Leaders, Don’t Be the Friend Who Only Says ‘Happy Birthday’


Recently, our social media feeds have been plastered with companies announcing their support of the Black Lives Matter movement and other racial justice initiatives. Some of those announcements, from companies like Nike and Ben & Jerry’s, have been hailed widely. Others have been met with sharp criticism.

What differentiates the two groups is a historic catalog of action and commitment from one group—and an assumed “here one day, gone the next” mentality from the other.

“The intent of the messages is appropriate, and yet it needs to be backed up with action, commitment, and sustainability. It’s like a friend who only sends you a message once a year on your birthday; are they really a friend?” said Khalil Smith, NLI’s Vice President of Consulting and Practices, in a recent interview.

Because Nike and Ben & Jerry’s have consistently advocated for the cause of racial justice, their statements align with what we know about their brands, and ring true when received by the public at large.

Contrast that to companies who are entering the conversation for the first time. As Khalil explains, “If the only time you’re talking about race or equity is when something horrific breaks through the news cycle and you’re sending out a message at the same time as everyone else, that’s when it seems disingenuous.”

Now it’s time for companies to back up their commitments with real, sustained action. They need to go beyond just wading into the conversation, and do the work of implementing solutions. They need to be the type of friend who does more than just wish you a happy birthday.

To read the full interview with Khalil, click here.

Author: Cliff David

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