We live in an increasingly diverse society, yet our corporate structures are lagging in mirroring this diversity. The lack of workplace diversity in most organizations hampers them from reflecting and addressing the needs of a diverse market. Lance Dorsey, the Senior Manager of Inclusive Hiring and Vendor Management for McKesson, checks more than one box in terms of diversity. Lance believes that diversity is a strategic business advantage when appropriately leveraged. As a person of color who identifies as LGBT, his natural inclination is towards HR and helping companies benefit from the increased diversity in their employee and leadership base. Listen as he joins Elizabeth Bachman on the podcast to talk about this.
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Diversity As An Asset In Troubled Times With Lance Dorsey
This is the show where we talk about how you can use presentation skills to move your readers to take action. I get to interview experts around from around the world on topics such as presentation skills, but also the leadership and the desire for visibility that is behind all of that and the communication challenges that we face. That’s part of what we’re going to talk about. Before we begin, I would like to invite you to go to our free assessment at www.SpeakForResultsQuiz.com. There you can take a four-minute assessment where you can see where you are strong with your presentation skills and where maybe you might need a little bit of support. I have the great pleasure of welcoming my dear friend, Lance Dorsey. Welcome, Lance.
I am happy to be here, Elizabeth.
Lance is a busy guy. I like to think that I was pleasantly persistent rather than being a major pain in the you-know-what to get this to happen, but we’re finally here. Lance Dorsey is the Senior Manager of Inclusive Hiring and Vendor Management for McKesson. He’s a proud service-disabled USA Air Force veteran who rejoined the civilian workforce following many years of unblemished, honorable military service. Knowing you, Lance, you were totally honorable. You are the perfect person. You always seem to be the essence of what you are. Prior to working at McKesson, he served as a Flight Chief and Contracting Officer in support of US Air Force Joint Base Andrews, the Presidential Airlift Wing, Home of Air Force One.
He also worked as a Senior Contract Specialist in support of the Securities Exchange Commission headquarters in Washington, DC. Lance holds a Bachelor’s in Contracts Management and an MBA. I know you worked hard. He was selected as one of the Top 40 LGBTQ Leaders under 40 by Business Equality Magazine. He’s the recipient of the Western Regional Minority Supplier Development Council Trailblazer Award. Beyond his experience and training, he truly believes diversity is a strategic business advantage when leveraged properly. It strengthens teams, organizations, and the communities we support and serve. Lance Dorsey, welcome to the show.
Thank you so much.
I’m glad that we’ve been friends for several years. We did a test version of this before I knew it was going to turn into a show because you’re one of the people that I go to say, “I know that women face these challenges,” because I’m a woman and I’ve faced a lot of these challenges. How about you? You check off a bunch of the minority boxes.
You must have five employee resource groups that all say, “Please come be part of us.”
I’ll go to the meetings, absolutely.
How did you get into human resources and diversity? I want to know how you got into it, but also why should we care? Why does it matter?You want to have an employee base that reflects your customer base. Click To Tweet
My career started in procurement and part of procurement is selecting suppliers and working with federal contracts. Anyone who submitted with them, there are requirements around the use of smaller, diverse businesses. Anytime you’re using appropriated funds and getting involved with these diverse businesses, recognizing their challenges and advocating for them, I became someone who was a believer in diversity. I love making connections with people. There are many people that we’ll encounter in life that will touch in small reasons that we don’t recognize at the time. If you’re fortunate later on in life, someone calls you or sends you a text and thanks you for some profound guidance or insight or a way that you help them that you didn’t even realize you were doing. From that place of wanting to support people, but still being a believer diversity, it was a natural transition for me to why I entered HR. Now, I manage an inclusive hiring program for the company that I worked for.
HR is Human Resources. We have international readers so we want to make sure that we’re not using acronyms that are very American. We want to talk to the world here.
Thank you for that. Why should we care? From a business perspective, it makes good business sense. You want to have an employee base that reflects your customer base. No one’s better equipped to tell you the needs of a woman than a woman employee. No one’s better equipped to tell you the need of LGBT consumers than an LGBT employee. More than that, beyond business, you limit yourself in the scope of thinking and ingenuity that you can leverage when you don’t have diverse teams where everyone has the same background, the same education that comes from the same place. They all think the same way. The troubling thing is that if you all think the same way, you might be thinking of something that the public would completely disagree with. If you don’t have someone to check that thinking to test those theories out on, you could potentially set yourself up for failure, but also miss out on very important life lessons. I am a huge supporter of diversity. For me, it was a natural transition to go into human resources.
I’ve been doing a lot of work lately with groups that are helping get women onto corporate boards. We talked about this a little bit. We want to get women on corporate boards because the statistics show that companies with diverse boards are more profitable. I looked it up. There was a study that says 19% have more profits than companies where the board are all the same. Even if they’re all the same, no matter what, if it’s all women, you ought to get some men on the board too. It’s one of the things that I feel very strongly. One of the things is that we are used to seeing male and female differences. There are a lot of assumptions about who you are from how you look. There’s then the color of your skin and your ethnic background.
I’ve got friends who are Asian women. You’re not supposed to have Asian women or African-American women in tech, but if you’re from India, sure. They assume you’re a tech thing. We’re doing this for Pride Month, which is June 2020. During the pandemic shutdown for COVID-19, we aren’t having big pride parties. Let’s talk about the gay, lesbian, bi, transgender, queer diversity. Most of the time, that’s an invisible difference. How does it affect us? How does it affect the way people perceive you? I have lots of ideas, but I want to hear your opinion.
It’s so fitting that you said invisible about the LGBTQ Community. In Corporate America, sometimes there’s this feeling that you need to erase that part of yourself to be successful. There are some preconceived notions that if you’re a person who identifies as LGBTQ, especially as a man, that somehow, maybe you are weaker. You won’t be as strong or commanding. You won’t be as effective as a leader. There’s the general uncomfortableness of some cis men that you encountered. Maybe from the first couple of interactions, they don’t know that you’re LGBTQ. When they find out, they’re a little standoffish. They would think that you’re going to grab them or something in some sort of fit of passion. I still don’t quite understand. It’s challenging, but the key there is visibility.
I try to be vocal and visible about the fact that I am a gay man in Corporate America. I feel that when people see that I’m able to function the way that I am, that I’m successful in making the changes that I do, that I can go and speak to various diverse groups and connect with those individuals. It fades into the background. It changes their mindset around what it means to be a gay leader in a corporate space. You don’t have to follow this heteronormative perception of what a leader is to lead a team. The visibility has been important to me. Also, we talk about as leaders, making spaces where our employees feel safe to be their authentic selves. This is a place where as leaders, we have to step up and lead by example because if we don’t demonstrate that and we don’t lead the charge on being authentic, then it’s just lip service. We have to lead by example. If we want our employees, our customers, our stakeholders to be authentic, we have to show them what authenticity looks like so that they feel free to mirror what we’re doing.
Speaking of presentation skills, since that’s the overall theme of this, there are many things I could talk to you about that. There are assumptions that people make about you at the beginning because you’re African-American. I’m female and white. There are people who look at me or they used to when I had long blonde hair. I was a little bit of a flower child. People say, “There’s this sweet little blonde over there.” They never take me seriously that there was a brain under there. How do you deal with walking on stage as an African-American? You were talking about how you have to establish yourself.
It’s not just African-American males or minorities. Women have the same issue when presenting to a mixed crowd that often you have to establish yourself. You have to establish your credibility. “Who is this guy? Why am I listening to him?” It is something that every speaker goes through but particularly, if you’re a person of color, a woman, diverse and from a marginalized group. There’s already this need to establish credibility, “This is why you should be listening to me.” You have to engage and persuade the audience to follow along with you on whatever that talk is going to be. For me, in addition to looking apart, some of my counterparts who are not people of color are very successful going up on stage in polo and denim and briefing a topic beautifully. I’ve always known inherently that I would have to go a step beyond to get that same level of recognition and belief from the audience. It’s something that I’ve accepted as part of the human condition. Rather than fighting against it, I embraced it so that I could work on those things that are more important that I’m trying to accomplish in terms of effective change through leadership in these speaking engagements.
Whenever I see you, you dress very well. That is part of how you dress and how you show up. People see you before they hear you. How we show up is such a huge part of what people perceive about us. You want people to perceive you as someone with authority worth being listened to and not just poo-pooed or feared so that when we’re out there talking, they will say, “I’m going to listen to that person,” and get past the first impression that might set up a barrier. People may say, “Not safe or not worthwhile,” and then listen to the content of what you have to say.If we want our employees, clients, and stakeholders to be authentic, we have to show them what authenticity looks like. Click To Tweet
I tell some of the younger groups that I mentor how you show up, unfortunately it does matter. The events here in America, everything that’s going on is civil unrest. It speaks to the dangers of misperception and how to proceed and how we’re treated. That’s not to say that you shouldn’t be yourself or be authentic, but recognize the challenges that you’re up against and how you decide to address those challenges. It will impact the outcome of whatever you’re trying to achieve. I learned a long time ago, something as simple as a blazer will open doors in terms of establishing yourself as someone who should be taken seriously and looking the part of knowing what you’re talking about.
Before, you had to dress up to go shopping. I remember when I was in college, I had a housemate once whose father was a jeweler. This was in the ‘70s. It was becoming okay to wear jeans when you walked into a fancy store. She used to go to New York City and she’d go to Fifth Avenue. When she walks into Tiffany in her jeans, the salesperson would poo-poo her. She’d start talking karats, facets, cuts, and all the stuff that she learned because her dad had a jewelry store and watching their faces to say, “Take her seriously.” She said, “I used to do that years ago. Now, many very wealthy people wear jeans and slumpy clothes when they walk into Tiffany’s that I walk in, I am treated as if I am a potential customer.” In the course of the ‘70s, that thing changed. One of the things I wanted to ask you about is for a long time, you worked with Supplier Diversity, but you’re talking about Intentional Hiring. At this moment, we are facing a global recession. Healthcare is doing okay because we’ve got a lot of people who are still sick with COVID-19, but there is no vaccine yet. There is no actual cure yet. When companies are tightening their belts or cutting their budgets, why is it important to still intentionally look for diversity?
In addition to the federal mandates, it is smart business to include those diverse businesses in your sourcing. You don’t want to put all your eggs in one basket and purchase from one large company. You will save a considerable amount of money there, but what you miss out on by not engaging small diverse businesses is the agility and ingenuity of those small businesses. They’re able to flex and react in a way that some larger businesses might not be able to because their processes are very set. The challenges that they deal with personally, as diverse individuals, veterans, people of color or women, or LGBTQ Community, they bring those to their business mindset. The challenges that they deal with things that we’ve talked about being taken seriously, how do I solve this issue?
Things that might be specific to their experience, they’re able to then transition those into how they run and manage their businesses. It’s phenomenal when I see these businesses, we’re able to make those connections. They come up with solutions that we never thought of. For years, people made coffee before the paper filter was invented. You don’t know what you don’t know and you can leverage the ingenuity of those businesses and say, “Here’s something that we had to create because of a challenge that we had.” This is something that you can leverage for your business. I encourage anyone if you get nothing from this, I hopefully get a lot from this episode. I know I’ve already received so much from being part of it. Thank you so much, Elizabeth, but to encourage you to connect with small, diverse businesses, to connect with people who think differently than you do that can bring in.
Elizabeth, you’re a perfect case. We brought you in for a speaking series at our company and the results that we saw, especially among our colleagues who were apologetic when they would go in to make a presentation. One individual that sticks out in mind is Tessa. She is a phenomenal, very smart young lady, but she was almost apologetic when you started a presentation and you helped her turn the tide on that. You don’t have to apologize for knowing what you know because you’re a woman. Go in there and own it. It’s something that we wouldn’t have gotten if we hadn’t engaged you. First and foremost, thank you for what you do, but also thank you to all those other small diverse-owned businesses that come in and affect change.
Besides being a small business selling to a large corporation like McKesson, how about careers? What can you say to people about using diversity, using your diverse status as an asset to rise in the company? I’ll preface this by saying a lot of my work is in helping women who have gotten only so far. You get to a certain point where you can get to senior director on merit, but to get to a vice president or the C-suite, it’s through connections. I’ve had employees at some specific companies who the company brags that, “We’ve got 55% women,” but it’s all below the midline. The women are in the lower level and the top level is only white men and they’ve all known each other for decades. It’s that same group of guys who know each other all these years and they hire classmates. When we were talking about this, you were talking about intentional hiring. You’re working on inclusive hiring and being intentional. Tell us more about that.
Thank you so much that you mentioned the company that I worked for. I wasn’t sure if I was permitted to do that or not. I’m fortunate to work for McKesson and we have great leadership. Our new CEO from day one said, “I’m looking to improve the diversity of the teams at McKesson and that’s at all levels.” We’ve been intentional in hiring. When I talk about intentional hiring, it’s making sure that we’re not just hiring positions at various levels, but that we’re also pipelining talent because it’s something close to 67% of executive positions are internal hires. If you don’t pipeline that diverse talent at the lower level of growth them up in the company, when it comes time to make those hiring decisions, your internal hires, you don’t have the diversity that you need.
Some of our readers might not understand pipeline. Explain that, please.
What I mean by pipeline is when you look at hiring people within the company and maybe you come in entry-level, you worked for a company for a number of years and gradually are promoted within that company. We call that entry-level or mid-management level. That’s your pipeline. That’s the candidate pool that will eventually, hopefully, one day become senior leaders. Recognizing that not everyone becomes a senior leader will be hired internally. The average statistic is 67% of executives are internally hired. That statistic is external to McKesson. That’s what I mean by pipeline. What is that lower talent pool that you hope to grow into those higher executive positions? My role specifically at McKesson is looking at that level and we have other people within human resources that specifically target executive talent. There are various levels or targets that we all have, but that’s the level that I’m intentional of supporting and hiring diversity at that level.
As you’re talking about that, that makes me think of how do you deal with the women who say, “I’d like to be promoted, but I don’t know 110% about the new job?” They then see a young man who says, “I know 50% or 30%. I can do it.” We’ve all seen that happened. What do you say when you see that happening?Something as simple as a blazer will make the difference in establishing yourself as someone who should be taken seriously. Click To Tweet
I’ve got a real situation. I have two direct reports. Both of them are female. One of my direct reports was asked to speak at a conference and they wanted her to speak about McKesson’s diversity strategy. She said, “I can’t speak to the entire strategy. I’m not going to do this.” I told her, “You know so much about our early careers in campus recruiting and all of the diversity initiatives that we have there. You are a pulse point for all of those. You’re involved in those.” Change the narrative. Tell them, “I’m happy to speak at this event about what I do know,” because no one knows that portion of the business better than her. I always encourage individuals. You touch on it where you’ll see a man might know 50% of the requirements of the job and has no problem applying for it. You then might have a woman that knows 90% of the job and she won’t apply because she’s so worried about that 10%. Focus on what you do know and grow into the rest of it. It’s less about taking a risk or taking a chance based on your experience, but more on your talent.
I think that begins in childhood where boys are taught to, “Go ahead, try it. If you fall down, pick yourself up. Keep on going.” Girls are taught to be safe. It often starts at puberty with this whole group of girls are taught to be nice and be safe. It’s a thing in society. It’s a challenge. It’s a buried challenge that you have to do that, especially it’s not safe to not be perfect. There are a lot of people who feel that. The men that I’ve worked with, a client who says they will go out and try, but then they’ll eat themselves up on the inside worrying that they’re being an imposter, whereas the women won’t even try.
As a speaker trainer, I will say to anybody who’s listening, if they ask a question, you don’t have to know everything about everything. You need to know the highlights. If they want to ask you about diversity, you say, “There’s a great deal that we’re doing about diversity. My specialty is.” You then talk about the part that you’re good at. If they want to know more, come talk to me afterwards. It’s perfectly okay to say that. It’s also perfectly okay when they ask you a question out of left field and say, “I don’t actually have an answer for that, but I’ll get back to you.” That’s perfectly okay. Be human. Don’t try to fake it.
I know a few people that operate in a mindset where they think they know everything. I’m always leery of those individuals because as humans, we can’t know everything.
I think that is where imposter syndrome comes in is a lot of men will fake it. The people in the audience who do know will say, “That’s nonsense. He doesn’t know what he’s talking about,” but his imposter syndrome is making sure that he sounds confident. I have stories about that. Lance, I completely forgot to ask you about your dream interview because you are interesting. You distracted me. Before we end, I’d like to know if you could be on stage with anybody, who’s someone who’s no longer with us and you can interview them, who would it be? What would you ask them and who should be listening?
I would say, rather selfishly, my paternal grandmother, Christine, who is no longer with us. I would love to interview her because growing up as a gay child who at the time didn’t even recognize or know what gay was, this was a woman who loved me unconditionally. She fed my soul, gave me such great advice and love and encouragement. At the time, I didn’t recognize how much she shaped who I am now. Our time was cut short when I was in my twenties, when I was off living my life. I wasn’t aware of the fact that grandparents won’t be around forever. I feel like there were so many more conversations that she and I didn’t get a chance to have and so much more wisdom. She gave me quite a bit of wisdom, but there’s so much more that I can learn from her in the context of where I am. I think my grandmother was awesome so everyone should be a part of that conversation or listen to what I feel. Especially those individuals who may be struggling with their sexuality or having trouble at home. This was a woman who understood young people and the challenges of being different and wanting to be heard and loved.
Where do you think her background came from?
That is one of the questions that I would ask her. She was a nurturer. She was a healer, wife of a minister and a nurse. She made porcelain dolls. As long as I can remember, she was doing something with her hands. She had a way of people who believe in healing through touch. I believe that she had that ability. She would touch your face in a way that calmed you. That’s the only way that I could think of it. She was a beautiful, remarkable woman. I would love to know where that came from. I hope that one day, I’ll be able to emulate that and bless someone the way that she blessed me and give back to people and help them through their personal struggles.
Thank you so much for joining us. I’d like to remind you to go to our free assessment, SpeakForResultsQuiz.com. It only takes four minutes and then you could see where you are rocking your presentation skills and where maybe you could use a little bit of support. If you like us, if you enjoyed this, please like us on iTunes. Check us out on YouTube, subscribe and leave a review. Tell your friends. Thank you very much. I’ll see you on the next one.
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About Lance Dorsey
Lance Dorsey, Jr. is the Senior Manager of Inclusive Hiring and Vendor Management for McKesson and a proud service-disabled U.S. Air Force veteran who rejoined the civilian workforce, following 13-years of unblemished, honorable military service.
Prior to working at McKesson, he served as a Flight Chief and Contracting Officer in support of U.S. Air Force, Joint Base Andrews (JBA), Presidential Air Lift Wing “Home of Air Force One”. He also worked as a Senior Contract Specialist in support of the Securities Exchange Commission (SEC) Headquarters (HQ) Washington DC.
Lance holds a Bachelors in Contracts Management from Wayland Baptist University and a Master of Business Administration (MBA) from The Walker School of Business.
He is was selected as one of the Top 40 LGBTQ Leaders Under 40 by Business Equality Magazine and is the recipient of a Western Regional Minority Supplier Development Council (WRMSDC) Trailblazer Award.
Beyond his experience and training, he truly believes diversity is a strategic business advantage; when leveraged properly, it strengthens teams, organizations and the communities we support and serve.