“So many of us have a voice and don’t realize how powerful it can be when coupled with conviction. This is a time where companies and people are listening, so the floor is finally ours. Let’s channel our experience, our pain, and our conviction to guide our voice.”
— Herve Charles
For the third episode of Emerging Black Leaders, LaunchSource’s CEO, Sasanka Atapattu, interviewed LaunchSource Alum, Herve Charles, who was placed by LaunchSource at Mimecast. Charles’ is a first-generation American, whose family moved to the US from Haiti. After studying marketing at Johnson & Wales, Charles kicked off his sales career selling Verizon Fios door-to-door (D2D). After realizing that D2D wasn’t for him, Charles transitioned to inside sales. Before starting at Mimecast, Charles realized that he had to have defined goals and, after receiving harsh feedback from one of his CEOs. He also wanted to become more open-minded, a better team player, and an asset to a company. His current philosophy is “a better world for you, is a better world for me,” which has helped him progress his career at Mimecast as a traffic manager.
Why is Racism Misunderstood?
Similar to other speakers who have been a part of Emerging Black Leaders, Charles feels like racism is misunderstood because people confuse it specifically with overt forms. This is often because people who haven’t experienced racism’s subtle shapes don’t know how to identify it. And because racism is preconceived notions and prejudices, this lack of education prevents people from understanding how their words and actions are racist. Charles points out that this issue is not only dangerous for the victim of racism but the perpetrator. This lack of education can put otherwise good people into a situation where their lives and careers are severely impacted. Charles’ spoke of his experience as a victim of racism. He elaborated on how it can take a severe toll, especially psychologically. Racist jokes can seem small and as if they’re no big deal, but not to the recipient who may have been told these stereotypes repeatedly. If we’re truly making an impact change at the workplace and want to make it more inclusive, everyone has to be educated to know where the boundaries are.
Why is understanding racism Important in sales and business?
Charles says understanding racism helps sales teams and companies improve communication, which results in better performance. This improvement in communication is important, both internally with teammates and externally with prospects/customers. Charles gives the example of a racist joke. Someone might say the joke in an attempt to make someone feel better and more at ease, but if the comment comes across as offensive, it has the opposite effect. And especially when talking with prospects from a different culture, this can lead to lost deals which Charles points out can have a detrimental effect on a quarter or fiscal year. In terms of teams, educating people so that they can effectively communicate with people from all walks of life leads to more cohesiveness, increased confidence in everyone, and more emotional investment into the organization.
How can you become a better ally?
Charles says that while protesting and donating is a great way to be an ally, it’s not the only way. One of the best ways to become a better ally is to educate yourself on the topics of racism, culture, and inclusiveness. From there, you can start discussions with others, such as your children, siblings, family, coworkers, and friends. Although it’s important to educate and address prejudice and harmful viewpoints, Charles makes the point that you shouldn’t go into these conversations to change people’s minds and force your ideas. You should go in to empathize with different perspectives even if you disagree with them. Although you might want someone to change their viewpoints, it’s unfortunate that some people won’t understand or won’t want to accept a new way of looking at the world, and you have to be prepared for this. Ultimately, these moments shouldn’t be a debate, but a transparent exchange of ideas that may be uncomfortable, but are essential and will allow both you and the other person to grow.