Jewel Edward Love, Jr. (he/him) is the Founder of Black Executive Men, which provides paid, executive coaching for impact-driven Black men in manager, director, VP, SVP, and C-suite roles who are looking to improve their seniority, salary, and job satisfaction. The firm has 15 employees across the United States and has already helped more than 500 Black men in leadership roles.
Including You Interview with Jewel Love
Full Interview Transcript
This is Including You. The new series from Lead at Any Level, Including You features stories from chief diversity officers and other executives who are creating inclusive cultures in their organizations. Our goal is to show what’s working in companies just like yours, to give you the tools you need to keep pushing for progress in your own workplace. We want to create belonging and opportunity for everyone Including You. And now here’s your host, Amy C. Waninger.
Amy C. Waninger:
Welcome back to Including You. I’m your host, Amy C. Waninger, the inclusion catalyst. My guest today is Jewel Edward Love Jr. He is the founder of Black Executive Men, which provides paid executive coaching for impact driven Black men in manager, director, VP, SVP and C-suite roles who are looking to improve their seniority, salary and job satisfaction. The firm has 15 employees across the US and has already helped more than 500 Black men in leadership roles. Jewel, welcome to the show.
Amy, thank you for having me. And of course, I love how we’ve got our great colorful shirts going on. I’m ready to rock this thing.
Amy C. Waninger:
That sounds great. I am so glad to have you. And this is a topic that we don’t hear a lot about, even in D&I think Black men sometimes are not left out, but they don’t get the spotlight very often. When we talk about people of color broadly, that doesn’t really put a spotlight on Black men. A lot of times Black women get a lot of special support at the intersection of being women and being Black, but Black men seem to be, if not on the periphery, certainly not in the center of a lot of D&I conversations. And so I’m curious why this new organization, why this new firm and why this focus on Black executive men?
Yeah, absolutely. So when I started my practice and I started as actually a psychotherapist, I’m a licensed psychotherapist in the state of California, I knew I wanted to work with Black men that there just weren’t a lot of services around for Black men. And in doing my work, more people started coming to me for coaching. They were looking for opportunities to advance professionally and wanted the skill sets and mindsets and connections to do that.
Now, I was fairly new to the corporate scene. I’d done a Harvard Summer venture management program. My dad is an entrepreneur, so very, very familiar with business. However, corporate as there’s a certain culture, there’s language, there’s communities there that you got to break into corporate and then you get your feet wet and then you gain some more experience. And I did that working with my clients and I learned a lot from them. And then I just started to geek out and nerd out on corporate culture and do a lot of research myself. And then I started getting gigs at Google and Microsoft and Nvidia primarily doing mental health for Black employees and sometimes more specifically Black men.
However, from that I got more coaching clients, learned to [inaudible 00:03:19] more, learned what’s going on in senior leadership roles and really doubled down on that specific niche community. And you’re absolutely right, there’s not a ton out there for Black men specifically to learn in a community where their unique identity can be addressed simultaneously. And the lens for teaching can go through the lens of a Black man. So it’s very… We’re not the only game in town, if you will, but there could be a lot more as far as training and coaching for Black men specifically. The need is great though, in fact, it’s overwhelming.
Amy C. Waninger:
And so when your clients come to you, what are the things that they’re most concerned about? What are the… I would imagine there’s sort of two parts to it. There’s the obstacles that they face in their organizations that are external to them, but then there are probably also some internal barriers or some internal blocks as well. Can you talk about what they’re coming to you with and how you help them?
Yeah, so it’s really three things is what it boils down to. It’s mindset, skillset and their network, their connections. The goals are really looking to achieve, are probably similar to everybody else, salary, seniority, and job satisfaction. However, we do it through a certain identity lens of working with Black men.
So what I find most common with my clients is they’re not positioning themselves at the highest value that they can be perceived as providing to an organization. We use a framework and it’s a three tiered positioning framework. So number one is specialists, these are people that are the best in the world at what they do, literally not figuratively; these are the people that are typically first in line for raises, promotions, new assignments, things of this nature.
A step-down, it’s going to be what we call a commodity hire. A commodity hire, whether you’re going for a promotion or a new job is somebody that’s qualified for the role, but they’re not best in class for the role. There’s nothing particularly unique or special in how they do what they do, but they are qualified. They’re usually given the job sent to the desk, expected to do a good job. And that’s pretty much it.
And then you have the bottom of the barrel, which is a corporate beggar. A corporate beggar is somebody that is pretty much willing to do any corporate role. They use phrases like, “I’ll take what I can get, I just need a job.” It’s the worst place to bargain from and to advance your career from.
What we do with the bulk of our clients who oftentimes fall in that mid-tier? They’re good at what they do, but they keep their head down. They don’t… They haven’t necessarily identified their professional mission, their impact statement, their zone of genius, their greatest trait or strength as far as their qualities are concerned, their proven system for what they do. Executive presence, they haven’t really honed in and highlighted what these are. So it keeps them at this commodity higher level, which makes it difficult for them to advance. We take them and we bring them to the specialist level so they’re able to catapult their careers within their current company or new company that they’re trying to work at.
Amy C. Waninger:
Now, it sounds like if you’re taking people who have see themselves as having a lot of peers or having a lot of equals in the workplace and you’re taking them to that level where they’re truly outstanding, not just in their own eyes but in the eyes of their employer, is that something anybody can do?
A hundred percent. Yeah, absolutely. So I’ll give you an idea. The first piece, it’s around professional mission. So professional mission, this is for anybody listening, it’s simply the impact that you want to have on the world of business. So let’s say that you retire. What is the impact? You want to grow a company to increasing market share? Do you want to… Let’s say you’re working over at Merck Pharma industry, you want to get seven new cancer drugs approved through the FDA. What is it when you retire that you can say, “On my industry or in the world of business, this is the impact that I made on the industry.”?
So those are businesses and then business goals, yours. And then you can really use that as your north star and filter different jobs opportunities to see if its values aligned. So that’s got to be important when you’re looking at a promotion or looking at getting a new job at a new company, is it truly values aligned for you? And so there’s a deeper sense of satisfaction when you’re working in an organization or a role where you have that alignment.
Also, companies like that much more as well to know that there’s a values alignment to know that you’re just not money driven, that there’s something deeper there for you in alignment with the organization. So that’s professional mission.
Impact statement. This is what Simon Sinek calls your why. This is your deeper purpose for why you’re doing what you’re doing. And how we define it is how you want to impact people, animals, or the planet. You pick one, even if you’re selling manager at Big O Tires, your impact statement could be impacting families, making sure that they get home safe. So you’re about family unity. Whatever that deeper mission or purpose is, that’s going to be your impact statement. And that’s important to know for yourself as well to ensure that the place that you’re working is going to be values aligned because it’s going to give you a deeper sense of satisfaction. Remember we talked about salary, seniority, job satisfaction.
Amy, just one other piece that I’ll share. It’s really around your zone of genius, knowing how you’re the best in the world at what you do, literally not figuratively. That is one of the most powerful positioning tools you can do to highlight your value for an organization or your next role. And that has to do with being a specialist. This is niching down.
So perhaps you’re a manager that helps millennials with productivity and retention at tech companies that are top 50 or that do between, something smaller, let’s just say $10 to $50 million a year. That’s a specialty role. And you’re going to have special insight and skillset. And if there’s an organization that has an issue with millennial retention or productivity and they’re at that type of revenue, you’re going to be top of the stack as far as the interview and likely for the job as well if you can sell it that you actually can help them get those results.
So that’s the specialist framework versus, “I’m a manager, I help people succeed. I do it well.” Okay, that’s nice, that’s good. How are you going to help? “I make sure people feel happy, they feel good, they’re motivated, and I’ve got this great experience.” That’s great. That’s very different from if they’re having issues on a specific part of the business that you can hone in, pinpoint solution and solve.
Amy C. Waninger:
I think this is brilliant and we see this a lot in entrepreneurial spaces, but not a lot of people are applying this in corporate spaces where people are actually looking to move up. And I think that this framework is going to be so helpful for so many people.
For Black executive men specifically, what are some of the things that companies need to be doing to make spaces more inclusive and more welcoming and more inviting to some of your clients? Because I would imagine that some of these corporate environments can be challenging for anyone, but especially if you’re coming from a minoritized or marginalized background.
Yeah, absolutely. And I want to echo that back, that corporate is competitive, it’s tough. And people are making all kind of shifts in their identity and who they are at home to who they have to be at work to succeed there. But that’s a given. And yet there are unique experiences in the process, which can make it challenging in different ways.
So as far as what companies can do to support Black men to succeed, grow into senior leadership roles or just stay retained and productive at the organization, coaching, executive coaching and making that available for them to have a Black male coach, if they want one, 50% do 50%, but for those that do, making that available within your roster of coaches or enabling them to have the budget for them to find that coach on their own, if that person is not on your roster, that’s a great place to go because they’re going to have not just questions about career development or day-to-day scenarios that they’re trying to navigate, but they’re going to want to talk about it sometimes or many times through a racialized lens.
And if they’re not able to do that with their manager or mentors because those managers or mentors don’t have that lived experience or just don’t have that insight, they’re going to keep it inside and they’re actually not going to learn how to address the challenges in front of them that they’re already seeing from a racialized lens. And unfortunately phrases like, “Race doesn’t matter, don’t worry about that.” While they may be coming from a very good place and trying to empower and help, it doesn’t meet the person where they’re at to talk through that, to possibly even get them to that place. And it just might not be helpful, so a wall can go up immediately.
So that’s one thing, having that opportunity for them to tap into coaching, executive coaching with a Black man, either having those coaches in-house or budget for them to seek them out externally.
One of the things that Amazon we’re in talks with them now about, and some other companies we’ve worked with as well, they actually have specific cohort training for Black men to come together and learn the skillsets needed to advance. There’s often an assumption that everybody knows everything that they need to do to advance. It’s just not true. It’s not true. They didn’t learn this stuff in undergrad. I don’t remember that class. I went to graduate school as well. And even in your MBA courses and programs, some of the stuff is not going to be covered. This is stuff that’s typically learned in the business world itself.
So having that cohort model, especially for your larger organizations where Black men, let’s say over eight weeks can come together, get the comradery and say, “Oh, this is not just me. Other Black men are struggling with this as well.” Creates a sense of community. And that’s something that employees are wanting more and more these days is to come to work, feel seen, heard and understood. It’s a whole new level of currency that staff are wanting these days in addition to the actual total compensation package. So that’s the second thing, is bringing a program that Black men can engage with inside of your company to learn the skill sets and have that cohort model for them to advance in your organization over the years.
Now, I get it, if you’re listening to this right now and saying, “How are we going to provide this for just Black men when we have all these other communities that want it as well?” And it’s not a bad idea to have these type of experiences for other communities as well. There is a political element around this.
So number one, it can inspire other communities to say, “We want this too.” And they should have it because it’s just going to help them grow and diversify your management ranks. So that’s the first thing.
The other thing is you’d be surprised at how many other groups are actually supportive of these happening. They’re aware, they see what’s going on with Black men as well. And for them to have this space, especially with a lot of the racialized violence that’s taken place in society, which is not to Black men exclusively, but it is highlighted quite a bit, there is quite a bit of support for these type of programs as well. So that would be the second thing is to have this type of internal professional development program or course led by experts for Black men specifically.
The last thing I’ll say, Amy, is something we’ve all heard time and time again, but there are a couple of misses that are happening with executive sponsors. Executive sponsors, these are for folks that may not know people at senior leadership levels. Oftentimes actually director, VP and C-suite, but if you can get VP, C-suite executive sponsor, it’s awesome, that are not just a mentor. They’re not just talking through, “You should consider this or read this book.”
Although they’re definitely doing that. They’re actively involved in opening doors to the point of someone saying, “Hey, I’m up for a discussion around promotion in the next month. Can you talk to my boss about that to make sure that everything is smoothed out?” “Jewel, are you saying that somebody should step in and actually open a door for someone else to walk through?” Yeah, that’s how that works best case scenario. Now, this doesn’t mean that if they’re not qualified that they should be getting things. It’s not talking about unmerited success, but when it is merited, smoothing out that process for them to walk on through.
So having an executive sponsor, number one can be very helpful. However, the second piece is in that buddy system that usually takes place, if the executive sponsor is not familiar with the cultural pieces, there could be a lot of misses involved and those relationships can disintegrate incredibly fast and become ineffective.
So for the executive sponsors, some type of education around race, being a Black man. So they have some insight to be able to talk about that piece of the equation because that is going to be front and center for a lot of guys is, “Can I be comfortable talk about if things are a racial issue or not?” And get the perspective of the executive sponsor to help them resolve it. So those are three things that come to mind that companies can do. Of course there’s a lot more, but that in and of itself is very effective.
Amy C. Waninger:
I really appreciate that. So if just to recap, the three things that companies need to be doing right now if they’re not already to help Black men move forward in their organizations are provide executive coaching with a Black male coach, if that’s what the employee wants. Cohort training and community for groups of Black men so that they can build community together and help each other move forward. But then also executive sponsors who are trained and culturally competent so that they can have difficult conversations with and on behalf of their employees. Is that right?
I wish I would’ve said it that concisely and quickly.
Amy C. Waninger:
No, yours was better. Because you…
You knocked it out.
Amy C. Waninger:
… explained everything.
No, you got it, Amy, you got it. That’s how I’ll… I’m trying to say it that way next time. That was perfect. Thank you.
Amy C. Waninger:
I’ll send you the transcript, you can work it into your elevator pitch.
Amy C. Waninger:
Awesome. Okay, so thank you for that because I think companies a lot of times, like you said, they’re worried that if we offer something to a group of people then we’re excluding someone else. But what they don’t realize is they’re already excluding people by not offering something in particular, something special, something targeted and unique. And yes, they should have it for all their different groups of people that faced different obstacles, different hurdle.
And then on the flip side of that, when you are working with your clients to help them build this capacity as specialists and you can plug them into an organization that’s offering these opportunities, I can see why you’re seeing great results both with your coaching clients, but also with your corporate clients because this is really a perfect marriage of tend to the soil and nurture the plant.
I’ll give you an example of that as well, why culture is in many cases primary it’s so important. So when I was just getting out of college, looking for one of my first jobs after college, I went to a restaurant, it’s a Black owned restaurant, and I walked in, this is Home of Chicken & Waffles, and I walked in with a full suit, shiny shoes, just over the top, dressed for this establishment, good, tasty food, but just way too overdressed, didn’t know better, it’s fine. And the owner, African-American man, and I struck up a conversation immediately and there was the cultural nuance and connection. We could talk about just little elements around history and culture and I’d never met this guy before, but then it becomes who knows who. And, did you go to high school with this person and that person and these people? And our people from this part of the south and we’re from over…”
This is all the informal interview process we’re seeing what if we like each other and instantly because we have this cultural connection, rapport, there’s already rapport. So I know I have the job, I know I’m going… It’s already being confirmed because he likes me. And for that matter I liked him. So that really smoothed it out for us to then say, “Of course, yeah, let’s do business. Come back next week, don’t wear that suit. This is what you do need to wear and let’s go ahead and get you started.”
Now, I didn’t have experience as a waiter before and I learned and I trained and he helped me out on the job. So many times in the corporate space when there’s that immediate rapport, and many times that can come through a cultural lens, that’s how people get jobs, that’s how people move up in corporations, there’s an affinity, there’s a connection, there’s a no interest factor.
So when Black men have that opportunity to come into the corporate space and have that cultural connection, it just smooths out the process for them to learn the skills, gain the understanding, and be great leaders at the organization. If they don’t have that, then that culture they have can actually possibly be seen as a liability or just not as an asset. And that’s where the whole code switching and culture shifting pieces come in, which could be draining for an employee. But typically guys in corporate America have mastered that skill. However, having a place that’s culturally comfortable is just an accelerator for them to get the skills and move up quicker.
Amy C. Waninger:
And let’s face it, the companies that are doing this well are really creating a great talent pipeline downstream as well. Because when new folks come into the organization, especially young professionals, if they look up and they see people who look like them, to whom they have a cultural connection moving up in the org, they’re more likely to stay as well. So it’s not just about the one Black man that you’ve sponsored or that you’ve helped move from director to VP. You’re talking about possibly dozens or hundreds or thousands of young Black people in the organization who see that happening and think, “Hey, I’ve really got a shot here.”
Yeah. Amy, talking about representation, representation matters is the phrase that I’ve heard. And it’s absolutely truth. If you see it, you can be it. And you’re talking about the first person that runs, what is it, like a six-minute mile and then a bunch of people can do it after that. It’s because that block in an individual’s minds has been cleared and they can just move through with the actions to achieve that goal. So that’s absolutely right.
One of the challenges that this may exist in other communities as well, I could see it being the case, however it definitely exists amongst Black men is the reality and concern of nepotism. The reality that in corporate America, it’s a club. It’s not just based on skillset, it’s based on relationships. If you remember back, or you can imagine being in third grade and tree house and some kids get in and then some don’t. It’s kind of similar. It’s a club and they let people in into senior levels of leadership pretty much who they like. And there’s a good relationship there. Skillset is important, but relationships are paramount, i.e. the networking piece.
Now, so nepotism, however, this can work against Black men, hence, and I’ll explain why in a moment, those programs around development that are institutionally locked in. So give you an example. Let’s say you have a brother who’s a VP, organization, and they’re looking for the next VP and they’re in the interview process and he makes it onto that panel and there’s a Black man, we’re going to keep it with that, so gender-specific who’s also interviewing. It can appear that if this man who’s already in position chooses the other one, that he’s choosing him because he’s Black and because just the phenotypical differences, it’s going to be clear. It’s just going to be very visual type of representation.
And that could come up in people’s minds, other people that are trying to get the job, people downstream, people MVP, people in C-suite. And so they question, “Is that person qualified?” Whether they’re qualified or not, it can run through their head, “Is that person qualified?” The other Black man, “Or is this an nepotism thing that this Black man is trying to institute of bringing other Black people in that might not be as qualified?” And that runs through people’s minds. And that Black man who’s a VP knows it, he knows it. He knows that he is walking on eggshells even between a rock and a hard place of being that Black man in a senior leadership role who people are saying, “That person will open the door for me. He could do it, I can do it.”
And at the same time, he’s aware of everybody, many other people’s… Some other people’s perception that if he lets or brings up other Black people, fully qualified, educated, so nothing about that piece of the puzzle, that he may be perceived as showing favoritism, which outwardly, even though it’s how it’s going in corporate America heavily, but for him to have that visual part of showing that or the perception of that being there, it works against him. So he’s in a tight place. And that’s where you get a lot of brothers that are in these senior leadership roles and people say, “They’re not helping, they’re not opening the door, they’re a part of the problem.” It’s because there’s new politics that come on that level that they can’t even talk about openly.
So these are some of the things that when you have that cohort model in place, it has the institution make that decision that, “Yes, we’re going to promote qualified right education, right experience Black employees, but like we do everybody else.” As opposed to putting it on the shoulders of that one man and people looking at him side eye and saying, “Is there something wrong going on here?” It’s complex and most people don’t know this is even taking place, but yet that’s a part of Black people’s experience, some.
Amy C. Waninger:
Yeah. This is what I think it was Vivian Min referred to as the tax on being different where your calculations…
I like that.
Amy C. Waninger:
… have to be different than everyone else’s calculations and you have to carry yourself a little bit differently and there’s more risk and there’s less reward. And these are very tangible things. If a white CEO names a white successor, a white male CEO and it’s a white male successor, people aren’t looking at him going, “He just picked the next white guy.” And it’s so infuriating that there’s almost… We can have one, one of whatever if it [inaudible 00:27:32]…
Amy C. Waninger:
… the mold, if the person breaks the mold. And when we have one, we’re done because now we’ve got representation. And I think that’s an important opportunity for allies to step in because you might have one Black male executive in the C-suite, but you’ve got seven or eight other people who could step in and say, “You know what? This person’s the most qualified, this is the person that we want. This is the person we want to name.” And those broad coalitions of support, like you were saying, even at those upper echelons allies can have a huge impact because then they can step in and help make that decision.
Spot on, Amy. Couldn’t agree more.
Amy C. Waninger:
Excellent. I wish we could talk all day, but I got to wrap this up because people have short attention spans and I want to make sure that we let people know where they can find you, and especially the Black men who are aspiring to executive roles where they can find you.
Okay. Absolutely. So fellas, please go to blackexecutivemen.com, www.blackexecutivemen.com. It’s spelled exactly how it sounds. You can check out the website, see if it looks like a good fit for you regarding the services we offer for executive coaching. If so, please click on the Let’s Talk button and you can book a free consultation. We’ll go ahead and set up a game plan for you to get to your next level salary, seniority, satisfaction wise. And if you want our help and helping you to achieve that plan, we can talk about what that looks like too.
Amy C. Waninger:
Fantastic. We’ll make sure we have the link in the show notes. Jewel Love, thank you so much for sharing your expertise and your specialization with us today.
Thank you, Amy.
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Amy C. Waninger:
That’s it for this week’s Including You. Be sure to join me next week when my guest will be Dr. Mary ‘MJ’ McConner. Dr. MJ is the founder and principal consultant of Inclusive Excellence Consulting.