Season 5 • Episode 8

Studies show that diverse teams who feel safe to contribute in a meaningful way outperform teams who don’t have that same level of diversity. The question is, are you truly doing everything you can to get the most out of your people? In this episode, we’re joined by Andrew Adeniyi, Author, CEO and Founder of AAA Solutions, and first generation Nigerian American, to discuss the three Ps of creating a diverse, inclusive, and equitable culture in the workplace. Andrew also shares his insight on the importance of belonging and how it plays a role in employee engagement, satisfaction, and turnover, as well as how the “platinum rule” of DEI has the potential to change the way we view diversity.


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About DE Talk

For DirectEmployers, it’s all about valuable connections and meaningful conversations. This monthly podcast features honest and open dialogue between powerhouse industry experts on a variety of HR topics ranging from OFCCP compliance advice to emerging recruitment marketing trends, diversity and inclusion initiatives, and insightful solutions that help infuse new life into your HR strategies.

Hosted by Candee Chambers, Executive Director of DirectEmployers Association.

Guest Host

Headshot of Mikey Meagher

​Mikey Meagher

Manager, Diversity, Equity, & Inclusion Strategies

Mikey Meagher is the Manager of Diversity, Equity and Inclusion Strategies at DirectEmployers Association and is focused on fostering relationships with veteran and diversity organizations to promote workforce inclusivity. Mikey began her career recruiting within the IT industry, which made her transition to DirectEmployers partnership team a natural progression as relationship-building and strong communication are core components of both. Within her current role, Mikey works to facilitate conversations between Members and existing partners and provide outreach resources to both parties, as well as identify, develop, and promote new local and national level partnerships. Mikey holds a Bachelor of Science Degree in Criminology from University of Florida, a Master’s Degree in Organizational Leadership from Jacksonville University, and is a certified Windmills Trainer and Diversity, Equity & Inclusion professional.

Episode Guest

Andrew Adeniyi

Andrew Adeniyi

Founder & CEO, AAA Solutions

Andrew is a first-generation Nigerian American from South Bend, Indiana who provides business strategy, workplace culture, and Diversity, Equity & Inclusion (DEI) consulting and speaking services to small businesses and non-profits.

He obtained his bachelor’s degree in Entrepreneurship and Corporate Innovation from the Kelley School of Business at Indiana University Bloomington. He then went on to complete his Master of Science from Michigan State University in Management, Strategy & Leadership. The Muma College of Business at The University of South Florida is where Andrew received a certificate in DEI in the Workplace.

With over 10 years of executive level management experience, Andrew has helped dozens of clients improve their employee engagement and create a sense of belonging within their organizations.

Andrew currently resides just outside of Indianapolis, Indiana with his wife and three kids and published his first book titled The Circle of Leadership in Summer 2020. The book serves as an entrepreneurial framework on how to create and leverage culture.


Episode Transcript

Candee Chambers (00:02):

Get ready. The DE Talk podcast starts now. Insightful conversations and dialogue, helping you put the human factor back in HR.

Mikey Meagher (00:14):

You have all the DEI efforts and well-meaning intentions in place, but is your culture reflective of those efforts? Do your employees feel a sense of belonging? From embracing vulnerability and creating space for honest and open conversations, we’ll tackle how to create DE&I efforts that have sustainable results for both the employees and the business, leading to long-term success and continued inclusion.


All right. I guess we’ll just get started. Welcome, Andrew. Thank you for joining us today. I’m really looking forward to this conversation about DE&I and getting your perspective on the future of DE&I, your whole journey coming in and out of this space as well. And why don’t you have the listeners introduce yourself for a second?

Andrew Adeniyi (01:11):

That sounds good. Well, first and foremost, the feeling is mutual, so thank you so much for having me. I definitely appreciate it. Always down to talk about some of these topics, so it should be a great conversation.


Hello everyone. My name is Andrew Adeniyi. I’m the CEO and founder of AAA Solutions. And we specialize in workplace culture and diversity, equity, and inclusion. There’s really two main services that we provide, consulting and training.

Mikey Meagher (01:37):

Some very cool. And I know that in doing some research that you’re a first generation Nigerian American. And that entrepreneurship has always been what you’ve gravitated towards. Can you tell us a little bit more about your background and how your background specifically has kind of helped be a catalyst into your DE&I career?

Andrew Adeniyi (02:03):

Absolutely. So I really have to start with my parents. Both my parents were born and raised in Nigeria, and really humble beginnings to say the least. And they left their parents when they were around 12 and really started making a way the best that they could. Were extremely hard workers, really valued education. Eventually made it to America. And I was born the year that they arrived.


So first-generation Nigerian American. And I would say that has influenced my perspective. One, just from an identity standpoint, knowing that I’m not just an African American male, I do have Nigerian roots, so it’s another identity that I get to see the world through and identify as. So that’s unique. But then also just the importance of work ethic and the importance of continuous learning and developing and just growing. Those were core values that were instilled in me because of my upbringing, which I think is largely shaped by my parents, and what they had to make it through to get us to where we’re at today, my siblings and I. So that’s my background and foundation.


I would say for me, going through high school, was very big into sports. So three sport athlete out of South Bend, Indiana. Ended up going to IU Bloomington to play football as a preferred walk-on and I was aspiring to get into the business program. Both of my parents are entrepreneurs. My father owned a nursing home, adult foster care home to be specific. And my mother owned a hair salon where she would braid hair and sell a lot of merchandise. So I think entrepreneurship was just in my blood, but I was able to start that journey officially when I studied entrepreneurship at IU Bloomington.

Mikey Meagher (03:44):

Awesome. Go Hoosiers.

Andrew Adeniyi (03:46):

Go Hoosiers.

Mikey Meagher (03:49):

Yeah. No, and that’s interesting cause I think with anybody, your values and experiences and the way that you were brought up definitely sets that path into adulthood and getting into various things. But with that, was there any one particular moment that acted as this catalyst for you to get into DE&I consulting that… Did you just kind of find your way to this or? Explain a little bit more about that journey.

Andrew Adeniyi (04:22):

Yeah. Yeah, so it started with the birth of my first book, which is called The Circle of Leadership, and I was working for an international retailer at the time I was working for one of the best divisions in the country. Out of 24 divisions they were consistently top three, and that was really my foundation out of undergrad. So I assumed every division, every company had a great culture, great leadership, et cetera, and I had a promotional opportunity to go to the East Coast and worked for one of the worst divisions in the company. And I was blown away by how different the experience was.


And I started to ask myself, how can two divisions in the same company with the same pay, same benefits, same training, be drastically different? And I realized it was culture and leadership. We had a very strong culture in the first division I worked for in Indiana and a very weak culture in the East Coast and ineffective leaders on the East Coast compared to that Indiana.


So I wanted to figure out how would you turn around a struggling culture if you wanted to? And that set me on a journey to just read a lot of books, ask a lot of questions. I happened to be in my master’s program at the time from Michigan State. It was a master’s in management strategy and leadership. So I was almost living a real life case study while getting the book knowledge as well. So it led me to create a framework to address culture because I wasn’t seeing anything out there holistically that was doing that. And one of the chapters in the book ended up being on diversity, equity, and inclusion.


So the book released in the summer of 2020, which just so happened to coincide with the murder of George Floyd. So I had a lot of people asking me, “Hey, do you speak on DEI? Can you consult on DEI?” And I could, but it was really a smaller subset of the work that I was largely doing, kind of under the workplace culture umbrella. And now that’s kind of flipped where the majority of the work I’m doing now is DEI still doing a lot of workplace culture work as well.


But I would say the book, that first book and coinciding what was happening from a societal standpoint, that’s what really flung me into, okay, there’s a need in this space. I’m equipped in this space, I’ve done the research and I feel confident in my abilities to execute. So I started to do just that.

Mikey Meagher (06:32):

Yeah, and you bring a good point in saying, you went to a different division of a same organization and to just highlight how different the culture can be. I think sometimes people think like, “Oh, X, Y, and Z company has a great culture,” but that might only be one division’s perspective. So I think sometimes that can get lost in translation as well, that just because one division has a good workplace culture doesn’t mean that the overall company or organization necessarily demonstrates that.

Andrew Adeniyi (07:11):

Yeah, you’re exactly right. I mean, cultures are decentralized, so you may have an overarching culture, if you will, that is on certain end of the spectrum for an organization, but when you drill down to a particular division, a lot of that can be influenced by the senior leader and the senior leaders in that specific area. So it’s really important for organizations to figure out how do we be super clear with the overarching culture that we want for our company while leaving enough room for some more decentralized cultures to form, but they should support the overarching culture, not go against it, which was essentially what was happening in my experience. That culture on the East Coast was really going against the overarching culture of the company, and that was a big reason why they’re ineffective.

Mikey Meagher (08:01):

And what would you say to leaders or individuals who are skeptical about the need for DE&I initiatives, whether it’s within the organization as a whole or a separate division?

Andrew Adeniyi (08:16):

Well, the first things that come to mind for me is education and statistics. If you think about what these terms actually mean, we’re really just talking about understanding and acknowledging that we’re all different. We all have different needs, and when we really work to address the needs of those individuals, people do their best work. So we know when people are engaged, people are doing their best work, they’re more productive, they stay longer, they’re more likely to recommend that place of employment to someone else. And those are all positive things that go back to understanding that we’re different diversity, but we all have different needs, which is equity and ensuring that things are fair regardless of our differences and that everyone feels respected and that they belong. So I would argue DEI is really just good leadership in general. So I would say you have to start with understanding what these terms mean.


And then you go to the numbers and the statistics and there’s reports that continuously show that diverse groups of people, diverse teams where people feel safe to contribute in a meaningful way, they outperform those teams and those organizations that don’t have that level of diversity. So when you look at the stories out there, you look at the statistics out there and the research and you really just get down to what the terms actually mean. The better question is, are you truly doing everything you can to get the most out of your people if you’re not embracing these principles and DEI as a whole?

Mikey Meagher (09:48):

Yeah. And that brings to the next question too, with your three Ps, the amplified purpose, prioritization of people and simplified processes. Talk to me about your three Ps.

Andrew Adeniyi (10:03):

Yeah, so the three Ps are purpose, people, process. And part of the research I was doing when I was going to write the book was how do you transform cultures? And a lot of what I was seeing and hearing was around processes, things that may need to be tweaked that can change the culture, things that may need to be added, whether in the physical workspace or with a policy or procedure, and those are all good things. But I realized that if you don’t start with the why and the kind Simon Sinek speaks on in his book, Start with Why. If you don’t start with the why, then it’s hard for things to be sustainable and for things to really be cascaded across an entire organization.


So the first P is purpose, which is how do you ensure that you amplify purpose? And what I mean by that is, number one, do you even know why your company exists? Not what you do or how you do it, but what was the original need in the marketplace that your organization uniquely addresses better than most? Why do you exist? What’s the goal? What’s the vision? What does success look like 10 years from now?


I realized that a lot of employees and your traditional organizations couldn’t answer that question consistently across the board, which means people are showing up to work not really knowing why our organization exists. So if you don’t know where you’re going, you’re automatically going to miss out on a certain level of engagement and commitment from your team. So that is typically in the form of vision, mission and core values and not just things you put on the wall or throw in the handbook. These are things that actually influence how work gets done with an organization.


So it starts with knowing your purpose and then communicating it as often as possible, right? Email signatures, leading out weekly meetings, talking about the core values, performance reviews that are tied to your ability to live out the core values and accomplishing goals. Really operationalizing your why is super important.


And then the second piece is people. That’s all about prioritizing your people. It’s really just understanding that people get you results. So your job as a leader is to influence behavior, influence people so that they can get the results that you desire. And too oftentimes, people are focused more on the numbers than they are the people not recognizing that it’s the people that get you those numbers. So in that category, that’s where diversity, equity and inclusion comes in. That’s where hiring the right person, putting them on the right seat on the bus comes into play. That’s what that really unpacks.


And then the last P is the process. How do you simplify processes? How do you create an environment where feedback is valued, where feedback is solicited, feedback is acted on? How do you focus on training and developing talent and how do you delegate to really test comprehension but also demonstrate that I trust you enough to go do this work well without micromanaging you. Those are some of the things that really fall under the process component.

Mikey Meagher (13:06):

Yeah. And with the three Ps, I feel like, and correct me if I’m wrong, if you see something different out there, but a lot of times companies will have the purpose potentially, a lot of the communication out there or even trying to simplify the process. But I feel like a lot of times the prioritization of people is what gets left out of that recipe, so to speak. And I think that to me seems to be the key piece of it. You can have all the communication and processes in place, but I feel like that comes after you have that loyalty from the people and your employees.

Andrew Adeniyi (13:51):

Yeah. The Ps are in order for a reason. People are extremely important. It’s the heartbeat of the company. That’s how we get things done. I just got done speaking about the importance of people, but if you don’t know… If you can’t articulate to those people where you’re going, it’s going to be a recipe for disaster. So that’s why the purpose comes first. And I would argue most organizations don’t do a good job with that. I think they do a good job with knowing what they offer and maybe how they’re unique, but in terms of why they actually exist and what they’re trying to accomplish down the road, I would say it’s typically shaky.


But even for the ones that are good, we’ll just hypothetically say that they are good, from then, now we have to align what we do around talent attraction and retaining folks with the why. So if we’re big on innovation, for example, and our goal is to continue to be the most innovative player in our marketplace and change the way work is done within our industry, just something broad or something in that area, if you’re going to hire people, you need to be thinking, does this person demonstrate a certain level of this value that’s important to us? If someone hates innovation, are they truly a good fit for your organization?


But if you don’t, you haven’t identified some of those core values to begin with, you’re going to make exceptions and you’re going to start bringing people in that really don’t align with the overall culture that you’re trying to really sustain and cultivate.

Mikey Meagher (15:23):

Yes, and I think that kind of brings us to our next point too, is when we’re talking about culture and DE&I and the inclusion and belonging, with belonging really being a result of strong culture, where can employers foster a greater sense of this belonging and how can embracing the vulnerability assist with the belonging?

Andrew Adeniyi (15:52):

Yeah. So I used to work for Starbucks and they would always refer to their cafes as the third place. We want it to be the third place. And what they meant by that, for those who aren’t familiar, is that if you’re not at work or you’re not at home, they want you to be at Starbucks. They want you to view Starbucks as the third place in your life. So I always say when I’m talking to clients and I’m doing trainings, what would it take for you to consider a place your third place?


And when you start thinking about it, you realize, okay, it’s got to be a place that’s safe. I got to have access to the resources and tools that I need. I need to feel welcome. I need to feel like there’s space for me. You start going down the list. That’s what you need to do to create a culture of belonging.


If we’re just simplifying it, to kind of address your question, your comment, what are you doing to make your people really feel like they belong at work? How are you understanding their values? How are you goal setting for them and ensuring that growth and development is taking place? How often are you giving them genuine recognition and feedback? How are you demonstrating that I really care about you? When’s the last time you wrote them a handwritten note and sent it in the mail? What are you doing when a loved one dies? How are you putting yourself in position to understand what’s impacting someone personally when they come to work? Or are we just jumping to the first item on our agenda? Those little things add up, and that oftentimes can have the biggest impact in terms of ensuring that your team feels like they belong within the workplace.

Mikey Meagher (17:25):

Yes, and I’ve had both experiences where that has not happened at all, or you really don’t feel valued as an employee, or maybe they don’t really recognize what’s going on in your own life and how that’s impacting what you’re bringing to the culture on a day-to-day basis. And I’ve also been in situations where there’s nothing but checking in on you and asking what can be done to help you through this time and things like that. And it truly just makes such a big difference, and especially with just wanting to stay with a company.

Andrew Adeniyi (18:10):

Yeah, absolutely. I mean, we all have, when you look at the Gallup polls, two thirds of people hate their job. Two thirds of people are not engaged. And that really bothers me and that drives the vision for my organization, which is a world where the majority of people are engaged at work. And when you start drilling down, why do so many people not want to go to work on Monday morning? Why are people not engaged? Why is there quiet quitting? Why is turnover high?


When you really start boiling it down, a lot of the times what you find is these people aren’t engaged. They don’t feel like they belong, they don’t feel like they can elevate the culture. They feel like they have to assimilate to the culture. They don’t feel like they can bring their genuine self to work each and every day and get the recognition and respect and growth opportunities that they deserve.


So it really just comes down to understanding that people need to be poured into, they need to be developed, and they need to feel like they matter. And when you’re intentional with ensuring that people feel like they belong, it can translate to business results, whether it’s turnover, productivity, engagement, or some of the other metrics that coincide with workplace culture as well.

Mikey Meagher (19:20):

Yeah, and four years ago we saw such a big momentum shift in embracing DE&I in the workplace, and it has a lot of the benefits as we’ve seen, and now there seems to be a stall or a backlash that you hear in the media or different news outlets and things like that. So with all of that going on and knowing the benefits that this does have, how can HR professionals or organizations continue to drive this forward in their own programs that maybe aren’t getting the same attention as they once did three or four years ago?

Andrew Adeniyi (20:09):

Yeah, excellent question. Stories and statistics. This continues to come to mind for me because a lot of what’s happening around DEI has been politicized and has become this kind of social media issue, and it’s almost kind of taken a shape that is different than what it’s supposed to be. And I think that only happens when you don’t have the conversation rooted in statistics and stories.


When I talk about statistics as why does DEI matter in the workplace, a lot of HR professionals still can’t answer that well and beyond just it’s the right thing to do, but no, this is actually going to help turnover and anything that helps turnover is going to help us accomplish these other business goals for the organization that we’ve already said are important.


So HR professionals have to figure out what are those levers they can pull internally to connect what DEI provides in the workplace and what the company has already stated is a priority. When you do that, it becomes, oh, this is actually a business strategy. This is actually a means to achieve the goals that we already have laid out. This is how we can achieve a competitive advantage. The numbers help to tell that story both with research and what the return on investment can be in certain situations.


And then the other one is stories, because it can’t just all be numbers. There’s got to be the appeal to the heart as well as the mind, and that’s what the stories can provide. Sharing examples of how this person leaving the organization because they didn’t feel like they belong or this candidate you were interviewing didn’t see the certain level of diversity within your senior leadership team, and therefore they turned down the offer and you missed out on top talent. The stories that speak to, “Hey, this person’s been working here for 30 years and they retire in a couple of weeks, and they had no idea that people thought that they’re really good at their job because they never got praise and recognition.”


Those stories start to help to share like, “Hey, we need to be focusing on making sure that regardless of your morals and beliefs, that you feel like you belong here and you feel respected, you feel seen, you feel heard, you feel valued.” Stories that articulate that, coupled with some credible research, it’s hard for someone to push down DEI when they understand the terms, the research and the stories, and it becomes increasingly clear when someone persists that they’re against it after they hear that. That they truly just don’t want a level playing field and they don’t want to relinquish some of that power and some of the bias that they have against some of the initial thoughts that may have circulated when they first started hearing about DEI.

Mikey Meagher (22:45):

And would you say that that’s, I guess one of the biggest challenges that you’ve come across or you feel that you constantly have to reinforce with employers is taking a look at the statistics and stories beyond just trying to say what does DE&I mean to you? Other than the response being because it’s important and it matters?

Andrew Adeniyi (23:11):

Surprisingly, no, that’s not the majority. And it makes sense now that I’ve been doing the work for years. But when I first started the work, I assumed that I would spend a lot of time convincing people to do DEI and convincing people that it’s good. And what I realized is that the majority of clients I have, already have good cultures, already know DEI is important. They just have no idea where to start or what to do.

Mikey Meagher (23:39):


Andrew Adeniyi (23:41):

So usually I don’t have to spend that much time with them on that. Now when we do trainings, I still start from the foundation and I assume that yeah, the leadership team or the DEI committee may know that this is important, but that doesn’t mean every employee in this organization knows what these terms mean or why they matter. So when I do trainings, I still start from the ground level, but in terms of my overall approach when I’m working with clients and interacting with them, usually I’m just providing guidance on where to start and what to do and how to be strategic about it overall. I’m usually not working with people who don’t believe in DEI, don’t think it’s valuable and really want to kind of push back on the concept as a whole.

Mikey Meagher (24:22):

Do you use a specific formula when you’re laying that foundation or does it vary based on different organization needs?

Andrew Adeniyi (24:32):

Both. I have a structure that I apply to almost every client, but what that looks like may be different. So the process I go on is starts with data. So it’s essentially surveys, focus groups, interviews. We look at previous survey data, we look at your mission, vision, values. Any content we can get our hands on, we dissect that information and just do a deep dive into the data. That allows us to figure out where you’ve been, where you’re currently at, where you’d like to go, but also what is the employee sentiment around DEI and how they would evaluate the company. We use that in the first phase. That’s kind of our analysis phase. Our DEI audits what we call it.


Then we move on to the strategic planning phase, which is all about, this is the data that we’ve been able to collect through conversations, through numbers, through surveys, et cetera. What tools make the most sense for this organization based on where they’re at on their journey? And that’s where we go into creating a strategic plan, which is really just smart goals. It’s a set of smart goals, a set of goals that at some point down the road you can say yes or no, we accomplished them.


You’d be surprised how many people I work with where they have started a book club and they celebrated women’s history month and maybe they even had a panel discussion. All these one-off things that are good, but at the end of the year, nobody can say yes or no if they’ve accomplished any of their goals, cause there are no goals. It’s just a bunch of activities that at the end of the year they’re hoping to be able to articulate the leadership of why we need a greater budget. And they’re asking, what’s the impact of the last money we gave? And nobody can really articulate that, right? Because there’s no goals in place.


So I always say, we’re not trying to boil the ocean, we’re just trying to make progress. We’re just trying to lay down a foundation. And the strategic planning process helps us to figure out what are the best two to three goals we can start with that advance this work.


The last phase is implementation, and that’s where my firm just works with a cross-functional group within the organization, typically a DEI committee or a culture committee or an engagement committee. And we literally meet and work to execute the goals that we put into plan. That is the process that I take with all clients. But the outcome can vary greatly.


One organization may be more advanced in their journey and they’re ready to start employee resource groups and maybe another organization may just be at a point where they just want to focus on what do these terms mean and getting people on board. And therefore we’re talking about getting a DEI statement to get thrown on the website and to really get brainstormed by the leadership team and the organization as a whole. We may just want to get a survey out there and get the response rate up on the survey. We may just start from the ground floor. So it really varies what the outcomes may be with each of the processes we go on.

Mikey Meagher (27:29):

What are the best metrics or indicators that you recommend focusing on once that foundation has been laid or they, organizations have figured out, “Okay, yeah, our next phase is employee resource groups,” or you have an organization that’s just trying to write out the mission statement for leadership and that kind of thing. What are the best metrics to focus on that to know you’re being successful?

Andrew Adeniyi (27:58):

Yeah, absolutely. I mean, if you have research that indicates people who strongly agree that they feel a sense of belonging at work, for example, are three times less likely to leave their employer within the next 12 months. When you have research and things like that, that helps you to be able to select goals like, “Hey, we know organizationally we want to reduce turnover by 20%.” So the activity that we do from the strategic planning process and DEI is going to be one to address making sure people feel like they belong. So it can impact turnover.


So you can get a specific as a key performance indicator like turnover or increasing the percentage of people who indicated they strongly agree that they feel a sense of belonging or that they strongly agree that they feel respected at work. You can set goals around that. Your goal could just be, we want to create a DEI statement and have it on the website by this date. Knowing that there’s a lack of awareness, there’s a lack of commitment around DEI. So we want to start by telling our team and our workforce why DEI matters. It could be, “Hey, we haven’t done any DEI training in a few years, so we want to commit to quarterly training by this date.” That’s a smart goal, and that’s something that allows you to advance.


So it could be on one end of the spectrum super specific to a key performance indicator like turnover or engagement or belonging. Or it could just literally be, we want to bring in this person by this date. We want to launch this mentorship program by this date. We want to ensure that we have this internship program in motion by here. It could be on any end of the spectrum. The key is being able to later on be able to say yes or no, we accomplished the goal.

Mikey Meagher (29:44):

Yes. And I think that it brings you to the best practices that then get pushed forward. And the actionable steps is some of those KPIs that you’re talking about. And these are the steps that leaders need to take to ensure everyone does feel valued and included. And by then enhancing overall engagement, the productivity and creativity within your organization. So thank you for sharing that. I think sometimes that can be a missing piece and just how to move forward because the intention’s there and it’s good and it’s great and we love hearing the success stories that are coming from this. But that, I did want to ask before we wrap up, what’s one thing you want to bring to employers when it comes to creating a culture of belonging?

Andrew Adeniyi (30:43):

I think the thing I would want to encourage the group that’s listening, whoever’s listening to this call, is we need to, DEI is essentially practicing the platinum rule. We know the golden rule, treat others the way you want to be treated. DEI is really about treating others the way they want to be treated. And I think if we had, what was that?

Mikey Meagher (31:09):

Yeah, the humanity behind it.

Andrew Adeniyi (31:10):

Yeah, and I’ll share a very quick story to articulate this. When I came out of undergrad and I was a multi-unit leader, I had in my mind I needed to approach each of my store managers the same way because I thought, that’s good leadership. It’s being consistent. Until one day I had one of my store managers tell me, “Hey Andrew, when you come into the store, I don’t need a lot of the fluff. I don’t need to talk a lot about my weekend or anything like that, or I don’t need any praise recognition. I just want to know very clear what needs to be done and when does it need to be done by. That would help me out a lot.” And I was like, “Interesting, I can do that.” But as I was driving to my next store, I remember thinking if I took that same approach with the store manager I’m about to go see, she would break down crying before I left the building.

Mikey Meagher (31:57):


Andrew Adeniyi (31:58):

And that was the moment I realized I can’t treat people the way I want to be treated. I can’t just do things the way I think they should be done. I’ve got to approach people, interact with people, address people the way that they want to be treated. And if more leaders do that, you’ll find that we are all different. AKA diversity. So how do we ensure everyone feels like they’re respected and they belong and they’re included if all of us are different?


You got to understand and meet people, which allows you to realize, okay, one of this person’s core value is stability, and we’ve been going through a lot of change right now. I need to slow down and figure out how to over-communicate to this individual because I understand them enough to know that rapid changes doesn’t sit well with them because they grew up in a veteran household where they moved 12 times in 17 years. But if we don’t know each other, we can’t connect the way that we need to connect, and we’re missing out on an opportunity for people to be engaged and feel like they belong.

Mikey Meagher (32:54):

Yes. Thank you for that. And I know, I real quick also wanted to tell the listeners, you just released a new book in January, The Building Blocks of Belonging: 5 Steps to Creating a Diverse, Equitable, and Inclusive Culture. I have purchased that. I’m waiting for it cause I really want to read that too. And I love anything that has the foundations or building blocks for organizations. So what brought you to this second book? I know we talked a little bit about you writing that first one, but personally, I just kind want to know what got you in that space to then write another one?

Andrew Adeniyi (33:39):

Yeah. So the chapter in my first book on DEI, really kind of touched the surface, scratched the surface around DEI, but I felt the need to expand on it. So I started to do that. I really started with a question, and the question was, if an organization is doing DEI very well and they’re knocking it out of the park, what does that look like? What does that feel like? And more importantly, what does it take to get there? And I went on this journey and when I researched and I found that the success in DEI is really just a culture where diversity of thought is embraced, where people feel safe enough to go against the grain and challenge the status quo, and ultimately where people feel a sense of belonging. That’s the outcome.


So then I started to figure out, well, how do you get there? And I started realizing people need to know why this matters. People need to know what this means. People need to know how this impacts the bottom line. People need to be self-aware. You can’t create a culture of belonging for other people, if you’re not even aware of how you may show up in certain situations. Then we could talk about how do you become more emotionally intelligent and communicate better with other people. How do you resolve conflict? What is unconscious bias? What are microaggressions? How do you be an ally for people? These are some of the topics that started to surface as I researched how to accomplish a culture of belonging. And then it was a matter of putting in a framework that was step-by-step and what do you do first? What do you do second? What do you do third? And the book really outlines those steps to doing just that.

Mikey Meagher (35:09):

Awesome. Well, I can’t wait to read that.

Andrew Adeniyi (35:12):

Thank you. I appreciate the support.

Mikey Meagher (35:14):

And to end the podcast, we usually do a quick rapid fire question series, so just to get to know you a little bit better and looking forward to doing more work with you as well. So are you ready for the rapid fire questions?

Andrew Adeniyi (35:35):

I am ready.

Mikey Meagher (35:36):

All right, so which is more important? The journey or destination?

Andrew Adeniyi (35:40):

The journey.

Mikey Meagher (35:41):

Awesome. Love it. I agree. And best career bites you ever received?

Andrew Adeniyi (35:47):

Fail fast. Fail forward.

Mikey Meagher (35:50):

All right. Talking or texting?

Andrew Adeniyi (35:54):

Definitely texting for sure.

Mikey Meagher (35:56):

I agree. Much better with getting my thoughts out through words.

Andrew Adeniyi (36:05):


Mikey Meagher (36:05):

Favorite quote or motto?

Andrew Adeniyi (36:08):

Ooh, as it pertains to DEI, I would say it’s a quote from Brené Brown. She says, “You can have courage or you can have comfort, but you cannot have both.”

Mikey Meagher (36:17):

I don’t think I’ve heard that one. I like that.

Andrew Adeniyi (36:22):


Mikey Meagher (36:24):

And what are you starting this year and/or stopping?

Andrew Adeniyi (36:29):

Starting and/or stopping? I am going to start ensuring that more of the things I’m not good at when it comes to running a business, I get other people who are excellent at to do. So I am going to start being even more intentional with offloading some of those things this year. So I’m going to start doing, I guess that’s my start and stop. Stop doing things that I’m just not good at. I got to give that to someone else and I’m going to start being more intentional with ensuring other people do that.

Mikey Meagher (37:01):

Very nice.


Well, Andrew, thank you so much for joining me today. And I love hearing about your view and approach to DE&I and just being able to help employers create an engaged workforce is truly important. And I know here at DirectEmployers, we’ve been doing a lot internally to continue to cultivate our own culture here as well. And just in talking to you, you bring up a lot of good ideas and resources to help move us forward as well. And I know a lot of other employers and companies are going to definitely take something away from this. So thank you so much.

Andrew Adeniyi (37:42):

No problem. Thanks for the opportunity. I really appreciate it.

Candee Chambers (37:46):

Thank you for tuning in for another episode of the DE Talk Podcast. Stay connected with DirectEmployers on Facebook, Twitter and LinkedIn and subscribe to our emails by visiting to receive notifications of new episodes each month.

Candee Chambers
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