A Personal Message about Racism, Values and Culture

Shelley SmithBlog, Executive Coaching, Leadership Development


I’ve known for many years that the secret to business lies inside our workplace culture. Our success starts and ends with our people.

My professional path has always been rooted in workplace culture – not something I always recognized, but I formalized my dedication to this principle 11 years ago when I started my company Premier Rapport, Inc. “Culture Matters” is so obvious to me that I claimed that tagline and should have trademarked it, too.

The terrible death and abusive treatment of George Floyd and many others are so deeply disturbing and haunting. The root of racism goes deep. It has been the norm of society for centuries, but many of us have been blind to it and have accepted it all these years. I hope each of you have taken the time to recognize that the events of the past weeks have had an especially profound impact on our team members, our clients, our strategic partners, our family members and our friends of color whose connection to these events are especially painful and personal.

Yes, I admit to my white privilege.

I have seen it in full action, but I was blind at first. Perhaps I didn’t want to believe it as I saw through my rose-colored glasses and optimism. However, 32 years ago I met the love of my life. We have been married now for 27 years and have three amazing kids. As you can see by the picture he is black, and obviously my kids are bi-racial. My love has brought pain in my heart because of his mistreatment and the assumptions people make. And I have witnessed first-hand the unfortunate mistreatment of my oldest son by law enforcement.

But still, I believe in the goodness of mankind as a whole. I was reminded recently of a quote from Nelson Mandela that I have always known to be true. “No one is born hating another person because of the color of his skin, or his background, or his religion. People must learn to hate, and if they can learn to hate, they can be taught to love, for love comes more naturally to the human heart than its opposite.”

As we all continue to navigate a path forward during these difficult times, I encourage you to lean into your workplace culture, your values, your guiding purpose and shared vision of possibilities. Consider what right looks like, feels likes, sounds like. If your values aren’t clear, make them clear. If they need adjusting, adjust them. If you don’t know how or what to do, go find others to help you.

My Calling

I realize I have a calling and a gift of helping individuals, teams and organizations to pull out the best of themselves and craft something good, adding value to this thing called life through workplace culture.

As always, I am here for anything you need, including helping you initiate the tough conversations.