By Ellen McGirt
May 15, 2019

With a thoughtfully woke CEO and consistently high ratings on all the diversity lists, Randall Tucker knew that his new life as Mastercard’s Chief Inclusion Officer would be a different kind of gig.

“This was not a turnaround situation,” he laughs. “But my marching orders were to build on the great work and make it more relevant and global.”

Now, just over two years on the job, Tucker says he’s making a mark. “We’ve elevated the conversation of diversity and inclusion at that leadership level,” he says. “We’ve all made sure that the work is seen as just as important as all other functions within the company.”

RaceAhead caught up with Tucker just as he was about to jet off to celebrate his 24th wedding anniversary. “My husband and I met our first week at college,” he says, an unexpected development but a wonderful one. “As I’ve gotten older, I’ve learned that everything is better when you have someone to share it with.”

It’s a philosophy that informs his thinking about what makes a welcoming workplace. What follows is a lightly edited version of our conversation.

RA: Let’s start with how you started. Mastercard was already doing so well and has a vocal equality champion in CEO Ajay Banga. How did you set your course?

RT: Well, we needed a working definition of what we were trying to tackle. I started with my formal definition of D&I – diversity is all the things that make us similar as well as different, the things you can and can’t see about other people. Then there’s inclusion – how do build diverse teams and keep them? At the end of the day, those are the two things that made sense for me, the management committee, and Ajay to focus on.

I imagine data played a big role.

Exactly. Next, I took a pause for the cause to figure out what we’re really trying to move the needle on and how D&I can help support our core businesses. I had leadership interviews with the first two tiers of the organization. I had one-on-one conversations with board members. I looked at our HR data and employee engagement survey data and then the customer data which asked about our commitment to diversity.

How does “diversity” play out globally?

It’s very different from region to region. In the US, we tend to gravitate to gender and ethnicity as the markers of diversity. But in other parts of the world that might not be the heavier weight. It might be language, it might be education, it might be religion or your career experiences. So that was part of the thinking.

Then basically I looked at all this stuff and said, what’s it trying to tell me?

What was it trying to tell you?

Two things, one big, one modular. The first is that inclusion education matters. I don’t believe we are born inclusive leaders, so part of the job is to build the muscle of inclusive leadership in our talent. That’s how we make sure everyone can reach their greatest opportunity in the organization.

Next, we needed to focus on the regional goals that made specific sense to those leaders, while still mapping back to the global vision. One size fits all, but with regional customization.

Can you give me an example of regional differences?

The idea is that to create the greatest business opportunities you need diverse perspectives at the table. In Asia, it’s how do we hire more people outside of the payments and banking industry, since our focus is primarily tech? In Latin America, it might be increasing women in senior leadership. In the US, it’s often how do I get more people of African descent in the mix. The goal is to get all those perspectives working together harmoniously, so everyone feels that they belong.

How did you shape inclusive leadership training at Mastercard?

I started by thinking about what those things that keep coming up that we need to get better at right now. Things you’d find on employee surveys, things that we get sued for – and then solve for them in tangible ways.

It’s not about holding hands. What’s impeding us from meeting our goals and creating a space for belonging so people can think better and innovate better? Also, I have opinions about implicit bias training.

Let’s hear it.

Inclusive leadership is a skill you can learn like any other, like financial acumen or executive presence. It’s a honing of something. It’s hopeful. It’s a relaxed approach because we can all be more inclusive leaders. Standalone trainings feel like “we need to fix you.” It creates outlier work and people don’t understand how it relates to their business.

Instead embed your inclusion thinking in every policy, practice, and conversation. Now, it’s just the way Mastercard execs learn to lead.

The numbers show – and it comes up all the time in my reporting – that non-majority culture talent can’t make it past their first leadership jobs. What should companies be doing differently?

The piece that I make sure that I control is the development piece: What is the inclusion dialog around talent review? In that discussion, who is going to be given those stretch assignments. Who is in your next class of leaders in the organization? Are they diverse? We’re having those conversations upfront about the people who are being identified as high potential. I show you the photo of your talent pool and ask you, is this what you want? Give them a chance to make a different decision by giving them the data.

The inclusive leadership part is – what do people specifically need to succeed?

So much of inclusion is about getting people to really see each other.

We do ourselves a disservice if we only talk to people like ourselves. We make sure our business resource groups (BRGs) are collaborating with each other. We make sure people are mentoring and sponsoring people different than themselves. There is not a Mastercard executive who won’t make time for lunch if you ask. So ask.

But really, I learned about the power of dialog and crisis management when the Pulse Nightclub [mass] shooting happened.

You were the Senior Director of Inclusion and Diversity at Darden Restaurants at the time?

Yes, and it was right down the street from us. Orlando is already a welcoming environment. But now we needed to ask, what does it mean to love and respect your neighbor? So, I brought in people from the black, Hispanic, gay, Muslim, and law enforcement communities for a panel discussion. You know, we didn’t all agree, but it was healing.

And that’s what I’m really proud of, bringing that sense of dialog and discussion here to Mastercard every day. How can we get better at really talking to each other? Working with other groups? Inclusion can’t be built in silos.

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