Leadership Through Racial Unrest, with IBM’s Tim Humphrey

Tim Humphrey is the VP of the Chief Data Office at IBM. As a high ranking executive at a Fortune 50 company, Tim has a unique perspective on what employers need to provide in a time of social and racial unrest.

Donald Thompson: Welcome to the Donald Thompson podcast. I have today a good friend of mine, guest, Mr. Tim Humphrey, of IBM. And, we’re gonna, we’re gonna kick it today. We’re going to talk business, we’re going to talk racial inequity, we’re going to talk how to navigate corporate America and grow your goals and dreams.

So Tim, welcome to the show.

Timothy Humphrey: Thank you. Thank you for having me, man. I really appreciate it. This is a, a long overdue discussion and dialogue that we need to have.

Donald Thompson: Yeah, that’s right. So Tim, as we get rolling, I want the, the audience, just to get to know a little bit about you kind of outside of the IBM role, right?

Tell me a little bit about the family, where you grew up. Do you have kids? Do you have a partner? Just to a few things like that so we’re all  talking as friends.

Timothy Humphrey: Well, I, I’d be in trouble if I didn’t start with my wife. I’m recently married, got married about two and a half years ago, so it’s just me and my wife, no kids.

In terms of the Tim Humphrey story, so to speak, I grew up in Fayetteville, North Carolina.  it was me, my mom, my dad, and I had an older sister that’s six years older than me. And, mom was an educator. She taught kindergarten. She went on to be a part of the community college system, later in her career, and she always instilled in me the value of education. And my dad was a disciplinarian, rest in peace, he died a few years ago, but he was a disciplinarian, and he really kept me in line. Where I grew up, there was a lot of trouble that I could get into, and I stayed out of trouble. I came home when the lights outside went on.

Donald Thompson: Yes, sir.

Timothy Humphrey: And I knew to make a beeline home when those lights came on, because I knew there’d be consequences if I didn’t. So I grew up in Fayetteville, a lot of friends, a lot of friends from back in Fayetteville, and I decided to go to NC State to study electrical engineering,  and I went to NC State in 1991. I had some partial scholarships to cover some of, you know, my tuition and expenses and, for the rest of it, I worked basically any job that somebody would pay an 18 or 19-year-old to do. I did everything from selling shoes to telemarketing to custodial work to construction. You name it, I did it.

Donald Thompson: That’s awesome.

Timothy Humphrey: In 1995, I got a co-op position with IBM, and I started working at IBM doing, of  all things, I was a level one technical support call taker for PCs.

Donald Thompson: Gotcha. That is awesome. And then today, to jump in, right? To now, the present day, You are in the day group, but also basically the highest ranking executive for North Carolina for IBM, right. So tell us a little bit about that role and then we’ll dig into some of the topics.

Timothy Humphrey: Yeah. My responsibilities in our chief data office is, I have a lot, but to sum it up, I’m basically responsible for helping IBM on its transformation journey, go from a fragmented data landscape to a centralized data landscape.

We’ve built out what we call our cognitive enterprise data platform, which think of, you know, doing business like we have been doing for over a hundred years, and over 170 countries across multiple lines of businesses – hardware, software services, financing. You’ve had acquisitions and divestitures, all of that leads to a very fragmented IT landscape, which then means your data landscape is going to be fragmented. And if you’re really going to drive true insights into your business and deliver it value through insights, you’ve got to start rationalizing your data and you can’t just have these silo driven insights.

You have to have these insights to cut across workflows. And to do that, you have to have a platform that brings all that data together. And so, that’s what we’ve been building up from the past few years, so I’m responsible for building that out as well as  working across the company, whether you’re in marketing or sales or procurement or development, to help deliver those insights to the business, to make us run smarter faster, better.

Donald Thompson: Got it. No, that’s awesome. And a great way to describe it, but also to segue into some of our topics, because what you described right, is how do you take data and transform it so that you can be smarter and better.

And, you know, as an African American executive, an entrepreneur myself, and your very strong career and leadership in our community at IBM, we can’t ignore some of the things that are going on in our society from a racial unrest standpoint. And so I’m going to dive in a little bit, but one of the things that I want to get a feeling and some feedback from you is both what is IBM doing, right, from a racial equity standpoint, and specifically I’d love for you to hit on some of the supplier diversity and different things like that.

And then, and then second, right, what do you, what do you think is going to allow us to keep momentum on the positive aspects of this moment?

Timothy Humphrey: Yeah. Yeah. A lot to talk about there. I could probably go on forever, but I’ll try to be brief, in terms of what IBM is doing. Look, when, when this started, the unrest started this year, in the middle of the pandemic, around the awful murders that occurred. Our first focus was our employees, and that causes stress. It causes emotion. It causes just tremendous angst. So our first, our first priority was on the employees, and me, along with several other senior leaders in the company, spent time connecting with all of our employees, and ensuring that they’re OK.

Letting them know that it’s OK for them to show up as their full, authentic self to work, which is something that, you know, quite frankly, people think might be taken for granted, but sometimes you need to express it. So, we focused a lot on the employee. We also wanted to make sure we had the resources available to get people help if they needed it.

So that was, that was number one, focus on the employee, focus on the people. I always say any company. At the end of the day, you can have great technology, you can have great products offering services, whatever it is, if your people aren’t engaged, you’ve got problems. So we focused on the people. And then, we’ve been doing a lot.

I will probably miss some things here, but we’ve engaged with elected officials on all levels to help try to influence some areas where we think reform is needed and partner on various technology aspects of that. You know, I personally have been involved in lots of those discussions at multiple levels.

I’ve engaged here, locally, with a taskforce set up by our mayor for a better Wake County, and what does that mean? And what does, you know, how can we recognize some of the inequities that we have and how can, what can we do to help people fix those inequities? So, I’ve been involved in that. Our CEO came out with an announcement a while back to exit the facial recognition technology business, and that was, that was to show that, you know, we have to have a commitment for what I call “good tech,” ensure that technology is not used for purposes that continue to promote things like systemic racism or bias. Which in the wrong hands, certain technology is, is just technology, so it can be used for bad purposes, so we exited that business. We have had a big commitment to increasing our partnerships with historically black colleges and universities, and that’s on all levels.

And we really want to push some of our cutting edge, advanced technology, like quantum computing, with – and introducing that into curriculums and research amongst the HBCU community.

So, we’ve had some announcements around that work. Plus, we started  this program we called called, a concept we called “New Collar” a few years ago, under our previous CEO Ginni Rometty, and it’s the concept of the jobs are changing and the skills you need to be proficient in the present and the future can be taught and can be learned.

So we had this little slogan, this is called “No degree, no problem.”

So, we will train you. We will take people from unconventional routes into technology fields. We focus on things like apprenticeships. We have schooling that is, you can graduate from a special program and you can have a no-cost associates degree along with real practical experience, we call this our P-TECH program, and then you can come right in and be productive to IBM. And we focused this in areas where there’s a lot of at risk youth, so it really, really benefits, people that need more opportunity. So those are some of the things we’ve done there. We have a big apprenticeship program as well that pulls heavily on community colleges.

We have a reentry program. Maybe you had kids and you had to take some time off, or health  type things and had to take some time off. So, we, we have programs to try to make that easier now. So there’s a real focus on diversifying the workforce from multiple angles.  And look, there’s more we can do, and there’s more we’ve done.

And I, I’m proud that we’re doing a lot, but I’ll be the first one to tell you. I think there’s more we can do, and I’ve challenged all my peers across industry. There’s more you can do. And we, we’ve done a lot that’s just simply listen to what our employees say they need in their communities and, and we started a lot of programming around helping out in the communities. So, I’ll switch a little bit, cause I know you wanted to talk about what we’re doing with suppliers. And I’m very proud of this.

I do believe that money is the great equalizer. And when you have limited opportunities to grow businesses, it’s very difficult to do business with large companies like an IBM, and there’s some great companies that are minority owned out there that have great products, but maybe they haven’t achieved the scale yet to be able to do business internationally across, you know, multiple locations and things of that nature.

And, you know, if you are irresponsible, you can just look at your processes for doing business with you as a company and say, that’s, that’s where they are. And not really say, how do we enable people to grow with us? So we have always had a big focus on supplier diversity, but I’m very glad to say that we have now increased our spending targets tenfold for minority owned businesses with IBM, so we’ve got aggressive targets. And not only did we, are we saying, we’re going to put these targets in place of here’s how we want to spend it, we’ve got management system and reviews around it. I always say you won’t get the results unless you measure it and you look for what are the impediments along the way. So we will be doing that, and I hope that this starts to infuse wealth into, specifically, the Black community, which then you start to get to this concept of equal opportunity, right? Because the door is open.

Donald Thompson: That’s exactly right. And you made a very powerful point, money is the great equalizer because money creates, right, where you can live, which then creates where you go to school, right? Money creates, right, if you have money, then you’re not paying overdraft charges on your checking account at $30. You have, if you have money, then let alone, you’re going to be healthier because you’re going to be able to go to the doctor when you need it early versus waiting until something is a catastrophe.

And so, I very much agree with that. And I think that, I’m, I’m proud of you. I’m excited for IBM because that supplier spend growth means that those that are taking that entrepreneurial dare, people of color, are going to have that much more chance to make it. And the thing that you said about, “No degree, no problem,” hey, I wish

maybe I would have had that 28 years ago for me. I had to come up school of hard knocks, baby. They wouldn’t, they didn’t care at that point, Tim. They were like,

Timothy Humphrey: Trust me. I might’ve had a different path myself.

Donald Thompson: Well that’s, that is good stuff.

Timothy Humphrey: And you know what. All, all jokes aside. When I look at some of the things I learned, if I wanted to say I, I went to school, I got this to knowledge and I’m just going to go and use that knowledge and that’s going to carry me, it would’ve never worked. I had to keep learning anyway.  I had to have this continual learning mindset. I learned Pascal as a programming language when I was in college. I never wrote a line of Pascal code in any of my career, things were like, I think by the time I graduated NC State,  the recommended language was C.

It wasn’t even passed out. So, you know, technology changes and moves so fast that you need skills and experience, and you have to be willing to say, “I’m going to learn the next thing,” and that’s what I love about this New Collar program, because you can take people that are hungry. They are hungry, right?

You take people like veterans and you take people that, like you said, maybe they didn’t have an opportunity to go to the greatest schools, but now they got a chance and man, they embrace this continual learning mindset, and they deliver great results.

Donald Thompson: That is, that is awesome and encouraging. One of the things that, you know, there’s a lot on diversity, equity and inclusion. And obviously with The Diversity Movement, we’re in that space, and you and I not talk a lot on these, these topics. One of the things on the edge of this conversation is how do people of color navigate when they’re in an all white environment? What are some of the things that we need to think about?

Some of the things we need to maybe reflect on how we build our goals, how we look at our behaviors, what are some thoughts as you mentor folks and your experiences as a leader that maybe can help folks that are in that situation at a predominantly white organization navigate a little bit better?

Timothy Humphrey: Yeah. It’s like, that’s a – this is a very important topic to me, and I do try to spend a lot of time with early professionals, and senior professionals, providing advice and counsel and mentor relationships on this exact subject. And one, I do think you have to be grounded in what is going to make you successful, right ? You know, for me, it’s always been three things and I sorta, I sort of preach these three things to, to all of my, all of my mentees out there, anybody that’s listening is probably shaking their head and they know what I’m getting ready to say. High performance mindset, that’s number one. So performance and, you know, you have to take the mindset of, I am going to do my best. I’m going to give it my all, regardless of who’s around, who’s looking. We all know the people. They do a great job when the boss is around, but they’re a pain to work with when the boss isn’t around or they slack when the boss isn’t around.

We all know those people, but you got to break that. You got to have this high performance mindset all the time. I don’t care what you’re doing. If you’re doing The Donald Thompson Podcast, if you’re cleaning up the office, if you’re presenting to the CEO, it doesn’t matter. You should always have high performance mindset.

Second one is, and this is one that I didn’t have and nobody really shared with me as I was coming up very early in my career, you have to have a vision about, what do you think you can accomplish? What do you think you can achieve? Who are some good role models that maybe have achieved what you would like to achieve with your career?

And then how do you assess yourself against those people to find your strengths and your weaknesses and your gaps and work on those gaps, and get the experiences and coaching and skills and learning to be able to overcome those gaps? So I say, I say having a vision of what you want to do is so important and having a vision around what you can become.

When I first got my job, I was happy to get a job, right, because that’s sort of how I was taught. You go to work, you just go to work and you get a job. I wasn’t thinking about where can I take it? I wasn’t thinking about my career. I was thinking about a job, and that is something that, you know, I don’t think that it’s a lot of early professional, Black employees get, right? Like I didn’t get that growing up in Fayetteville, so that’s, that’s the last one. And then I’m sorry, that’s the second one. And then the third thing, and I’ll try not to be so long-winded is relationships. I didn’t get this one either, but this concept of building meaningful relationships with your coworkers, it means so much to what you can do. It means so, so much to your ability to execute as a leader, to grow your career, to be noticed. You know, and it’s beyond networking. I always tell people you can network, that doesn’t get you much. Relationships, knowing that when I see Donald Thompson in my inbox, man, I might have a busy day and I might have 500 emails that I haven’t read that day, but let me go click and see what Donald wants because that relationship is there and that opens up your ability to do more, to have more impact, to get help when needed, to be pulled for opportunities. You know, people want – people pull people for opportunities that they know, that they like, that they have a good relationship, that they respect their work, that they want to be around.

These are concepts that I don’t think we teach. So those to me are like the big three that I think we need to focus on from a very early point in our career, you know, to really, really be successful and to really, really start to have more Donald Thompson’s around that we can point to his role models.

Donald Thompson: No, I appreciate it. That is – Tim, in all seriousnes,. I mean, that is a five minute dissertation in winning with the cards that you’re dealt, right? And so, a lot of times my perspective is yes, there is inequity in corporate America in the United States, but there is also a land of opportunity that if we adhere to these three things you described, it’s going to give us more than a fighting chance while the other things have to catch up.

Timothy Humphrey: Exactly.

Donald Thompson: But we can’t wait for the world to treat us equally.

Timothy Humphrey: Exactly.

Donald Thompson: You have to win, even if you have to do a little bit more, even if you have to do a lot more and then in your position, in my position, we can now look out and say “All right, who can we make the world better for?” So it is more even. But, that’s only because we’ve been valuable to the people around us, right?

There’s a skills exchange thing going on to move up in any organization, and if you show that value, then people will open those doors. And if they’re closing the door because of color, you’ve got to find a different door, but all the doors aren’t closed, like maybe a hundred years ago.

Timothy Humphrey:  Yes

Donald Thompson: Years ago, right. There are enough open that we can peek through and then pull some others with us. Right? And, and, and keep it and keep it moving. So, I appreciate that response. That’s good stuff.

Timothy Humphrey: You, you, you said one thing there that I just want to touch on a little bit, because it’s something that I’ve I’ve stressed in relationships and I’ve had pointed out to me a couple of times early on in my career.

You said, what’s your, are you bringing value, right? Are you bringing value to the business, to other leaders, to other fellow colleagues and peers, to clients, et cetera. And there was a point in my – I’ll admit it – there was a point in my career where I sort of looked at myself as I’m smart, I’m a good engineer, I know what to do, I can do my job well.  Why can’t I get more? And I had a, had a mentor really put me in check and she said to me, “You are not all that.” And I was mad and hurt and I, you know, I couldn’t couldn’t take what she was trying to tell me, but what she was trying to tell me is, yes, you’re smart, but what makes you different? What makes you stand out from your peers? Why is it that somebody would pick you over the guy sitting next to you in the lab? What is, what have you done? What is your value proposition? And I started thinking about it from that perspective and it changed my entire career, changed my entire career.

Because I was sort of like, why, why can’t I just get this, this next job, this lead position, this management job. You know,  I can do it. But, I hadn’t demonstrated any of my value to a point that it made people start looking at me differently than all my peers.

Donald Thompson: Yup. I, you know, my story, and I’ve been, been very, very blessed and Grant Willard, my mentor and good friend – I was employee number seven in a company called iCubed, and Grant took a chance on me. I was a back hearing sales guy, didn’t know anything about the tech space, but I could sell and I was hardworking. I could take a no and keep moving, right, into the yes, and he figured he could teach me the other things. And ultimately, after working for Grant for 10 years, our company was acquired, but they only wanted part of the company, so Grant spun out, part of the company went with Adobe, and so we had this small little business that was left. And I became the CEO of that little spin out business, and that’s how I got my chance.

The scary version for my life is if any day during those 10 years when he was thinking about promoting me, if that was the day I showed up lazy. If that was the day I was complaining, if that was the day I was giving excuses, but every day I did as good as I could do to do more. And then when that moment came that he needed to decide who was going to run the small little company, he picked me.

Timothy Humphrey: Awesome.

Donald Thompson: Right? And I will put, I’ll never forget that every day is interview day because you don’t know who’s watching, and you don’t know who’s watching that can change the game for you. And you gotta keep in moving. And that’s how I thought –

Timothy Humphrey: Well, you, you were better than me. I didn’t develop that mindset, that mindset until a little bit later until a little bit later.

Donald Thompson: So no, that is, that is good stuff. Let me ask this, Tim, when you think about the points of progress that you’ve made, what are some of the – you mentioned the three keys, you mentioned mentorship – but what are some of the other skills outside of the technical that you needed to develop so that you could be trusted with leadership, right?

That you could move from a key player, but not a leader in the company to a, to a leadership development track record that you’ve been on?

Timothy Humphrey: You know, that’s a great question because as part of that vision, I had to be very real with myself on what my strengths and weaknesses were. And when I started down those focusing on those three paths a long time ago, the number one thing that I had to focus on was my communication skills.

I was a really good technical guy. I was a good problem solver, great engineer. And I was a decent leader, but I realized if my communication skills didn’t go to the next level, I was, I was not going to progress to the next level. And what do I mean by communication skills? Can I get in front of the large room and keep everybody’s attention and focus and deliver my points clearly. That’s one thing. I couldn’t do that early, early in my career. I could not do it. Could I negotiate with people that had maybe a slightly different perspective on actions that we should take or how outcomes should be formed? Could I negotiate well enough to be able to find common ground that keeps the business moving forward? I couldn’t do it. I couldn’t do it. And the reason why I wasn’t able to do a good job in negotiations is because my communication wasn’t there. I couldn’t communicate the same. I couldn’t find the, I call it the common ground language.

I could speak the engineering language, but I couldn’t speak all the rest of it. So that was a big gap for me. Another, you know, another, another gap for me was, and this one really helped me, identifying people that will give me real feedback in real time because there was a period in my career where I felt like I was doing a great job and I felt like I was delivering results, but things weren’t happening for me. And I, somebody gave me this advice, get some people that are going to be around you when you’re working that you can trust. And oh, by the way, when they give you the feedback, you’re not going to debate it.

You’re going to reflect on it. And I started doing that. So I would, I would be in a meeting that maybe the meeting didn’t, didn’t go so well. And, you know, I took a chance with some people and said, “Hey, I just want to get some feedback about that meeting.” And they say, “Well, Tim, you know, the meeting is what it is because maybe we do well.” And I’d say, “No, I don’t want to talk about that. I want to, I want to get it from you. How did I make you feel in that meeting? What do you think I said that was wrong? What could I have done better? And I just want to hear it.” And so, that really, when I started doing that, that really helped a lot for me. And it helped me develop a sense of empathy when I’m in these positions where people aren’t seeing eye to eye, or maybe everybody’s aligned on the outcome, but we have no idea how we’re going to get there.

So, it started helping me in these situations that come up where. You know, and in your leadership journey, you get more and more of those types of situations where you have to help the team move quickly to an outcome, and that’s your job. You’ve got to remove these roadblocks and if you can’t find them, or if you’re focusing on the wrong things, you’re not being an effective leader.

And feedback was the only way I got over that gap.

Donald Thompson: That’s powerful. I’m going to link it back to the three things you described as a mentor: high performance mindset, personal vision, find role models that you can map against and relationships. And that third one, relationships, kicks-back to what you just said, because who’s going to give you feedback if you don’t have good relationships. Right?

They’re going to give you that false confidence, “Ah, it was okay,” right? That false veneer, ’cause they’re really not paying attention to your success or failure. But if you have those deep relationships and you ask a question, that person that cares about you is going to give you that feedback at least once or twice to see what you’re going to do with it. Right?

To, to see –

Timothy Humphrey: Oh, I know. If I jump all over you and disagree with it, next time I come to you, you’re not going to tell me you can just, you’re going to give me some sugarcoated answer.

Donald Thompson: That’s exactly right. That’s exactly right.

When you, Tim, you know, with all the different experiences, let’s now look at some of the powerful leaders you’ve come in contact with, right?

Who are some of the leaders, whether it’s , whether it’s IBM or outside that you admire, right? That you look to and say, “You know what? That person’s getting it right. That person is somebody worth, worth emulating.” And, and the reason that I, that I asked that is that that’ll further illuminate whether it’s books or podcasts that people can read of other people that they can reach out and touch and, and follow like you did.

Timothy Humphrey: Oh, man. Where do I start? I actually, I love studying people and I love hearing their journeys and what they, what they overcame and. I, I am one of these people – somebody asked me how, how is it that you’ve been a good manager? And I’ve said, well, every time I have experienced a leader or supervisor or manager, I don’t care what job I was doing, there were some you like, there’s some you didn’t like, and I studied both of them equally. And I think about these things they do that I don’t like, and I just don’t do them. And I thought about the things that people did that I liked. And I, I emulate.  One of the – I had a black female manager, early in my career, Cindy Edwards.

And she had a jar, a big, massive jar of candy on her office desk, and I would always go by there and get some candy because young Tim could eat a lot of candy and didn’t gain weight. Now, if I look at a Snickers, I’m going to gain five pounds, but I would always go by there and get some candy, and then one day I asked her, I said, “Why do you have all this candy out on your desk?”

And she said, “If I have the candy on my desk, people will come for the candy, but maybe they’ll stop and tell me something about the business or something that is going on with them and I’ll have the opportunity to help, or I’ll maybe have the opportunity to learn something new.” And I was like, “Man, that’s brilliant.”

Guess what I did my very first management job? I bought a big jar and I said, “I’m going to fill it up with candy.” So Cindy Edwards was a phenomenal leader, so she’s one, one leader that I just completely respect, and trust. Another leader in this story I want to talk about is my predecessor, Fran O’Sullivan

I worked in her organization for many years in the PC business at IBM and Lenovo, and I was fortunate to follow in her footsteps as the site executive for RTP and the state executive for North Carolina for IBM when she retired. And what I loved about her, she had a phenomenal way of taking the complex and making it simple.

And it was, it was almost like magic when I would watch. If it was complex, she made it simple. If we were all fighting and arguing, she found the simple resolution forward. It was always, she always said, “I’m gonna take the complex and make it simple,” and she said, she used to say, “If you walk out of a meeting and you can’t easily explain what the actions and the outcomes are, then you don’t have the right actions and outcomes,” right?

Like she was, she was laser focused on making things simple and making sure teams could execute. So she was a phenomenal leader, mentor, friend. And then one last person I’m going to point out is somebody – this is this is, one of my former employees who is a great leader that I really look up to and respect, Rashida Hodge.

And she worked for me, I don’t know when it was maybe 2010, 2011. And she’s one of those people when you saw her work and you met her, you just knew she had “it.” And I watched her grow, grow her career and she is, has just been so focused. I’ve never seen anybody that could focus and, and just laser focus on what needs to be done and never – no quit, no let-up until it’s done. I mean, laser focused. On top of that, extremely brilliant. Can, can go from doing a supply chain to doing AI work quick and picks it up and learns it. I was like, “How do you learn this stuff so fast?” And she was amazing. You know, I mentored her, she now mentors me. So you know, those are, those are three examples.

There’s a lot more people that I look up to, that I admire that I steal some of their, their tricks of the trade from. I have no shame. If somebody, if somebody’s doing something I think is going to help or benefit me or make me a better leader. I will take it.

I will ask you, how do you do it?

Donald Thompson: Me too. Like, hey, I listen anyone with success is a thief, ’cause we’re stealing ideas, man.  We’re stealing best practices and, and try and, and it’s –

Timothy Humphrey: yes, yes.

Donald Thompson: That learning piece. You know, you said so much throughout our conversation that is powerful, I want to come back to one point and see if you want to expand on it little bit beyond networking because we, everyone, you know, you need to network your network is your net worth, and I’ve said all of these,  these thing.  But what does, what does beyond networking mean to you?

Timothy Humphrey: Yeah, I think. Look, I think I can know a lot of people. You know, you look on my LinkedIn page and you just say, “Wow, he’s got, he knows a lot of people. There’s a lot of connections.” I know them. I met them at a conference, maybe I did some work with them. But, to me, beyond networking – and, and don’t get me wrong, I think networking is very valuable, very valuable.

Right? You got to know people, but where you start to get exponential value is when you build meaningful, substantial relationships, and that takes work. And you have to say, I’m going to commit to this. I’m going to, for example, not now because you know, most, most, most people are staying home and nobody’s traveling, but, you know, pre, pre-pandemic , I was traveling all the time.

I had multiple commitments for my job. I was barely, I would barely sleep, but you know what? Sometimes I need to go have the session after work with somebody just to get to know them and sit down and have a beverage of choice and, and talk and get to know the person and do it a few times. And guess what? Might turn out that we just don’t build that relationship or build that mutual ground, but if you’re not trying, then you’re never going to get these meaningful, deep relationships, and that’s what I mean when I say beyond networking. It’s one thing to know people, it’s another thing that, and if I call you in the middle of the night and you look at my phone, are you going to go, “Tim?” click. Or Tim, you know, reject.

Or you’re going to go, Oh my gosh, Tim’s calling me in the middle of the night. There must be something wrong. What can I do to help?

Donald Thompson: That’s right. That’s right. I’ll expand upon that, ’cause I – we’re, we’re on the same page there. And I remember when I think about beyond networking, it is also how do you add reciprocal value to people as well?

You know, there’s plenty of people that reach out to you, be the same way, and they haven’t asked, right? They have a motive, and that’s fine, but they’re not as quick on the trigger when you need something, right? You know what I mean? There’s no reciprocation.

Timothy Humphrey: Exactly.

Donald Thompson: At the ask part, but not at the give part.

Right? And so, you know, you have to be able to do both and be open to that, to, to create that networking relationship first, and then the ability to go beyond. Right? In terms of those relationships. I think that’s equally as important.

Timothy Humphrey: Hey, I will tell you this. When I started focusing on building relationships, I thought I had some relationships, but I really didn’t have a meaningful relationship, it was one way. And I found out the hard way that it was one way, so that point is not lost on me.

Donald Thompson: It’s like for people early in their careers that are on that, that way up. Right? It’s also not hard to do because a lot of times people say, well, you know, what is the goal to get ahead in life and business?

And you mentioned relationships, we don’t talk about that in school about how to build powerful professional relationships and skills, right? We talk about how to get recognition.

Timothy Humphrey: Yes.

Donald Thompson: Right? We talk about how to get the high score on the test, but, but not how to, to get people to want to be on that team with you and, and run with you.

I want to be respectful of your time, so I want to finish with this and this has been great. Like I’ve got five pages of notes, so I don’t know if I owe you dinner, I don’t know if I owe you a thousand dollars, I got five pages of notes. This is going to help me. It will seem to help-

Timothy Humphrey: The first time I met you in my office, I hadn’t eaten all day.

And 20 minutes later, a nice meal showed up, so you don’t owe me a thing. I will always remember that. You are a classy guy. I was blown away.

Donald Thompson: I appreciate it. What would you, what would you like to share as we wrap up? On any of the topics, whether it’s leadership, whether it’s the racial inequity unrest, whether it’s – whatever’s on your brain, as we wrap things up, what would you like to share with our audience?

Timothy Humphrey: Wow. We talked about so much. I think the one thing I would like to say that maybe I didn’t say is I, I do believe that businesses, corporations have a responsibility to society. And the fact of the matter is, you make your top and bottom line from the communities you serve. I think you owe it to those communities to give back.

So, you know, my – I would, I would say I challenge, fellow leaders that are listening to this podcast, are you doing enough? What can you do? if you don’t have the answers, ask the questions to the right people. I also say, look at your communities. Does your workforce look like your community?

Probably doesn’t, but then take the action to say, “We’re going to, we’re going to change that. We’re going to fix it.” And, and start on that journey, right? And it is a journey and, and, and a lot of people I think, think is going to happen overnight, and we know it won’t. Progress takes time, but if you don’t start, you’ll never have any progress. So that’s my message that I’d like to say, just a call to action, a challenge to all of our peers that might be listening to this, to think about what you can do to give back to think about are your organization’s a model for diversity? And if not, that’s OK, but can you commit to getting there?

Donald Thompson: That’s powerful. High performance mindset, personal vision, build relationships. Team, that was Tim Humphrey from, from IBM and a good friend. Great leader. Tim, thanks for your time. I really appreciate it.

Timothy Humphrey: Thanks for having me, man. Always, always love my time with DT.

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The Donald Thompson Podcast is hosted by Walk West CEO, mentor, investor, and Diversity and Inclusion Consultant Donald Thompson.

Music for this episode provided by Jensen Reed from his song, “You Can’t Stop Me”.

The Donald Thompson Podcast is edited and produced by Earfluence. For more on how to engage your community or build your personal brand through podcasting, visit Earfluence.com.

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