GS: Boy, I love that. That's an awful lot to ask to accomplish. Where did you get such a strong orientation to all this by the way? This feels like this is not something you developed at any one of your recent companies. This is longstanding.
DH: I come from a very Caribbean family, extremely hardworking with a focus on education and the importance of education and the impact it could not only have on you but all of those around you and a really strong sense of community. And that responsibility to not only my family and extended family but also to the people that have came before me: my ancestors, my grandparents who worked so hard to not only come to the United States but be successful and have multiple degrees, really pushing for each generation to be that much better and stronger. It's something that I focus on, but it's also an example that I saw with my parents. It wasn't just enough for us to succeed. Everybody around us needed to succeed because it's no fun unless everybody around you is also successful.
There was a real focus on investing in other people but also working hard and not feeling like anything is entitled to you. I grew up very privileged, but I also grew up with a sense of responsibility to the community and to the people around me. And that's the value system that I think helps me stay humble but also helps me know what I'm pretty awesome at and what value I bring to the table so that I can leverage my skills to add value places. Because I think especially for women and Black women, there is a push to be humble, to not brag, to not be able to say, "I'm freaking awesome at that, and I could help you in this area."
And I think part of just my presence in a lot of these rooms that weren't designed for people who look like me allows other people to be able to do that as well. But it also gives me a sense of responsibility to ensure that I don't waste that privilege and I leverage it to elevate others' voices, but I also leverage it to drive the business results. I think when you can connect those two things, your purpose with your profit, I think that's when it becomes really fun to go to work every day.
GS: I suspect, too, Diana, just listening to you and having gotten to know you here for a little while now, that I think your team really senses both that sense of responsibility, a lack of arrogance around it, in addition to an essential belief in your ability to lead them through that, I think, is probably what's happening here. It's very interesting. You're the perfect person to create the change.
DH: Well, thank you. I appreciate that. But I think for me, what I see more with my team is I can actually see—and this I think is one of my strengths—I can see their superpowers, I can see their potential. I do feel like I am able to give people a mirror to what they can do that's awesome and help them realize that. I think what helps me drive transformation is not having all the answers because I don't. I work with a team of subject matter experts that know more about their space than I could ever know. But giving them a space and the air cover and just the ability to move and then getting shit out of their way so they can move quickly is really, really the role that I really play in driving the change management for them.
I think the other thing for me is I don't necessarily put limits on myself. I have never said, "I want to be in the C-suite, I want to do this, I want to do that." My career trajectory has taken me there. It's not until the past few years that I've been a little bit more intentional about that, which is a mistake by the way. Do not do that. Be intentional from the beginning. But it's something that I've kind of... That looks like a really cool thing, I would want to do that. Or I've had a lot of leaders say, "You should do this role, you'd be good at it and shift around." It wasn't until recently I became more intentional. But I do think one of the other things that really drives me is I think about the generational wealth that just by being a Black person in America that I've missed out on. And I do think it's my responsibility to rebuild that generational wealth for my family and to be really intentional and thoughtful about it.
I know for a lot of folks talking about money can feel a bit uncouth and make you uncomfortable. Talking about power, especially when you're a woman, can make people uncomfortable. But those are things that I strive for because they allow for me to do all of the other awesome things that I want. Whether it's giving my son opportunities that he may not have had, or it's really being able to take risks from a business setting because I do not have to necessarily think about, can I get another job? I know I can get another job. So, how do I make the best call for the business and not just have to focus on the politics, even though we all have to focus on politics. That definitely fuels me.
GS: The sense of responsibility you have to set an example is a very powerful idea. I heard a guy tell a story a number of years ago that he was in a plane crash and was injured, obviously, and then watched his family die around him. That's a pretty horrific experience. And a lot of people would say, why would you ever do that? It was 25, 30 years later that he ran into somebody who heard his story and this woman came up to him and said, "I was in a plane crash and I didn't know I'd ever find anybody else who'd been through the same thing." And he realized at that point he had maybe been put on Earth for that one communication to that one person at that point in time that that was his experience. That's really having the long view of how the world works. You've mentioned that a couple of times here, generational dynamics.
DH: Yeah, there's things I can do every day like invest in somebody, have conversations, give what a lot of people gave to me back to people that I directly interact with. But then there's also just the notion of... And I get this sometimes when I do public speaking or something like that, where afterwards there are people that come up to me specifically to say, "I have not seen someone that looks like me or I haven't seen someone that looks like you," because it's not just Black women, it's basically people who just haven't been able to identify themselves. Even people who just may be more casual in their delivery style even are like, "Oh, I didn't know you could do that and be in these kind of roles." I think if we just start to show people that there isn't one version of what X title looks like, then we will find that we will have more people pushing into those spaces who will stretch us even further. Getting back to the marketing topics, I think in some ways we've become complacent.
GS: Marketers have become complacent?
DH: Marketers have become complacent with the formulas and the way of doing marketing that we're losing that bright-eyedness of how to become really good marketers.
GS: Or we haven't even really taken the time to understand the underlying dynamics about how it really works.
DH: Yes, exactly.
GS: How do you really persuade somebody differently? The work that we've done within MMA around growth frameworks. I think most marketers, and I didn't when I was a CMO, I didn't understand the underlying growth frameworks. It feels almost corporately irresponsible to have not understood some of that dynamic.
DH: And part of it, too, is if I just use the model and run the play, then the account... It's a little bit of a fear. I'm not fully accountable. I did all the things. I followed all the right steps. So, I think there's just an opportunity for us to just rethink the employee profile for a marketer. It doesn't mean that the traditional marketing approach isn't something that we need. We definitely need it, but how do we round it out that allows for an expanded way of thinking and a truly open mindset?
GS: This all sounds good, and I heard your bit about you get energy from it. I feel the same way about it myself. However, it still can be draining. Things can not go your way. How do you manage through some of the otherwise maybe difficult moments and keep focused, keep going? Talk a little bit about that.
DH: It's extremely draining and especially driving change can be exhausting, but I tell my team, it's like college. When you look back on college, you only remember the good times and the highlights. You forget about the nights that you stayed up all night studying and any other shenanigans that happen, you have this memory of it that really just makes it exciting, and the fulfillment from what you accomplish is pretty exciting, too. But the one thing I have that has both been a beauty and a curse is my family is a high medical needs family. There have been a lot of medical challenges that my family has gone through. What I've learned from those experiences is that you take it appointment by appointment, you focus on the things that you can control. You leverage your voice and speak up as a medical advocate for the person that you love or yourself.
And toothpaste is teeny tiny in comparison to having an illness or dealing with something like that. So, being able to put it in perspective, it enables me to operate differently. Do I get hot? Am I very passionate? Am I also very in tune with my emotions? I don't think saying somebody is emotional is a bad thing. We like to say that emotions are bad, but we're humans. We're supposed to have emotions. I have all of those things. And there's a good number of times where they're great and there's a good number of times when they're not ideal, but that's, again, why you have that support system. I have a support system that doesn't allow me to wallow too long, to vent too much, and to really focus on what am I going to do next.
I'm just extremely privileged to have that. And it's interesting because throughout my career I have just been surrounded by people that have really fed into me and fueled into me but continue to do that regardless of if we work together or not. Most of these people look nothing like me, and we don't have that much in common other than we all are passionate, ambitious people who care about each other.
GS: I like the fact that you're open about that and yet... You're open about the ambition, which I think like you said, I think is not always appreciated at some level. It's not talked about, like money. You mentioned that earlier. But at the same time, too, I used the word with you last week, you just come across so authentic in who you are and what you're trying to do, which means you're at some level just being true to yourself.
DH: Or trying to.
GS: Regardless if you're right or wrong is irrelevant. It's true to you and what you want to be and who you are.
DH: I'm trying to be true to myself. It's getting easier with old age.
GS: You're not at old age yet, but okay.
DH: It's getting easier as I get older, but it's still hard. I think it's hard to be your authentic self, and it's hard for others to earn your authenticity. We talk a lot in corporate settings about bring your authentic self to work, but I push back on that notion a bit because not every space deserves your authenticity. And you just happen to be in a lot of really cool spaces that, I think, lend me the grace to be my full self. But also our spaces, especially in the ones we're in, where you want to be challenged, you want a challenging conversation, but you also want to have an intellectual conversation, which lends itself to people being able to show up, speak their ideas in a way that's appropriate. But also, yearning to learn and maybe be moved in another direction because of what they heard.
GS: I've got a funny question for you. What do you do when you think you miss the mark or maybe get it wrong or maybe say the thing you, in retrospect, think you shouldn't have said, or some variation of that? How do you do that? How do you handle that?
DH: That happens quite a bit to me. First, you build that trust in the upfront. I think that once people know you, they know your intentions, they know where you come from. I also use my network as a sounding board: "When I say this, how does it land?" I work on those things. Specifically, there are spaces where I want to be an ally and advocate for communities that I'm not a part of. So, I do practice and it takes time to get it right. And I think sometimes as allies, we don't always show up because we're so nervous about saying something wrong. Once you've done it a couple times and you realize, you know what? It's not that bad, and you surround yourself with people who care about you, you'll get it right the next time. I think that fear of failure is what stops so many of us from pushing forward, but it also really stops us from being really good allies and supporting other people.
GS: Do you think fear of failure is universal or do you think it also has a gender dynamic to it? I'm asking that as a father of twin daughters, by the way, that's where my question's coming from.
DH: I think it's both. I do think fear of failure is definitely something that exists across highly ambitious people in general, so man, woman, nonbinary, wherever you are, I think that that exists with everyone. Also, your ego gets in the way, too, because you've been successful for so long and you're successful in a lot of things that your ego can't always handle the hits in the same way. That's something, especially in senior roles, you have to work on is being able to check your ego or have a tough ego. But I think for women, it really does hit a little different because of the way that we're raised and gender norms. When I was growing up, there was this notion that you could have it all, but you can't have it all. You can't do all the things.
I missed the fifth grade recital. I didn't commit to going, but I was going to be a surprise. But it didn't quite work out, so I felt like a failure. But when I think about all the other ways that I'm showing up to raise a highly functioning human who is a good just all around person, I think that I can get a pass in the fifth grade recital. So, really thinking about what mark you want to leave on the world and not just at work helps you be able to push through the fear. I will say, for me, pushing through the fear, financial security is also a way that you can push through the fear. If you're concerned about every comment that you make preventing you from getting that next promotion, getting that next job, you'll be frozen and you won't be able to be your most impactful self.
I do think the fear hits a little different for women. I found, for me, that I haven't been really able... I know I present very confident, but I'm highly insecure. I haven't been able to push the fear down. What I've focused on is to do it anyway. How do I have fear, but do it anyway? That's really what I've been focused on. Everybody tells me the older you get, the less you care about things like that and the less fear you have. So, I'm hoping it'll continue to get better.
GS: I got a couple years on you and I'll vouch for that. Yes, I think one of my favorite ones, and I'm assuming the producer will be able to blank this out, but f**k fear. You just cannot dwell on it. You just cannot spend time. Fear serves a role to keep us away from real danger sometimes like a fear of bears, that's a good fear. But if fear is brought into the workplace, I'm not so sure it serves me that much. I've heard the phrase uncover, discover, discard. Figure out what's going on, get rid of it, and move on because it's that... Until I do that, then I start to make, I think, better decisions. At least for me.
DH: There's also a notion of level setting the fear. To your point, bear attack, big fear.
GS: Appropriate fear.
DH: Yeah, exactly. Getting an answer wrong in a meeting or not knowing something in a meeting, maybe a little fear. Really being able to put it on the spectrum of fear. Where do we sit today? I play this with my team, especially with a lot of the women on the team. We do the scenarios. Again, scenario planning. What happens if you do it? Okay, then what happens? Then what happens? Typically, it's not that bad. Once you realize the worst that can happen and it's not that bad, do it anyway.
GS: Yeah. You're right, it takes a special environment and support to be able to help most people do that because of varying levels of fear or fear inhibitor or whatever you might want to call it. I love that you said a really critical thing in there, which to me was around just yourself, that you get energy out of doing this. I don't know that a lot of people get energy. Somehow it ends up being life sucking to people. And that's really unfortunate because I feel the same way and I think it's my single greatest attribute. It's the sense of that showing up and that it reinforces a positive with me, which I don't know that happens for everybody. I don't know why it's different. Let's do a little bit of a lightning round here a little bit. Okay? A couple things. Who else in marketing—person, company, whoever—do you most admire? You want to pick on anybody in particular or even a recent—
DH: I'm going to pick on Yin Rani.
GS: Oh my God, you went with my favorite. Yes. Okay, go. Why?
DH: What I love about Yin, first of all, she's a fierce advocate. She's ridiculously smart, but she also is the opposite of me personality-wise, which makes her one of the best mentors and coaches ever because I'm really able to see things from a different lens. That's how she impacts me personally. She's also one of those people who saw me when I didn't see myself, and so I'm always forever grateful for her for that. But what's super cool about Yin is how she approaches marketing, which is in a completely different way. She's actually one of the people who... When I saw her I was like, "Oh, I could do this and I could do it my way." The latest work that she's done with the relaunch of the Got Milk campaign is super cool.