea how inclusive or not inclusive your organization is. But you still want to make you want to take those steps forward in making a difference and improving DEIB in the organization? Where do you start through actions, not posters.

Peter Gandolfo
One place that I might be inclined to start is with a listening session, how can we better understand what the experience is for the people that are part of our team? There are engagement tools that are out there that you can use that are specifically able to measure it on the EIB. But you could also do custom ones, or even even live interviews, when evolution will sometimes do this for organizations. And we'll we'll invite encourage them to invite a cross section of employees, we don't need to just talk to the C suite, I want to talk to people at all levels of the organization. I want to speak to people from marginalized communities, I want to better understand what their experiences are, what are the points that are? What are the moments that are really difficult? If they could imagine a better environment? What would that look like? Because it's a lot easier for us as the external partners to come back and present what we heard and what ideas we we have that would support that and how it matches up with the experience of other organizations we work with, it tends to land a lot better than asking one person from a marginalized community to walk into the corner office and say, "I don't feel safe."

John Volturo
I think that, you know, if we're going to make the change, you know, you have to start someplace. And that's the one of the best places to start. You want to understand the landscape first.

Russel Lolacher
So say you're going down that path? How do you know your organization isn't ready? And should you go ahead anyway?

John Volturo
Yeah, well, let me jump in with that one, because I was thinking about that, as Peter was talking, you know, so I have a former marketing background, right. So I think about a lot about surveys. And as Peter was talking, I was thinking, let's not survey people, if we're not going to make any changes, because we're not ready to do it. Because it takes fortitude. It takes consistency. It takes having the best people around you who are creating this inclusive environment. And if you don't have the bandwidth, the resources, the time to do this. It's not it's not great to start something and not finish it, especially when we're talking about people's lives.

Peter Gandolfo
Plus one to that, John, I remember speaking to a client, in 2021, who made a conscious decision in all of the responsiveness to the murder of George Floyd, that they didn't do blackout Tuesday, they they didn't make public announcements around their initiatives, because they wanted to take the time to get it right and not be reactionary. And it would be far more damaging for someone to take action, either publicly or within an organization when they're not willing to continue to work than to just do nothing at all.

Russel Lolacher
I can't imagine how heartbreaking it would be to any member of an organization to see a leader doing a checkbox exercise. And then nothing ever being followed up when they have that any type of hope of feeling like you belong and having it taken away. I feel almost as yeah, I just I can't imagine what that would feel like.

John Volturo
Russel, it's happening already. Maybe not you we're not hearing about it as much within the LGBTQIA community. But we're definitely hearing about it with dei be initiatives where they're dismantling whole teams across the country. Right, they had these promises they made and they're pulling back on them. And there are a lot of people who were in those former positions out of work, it does happen. And it's not a good thing to have happened. It sends a signal to not only your employees, but also your customers who have maybe have a certain perception of you. So it could have damage it damage to the bottom line and have damage tomorrow up morale, which leads to damage to the bottom line. So it's something to be considered very carefully. And if you're going to do it, do it and stay with it. Because guess what, those people don't disappear. They're still your employees.

Peter Gandolfo
I don't know Russel, if it was circulating in Canada, but a few weeks ago, there were four executives at major studios in Hollywood, that were heads of diversity inclusion, all of them ousted in the matter of a few days. And it's like one person turned over you can say well, you know, it's just natural attrition, they must have found another job. But what's going on that four people are all being moved out of their positions all at the same time.

Russel Lolacher
And wasn't that the first, as much as I hate using the word, the man's name, Elon Musk, the first thing he did at Twitter was eliminate all the ERGs. It was one of the first things he did when he moved in. I mean, he's done a lot of things since, but it was one of the first actions and why is that? Why is that the first thing you do? I mean, I'm not going to that guy's got enough. But yeah, I was just I was amazed. I'm like, Okay, this is the this is the slippery slope.

Peter Gandolfo
If I had been an employee there at the time, that would have been the signal to me that it was time to leave.

Russel Lolacher
Absolutely.

John Volturo
Yeah, I was actually coaching and doing workshops, I'm healthy conversations on Twitter, when all that happened. Everything that was actually happening within within the company was also being talked about on Twitter.

Russel Lolacher
Right? Of course

John Volturo
You heard it firsthand from many people. So it was it wasn't good. And then that kind of did lead to maybe, okay, if he can do it, maybe we can do it too. Or maybe we can spend less time focusing on it.

Russel Lolacher
So interesting. You say that, because I've heard a lot of interviews that I was listening to about the downsizing, they did so severely that other tech organizations were like, well, if they can still operate, so lean, so can we, which immediately takes away the humanity of an organization and just put it's about the cogs in the wheel, not about the humanity. And that's just heartbreaking.

John Volturo
Yep. Agreed. Agreed.

Russel Lolacher
One question, I noticed, look, doing a little bit of research on both of you, I noticed something called an LGBTBE business enterprise certified business. I am not as familiar. Can you explain what that is?

John Volturo
Sure. So in the United States, we have something called the National Gay and Lesbian Chamber of Commerce. And if you join the Chamber of Commerce, then you are a someone who's part of the community, you can get designated as a LGBT business enterprise. And what that affords you is opportunities for companies, a lot of them are very large companies, we're talking about American Express all the way down to utilities in different states. They have to meet certain quotas by hiring diversity. So it enables you to get access to those particular job opportunities that may exist. So as a small business owner, it could be an advantage for an LGBTQIA+ owner to have that designation. And in certain states to Russel like California, you can get one as well. So it helps you also with state procurement departments, etc. And every state has a version of it, maybe somewhere as a Virtus, just like California does where we both live.

Russel Lolacher
I asked for clarity, because I know some of my listeners are not from America, they're from Europe, they're from Australia. So they have much different resources and supports when it comes to LGBTQ+ community. So I just want to make sure that they're aware that these things exist if their own community doesn't understand or know about them. So thank thank you for that. You're welcome. I guess my last question is, Are you hopeful? Because I mean, I'm looking at the surveys and the stats, and they don't look great when it comes to DEI. And as we were talking about people getting removed from organizations, but you two have been such champions of this of belonging for your community. Are you still hopeful? Or is it just like our still getting, we take two steps back,

Peter Gandolfo
I continue to be hopeful, that doesn't mean that day to day life, or for any specific person, it's necessarily that easy. But I do feel like we are taking more steps forward than then back. I do worry about some of the bigger political landscape, it can feel a lot more challenging to be out in 2023, particularly, for our siblings, um, use that term for LGBT, I'm sorry for our non binary and trans siblings within the community. And I feel particularly empowered to take the stance of, of even if I don't feel like I'm being targeted, I need to be speaking up on behalf of them and supporting them.

John Volturo
Yeah, yeah, I agree. I think this is a place where if you have any sort of privilege, and you believe that belonging is really important, take a stance. And that's what keeps me optimistic, because, you know, we're lucky Peter and I are lucky to be in a community where people have incredibly supportive of all of the diversity around us, and we embrace it and we want it. People don't see that around them. And they need folks who do see it around them to champion it so that it can roll itself out across all the different communities of America and make it be the standard versus kind of like the deviation that happens in the big cities and the blue places.

Russel Lolacher
Well, that leads me to my last question for both you gentlemen, which is what's one simple action. And it could be related to our conversation today, it doesn't have to... What's one simple action people can do right now to improve their relationships at work?

Peter Gandolfo
The one that comes to mind for me, is for people to check in with each other. And I don't mean starting every conversation with how are you doing. But if you've worked with a coach, you'll often find that they'll start there start conversations with an open ended question that gives people space to really acknowledge where they are and how they're showing up in this moment. And even if you're doing a large group session on Zoom, to simply give people permission to share one word and chat on what it's like to be them. That allows them to feel a little bit more seen and be a little more present. And it allows others to get to know them just a little bit more.

John Volturo
Yeah, I'll add to that. One of the things I do when I'm working with one on one, executives is we create a relationship map. And the relationship map, basically, is making a list of all the key relationships that you need to have to be in really healthy spot, like a green spot. For example, I'll use color as an example. Because they're going to help you and your team and the company get to where it needs to go and make that list. And then the current state of the relationship, is it red, yellow, or green? What do you want the desired state to be red, yellow, or green, and create the pathway to that if you really want to have great relationships with a new organization, it's helpful to understand where they are today, and what it would take to get them to where they need to be. And often when you're spending your time on building relationships, like Peter said, and deepening connections with people and you having those check ins with people can be as simple as a check and you can take a relationship that's red or yellow and move it to green.

Russel Lolacher
That is John Volturo and Peter Gandolfo, both PCC certified executive coaches, C-suite advisors and partners that evolution and both strong strong advocates for DEIB for the LGBTQIA+ community. Thank you so much, gentlemen, for being here.

John Volturo
Thanks Russel.

Peter Gandolfo
Thanks for having us.