Does Poor Leadership Impact The Customer Experience? With Cameron Farrar
Updated: May 17
Juanita Coley: Hey, guys, and welcome back to Call Center Chronicles. I'm super excited to have you with us here today. Man, we've been having such an excellent conversation. Would you guys agree if you're joining in with us alive today, so we're streaming on Facebook, we're streaming on YouTube, LinkedIn, so follow us?
Okay, wherever, alright, and type in the comments, let me know that you're here. Well, let me know where you're joining from, or the organization you're listening in from, we've been having such a good conversation, and you guys have been sending in some great topics.
So, I have an announcement about season two, but I'm going to stay focused. We're going to talk about season one and get through this episode first. And then we'll get into Episode Two at another point in time.
But for right now, I'm super excited about this week's show, because it's titled, does poor leadership impact customer experience?
What you all think? Somebody let me know, what is leadership has to do with the customer experience that we get on the end isn't just about, taking phone calls and making sure that the customer gets their account balance, or they get what they're calling in about, what is leadership has to do with that anyway. So, I want to talk about it. And I want to bring on our guest expert.
Today, Cameron, we met a while back, a long time ago. And he was such an awesome person to work with. But I'm going to bring him on. I'm going to let him introduce himself. And we're going to dive right in because I have a lot of questions.
And you guys already know how the show goes where we ask a question, and it goes into a whole tangent on something else. But that's okay because you all want to know the answers to these questions because you all send me the emails about these questions.
So, I know that you guys want to know. Okay, so without further ado, I am going to welcome Cameron.
Cameron, welcome to the show today. Thank you so much for being here with us.
Cameron Farrar: It's my pleasure. Thank you for having me.
Juanita Coley: Tell us so we were talking earlier. And we were I was like me and Cameron. We've known each other since. What? I don't know. A while. It's been years.
Cameron Farrar: Yes. I would say close to a decade.
Juanita Coley: Yes. Probably about 10 years. That's insane. Tell me, you're recounting about the first time that you've met me.
Cameron Farrar: Yes, I think I had just become, Site Director or taken it over, while Elena was out in England on an assignment. And so, feeling a little overwhelmed. And I would come downstairs every day to walk the call center floor to greet everybody, it was my way of taking the temperature of how all the programs are doing.
And I had to walk by the command center. And I think our first substantive interaction happened, where you and I had a conversation about the business. And I remember walking away going, WOW, she knows her stuff.
And what struck me and what I want to talk about today in terms of leadership, is you had a vision about how things should be and you had an opinion and that's what matters, I think, is that you felt very strongly about how the business should look and feel and run.
And you took your role in that equation there are so many people in the call center that make up the experience. But if everybody has that passion and that degree of dedication, then we're going to be in okay shape. We can fix things right. And I remember walking away going, okay, I'm not alone. I've got a partner and that meant a lot to me.
Juanita Coley: That's awesome Camera and I remember, we would get a lot of visitors in the command center because one just the way we were structured, we were this center focus point. And so, for those of you, we were like this fishbowl. And so, when united would get our optimum, we get new customers or clients, they will bring them by the command center.
So, we were just like this, viewers type of place. And so, people would always walk in, what is it that you guys do? We make sure that the business runs, that calls are getting answered, effectively and efficiently, the lines are up, we play triage to IT.
And so, we had a lot of different roles. And so, it was interesting building that department and running the department and building relationships with, yourself and Elina, and just all of the different people that we had to work with and build relationships, just make sure that we were able to get the job done.
That a whole episode for a whole nether time about building relationships so you can get the job done.
And I think it's something to be said, to build authentic relationships. It's one thing to be kind of like opportunists where you're building a relationship just for the sake of getting done what you need to get done. But building relationships to where 10 years later, I could say Cameron, I got the show you want to come on?
And you're like - ABSOLUTELY.
And I think that's something to be said about been building genuine relationships. And being a leader that takes ownership, one of the things that you said that stuck out to me is that I had this vision. And I had one boss who used to say, he was awesome and amazing, he used to say success rises and falls on leadership, which is, we know that comes from, I can't remember the book right now but it's a book that, that comes from someone else that it comes from, but he's to say it all the time, he introduced me to that.
And I believe that that's so true success rises and falls on leadership. And so, when we succeed, great, that's leadership when we fail, great or not great, that's leadership, as well as so we have to figure out what's important? What are the business's goals and objectives beyond metrics?
Beyond metrics, and that's what I was concerned about in the command center, beyond just the metrics, service level ASA, things like that. What is United Healthcare’s, because that's where we were at, helping people live healthier lives. That's our mission. And that's what our culture says.
So, how do we do that? How do we embody that culture? Even though we have metrics that we have to meet, how do I help people live healthier lives? And that is not only the customer that's calling in for customer support, but that's even my agents. How do I make sure that they have flexible shifts, or they have the type of work-life balance that helps them to live a healthier life? And so yes, I am super passionate about Call Center Operations, workforce management.
I like to say I'm, the Disney of call centers, I, When I think of call centers, I see the stars, the rainbows, and all the fun stuff. That's me. I don't know why I'm kind of quirky like that. But I love it.
Cameron Farrar: It's a world unto itself.
Juanita Coley: It is, it is its discipline, for sure. So, tell us a little bit more about you, Camera. So, you've moved on from United Healthcare. I've moved on from United Healthcare. Tell me what you've been doing, catch us up.
Cameron Farrar: Yes. So, I loved United Healthcare, great leaders, great experience, great mission. And what happened was our division was sold to another worldwide contact center company TTEC, a lot of people know about that. And so, we moved over there. And I went from kind of my multi-hat role to focused on process improvement for the healthcare vertical as TTEC expanded their footprint in that market area in healthcare.
And so, I spent about 18 months doing that great company, they invested in their employees invested in me. They sent me to Villanova University to get my Lean Six Sigma Black Belt. So that was a wonderful, great department over there. Good leadership. So, that was a great story.
I had an opportunity and I took it and went to Everise, and ran their training and quality team for the United States under Paul Szymanski and Dave Palmer, he's now the CEO of that worldwide company. So worked with them in that and since then, I decided to take a break from the call center industry and completely left that went on into an unrelated industry, and now I've decided to open my shop back up.
So, I'm working independently as a consultant and I'm working on improving the employee experience and helping companies not just with their process improvement in terms of getting things done, but their process with their people.
So, that people find meaning at work, find a home, and can thrive and grow. Because ultimately, if they feel the freedom to spend more than a third of their life at work, and it's meaningful, they're going to have a successful company on their hands.
Juanita Coley: Your career has been amazing. But one thing, one thing that stood out to me when you were at United Healthcare is process improvement. And that's where I had the most interaction with you was process improvement, the change management and you were instrumental, you see, I got to put all the syllables in there, okay. Instrumental to helping us to implement playbooks. You remember, when we rolled out playbooks? My gosh, it was like, why, Lord? Why did I think I could do this?
Cameron Farrar: It's so complex, especially when you think of, okay, so at that time, we had probably about 10,000 seats all together across the United States, and to do anything and not miss a phone call, not drop a phone call, not interrupt the business, deliver great service, even though you have massive changes going, just moving the site location, that was another thing we had to do together, make sure that happens smoothly, implementing brand new performance management systems, doing cutovers, and IT all the data centers had to get cut over and not miss a phone call. And that process is a team effort.
Juanita Coley: My gosh, I remember those cutover calls at 3 am and being on those calls. When I was talking to get the cash to the episode with Ebony, I was talking with Ebony I was saying, Ebony, do you remember all of this stuff that we used to do together in the call center? And she was like, do I?
My god, it was so many cutovers and move insights that I was like, is the backup ACD working? And do they have this, you know, logins and all those good things? And I think that is what people don't see when they think about leadership. So, the topic of this episode, is, does poor leadership impact the customer experience?
Think about it, if we weren't making sure that we had redundancies to our cutover plans, and we had a rollback plan.
And I remember, Brian, he was very instrumental and helping, he was helping with IT at the time just building those relationships to say, if this isn't done, by this time, we need to do a rollback, or what is the contingency, and that's where those playbooks were just so helpful, in making sure that we knew who was responsible for what we had a contact for whatever the case may be, in that we had a plan, our plans had plans. And so, I remember rolling those out, and having to socialize, and we had a phase in there.
So, you helped with really process improvement in the change management of that, and saying Cameron, so we have this plan is multi-departmental, leave focus. It crosses departments. So, not only is its workforce management, but its operations, is IT that's involved, how do we get everybody on the same page, and you helped with helping to change, do that change management, that process improvement and be a champion for playbooks and making sure that we had that in place so that when we did do cutovers, or when the ACD went down, or whatever the case may be, we had the playbook in place, and they had been socialized? That was key.
Cameron Farrar: Yes, and we had good partners along the way. So, you mentioned Ebony, another person who's dedicated to doing things right, and doing things well. And so, it's important to have partners like that throughout the process, which goes back to your point about creating relationships, not just, how does this relationship elevate me? But no, how does this relationship create a good partnership so that we can collectively do something wonderful?
And I think that was the reason why we were able to succeed at the level we did was we had those relationships, we had people who cared.
Juanita Coley: I think that's so imperative is making sure and I think it's so right on time for this show about, does poor leadership impact the customer experience?
So, we just talked about just that example of how rolling out playbooks or not rolling out the playbooks could have had a tremendous impact when we did things like cutovers and call centers, what would be the agent experience, if they're coming in the next day, trying to log on to the phone and they can't get onto the phone.
So, in your opinion, Cameron, what makes a good leader?
Cameron Farrar: So, that's a great question. I love acronyms, kind of corny but helps me remember things. And so, my acronym for what I think leaders need to bring to the table is the word value. So, take each letter and tell you what that means.
So, for me, the V in value is you have to have a vision, and you have to be visible as a leader. Those two things are imperative.
The A stands for approachable and accountable. You have to be approachable, you can't scare people away, and you have to be accountable for your actions.
And then the L stands for you got to be a great listener. And you have to be a continuous learner. So, learning and listening, listening to your folks who are doing the work.
And then the U stands for being unambiguous, and unbiased. So, you have to be clear when you provide direction as a leader, don't leave things to chance. I'm famous for lobbing stuff over the fence, hoping everybody will get it. And I've learned and I've learned from my employees telling me to stop it. Don't be unambiguous. And don't be biased, be unbiased, that's the U.
And then the E stands for edifying or building people up and empowering people, good leaders will develop other people.
So, all of that put together to me are the key characteristics of a leader, there's more, that's a huge topic, but that's how I remember and how I hope to be as I go forward in my career.
Juanita Coley: Now, Cameron, you don't know to watch the shows enough to know about these gems drops. Okay.
So, I got to roll this back on this VALUE, a good leader value which I'm going to recap this keep me honest. Okay.
They have a vision, and they're visible. Is that such a good thing that you mention?
It's one thing to be a leader that sits behind the scenes, no one ever sees you. And you don't get your hands dirty. And no one understands really what your vision is. It's like, today we're doing this, today, we're not doing this, you're not visibly in the business.
And you don't have a mission, or you don't have a vision. It's just like, we do this because it makes us money. Or we do this because my boss told me to do it. It's like, okay, but what is your vision for the department or the people that you're serving?
Because we can say that the people that you're leading, but it's the people that you're serving.
So, when I was in the command center, I thought about all of the different various workforce teams and operations teams as my customer. And I treated them as such, he was like, you tell me what you want. And I will help make that happen. And if I can't make it happen, that I need to be able to explain to you why, why can I give everybody breaks at the same time? What impact does that have on the business? Or Why can’t X, Y, and Z happen?
I talked to the people who are serving as though they were the customer because, in my opinion, they were so not only did I have a vision, but I was very visible, you could come into the contact center and talk to me any day.
Approachable, being approachable, that is so important. When people feel like they can't talk to you, they can't get through, you don't have that open-door policy, so to speak, then you're not approachable, which disconnects you from the business, the very people that you're serving.
So, listener, you have to be a listener, that was your L, right, you have to be a listener? So, I talked to my daughter about this probably all the time, and I'm talking to people about it all the time being a communicator.
Communication is more than just speaking, is sending a signal, it's about also receiving a signal. And so, we can't just listen with the intent to respond, we have to listen with the intent to understand, receive a signal send a signal and NASA, I think the makings of, at least, fundamentally, have a good listener, am I listening with the intent to understand your perspective and what it is you're trying to communicate the signal that you're trying to send?
Because if I don't understand the signal that you're sending, you are communicating, if you're speaking Spanish, and I'm speaking English, we're both talking, but we're not communicating because the signal that you're sending is not being understood. So, I can't send back an intelligent response.
So, sometimes we're speaking the same language, right, but we are not listening, we're not communicating at all. So, being a good listener, I think that is so valuable, then being unbiased, and ambiguous, and give me the word again, I know it's ambiguity. Not being ambiguous is important.
Because as we think about it, I have these abstract ideas. How does this translate to hard concrete? And I think it makes a good leader. So, I'm kind of half in half on that. Because I think it does make a good leader when you can deal with ambiguity. I don't have a roadmap, that's kind of how it was when I took over the command center.
No one gave me a roadmap. So, I had to kind of take, okay, the culture of United Healthcare, figure it out. But then as a good leader, I had to be able to make it very concrete for the people that I was serving. And so, I think it's twofold to that, right?
Cameron Farrar: Yes, I agree. You have to be good at dealing with ambiguity. That's not a lot of interview questions. Can you deal with ambiguity, that's fine? As a leader, there are things you don't need to be ambiguous about, though.
Your standards, the expectations, you're setting the agreements you're making with your people, you don't need to be ambiguous there, you might not know every step on how to get to your destination, and there's going to be ambiguity there. But your standards, your expectations, your routines, what people can expect from you, as a leader, none of that should be ambiguous.
They need to be able to rely on you and have that certainty of who you are and how you deal with people. So, that's what I mean by being unambiguous. Because there's always going to be ambiguity. There's going to be this like you and I dealt with, “we're going to go from logging in with one password to now you have to have a card you plugin, we're going to do that across 10,000 computers, and we can't have you dropped any phone calls. Get it done.”
Juanita Coley: By the way, it goes live Sunday. At this time, it's like waiting a minute now.
Cameron Farrar: Yes, so there's some ambiguity there. But what's not ambiguous is A, we're going to get it done and B, I can count on you as a leader to be a certain way. You can have certain standards. And that gives me a sense of security as an employee or a partner so that I can work with you at a certain level. And together, we can navigate the ambiguity that we share. Does that make sense?
Juanita Coley: Absolutely. And I think that's key, right is being able to deal with it as a leader, but then be able to compartmentalize that, and then be able to organize it so that it is very clear when it comes out and you are giving it to the people that you're serving. So, that's very good.
That's the gem drop, I got to give you a gem drop. So, you may get it out. And you may deal with a lot of ambiguity as a leader, as far as the information that you're receiving, but a good making of a leader is being able to digest that and then be able to spit it back out to the world in a way that is very matter of fact- this is the performance goals. We want half-performance goals. And this is what they are so forth and so on.
Yes. So, I think that's a really good distinction. And then you're E was what edifying, so building up, making sure that your people know that you're there and that you're there to support them. I think that is good. A good acronym for what makes a good leader is VALUE.
Cameron Farrar: Yes, that's a nice way to memorize it and then work it living up to that, and the way you show up every day.
Juanita Coley: Yes, you're looking at those core things, and saying,
Do I have a vision?
Am I approachable?
Am I a good listener?
Am I being unbiased? Then,
Am I edifying the people, am I adding value, to the people that I'm serving?
That's good. Tell me, Cameron, how does leadership impact the overall customer experience?
So, we kind of talked about it from a command center standpoint, but just generally, if you were to give me like, this is how leadership impacts that overall customer experience, what would you have to say for that?
Cameron Farrar: So, to me, there's a law of customer experience that needs to be honored and that law is an employee will never treat the customer any better than they're being treated at work.
So, if a leader isn't treating their employees well, we can't expect them to turn around and treat the customer in a good way consistently. There are a few great people out there who have that strong internal standard, they're going to be nice, no matter who's yelling at them. They're still going to be nice to the customer, but there are not enough people like that to build a business that's repeatable, scalable, and duplicatable.
So, it's super important to take care of your employees. And if leaders don't do that, there are a million ways to show you care and demonstrate your care. If you're not doing, that you can't create a great customer experience.
Juanita Coley: Cameron, I can see. You've been practicing for your show. I know you want all the gem drop. You want all the gem drop today, Cameron, okay.
This is what we call black girl magic when we start clapping, you know is good for us.
Okay, that was good.
He says that agents will never treat the customer better than they're being treated as an employee, production team when you all cut that, okay, I need that.
Okay, I need that clip and that's so true. Cameron thinks about Chick-fil-A or all the brands that we love and adore. Because of their customer service. Now, we love some of the brands just because of maybe their product suite, or they're good at delivering.
But when we think about the ones that we all love, because of their customer service, we make the home you see home means and it clips about Chick-fil-A's customer service, you left something at the drive-through window and the guy is running you down trying to deliver it to you.
Well, he's being treated like that, as an employee, he's been catered to or not necessarily cater to, but he's been cared about looked after as an employee. And so, he wants to give that same level of support and then you're going to have every so often employees that don't reciprocate that same, but those are your outliers.
But for the most part, what you said, I believe is so true. Employees will never treat the customer better than they're being treated as an employee.
Cameron Farrar: That's right. Yes. And you can't break that rule, you just can't. And I have learned that from watching other leaders, Starbucks is what comes to mind, I did a case study on them and doing research about customer service years ago. And that's one of their foundational tenants.
If you think about it, they don't even advertise that you can't watch a TV commercial for Starbucks, once a while they would have one, but it was for a product. And they had to do it in order as an agreement with a store that was distributed on the shelf products, but they don't advertise on TV, they don't have to, whereas other fast-food companies advertise 1000 times a day. But if you take care of your employees, they'll do all your advertising for you in the way that they take care of the customer. And so, to me, that's magic.
Juanita Coley: That is so good. It is so good. Why do you think that is? I have so many thoughts about it. But why do you think that is?
Cameron Farrar: Well, when we're under stress, we start to lose our creativity, right? If we go back to this call center concept, and we're expecting people to use critical thinking, customers are calling in with problems. And there are two things everybody cares deeply about, and they're very emotional, that's your health and their money. And health insurance has both of those locked up.
So, here are customers calling in, and their health and their money are on the line. And we're expecting a call center agent to be creative in how they help a person if they're under stress because of what's going on at home.
But then they come to work and the leadership is adding to that stress, how can they be creative and handle the issues that are being given to them by somebody who's in crisis, which a lot of people don't call you about their health and their insurance when things are going well, they don't call to say, this is going great just wanted you to know, they call it when there's a problem.
And we need our agents to be creative. And when you're under stress, it's so hard to be creative and use critical thinking, it just bypasses or goes straight to your amygdala, you get hijacked and get into defense mode. And you just can't treat people well. As I said, a few people are strong enough internally to make their weather wherever they go.
So, it doesn't matter what's going on around them, they're going to be a certain way. But for the most part, human nature makes us react to the environment we're in. And it influences by the way we show up and unless we're very centered, and we can overcome that, then we're not going to, so just be good to your people and it just makes your chances of them doing well go up 1000-fold.
Juanita Coley: We already 30 minutes in, Cameron. That's it's so good we have to dig into that at another time. But my mind is going at like 1000 miles a minute just thinking about that in and of itself. And I think that's what some of these bigger brands are known for their customer experience, whether it's call centers or service, or product base, or whatever, they've mastered that they understand that they must treat their staff well because that's a part of the business model.
Cameron Farrar: Absolutely. Begins with onboarding. And then you've got to market to your people while you have them. The employee experience needs to be designed as well as the customer experience.
Why don't companies go through the customer journey from beginning to end and they map it out and they do all this stuff?
But have they mapped out their employee experience? What is it like to show up for work for you?
And what is the first day look like?
What does it look like 100 days in?
And what does it look like after I've mastered my particular role?
How do I get to the next role?
Is it fun to grow with you?
They got to map that out it can't happen by accident.
Juanita Coley: Cameron, you better come on through here. Okay. My God, that's good. So many people, Master companies and master or they think, they put a lot of time and effort into the customer experience, in the customer journey, not taking into consideration, the agent experience or the employee experience, which is ultimately tied to the customer experience.
If I'm so concerned about, okay, I market to my customer, I sell the product or service, then I have the customer, onboard the customer, and they get whatever.
But then as a part of their process, they have to talk to a customer service agent that's disgruntled, or they have to pick up their food from a pickup window of a fast-food restaurant of a disgruntled employee. That's a part of the customer experience.
So, you have not factored in the true customer experience without factoring in the employee experience. That's the whole message.
Okay, Cameron. Okay, let's go to this next question. Because we got to come back and talk about this some more, how does diversity in leadership impact the customer experience? What are your thoughts on that?
Cameron Farrar: So, let's level set on what we mean by diversity first and foremost. To me, diversity is about the type of people you have. And all those categories that we talk about. And the reason it's so important is, diversity gives you multiple perspectives from a cultural perspective, just from the way personal experiences are developed.
And the values that come with those things are different. Every culture has its own set of values, or it's the way it looks at those values, and then their styles. And so, our employee bases are not one-dimensional. And I may resonate with my style, my perspective, the values I espouse, they may resonate with a few people, they're not going to resonate with everybody.
And that's why having a diverse leadership team is so important, because everybody's message will eventually land somewhere, if you have a diverse enough, and I stress that word enough leadership team, you're going to make sure that your message and your culture permeates so that you don't just have that vanilla, for lack of a better term you got you to have all the flavors to get people excited. And so, diversity helps with the perspective. It just does.
Juanita Coley: Absolutely. And the thing that I love that you said about that is to let's level set on diversity. Because diversity means just that, people from all different backgrounds and walks I think a lot of times because diversity is such this conversation that we're having right now that we focus on color, ethnicity. Okay, you're African American, you're Caucasian, you're Hispanic, you're Indian, whatever the case maybe, that's where we stop.
But I think diversity comes with the background. It comes with experiences, it comes with all those different things because as you said, diversity drives perspective. And once I now have a different perspective, then I can better serve my customer.
Now yes, we do need more diversity in color, which is why I think that's such a huge, conversation when we talk about diversity, but I think it's important that we have diversity in experiences and I was talking about this on the show with Hosanna from Microsoft.
And we were talking about, well, why is it important that we have young people in tech and African Americans in tech and people have different experiences, where you may come from Tech sales, and I come from project management and all those different things because then we have perspective.
And so, what I would put into a functionality of a piece of technology might be something that you would have never thought of because you come from a different walk and different experience, different career background.
And so, you would have never even thought about that feature being put into the solution. And again, what you just said. That is how diversity plays a huge impact on our customer experience is because it gives us perspective.
Cameron Farrar: Absolutely. And with the diversity too, there's subtleties and cultures that, we don't know about. And if we're ignorant about that important differentiation in culture, we can alienate people. And I'll give you a for instance, I had a leadership role when I lived in Hawaii and a construction company. And I like looking people in the eye, and that was always a sign of respect, if you didn't look me in the eye, felt like you were disrespecting me, I learned that the culture I was predominantly working with that, eye-to-eye contact in their culture was a sign of aggression.
So here, I am getting upset with people who are looking at their feet when I'm talking to them. But in their culture, they're showing me respect, because eye contact is aggressive.
And I'm accusing them of being disrespectful because they're not looking me in the eye. And it created all this useless contention.
If I had assumed there were other cultures besides mine and took enough time to learn about those cultures, I could have been an effective leader, I failed as a leader in that instance because I just went around thinking everybody's like me. And my culture is the only culture and that's poisonous when you do that.
You have to learn about what other people's cultures are. And that's what diversity does for you, when you have a diverse leadership team, you have that opportunity to learn from those other leaders, and they can pull you aside and kind of grab me by the shoulders and say you're about to step in it. Be careful. And so that's why I think too having a diverse leadership team is important because you can educate each other, how to be more effective just as a human being.
Juanita Coley: Yes. And imagine if you would have had someone else in leadership that, you're having a conversation with that was in that same company. When you're in that role, that when you were having a conversation with them, they always looked down, that would have given me an opportunity, because they were in leadership to have a peer-to-peer conversation like, hey, Stephanie, why are you always looking down when I'm having a conversation with you?
And because you are peer to peer, there's not a, I'm in fear of losing my job or whatever, we're just having a conversation, we're just talking about what we're talking about. And so that would again, allowing you to then understand, that's a sign of respect. So, when I'm talking to the people that report to me, then they're not disrespecting me, they are simply showing me a level of respect.
And so, you would have known that, but a lot of times people who are reporting to you, because they report to you, they're not going to give you that feedback. So, I think the importance of being in having diversity and leadership is that because we're just talking about what we're talking about, we're peers. I'm just going to say, Cameron, the reason I look down is that in my culture that's a sign of respect. And you're going to take it for what it is because it's nothing to take otherwise, we're peers, I'm just, I'm just talking about what I'm talking about.
And so, I think that's good. So, a lot of conversations are not being had, because we don't have that diversity in leadership. And so, then your support staff or employees don't feel like, I can't say, stop looking in my eye, I feel offended.
Cameron Farrar: You got to be super courageous. And I want to throw myself on the fire here a little bit, too, because what I learned from that is I wasn't being situationally aware. So, I should have noticed that myself. And I should have been more curious. I think that certain jobs, have enough urgency in them, that you get this tunnel vision. And you don't start getting curious about what's going on around you and where things this way because you just got to get this thing done.
And so that's a trap that leaders fall into because there's typically a sense of urgency about making things happen. And so, there's this magic line, how do you keep urgency but at the same time, stay curious and that's a lifelong journey. And so that was an important lesson for me to learn. I haven't mastered it yet, but I'm continuing to work on it. Try to be situationally aware so that I don't step in and I don't need someone to pull me aside, but occasionally you do.
Juanita Coley: Yes. I commend you on that. Because just being aware that, I'm not always aware. And so, I need to be cognizant of where I am, who's doing what, so that I can assess the situation at any given point in time, that's important. So, I applaud you on that.
Cameron, tell me about, where we are right now, if you had to gauge where we are corporate, embodying diversity in wrapping our arms around it, and implementing, diversity in the workforce, where do you say that we are?
Cameron Farrar: That's a really big question. Let's include equity and inclusion in that because those three go together, you can't have them separated.
So again, before I jump into it, so diversity to me is about the types of people and then inclusion is about how those people interact. And then equity is about fairness. Are we being fair with everybody? So, that's the context I'm using when I talk about this.
So, number one, I don't think I'm qualified to truly gauge it, just because I haven't been on the negative side of it most of my life, I think we've just been candid, that the white male culture has been the predominant one.
And so, I don't think I have been fully aware of the problem. But I do think two things are important. One is awareness. And number two is responsibility. And those are the two basic things in coaching that I always use, is you have to create awareness.
And then you have to create a sense of responsibility for how your actions are impacting the world around you.
And so, to gauge where we're at as a culture in corporate America and worldwide, I don't know, because we've never been there, I don't think we've reached that destination where we can say, we've arrived. And when you're on a trip, and you don't know exactly where your end destination is, it's hard to gauge where you're at on that journey.
So, I'll go back to my coaching routes and say there, I always give my customer and clients three things to look at, to tell you whether or not you're on the right track, at least those three things are what will I see when I've reached my destination? So, if we get to a place where we have true diversity, true equity, and true inclusion, what would we see?
And then the second thing is, what were you here? What kinds of things will you be hearing, when you have true diversity, true equity, and true inclusion?
And number three, what would you feel? Those are the three basic indicators that if you're not seeing those things, you paint that picture with the end in mind, here's what that looks like, here's what diversity looks like, here's what Equity and Inclusion look like, what would I see? What would I hear? What would I feel?
And as we go on this journey together, if we're not seeing those things, hearing those things, and feeling those things, we're not on the right track. That's what I would say in this conversation.
Juanita Coley: My gosh, that's so good. So, you already had me, when you said, you've been on the other end of the spectrum. So, you don't think that you're truly qualified to talk through this, but you look at three kinds of things.
What will I see?
What will I hear?
What would I feel?
So, from that perspective, as a white male that has been in corporate America for probably your entire career, am I right in assuming that?
Cameron Farrar: Well, for the most part, I cut my teeth on construction jobs for about 20 years, and I got into leadership in that field and then left that field to become a knowledge worker. And that's when I entered corporate America in Earnest, it was about the time you and I met, about 10 years ago, but it feels like 100 corporate America has its own thing.
But I would just say that my mom raised me to the best of her ability to be an inclusive person. But I just think that unless you've experienced the negative side of things, you don't know how bad it is.
And when I moved to Hawaii, white people are a minority, and I got a tiny taste of what it's like to be on the outside.
But it wasn't anything compared to what other people go through.
So, I just think it's important to realize that we don't have the right and I don't think we have the right to kind of say and speak with authority on whether or not we've arrived or where we're at in the journey.
And humankind as a race in the human race hasn't achieved it yet. So, we've got to rely on each other to get there. But if we continue to create awareness and a sense of responsibility for the results that we're generating, or the impact that we're having, leadership, this goes back to basic leadership, you have to be aware of your emotional weight.
So, if I have a conversation with you, and I walk away, there's a wave just like ripples on a pond. And if the wake is big enough, it'll tip your boat over.
So, after I have an interaction with you, what's that emotional wage?
And is it gentle?
Or is it going to tip your boat over?
And I think that we need to be more sensitive to that.
What are the policies?
What's our behavior?
Because we can all intellectually acknowledge what's right and wrong. But it's the day-to-day interactions that show whether or not we're living up to that. So, policies part of it, behaviors, the bigger part in my opinion.
Juanita Coley: Man, that's good. And I think it's a good barometer to say, what will I see? What will I hear, how will it feel?
What should we see?
And I think those are the things that are being written right now, even when we think about, doing business with the government, or doing business in corporate America, or what the leadership landscape looks like, it needs to be X percent diverse, and this is what that diversity composition needs to look like, that is us developing.
What will I see? When I'm talking about a diverse workforce, if we're not meeting these metrics, we're not diverse.
Cameron Farrar: Yes, that's true. Because there are people qualified in every category, they're out there, we just have to find them and empower them, and put them in their position. So, that we can have that diversity.
Juanita Coley: Yes. And when they're not, the bigger question is why? Why are we seeing more women in technology? Why are we not seeing more women in leadership?
And so, I was talking to Tara, on the first episode about women in science and technology in the NASA program, why are we not seeing more women in these things?
And it's because, at a young age, they fall off from science and math and thinking, maybe it's not a place for me there. And so that's where I think the conversation about representation matters.
So, we have to begin to say, in funding these programs to say, I want more women in technology, or I want more women in the space program, or more African Americans in this or more Asians in this and start to fund those type of programs that gain them exposure to those different types of, whether it's work experiences, whatever the case may be, because when we don't see them, when we say, well, I can't find an agent that is qualified to do X, Y, and Z, it's like, Why? Because they don't see themselves there. They're not represented there. And they haven't been exposed to it.
People ask me all the time, how do you get into call center consulting, workforce management, your unicorn, this is true. And it was picked up a blue pumpkin book, when I was working at Wildcard, which is a long time ago, but is now Verint, blue pumpkin was bought by Verint. And so, I picked up that manual.
And that's how I began to learn workforce management. I just took an interest in it, but it wasn't because I saw someone who looked like me or that I even knew it was a career path. And I think we would have more women in technology, more women in leadership roles if there was a focus on, what will we see, when we arrive?
Cameron Farrar: Yes. And I think that humans get acculturated first by their parents. And so, it goes down to mom and dad, do they tell their daughters, you can be a mathematician, you can be a scientist, that's natural. And you probably have an advantage, do they get raised that way. And then every leader from that point on because the first leader we ever experienced is our parents or grandparents, or aunts and uncles, after that every leader has a responsibility to empower others and show them what they're capable of, the baseball coach when you're a little league, can they show you that you can be a home run hitter, that you can be the fastest and you can steal bases, or whatever the case is. And then the next leader, every leader has that responsibility to show you what you're capable of, irrespective of societal norms.
Because societal norms aren't always right. And most of the time they're not right. And so good leaders look for ways to empower people and show than what's possible and get people to believe in themselves.
So, I think it starts with mom and dad and in the surrounding family, showing the children what's possible, and teaching them to be fearless and what they pursue. And then the rest of us if we touch people in any way whatsoever in any form of authority, it's our job to help people see how great they can be, irrespective of what they think their limitations are. And that's a sacred trust, I think.
Juanita Coley: Yes, that's my production team won't let me be great with the mind-blown emojis. But hopefully, by season two, I have some mind-blowing emojis. We'll have you back. But that's so good. What will I see? What will I hear? What will I feel?
Cameron Farrar: That's your roadmap. That's your dashboard. So, you have your gauges on your car to tell you if you got enough fuel, or what your oil pressure is, those three things are your dashboard. And it's important to honor those because if you're not seeing inklings of each of those and feeling and hearing those things, your strategy's probably not working. Something's wrong with your strategy, or your expectations. So, you want to change your strategy, your expectations, or both. And keep adjusting until you start seeing hearing and feeling those things. And now you know, you're on the right track.
And it's kind of like driving at night, you could only see 200 feet in front of you. But man, we go 60-70 miles an hour anyway. Even though we can't see beyond the headlights, barreling forward. And that's what this whole journey is. We can't see more than 200 feet ahead of us on this diversity, inclusion, equity. But we got to keep driving forward. And if we pay attention to the, what will I see hear and feel. And the minute we detect, we're not seeing hearing and feeling that slowdown. And let's find an off-ramp and get on a different road.
Juanita Coley: Yes, that is good. That even leads me to my next question about continuous improvement. So, I remember you being very instrumental, as I said earlier, process improvement, change management in that continuous improvement, of us helping at United Healthcare, how does that play? How do you think that plays a factor in diversity, equity, and inclusion? And I think, you kind of hinted at this, when you talk through, you can only see 200 feet and ahead of you but you still are going at 60 miles an hour, but tell me about this continuous improvement.
Cameron Farrar: So, continuous improvement, it's interesting, because you have process improvement, which is a thing. That's where Lean and Six Sigma come in, and other methodologies like Kaizen and so forth.
But continuous improvements, really a mindset, it's the idea that things can always be better. And so that's where I think that if you can create that culture inside yourself, and then with those around you at work, and home, that's going to help improve the scenario.
As we said, with the DEI, the Diversity, Equity and Inclusion, is if we have that mindset that things can always be better. And let's continue to make them better, don't be satisfied with where we're at.
I think one of the evilest things anybody can ever say is, well, that's just the way it is.
I just want to slap the person when they say that because it's never good enough.
You got to be passionate about making it better. And it doesn't mean that we're always in this perpetual state of dissatisfaction and depression.
You can head there, got to be careful.
But what you want to do is just not be satisfied with good enough.
You got to continue to move forward until you've arrived, and the fact that matter is you never will arrive.
We just got to keep moving forward.
Juanita Coley: Yes. And that reminds me about when if we were rolling out the playbooks. I would say this all the time. These playbooks are a living, breathing document. So, it's not something that we're creating just for the sake of creating them so I can check off the box.
As the business changes, and as the department is moving in all the expectation changes, then, so the technology switches out, so will the playbook, and so if we just take that same model and apply it to DE&I, then we understand the same thing, with Diversity, Equity, and Inclusion. As we evolve and we move from 5%, Diversity, Equity, and Inclusion to 10%, then maybe the playbook changes some.
Maybe as we move to 50%, and I think that's having a constant handle on what will I see? What will I hear? What will I feel? And if we have a constant understanding of what we're expecting, then we can kind of continue to morph and evolve and change and improve.
Cameron Farrar: Yes, and what you're hinting at is the last step in what we call the demand process. It's six sigma, that last that see the control plane, and the control plan is twofold. It allows you to ring the alarm bell when the train goes off the tracks.
And number two, though, it's like the playbooks that you talked about, who to call, and what teams to scramble to get the train back on the tracks. And that's what that control plan is. So, the minute we start seeing things go out of spec, we don't just go, this doesn't look right.
And we don't just run around wondering, we hit the red button, stop the assembly line, pull the team together, fix it, and then move forward. And that's what that's about is having that control plan.
So, that's how continuous improvement would also help in this is having a control plan when you start to see your corporate culture not be inclusive? What is the control plane? Who do you call? Do you get talent acquisition? Do you look at the job profiles? Where are you marketing these positions? What are our training programs like? Do we have career pathing for each role, so they can see, I can grow in this company? To me, that's where my head goes when I think of it.
Juanita Coley: Yes, no, that's good. Having a control plan. And I'm going to keep going back there because I put a pin in that. What will I see? What will I hear? What will I feel?
When I know that then I can have a control plan. As you said, we're looking mighty one way, our experience is Mighty One, heavy on this side.
So, what is that control plan? Who do I reach out to? Where do I market these? Where are the people who I want to see represented, where are they?
And it always baffles me how we say, well, there's no one qualified or I can't find anyone when you can find me when it comes time to market to me. You know, where I'm at, then.
When it comes time to find me for the role, we couldn't find anybody, that's interesting.
Cameron Farrar: That’s where career pathing comes in, and that's where that going back to, did you plan your employee experience? So, diversity might maybe we can compartmentalize it say in the recruiting efforts, you have diversity, the inclusion comes in and the career pathing.
So, you've got a diverse workforce, what are you doing to make them qualified for those higher roles? How do you get them into tech?
So, if you start in a call center, do you know that you can move from being an agent to being a help desk tech person?
And then from there to be a level two technician and maybe a network engineer?
Do you know that's possible, it may or may not be possible in a company depending on whether or not they've created those career paths?
And so, Ebony blew my mind, in an interview with you, when she brought out how you can be diverse as all get out. But if you're not inclusive, what's the point? That's the bottleneck? That just kills it, right there.
Juanita Coley: Yes, she drops the major gem with that one.
Cameron Farrar: She got my head thinking, okay, then how do you be inclusive?
It isn't just about shaking hands and inviting people to meetings.
It's about whether or not you're training people for the next hire step.
It's your succession planning.
Do you have an internal professional development program?
And do people know what's possible for them in your company?
And that's a huge order. And that's not a moneymaker in the sense of like, you can't just say, I'm going to make this much more profit this year, because I have this inclusive career path.
And that's why companies don't do it is, they don't see that there is revenue at the end of that career path. It's one of those things like planting a tree, you're not going to harvest it for 50 to 100 years.
People who plant trees have that long-term; this goes back to vision.
Do you have that vision for your company?
Are you not just thinking about this quarter's margin call?
Are you thinking about where are we going to be in five years, I'm going to train that call center agent to be my next site director?
Take me five years to develop them.
Do I have a past that shows they can do?
Juanita Coley: So good. All the gems all the gems.
Cameron, we are over our time. Can you believe it, it feels like we've been talking for five minutes and I one question but I know that's not the truth?
Leave us with a nugget. Leave us with a nugget or word of wisdom or your nugget that you want to leave us with.
Cameron Farrar: Alright, so I would say never asked why but ask instead, what would it take? So, instead of saying why aren't we diverse or why don't I have the person to my dreams?
Don't ask why, just ask what would it take?
What do you focus on?
Juanita Coley: What would it take?
Cameron Farrar: What would it take?
Juanita Coley: I love it. Well, hang out with me for a little bit. And I'm going to wrap the show-up and I'll be right with you.
Cameron Farrar: Alright, thanks for the honor.