Leveraging Your Potential to Build an Inclusive Culture: Part 1

People from all walks of life, all types of industries, and diverse career goals want to achieve their personal potential in whatever impassions them and gives them the opportunity to grow and live the lifestyle they desire.


Daphne Magna, sits down with Peter Szczerba, Founder & Host of Own Your Potential podcast, to discuss from her viewpoint as an entrepreneur and an Inclusion and Culture Consultant - someone who helps leaders get the best out of their diverse employees - how to help them achieve the potential they all want and deserve.



Peter - Welcome back to the Own Your Potential Podcast, where you'll hear stories from leaders across the globe about how they've taken control of their career growth and lessons on how you can too. I'm Peter Szczerba. Today, I'm very excited to be sitting down with Daphne Magna, who's the founder of Tough Convos, and a management consultant who specializes in anti-black racism, inclusive leadership, and team culture.


Daphne, I'm really looking forward to sitting down and having this conversation, I'm just excited at the type of value that's going to come out of this and the insights and the learning. So why don't we just jump right in and get to it, you mind walking us through your career journey and the story up until this point?

Daphne - Definitely, you know, it's always a story when someone asks, what you do, and, and how you got there. But as the founder of tough convos, it's definitely been a windy road. And I never knew I'd end up here. But as an inclusion and culture consultant, I really work with leaders and teams to transform their culture, you know, and I help them sort of dig deep and get uncomfortable in challenges and issues and situations that they find themselves in, because all organizations find themselves in there, in those, you know, uncomfortable spaces. So by helping them create content, and creating learning experiences, like some of the tough conversations - we'll talk about coming up - really helps them build the culture that they deserve, and that all of the employees deserve to be a part of.


Peter - Yeah, absolutely. I would love to understand how you ended up here because this is such a critical and important conversation for all you mentioned, all companies to be having right now. And a space to be engaging with and prioritizing, but...

What led you here, how did you end up founding tough convos and addressing this, this gap area?

Daphne - I have done a lot of work with global companies that had challenges working with different cultures. And so you know, as a result of that work, it became glaringly obvious to me that the real challenge was around not understanding each other, and not realizing how different your training, your education, your values, determine the way you act, behave, what you think is good, what you think doesn't work, you know, what you think's appropriate and respectful, and all these things. So the challenge though, was you see these biases as a trainer or consultant, blinding folks, but some are not really open to tackling things that are sensitive like that, and when you can't label it, what it really is, it makes it even more difficult.

And so what I realized is, while working across cultures with those various global orgs, whether they were American and Indian teams, or Chinese and French teams, you know, no matter where we were Singapore, everywhere had the same types of issues, and they were all rooted in misinformation, and really, poor education to be frank. So after I was able to really kind of pull that apart, I realized, at the crux of it all, it is our bias, our misunderstanding, and unfortunately, the pervasive racism that has existed for so long.

Peter - This is something that, you know, is particularly important to this, this whole space of one’s own potential, because we talked about it through the lens of professional development, professional growth, owning your career trajectory, but there are simply folks who are faced with obstacles that not everyone is as a result of some of the things that you're talking about.

And so I'm curious, I'd love to get into this, as part of this conversation is somewhat are some of the strategies that folks who are visible minorities, and I don't even mean across geos, but even just in our North American space now, who sense that for example, their career trajectory is being impeded by some inherent biases, or some of the things that you're describing, like blatant racism, right? How did what sorts of strategies are there to overcome that there are tons of people who are dealing with these types of issues, and I'm curious, what is your advice?


Daphne - Yeah, I mean, first of all, is, you have to recognize we're all so unique, yet we share so many similar challenges, and experiences, and value systems, right? So there's this, this kind of fighting piece of where we connect and where we disconnect. And really, I think if people focus more on where we connected, then the part where we disconnect would be easier to address. But unfortunately, in this day and age, especially with all the negative news, and the way capitalism affects the way we do business really makes people focus on the negative.

And that is the first thing from a corporate culture perspective, is when you focus on the individual and their strengths, you build a culture that is so much more powerful than you picking apart all the ways you're different.



Corporate training with global teams on cultural awareness

Now, that doesn't mean you shouldn't focus on diversifying your team, because there is strength in diversity. And there are a million reports that have proven that with flying colours, I'm not going to cite them now, go look for them - McKinsey has done a great job in that area. But this is kind of the area where folks need to take their own career, you know, by the balls, for lack of a better term, and really make the people around them accountable for what they see is wrong, you know, you have to take responsibility for your own goals and direction, but you also have to hold other people accountable.

And that's been a challenge, because what I have found in doing this work is that a lot of people feel unsafe in having those conversations, because they are afraid of the backlash, they're afraid of putting their job at risk for speaking out about something that seems like racism, or seems unjust, or you know what I mean. And so creating that safe space is an instrumental objective for every organization so that their employees can flourish.

Peter - The idea that somebody can't flag something, because they're at the fear of potentially impacting their job security, right. And not being able to force the accountability on those who are, you know, demonstrating these clearly either racist behaviours or otherwise inappropriate behaviours, right. And, like, it's difficult for me, right, as somebody who is a white male and isn't faced with these things, right to even understand largely what that's like. And so this is, you know, having conversations with somebody that works in this space, like you and then and professionals who deal with this on a day-to-day basis. It's honestly, hugely enlightening to hear about these types of things.

And I think what's great is just how you've kind of crafted that it's not just about the individual pushing harder and harder self advocacy and campaigning for their growth in an environment, especially where some of these circumstances we're talking about, like racism or other obstacles might be in place.

But you mentioned that it's also about the environment and the culture and atmosphere changing. And I think that's really powerful. And organizations need to hear that.

But also for the individuals perspective, I'm curious, what happens if, you know, they're campaigning hard to grow, they're making an impact, they're trying to secure the advocacy, they need to make a case for promotion, or whatever the case might be, but the environment isn't changing around them, and they're not seeing a shift in the positive direction. What's your recommendation?



Daphne - You know, it's not up to the company to build my own career, but it's definitely up to the company to create the environment where I can thrive.

But no one is holding you hostage, you have to go where you're valued. You have to shift... you have to go somewhere else, where you can thrive and really move ahead. You know that life is a beautiful thing that you need to create.

Peter - And so what I love about that is I think in certain circumstances, it is that simple. And I like that sentiment, I think it's a powerful thing for people to hear. And the fact that you said it in a blunt way, I think makes it that much stronger of a takeaway for people to walk out of this conversation with so you know, this space that you've built your consulting career around it's wholly driven by passion and belief in the need to impact this human rights space and it being a driver for you.

Can you talk about that as kind of this intrinsic driver for how you push forward to grow this business and grow your own career?


Daphne - 100%. I mean, as a young child coming up, growing up in a very diverse multicultural community, and being biracial, this social conflict between Black and white was my existence, you know, it was just a part of who I was. And having so many examples around me you know. I jokingly cite the crew that I had as a young kid as like the United Nations because I grew up in a part of Scarborough, which is the Greater Toronto Area now that was so diverse, that it was like, just beautifully diverse, one neighbour’s Greek, the other neighbour’s Estonian across the street, Indonesian, there's Polish, Jamaican, Trinidadian, a Native Indian reserve on the corner by my elementary school, you know what I mean? It was just an exceptional childhood from that perspective.


Because not only was I in this kind of a mishmash of cultures from around the world, but I was also in the middle of these different socio-economic groups, because we had very, very underprivileged, in the Kingston and Galloway road area, and then we had highly privileged in the Guildwood area, you know, and I have friends on both sides of the tracks, and I had fun, immense fun getting in trouble with some of them.


But it shaped my ideas, from the perspective of, I can see the gaps, they were glaring, you know, just glaring, and so for me, that's where the Human Rights kind of drive came from, was being able to see how certain individuals had certain privileges and others had none. Right, and how me being kind of in the middle, I had a single mom, but she worked her butt off. And, you know, I had a very large extended family that helped us. So, I was looked at as privileged to the less privileged group. And to me, that was like a what, it's just amazing, right? Like, I never considered myself [that way]...

I was blessed to have someone who loved me as dearly as my mother and sacrifice as much as she did, but I definitely didn't consider that we were advantageous in any regard financially, so that really led me to dig deeper into why those gaps existed, why certain groups in particular seem to be the ones on the bottom, and other groups in particular, seem to be the ones on the top. And that just made me dig deeper.

End of Part 1


You can listen to the complete podcast here!