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a number-one best-selling author, success and book coach, and speaker on a mission to help leaders use the power of writing to uncover their unique stories so they can scale their impact.

I'm Stacy Ennis,

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Episode 141 | Dear White Leader, with Joel Pérez

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I'm a number-one best-selling author, success and book coach, and speaker on a mission to help leaders use the power of writing to uncover their unique stories so they can scale their impact.

Hi, I'm Stacy

If you’ve been following my work for any length of time, you know social equity is deeply important to me. So when I met Joel Pérez and learned about his work, I instantly knew I’d love to support his work as a book coach.

In our vulnerable conversation about how cultural humility can improve leadership, we talk through how to intentionally build a life that is more diverse and open, and why cultural humility is the foundation of connectedness in our workplaces and communities. And we get specific about how to create a more inclusive everyday by surrounding yourself with people who are different from you. Joel also shares some behind-the-scenes on his author journey, what it was like writing a book, and advice for others who want to become authors too.

Dr. Joel Pérez is an executive and leadership coach, speaker, and consultant, passionate about helping leaders and organizations achieve their goals and develop a posture of cultural humility, so they can have the impact and create the culture they desire. Joel is owner of Apoyo Coaching and Consulting, LLC, and a Professional Certified Coach with the International Coach Federation (ICF). His first book, Dear White Leader, came out earlier this week!

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Transcripts for Episode 141

These transcripts were generated by robots, not writers.

Joel: I believe that we’d have a we’d be in a better place if we listen better or listen well to each other and our views and our beliefs. It doesn’t mean, and I say this in the book as well when I do workshops because it doesn’t mean I’m not saying, I’m not asking you to change your beliefs or value systems. I’m asking you to engage in meaningful dialogue and conversation so you can lead with a better understanding. So my call for white leaders is to be ready to engage in the work that requires so that they can have meaningful dialogue and conversations. And I call it to be able to lead exceptionally in all areas of their life as opposed to just, you know, compartmentalizing everything. This is, you know, how I am at work.

Joel: The reality is everything bleeds to get blends together, whether that’s work, faith, community, volunteer, that’s all one thing. And I think we need to better at integrating ourselves in every aspect of our lives and thinking about it that way.

Stacy: Welcome to beyond better, a podcast that explores a simple but profound idea. We all deserve to lives we love, and that includes our work lives, too. I’m your host, Stacy Ennis, an author, book coach, speaker, and long time location independent entrepreneur living in Portugal with my family of four years ago, I was living in Idaho and dreaming of more for my life. And today I am living a life of my own design. Join me as I talk business, location, independence, writing, publishing and so much more, all focused on building a life that is beyond better. If you are an aspiring nonfiction author, I would love to help you write your book. I help authors, aspiring authors, just like you, go from idea to draft. I do this through consulting one one coaching and group programs.

Stacy: If you are ready to get serious about finally writing that book that’s been on your heart, on your mind, and probably has some kind of integration into your business, your brand, or your broader impact, I would love to connect with you. Just reach out to And we will have a conversation about your book, your big vision, and how I can help you. Welcome. I cannot wait to dive into this week’s episode with a guest who I’m really excited to introduce you to. We’re going to be talking all about cultural humility, which may be a new term for you. It was for me when I met this guest and really diving into ways that we can really embrace this mindset of cultural humility, and we get to talk writing. So this guest just released his first book.

Stacy: So we’re going to be talking about not just his expertise and cultural humility, but also his journey, writing a book about cultural humility. So let me tell you a little bit about this week’s guest. Doctor Joel Perez is an executive and leadership coach, speaker and consultant passionate about helping leaders and organizations achieve their goals and develop a posture of cultural humility so they can have the impact and create the culture they desire. Joel is the owner of Apollo coaching and consulting, LLC and a professional certified coach with the International Coach Federation ICF. His first book, Dear White Leader, comes out on June 4, which actually was yesterday as of the publication date. So, Joel, first of all, congrats on releasing your first book. It’s so exciting.

Joel: Yeah, yeah, it’s been a labor of love and really have enjoyed the process. And yeah, it’s out and we’re super excited and yeah, thank you. It’s been an amazing journey and one of a lot of self discovery as well as trying to help, a desire to try to help leaders get better at leading diversity, equity, inclusion and belonging efforts that they may be taking on as leaders of various organizations.

Stacy: And this is really your life’s work. And I would love to hear. Well, I know a lot about your story, but I’d love for you to share with our listeners and our viewers today what led you into this work that you do today and really the specific focus on cultural humility. So what is it in your backstory that inspired you today to be releasing this book?

Joel: Yeah, that’s a good question. I’ve been doing a lot of reflecting and did so in the writing process, which I know we’ll get to, but I first became familiar with the term in probably 2008, 2009, and I was sitting at a dinner event, and actually a colleague of mine shared about this concept that she had heard about at a conference she was at, and I started mulling this over. So, cultural humility, what is that? And it really struck a nerve with me because a lot of the work that I had been doing, mostly in higher education at that point, all my experience was in higher education, working at colleges and universities.

Joel: We’ve been talking a lot about cultural competency, and I just wasn’t satisfied with that term because it really felt like it was a box to check, something to be achieved, and it felt stagnant to me. And the term cultural humility, really, for me, is a dynamic term because it requires a lot of work. And ultimately, the way I described it in the book is this posture allows you to navigate the complexity that comes with diversity, equity, inclusion and belonging efforts or being in that space, because culture is not stagnant, society is not stagnant. Things continue to change. And so that’s what really got me interested in the topic.

Joel: And it wasn’t until I started, I left higher ed, started coaching, primarily working with white leaders who wanted to get better at being social justice advocates and allies and leading diverse teams that term surfaced for me again and started walking my clients through that process. And I realized, hey, there’s something here that should be shared with a broader audience than just my clients or when I speak. And so that’s what initiated the process of, like, I want to get into writing something that I think would benefit society, particularly leaders and particularly white leaders.

Stacy: And that actually brings us to your book title, which has been a really interesting, I think the title has taken an interesting journey. Right. You have a provocative title, Dear White leader, and your book really is written to, like you said, these leaders who want to better, like they want to grow. And just for me personally, when I hear you talk about that, I really want to just, I think, acknowledge that effort. Because a lot of times I feel like in Deib work, sometimes it kind of feels like a little bit of an echo chamber, like you’re speaking to people that already feel this way and already are convinced and already want to do the work.

Stacy: Sometimes I think there are people standing around the periphery that are also curious and want to be involved, but feel like they don’t really know what the first steps are or they’re afraid of saying the wrong thing or stepping on toes or doing something inadvertently offensive. There’s all of these fears that people carry, and what I appreciate about your work is you approach. It was such deep empathy and kind of understanding. And I think that’s where that humility piece is. So I’d love for you to talk a little bit about the positioning of this book and why, you know, what drew you to. Right. Dear white leader, like directly to these leaders, what called you to that group?

Joel: Yeah. A lot of it comes from my own experience, history wise. I went to a predominantly white institution. I share this story in the book. It was my watershed moment where I realized that I had this. I don’t know if it’s gift or calling, if you want to use a faith term. I had a calling to really help people who were on the other side or just had questions and partnering with them to work towards a better understanding of what it meant to partner with people of color in advocating for them, being allies and so that started in college and since has led me to do the work that I do now with coaching. So it really was a strong feeling.

Joel: And the watershed moment I talk about in the book is after the verdict of the officers that beat Rodney King and the verdict coming back not guilty and just the impact that had in our city. It was living in the Los La county, not only LA, but just the world. It made me realize that I needed to get off the bench and do some work. And for me, that meant partnering with people to get better. Seeing myself as a bridge builder, a good listener. I didn’t have the language back then that I do now. Of course, now I realize a lot of it was developing this posture of culture, but I really want, I don’t mind being, first of all, identify as Mexican American Chicano, although I’m white, passing. And because of that, in that space, seeing myself that way.

Joel: I don’t mind working with white leaders who are in that space or that liminal space of like, I don’t know about this stuff, this diversity stuff. And that’s where I can come in and kind of help them understand because they already have a curiosity as something they’re asking questions about, want to know more about. I don’t mind being in that space and also challenging white leaders like, no, you need to think about, hear people’s stories so that you can better understand people’s lived experiences, so that you can better lead yourself as an individual, your organization, and then the impact it has on our community, whether that’s your dinner table, faith community, volunteer organization, so you can be able to be in that space and lead well with this posture of cultural humility.

Stacy: Your book is written, I see it as an invitation. It’s written in a way that is very, you know, it feels very non judgmental when you are kind of extending this information to these white leaders. My, I guess, follow up question on that to you, as you think about this reader, is how much should white leaders be taking on the burden? Like burden. I’m not saying that in a bad way. I mean, there is a huge need, right, for people to be involved in making all spaces more equitable and across the board. And I want to also add in disability into that because we often forget disability when we’re talking about equity. Where are like, what is your call to these leaders?

Stacy: And how should they be thinking about their own role in creating not just more equitable workplaces, but communities, even their own internal family structures in relation to gender, for example, what is that message that you hope that they will take away from your work, and how will that impact our broader communities and world?

Joel: Yeah, well, what I say is that we find ourselves in a moment in our history, in our country that’s obviously very polarized. And this posture, developing this posture can help you gain a better understanding of people. So I talk about seeking to understand versus seeking to convince, because I feel like the white leaders that I work with, the white colleagues, friends that I have, want to engage in conversation, but they’re afraid to ask questions.

Joel: And so the work that I do in the coaching is to help them get comfortable with asking questions and becoming curious so that they can better understand the people around them and those perspectives, so that they can engage in dialogue that will hopefully lead to change, but to just create space for dialogue, because I believe that we’d be in a better place if we listen better or listen well to each other and our views and our beliefs. It doesn’t mean, and I say this in the book as well when I do workshops, is it doesn’t mean, I’m not saying, I’m not asking you to change your beliefs or value systems. I’m asking you to engage in meaningful dialogue and conversation so you can lead with a better understanding.

Joel: So my call for white leaders is to be ready to engage in the work that requires so that they can have meaningful dialogue and conversations. And I call it to be able to lead exceptionally in all areas of their life as opposed to just, you know, compartmentalizing everything. This is, you know, how I am at work. The reality is everything bleeds to get blends together, whether that’s work, faith, community, volunteer, that’s all one thing. And I think we need to better at integrating ourselves in every aspect of our lives and thinking about it that way.

Stacy: There’s. I think the question that this sparked for me is, what are some initial ways that people can really start taking this posture in their own life? And this actually calls up a story from last week with my daughter. She came home and she said, hey, mom, do you have any friends with down syndrome? And I said, well, I mentioned one person that I see at their school and I talked to regularly, but I said, you know what? And I really reflected on my broader life and realized that, wow, I don’t actually have any true close friends who have intellectual disabilities. That was a really interesting, like, I, like, still feel chills thinking about that.

Stacy: And that opened up a new space for me in my life that I really want to be more mindful of because our world so separates all of, like, we just so separate so many things. We separate people into buckets, and we often don’t get this opportunity to connect with people that have different ways of functioning in the world. Right. And that’s like a very even just vulnerable to share on my podcast. But it was, you know, a moment where I really had to reflect, and I was like, wow, this child just called out this whole piece of myself. We don’t always get those moments of awareness.

Stacy: So I wonder if you could invite our listeners to have a similar point of awareness in their own lives, to start to think intentionally about how they’re showing up and how they are creating spaces of belonging and connectedness with all kinds of different people.

Joel: Yeah, that’s good. Thank you for sharing, because that is a very powerful example when we get called out for something that we realize, like, oh, yeah, why is that? And so there’s an exercise in the book that I to help people identify their affinity biases or their inner circle of people in their lives. And, you know, so it’s list of people in the first column, then the column subsequently are, you know, you can put a label, ethnicity, gender, socioeconomic status, ability or disability, and then put x’s by then with the person’s name, the X’s in those categories that they hit. And then as you look and reflect on that exercise, you’re like, oh, I’m missing this, or I’m missing that. I have a lot of that.

Joel: Like, all my friends, you know, it could be that, oh, my gosh, all the people who have an influence in my life are all men. Why is that? And so to begin to be reflective. And what I stress is it doesn’t mean, like, you go play human bingo and try to find people just to fill a category. It’s more about, like, what can I do to put myself in spaces, to begin to hear other people’s perspectives or people who have different identities than me or different sailing identities, just so that you can become aware of your. Of the biases that may exist or how they show up. And then we, you know, in coaching, we talk about, okay, let’s talk about a strategy, right? How do we.

Joel: How do you put yourself in those spaces or genuinely reach out to people that you want to have involved in your life in some way that bring a different perspective. Perspective. And so that’s a way that I work with clients and or friends who are really seeking that. So for you, I would say, hey, so that obviously was really powerful. Why is that? And let’s talk about that. And what can you put, what kind of spaces can you put yourself in so that you, if that’s something you desire genuinely to be, you know, have friends in your life that have down syndrome, how do I show up in those spaces and be genuine? And it should come from a genuine place, right? And so that’s important. So there’s three characteristics to cultural humility. One is self awareness and self critique.

Joel: Second one is organizational or power, recognizing the power imbalances. And the first one, the last one is organizational change or systemic change. A lot of the work is done with you as the individual. So the self awareness, self critique park. And that part. And that’s where the bias piece comes in. And other awareness, self awareness, recognizing some things that may be happening in your life that, you know, you need to get better at, that will then lead to this desire to redress the power imbalances that exist, whether that’s in your organization, in your community, ultimately leading to change or systemic change. And so those are important things to consider, but it doesn’t end self awareness. And self critique is important, but it doesn’t end there. It shouldn’t end there.

Joel: It’s not about just you, the leader, but it’s okay, how am I, what am I learning? And how am I applying it to other areas of my life so that this place gets better? And that’s the important thing about doing this work.

Stacy: So in my example, where I recognize that I do not have intellectual diversity in my life, right? Like, that was my point of awareness.

Stacy: I’m missing this piece. And to me, I’m like, wow, I’m missing this. Such a rich part of life. How do. And I think we could take my example, and it could be really applied to all kinds of different situations where you have this awareness, the point of discomfort that I face when I look at that is, okay, well, how do I step into a different, like, community that I don’t have access to right now? How do I build these strong relationships in a way that right now, I don’t have access to in my immediate sphere? And probably that’s where a lot of people stop because it feels very uncomfortable. And then I think there’s also this self reflection that’s like, should I be doing this? Like, is it okay to go seek out this diversity in my life?
Stacy: Or is there something wrong with, you know, I think there’s all of these internal questionings that happen in these types of scenarios. So with somebody who has a point of awareness like I do, and again, we could plop in gender diversity. We could plop in racial diversity, socioeconomic diversity, age diversity, like all kinds of things. How would you coach somebody through that initial step of beginning to broaden their circle?

Joel: Yeah, I would. So the way I would approach. So if you were a client of mine and were working on this, I would say, okay, what’s your current sphere of. What’s your current circle of influence or the communities that you would consider your community? Right. Or your segments of your community? Okay. You want to broaden it. Okay. What are some things, or what are some. What are some things around you that you feel like you can show up or be inquisitive about? So whether depending on where you’re living, right. The city, virtual groups. So if you want to, like, you know, do more, gain a better understanding of down syndrome, do a lot of reading. Right. First to kind of understand more about down syndrome.

Joel: And you probably learn about where folks who identify with down syndrome are showing up or what spaces they’re in. And then it’s helped me. Helping you develop the courage to step into those spaces. So it could be like showing up to events where, you know, that people with down syndrome may be a part of. And again, I want to stress it’s not about the human bingo aspect. Right. So you. So the work we would do around is making sure you’re checking yourself and your motives, and if it’s truly something you genuinely want to broaden your exposure to, then we would focus on things you want to learn about people with down syndrome, what spaces are they in? And then.

Joel: And then just showing up genuinely, you know, with authenticity to events and or virtual spaces because you want to learn more and understand and so being really vulnerable in that sense. And are there people in your sphere of friends who you may identify as having connections with that particular population? And then being a part of asking, can I come into some of those spaces with you? And that’s the way I would coach you through. But a lot of it is checking yourself first, developing a strategy, if that’s important to you, and then developing the courage or helping you develop the courage, because it will take some level of courage to then show up in those spaces and just be yourself. Stacy, you’re a likable person, so it’s not like you know, you’re going to have this weirdness.

Joel: I think my experience with you is you are a genuine person and really have curiosity and be okay with saying, you know, I’m here because I really want. Want to learn more and I want to understand, but I’m going to listen. I’m not going to. I’m not going to show up and tell people, hey, you need to do this. I’m just going to listen. Step back and listen. And after that moment, my guess is you’ll start developing some friendships and. Or be really knowledgeable of that particular community. And if it’s not a community you have easy access to, then we would strategize around. Okay, maybe it’s just increasing your knowledge around. Down syndrome would be the first step.

Joel: And then eventually putting, depending on what you end up being exposed to or which city you’re in or where you’re traveling to gain a better knowledge by just showing up and being present in those spaces.

Stacy: There is a lot of intentionality behind all of what you described. And to me, that’s a really key takeaway, and it has me really reflecting on all kinds of areas of my life and in a quest to build in a more diverse experience. I think when I think about having diverse experiences, that’s because there is deep richness and understanding and connecting with other people. But those don’t just happen. And it’s a lot easier to find yourself in a space looking around. Like, for me, I have these moments where I’m in a space and I look around and everybody is white and everybody is blonde. Their hair is even kind of my length. And I really. I have those moments where I’m like, on the one hand, I think we’re. It’s natural and normal to want to connect with people that are like us.

Stacy: Like, there is that kind of natural, drawn feeling of sameness and connection. And on the one hand, I understand that, and I don’t judge myself too harshly. But on the other hand, if I start to see a pattern in my life where that’s happening, more often than not, I see that as a real problem. And that’s where that intentionality, I think, comes in.

Joel: Yeah. And what’s happening at work, Stacy, is we’re, you know, organizations, particularly leaders, is your. Because the demographics have changed, and they will continue to change, your teams are becoming more diverse, whether that’s ethnicity or race, gender, socioeconomic status, first gen status, people who graduated from first generation college graduates, people with seen and unseen disabilities that I just met. I was at. I facilitated a workshop a few weeks ago, and a white leader afterwards came up to me, and he’s like, you know, I really want to talk further about this, because last year, everyone that reported to me were from different backgrounds than me, and I did okay. But I think I could have done better. And it’s. It’s causing us to realize, wow, I have some work to do.

Like, I can’t just, people who I’m going to hire, I can’t assume are going to look like me. And so that requires a level of expertise, or not expertise, but a level of, or willingness to learn about the people that I lead so that I can be a better leader and also help this organization become more inclusive, like we say we want to become and develop that sense of belonging that we want them. And our faith. Faith organization, faith communities are the same way. Volunteer organizations, it does take intentionality and also displacing yourself, whether that’s, you know, going in a different part of the city and doing different things than you are normally accustomed to just give you a different perspective.

Joel: And I think that’s going to help you take action on what you want to do, you know, where you want to grow and learning more about a particular community.

Stacy: I mean, it really does come back to that humility, that leader’s humility to come and say, hey, I’ve done this one piece of it. We do have a diverse team, but I’m realizing that I have a gap in really connecting with and leading that team. That is true. I think humility coming to come to that. I think there, he’s a little further along the continuum than a lot of leaders are. And it made me think about, I don’t know if I’ve told you this story in our private conversations, but this was many years ago. I was invited to this special event as part of a larger conference, and we had this presentation on hiring and creating a teams. And it was this guy sharing his strategy and all of his systems and why he had landed the top team.

Stacy: And, you know, all of his team were a players, which is a well known term that, you know, in corporate environments. And. And then at the end of his talk, he put up his chart and wanting to know all white men. I think there were like 20 or 30 people on the chart, and there were like two women. There were no people of color. And I mean, because I am who I am, I did raise my hand and ask him how he considered diverse hiring practices in his, you know, in his hiring system. And I just saw his face just blank. I mean, it was like he, it was clear he had never considered it. And of course, there could have been two ways that he could have gone in that moment.

Stacy: One could be really doubling down on, oh, well, you know, we did make sure to get the best talent, but I would think that the humility route would go, oh, okay, now what do I do about this? Is, do you find this happening in organizations, similar experiences?

Joel: Yeah, for sure. I mean, I was. I talk about this in the book, and I’ve experienced it where I made it. I hear white leaders who share, like, when they’re truly, like, it’s been something, they’ve been made aware of, a bias, and they go, oh, wow, I had no idea. You’ll have what you said. You’ll have either. The person will go get really defensive and just say, well, we hire the best. That’s just what we do. And we post positions in different places, and this is what we get. Right. The leader with the posture of humility would be like, wow, I really have not seen this. I have not been made aware of this. Now I need to do something with that because I realize it’s a problem. And the problem is, first I didn’t see it as a leader.

Joel: I didn’t even recognize it. And now I’m being called out for it. I need to take some initiative to get better at this. So this. So I change the way I hire or I change the way I lead. And, yes, that happens a lot. And that’s where that posture of cultural humility is the willingness to learn and grow. I call it, you know, having. So there’s three things that I’d say are necessary to move from cultural competency to cultural humility. Cultural competency is the foundation. Cultural humility is what you’re working towards. Those three things are growth mindset. So in that moment with that leader, is he going to look at things with the growth mindset? Like, I need to get better. What can I learn? Curiosity. Right. Is the other deep curiosity. And the third is deep listening.

Joel: Those three things will help guide you towards cultural humility. But, yeah, it happens when, and it’s happened to me. I share my own examples in the book about how I was called out on certain things that I realized, like, I need to get better. And that’s what self awareness and self critique is about. And that’s what leadership is about. Right. We know we need to get better. It’s not. Leadership is not stagnant. Leading this work is not stagnant, but it requires that posture that’s going to help us get better. So, yes, it does happen. And my hope is that leader, that you made him realize this, would then go back and say, okay, what do I need to do to change this? And who do I need to bring into my life? What friends, mentors, coaches, consultants to help me do this work better?

Joel: Because I need a change.

Stacy: Yeah, I hope so, too. I hope that was a useful moment for him. And I also like it calls up to me why writing a book to these type of leadership is so important and hence why you wrote your book. So with that, I’d love to pivot into talking about your book writing process, the intentionality that you bring to your work, to your coaching, and what you guide people to develop in their life in cultural humility. I got to see firsthand how you brought that to your book process as well. So I’d love to hear a little bit about your decision to say yes and step into this journey and then just maybe a little high level about what this experience has been like for you. And then, of course, I’ll dig in with a few more specific questions as well.

Joel: Yeah. Well, going back to what I shared with you, I just realized that what I was doing with leaders, there was something there to share with others about this process. And that was the, I guess, the match that lit the fuse or started the process. And I realized for me, I mean, I wrote a dissertation, so I got a doctorate. I spent a lot of time writing a dissertation. So my initial feeling was like, oh, I can write something. I can just sit down and start writing, and it will just come to me. And I have friends who’ve been able to do it that way. And so I just thought I could do this. The reality is, in a year or two years later, I’m still twiddling my thumbs like I have not done anything. Yeah, I kind of have an outline. And.

Joel: And so I started talking with friends who I was like, hey, I really want to write a book. And it was someone who had been a client of yours who said, you really need to hire a book coach. And I’m like, really a book coach. And so that got me thinking, because I need the structure and the accountability to needed the structure and the accountability to write a book. And so that is what spurred me to identify someone who can help or partner with me in this process. And so that led to a conversation with you, Stacy, that then said, yes, I want to hire Stacy to help me. And a lot of it.

Joel: I mean, the way when I talk to my friends with doctorates or have written master’s thesis is, I say it’s like having a chair, a dissertation chair, who is holding you accountable, that you have to produce something in order for them to see it and give you feedback. That was the accountability I needed, and you provided that space, and I already had an idea, so it wasn’t like I was trying to generate an idea. It’s like, no, I knew what I wanted to write about. And then you facilitated the process to get me from that idea to manuscript piece. Right. That you talk about the space that you create for aspiring authors. And so. Yeah, and it’s. It’s.

Joel: It was an awesome journey, and I learned a lot about myself and the community that you created with the other nonfiction authors, some of which I still am connected with, so that we can encourage each other has been fantastic in this process.

Stacy: It’s so cool to. To watch that journey unfold. And one of the things that I really enjoyed during our process is just seeing how willing you were to struggle through to find the right way to share your information. Pushing for clarity, writing. I know there would be a couple different times where you would write something. It wasn’t quite to that level of clarity that you wanted, and you would really push yourself to get there, like, rather than just kind of moving on or just being like, oh, they’ll get it. You really engaged deeply and pushed yourself to create something really meaningful.

Joel: That’s right.

Stacy: How has that journey influenced your other work, that kind of push for clarity?

Joel: Yeah, that’s a good question. I’m much more intentional now about the way I think about the work that I do, the business I’m building in, making sure that I have clarity about what I’m trying to do and get really clear and narrow in my message as opposed to like. So when people say, why? Why? Dear white leader one, you have to have an audience, right? I think you and others have shared with me, if you don’t have a specific audience you’re targeting, then no one’s going to pick up your book because you can’t say it’s for everybody. So you got to get narrow. And I know some people have a problem with that. They wanted to like, well, are black leaders not going to get anything out of this? Or latino leaders? And my response to that is, no, they will.

Joel: There’s definitely a lot of nuggets for people, not just white people, for other people. But in order for me to get my message across, I wanted to write it for whitelist leaders. Right. And so thinking about my coaching and consulting practice, same thing. I now have three signature coaching programs. I now have in the process of getting really clear the kind of consulting that I provide because I want to repel people who maybe don’t fit any of those categories. And I’m okay with that now. I don’t think initially I was okay with that, but going through the writing process and getting really clear on my message, how I wrote, how I approached it, who my target audience was, has moved into the way I think about my business and being really clear about who I serve.

Joel: It’s not that I don’t serve others, but I am. These are the people that I serve. This is the target audience and the leaders that I want to work with and the organizations I want to work with. And I’m okay with that now. And so because of the writing process, that helped me get closer clear in what I was doing and my speaking and all those things. And so I would say it’s helped me in helping me. It’s helping me build my business.

Stacy: That niche piece is so scary for so many people, and I really resonate with that myself in my own business journey that you kind of, over time, you have these experiences with different people that you work with that are so aligned and meaningful and rewarding, and they’re like, the reason that you get out of bed. And it’s what you think about when you’re on a run or out for a walk. Those are the ones that are just so well aligned. And yet I find that there’s so much fear for all of us. I cannot think of an exception of people that I’ve worked with that there’s not least some level of fear in this idea of really, like, wrapping your arms around that group and saying, you are who I serve best and who I want to continue to serve.

Stacy: And to your point, there is still those secondary, tertiary groups that certainly you are also serving, but you are showing up fully for this group.

Joel: Yeah. Yeah, that’s right.

Stacy: It’s such a meaningful way to show up with clarity. I would love to hear about some of your challenges along the way, because we all face them in the writing process. And this is where overcoming these roadblocks is what separates aspiring authors from published authors. So can you talk a little bit about that at any point throughout the journey from idea now into the publication? What are some of those roadblocks that you faced, and how did you overcome them to be able to see this to the finish line?

Joel: Yeah, it’s a good question. I think in the writing process, the challenges for me was just, well, initially just sitting down to write, and I was able to do that because the accountability your process was providing. I needed to give you a draft of my chapter before we met. And so that was what spurred me on. So I needed that accountability so I was able to overcome that challenge, I think also just creating the time. And the challenge was taking away from my business in order to focus on the writing, because I needed to focus on the writing. And that was initially challenging for me. But then now I realize, like, it was the benefit.

Joel: I wouldn’t have had a manuscript in six months if I didn’t work with you because of the accountability and put some of the business stuff aside for the time being. Now the challenge is just getting over my own fear of putting myself out there. And, yes, I’ve, you know, I wrote a dissertation. I’ve spoken a lot of conferences before doing this, but I’m now writing a book. Right, for white people. And I have. I had a friend, someone, I knew him well over the years previously, and he came back to me recently, and they’re like, he’s someone. He’s not necessarily in my target audience. He is white, but he is not someone who really wants to get better at this work. He just. So he’s like, wow, you wrote this book. Like, that’s a pretty provocative title. And I’m saying, yes, it is.

Joel: And the fear of having people like that, right? Like, well, why. Why not black leaders? Why not latino leaders? Why not asian leaders? Why not women leaders? And I said, no, it’s for all those people. But again, I got to get focused. And the fear of having to address those questions has been a challenge for me. And it’s just getting comfortable and knowing that I can lean into or be confident that my message is clear and that I want to partner with people. Also, this fear of people who are even in my own community who may not really like the fact that I. That I am writing it for white leaders or partnering with white people in this journey. I have friends of color who are like, I don’t want to work with white people. I don’t. I don’t.

Joel: I mean, I’ll help, but I don’t want to be the one that, like, has to explain things to white people. And for me, that’s not a space I’m afraid of to be in. And I’m actually. I thrive in that space. And again, learning more about myself and being comfortable with saying that out loud so people understand that’s the approach I’m taking. So a lot of it’s fear, confidence, but just reminding myself of, like, no, this is work that I need to do. And I hired a coach to help me get really clear and narrow. And they remind me a lot about, no, this is. You’re just going to have to do it and don’t be afraid of what people are going to think. And that’s helped.

Stacy: That’s such a huge piece, that visibility that, like, you can, in your head, you can think all the things you want, but when you actually become visible and you are confronted with not just the people that are like, yay, Joel, this is so awesome. But also the people that are questioning, that’s when that work that you do internally really has to show up and support you in those moments. But that next big stage of influence exists in that space of discomfort. Right. So one thing that’s been really cool to see from. From behind the scenes on my side, and. And I. Maybe I’m. Maybe I’m wrong on this, Joel, so you can correct me if I’m wrong.

Stacy: I know that you did spend time thinking about whether the title was right, and I saw that, but I actually never really saw you, waverly, from my perspective, you were very anchored in that decision making process. It was more like, I want to test the waters. I want to see what people think. But I feel really confident about this, which was really interesting because that’s not always the case when I’m working with people. Where do you think that part of that, I mean, do you think that was supported through the practice of writing and expressing and kind of working through your ideas, or where do you think that anchoredness came from?

Joel: I think so. I wrote a blog post shortly after the murder of George Floyd, and all that was happening in our world, and it was actually I tell the dear white leader. And that was what anchored me. Like, no, there’s a message here that I need to stick to and not be afraid of how people are going to react, because we needed to call white leaders out, some of which are very close friends of mine who I knew wanted to get better but don’t know or needed a watershed moment. And this. That being the watershed moment for people, even though I know it’s not an isolated case, all that stuff had been happening in the world long before the murder of George Floyd against black people and other communities of color. But I wanted to take that moment.

Joel: So that’s what really grounded me, like, no, we got to get better in our society, and there’s a lot of white leaders out there, white organizational leaders. There are more white organizational leaders than leaders from minoritized communities and leadership roles, and I wanted them to hear this message, and that’s what anchored me. My fear in the publishing process is if I sign with a traditional publisher that would then say, wow, you know, that tad is not going to work. We got to change it. I was really like, that would have caused some real wrestling with me because I was really wanting that title. And so I would say what anchored me was what happened after the murder of George Floyd and the verdict.

Joel: I mean, all the stuff going on in the world that I’m like, no, I think white people need to hear this message, and I think I need to write a book for white people.

Stacy: Well, white people do need to hear this message. And speaking as a white person who has received the message, it’s so valuable and so meaningful. Last question. If somebody is listening to this and they’re in a similar space as you were about a year ago and thinking, I have this expertise and this message I want to share, and they have this book that’s maybe on their heart, on their mind, what would you offer them as they’re kind of deciding whether to go for it or not?

Joel: One thing I would have them ask themselves, or I would ask them, is, how important is this to you? Is this something you feel is necessary in the world? Or what about your message resonates with you that others need to hear so that they can be reflective in this process? My guess is they will say, no, I want this message out there, right? And then I would say, okay, then what steps do you need to take in order to get your message out? And my guess is it’s writing this book, right, that you’ve been wanting to write. And so now is the time to do it, to take that step of courage in order to fulfill something that you’ve wanted to do potentially all your life or more recently, because you’ve been moved by something or see something that needs to get better.

Stacy: Oh, that’s beautiful, Joel. Thank you for sharing that message. And before we wrap up, can you tell our listeners and our viewers where they can learn more about you? Order your book, follow you on social?

Joel: Yeah, so I’m very active on LinkedIn. That is my social media platform of choice. So you can find me on LinkedIn. The website for the book is up. So, you can find out more about the book as well as purchase, use the link on the website to purchase the book, and you find out how to, if you want me to come in and speak in your organization or hire me as a one on, you know, as a coach, facilitate cultural humility workshops. That’s where you can find out a lot about me. Or you can email dot Joel.

Stacy: Thank you so much for joining me. I really appreciate your time and sharing your wisdom.

Joel: Yeah, thank you for having me, Stacy.

Stacy: And thank you to you, our listeners and viewers for hanging with us for this episode. I hope you got a lot of value. I hope that you learned something that you can go out and apply to your life. I know I did. I really got some great advice from our wonderful guest, Joel, and I hope that also just thinking in a more intentional way about the whole scope of your life, your leadership, your community. If you’re inspired by this message, you should absolutely pick up his book. Dear White leader. And I also, of course, want to say thank you to our producer, Rita Domingues for making this fine podcast possible. I appreciate her so much. We could not do this show without her.

Stacy: As always, if you love this episode, please take a moment right now to rate and leave a review for this podcast. It truly makes a difference in helping me reach more people with the message of living a life that is beyond better. And I will be back with you before you know it.

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