Carla Harris - The Expect To Win Mindset

Carla Harris
August 03, 2021

Carla Harris

Author of "Expect To Win"; Vice Chair, Managing Director at Morgan Stanley
Business Leadership Entrepreneurs Personal Growth Strategy Diversity Women in Business Business Executives

Introduction:

Welcome to Beyond Speaking with Brian Lord, a podcast featuring deeper conversations with the world's top speakers.

Brian Lord:

Our speaker this week is Carla Harris. She is a leader, a singer, which is pretty amazing an author. And of course, a great speaker. She's vice chairman, managing director and senior client advisor at Morgan Stanley in her 30 plus year career. She's had extensive experiences working in technology, media, retail, telecommunications, healthcare, and much more. In August 2013, she was appointed by President Barack Obama to chair the national women's business council. And from a personal standpoint clients, I booked her for. I've had a client who's had literally I booked about 200 events for them and they absolutely loved Carla. They're like she is like our secret weapon in working with our clients and helping our company get better. So, Carla, thanks for joining us.

Carla Harris:

Thank you, Brian. Thanks for having me.

Brian Lord:

You were the chair of the national women's business council. So you've obviously been a mentor to many people who are some of the women that have influenced you positively in business and in life?

Carla Harris:

Well, I have to tell you, there are a lot of women that I look at today that are in seats of power and authority and are making things happen, whether it's Mary Berra, that's at GM, and I'll tell you a Meg Whitman is someone who I've looked at for a long time when she was CEO of eBay and we she was CEO of HP. Obviously Ursula Burns is somebody that whose career has also followed, who I think is amazing leader, but I'll tell you two of the women in my own life that have been very inspirational to me have been my mother and my paternal grandmother in particular. Unfortunately they both have gone on to glory, but I'll tell you, my mother was the one I think that has really influenced me the most as a female executive, because you often hear senior women say, "Oh, you can't have it all. And if anybody tells you, you can have it all. You know, they're not telling you the truth." And I grew up with a mother who was a career woman. She was an educator, she was a mother, she was a wife. She was very involved in her community. So I had no thoughts at all that there would be any kind of confines if you will. If I was a woman that I would in fact be able to do any and everything that I wanted to do, that was my first model that that was at home. My paternal grandmother was one of the most successful female entrepreneurs that I have ever met. And she was the first female entrepreneur that was in my life, of course, and she was extremely successful and she was a really great people person. So using my car logs today, she was very customer centric and she could be really tough with customers and sometimes speak a little rougher than you might like really, but you might like to hear, but at the end of the day, they all came back because she was great, no chaser. And she put her authenticity out front. And when I speak to leaders today, I say to them, that is one of the most important things that you can do as a leader is to bring your authentic self into that environment. For two reasons, when bring your authentic self into any environment, people trust you and trust is at the heart of any relationship, let alone a customer relationship. And number two, when you bring your authentic self into the work environment, you then motivate and inspire those who are working with you to bring their authentic selves into that environment. And anytime- any of us, Brian, could be who we really are in an environment we always outperform. And that outperformance will now accrue to that leader in that seat.

Brian Lord:

How do you find your authentic self?

Carla Harris:

Oh, thank you so much for that question. Cause I, I get that question all the time. The first key to knowing who you are authentically is to spend some time and ask the question, who am I? Pre pandemic? We were all moving so quickly. I would argue that we didn't take the time to say, who am I today relative to who I was in 2012 or who I was in 2008 before the financial services crisis started, take some time to figure out who you are. Second key is understand that we are all multifaceted. There is not just one you. There's an intellectual you, a pensive you, an argumentative you, a lighthearted you, a listening you. Figure out and understand that we're all multifaceted and embrace that. And the third key to bringing all of you into an environment is now you can relax. You know who you are, you embrace that we're all multifaceted. You can relax and walk into any situation and know in the moment which part of you will authentically connect with that person on the other side of the conversation, those people around the board table or the people that might be there to see you speak. If it's a thousand people in the room, you can literally Brian feel the energy when you're not preoccupied with thinking about what must I say, how must that behave? What should my demeanor be in order to be deemed as impressive, just relax and walk in the room and you will authentically connect with people on the other side.

Brian Lord:

And so one of the questions that we got in, we, we put out for some questions, what would you like to ask Carla? And it follows up well here. So General Vinny Boles, who also is a speaker ,had asked as a leader "How do you call out or help people who are being inauthentic?"

Carla Harris:

Yeah. I'll tell you that if you sense that somebody is being inauthentic, then you take the moment right there in the moment and say, Hey, I hear what you're saying, but let me tell you what I'm feeling from you. I feel like the real you wants to say, or I feel like the person that I know authentically might be thinking this, am I wrong about that? So you can challenge them, but put it on you. Here's how I'm feeling about what you said. Here's the energy I'm feeling from you. Is that right? Does that make any sense, you know, to give them a sense that you see them and it's all good.

Brian Lord:

When you were talking earlier about a mindset, I think that's so important. And that's one of the things that you talk about frequently is mindset. And you've got this mindset from your mother and your grandmother that you are able to do those things. How do you feel like having the, I don't know if you want to say a negative mindset or closed mindset affects people in their personal life and their career?

Carla Harris:

Oh, there's no question. I think having a negative mindset is probably the most restricting thing that, that you will have on your person. If you don't believe that it can happen. If you're always seeing the negative, then you are more likely to bring that into your spirit or into your space than anything else. And this was a lesson that I learned Brian probably midway through my career or a third of the way in my career, I was having one tough experience after the other. And I really started seeing things through a negative lens. And then one day somebody said to me you know, I said to the person, oh man, I'm so tired of fighting. I'm fighting all the time. This is so draining. And my whole language was language of fighting. If you said to me, you know, Carla, how you doing? I would say, oh, I'm still in the ring. I've got a couple of punches in yesterday, but I'm laying on the roads today. I mean, my, everything, my language was all fight. And one day someone said, well, why don't you stop fighting? Why don't you stop fighting? And I thought, oh, I wonder if it's that easy. And then it really, I thought to myself, one day, frankly, I was sitting in church. Maybe you're always fighting because you're putting that energy out there. You're looking for a fight. So you're going to find one. And so I decided at that moment, Brian, that I would yield, I would just yield whatever came my way. I said, yep. Okay. That's good. Yep. No problem. And it was interesting to see what happened. There were far fewer fights. I had a lot more energy and I won most of the time.

Brian Lord:

That's great. I love too, how you, can you intentionally shift your mindset? Like I think that's so important. Where did you learn that lesson?

Carla Harris:

I'll tell you. I learned that from one of my former pastors. He ended a sermon one day and said, go out and have the extraordinary life that God intended you to have. And I thought, what if it's that easy? What if all I have to do is decide that I'm going to have an extraordinary life and be intentional about that. And from that day to this one, and that was well over a decade ago, I realized the power of your intentionality and the power that we all have to actually make it happen.

Brian Lord:

How do you, so how do you do that? So I know a lot of times you can have it where someone will say, okay, I'm going to do this. And they do it for a little bit and they get off. How do you stay on the rails when it comes to making those decisions?

Carla Harris:

You just, again, you make the decision that you're going to get back on. Yes, we will all fall off the horse, especially as we start getting momentum and the horses galloping. And yet there's a chance that you're going to fall right out of the saddle, especially if you're feeling pretty good about the ride, right? You get a little bit of arrogance, you know, and decided it's okay. Well, the thing is, if you fall off you, you remember something that the great Dr. Benjamin May said, you don't have to let a stumble be a fall. So you stumbled. Get on, keep rolling. There's not a person born that does not have a stumbling moment. That doesn't make a mistake that doesn't have a disappointment, but you have the power to decide in that moment. If you're going to limit it there and make that a period and not a comma.

Brian Lord:

So one thing that's really fascinating about you is, and I've got this from the client and they said, oh, you've got to have her talk about this. So there's diversity, but it's a lot of different things. Like you were saying, you are, you, you, yourself are a diverse person. You know, whoever's listening you of course, being a singer and extremely successful executive and, and being successful in all these different areas. What are the different ways that people can look at diversity, whether they're a leader putting together a team or another, any other scenario, what are some different ways people can look at diversity.

Carla Harris:

Yeah. I have to tell you in the environment that we're in now, as a leader, when you're thinking about putting together a diverse team, you certainly should be thinking about racial diversity, gender diversity, but also diversity of thought, diversity of background, you know, where are my folks from? How were they educated? Where were they educated? Might they bring a different perspective? And here is the logic or the thesis around it. Brian, if you agree that we're all competing in some way around innovation, it is the dominant, competitive parameter across all industries. Then you have to agree that you need a lot of ideas in the room because innovation is born from ideas. If you need a lot of ideas in the room, you need a lot of perspectives in the room because ideas are born from perspectives. If you need a lot of perspectives in the room, you better have a lot of experiences in the room because perspectives are born from experiences. And if you need a lot of different experiences in the room, then you better start with a lot of different people in the room because experiences are born from people. So that is the business case around diversity. You've got to start with a lot of different people in the room to get to that one innovative idea that will allow you to obtain and retain a leadership position in your industry. That's how leaders should be thinking about the why around diversity. And I've given you obviously the prescription of the, how this is how you put together such a team, and this is what you should look for.

Brian Lord:

And one of the things I do like I saw an interview with you one time where you were talking about you know, having diversity and not approaching it from sort of a, and this is a terrible way to say it, but like a charitable way or an HR way, but from a competitive advantage sort of way. Can you speak to a little bit more about that?

Carla Harris:

Absolutely. And, and I am fond of saying, Brian, please don't tell me that diversity is the right thing to do because frankly you and I may not agree on the right thing to do, but as business people, we will agree on the commercial thing to do. And the thesis, the business case that I just laid out is the commercial and the compelling reason why you should be focused on diversity. And then obviously there's a lot of data in marketplace today that says, if you have diverse teams, if you have diverse boards, it lowers the volatility of your stock price. It gives you a better opportunity for an ROE that those teams come up with better solutions and ideas, which will inevitably translate into better revenue and better profitability. So those are all the reasons. And the reason that I focus on that, Brian, is that if we come from different perspectives, like I said, we might not agree on the right thing to do, but we do have something in common as business animals, and that's the commercial imperative. And so that is the why that you should have everybody put their incremator on and move forward with the objective of having diverse teams.

Brian Lord:

One of the things that's come up over the, you know, various times is companies trying to find diverse candidates, whether it's for companies to invest in employees, that sort of thing. And you're the you know, head of the Multicultural Innovation Lab. And so can you tell us about your experience with that and how you can find and develop the right people?

Carla Harris:

Yeah. I have to tell you, I am so proud of the Multicultural Innovation Lab, which I created at Morgan Stanley four years ago and have built up with my partner, Alice Vilma. And, you know, we have been able to say to the market loudly that when you say, oh, I haven't invested in women or multicultural entrepreneurs because I can't find them any, we have been very loud about saying there's not a supply issue, right? Because we literally four years ago when we started this, went out on the whisper network, as I like to call it, meaning Alison and I started saying to people, Hey, Morgan Stanley has started an in-house accelerator. If you know anybody that has a tech enabled company that could be a large opportunity and they are pre Series A or right at Series A, tell them to sit in there in the business plan, let's take a look. Maybe they can get into the lab. So for two weeks we did that. We didn't advertise any other place. We got a hundred submission, a hundred submissions for five companies in our first lab. This last year, we graduated the fourth cohort of the lab, two companies, and we had over 500 submissions for that class. We just announced two weeks ago, the new class of 11 and Morgan Stanley announced last year that we were going to double down on the lab. So we'll have two cohorts this year of anywhere from 10 to 12 companies, we just put out in a press release that 11 companies that we brought in, we had over 700 submissions for those slots. So there's not a supply issue. It really is a matter of inserting yourself in the ecosystem. Having the ecosystem believe that you are seriously interested in helping to advance the scaling of these companies. The messenger does matter. I think the fact that Alison and I were the ones out there looking for these companies, we had credibility in the market. People believe that Morgan Stanley in fact might be serious because it was, it was us out there putting our personal capital on the line. And now it's not an issue at all as to whether whether or not we fit and certainly whether or not we lead in the ecosystem.

Brian Lord:

What what do you feel in addition to that is part of the success, or do you have success stories coming out of that, that you you're able to talk about?

Carla Harris:

Absolutely. And, and what, what we have learned Brian, is that a lot of these companies need a little bit more than just the capital. They're early stage, and they're young entrepreneurs, they are 25, 35, even 40, and this may be their first business opportunity. And they have never built a culture. They have never hired other people. They are not quite sure who the right people to bring in at the C-suite level, how much equity to give them. So there are all kinds of things that you can help these companies with, that are critical to their ongoing success. Let's talk about how to clean up your cap table. You've got a bunch of small investors that are here that have enabled you to do what you're doing now, but did you leave enough capital for a VC or a strategic investor to come in that could really help to advance the company? So those are some of the things that, that we help these companies with. So again, the experience, not a supply issue, you can find them, there's more than capital that these companies need bringing to bear all of your networks or all of the resources that you have as an institution, or even as a family office or a person or the things that can provide real value add for these companies. Oh, one last thing. The, the data always- the data was always pointing to the fact that these founders were really resilient, Brian, but I've now had an opportunity to see it firsthand. As I've watched the companies that had been in the lab, and those that were in the lab last year, how resilient they were in a COVID-19 environment and environment that none of us had seen before and environment where large companies are struggling to survive. These entrepreneurs are so scrappy. So intent, they've already been through the fire because it's so difficult for multicultural and female entrepreneurs to raise any capital. So by the time they get to us, they are tried and tested. And when I tell you that these companies pivoted and they have survived, we've had no casualties to COVID-19. I think that says a lot about the people you should be investing in with these kinds of companies.

Brian Lord:

What do you think builds that resilience or guessing more of a general terms in addition to the you know, the, the lab what advice would you have for people who've come through this really difficult time and being more resilient?

Carla Harris:

Yeah. I will tell you that what was the old saying that, you know, that which does not kill you will make you strong. And I would say that we have all been through crises in our lives and true. We had never seen a COVID-19 before, but most of us have lived long enough to know that this too will pass. And so the question is, what do you want to do with this period? When we went into this shelter in place protocol, back in the middle of March, the first thing I said, Brian was, whoa, I got two weeks. What can I get done in these two weeks? Cause I really thought we were going to be off for two weeks. And I said, I want to have something to show for it. Cause these two weeks are gonna go by like that. And then obviously when two weeks look like it was going to be six weeks, it looks like it was going to three months. I kept that intentionality around, making sure that I would use this time and would have something to show for it. So I would say to someone, anytime you have a crisis like this, your resilience is something that you already have. It's a muscle that you had because most of us have been through something before. Activate it. Remind yourself of your own data. You have made it through before. You will be able to make it through again. And what can you do in this moment right now with what you have to push the ball forward just a little bit in your personal life, in your professional life, in your entrepreneurial life? There's something in your life that you can advance, even now. Focus on that.

Brian Lord:

When is a good time to take a risk?

Carla Harris:

Oh, I tell you, especially during chaotic times, I think that's a particularly good time to take the risk. Why chaos breeds opportunity. Most people are off-kilter in a chaotic time and are not focused on maybe the business at hand are not focused on their competitors may not even be focused on their best talent, which is one of the messages Brian, that I was giving to C-suite folks who were calling me in April and may. I was saying pay attention to your best people. Because if you think that your people are at home worrying about whether or not they're going to keep their job, or if you think that they are worried about, you know, something else within your organization, be clear that your competitors are coming for them. They know that they're at home, they're rethinking their careers. They're rethinking their experience with you. They're rethinking their lives, where they should live. So everything is up for grabs. So you need to make sure that you are occupying some space in their brain and their sentiment. If you want to make sure that you keep your best people.

Brian Lord:

One of the things I love about you is, is not just these things, but you're kind of famous for your career advice. You know what someone should do as they're starting out, or just like you're talking about even leaders looking at the people that they're, they're working with, how they build those relationships. Can you talk in brief? I know we've only got about five minutes left, but can you talk in brief a little bit about the relationship, whether you're the person starting out or how leaders can be great leaders?

Carla Harris:

Sure. And I'll give you from both perspectives. If you're somebody who's just starting out in your career, I want you to at least be conscious about performance currency and relationship currency. Performance currency is the currency that is generated by your delivering that which was asked of you and a little bit extra and performance currency is valuable for three reasons. Number one, it gets, you noticed and it creates a reputation for you in the marketplace. Number two, early on in your career, early on in a new environment, it will get you, paid and promoted. And number three, it may also attract a sponsor and a sponsor is the most important relationship that you will have in your career because the sponsor is the person that's carrying your paper into the room. That room behind closed doors, where all of the important decisions about your career will be made your compensation, your, your next opportunity. The sponsor is the person that's using their valuable political and social capital on you. So you need to be intentional about building those kinds of relationships. If you are a leader, it is imperative that you integrate with your people that you get to know them so that you can invite them to put their imprimatur on any objective that you might have for them as a team, but you need to engage with them so that you can authentically invite them into the solution, making process, invite them to stand shoulder, to shoulder with you to re-imagine what the future looks like on the other side of this COVID 19. And you need as a leader to make sure you have support below you and to make sure you have and should have support at your level and above you because in the environment that we're in now, companies are going to increasingly turn their attention to leaders that are not just great producers, because I too grew up in a producer culture. You're a great trader, great banker. You paid the most. You're promoted. You're given seats of authority, but people are going to start. Companies are going to start to realize now that they need to find a way to retain their best people, especially when there's no longer a requirement or protocol for everybody to be under the same roof. That's what we learned in the last year that people can be productive at home. So it's going to be really difficult to compel people to come back into an office five days a week, which means you're going to need to have a kind of leader that can motivate and inspire people to stay in their proverbial seat, to stay in that house. I.E With that particular, that particular company. So it's going to take a different type of leadership style going forward, Brian.

Brian Lord:

So one last question for you, Carla. You know, you've done some amazing things as an executive, as an executive. So from leadership as a writer as a speaker, as a singer out of those things, what are you most proud of?

Carla Harris:

Oh, wow. That's tough Brian. Cause I think all of those are-

Brian Lord:

- I ask the hard questions here.

Carla Harris:

Yeah. Of those are part of, of who Carla Harris is. And I'll tell you the, the role I would say, or the title that I'm most proud of right now actually happens to be mother. Because five and a half years ago, my husband and I adopted a little girl and right in the middle of this COVID we've got another phone call saying, Hey, I know you guys weren't looking but uh... So literally we put on our hazmat suits and got the five-year-old all suited up as well. And we went out and got a five week old. So the time now, in addition to being crawled, the banker, probably the speaker, the writer, the singer, I'm having a pretty good time being called a mother.

Beyond Speaking is hosted by Brian Lord and produced by Eric Woodie

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