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Anatomy of an Apology in a Racially Charged World: Amy Porterfield Reveals What Happened on the Inside (#16)

Sep 24, 2020
 

00:10

Jean introduces Amy Porterfield, an online marketing guru and a top-flight podcaster. Amy has been designated by Forbes as one of the top 50 social media power influencers. According to her website, Amy has a following of 250,000 people and a seven-figure business. Jean is one of her followers. Amy sends out regular emails about online course development.

Jean invited Amy to this interview because of her very public and painful learning experience in the aftermath of George Floyd’s tragic murder. Jean wrote about her own perspective of this experience in blog #9.1  Amy is here to tell her side of the story. 

Honestly and with humility, Amy took herself on a journey from obliviousness to learning and growth. What the interview demonstrates is recovery from mistakes as we navigate the path of racial understanding.

1:46

Amy gives background on herself, familiarity with Black people.

2:53

Amy describes how she was publicly called out for how she handled the tragic murder of George Floyd, the immediate aftermath, and the mistakes she made.

Amy: “And I started reading my comments on Instagram and so many, mainly Black women, but there was a mix for sure, saying, first of all, you're quoting a White woman. Second of all, what do you think, you're part of the problem, Amy, you're quoting somebody else. What do you think? How are you going to stand up?”

6:43

Although Amy was highly emotional and recognized that she hadn’t stood up as she could have, she really didn’t get defensive. 

Amy: “Behind closed doors with my sweet, sweet husband, I talked about how I was feeling: the shame, the embarrassment, the wishing I had done better a long time ago and lots and lots of tears.”

9:53

Amy acknowledges she had not had much diversity in her business and on her podcasts.

Amy: “I did feel like I had done wrong. There was remorse in that I don't have diversity in my business and on my podcast. I am so sorry for that. And I want others to know.”

11:35

Amy had intended to focus more intensely before this, but she had not acted.

Amy:  “I knew I had, I had done wrong. And what kills me the most about this is if you ask anyone on my team, you will know that I have said for probably a year, we need more diversity on our team. We need more diversity on the podcast. We need more diversity in the community, but I am the owner and leader of my team. And I said, I needed it, but I didn't know what to do. And I didn't seek out solutions.”

14:29

Jean summarizes Amy’s reactions for the Leading Consciously readers:

Jean: “You did not suppress your emotions. You did not go straight into action. You allowed yourself a grief process. You allowed yourself to feel that and to do that in the safety with someone who can handle it.”

17:15 

Amy talks about the second blunder – an email.  

Amy: “I started the email talking about the movement and how important it is and how I'm behind it and how we all have to have a voice. And then in that email, I tied that concept of having a voice to growing an email list because an email list gives you a voice to your audience. And I said, in fact, today I've got a free training, all about growing an email list. I'd love to see you there.”

The blowback was harsh and immediate.  

18:16

Jean talks about her personal reaction to that email and points out that Amy’s blunder actually helped others. 

Jean:  “Somebody had to be first and had to be public and you did it. And because of who you are, you have now been a shining example to others of what not to do. Knowing how to recover from messing up, that's the skill.”

23:53

Amy wrote a third email canceling her Facebook Live post and consulted a Black friend who is an expert in the diversity and inclusion space.

Amy:  “She said, we need to issue an apology email, if you're up for it. You're going to need to be honest and open about what you did wrong with zero defensiveness.”

29:20

Amy makes a “forever commitment.” 

Amy:  “One thing that I put it in that email is that this was a forever commitment. I'm willing to mess up. I'm willing to learn. I'm willing to be humble. This is my forever commitment to be a part of this movement…. I felt ashamed. I did not want to send that to 250,000 people. But I had to…I'm talking a lot about my emotions and my embarrassment and shame. Really though, the reason I knew I had to send that email is that innocent people of color are dying in the streets because they are, in George Floyd's situation, Black.” 

32:38

Amy’s fourth email committed to her changing how she does her business.

Amy:  “By the fourth email… it was like, let's get to work, internally in my business and externally. And that is what we've done ever since that day, we have gotten to work, some things that I've never put out there because I don't want to be performative.”

33:41

Amy describes changes made.

Amy:  “I'm going to go forward, following my gut at this point. I officially hired my DEI consultant. I meet with her every single week. She is deep in the business. She has done a full assessment of everything externally and internally over the last 45 days on my business. And now we're getting to work, implementing the changes from hiring, to culture, to my community of customers, to my podcast, to scholarships that I offer, to anti-racism training.”

37:37

Jean asks about lessons learned.

Amy: “I would have told me slow down and think about what you're doing and really be mindful and intentional versus reactive, reactive, reactive. If you genuinely care about what is happening, you cannot make it about yourself.”

39:58 

Making it about herself would have meant a focus on her hurt feelings. This is tone policing. 

Amy: “Tone policing is monitoring how somebody else says something to you. And if they don't say it in the way you think they should say it, then what they're saying is wrong or inappropriate or not right for you. You're putting down their delivery and totally not hearing the message of what they're saying or even considering why they're saying it.”

43:13

Jean asks Amy to contrast who she was in the world before this began and who she is now.

Amy: “Before I was ill informed, unaware, uneducated in many ways around this movement. And I literally didn't know what I didn't know. I have so much work to do, but I'm more aware of what I don't know. I'm thinking that many of my White female entrepreneurs, when they thought of their customer in their head, that person was White and she was in my head. I didn't even know it. Because you asked where I am now, I’m more aware.”

46:58

Jean asks Amy what gratifies her about where she is now.

Amy: “I feel inspired. I feel that I can make a difference. I feel as though I'm part of the conversation and I feel very accepted. This is going to sound a little bit weird, but for so many people that didn't need to forgive me for my shortcomings, didn't need to continue to follow me or accept that I had done wrong, but still trusted in me. So many people in my community have said, look, I wasn't happy, but I'm still here because I know that you are willing to do the work. And I feel very grateful for that.

“The last thing I'd add is that you have shown me lots of grace.”

48:58

Jean talks about a world where people can admit mistakes and learn from them.

Jean: “Part of what's wrong in this world and what the breakdown is, is people can't admit wrong none of us… None of us are without breakdowns, mess ups and goof ups. I've certainly had my share. And if we have a world where, what you are doing in this podcast and what you did, and those series of emails, we have a world where that was normal, we would have a wholly different world.”

Leading Consciously concepts and skills covered in this blog post:

  • Conscious use of self
  • Bridging differences
  • Identify with your values, not your emotions
  • Emphasize changing systems, not just individuals

Questions to ask yourself:

  1. How do you imagine you would react if someone accused you of being racially or otherwise insensitive?  How would you want to react?
  2. Think of the last time you apologized to someone.  Which of the elements of a successful apology did you use?

#ConsciousUseofSelf   #BridgingDifferences   #AmyPorterfield   #GeorgeFloyd   #OrganizationalChange   #BlackWomenWhiteWomen   #HowtoApologize

  


[1] Latting, J.K. (2020, Aug 4). Anatomy of an Apology in a Racially Charged World: What We Can Learn from Amy Porterfield (#9). Leading Consciously.www.leadingconsciously.com

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