Hello everyone! How are you doing out there?
Happy Summer to you! It’s beautiful out in Chicago as I’m recording this. In fact, I’m going to take a walk out there with my dog, Jake. My buddy Jake is almost 17 years old. Yes, that’s right 17-years young. He’s still kicking though and we show him all the love.
I will also tell you something else that my husband, John, gifted me with this week. He and my daughters went to visit his parents, so I have the house to myself. You heard that right too. Even though I’m working this week, it feels like I’m on vacation! I’m loving every minute of the peace and quiet before they get home tomorrow. I miss them, but mom still needs some silence every now and then.
Speaking about the younger generation, that is something that I cover with my guest, Tammy Dowley-Blackman. When I met Tammy, I knew I had to have her on the show because she is focusing some of her awesome work on Gen Z and how they will shape future generations of work. Tammy is busy though because she has multiple companies including the TDB Group, the Looking Forward Lab, and more.
During our conversation, Tammy and I talked about:
- How wearing multiple hats, including CEO, board member, consultant, and more helped her in her career.
- Tammy’s thoughts on Gen Z and what changes they are bringing to work.
- We also touch on Gen Alpha because my little one, Olivia, is a Gen Alpha.
- What other leadership and leadership development trends Tammy is seeing with the companies that she works with day in and day out.
- And how Diversity, Equity, Inclusion, Accessibility, and Belonging (DEIAB) and racial equity (RE) are critical in today’s workplaces.
Check out our website: Brave Women at Work
Listen to the podcast here
Discussing Leadership Development Trends For Gen Z With Tammy Dowley-Blackman
I’m so glad you’re here. How are you doing out there? I’m going to take a walk out there with my dog, Jake. I’ve never talked about him across 130-some episodes. My buddy Jake is a family member. He is young and still kicking though. We show him all the love. My girls love him. I’m going to give him some outdoor belly rubs and a nice walk, which I’m sure he will enjoy.
I will also tell you something else that my husband, John, gifted me. He asked me, “I want to visit my parents out in Texas. You’ve got a lot of work to do. You can have the house to yourself for an entire week. You heard that right too.” Even though I am working, I went to a conference also, it feels like I’m on vacation in the evenings. All of the working moms out there know what I’m talking about.
I am loving every minute of the peace and quiet before they get home. I miss them terribly. I don’t want to sound like I don’t miss them. I do miss them. I’m giving them all the FaceTime hugs and kisses every night but Mama Bear still needs some silence every now and again. It has been much appreciated. If John reads this, I thank you and I love you so much.
Speaking about the younger generation, that is something that I cover with my guest Tammy Dowley-Blackman. When I met Tammy, I knew I had to have her on the show because she’s focusing some of her awesome work on Gen Z and how they will shape future generations of work. Tammy is a busy lady though because she has multiple companies, including the TDB Group, the Looking Forward Lab and more, which we chat about. During our conversation, Tammy and I talked about how wearing multiple hats, including CEO, board member, consultant and more helped her in her career.
That windy or jaunty road of our career can be super helpful. It’s something to encourage you as well. Know Tammy’s thoughts on Gen Z and what changes they’re going to be bringing to work. We also touch on Gen Alpha because my little one, Olivia, is a Generation Alpha. They’re real newbies but I was curious and asked Tammy some questions on that.
Know what other leadership and leadership development trends Tammy is seeing with companies that she works with on a day-in and day-out basis and how Diversity, Equity, Inclusion, Accessibility and Belonging or DEIAB and racial equity are critical in our workplaces. I love that Tammy educated me on the A and B or the Accessibility and Belonging part of that acronym because we have never talked about that on the show before. I’m glad that she educated me. Hopefully, we will expand your minds around that too.
Here is more about Tammy. Tammy Dowley-Blackman is an African-American woman entrepreneur who has spent over two decades building companies focused on delivering innovative approaches to leadership and organizational development. The differentiator for Tammy’s companies is that she has sat at every seat at the table, serving as a CEO, a key decision maker and a board member providing fiduciary oversight for national organizations.
She has been a sought-after consultant, helping organizations plan and implement strategies. She has been a leadership development content creator, assisting individuals and organizations to grow and train their workforces. She has also been a key partner to corporations, nonprofits and philanthropic institutions. In addition to her consulting experience and the work she does in her businesses, Tammy has developed partnership programs for higher education in the philanthropic sector.
She has served as an executive director and chief development officer for affiliates of two national nonprofits. She has also taught Nonprofit Management at Cambridge College and Lesley University as well as served as a senior fellow for the Boston University School of Management’s Institute for Nonprofit Management and Leadership. She completed her undergraduate degree at Oberlin College and her graduate degree at Harvard University.
Before we get started, if you are enjoying the show, as I always say, please leave a rating and review on Apple Podcasts and Spotify. We had a review saying, “This is a best-kept secret. All women should learn and hear this show.” Let’s not keep it a secret. Let’s spread it out in the world. I want to get this content into the hands of more women. If you’ve already left a rating and review, I thank you so much. As always, your support of this show means the absolute world to me. Thank you.
You can also share the show with your family members, friends or colleagues on any of your social media feeds. Don’t forget to tag me. I love to be tagged in your posts. Finally, if you haven’t heard, I have some new freebies on my website for you. I created these as a response to the work that I’m doing with my coaching clients. The three freebies are 24 Career and Leadership Affirmations that you can use every day to get in good head space. We need to keep that positivity up.
A career can be hard. It’s up and down. We know it’s a journey. Those affirmations help. The 5 Steps to Managing Imposter Syndrome when it strikes. We all have had that, whether you’re turning a career corner or advancing. Sometimes self-confidence and doubt strike. It happens. It’s part of the human condition. I have created a secondary freebie for you to work through Imposter syndrome. The one that’s being snatched up the most is negotiation. It’s called Get Paid: 10 Negotiation Tips.
If you’re a woman out there that needs help with getting paid for your contributions at work or you would like to ask for more in terms of flexibility, a different schedule and other benefits, please download this freebie. It is clear and concise. It’s a step in the right direction to ensure that your next negotiation is positive and that you are super happy with the results. You can grab the one on the negotiation or any of the freebies on my site. Let’s welcome Tammy to the show.
Tammy, welcome to the show. How are you?
I am good. Thank you for having me.
On LinkedIn, you posted pictures. Were you in Dubai? You’re a busy person.
Jen, you’re wonderful to have been on there and seen things on LinkedIn. I was in Dubai in late February and early March 2023 on a very different trip than those I typically have the pleasure of taking but it was exciting. I got a chance to meet new entrepreneurs there and do some work. It was fun.
It’s on my list. Did you enjoy it? Are there any tips for us if we go to Dubai in the future?
One of the things that made this trip particularly special was that I was doing it for two reasons. One was for business but also to support another woman-owned business. I say that because not only was it successful in supporting this other woman-owned business but two women-owned businesses because it’s also the person who is the travel agent who booked all of this.
By doing it that way, it turned out to be an amazing trip because I was there with about 90 or so other people. I tend to have to be by myself in travel or there might be a very small group of people I’m connecting with at a conference. All of it was planned with these 90 or so people in mind. It was this opportunity to meet great people. Many of them are here from the DC, Virginia and Maryland areas where I’m based but others came from other places.
It also makes some of the activities in Dubai far more interesting and fun. I was there on business but we also got a chance to do some other things like going out to the desert. That’s not something that necessarily I would have done by myself if I didn’t know the group. There was a boat trip, something I may not necessarily have done if it was just myself. Going with at least a small group would be incredibly fun. It gives you a lot more opportunities around some of the activities you might select.
I have the travel book too. As soon as I talked to you, I knew I needed to ask. Thank you for entertaining my questions about Dubai.
That’s great. You have to let me know when you go.
We will keep in touch. I’m curious more about your background story. Tell us how you’ve gotten to where you are. People will ask, “Where do you want me to start?” You can start anywhere you want. You can tell me from the beginning as long as it doesn’t take up a whole hour or you can go from a certain point. Tell us a little bit more about your story.
I am based here in Baltimore, Maryland and have been here for years but prior to that, I lived in New England, particularly in the Cambridge-Boston area for about thirteen years though I was also in some other parts of New England during that time. Originally, I’m from North Carolina. I’m a double Carolinian. My father is from North Carolina. My mother is from South Carolina.
It’s always wonderful to get back as I was there on business at the University of North Carolina School of Law. It’s lovely being at home even though it’s not where I spent most of my growing up. I spent my time going back and forth between North Carolina and Southern New Jersey. I’ve had this very mixed background of where I’ve lived. It has been a pleasure. That’s not including the places I’ve lived for work, including Southern and Northern California, the Midwest and New York. It has been fun.
This goes part and parcel to what I’m going to ask you. You’ve been to all these places. You’re an explorer as part of your life. I’m sure you’ve traveled to other places too. On your site, I also noticed that you wear many different hats or have worn many different hats in your career. Your site listed CEO, board member and consultant. I’m curious how this has colored your perspective on leadership and working.
It has informed my work in so many ways. The idea of being comfortable with all of these different hats goes back a little bit further in terms of where I started my career. It was at the Brooklyn Academy of Music. I always say that though I’m not a singer, dancer or performer, that appreciation for the artistic world, the development of ideas for communities and bringing communities into artistic spaces ended up informing all of my work and gave me the courage to be okay with how I like different things. I like trying different things. I didn’t have to feel locked into any one thing.
My career spanned everything from higher education to secondary school education and nonprofits. I worked with corporate. I have not myself been in the corporate arena but I’m working with corporate clients and being a CEO and a board president. All of those things have been wonderful but they got informed by the work I started with right out of college and going to the Brooklyn Academy of Music.
Out of curiosity, when you were at the Brooklyn Academy of Music, were you originally wanting to be in music for your career? I wanted to understand where that came about.
I get that question a lot though because I graduated from Oberlin College, which is based in Oberlin, Ohio. Many people know it because of the Conservatory of Music but what many don’t know is that the College of Arts and Sciences is bigger. There are 2,500 students in total. Most of those students are in the College of Arts and Sciences and a small number in the conservatory, which is one of the best in the country. It was a wonderful experience being there because growing up, my parents couldn’t afford it. I didn’t have a lot of opportunities to be around the arts.
Having those things swarming around me though I was a College of Arts and Sciences student majoring in English, African-American studies and Women’s Studies, I could take classes, learn about performing arts and attend world-class theaters. We had a wonderful world-class museum there. This is where the interest got sparked. It’s the place that opened the doors because then it made it possible for me to say, “I can go to the Brooklyn Academy of Music even though I’ve not majored in music, performing arts or visual arts.” I found my space there. I ended up in project management and community engagement, seeing what it looked like to develop projects and a whole community.
That’s what the Brooklyn Academy of Music was investing in. The Brooklyn that we know now and the way the Brooklyn Academy of Music looks now was a design of its former CEO who has since passed. Harvey Lichtenstein was a wonderful man. He was thinking about what it could look like. Decades forward and that vision was manifested. I got to be there and see that. Both Oberlin and Brooklyn Academy of Music got to inform my work.
That is amazing for a couple of reasons. I assume like so many people. Thanks for expanding on that. When you hear the Academy of Music, you’re thinking it’s simply music but what an amazing environment that the founder created to allow you to be okay with pivoting and trying new things. I’ve already heard that as a throughline in our conversation.
It’s something that we all could learn from, me included. I didn’t know what I was doing when I was starting a show. I’m on the banking side of the world. People would ask me, “Did you take a class? How did you learn?” I’m like, “I stumbled through it. I learned over 100-plus episodes.” That’s how a lot of life is. Thanks for reinforcing, highlighting and saying, “It’s okay to try new things.”
This is a lesson for all of us. It’s not just people who are creating the vision. That gentleman I was mentioning, Harvey Lichtenstein, was the CEO of BAM, which had been around for 100 years prior or more. He was CEO at that time but then there were amazing people that I worked with that were part of that team. Two of them taught me a ton. One of them was a dancer. Her name is Liz Thompson and the other is Mikki Shepard. Mikki was not a dancer but she understood philanthropy and what it means to build initiatives.
I got a chance to not only be in this place that I may not have ever thought I would be in but I got a chance to see in this case in particular these two powerful and interesting women who were showing me what it meant to be able to design a career and think about how you were going to engage. They opened up new skillsets to me like fundraising. That took me into then being comfortable with becoming a CEO of nonprofits.
They were teaching me what it looked like to be able to bring people to the table who might not necessarily be people that you would have gotten to know otherwise or very different work than you do. All of those things were important experiences and things I spent a lot of time sharing particularly with those who are Gen Z. We do so much work with spending time, trying to help them understand what it means to design a career and a life and then how you go about translating that design to make it happen.
Let’s talk about things you’ve designed and created. Let’s start with the Looking Forward Lab. You may have given me a nugget of what it is but tell me. What is the Looking Forward Lab? Why did you decide to create it?
There are two things that are connected here. They’re important. People can say, “You don’t even know what they mean yet.” You can hold them still and say, “I need to figure those out. I will figure that out later but I don’t have to know them now.” When I was fourteen years old, I was in a summer program in Massachusetts. In that summer program, I was asked to do research to write an essay. I say this to you because I discovered a word while I was doing this research. The word was galvanized.
I don’t know what to tell you. I’ve told other people this story. It’s not that I had never heard the word before but somehow, that word sat with me very differently. I remember writing it down, looking at it and feeling something wash over me, “I don’t know what to do with this but I know this is important.” Fast forward many decades later, that word is in the tagline under my company Tammy Dowley-Blackman Group, which is a suite of companies. TDB Group Strategic Advisory is the management consulting firm that started this business years ago.
Looking Forward Lab is focused on Gen Z, wanting them to enter healthily and positively into the workforce. It works with those who are training and educating Gen Z, namely higher ed institutions and then those who are hiring and managing Gen Z corporations, institutions, agencies and organizations to help them think through what it means to bring Gen Z who are so talented. They’re our most diverse generation and most populous generation. They’re a generation that cares deeply about Diversity, Equity, Inclusion, Accessibility and Belonging. They care deeply about climate and social justice. They come with so many skills, including being our most technologically-savvy generation.Gen Z is the most diverse and populous generation. They care deeply about diversity, equity, inclusion, accessibility, and belonging. Click To Tweet
That company was designed, understanding that they were going to be different and need something different and anticipating that it might be hard for someone hiring to translate what they might need or even those who are educating them to feel like they couldn’t catch up to all of what they might need. Though they are our target audience, we do a lot of the work with those who are preparing them and then entering them into the workforce to help make that happen if they enter in a way that’s positive and healthy. The word galvanized carries through there.
Lastly, it carries through to the last company, which is Cooper+Lowe. This company was built because I was getting so many questions from women asking me, “How did you build a company with no experience, capital or mentorship?” I didn’t go through any accelerator program. I was answering their questions and then realizing from them saying, “Don’t answer our questions one by one. Can you help us do this as a group?”
We have created what’s called the Orange Box Accelerator Program specifically for women who are starting and thinking about entrepreneurship but also thinking about thought leadership as to where they might take their experiences and interest. Not everyone has to be an entrepreneur. The word galvanize ended up helping to create not only one company, Looking Forward Lab but became this tagline, “Galvanizing 1 million leaders over 3 companies,” the suite of companies that exist under Tammy Dowley-Blackman Group.
You must have quite a tribe underneath you. As an entrepreneur, an owner and a founder of three companies, have you had to learn how to ask for help?
Something that I enjoy very much is letting other people take over some things that they’re much better at than I am. I love that we have been able to bring lots of particularly women and women of color into my business and being able to train them and help them launch businesses. I love it at the end of the year when we’re doing all of our final end-of-year accounting or when I’m doing my recertifications for women in business and enterprise, for example.
It says, “How many team members do you have, both those who are full-time and part-time but also those who are 1099 subcontractors?” I’m able to list anywhere between 10 and 20 people. I’m having an impact on their lives and helping them to build a business, have an income and impact their children and their communities. I’m so incredibly proud of all the work that all of us get to do. I couldn’t do it alone.
Congratulations on having not 1 or 2 but 3 successful thriving businesses. Back to Gen Z, I’m asking selfishly for my daughters. I have two daughters. I’ve been blessed with daughters. That’s one of the reasons I do this show. I want them to have some of the training and the resources from powerful women all over the world that I wish I would have had. I don’t know about you but I wish I would have had these stories and learnings. I do this for them. One of my daughters is Gen Z, firmly planted. They’re about under seven years apart. My other one is Gen Alpha. I don’t know if it’s too early but do you have any thoughts on the differences between Gen Z and Gen Alpha?
We’re still learning. I love that you’re a mom of daughters. I’m the mom of one daughter, my only child. This is part of how Looking Forward came to be. I was looking at her and watching her. The word galvanize is one that I picked up very young in my career thinking about holding it. Looking Forward was the same. I picked it up when I was in higher education. I’ll never forget getting something sent to me in the mail and looking at it. It had Looking Forward. It landed with me and I thought, “That’s going to be important. Hold that.”
Fast forward many years, I’m looking at my daughter and watching things that she’s interested in. She too is firmly part of Gen Z. I thought, “This generation is going to be so much smarter and more interesting.” There are also things I can see they’re going to need that we used to do or we know. We as seasoned folks will be able to support them. I thought, “I want to be on the front lines of this.”
Without knowing, I had a number of clients through the strategic consulting firm who were asking for things and thinking that it was about Diversity, Equity and Inclusion, “Did it mean about communication styles, leadership style or all these other things except it was generational?” Our companies have always done lots of different work, strategic planning and executive coaching. In this instance, we were being asked to help them think through Diversity, Equity and Inclusion. We came back and said, “This is about generational styles.”
That leads to communication style or leadership style differences but there are so many assets here and assets that I was already watching carefully of my daughter. It’s important that we look at them and know that they bring so many assets to the table but there are also things that we can be helpful. As far as Generation Alpha, we’re learning. They are going to be potentially less a populous generation but they are going to be equally as impactful as a generation.
They’re going to pick up the legacy, particularly around these important issues like climate change. Sadly, they are going to be burdened with a lot of the decisions that are being made that are not necessarily in the best interest of everyone. They are going to take the reins and peel back some of what we are seeing as laws that feel punitive and harmful. They’re going to help us rethink what it means to center humanity and differences as a good thing versus someone assuming that it has to be negative.
I’m not asking your age. I don’t need to know your generation but I’m firmly Gen X. I don’t know about Gen Alpha. I agree with you that they’re too young yet but even the Millennials and early Gen Z-ers or older Gen Z-ers shock me with their boldness. As Gen X-ers, we were the kids of the Boomer generation. We were trained to keep on keeping on.
We were a small generation. We were a confused generation sandwiched in between because I remember up until college, I didn’t have the internet, shocking everyone. I understand. If you’re a Millennial or a Gen Z, you’re probably shocked but I didn’t have that. We lived at a time when we didn’t have the internet and then all of a sudden, we have the internet. We have seen both. I’m curious about what changes you think the Gen Z-ers and hopefully the Alphas will bring to work.
For Alphas, we don’t know for sure but Gen Z-ers have already brought something very different to work. We are seeing it across both the TDB Group Strategic Advisory and the work we’re doing with Looking Forward Lab. We get CEOs, management team members, senior leaders and department heads who are saying, “I am pulling my hair out. I’m not sure what to do.”
They’re saying that with a question attached, “I don’t know what to do. Please help me,” but not in a way, for most of them, that is about being derogatory and negative against Gen Z. They’re saying, “I want them to thrive. They are so smart and interesting. I want them to succeed. I want all of us to thrive and succeed but I’m not sure I’m hitting the mark, meeting them where they are and translating things well. I don’t want to look bad in front of them. I don’t want to disappoint.”
I don’t think Gen Z realizes how many people who are older are saying, “I don’t want to disappoint and embarrass. I don’t want them to feel like they’re not wanted here. I want to do my very best to make them feel like they should be here to be welcome.” I do work with some managers, leadership team members and CEOs who are not of that and who are much more, “Pull yourself up by your bootstraps. I had to go the hard way. Why can’t you go the hard way?”
We work on both sides of it. We work with those saying, “You didn’t want to go the hard way either. Why should anyone else? How is that good for any of us?” We go with those who are saying, “I want to do the right thing. I want them to have a good experience and help them to get confident and comfortable, get some tools and help them to think through how to meet Gen Z halfway.”
On the reverse, we work with Gen Z-ers who are so complimentary to those they work with. They’re very humble. They want to do well. They too are nervous about how to show up and make sure that they’re doing their best job. We try to give them tools that will build their confidence, get them to be open to asking questions and get them more comfortable sometimes having to work singularly because many Gen Z-ers have spent a lot of time working collaboratively, which is not a bad thing but sometimes, you do need them to hold a project and see it all the way through by themselves.
We’re getting them more comfortable with that and some of the things that are about professional protocol. We can’t be mad at them that they don’t know what we didn’t teach them. They have been living on the internet and then we have had COVID. It’s very difficult. I don’t know if many people know that Gen Z is the first generation in 50 years to come to the workforce with the least amount of professional experience.
Like you, I also am a Gen X-er. I worked at my local bodega. I worked in retail. I babysat. I helped do lawns and all these things. For many of our Gen Z-ers, it’s not because they don’t want to work. It’s because so many times, their families or parents have been forcing them and pushing them for a good reason to say, “You have to get prepared for the ACTs or the SATs. You have to play two sports and an instrument.”
Their lives have been so organized and choreographed that they have had little time to explore, ask questions and get to know some of those things that you or I learned through osmosis by watching people, being in that store, mowing that lawn, asking for payment, babysitting or watching the parents that we babysat for and taking cues from them.
They didn’t have as many of those experiences. That can make it tough for them to know professionally the protocol or the standards for entering the workforce, which is different. They in no way lack competency but they’re nervous, “How do I even show up?” We help them get comfortable with those kinds of things but somehow sometimes, that can get translated by some who are being harsher. They’re lazy, complacent and not working hard enough.Gen Z doesn’t have as many job opportunities as the older generation. It may be tough for them to enter the workforce not because they lack competency but they are nervous about showing up. Click To Tweet
It’s not just being a mom of a Gen Z. It truly is looking at the totality of the situation and having hundreds of clients across the country. We work on these issues. It is saying that’s not a fair assessment. We’re asking more of what we provided them the opportunity to be able to do. I try to get both sides to get somewhere in the middle.
This is an opinion question. I would love your thoughts. As Gen X-ers, we’re the parents of the Gen Z-ers. Do we do our kids a disservice by choreographing every minute of their lives and not allowing them to get jobs or not encouraging them to get that professional work experience earlier?
This is not trying to hedge or be coy. I truly do believe there’s a both/and. As a mom of a Gen Z-er, we stressed work but we were also very fortunate. We also have to understand that it has been more difficult. Parents were responding to the times. We have become much more technologically literate. It’s not as easy to get a job for some of our youngsters, particularly if you don’t have city programs that help them. This is across the board. This is regardless of income and education.
I use Cambridge, Massachusetts as an example of where we lived and where our daughter did most of her growing up. She says all the time that she is so thankful that she grew up there where it truly was centering families and children. They had a program called the Mayor’s Program. Our daughter started working at fourteen. You could work from the ages of 14 to 21. You were guaranteed a job and that job would pay you in the city of Cambridge. This is a couple of years ago. It was paying her $15 an hour.
What they did was they made every employee an employee of the city of Cambridge. They got a retirement plan. My daughter had a retirement plan at fourteen years old. They set them up with banks so that when they came to sign up for the job and they went through orientation, there were local banks there to help them set up their first account if they didn’t have one. They didn’t care who your parents were, what their income was or what part of the city.
When I first heard of some of our friends whose children are going through this program, I assumed it was that you had to be a certain age, live in a certain part of the city or had to attend public school. They said no. It was open as a level playing field. If you lived in the city of Cambridge, this benefit was there for them. They need to come and fill out the paperwork. It wasn’t even applying, “You can be accepted or not.” Fill out the paperwork to get on the payroll. You gauge some ranked choices of what you’re interested in.
One year, my daughter worked at a summer camp and a community center. Another year, she was working for an eco-environment organization. It was there for them. She got great skills. She understood what it meant to work and get paid. She had her money. She had a bank account and a retirement account at fourteen years old. That’s the investment we should have across the country.
We can’t say, “Some kids’ families are affluent and wealthy. They don’t need that.” It’s more about, “I’ve got them doing three sports. They’re vacationing and those things. I don’t begrudge those families at all.” For some families, it’s truly their children who would want to but our cities have disinvested in these kinds of programs. Where do you go? There are not enough jobs between some of the retail things that we used to have when many of those retail shops closed.
A lot of those jobs have gone to older adults. It can be very difficult to get a job. I don’t think that we should penalize Gen Z-ers but I do think sometimes that some parents may have done more choreographing than was needed but there are other times when simply parents would have wished for an opportunity and they can’t find a viable one. They’re available in their community.
Your daughter knew about retirement planning at fourteen. That’s pretty amazing. Kudos to you. What a blessing that you lived in that neighborhood.
I don’t even know if the game still exists but I can remember when she was six years old, we purchased this game, whatever one likes about the idea of talking about these things with their kids or not. My husband and I did not come from affluence. My parents barely had middle school educations and moved to the North to find good jobs, trying to make a way. That’s how I got to the North to get an education. They were trying to leave Jim Crow South, sharecropping and those things. We were very limited in what we had available to us.
I can remember my mother getting her GED at 25 years old and us dancing in my kitchen and being so excited. I knew it was special and a big deal that she had gotten this GED. She was clear with me. She said, “This is something I wish I could have had many years ago. You are expected to go much further than this. It may be only what I have but this is an achievement. It’s something that can help us because now I can check on a box. I have a high school diploma. That can open up some other jobs for me. Though they may not pay as well as if I had a college degree or a graduate degree, still it gives us a better opportunity.” I appreciated being able to see those things and think about those things.
When we had our daughter, we started thinking about what this looks like to show her. When she was six years old, we got her this game called the Cashflow game. If any family is thinking about how you pass on financial literacy, it’s one of those things that we have done as an entire country. We have done a very poor job. We don’t make it required as part of your education at any level. Most school districts and states do not. We don’t provide enough opportunities.
Here was Cambridge, Massachusetts trying to provide financial literacy by helping students open bank accounts who didn’t have them. Our daughter already had one but when she was six years old, we got this game. This game teaches little ones about liabilities and assets. It’s different from Monopoly. It’s teaching them the actual words in a bank account, retirement accounts, a mortgage and all these things.
We’re going off a little bit but one of my favorite stories is we went into a store. We were going to head to the movies one day. We stopped in a Panera Bread or something for lunch and ordered. I’m about to pay. My daughter is about 7 or 8 at that point. She stops me and says, “Mommy, you’re paying with your debit card or cash, not your credit card. You do not want interest in a Turkey sandwich.” The person behind the counter stopped, looked and said, “I have to ask you. Did I hear her say what I thought she said?” I said yes. I said to my daughter, “I am using my debit card. Why?” She said, “That comes right out but we do not want to pay interest on a Turkey sandwich.”
I said, “That right there is a lesson to carry through your whole life.” We have to put things in front of them. Gen Z is no different if we don’t put things in front of them. The kinds of things that we’re putting in front of them is, “You shouldn’t have to wait until your twenty years in your career to get executive coaching. You should ask for the things that you’re interested in.”
Be bold but be respectful in trying to raise your hand, “I’m making a suggestion about how we might do this differently because I have a little bit more technology experience but I’m not dismissing the other experience that is around this table.” That’s what we’re trying to get them as young professionals to understand. They bring great value. They have assets to offer but they also need to work with those who have been there who also have lots of value and assets to bring because they’ve got great experience.
I love that story. Thank you for sharing that personal story. I’m sure that showed some people, “I got some work to do with my kids and by myself.” I knew where you got this game because banking is my longtime career for over twenty years. As a resource for everyone, there are a couple of versions of it. Cashflow is by an author and entrepreneur called Robert Kiyosaki.
He’s written a series of books. It’s called Rich Dad Poor Dad. It’s from the early ’90s or mid-’90s. I read that book in 2022. It rocked my world. Even though I’m in banking, I was like, “I wish I would have had this a long time ago.” Check out that book. This has nothing to do with Tammy, my businesses or what we do but those are so critical for adults, kids and everyone to learn. Thanks for mentioning that resource.
That’s the book. I read it years ago. I reread it. It’s more about a parable. Do I think every point of it is true? There have been some controversies around some of it but the idea of it and that game were golden to be able to play with my six-year-old and get her to learn so she could understand and value what her dad and I were working so hard to have because we didn’t have those things.
We were trying to set her up at fourteen years old to be able to walk in with confidence, understand this and see the value of why she pulls out money every month from her checking account to go into her mutual fund account. That’s what she started. We said to her, “If you do this, you will be able to have something beyond anything else. You have this and leave it.” It’s things I wish I had known. My parents knew things and wanted to offer but they didn’t have any ability to pull some of those pieces together. I’m glad that we get to do it with our daughter.
Everyone, check out those resources. Those resources are golden. Let’s pivot a little bit. I want to talk about leadership development in totality, not just with Gen Z. With your other businesses, you do executive coaching and leadership development for all levels. What are some trends that you’re seeing in leadership development?
When people ask what’s the thread that connects all of these businesses, it’s not just that tagline of, “Galvanizing one million leaders,” but leadership and organizational development are what crosses all of those companies, TDB Group Strategic Advisory, Looking Forward Lab and Cooper+Lowe. We think about this in the totality, “What are we seeing? What can we pull across all three companies? What’s applicable? What’s needed? What kind of resources?”
This goes back to your earlier question about Gen Z-ers being bolder and asking for what they need. Gen Z-ers realize that the world is complicated. They realize that they’re entering with some things that feel far more unknown than that we had. They also realize that the cost of being able to live is very expensive. We are seeing across leadership that they’re trying to think, “What do I need to do? This isn’t about making money. This is about being able to do the work that’s most important to me and that I can bring value and still have a career.”Gen Z realizes that the world is complicated. They are entering into more unknowns than older generations. Even the cost of living for them is even more expensive. Click To Tweet
They’re asking those questions in a much different way than we were but to your point about seeing it in the totality, I’m seeing leaders who are advanced in their careers stopping to ask themselves that question in a different way than they ever have before. Some of them are saying, “I’m staying put in the industry I’m in but I want to do more.” They’re starting to do things like build out employee resource groups. Many people have heard of these ERGs but not necessarily every company has them.
I’m working with a big real estate company that has offices in nine countries. One of the big pieces of work we’re helping them to build out is their employee resource groups because their realization was that this is something that could impact everyone in the company, not something held off for a few. We’re also seeing and advising a lot more around executive coaching across the spectrum of not only departments but also positions and tenure. It isn’t something that you should have to wait twenty years into your career.
We’re particularly mindful of executive coaching for women and those who have been part of marginalized communities, whether that’s LGBTQ or their religion, particularly for women and people of color because they have tended to either not have those experiences at all or to get them very late while so much has already been done that could have changed the trajectory of their career. We’re organizing those things far earlier.
Another trend we’re seeing is a lot more around how we lead. I was with one of our clients that we partner with. We were talking about whether they should go to a co-director model. You will see a lot of folks who are younger and a lot of Gen Z-ers who are up for that model because they’re worried that the ways in which we ask CEOs, whether they are CEOs of corporations, government agencies, nonprofits or philanthropic institutions. The amount we have asked them to carry in the past is the world has become too complicated and it is too much for one person to hold.
You’re seeing a lot more around co-directorship models. I can say to you that they’re not the right thing for every organization. I was Board President of a $64 million capacity-building nonprofit organization based in Boston. We worked across many states in the country. I was Board President for 75 organizations that lived under our umbrella and tax ID. It’s called fiscal sponsorship.
In that instance when we had a retiring CEO and we were hiring for a new CEO, we didn’t feel like the organization was yet right for a co-director because it would have meant having to bring in someone or potentially two people from the outside. The co-director ship model works best when you select two people internally who already know the organization and the culture and already potentially have worked together. That’s the far healthier model.
We were not opposed to the idea of co-directors but it didn’t make sense for where this organization was at that time. We put a solid number two as we wanted solid leadership team members, a good HR and VP, a great CFO and COO and a VP of Strategy because all of those things can supplement. We’re seeing a lot more around how we lead and what it looks like in our org chart. That’s some of what we’re seeing in the totality of leadership development.
Thank you for sharing that because these are new concepts, quite frankly, that I haven’t heard. That was one of the many reasons why I was excited to have you on because you’re more on the forefront than some of my other guests. No offense to them. This is what you do. Thank you for sharing those trends. One of the other things I wanted you to comment on could be an entirely separate episode. I don’t want to brush past the very tip of the iceberg.
I wanted to have you comment on an organization’s commitment to Diversity, Equity and Inclusion. Most people hear of DEI but you also have added Accessibility and Belonging. It’s DEIAB. I’ve had other guests that have talked about DEI but not DEIAB. I wanted you to touch on that and also racial equity and your thoughts on that in our work environment.
We could have a whole separate episode but I’ll be very brief about this. The centering of it is important. These are issues that were always there. As a country and a society, it has been harder. Some of that as we know here in the United States is our history particularly talking about race. I remind people though that DEIB is not limited to race. It is so much more. When we work in organizations, we’re talking about equity.
Equity and being equitable are two different things. I’m always mindful. There’s a great graphic around this that I show when we’re talking about learning opportunities with boards of directors, leaders and team members across all kinds of industries, corporate, government, nonprofit and philanthropic. We hone in on what’s the difference between equity and equality. I’ll give you a quick visual.
If you were thinking about the idea of equity, I would encourage you to start with what might be equitable. If you’ve got people who are standing up to a fence and you’ve got them all trying to look out at a ballgame, the reality is that the three people standing there together don’t all have the same experience. You might have one who can fully see the game and is tall but we’ve got boxes for that person to stand on. We’ve got another person that has a box to stand on. They can barely see over but at least they can see over a little bit. You’ve got the person who doesn’t have a box at all and can’t see any of the game. That’s the reality for most people.
We’ve got some who are fine, some who are not and some in the middle but then when you start moving across that spectrum and thinking about what’s equitable and equity and this is where it gets confusing for some folks, you start thinking about the idea that equitable is, “I gave you all the same number of boxes. You should all be able to see the game,” but you added the ability of that person who’s tall to see even more of the game. Maybe you gave that person who could barely see over the fence a better chance to get a little bit more over the fence. Giving that person who was already almost underground a box or two doesn’t do anything for them.
Think about the idea when we move to equity as we’re saying, “What does each of those people need so that we all can thrive?” The person who’s got more boxes than they need because they can already see over the fence doesn’t need any. Taking away those boxes doesn’t do anything. It doesn’t take anything away from them. In this country, somehow this conversation can sometimes become about, “You took something from me to give it to someone else. Somehow I’m less than,” when you are still more than fine. It’s about what each person needs.
This is not just about race, gender, religion, sexual orientation or what neighborhood you live in. Do you have health insurance or not? We’re saying that this is about humanity and the way in which we think about what everyone needs. That’s why we talk about it in that way. We talk about Accessibility and Belonging as, “What do I have access to?” Accessibility could be mobility issues. It could be that I don’t see well. It could be any number of things.
I give you my example. I do this work and I still have to be reminded. I was leading a large meeting. We had someone in that meeting who needed extra breaks and had reminded me when we did the agenda but because we had a short period, I simply said, “Ask people if they needed a break,” when I should have still reflected on the agenda for 2 or 3 more breaks so it wouldn’t be that if I asked, 1 or 2 people left and the others were like, “We are still here.” It wasn’t in any way to be disrespectful.
We have two more meetings with that group. You better believe I will make sure to go ahead and put very clearly there the additional breaks so everyone takes the breaks and no 1 or 2 people feel, “That was special treatment for me because I’m differently-abled. I’m in a wheelchair. I’m neurodivergent and it’s hard for me to sit and focus for three hours.” There should have been breaks for everyone, “We’re breaking for three ten-minute breaks, how people chose to use that time.”
This is where we are trying to move to. In this country, people can try to make this all about race. Race is important and that’s why some of our partners want to very specifically talk about racial equity but this is about equity much more broadly. How do we provide for everyone to meet them where they are so that everyone can thrive, be fully participatory and feel like they’re valued? That’s where belonging comes in. How do I get to belong even if I didn’t grow up here, I don’t look like you and I don’t speak the same language? How do we create a space where we all get to belong and feel like we can be here in this office, camp, college classroom or whatever it might be?
Thank you. That’s probably one of the clearest ways I’ve heard it explained. It could be a very confusing topic. We could have a whole other episode navigating it and what is it like to be an employer or an organization navigating it. Thank you for sharing that. I ask this question to all of my guests. You are no exception. I would love to hear your thoughts. What are 1 to 2 ways that you believe women can be braver at work in the workforce?
I love that this has been coming up a lot if you’re on Instagram, which I happen to love or TikTok, which I also love and all of these places where people are getting so much incredible and valuable information. Depending on where you are some things are slightly different. In terms of age, your economic status, where you live or education, some of these things could be different but these things are the same for all of us regardless of those things I’ve named.
The ways in which I’m teaching my daughter to be braver is about being comfortable with who she is. This world can do a real disservice to women, particularly women of color, in all kinds of ways and make us feel in some way that we are less than others or we bring less to the table when what we know is that when you invest in women, you invest in entire communities. Women will give everything to their community and less to themselves if it means they get to bring other people along.
I’m telling my daughter all the time, “You are enough. You don’t have to be anything other than who you are and the way in which you show up and care about people and the things that are important to you.” Taking away, particularly as a girl who’s Brown, that this society does not get to dictate who you are is one of the ways I talk to all women, particularly in the instance of my beautiful daughter.
The other way I talk about being brave is by going for these things that feel almost impossible. That’s why the last company, Cooper+Lowe, has been developed. The name Cooper+Lowe is special. Cooper is for Anna Julia Cooper who was an African-American woman who graduated from Oberlin College. She taught for decades in the public school system in Washington, DC. I did extensive research for a paper for her when I was in college.
One of the things I loved about Anna Julia Cooper is she went to get her doctoral degree at the Sorbonne when she was 65 years old. That is incredible to me. She was a Black woman in the 1900s doing something incredible. Lowe is named after Ann Lowe who many people don’t know. The designer of Jackie Kennedy’s wedding dress was a Black woman. Many people don’t know that. She designed her wedding dress for Jackie Kennedy. She is very little known. She ran her business designing couture dress wear for 40 years. This very humble woman dressed as a first lady-to-be. It’s incredible.
I’m always trying to show through my work. There’s nothing in my background that said that I should have gotten to go to college or graduate from Harvard with a graduate degree or that I should be able to have developed companies be successful. Even though I’m still learning every day and figuring it out, there’s nothing perfect over here. Everything says that I should have been a statistic.
I’m a statistic but a statistic in that I’ve met these goals and done these things that I hope have made my family, my community and others very proud. This is the things I’m saying to women. Be proud. Be who you are. You’re enough. Also, do not be afraid to go out there and try things so many times that you probably have been told you couldn’t or society has not set you up to do. I use Anna Julia Cooper and Ann Lowe as these incredible models for that.As a woman, you should always be proud of who you are. Do not be afraid to get out and try new things society has told you so many times you couldn’t do. Click To Tweet
I’ve got goosebumps. I am so pumped up. If you aren’t motivated by what you said, I don’t know. Thank you for inspiring me, motivating me and being here. It has been such a pleasure to get to know you and learn about all of the great work you’re putting into the world. Where can women and all of our audiences find you and your businesses online?
Thank you. They can go to TammyDB.com and find me. My name is Tammy Dowley-Blackman. It’s a little complicated but I’m told I’m the only Tammy Dowley-Blackman out there. Please go and check us out on the website. There will be a new website coming online but the current one is there and is fine. I would love to hear from you. I’m happy to answer your questions. I said it earlier. I would say it again. There’s no perfection here. I’m trying to figure things out like everyone else. I’m working hard like everyone else. I’m learning from a whole lot of other people and hoping I’m also helping other people to learn. It has been a pleasure. Thank you.
That’s a wrap for my chat with Tammy. I hope you found our discussion both valuable and inspiring. As a reminder, please rate, review and subscribe to the show on Apple Podcasts and Spotify. The show is also available on Google Podcasts and Stitcher. Until next time. Show up. Let’s look forward to the future and be brave.
- Tammy Dowley-Blackman
- TDB Group
- Looking Forward Lab
- 24 Career and Leadership Affirmations
- 5 Steps to Managing Imposter Syndrome
- Get Paid: 10 Negotiation Tips
- Rich Dad Poor Dad
- Apple Podcasts – Brave Women at Work
- Spotify – Brave Women at Work
- Google Podcasts – Brave Women at Work
- Stitcher – Brave Women at Work
About Tammy Dowley-Blackman
Tammy Dowley-Blackman is an African American woman entrepreneur who has spent almost two decades building companies focused on delivering innovative approaches to leadership and organizational development. The differentiator for Tammy’s companies is that she has sat at every seat at the table serving as:
A CEO and key decision-maker
A board member providing fiduciary oversight for national organizations
A sought after consultant helping organizations plan and implement strategy
A leadership development content creator assisting individuals and organizations grow and train their workforce
A key partner to corporations, nonprofits and philanthropic institutions
In addition to her consulting experience, Tammy has developed partnership programs for higher education and the philanthropic sector. She served as Executive Director and Chief Development Officer for affiliates of two national nonprofits. Tammy has also taught Nonprofit Management at Cambridge College, and Lesley University, as well as served as a Senior Fellow for the Boston University School of Management’s Institute for Nonprofit Management and Leadership. She Completed her undergraduate degree at Oberlin College and graduate degree at Harvard University.