In my work as an executive coach and radio host, I get to talk with some of the most impressive leaders of our time. They’re local, national and international. This month, we kick off The WOW! Chat. Periodically, I’ll take you inside a conversation with an executive who’s trailblazing and inviting people to join in the work they guide.
Greg Cunningham is global vice president for diversity and inclusion at U.S. Bank. Diversity and inclusion is often the talk of philosophers, policy wonks, and activists. When you meet Greg, you’ll find him pretty chill. My theory is that’s because he comes from a marketing background. A bonus in the highly visual world we live in? He’s really stylish. So, when he talks his talk, you’re not distracted by frump or pomp. He’s truly approachable. His role at the bank makes him responsible for inspiring the bank’s 73,000 employees to drive what the bank calls its moral compass. Pretty heavy and heady stuff.
STRENGTH FROM DIVERSITY
Greg lives this mission with passion and vision. “Our biggest core value is drawing strength from diversity.” Greg says the focus is to “fuel the organization with this mission and make diversity and inclusion part of U.S. Bank’s culture.” Hard to believe his role came to be just over a year ago when U.S. Bank established a companywide diversity and inclusion office. A year in, Greg shares pride for accomplishments but stresses there is a long way to go. He’s counting on the community to help the bank and those 73,000 U.S. Bankers to put their money where their mouth is.
Some of the money, $400 million in fact, went to diverse suppliers in the bank’s first year of the office. Greg says they “went all in on the belief that diversity and inclusion is a business imperative.” The bank kicked off a multimillion-dollar multicultural marketing campaign. U.S. Bank also committed $3.2 billion toward community development projects to help those in need. Realizing not every company can spend these kinds of dollars, other brands can use the U.S. Bank visual as a framework for the type of D & I initiatives that could actually impact communities and show the region you are doing more than requiring your employees to read a templated manual.
U.S. Bank is one of 175 of the Fortune 500 companies that signed the CEO Pledge for Diversity and Inclusion. A core principle that impressed this communication coach was the promise to “create a safe space for courageous conversations.” Greg says some of this plays out through an intranet system in which employees can share blog posts with their own stories. Allowing people, without focus on title, to share a first-person narrative is truly powerful. As I chat with talent development executives around the nation, they say this self-empowerment in an inclusive way can also make an impact with workplace culture boosts and retention. Leaders at U.S. Bank have also brought people together after violence or a religious controversy spilled out from the headlines and into the workplace. For example, instead of closing doors and letting feelings brush under the table, one of Greg’s colleagues invited an intern to share more about her faith so others could gain insight after one particular tragedy hit the community.
Greg reflects: “We’ve made a great deal of progress, yet our journey continues.” He wants to increase the bank’s overall workforce diversity and elevate more women and professionals of color to management ranks. With what sounds like some promising results in 13 months’ time, the sky is the limit in the years ahead for how much these 73,000 employees can do under Greg’s infectious commitment to powering human potential.