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Rethink Diversity with Todd Corley

Jul 15, 2022



This week I interviewed Todd Corley. Todd is the Senior Vice President of Inclusion, Sustainability and Community at the globally iconic brand - Carhartt. He was recruited as the first officer in charge of diversity and inclusion at Abercrombie & Fitch, where he spent almost a decade.


Todd recently penned his first book, FITCH PATH, a book about how to navigate generationally-driven shifts in beliefs and values. It goes inside the iconic brand, Abercrombie & Fitch, and explores how Millennials and iGens reshaped the self-conscious symbol of American youth and coolness and forged cultural transformation. Todd offers solutions to help prepare today’s leaders and organizations for the inevitable reality: transparency is the new normal.


Todd Corley is an incredible leader. We spoke about diversity, equity and inclusion. These are conversations we need to be having as parents, leaders, siblings and friends.


Todd Corley is also the creator and catalyst of The TAPO Institute, a think tank and strategic advisor advocating inclusive leadership. Todd is passionate about societal and organisational change.

 

My Key take aways from this episode were:

 

1. If you don't have a formal DEI strategy in your company, or the company you work for, then you need to get focussed on shaping one. It is so incredibly important in this day and age that we look around us and the people we work with, and ensure that we are giving everyone equal opportunity. If you have privilege, then it is your responsibility to help other get those opportunities too.

2. Do you have a moral compass? What shapes it? If you answer one question today, let it be " What does my Moral Compass look like?" 

3. Business exists to build a better tomorrow. Business should not simply be about making a profit, it should be to build a better future for us all.

4. Surround yourself with people who think differently than you do. You cannot grow if you constantly surround yourself with people who are exactly like you.

5. Be vulnerable, be inquisitive and always admit what you don't know!

 

 

Full Transcription 

SPEAKERS 

Todd Corley, James Laughlin 

 

James Laughlin 00:00 

Welcome to lead on purpose. I'm James Laughlin, former seven-time world champion musician, and now an executive coach to global leaders and high performers. In every episode, I bring you an inspiring leader or expert to help you lead your life and business on purpose. Thanks for taking the time to connect today and investing in yourself. Enjoy the show. 

 

James Laughlin 00:39 

He was recruited as the first corporate officer in charge of Diversity and Inclusion at Abercrombie and Fitch, he spent almost a decade there. He's now the Senior VP of inclusion, sustainability, and the community at the globally iconic brand, Carhart. Todd Corley is an incredible leader. We chatted about "DEI" diversity, equity, and inclusion. This is a conversation we need to be having as leaders, parents, siblings, and friends. What we chat about today is truly powerful. I'm so excited for you to sit back and take it all in. And I hope that at the end of this episode, you have this compulsion, this desire to go out and talk about this and make a difference in your community, in your workplace. So, sit back and enjoy the show. 

 

James Laughlin 01:45 

Todd, a massive welcome to The Lead on Purpose Podcast. 

 

Todd Corley 01:49 

James, it's nice to see you. Thank you for inviting me. It's a pleasure. 

 

James Laughlin 01:53 

Oh, the pleasure is all mine. Look, I'm so excited that the chat about DEI and what that means for leaders in the corporate space. And there will be some leaders listening right now going yep, that's a big passion of ours, we're focused on that. There will also be the leader listening right now going, what is that and how does that apply to me in my business? So, let's start there. So, what does DEI mean in the corporate arena? 

 

Todd Corley 02:16 

You know, it's a good question. So, for me, DEI means an understanding that people are just very different. And that's just a simple word. But it's important because if folks understand that folks are different, they're going to understand that people are going to be motivated differently, that consumer is going to have different tastes and preferences of what they want, you're going to have to lead people differently. And that means maybe in the middle of chaos, or in the middle of change, you've got to figure out who are you leading, because they have different lived experiences. It also means that you know, you have to think about how nimble you can be to respond to the ever-changing demographics. So, whether it be, you know, whether it be in the southern hemisphere, other places around the world, everybody has somebody that they've encountered that's not like them. And diversity is simply put in understanding those differences and making sure that they can be included, and that they have a way feels like they are part of something. And honestly, James, if we kept it that simple, we wouldn't have the dismissiveness around the topic of the word, you wouldn't see it as really that complicated at all. And we see the benefit in what it means for the day that we live right now. And 10, 20, 30 years down the road, you know, our children rely on people understanding differences. Our parents do or did it depend on your situation. And it's not really that sticky of a topic. I think it has become that. 

 

James Laughlin 03:52 

Absolutely. And if we rewind the clock, so for the listeners listening right now you were recruited as the first corporate officer in charge of Diversity and Inclusion at Abercrombie. So, for those that are listening on what's Abercrombie, so in North America, it's an incredible apparel brand, but world-renowned certainly when in Ireland when I was a kid, it was a big deal. So, in your almost 10 years there, what were some of your greatest takeaways and some of your greatest moments where diversity, equity, and inclusion really came to light? 

 

Todd Corley 04:20 

You know, it was obviously a career-changing experience for me. Many of your listeners may know, that there's a Netflix film on the subject you know, White Hot. And it was about spending time in a brand that was somewhat challenging itself about are you exclusive or inclusive or not? For me what I learned is to answer your question directly. I learned that a generation of young people who began to show up there as employees at a really young age of 18, wanted something very different. And it challenged me as a diversity leader to figure out how to help them look at that change. So just for context for the listeners, I have to pause when I say this just for context, Facebook back then when I joined in 04-05, Facebook was a year old, and Twitter was still a year away from being a thing. So, if you imagine this lane of people who are young, who came from and are part of a generation as a lot more diverse in mind as an XOR, they were curious about who they were surrounded by, they were curious about who was in their friend circle, they were curious about the world around them and as it was growing, they were finding places on the map that they didn't even know existed, and they wanted different answers about how do you include people? How do you become connected to a different perspective? So, what I learned from that time, I told him, I would tell anybody this, despite what people might think, it is a job that I would do all over again because I learned more about me about how to lead as we talked about folks who were unsure of themselves, but didn't have the right word choices to use when they interact with somebody who was a bit afraid of saying the wrong thing. And James, honestly, can be my witness, that's those are things that we struggle with right now. So, point is that type of behavior and response to things is no different in any era or a decade that we live in. So, I've walked out of there, you know, with the benefit of creating a lot of change. But honestly, credit all goes to the younger people that were there, millennials who were a lot more direct and candid about the change that they want to see. And they weren't asking for permission, they were saying this is what it has to be. But it was a tension that grew. And it was a remarkable experience. So, it is what I learned in that seat was, that you can build things, even in the midst of a lot of drama and push back, you've got to figure out who your allies are, take stock in them, identify them, and help them lead the change that you want because you can't do it all by yourself.  

 

James Laughlin 07:03 

Really powerful. And for the listener that's listening right now who has the responsibility as a leader, as a manager, maybe as a business owner, how can they actually raise their awareness that, hey, the company that I'm leading is not very diverse, we are not very inclusive, how can they start to think and see things from a higher perspective and go, whoa, there are ways in which we can improve here? 

 

Todd Corley 07:27 

You know, I think they have to, I think the word I would use is, people have to become vulnerable, right? They have to become comfortable with admitting what they don't know. They have to be inquisitive, about wanting to know more about folks that they casually meet and they have to be lifelong learners. You know, it's hard to give one answer to everybody. But I think if you are open-minded about your lived experience, who you are, how you grew up, and just give yourself like a minute, a chance and opportunity to think what it's like for somebody who is not like you. Um, so you can pick up a newspaper and another state, get on the internet and look and say, what is it like to be him or her in that circumstance? What might it have been like, for me if I were there? Would I make the same decisions that I make now? But I'd be where I am? And you probably have a lot of answers to those questions. I certainly do. Oftentimes, I say no, or oftentimes, I say, maybe easier, or harder, depending on the person I'm putting into my shoes. So, I think people have to force themselves to do that calculus. And you do a great job on your pockets, you know, talking to other leaders. I mean, I think leaders want to, by definition, lead in a way that's successful, that often means not putting your head in the sand, and ignoring the things that are around you. I mean, if you just pick up the papers, he was happening around the world, how people behave, how they don't behave, there's an opportunity for us to get those situations to be more positive, a better outcome. But it requires us to understand what the person is going through to get there and make hard decisions. So, I don't know if that's a straight line of the answer. But I would just offer people the chance to think about things differently than how they live their own lives and see how it could be different if they were someone else. 

 

James Laughlin 09:32 

Thank you. Yeah, there are two things in recent times that happened to me. And so, for the listener that's listening doesn't know me. So, I'm a white male from Ireland, and my partners are from South Africa and grew up in a very different place than me. And we were sitting on the couch talking about white privilege. And I was like, I don't think I've got that. So just listen to yourself. Like, look at your life. Look at what you've done and look what You've lived and you've been surrounded by the opportunities, do you think you would have got those same opportunities? Had you been a different skin color from a different place, and I started to think and was like, wow, I never even put myself in that position. That was a game-changing moment for me to think I am so fortunate. But I can't just sit here with this good fortune, I've got to actually do something to level the playing field for the next generation for other people who have incredible skills and talents that are not getting that opportunity because they don't have that privilege. And to me, that's a lifelong commitment, like, in the position that I get to talk to amazing people like you. I've got such a responsibility to help give other people a platform in a way that's thoughtful and intentional. And another and the second thing that happened in recent times is I spoke to an incredible North American leader, who I hope that if you haven't met already, one day you will, her name's Nabeela Ixtabalan. And she's the now COO of Walmart, Canada, she was the CPO of Walmart, Canada and recently just got promoted. And she's a 38-year-old woman of the Muslim faith and is an incredible leader who leads 100,000 employees. And we had an incredible discussion. And she was just saying, look, James, we've had these discussions at Walmart, with our clients and with our employees, and with one employee who had done a workshop with us around DEI, and then went to a family barbecue within a week or so. And someone at the family barbecue was using language that was derogatory towards another race. And he felt the courage and the intentionality to go, this is not right. This is my family. And he spoke up about it helped create a space for them to grow their awareness around this one-liner, these little jokes that are at the expense of other people. And I think there's such power. I had it happen recently when I was here in New Zealand and met with two individuals. One was a leader and they both started having these racial innuendos about another race. And as a guy, that's not right. Like, I can see that you're enjoying it and you're laughing, but like, let's think about the other person for a moment. So, my question to you tell us, when the listener that's listening right now is in a position where someone around them is making a racial joke or a joke about someone of a different gender or background? How can they have the courage? What are the conversations, they can have to redirect that conversation and grow the awareness of that individual to say this isn't right, like, stop this? 

 

Todd Corley 12:31 

Yeah, it's a great question. You know, I always tell people to use their voice and their authority, right. So, I'll describe myself because you did it for the audience, right? They're not looking at it. They don't see me. Black male pronouns are he and him? I would tell people that if you're in that moment if you're nearby, you can't be a bystander. Because when you are, you're honest, and you're complicit. So, think about word choice, like, hey, you know, I overheard you share something about, you know, immigrants. I'm actually one myself. And you know, what's interesting is, is I think, if we had more awareness about who's around us probably would use different choices of words, it can be that simple. And the person likely will be either caught off guard or will certainly be stuck at the moment, like, what do I do now with this person who's challenged me? And that person is white. In the case, as you describe, then they're going to probably say, hmm, I felt this way. So that was a that was around me looked like me. I was comfortable saying it because I thought I'd be okay. And now I'm not. And I might be off, think about it again, differently. I just think people cannot let moments go by honestly, you're that story is a powerful one. Because it is surely those small moments that add up to big issues. And what I've always told people in this work as long as I've been in it, if you don't take the opportunity and time to voice reason, alternate point of view, and educate folks you're not really doing this work. Even if you say, oh, well, you know, I support the initiative by, you know, going to a recruiting event. Well, that's fine. But in a booth, recruiting people, if it's in person, is one thing, but behind the scenes, when you are responsible for altering behavior is a completely different thing. Because leaders have to show up doing a couple of things, leaders have to show up understanding who the employee is. Leaders have to step show up by understanding what the environment needs, and they understand what the community wants. So, those are just a few examples. So, if you're doing that with a stakeholder, in this case, a community employee, then you have to realize that there is a requirement for you to lead in a way that you're going to hold yourself accountable like you want to hold other people accountable. And that requires courage. That's the perfect word. This isn't a passive sport. It's about making change and making change stick. And if I've learned anything, it's not easy. But the long-term benefit of that is, that you'll get better outcomes, you'll get better people. And honestly, you may change someone else's life to something very different than they would have had it not met you. So, I always look at those interactions as not an accident, but a responsibility to see someone in the right direction. 

 

James Laughlin 15:43 

Really amazing. And Todd, if we look at your life and your experience, whether it's in the corporate arena or in life in general, what have you faced where you've been on the other end of it, whether there's been a lack of inclusion, and you've felt that the negative side of that there's been anything that you'd be willing to share it in your life? 

 

Todd Corley 16:04 

Yeah, I mean, we don't have a lot of time, but I'll give you one at least that's probably more common for me. Wherever I've been, I've probably with great, consistency, been the only or one of the few black men in an environment, I'm certainly assuming love. So currently on the, you know, the Global office ay Carhart, and seeing most black executive there. But I was also the most senior black executive at a consulting firm in Manhattan New York went out of business school. So, I give you those two points in time saying, for as far back as my most junior time, and, you know, a senior role. It's always been that thread. So, what I would say is, and this is probably more, this is certainly more in my early years because I've had to increase, increasing seniority. So, I've been able to chat a little differently. The same thing is true, though, which is, that you always have to figure out how to validate yourself. Means, that someone will say, oh, I didn't know that you are the lead consultant on this project, or, oh, you're so articulate for a black man, or, oh, oh, you went to that school? Oh. So those moments of pause, have been with me, for as long as I know. And my story isn't any different than anybody that you might meet but looks like me, point isn't sharing that is that you have to always figure out how to, again, turn that around, call it out. Or, again, the perfect example that we just pulled in, from your example, has people who are going to be allies for you who look different than you and can say something on your behalf. Because the burden is not on me always to educate you about why that was offensive. I have to live with it. First of all, processes. Secondly, and third, I've got to shake it off and keep going. And I will say that being the only one has always been something that I've had to manage through. And it's exhausting. Quite often, it's just exhausting. So, you know, I always encourage people to think about, what is it like for that person to be in this environment? What is it like for them to feel like they are going to be heard, valued, and understood, given that, you know, great assignment at a job or a workplace or that promotion? And that's another step, which is, how do you tell the people who are hiring talent to do that when they hire? How are you telling people to do that when they onboarding that talent, when it growing that talent, when they're further developing them, and they've even made when they exit them. So, if you think about that talent lifecycle, that ability to make sure that everybody feels like they are included has to happen at the hiring stage, the onboarding stage, the growing stage, the developing stage, and even the exit stage. And if you can, make sure that we inclusive leadership throughout all of those streams of the talent cycle, then your organization's probably doing okay. Because you probably can attract them and keep them and that's what it's about. 

 

James Laughlin 19:27 

Really incredible. And for the person that feels like they are the other right now. They are the only ones right now and maybe they're the minority and they are experiencing what you just described a moment ago and you said that it's exhausting. But you shake it off. What advice do you have for them regarding how you have learned to keep moving forward and shake it off? What do you do that helps you keep moving? 

 

Todd Corley 19:50 

You know, I surround myself with people who remind me that I deserve to be here. You know, I surround myself with people who tell me and assure me that you know, that I did either the right thing or it was spot on or even send me to tell, you know, on that one, you are wrong. So, you should really think about that one differently. Okay? So, it's humbling. So, I surround myself with people who are going to be 

 

Todd Corley 20:22 

honest with me about how I might be reacting, because I want to make sure, I don't want to fly off the handle like I get it wrong, but I miss something. Because the stressor of having to go through it all the time or being on that side as another can sometimes make you react quickly. You know, sometimes too quick. Sometimes it's certainly warranted. Other times, it's like, okay, let me back out, let me see if there's something I do know, this one was right on. So, I surround myself with people going to reassure me about how I do it. And in cases where my response was warranted about, you know, be either mishandled or quoted or short, short for an opportunity. See, if you need to think about being somewhere else, then you should be confident about that also because you're good at what you do. You've earned what you have. And you don't need to apologize for that. So, I think I always make sure that those competitions are ones that I'm having regularly. And that's a small circle change. I mean, that's not a large, large, you know, poll of people, you know, I would suggest somebody finding, you know, three to five people that can always rely on that might help them think those things through because you need that you need a community, a village, if you will, small one, but you need one that's going, to be honest with you. 

 

James Laughlin 21:47 

Yeah, absolutely agree. And for the company out there that doesn't embrace the DEI into their DNA, what's the cost for that company? 

 

Todd Corley 21:58 

So, we talked about the cost for internal or external or both. So, the internal cost is turnover. Internal cost is the loss of discretionary effort and energy. I mean, imagine the woman of color, or you know, a woman of Muslim faith, you know, the hijab or whoever feels like they're not part of the environment that they're in, then I can give you 150%, they're going to give you what they need to get from nine to five, and probably looking on your dime for another job. You're going to lose the level of creativity that you need on a team. I mean, I've been I've had the fortune of being in a lot of retail brands. And I can tell you, without a lot of different people around the table, either looking at a pair of dinner, or whatever it might be or designing something, having one point of view, one lived experience, you cut yourself off from having the best new thing, the best new idea. So that's, that's some of the costs, I can give me a whole list. But certainly, you know, turnover, discretionary energy, lack of creativity, leaving the top three on the outside, you lose market share. 

 

Todd Corley 23:12 

reputational damage, bad press, which is probably a little bit of the same, as that second one. 

 

Todd Corley 23:20 

You certainly lose momentum to grow the brand. So, I would say the cost. I've never understood this, the cost for these types of things that go wrong, it's so clear that I'm sometimes amazed that people are comfortable with the ignorance or, or whatever it is that they're holding on to racism, sexism, you could fill in the blank, that they'll let it cloud, their better judgment to do the right thing to create an environment for internal people to not leave, be more creative, to give their 150% stay the extra mile, that sort of thing. That, you know, their ignorance will get in the way of those things happening, because they just want to hold on to, you know, their bad behavior. Unfortunate though, is still blinding to people, people still have it. So, I will tell you, any organization if you're listening, even if you don't have a formal DEI strategy, get a focus on what it's like to have people who are different in your company or your brand. The smallest mom-and-pop shops are the largest ones. And James, you can take this outside of corporate I mean, certainly nonprofits have the same thing. Certainly, you know, healthcare organizations have the same thing. The workaround DEI is not a trending word. Although some people create that kind of persona around it. It's not it is pure business play. It is meaningful work. It relies on us to be the best that we can be. And honestly, if you think about the question of what you know, let's say a purpose-driven brand is a purpose-driven brand or brand who are trying to ask the question, why does Why do we exist? Who do we serve? And you know how we can be better for people? Well, that's the way the world is right now. And that if you're trying to be the best that you can be, you got to be able to answer those questions. And if you can't even get past DEI 101, then you're not going to answer the other questions, because you're going to be shorter answering the question about people. How do you support them? The President is short on answering the question, right? How do you protect the environment? Probably going to be short on the question of how you impact the community in which your business is doing business. So, you know, you got to put the resources where they think need to be put, and this is certainly one of them, in my opinion. 

 

James Laughlin 25:41 

That's great. And here's an interesting situation, this has happened more than once. I'll go and work with a company and their executive level and their senior level of leadership. There's a large, dominant white male presents anywhere between 40 and 60 years of age. And often, I'll say, okay, let's chat a little bit about what's happening here at the leadership level, let's chat about diversity. And often I'll hear this, you know, it would be great. But you know, right now, we've just, these are the people that we need, and they've got the skill sets. And, you know, for us just to be thinking about diversity, we might not get, you know, we might get diversity, but we might not get the cognitive skills that we need. So right now, we just got to stick with this. But I hear the "but" and I'm like, wow, there's the problem right there. Yeah. So, for the leader that's listening, and there will be a leader or maybe more listening, going, Oh, that's me. Look at my board, look at my executive level, while it lacks diversity in gender, ethnicity, everything. What do they need to hear right now? How do they need to think about what questions should they be asking themselves? 

 

Todd Corley 26:51 

Well, first, I, first of all, say, would say to that person, you should answer the question, what first question you should answer is, do I ever hire anybody that isn't? Smart enough, good enough to do the job? The answer to that question is no because you don't. So, I didn't say, then you should not use this as a qualifier for diversity. Because no one ever said, hiring in diversity means hiring something, someone that could not do the job, it just had to be who they were black, or woman or whatever it is. So first of all, you got to dispel that myth. And if they're smart, if they say, oh, yeah, I guess I am qualifying it, then you say so. Okay. So then where do you go to get other traits and skills that you don't have on your team? Maybe a team that's bilingual, maybe a team that has lived abroad? Maybe a team that has, you know, different lived experiences that brings a unique perspective that the customer might have, or the new customer is having? These days of okay, yeah, I want all those things. Well, if your team is all white men, I'm going to assume that you probably don't have people that are going to check them in those boxes that we just talked about. So, then you get them to say to themselves, oh, I guess I could benefit from having somebody you know, who lived in Brazil and speaks another language. And all my team has looked prospective. Okay, well, how do I find it? So, then you do the hard work? But this is really hard? Yes, it is. It's going to be harder for you, because you're now showing up, and you're late to the game. So, I guess I would take him to that cycle of answering those questions. Starting with one, dispelling the myth, no one ever said, we're telling you to hire somebody who wasn't qualified, that never comes up. I never said that. That's not what this is about. If we take that box and go to the next step. Okay. So, since I didn't say that, what I am saying is that, well, what I want, I want people who are going to help grow my business. Well, could you benefit from again, somebody who would look different lived experience? Who sees the world differently? Who has a different customer lens? Who's? Oh, yeah, well, the team that I have assembled, and then where I've always typically gone to find them, then to give me any of that. So, what do I go after to go over here to do that? So, I think after just taking them through their own journey, here's the thing. What I've always seen work in this work is when it becomes the person's idea for the change. What I think I have been really fortunate with is finding ways to take people through that decision tree so that they decide on their own and this is what they want to do. Because when they do that, then one, it's a bad idea because it's theirs. And I have no problem letting that be the case, two the sticks more because they own it. And three, they can repeat it again and again and again and again, because I haven't told them how to do it. They've understood that they need to get done. And they're going about it in a way that they can see it through repeatedly. So, it's like it's a DEY work is this whole thing around being an influencer, getting people to buy into the change, accepting the change for what it is on their own terms because People move at this pace differently than others. So, they've got to go for their own resistance, their own demons, their own aha moments. And if I try to beat it over their head, I'm not going to be that successful, because then it's compliance. Yeah, I want you to comply. I'm doing air quotes, as I say that you listen to this. But I want you to do it repeatedly, I want you to have the behavior over and over and over again, where it was on automatic. So, I'm three 5-10 years down the road, please natural, it looks different. It feels different, the culture is better. People from different walks of life are participating people in this on the stage at a, let's say, town hall for a company, that stage looks different than the audience and the audience looks different than the stage. I mean, you want there to be a left foot, right foot sort of thing happens. But that doesn't happen. If I force the issue. Now, I'll say this, I'm going to push the issue. Everybody who hired me to do this job knows that Todd doesn't show up. So, show up to just checkboxes and do the nice thing. Todd shows up to change culture, change strategy, and structure it in a way that there's the infrastructure behind it. But your listener, who's listening, you have to invest in this work, so that you're going to do this, but you also have to get there on your own so that you do it again, that's the success in this work. That's a long way to answer a short question. But I hope it helps the listener. 

 

James Laughlin 31:23 

Oh, it's magnificent, really magnificent. And I had a discussion was with a large number of leaders a few weeks back, and we were talking about blind spots. And I said, look when you look around you, and let's just take your suit jacket off, put your T-shirt on and your shorts and go and hang out with your mates on the weekend. When you look around you and you see your friends and they look the same as you they're the same age as you, you'd have the same skin color, the same gender, and they drive the same car and live in the same neighborhood. It's a major problem, a really major problem for you and for society. And, to me, you cannot grow as a human, as a leader, when you surround yourself with the same people. And the same people simply don't see your blind spots, because they've got the same blind spots. And so, when you look around you and you see people who are of different gender and ethnicity and backgrounds speak different languages, different ages, they're starting to see things that you don't see about yourself, and therefore you get to grow. And so, for you, Todd, when you're out of the say to the boardroom, you're out, you're out of work, what do you do to really connect with people of different backgrounds? And do you really focus on making sure that you've got diversity around you to kind of check-in on your blind spots? 

 

Todd Corley 32:37 

Yeah, that's a fair question. You know, part of its part of what I didn't check my own self, it's, you know, I have a nondenominational church, I'm part of a community where there are people from all backgrounds, that's probably one. Two, I read things from all sides of the aisle, if you will, something, things that are not things that I want to read, but forcing me to hear somebody else's point of view perspective, different author, different ideology, so that I can kind of listen to what's going on, I remind myself to, you know, spend a good amount of time off, you know, finding even things on Netflix, that, you know, might not be entertaining to me, but it might be a different point of view. And, you know, honestly, I just, I just keep myself fully aware of, I can even do more of that. And remind me that your best advice is probably from somebody who gives you a different point of view. So back to things that I shared earlier, three to five people you can surround yourself with and those three to five people that I shared earlier. They're all different people. You know, we're all in rural America. So, for listeners who are outside the US, that's like farm and ranch country, you know, in our description. People who may be city dwellers, people who are same-sex parents, you know, people who have different, you know, religious backgrounds, and you know, not to ask for a parade of examples. But if people out there who are listening can visualize, you know, somebody who's talking to someone who's Muslim or Jewish, and I'm either one of those or somebody who's talking to somebody who's gay or lesbian or somebody who is, you know, from a foreign country who gets up at night, you know, who you know, or early in the morning and tends to cows or I mean, those are kind of things I've tried to put myself in front of, because it helps me and honestly, James, I also put myself in those positions professionally. So, I recently was appointed to the US Department of Agriculture's equity commission. You know, by the current administration, the US the Biden administration, and, you know, I'm sitting around folks who are farmers or ranchers, people who are, you know, immigrants who are working, you know, tireless energy, and hours, tribal communities or Native American community. So, I'm forcing myself to be, are finding myself in opportunities where I can be around people who think differently than I do. So, I just tried to find it and seek it out, I can certainly be better and do more of it. But I would say, keep it as a priority to always look and examine. And knowing that I can't look at the same network every day, with the same paper all the time, never go outside of the, I don't know, four or five miles from my home. That's, that's dangerous. Because when you don't do that, and you have an echo chamber, you're never going to challenge yourself to be better or different. So, I try to make sure that I'm doing that consciously. And again, nowadays, it's as simple as just downloading an app from a different state, you know, join me, you know, volunteer efforts, which I, which I do, and I need to do more, but, you know, find ways to be in front of different people who are not like me, honestly. 

 

James Laughlin 36:11 

Yeah, and right now, this moment, would, you know, connecting, you're different from me, and vice versa. And I'm getting to see your amazing perspective. And every listener right now is getting to hear your perspective. So, I think this is a great way for us to be covering some of those blind spots that we've all got. Now, what do you feel is the next level of DEI work? 

 

Todd Corley 36:33 

So, I think the next level of DEI work, and I have a really good opportunity to do some of that now is connecting DER work to you know, work around the environment work around community impact. And I say that because DEI work to me is foundational work for a brand or for a company. I also think I'll call that social. I also think work, you know, protecting the environment and community are also foundational things in workstreams. So, my current role where I lead, you know, inclusion, sustainability, community, and charitable giving for Carhart, you know, we are focused on how do you think about how those things are meaningful workstream so that people who are considering your brand, or your choice or choices that they make, I can see that you're taking care of the earth, you're taking care of people, you're taking care of the next generation. So, if you think about that, you think about the context of those things, to me are all one body of work, that are trying to set up the next generation for something better, meaning, better ways of treating people better ways of how do we, you know, preserve the land, that we have better ways of impacting the community, better ways of giving resources. So, I think the next work of DEI next level, is tying DEI work to all the foundational things that a company can stand for or should stand for. Because for many people, DEI still compliance only, it's like, you know, just hire me to black people, you know, some veterans, and X, Y, and Z. Next Level DEI work is saying that work around people is as important around the planet and community and giving strategy. They all need to be tied together so that a company can spend the same number of resources, time, and energy on all of those, and not just look at them as individual efforts to kind of checkboxes. So long answer to a short question. The next level of stuff is tying it to who your company is, and what its purpose is. And I think that's the purpose. 

 

James Laughlin 38:43 

Yeah, that's powerful. Makes me think of a lot of schools as well. So, throughout the years, I didn't attend a private school, I was a standard public school in Ireland, but I've been through a lot of private schools. And certainly, some of my experience in those schools was there's a lot of box-ticking going on in terms of Yep, we hired that person with that background. We give some scholarships away to those people. And from the outside, it's very obvious, but from the inside, they feel like they're ticking boxes. So, I hope that discussions like this, help leaders in those fields go ooh. Though, this is not a box-ticking compliance thing. This is a human thing. This has an impact outside of our school and outside of our workplace. And how do you feel like generational diversity has influenced this work? 

 

Todd Corley 39:30 

I think the generational shift in diets has been huge. I think. Honestly, it's the thing that makes me the most optimistic that I think there is a growing number of people who generationally see this work as a requirement and a requirement for their brand loyalty, or requirement for employment choice is a requirement for you fill in the blank because they do, they're less forgiving of companies and brands who are not doing it. So, it forces the issue to be had. It forces people to take account of it. And, you know, in a way, it allows us to see better ways to do the work because, you know, technology has changed. And they use technology, I say they, younger people tend to use technology better than those who have not been familiar with it because I grew up on it. And I think they're using it to share their voice, highlight things call things out. So, I think the generational influence on his work has been amazing. And honestly, I think if we relied on us to get it right ourselves, certainly the US we think about, you know, our leaders who represent us and high levels of government, many of them come from, you know, the same generation. And I think younger people say, well, how do we shift some of that thinking? Like, what can I do to be involved in that? Well, companies who are led by people who, you know, haven't lived, the experiences that they've lived, and say, well, how are you going to speak for me if you don't know what I need or what I want. So, I'm grateful that we have it, I just hope that we can, whether through some of the, you know, challenging moments, I think we have as a country again, in the US, particularly, and we have people who are going to keep pushing on that. So, I'm optimistic. It certainly has encouraged me and has made my life easier and better. And I wouldn't be where I am without having the moments of tension that I've had with them to create change in places that again, you know, like an ad for even now. And some of the things I'm involved in. So, I'm encouraged by it 

 

James Laughlin 41:55 

is brilliant. And it's so interesting. I was interviewing an amazing female leader about a month or so ago, and she said, James, I'm looking at TikTok a lot. She's probably a similar age to me. So, I laughed. I was like, really? She's in the mid to late 30s. And she said, Yeah, I think why, why do you watch TikTok, like, I just don't get it. And she went, honestly, I'm learning so much about diversity, so much about things I need to be focused on. She said, it's an incredible learning tool, and the algorithm now knows what I'm about. And so, I'm getting all of these amazing young people coming up with these incredible thought processes that I'm not doing. And so, you're right, this generational influence is huge. 

 

Todd Corley 42:38 

Yeah, yeah. And it's funny, you know, I sit, you know, on weekends, and my wife admits, she's going to hear this podcast and should get upset. But we actually want her teacher that says, you know, I'm a TikTok mom. So, I mean, she watches it all the time. So, I sit down, and I look at it. And at first, I was like, why is she doing this, but to your point, I guess you just mentioned, it's informative. You hear things you haven't heard; seeing things you haven't seen reminds you of how people are communicating. And honestly, it should inform you, you know, back to what we've been talking about largely leaders, an informed leader of how to even break through to somebody because you might think about how to talk this way or show it that way. Or use this to describe it like that. And if that's the form, that's the form. So, I think you have to be, you know, really become one with technology, and embrace it, and not be afraid to learn from it. So, I completely agree with that point of view, is an informative tool. It really, really is. 

 

James Laughlin 43:41 

And it's fun to know, we talked a little bit earlier about purpose-driven. So, for the person out there that's going you know, I want to be a part of a purpose-driven culture, or I want to create a purpose-driven culture. What does that look like? And where does a person start? 

 

Todd Corley 44:00 

I think it starts with auditing, what you're currently doing as a company. I think that's auditing saying, we make every decision with key things in mind. Meaning, are we holding ourselves accountable for good behavior? Are we let's say, making final decisions with that moral compass that we've all bought into whatever the company's moral compasses? And are we, we imagine ourselves to be better than we think that we are. And if you do those things, then you can ask the questions of well, why do we exist as a company? Who are we trying to serve? What do we want to make better? Because those are the questions of a purpose-driven company. Like, I want to serve this community. I want to serve hardworking people I want to serve you fill in the blank. I want to be better for the environment. I want to be better for people who are essential workers. And it's a constant game of always asking yourself that question or those series of questions. Because it's not about just well, did we sell more jackets this year? Or give me some more boots? Your Brand exists for a reason if you're purpose-driven, and your history isn't just history that's on the shelf, because you recited it so many times. It is your brand history is that for reasons to be pulled forward, because you must have believed that somewhere along the way, and companies, lost their way, they lost the reason why they exist, because now it's about profit and loss and not about, you know, giving back to the community, or, you know, closing the gap, or providing quality products can be passed down to generations. I mean, if you're not asking yourself that question all the time. Again, why do you exist? What do you serve? What do you want to make better? Then, you're not really in the purpose-driven business, you're probably in the business for business. And that's fine if that's what you want to do. But you can't claim purpose. So, I think companies have to decide what they want. And to the point that we just raised about generational issues. I think younger people, a new generation is going to begin to ask more about what is your purpose? Why am I doing this? Why do I decide to work with you? Why am I decided to give you, my discretionary energy, which is 150%? Why am I trying to end in all the whys? And if you're whys, like, well, because we sell the most sneakers? And so, I mean, I would say that, if you're going to build it, one, start with asking this question, start with asking audit, auditing yourself about what you currently do, what you currently believe, and start to ask the questions of, you know, who are we why are we doing this? Why are we trying to beat How can we be better? And who are we serving, then you're just kind of got to go through that emotion. And if you can't ask those questions consistently, again, didn't then accept the fact that you're just a business. Again, you have to decide whether or not that's going to be a lasting strategy because I would tell you is probably not. Because I think people are going to begin to ask or have been asking, certainly COVID exposes right? When you could work from home. For those, some people, not everybody, for many could work from home and still contribute. And they want about without they want to live or die because of the illnesses or the pandemic, they were asking different questions. They wanted different answers. So, if you can't answer those questions for people, they're going to work somewhere else. So, or work for themselves. So, if you want to be purpose-driven, you can have the best talent, you have to be able to answer those questions. So, start inside, examine yourself, ask the key questions, and keep asking those questions repeatedly. That's what I would say. 

 

James Laughlin 47:52 

Epic, and it's interesting, I hear the word belief coming up. And we've all got beliefs, global beliefs about everything, love, relationships, money, all these things. So, we've also got beliefs about business. And a leader who's leading a company has a belief around what business is there for, and I was chatting with a leader maybe two or three years ago, and I said, what do you believe about business? And that's usually if I'm working with a client, and I'm trying to get to them, I'll always ask them about their beliefs, and say, what do you believe about business? And their response was phenomenal. They said, look, very simply, I believe business exists to serve society. I was like, yes, this is because usually, it's like exists to drive a profit business, you know, are profitable machines. And yes, that's part of a sustainable business, but it exists to serve society. So, what do you believe about business, Todd? 

 

Todd Corley 48:48 

I certainly would, I would certainly echo the service society in a piece. But I think business exists to build a better tomorrow. I mean, build a better world. I mean, I think businesses exist to do things where people can see that the future is brighter than it is. Because they are putting people first. They're putting the environment first. They're putting Community first I mean; they're prioritizing things that are going to be things that we inherit later on. And I think businesses have an obligation to figure out how to do that. Because they require and rely on people to help them work certainly generate profit, be healthy, almost think we need goals. But businesses have a place certainly now more than ever, I think, to influence the good that we want to see because they're in business to one You know, make money, of course, but they're in business to do that to make sure that people who are helping them do that are fulfilled. And fulfillment. I read this somewhere, I think it's a Deloitte study, you know, consumers are saying they want, you know, companies who are not giving Exactly. They said, I want a company that treats its employees the best and can I think 20% responded to that. And that survey, this is a survey that covered the US, UK, Brazil, and China. 20% of them said I want a company that treats the environment, well leaves, the better for tomorrow. And 90% said I want a company that supports the community in which they do business and know how they operate. Well, there's your answer. So, if companies, people are making choices, with companies with those criteria, that's more than 50% of the people, then we've started with respondent survey there, they're asking us to talent companies, that if you're going to be around and be relevant for me, you got to check these boxes. Unfortunately, I think some people still hold on to the fact that it's about profit and loss only. And I think that's short-sighted. So, I think companies, you know, exist to build a better world, a better, brighter tomorrow. And they have a lot more influence in doing that than most organizations do. Because we use those products and services, they're in our homes, we consume them, we buy them, we wear them, so they have power. And I just encourage those companies to use that voice the right way, and not squander it, not lose it and not let it go on taps. 

 

James Laughlin 51:49 

Lovely, I mean, I love what you're saying there. And I think I think about Carhartt. So, for those who don't know, the brand, Carhart is a globally iconic brand. Certainly, growing up in Northern Ireland. A lot of friends or Carhart, it's an amazing brand. So, you're currently they're doing incredible work when you step away, whenever that day comes. And you look back and you go, Yep, that was exactly what I wanted to leave. And that's exactly what I wanted to create. What is that? What's your end outcome that you'd be delighted to have achieved when you do step away? 

 

Todd Corley 52:24 

You know, it's interesting, that is a question that I asked myself before I stepped in. Because also think about like, what's what, what this is going to mean for the next step? If, if, when that time comes, if I'm able to say, and I've benefited from Carhart's Reach and that you describe it well, but you know, it is a brand, worn across a wide swath of socio-economic background, right. It's something that for everybody, the environmentalists, the ranchers, the farmer, the essential worker, you know, items are passed down for generations, if I can create a narrative, where inclusion and equity, where environmental stewardship, where community impact charitable giving, are something that that broader socio-economic customer can relate to because they see themselves in it means the rancher, the farmer, the kid on a college campus, the environmentalist, you know, the person in the inner city, whoever's wearing if those that broad range of socio-economic diversity can use that to Scripture, finds an answer and our strategy around inclusion and equity and environment and sustainability and climate and community impact, then I'll be thrilled, because it will show me is what will show I think, hopefully, prove is we don't have to worry about, you know, what side of the tracks we grew up in a home. Or if I grew up in the city, if I grew up on a farm, or if I'm college-educated or not, or if I, you know, speak more than one language or if I don't, or if you can fill in the blanks. The brand is so uniquely positioned that, you know, all of those socio-economic discussions were the brand because it just didn't last so long. And it started many needs. If I can get all of those varieties of people from what we call, we tried and true to our next-gen doer, interactive outdoor enthusiast to see that that discussion, doesn't isolate them, but rather brings them together. Damn, that would be the most amazing, impactful thing that I could ever imagine. Because it would be indicative of the fact that you and I talked about this, you know, before the show, that we all want the same things. We all want some degree of safety. We all want some degree of good health. We all want some degree of security. Since we aren't disagreeing on safety, security health, and wellbeing. And we're not really that different. So, if you can get this work right, across that thread of different backgrounds and life experiences, then this discussion around and this almost goes back to your first question to me, James, which is, that the word DEI, is simply to find work, which is how do we get people who are different to understand that the differences matter, and treat everybody in a way that we have respect and dignity. All the commotion, all the arguments in between when making that stuff happen, because, you know, we're just trying to be, you know, agitating or divisive, we don't have to do that. Because we're all bound by the same thing anyway. So short answer is, if I can leave the work, you know, in a place where, you know, that cross-section of the community, you know, feels that they are part of the same discussion, they don't see another in that narrative, then I'll be fulfilled. Because I want to tap into that social-economic thing, which I think is that that other part of the AI, that is an underpinning of the differences in the tension that we have. Because we say that if somebody gets something else, or gets another shot, then I've got to give up something. And then say that I never said you had to give up anything, I did say that we have to make sure that everybody can get something, which means we have to remove barriers. So that describes that example, you gave up, you know, sitting next to the South African partner of yours and saying, well, you know, a listen. Yeah, white privilege, I guess I do have it, let me recognize let me not, you know, live in it, let me solve for it. So that we can also make sure that everybody has the same type of opportunity to move forward. So, it's a longer answer than you probably want. But I do get excited about that proposition. Because it's a unique world, a unique opportunity to connect all the foundational things together. 

 

James Laughlin 57:01 

That was so compelling, so inspiring, and I can just feel your energy, and I'm sure the listener could too. What you said, I hope that your staff, your team, the people, the people, you really hope they get to hear what you just said, and they get to hear it often. And they get reminded our own what your compelling vision is for Carhart because if that vision you have for Carhart could be embraced by every company, every school, every church, globally, we would have a very, very different world. And I believe that work is very possible, it's possible to achieve that. People might say it's impossible, but it's only impossible until it's actually achieved. And people like you are just so incredibly crucial to making this happen. So, want to honor the work that you do. And it's just its incredible work. There were two things I wanted to ask you before we wrapped up and you mentioned the word other a few times. And this is a word I've actually chatted about with my partner as well around othering people, or if there's been other. So, for people that are listening right now, can you in your terms, describe what you believe othering someone is or if there's been other what that means? 

 

Todd Corley 58:11 

Yeah, so what it means to me as I describe and talk about it is that you are putting somebody in a category that is less than yours, because it describes somebody who is not like you, and probably doesn't deserve or probably invite the same type of resources or support. Because they're just not like me, I mean, they got other things going on, you know, that they are different than me. That's not an empowering conversation, right? It is a way of my opinion, you know, belittling the differences that we have, rather than saying, you know, that person has a different lived experience than I do, how can we figure out how to, you know, be connected and meet in the middle or understand each other's point of view? All the rain is, is simply it's his way of dismissing people who have you know, different worldviews, and different challenges, and not supporting them for what they bring to the table. So, you know, it's a word that's probably emerged last few years. But I think it's just a way for people to describe the broad diversity that is out there and categorize them in a way that, you know, we don't see them for themselves, because we can't even name it. We just say it's other. 

 

James Laughlin 59:49 

And it's so interesting, Todd, that this literally happens at the dinner table. This doesn't need to be happening in the boardroom this is happening at a familial level. And I just change actually starts to happen in families and people have to Think discussions around what other thing means and them and us and pronouns and having those powerful discussions. And obviously, in the last week, there's been some really disturbing things happening. And we've all seen it globally. And that's, to me, the biggest opportunity here is that we've got to lead from within and lead within our families and have discussions and courageous discussions with our kids and our nephews and nieces. So that we start to diminish these terrible things that we see happening on the news. And the work that you do is it really hits me man deep, it's, it's the most important work. So, thank you. And I'd like to ask you one last question before we wrap up. Yep. We were too fast forward many, many years. And you're on your last day here on Earth, and you knew it was your last day. And a young person that you loved very much asked you a question that said, Hey Todd, how can I go through my life and lead it with purpose? What would your answer to that question be? 

 

Todd Corley 1:01:03 

My answer would be, to listen to people around you. Don't prejudge. And ask yourself what you can do to serve them. And I'll leave you I'll leave the listeners with this because I went to colleges in the US that that, you know, part of the Jesuit tradition, and the term care policy analysis, which is caring for the whole person. I would say how do you care for the whole person? How do you listen to people and how you could serve them, and care for them? Because if we keep repeating that behavior, you said this in other ways, then we're going to be better tomorrow. Because we're thinking about the whole individual, the whole person, not part of them, not that part over there, they're not an " other" because I want to care for them. So, I would say, you know, my last day, listen, be open as we can do to serve so that you can walk that walk alongside them. And, again, make it better for anybody who comes after that. That's what I would say, hope it doesn't come too soon. 

 

James Laughlin 1:02:26 

That I was many, many years into the future. 

 

Todd Corley 1:02:30 

You did say that. So, 80 years from now? 

 

James Laughlin 1:02:34 

Yes, definitely. Now, Todd, that's simply amazing. I want to say a massive thank you. And I know that the listener listening right now feels differently about the world around them after just taking in what you've said. So absolutely amazing work. Please keep it up. And I look forward to reconnecting with you soon in the near future. 

 

Todd Corley 1:02:54 

Wonderful, James. Thank you again, for having me. It's been an honor. I've enjoyed listening to your show and your guests. So hopefully, this fits in that rhythm. Thank you again. 

 

James Laughlin 1:03:03 

Thank you so much. 

 

James Laughlin 1:03:22 

Thanks for tuning in today and investing in your own personal leadership. Please hit that subscribe button. And I'd love it if you'd leave me a rating and review. I've got some amazing guests lined up for you in the coming weeks. And leaders. It's that time to get out there and lead your life on purpose.