The world continues to change. Companies that embrace diversity, inclusion, and belonging are meeting change in creative ways. Creating a space for inclusive leaders to join your company will help you drive forward. Today’s guest is Dr. Randal Pinkett, Chairman and CEO at BCT Partners. Inc Magazine ranked his company #4951 on the 2021 Inc 5000 list. BCT Partners is a national consulting firm that leverages deep subject-matter expertise, information technology, cultural competence, and a rigorous project management methodology. Dr. Randal and I discuss why inclusive leaders are so influential right now. He gives you many examples of how inclusive leaders behave. Join us in this interview to grasp the power of inclusivity.
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Dr. Randal Pinkett: The Transcript
About: Dr. Randal Pinkett has established himself as an entrepreneur, speaker, author, and scholar, and as a leading voice for his generation in business and technology. He is the founder, chairman, and CEO of his fifth venture, BCT Partners, a multimillion-dollar research, consulting, training, technology, and analytics firm headquartered in Newark, NJ. Dr. Pinkett has received numerous awards for business and technology excellence including the Information Technology Senior Management Forum’s Beacon Award, the National Society of Black Engineers’ Entrepreneur of the Year Award, and the National Urban League’s Business Excellence Award. He has been featured on nationally televised programs such as The Today Show, Fox Business News, MSNBC, and CNN. In 2009, he was named to New Jersey Governor Jon Corzine’s official shortlist as a potential running mate for Lieutenant Governor of New Jersey.
Disclaimer: This transcript was created using YouTube’s translator tool and that may mean that some of the words, grammar, and typos come from a misinterpretation of the video.
Randal Pinkett: [00:00:00] Inclusive leadership. And I think it is a very close cousin to servant leadership. When I think about the tenets of an inclusive leader or the behaviors of an inclusive leader I think about humility being transparent and clear about what you don’t know what you don’t do well, your mistakes your shortcomings, and being curious of others’ ideas and insights that might have a different perspective than yours. I think about empowering others to be their best and do their best to service and support them so that their light can shine the brightest. I think about other facets of transparency of authenticity and I think about holding people accountable for what they can control that when you see and also think about standing on principle and not standing on popularity. And I think when you embody those characteristics of principals not popularity humility holding others accountable and being humble and transparent and forthcoming and inquisitive then you’re an [00:01:00] inclusive leader.
Introduction: Welcome to Growth Think Tank. This is the one and only place where you will get insight from the founders and the CEOs the fastest-growing privately held companies. I am the host. My name is Gene Hammett. I hope leaders and their teams navigate the Defining moments of their growth. Are you ready to grow?
Gene Hammett: Today, we look at something you’ve probably never heard before because it was new to me but inclusive leadership. This really is about you creating a place where you have not just the right people at the table but you have the right diversity and you are including different voices and different thoughts because that really does really allow you to have a more powerful company. One of the data points that is mentioned by our guests and tear which I’ll get to in a second is a diverse team. May take a little bit longer to make a decision but at the end, it will be a better decision. And I do believe there’s there’s real power in that. So we talk about inclusive leadership today. Our special guest is Dr. Randal Pinkett. He has with BCT partners they were [00:02:00] on the Inc list this past year. And our conversation and inclusive leadership goes into what are the traits of an inclusive leader? What are the things that are really dominant? One of those that we singled out was transparency and how that plays a role. We also look at values and how important it is to hire based on values and how we don’t want to let race get in the middle of that. It’s actually values of much deeper. So I think there’s a really interesting conversation today about inclusive leadership.
My job is to help you be the most powerful leader you can be. And I do believe being inclusive is a powerful stance inside of leadership. So that’s part of it for sure but I want to make sure that you are leading your team. With power and grace confidence. And I want to help you do that. If you feel like there’s anything getting in the way of you growing your company and leading your team then we should have a conversation about what it is getting in the way. And really be honest with each other about how you can address it. I’ll help you come up with a plan maybe even identify the blind spots that you don’t even aware of. And [00:03:00] that is really powerful. If you think about it because no one else is having these conversations with you. If you’re listening to this you want to be a better leader just go to GeneHammett.com and schedule your call today. Inside that conversation, we will get to the heart of what is getting in the way and what you can do how you must show up consistently. To be the leader that you want to be just go to Genehammett.Com and schedule your call. And here’s the interview with Dr. Randal
Gene Hammett: Dr. Randal how are you?
Randal Pinkett: I’m good Gene how are you?
Gene Hammett: Fantastic. We’re gonna have a great conversation here about leadership. Before we dive in. Tell us about your company. BCT partners.
Randal Pinkett: Absolutely. So BCT partners were established in 2000. So we are celebrating 22 years as a company co-founded by myself and three of my college classmates. Jeff Lawrence in Dallas we met on the campus of Rutgers and started our first business when we were students at the ages of 20 and 21. And I will turn 51 this year. So that’s 30 years later. We’ve done about four ventures [00:04:00] together. BCT being by far the longest standing most successful but after 30 years gene we’re still together and we still get along after 30 years. And BCTs mission is to provide insights about diverse people that lead to equity. And so equity is our end game in the workforce workplace marketplace and community. We acknowledged the growing diversity in our society. And we give our clients deep insights to understand that growing diversity to better support and better service that growing diversity using some very sophisticated tools around research data analytics machine-learning artificial intelligence virtual reality traditional quantitative research and qualitative research. All to build their capacity to achieve equity for whomever they are are seeing as their stakeholders in the workforce workplace marketplace and community.
Gene Hammett: Well I want to give you a chance to highlight the book that you wrote with your co-authors it’s right behind you. If you’re watching on video but it’s a black faces in [00:05:00] high places. Okay. I see there’s two books back there. the new one is black faces in high places right?.
Randal Pinkett: That’s right. That’s right. That’s the seat.
Gene Hammett: Tell us about that book and why that was necessary today.
Randal Pinkett: I appreciate that gene. The first book I wrote with Dr. Jeffrey Robinson one of my business partners who I mentioned a moment ago we’re also coauthors together. Our first book was 2010 black faces in white places which chronicled our experience and that of other African-Americans who have found ourselves in an environment. We don’t see many reflections of ourselves where African Americans are underrepresented. And how do you navigate those environments and not lose a sense of who you are fast forward from 2010 when we wrote that book to 2020 with the murder of George Floyd with the COVID-19 pandemic with the political environment changing dramatically we were spending time together and looked at each other and said you know what?
It’s time to revisit the same themes. In a new day a new era in a new context. So we wrote black faces in high places [00:06:00] beginning in 2020 and released in 2022 to talk about the importance of black leadership of having black faces in high places so that we have representation at the tables of power and influence. And decision-making because part of what we argue is right now we’re not listening to each other. We need more understanding but also the right people aren’t at the table to begin with. So we need more representation to help reconstitute the broken fabric that has kept our society intact.
Gene Hammett: Well thank you for the work that you’re doing and I appreciate you bringing some fresh voices here to this podcast. We’re going to dive into the leadership principles that have made your company work and grow. You guys made the Inc list this past year. What do you think the core principle behind leadership that works for your company?
Randal Pinkett: For us it really it is about inclusive leadership. And I think it is a very close cousin to servant leadership. But when I think about the tenants of uninclusive leader [00:07:00] or the behaviors of an inclusive leader? I think about humility being transparent and clear about what you don’t know what you don’t do well your mistakes your shortcomings and being curious of others ideas and insights that might have a different perspective than yours. I think about empowering others to be their best and do their best to service and support them so that their light can shine the brightest. I think about other facets of transparency of authenticity. I think about holding people accountable for what they can control that when you see and also think about standing on principle and not standing on popularity.
And I think when you embody those characteristics Principal not popularity humanity holding others accountable and being humble and transparent and forthcoming and inquisitive. Then you’re an inclusive leader and that and that’s a characteristic I see not just in me but more importantly in my three business partners. Like part of why I think we’ve been able to stay together for 30 years is because we [00:08:00] have this common set of values around what it means to be a leader.
Gene Hammett: You started this off with inclusive leadership is a cousin to servant leadership. How is it different? And I’m not trying to challenge you what now? I just want to make sure that we zero in on the real difference here.
Randal Pinkett: No I’m glad you asked that question because it is an important distinction. I would say that what distinguishes inclusive leadership from servant leadership is being very intentional of who who’s at the table and it gets back to our opening conversation. I can be a servant leader. By taking for granted those who I’m leading meaning let’s say I get promoted to a leadership position and I started a company and I’m hiring people. I am a servant leader to those who I’m leading but the inclusive leader. Thank you for the question. Gene says I have to be very intentional about seeking differents. People who are different than me ideas that are different than mine. People have different cultural backgrounds different religious backgrounds different ethnic backgrounds different ways of thinking knowing acting and doing because for better or [00:09:00] worse our natural proclivity is often to be around people who are like us.
And there’s nothing wrong with that. As long as you are not less likely to be around people who are not like you. And so the inclusivity there is intentional about seeking difference and seeing the difference. In their inner circle in their myths in their organization because they know that in that inclusivity there is power.
Gene Hammett: Well well said because I think a lot of people get confused on on leadership. They just show up to do work. And I feel like that’s just not good enough. In this day and age we have to be powerful leaders and understanding what you’ve been talking about being inclusive is certainly a big part of that. Dr. Randal I want to kind of dive into some of this stuff. You said transparency quite a bit and I know that plays an important role in inclusiveness but let’s let’s dive into it. How are you embracing transparency in your own company?
Randal Pinkett: It boils down to how I show up every day. And how I am forthcoming [00:10:00] about my own challenges my own struggles you know the the the old school leadership model is to demonstrate strength. I know the answer. I have the solution I’m in command and control. Paradoxically the inclusive leader is on the complete opposite end of the spectrum. Not to say that you show incompetence let’s be clear but rather to say transparency saying there are certain things I don’t know there are certain things I don’t do well. There are certain things that I’m struggling with. And interestingly as we’ve seen the blurring of the lines between personal matters and professional matters In the post realization of the pandemic era. I can’t say post-pandemic cause we’re still in it. But in the post realization of the pandemic era with the lines are blurred between personal and professional.
Again the old school that I didn’t really care about your home life. Are you getting the job done? And please get me the job that I’m asking you to do the inclusive leader. The 21st-century leader the transparent leader to your question is saying Hey I know you’ve got [00:11:00] challenges at home. And so do I. And the more I am forthcoming about my challenge the more I liberate you to be clear about yours the more we can figure it out together. And guess what? I’m more likely to retain you over somebody else. Who’s old school and says I don’t really care. What’s going on at home. And people are voting with their feet in this great resignation. If you want to find talent and retain the talent you got to open the door to having these authentic conversations that asked the question. How do you show up to be clear about what is your lived reality to give to liberate others to share their lived reality?
Commentary: Dr. Randal just talked about the old command and control. The problem is a lot of people believe this type of leadership still is what works today the command and control. They they tried to inspire by fear. Get you to really think about that differently. And today’s age where people are feeling burned out. People have lots of choices. You can’t just do this based on fear. You want to make sure you’re inspiring them from the inside. You’re connecting with them from a real genuine place. I’ve had many of my clients [00:12:00] come back to me with just some of the new ways of approaching difficult situations and difficult people that weren’t meeting expectations with a lot more empathy and grace and it really is a powerful way to lead. And it is better than the old way of command and control. Just my insights to you do to help you be the more powerful leader and really inspire your people to take ownership of their work back to Dr. Randal
Gene Hammett: I know you’ve done some speaking before because I can hear the power in your voice when you share these messages. I don’t know if it’s from the pulpit. I would imagine
Randal Pinkett: I’ve done a bit of that to Gene. I have.
Gene Hammett: so you can’t hide it but I I can see you get fired up about it and I want to go even deeper with this because I think this is just such a beautiful way to talk about it. And really is one of the words that I use a lot is just being intentional. Who how are you showing up? And if you were not including people into the conversation if you’re not including them in the table I believe you’re going to have a weaker company and [00:13:00] you’re going to have the struggle to connect with those that you’re you’re there to serve when you. When you’re in the world aligning resources together. I know you’ve probably got a pretty powerful team around you but do you have any struggles that you deal with as you try to be this leader for your team?
Randal Pinkett: Oh absolutely. Absolutely. And for me among my greatest struggles is. Is constantly challenging myself to understand and appreciate how we all see the world very differently and that what might be my interpretation of your affect or your gestures or your tonality. I appreciate that you took notice of my communication style which is different than maybe your communication style or or that of others. But but I I’m constantly challenging myself and in some ways struggling as well. As I see greater diversity within my organization. I know that diversity of diversity ultimately [00:14:00] leads to greater challenges. If it is not harnessed properly meaning people seeing things differently can lead to conflict because they see things differently. So I’m constantly challenging myself to understand. What are the different ways in which people see things? And that leads me to being very curious to ask them well how do you see it?
And I’m not understanding how they see it. I actually go in deeper to say could you tell me more because I’m still not understanding how you’re seeing it. And that is a healthy way of bringing me out of my comfort zone with this how I think and see the world and constantly struggling and challenging myself to go into my growth zone. And it’s a journey not a destination that I’ll never arrive someplace but rather I get comfortable in the discomfort of trying to see the world through other people’s eyes on a daily and daily basis. Cause it makes me a better person and it makes me a better leader.
Commentary: Dr. Randal has been talking about inclusion and diversity and I wanted to mention one of the projects that my former clients and all my friends are involved with is called [00:15:00] the A Pledge you can go to the theapledge.com really what this is is they’re marketing agencies digital agencies that have decided to really take an intentional approach to building out their teams to match the community the face coloring of the community being direct. And so race becomes a really big issue. They’re really trying to balance their teams around what it looks like in our community and the a pledge I’m from Atlanta. So that’s where that’s coming from. But take a look at it. If you want to get involved with something or maybe start something like that in your own world I think it’d be a really great way for you to be involved and be more inclusive just an idea. I’m just really proud of being involved with. People and leaders that were able to come up with the a pledge. And it really is something I think is making a difference in our community here in Atlanta. And it could make a difference for your community wherever you are. So check out theapledge.com and back to Dr. Randal
Gene Hammett: all of this makes me think of the book I wrote not from a sense of it’s anywhere near what you wrote [00:16:00] in your black faces in high places. But I wrote a book called the trap of success and the big core behind that idea is we can get complacent. And I think what’s happened in our world today is a lot of leaders and people, in general, have gotten really complacent with being comfortable by not having enough variety around them. I go to a gym and I get very intimate with my training partners. I do present JuJitsu. Do you know what that is?
Randal Pinkett: I do not.
Gene Hammett: So it’s sort of like grappling wrestling if you will for adults it’s what you see in the MMA. And I was at a training session this morning. One of my partner’s favorite partners is a black guy and he’s just so incredible. And I’m so intimate with him. And I’m just thinking that most people are not comfortable enough to do to be that close. To people of a different colors. And I think it’s just I think it’s really sad.
Randal Pinkett: I concur gene. And I and I appreciate you highlighting these issues your in your work. One of my favorite Ted talks is by a Turkish [00:17:00] storyteller Elif Shafak. her Ted talk is the politics of fiction. and while she’s attacking this from a storytelling perspective part of her core message is that we are increasingly finding ourselves in communities of the like-minded. We’re increasingly finding ourselves around people who think like us look like us share our political ideology. And we live in an echo chamber and we often don’t even know it. And that only amplifies the need piggybacking off of your word which I adored picky only amplifies the need about being intentional because the status quo our norm our organic travels don’t naturally take us into places of difference. They’re increasingly driving us into places of similarity. So we have to be aware that we’re in the echo chamber. You got to know you’re in the echo chamber and then you’ve got to be intentional about seeking ideas and people. That just do not reflect your own identity.
Gene Hammett: I want to try not to project my bias [00:18:00] here and I’m going to just get direct with you because there’s something I think I’ve been curious about this for a while and I get a chance to discuss it with you openly. And hopefully, we can do that in a good way. I wonder how you are using values in your company. When I say values I mean like company core values. Is that something you guys use in a good bit for hiring and developing people?
Randal Pinkett: Absolutely. Absolutely.
Gene Hammett: That was I want to make sure that we’re kind of aligned around this. I really believe that values are important. Having similar values. In an organization is great. That doesn’t mean they all have to come from the same color skin. That doesn’t mean you have to think alike. It doesn’t mean you have to you know solve problems exactly like each other. But the V if you have if you’re out of alignment values wise it’s a real hard to have the culture in your organization. How do you wrestle with that as you’re building your company and growing it
Randal Pinkett: yeah I had a I had an aha moment a couple of years ago when we were revamping our company values. I had traditionally interpreted company values [00:19:00] appropriately as governing ideas for how people should behave. But the aha moment for me and you hinted to this a moment ago is it’s not just that it also must be should be the lens through which you’re evaluating who should be brought into your organization. I mean I guess like the filter for hiring is typically things like competencies job description behavioral-based interviewing et cetera. And then when we hire them we tell them what the values are. Okay. So here’s the values that you’re or maybe in the interview we espoused them but they’re not on the list of things that we’re evaluating. As a part of the interview or the conversation or the dinner or the et cetera. And so that aha moment for me was when we were revamping our company values.
Here’s how the process started. And this is the aha moment. The process began by asking to think of people in the organization that best exemplify the company and then describe the characteristics of those people. And then once you describe the characteristics of those [00:20:00] characteristics those people extract the company values. It’s almost like the inverse of It’s saying. What are people demonstrating that uplift the values that reflect the organization as opposed to the organization defining values that needed to be reflected into the people. So that inverse of the approach and how we bubbled up from the bottom up the values from how we see it manifesting in people’s behaviors now is a guiding light for how we think about all things not just from a behavioral standpoint but also in terms of an evaluation of talent.
Gene Hammett: Well I’m glad I asked the question because it’s something that I have honestly struggled with because I I work on values within companies and part of my executive coaching. And I’ve got a book that I’m writing on you to know company core values the leverage points because they we just have been talking about hiring. They’re actually at least 12 different leverage points that you can use values as you’re growing together. But I I’ve been wrestling with how to how do you answer the race issue inside of values? Cause some people will come back to us and say you know [00:21:00] but we want to have a diversity but it’s not diversity. It’s diversity and skin color and diversity and an approach and thinking but it’s values are are much deeper than skin color. To me you know one example is one of my clients, I I interviewed had a one value that they thought it was really important. It was get the work done but do it right. And the example he shared with me very bluntly.
It’s not enough just to get the work done. Like we want to make sure that we’re doing it with the right connection and collaboration across the organization. We want to make sure we’re honest and Intech habit high integrity around this. If they just get the work done and they don’t do it right. They don’t make it inside of our culture. And it has nothing to do with skin color. It’s all deeper than that. Does all this make sense to you?
Randal Pinkett: It does. It does make sense. And I think along the lines of what you’re articulating is one of the things that we can also value is different. And that’s got multiple dimensions to it. It can be the difference in who’s present [00:22:00] differences in who’s included also differences in how people see things. And when we talk about innovation We’re talking about harnessing differences the best I you know diverse teams take longer to make decisions but they make better decisions. Innovation is predicated on having great ideas generated and those ideas when different and synthesized can lead to breakthrough ideas. So I think I agree that values go deeper than race or skin color but I think in going deeper We can value difference unto itself when stands lift up the importance of having the right people at the table.
Gene Hammett: I am glad we had a chance to sit down and talk about this Dr. Randal and really introducing me to the concept of inclusive leadership really has been about a pleasure.
Randal Pinkett: My pleasure gene thank you for having me. It’s been a pleasure getting to know more about you and your work.
Gene Hammett: Wow. What a powerful interview. I love his energy and I love the clarity that which he shared his message. I really [00:23:00] appreciate you listening in to this. And if you have any thoughts or questions about how this applies to you in your world I would love to talk to you about your business. Just go to GeneHammett.com and schedule a call today. When you think of growth and you think of leadership think of Growth Think Tank. As always lead with courage we’ll see you next time.
Disclaimer: This transcript was created using YouTube’s translator tool and that may mean that some of the words, grammar, and typos come from a misinterpretation of the video.
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