Black Americans face a unique set of challenges in the workplace. In this video from the 2018 AIIR Coaching Summit, Dr. Greg Pennington discusses those challenges, how coaches can empower black Americans in the executive suite, and how similar approaches can apply to other dimensions of differences. Here are five key ideas that can be used as a framework when considering how differences make a difference.


Watch the Highlight Reel


1. Differences Matter

As humans, we are fundamentally wired to collect data, put it into categories, analyze that data, and then do something in reaction to it. And so one of the worst things you can do is dismiss those differences as unimportant. Whether it’s race, gender, or any category of difference, being different shows up because we naturally process it. The race card is always there whether you bring it up or not.

2. Categories of Difference Have Assumptions Attached to Them

The truth is that rumors of inferiority persist. It isn’t that categories themselves are problematic – it’s that, broadly speaking, if the category itself is one of a deficit or a deficiency, then there is a real problem. Sometimes these differences aren’t referenced directly but they come out in the language that is used to describe people or situations.

3. Integrating Multiple Dimensions of Differences Takes Effort and Denying Key Dimensions Has Consequences

In The Souls of Black Folks, W. E. B. DuBois explained the fundamental idea of double consciousness and the fact that those that are different are always thinking about how others see them. They may not be comfortable bringing their “whole selves” to an organization. It is important to be aware of this effort and the questions that are being asked internally about what is acceptable in any given situation.

4. We Want to Feel Connected AND We Want to Know What to Do

Good coaches know that affinity and connection are important parts of the coaching relationship. And while affinity and connection are good, black executives are often really just looking for help navigating situations. They’re looking for more “how-to’s” than hugs. You can certainly accelerate a relationship with a common cause or sense of identity, but the most critical piece of the relationship is tangible, concrete ideas that set the executive up for success.

5. We Want to Embrace Similarities While Also Leveraging Our Differences

Simply put, similarities matter and so do differences. It’s important to remember that in any coaching relationship.

Watch the Full Video

To learn more about AIIR’s Executive Coaching services, visit:

AIIR Consulting is a global leadership development consultancy dedicated to increasing the effectiveness and performance of leaders and their organizations. Through the strategic integration of coaching and technology, AIIR Consulting brings agile leadership development to today’s connected leader.

Get In Touch

Let’s Discover What We Can Do For Your Organization

Subscribe to Our Newsletter

Don’t Miss Leadership Tips, Emerging Trends, News, and Interviews with Experts