Podcasts

The Unfiltered Truth on Diversity with Former Lockheed Martin Executive Shan Cooper

Shan Cooper, a visionary leader and a pivotal figure in the realm of diversity and inclusion, shares her groundbreaking journey at Lockheed Martin. From initiating and leading the diversity programs to reshaping the corporate culture, Cooper’s story is a testament to her commitment to creating more inclusive and equitable workplaces. As the inaugural head of diversity at Lockheed Martin, she has played a crucial role in embedding these values deeply into the company’s core operations. In this episode of Culture Leaders Podcast, Shan Cooper delves into the nuances of spearheading cultural transformation in a corporate setting. She reflects on the challenges and triumphs of advocating for diversity and inclusion, emphasizing the strategic importance of these initiatives in modern business practices. Cooper also discusses her leadership style, influenced by her faith and personal values, and how it has guided her in navigating through times of change. Join us as Shan Cooper takes us through her inspiring journey at Lockheed Martin, sharing her insights on effective diversity strategies, the evolving role of HR in corporate America, and the critical need for empathetic and inclusive leadership in today’s business world.

Notable quotes


“I was created to help people be their best selves.” – Shan Cooper

“I wasn’t sure what I was doing. So I tell you what, mentoring is so important.” – Shan Cooper

“You have to be real clear about where the organization is going.” – Shan Cooper

“You’ve got to find ways to engage people in the process of the change.” – Shan Cooper

Useful links

Reach Shan at:

LinkedIn: https://www.linkedin.com/in/shan-cooper-1656a710/
Websites: https://shancooper.com/

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Transcript

Dr. Jessica Kriegel: Shan, welcome and thank you so much for joining us. My first question as always is, what is your why?

Shan Cooper: My why, Jessica, first of all, let me thank you for having me, but my why is really, I think I was created to help people be their best selves. So my why is helping people find the things about them that make them great, that they may not know about themselves. It’s about opening and creating and connecting people so they can often find others who can also help them excel. And so I would say it’s just about helping other people be great.

Dr. Jessica Kriegel: And then what is Journey Forward Strategies? Why? What’s the organization’s mission statement?

Shan Cooper: Yes, I’m so glad you asked that. And it is all about preparing people to excel. And it’s all people, right? Young, the old, preparing people to excel. And I started the company because during 2020, we had many students that did not have and could not find internships. And we know how important that is in the business world, right? And we had all these wonderful large companies that were doing the best that they could.

To help students get these hands-on experience. But we really needed a small ecosystem of small companies. And so I started my small company, partnered with some other small businesses to say, hey, let’s do this. If I take one or two students and you take one or two students, we can ensure that our students that are here in Atlanta have an opportunity to get some real-world experience. And that was my whole purpose for starting the company.

Dr. Jessica Kriegel: So what would you say is preventing people from excelling the most right now? What’s the biggest challenge for us as employees in corporate America?

Shan Cooper: Right, I think people talk a lot about the culture, right, and the environment of the places where people are being asked to come and work. And I think that’s the number one area, right, that we have, we find ourselves so, in a world of change, right? So the business world is constantly changing, whether it’s technologies or processes or things that our customers are demanding. And so if you’re not a person who can navigate the change or understand how to do that, then you’re gonna be left behind. And it becomes frustrating and people become stressed. And so I think that’s going to, the world of business is changing so quickly that people are just struggling just to keep up. And so we’ve got to find, yeah, sorry. That’s what I said, so we’ve got to work in ways that are different, right? And it’s hard to get companies to see that when they’ve been successful. And so hopefully that’s what I try to help companies do.

Dr. Jessica Kriegel: Yeah, well, no, go ahead. Don’t let me cut you off. Yeah.

Dr. Jessica Kriegel: So what’s interesting is we just did research this last year with Stanford University about what wins in organizations. And we dug into 243 companies, their purpose, their strategy, their revenue growth, their culture. And what we found, there was one type of culture that outperformed every other type of culture. 3X outperformed, and that was an adaptive culture, the ability to adapt to change.

Shan Cooper: Mm-hmm. Yes.

Dr. Jessica Kriegel: Now the question naturally becomes, well, how do you become one of those cultures that can adapt to change?

Shan Cooper: Right. Well, I’ll tell you that future ready organizations are going to be happy will be those organizations that can look at themselves, right, and be willing to make the change to disrupt themselves in the marketplace. They’re going to have to be willing to evolve, right, and change and be willing to do work differently. Think about how companies are struggling today, right? Because my employees are in the building, right? Well, the world work is changing. And so you’ve got to be an organization that can change and shift with that. And so you’re going to have to learn how to self-disrupt, disrupt yourself as an organization to be able to, I think, win.

Dr. Jessica Kriegel: Yeah, so here’s the issue though. I think we’re getting overwhelmed with the amount that we’ve gotta do to keep up right now. I mean, there’s this pervasive narrative that people don’t wanna work anymore and that there’s a lot of apathy. I think that’s the opposite of apathy. It’s people feeling so overwhelmed that they are shutting down. And so now you’ve got this other task. I’ve gotta disrupt myself. I’m already barely surviving, right? How do you make space for that? I mean…

Shan Cooper: Mm-hmm.

Shan Cooper: Oh god yes. Yes.

Shan Cooper: Yes.

Shan Cooper: Mm-hmm.

Dr. Jessica Kriegel: How do you actually coach people to do the disrupting when they’re feeling that way?

Shan Cooper: Right, well first of all, you have to be real clear about where the organization is going. And right now, I think it’s harder now to be in a leadership role, definitely than when I was in corporate America leading, right, because now as a leader, there’s a greater emphasis on the leader as well as, and as a leader, you’re going through the same issue, right? You’re going through the change yourself, but you’ve gotta now carry the burden of actually leading these folks.

So, what was required to be a leader when I was coming up in corporate America, I think is intensified. Because now you’ve got to be a better listener, right? What do leaders not do well? Most, it’s typically listening, right? That has to become a core competency within leadership. You’ve got to be able to show empathy, to be vulnerable in many ways, to say, I don’t know. Well, as a leader, you’re not paid to do that, right? You’re paid to have all the answers.

But in this new world of working, you’ve got to find ways to engage people in the process of the change. And that’s not how we were groomed as leaders, right? I wasn’t groomed that way.

Dr. Jessica Kriegel: Well, yeah, no, and I think you’re bringing up a really good point. We’re not paid to do that. We’re paid to have the answers. We’re not paid to listen. And you are in the business of trying to get CEOs to act in opposition to the incentives within the system that they are in, right? I mean, they’re incentivized to create shareholder value.

Shan Cooper: No.

Shan Cooper: That’s correct.

Absolutely.

Dr. Jessica Kriegel: At the expense of their employees, if that’s what it takes, because that’s what’ll make them look good to the board or the shareholders. How do you tell CEOs what you’re gonna wanna do is the opposite of what you’re incentivized to do? I mean, how do we break this system that is making it impossible to not only do the right thing, but what, according to our research, gets results?

Shan Cooper: Yeah.

Shan Cooper: Right, exactly. So I think there’s a couple of things. One, it starts with understanding that you are human as a CEO, right? As a business leader, you are human. And so putting yourself, oftentimes in the shoes of others is always a helpful thing to do. But you’ve got to have real clarity around where the organization needs to go. Because if you can paint the picture of the future and people can see themselves in that future, then they’re much more willing to come along.

But if you’re uncertain about kind of where the company is going. So I’m big on having it being clear about what the strategy of the organization is, because you can have the greatest values, right? Most companies have good values. I think you have to have a real shared sense of purpose with the purpose of the company. So I love your question. I love that you’re asking me this exact question. What is the organization’s purpose? I can tell you when I was at Lockheed Martin, that was where, when I started my cultural transformation work, the first question I needed us to answer together.

Was why do we come to work every day? And that was done in small group settings. People had a chance to voice, right? And that’s why I say, listening becomes so important as a leader. But as we worked with that question, I did it in small settings, it takes time. And that’s the one thing that most leaders don’t have a lot of, but you have to make it a priority. And so teaching leaders to just stop, pause, breathe, engage with your workforce. Oftentimes they’re gonna have the better answer anyway.

But you got to engage them. But we have to have the common sense of purpose. Our purpose at Lockheed Martin, my team was real clear. You could ask anybody that worked there. We come to work every day to ensure that the war fighter gets back to his or her family safely every time they touch our aircraft or weapon system. Real clear, real simple. The head and the heart. I didn’t develop that as a leader. The team developed that. All 6,000 of us signed up for that, right? So having a real clean sense of purpose.

Gets people to really feel like, hey, I’m really a part of this organization. And then as you can continue to craft a strategy, you’re clear about your strategy, clear about your purpose, you’re clear about your values. And then I often say, mission first, people always, the mission doesn’t happen if the people aren’t cared for. And so I bring my HR hat to that, right? Saying, you gotta focus on your people.

Dr. Jessica Kriegel: Yeah, that’s an interesting purpose statement. I’m thinking about the perception of Lockheed Martin as an organization and the industry that it’s in, and yet that mission is inspiring. I mean, I’m just fascinated by that. Like, what is the Chevron purpose statement, you know? I mean, how does Chevron create a purpose statement that inspires people? Lockheed Martin, I mean, I actually did leadership work with Lockheed Martin early in my career. Yeah.

Shan Cooper: Yes.

Shan Cooper: Did you really? Awesome.

Dr. Jessica Kriegel: And I was fascinated. They had some kind of leadership series and I was brought in as a keynote speaker to talk about generational stereotyping. Maybe we worked together, who knows? I mean, amazing. We could have, I feel like it would have been your team that hired me. Yeah.

Shan Cooper: Yes, we probably work together, Jessica.

Shan Cooper: Yes, I think so, yes, we probably work together.

Dr. Jessica Kriegel: I mean, all I remember from that event was that the security to get into the facility to do the keynote was more than TSA, first of all. And I forgot my makeup on that trip. So I showed up to do a keynote and I had no makeup. I was mortified. And I just thought, please Lord, let no one notice that I’m going makeup free. And of course, no one, I’m sure no one noticed I was just so self-conscious the whole time.

Shan Cooper: Yeah.

Shan Cooper: I’m sure no one noticed that.

Dr. Jessica Kriegel: Oh, funny. So what was your exact role at Lockheed Martin?

Shan Cooper: So I had several roles. My first role going in, I was the inaugural head of diversity, equity, and inclusion for the corporation. That was 2002.

Dr. Jessica Kriegel: In what year was that?

That was before diversity, equity, and inclusion was cool. Yeah.

Shan Cooper: You’re right. So Lockheed Martin, really a cutting edge company. The interesting part about that, just because I’ve gotten this role, and we’re all trying to figure out what the role should be after I said yes. Uh, right, exactly. And so to be honest with you, I wasn’t sure because I had come from another organization where I was, you know, working in, you know, sales support, right? So I didn’t know what I was doing. So I tell you what, mentoring is so important. I was reading a magazine article.

Dr. Jessica Kriegel: Right. Welcome. Now, what are you doing here exactly?

Dr. Jessica Kriegel: Yeah.

Shan Cooper: And at that time, IBM was the leading company, you may remember this, in global, the work of Global Diversity, and Ted Childs was leading that organization. I picked up the phone, I called Ted and said, hey Ted, I’ve got this new job. I have no idea what I’m doing. Can I come see you? And he said, how quickly can you get to New York? And I spent three days just following, watching, and learning from Ted Childs. And I am so forever grateful to him.

Dr. Jessica Kriegel: Mm.

Dr. Jessica Kriegel: Mmm.

Jessica Kriegel: Wow.

Shan Cooper: Because he just opened his doors and it was wonderful. Forever grateful to him. Yeah. Yes.

Dr. Jessica Kriegel: Wow, that’s amazing. What a service he provided there. That’s amazing. Okay, so my belief on diversity, equity, inclusion, and belonging and A, actually, I just worked with a company who says, no, what was it? It’s a government institution that you’ve heard of, a federal government institution that calls it DEIA, diversity, equity, inclusion, and accessibility, which I hadn’t heard before.

Shan Cooper: Uh huh. Mmm.

Dr. Jessica Kriegel: Anyway, my belief on this is that there are too many companies treating it like an initiative. It’s a program, right? We’re going to have a program. And now we’re going to care about diversity. And we’re going to send everyone through training around unconscious bias. And we’re going to start measuring how many people, non-whites, get promoted. And we’re going to hire a certain percentage of people. And that’s a great program. But it doesn’t actually become infused in the culture. How do you create a culture that

Shan Cooper: Yes.

Shan Cooper: Yes.

Dr. Jessica Kriegel: Not just values diversity, but I mean values diversity because they know that it works to drive results, which our research shows, and isn’t treating it like a program.

Shan Cooper: All right.

Shan Cooper: Yeah, so that was the first thing that we did at Lockheed Martin. We said no programs. Don’t label it. Don’t call it anything. It’s just going to be how we work. Now, understanding that Lockheed Martin is full of what engineers, scientists, physicists, right? So we knew one of the issues that we knew we had to overcome is that we didn’t want people to see this as something that was touchy-feely because it would not work in our culture, right?

Dr. Jessica Kriegel: Mm.

Dr. Jessica Kriegel: Mm.

Shan Cooper: But we wanted to ensure that we were, again, focused on the employee experience, but first had to start from the foundation. So initially it was, why do we need to do this as a company, right? And one of the reasons why, because everybody talks about having a business case. I know you’ve heard that over and over. Well, ours was this, we’re national defense. You look at our workforce of the future, our kids at that time, were not really studying math and science. We were only graduating about 4,000 engineers annually across the country, right? So it was about our having a workforce of the future. That’s a topic you can talk about with anybody in the organization, right? Whether they were black, blue, brown, didn’t matter, you know, regarding their age. And they got, we could all get our heads wrapped around that. We’ve got to have a workforce of the future. We’re very customer focused. We’re gonna be able to serve our customer, the country, the world needs us, right? And not to be, not saying that in a boastful way.

Dr. Jessica Kriegel: Mm.

Shan Cooper: But just recognizing. And at that time, when I started the job, 90,000 people in our workforce were retirement eligible. Not they would go, but they were eligible within five years. So we had a real business case of why we had to have an environment, a culture, right? That was welcoming to women, right? National defense very much male dominated, right? But we had to have an environment where women felt they could come and contribute to this company.

Dr. Jessica Kriegel: Mmm.

Shan Cooper: And so that was how we started the process. What is the business rationale and why this is so important as well? We would do this. And that was what I had in watching TED. That was what I had a chance to watch IBM do because they were real clear about this is our business. This is how it ties in. So then I could go back and as I thought about it, put these things together, this is our business. This is why this is important to us, right? Why we have to do this. And everybody was given the opportunity to participate in the process.

Dr. Jessica Kriegel: Hmm

Shan Cooper: So if you, looking at our data, we knew the makeup, the demographics, we knew all of that data. We knew birth rates for our country. We knew who was studying, who was graduating. And if you looked at it, right, if you look at birth rates alone, you could soon see that the minority populations, the people of color, were going to outgrow, you know, the Caucasian race. It’s just, it is what it is. People don’t like to hear you say that, but it is so, right? And so given that, we had to create an environment, a culture where people felt they could come in and actually contribute and be a part of the Lockheed Martin team, and that was what we worked to do. And so a part of that was listening and making certain we were on our game. It was being out in community to help build that pipeline. It was investing, right? And so that was, but that was our, what people would say, what’s your business case? That was the business case of why I was brought in. It was about a workforce for the future.

Dr. Jessica Kriegel: You know what’s interesting is, I mean…I can’t imagine what it was like in 2002 to have that charter because, I mean, this is before we were okay talking about mental health in the workplace. This is before we were okay talking about all the issues that today feel like we’re just starting to chip away at the surface of those issues. I mean, imagine in 2002, asking your average CEO, what do you think about having a conversation about the black woman’s experience in corporate America today? I mean, they would have been like, no, we don’t talk about that.

Shan Cooper: Ha ha!

Shan Cooper: Yes.

Shan Cooper: All right.

Shan Cooper: Right, right. Right, but we were doing it. We were doing it. We were going that far in that year, we were going that far. And what we would do is, I had an executive diversity counselor, everybody did that, of course, chaired by our then COO, Bob later became the CEO. But we had accounts, but what we would do is we had to be educated, right? We recognize that we’re not on the same place. We don’t even define diversity the same, right?

Dr. Jessica Kriegel: Going to be really bad for culture, right? And today you see more, but you were doing it. You were going that far in that year.

Dr. Jessica Kriegel: Yeah.

Shan Cooper: Because we brought our own experiences to the table. So we would spend time talking about us, who we were first, right? So we’d have a facilitator training one month, the next month we’d have a benchmark company come in, because we had to learn. After the first year, we felt like we had our footing. Now for people, most companies would say, gosh, that took you guys a long time. But we knew, from my perspective, if you don’t take the time to do it right, diversity is the one thing that can really divide your company.

Dr. Jessica Kriegel: Right.

Dr. Jessica Kriegel: Yeah.

Shan Cooper: It will just rip you apart, right? If you don’t get that right, I think.

Dr. Jessica Kriegel: Yeah, and where else are people gonna do this but at work? I mean, I don’t know any other place. I actually, interestingly, in Sacramento, they have a leadership development program for rising stars, people who are new in their career that wanna, and it was founded by a guy named Scott Syphax, who the program is called the Nehemiah Emerging Leaders Program, and it was originally intended to be a program for black.

Shan Cooper: Exactly.

Shan Cooper: Mm-hmm.

Dr. Jessica Kriegel: Young people to allow to diversify ultimately the board service in the Sacramento region to get more leaders of color, etc. After a few years, they’re like, wait, we’re having all these conversations about diversity and yet internally we’re not diverse, we need to have more diversity in our program. And so I ended up doing the program after they opened it up to non black people essentially and it was very interesting because led by black leaders, it was predominantly black people in the program.

Shan Cooper: Right.

Dr. Jessica Kriegel: We’re having conversations about race. I had been in the culture world for years. No one had even gotten near touching these subjects before as they did in that program. And I remember being like, well, explain to me the black experience to one of the people in my class. And they said, it is not my job to educate you. I was like, oh my goodness, you’re right, I’m so sorry. So then I started listening to all of these podcasts about, you know, like the stoop and the, these.

Shan Cooper: Mm-hmm.

Shan Cooper: Yes.

Dr. Jessica Kriegel: Podcast about the black experience, and it completely blew my mind. I remember reading that book about white fragility, and there’s a part in the book where it says, the thing about race is that white people see whiteness as normal, and everything else is other. And when I read that, I was like, yeah, I do think of it that way. That is exactly, white is normal, and everything else is just other. This was, you know, 10 years ago. I’m like, holy crap, we are so off track.

Shan Cooper: Mm-hmm.

Shan Cooper: Right, right, right.

Dr. Jessica Kriegel: Because I think today, if you have that conversation with someone in the workplace, they’d still maybe have their mind blown because they haven’t done the digging. We haven’t forced them to have these conversations.

Shan Cooper: Mm-hmm.

Shan Cooper: Right, yes, yes. So my, this is Shann’s philosophy. I think we continue to have to start over and over again with diversity discussions and business cases and those kinds of things, excuse me. Because we haven’t had the race discussion. If we had the race discussion in this country, it would be very different, I think. But we dance around it, right? By labeling it.

Dr. Jessica Kriegel: Okay.

Dr. Jessica Kriegel: Mm-hmm

Shan Cooper: Diversity and inclusion and equity. But we need to have the race discussion and companies don’t wanna have that discussion. And some of it is because people don’t know how to have the discussion, right? They think chaos is gonna break out. But I think if you don’t have those discussions that you can’t move forward. And I think the progress that we’ve made at Lockheed and I need to say this too, Jessica, because as people listen to this, that was that first year of diversity. I told you we spent time learning and becoming educated.

Dr. Jessica Kriegel: Yeah.

Shan Cooper: The second year, we had one of the first mass shootings in the country at our facility in Mississippi. And it was race-based. And it was, yes, it actually was one of the facilities that I got the chance to have oversight over a few years later.

Dr. Jessica Kriegel: Mm.

Oh, in your facility.

Dr. Jessica Kriegel: And it was race-based.

Shan Cooper: It was race-based. You can go back and look at the history of it. And the shooter took the lives of nine of our employees, injured 13 others, and then took his own life. And so, but as I thought about that, now remember, I’m in the diversity job.

Dr. Jessica Kriegel: Was the shooter white or black or? OK.

Shan Cooper: The shooter was white, we’re in Mississippi. I get the call one morning saying, we’ve had a shooting, I need you to get to Mississippi. Shooting has happened, we think it might be race-related. So imagine me flying down, knowing the history of Mississippi and race relations, right? And so that’s why I say, I tell people, if you’re gonna go down this journey of diversity and inclusion, working in this space, put the work in, you gotta put, and you gotta be committed.

Dr. Jessica Kriegel: Mm.

Dr. Jessica Kriegel: Yeah.

Shan Cooper: And most companies probably would have stopped at that point. We didn’t, every day I was there, I went to every funeral except the shooters. I took children shopping for clothing from, the hardest thing you’ll ever have to do in your life is tell a child that mom’s not coming home that day, right? Well, that was something that I had to do. And so it was the most pivotal moment in my career because I had to go back.

Dr. Jessica Kriegel: Mm.

Shan Cooper: Now to a 140 some odd population, global employee population, convincing the black people that you don’t work for a racist company, right? And the other people, so everybody had an opinion about it, right? But we were determined we were gonna say the course and work this out. And so I went on my listening journey during that process, right? Because I needed people to be able to voice their hurt.

Dr. Jessica Kriegel: Mm-hmm.

Shan Cooper: What they were feeling, what they believed about the company. And we stayed the course and it wasn’t easy. Got a whole lot of hate mail. All these things, the companies trying to social engineer, blah, you get those things that happen, right? But it was such a small population. And we decided, you know what, if we can bring 80% of our population along, we’re in a good space. That other 20% will continue to try to work with, what have you. At some point, you’re probably not gonna work here.

Dr. Jessica Kriegel: Hmm.

Shan Cooper: Right, if you don’t come along to be the company that we want to be. And that’s why I say diversity, if companies aren’t prepared to put the work in, just don’t start the work because it becomes very divisive otherwise.

Dr. Jessica Kriegel: Yeah, I mean, I think a lot of leaders have no idea. I mean, I just think there’s a lot of ignorance and senior leadership too. I remember…when I was at an organization, we were doing nine box grid evaluations and you’re trying to identify the top talent. Yeah, and we thought we were super progressive. I was facilitating the conversation. It was a bunch of engineers. We thought we were really progressive because then we looked at it through various lenses. What percentage of our top talent are women? Which percentage of our top talent are non-white? That was a conversation for the second half of the.

Shan Cooper: Yes, yes, I’m from the Nine Box.

Shan Cooper: Mm-hmm.

Shan Cooper: Mm-hmm.

Dr. Jessica Kriegel: The first half of the call though, we’re going through the top talent one by one and identifying why they’re there. And the leaders would go around, well, this is Matt. Matt is in here because he’s a doer and he’s proactive and he’s, you know, and this is John. And John is in here because he is just a, you know, brilliant problem solver and they’re listing all the capabilities and then they would, and this is, you know, Susan. Susan is a African-American black woman.

Shan Cooper: Yes.

Shan Cooper: Mm-hmm.

Dr. Jessica Kriegel: That’s how they start the description of why she’s in top talent. They’ve got to identify her race and gender off the bat, just so you all know. We found one. Yeah, it was like, I’m sorry, pause. Why didn’t you identify Matt and John as white men at the beginning of your spiel about them? Like, you noticed that?

Shan Cooper: Right

Shan Cooper: Right, we found one, we found one.

Shan Cooper: Right, right.

Dr. Jessica Kriegel: They’re like, well, I just thought it was important that everyone know. It’s like, okay, great. And can we talk about her actual attributes now? That kind of stuff happens all the time. I mean, I’m in conversations with white men in power all the time, and they will say things like, we really value diversity here. We’re hiring lots of black people.

Shan Cooper: Yes.

Shan Cooper: Mm-hmm.

Shan Cooper: Right, exactly right. You’re like, what? Exactly.

Dr. Jessica Kriegel: Do you want a trophy? I’m gonna take one of the millennial trophies for showing up and give it to you for hiring a black woman, you know? Ha ha ha.

Shan Cooper: I tell people, look, you can hire everybody that looks like me. If the culture and the environment doesn’t work, I’m not staying. They’re not staying because they are talented, right? They are good at what they do. But yeah, but yeah.

Dr. Jessica Kriegel: Yeah, exactly!

Dr. Jessica Kriegel: And these leaders want to pat on the back for having noticed that there’s race and that they’re doing something about it. I mean, it drives me insane because, I mean, there’s still a lot of people out there who think that, I don’t see color. You don’t see color. That’s a big problem. Yeah, that’s the problem actually.

Shan Cooper: Yes, yes.

Shan Cooper: Oh, and that, yeah, and that’s insulting. That’s insulting. That’s because I want you to see my color, right? Yeah, my color means something to me, right? I mean, this is a value to me, right? It shows strength. And so, yeah, that yeah, that was one. But you know what? We made it safe. I think, you know, at Lockheed Martin, for people to have those kinds of conversations and not have retribution, right?

Dr. Jessica Kriegel: Yeah.

Dr. Jessica Kriegel: Yeah.

Shan Cooper: You know, and we would tell people, encourage, ask the question, right? And just say, hey, there’s a way to ask when you want to know things, right? One of the questions I can remember getting asked, and you’ll love this, Jessica, it was like, A’Shan, how is it and why is it that, you know, I can see a black lady one day and she’s got hair up to here and the next day is really, really long. What is this we thing? And so we had to talk about that. You know what I’m saying, it’s crazy, I know, right? But you had to have those conversations, right? And it’s like, hey, let’s talk about that. Let me tell you what that means. And so.

Dr. Jessica Kriegel: I’m sorry.

Dr. Jessica Kriegel: Yeah, right.

Shan Cooper: So we tried to have an environment where people could ask what sometimes seem like dumb questions, right, or silly questions or insulting questions, but be able to talk about it. And, and I think that’s, that’s the other reason why we don’t talk about race because people are like, well, I don’t want to be sued. You know, if I say something that’s offensive. And I just think that we have to give each other grace, right.

Dr. Jessica Kriegel: Yeah.

Shan Cooper: I’m gonna probably say something stupid, you know, a white person, right? Who knows? But we have to give each other grace. And so we were trying very hard at Lockheed Martin to say, let’s show each other grace. But if you don’t ask the question and you don’t understand, then you make assumptions, right? Would make it harder for us to team and focus on the work at hand. And the work is really, really important, so yeah.

Dr. Jessica Kriegel: Mm.

Dr. Jessica Kriegel: Yeah.

Dr. Jessica Kriegel: Did you go to McKinsey right after Lockheed?

Shan Cooper: No, so I don’t work for McKinsey. I’m a senior advisor to them. So they call on me. If there’s a project that’s happening, they’ll give me a call and say, hey, Shannon, we’ve got this customer. What I bring up, I think, is the real life experience to some of the work they like to do, you know what I’m saying? And if there’s a client who says, well, look, I’d like to talk to somebody who’s actually led a cultural transformation, right? What’s the process? How do I do these things, right? So that I come in and just kind of help in that regard. So.

Dr. Jessica Kriegel: Mmm.

Dr. Jessica Kriegel: What’s the culture of McKinsey? I mean, they’ve been in the news a lot in this last year. For someone who actually works with the people in that organization, how would you describe it?

Shan Cooper: Yes. So I actually, I’m shocked to hear that because I love the McKinsey environment. I think they go above and beyond to ensure that people have balance. You hear about, I was in consulting, I had a consulting company early in my career and I had some partners. And I knew pretty quickly that consulting was not the life for me because it’s all about billable hours, right? You’re killing yourself. You’re traveling every week. McKinsey is very good about helping people find balance.

Dr. Jessica Kriegel: Mm-hmm.

Shan Cooper: Right? Need a health day, take it. You know, coming off a big project, take a week off, rejuvenate, you know, re kind of settle yourself, what have you. I love that. They also encourage folks, hey, if you want to go off and get another degree, go. And when you’re done, call us because we’ll probably have a role for you. You know what I’m saying? And so people know, so that’s why you see people, it’s kind of a revolving door in some ways because people do, they go off, they get different experiences and they’re able to come back, you know. And so.

Dr. Jessica Kriegel: Mmm.

Dr. Jessica Kriegel: Yeah.

Shan Cooper: Again, because I’m not in the environment every day, but for the teams I get to touch and work with, it’s just an incredible group of people, incredible place to work.

Dr. Jessica Kriegel: So speaking of degrees, one thing that we have in common, I’m getting a master’s in divinity right now, and you were engaged in religious studies too, right? So how does that, oh, go ahead, tell me. No, your dad’s a pastor? So you had it in your bones. Ha ha ha.

Shan Cooper: Are you really, oh my gosh, wonderful. Yes, yes, mm-hmm. So my dad’s a, go ahead. Don’t say my dad’s a pastor. Yes, yes, and he’s still pastoring today. It was in my bones. But what I wanted to do is just, because I had grown up in one faith. I knew there was others out there and I wanted to learn about them. So that was what got me to study degrees, half a degree in biology, I mean, biology, double, dual degree, biology and religion…it and uh, and that was why I did it.

Dr. Jessica Kriegel: That’s amazing, first of all. You double majored in biology and religion. That’s a story in and of itself. Ha ha ha.

Shan Cooper: Yes. Yeah, my friends tease me. My friends would tease me that I was going to become a witch doctor, but that was not my plan. So.

Dr. Jessica Kriegel: That’s great. So I decided to go and get this master’s. It’s my third graduate degree. I guess I like school. It’s funny because I was never very good at school, but I just want someone tell me what to read. That’s essentially why I keep going back. I was a lifelong atheist. I had a spiritual experience when I was 37 and I suddenly believed in God. And I had no idea what God I believed in because I had never been to church. I didn’t know anything about any religion. So I figured, let me go to school.

Shan Cooper: Yeah, yeah.

Shan Cooper: Mmm.

Shan Cooper: Mm-hmm.

Shan Cooper: Mm-hmm.

Dr. Jessica Kriegel: Tell me what to believe or at least what to read to figure out what to believe. I still really haven’t figured it out. But I see in my work so much connection between what I do as a culture transformation specialist, social transformation, right? And what I’m learning in this masters and divinity. And I go to a school, Pacific School of Religion, it’s radically inclusive is their thing, right? So we’ve got.

Shan Cooper: Mm-hmm.

Shan Cooper: Mm-hmm.

Shan Cooper: Alright.

Shan Cooper: Mm-hmm.

Dr. Jessica Kriegel: Trans students in our class and they are welcomed with open arms and encouraged to become ordained and to become spiritual leaders, which is unique in the world of religion, right? I mean, so do you see the tie between religion and work even though it feels antithetical to each other, right? I mean, how do they connect for you?

Shan Cooper: Mm-hmm, mm-hmm, mm-hmm. Yes, yes. Mm-hmm, mm-hmm. They’re very unique.

Shan Cooper: No, I, yeah, I tell you what, I would not have survived corporate America without my faith. You know, I was often, you know, the only woman, often the only person of color in the room. And people aren’t always kind, right? And you know that, Jessica. And so, right, and so I had to have a way.

Dr. Jessica Kriegel: Mmm.

Dr. Jessica Kriegel: That’s an understatement.

Shan Cooper: Of going to work every day, not knowing what I was going to face, but still show up, show up as authentic, the authentic Shan, the person that I am. And I had to show up in a way that was good for me. You know, and I would tell people often, I am teachable, I am shapeable. But there is a core to Shan, that’s who I am that won’t change, right? My expectations were high. So I would be the senior leader there.

I don’t drink because my faith doesn’t allow us to do that. But I could do it in a way, I could still be out at the Christmas party or the gatherings with the leaders, the guys, right, and everybody and not judge. And so one of my big things I try to tell people, start from a place of inquiry, not judgment. That’s part of the issue that we have, right? And so I could do those, because these are things my parents taught me, right?

Dr. Jessica Kriegel: Mmm.

Shan Cooper: And also too, I was always taught that God doesn’t make mistakes and he created us all. So there has to be something good in all of us, right? Because he made us, right? And he’s perfect and he’s love. And so because he’s love and you say you belong to him, then love has to be an expression and an action word, right? That you show people every day. And so my leadership style was usually different from my peers, right?

My standards were high and anybody who worked with me would tell you, Shannon had high standards of performance, but the way that I gave feedback, right? The way that I engaged with my teams, the folks that I had the honor to work with was usually different than my peers. Most of them had come out of the military and you know, boom, you know, whatever, right? Very much command and control. That wasn’t my style.

Dr. Jessica Kriegel: Yeah.

Shan Cooper: So I was very different. So I was kind of stood out in that way, but it was because of my faith and how I was determined that I was going to treat people and show people love. Still hold them to standards, still do all that. But there’s, and let me tell you, if you talk to my team a day, they would tell you I was probably one of their best leaders because I worked hard at it.

Dr. Jessica Kriegel: Mmm.

So it’s interesting you talk about authenticity and this is a perfect example of a way in which my studies in religion impact the thought leadership I’m doing in the world of culture. So I was on board with the authenticity train. We gotta be our whole selves, bring our whole selves to work and be our authentic selves. And then I read

Shan Cooper: Mm-hmm.

Dr. Jessica Kriegel: Howard Thurman’s Jesus and the Disinherited. So Howard Thurman, for those who aren’t aware, black preacher, civil rights activist. And he was talking about fear and racism. And he says that one of the tools and coping mechanisms against racism is deception. That sometimes we feel, and I can see this as a woman in corporate America, that sometimes we have to act.

Shan Cooper: Mm-hmm.

Dr. Jessica Kriegel: A certain way, there’s a bit of deception in the way that we show up. I’m not really my authentic self in every room because I wanna fit in so that I’m not judged, so that I can advance, so that I can, right? And so there is sometimes the necessity to be deceptive and it doesn’t mean getting away with something. It means not bringing your authentic self to work because your authentic self is not welcome here in certain cultures. And then I realized…

We got all these HR leaders talking about bring your authentic self to work. The problem is not in people who are being deceptive. The problem is in the leaders who are not accepting of every kind of authenticity that shows up, right?

Shan Cooper: Right.

Shan Cooper: Yes, yes, yes. So you took the words from my mouth. You took the words, and I tell people, I don’t tell people you can bring your authentic stuff to work because you really can’t. I tell people understand the culture that you’re working in and then determine how much of you, you still be real and authentic, but how much of you do you want to bring to the workplace? Right? I can remember a young lady coming to me, I never give people direct answers. I try to.

Dr. Jessica Kriegel: Mmm.

Dr. Jessica Kriegel: Mm-hmm. Yeah.

Shan Cooper: You ask them questions so they can kind of discover what they think is the right thing to do. But she comes to me one day, she’s an executive assistant, and she says, I’m gonna go, I think I want to go get dressed. This is early, my early tenure in Lockheed Martin, right? We were very conservative, very button-up, everybody wore dark blue suits, you know what I’m saying? That was the culture at that time, right? And I said to her, she said, what do you think I should do?

Dr. Jessica Kriegel: Yeah. Right.

Shan Cooper: I said, well, what do you aspire to do? She said, well, I aspire to be the CEO’s executive assistant. I want to be up there on the top floor. I want to be up there. I want to be up there working. I said, well, I want you to do this. I want you to go walk that floor and tell me what you see. And then you come back and tell me what you’re going to do. Because I’m going to support you in whatever you do. But I want you to be wise and smart about this decision. She went and walked and came back a couple of days later and said, you know what? It’s probably not the right thing to do. I said,

Dr. Jessica Kriegel: Mmm.

Shan Cooper: You’re probably right, but it’s your call. And so people need to understand that we tell you to bring your authentic self to work. I don’t think that’s a fair statement to your point. And I don’t advise people to do that. But you bring what you want to bring to the workplace, but don’t let the workplace change who you are, right? And sometimes it’s not going to be that cultural fit. Sometimes you’re gonna have to go work somewhere else. I mean, I was a VP of HR after I left the diversity role.

Dr. Jessica Kriegel: Yeah.

Dr. Jessica Kriegel: Yeah.

Dr. Jessica Kriegel: Yeah.

Shan Cooper: I ran HR for one of the largest division in Lockheed Martin, about 54,000 people. And I’m thinking globally, 72 countries. And the reality was, you need to understand the culture and the climate where you worked, in your workspace, in your work area, in your work environment. And that was how I would talk to people about it, because you’re absolutely right. You can’t bring all of you to the workplace, because people aren’t ready.

Dr. Jessica Kriegel: Yeah.

Dr. Jessica Kriegel: Yeah. And it makes me think of Michelle Obama saying, you know, Americans were not ready for my natural black hair. You know, now you see her with dreadlocks, but she’s out of the White House and she’s like, okay, now it’s time. And I mean, that should be a wake-up call that the First Lady is like, you guys aren’t ready for this. I’m just gonna, you know, I mean.

Shan Cooper: No, right, right.

Shan Cooper: Yes.

Shan Cooper: Right. You’re not ready.

Shan Cooper: It’s true. It’s true, right?

Dr. Jessica Kriegel: I don’t think people spend much time thinking about this kind of stuff. And that’s a great, great shame, you know, because it’s what allows this. I mean, I was having a conversation internally about some of the impacts that systemic racism has in, you know, the dynamics in the room when we’re facilitating and the way that we show up. And I remember someone said someone who’s no longer with the company, I will say, Jessica, we’re not going to solve systemic racism with our intellectual property.

Shan Cooper: Mm-hmm.

Shan Cooper: Yes.

Dr. Jessica Kriegel: And it was like, that sounds like someone who’s not even interested in trying, who’s not even interested in advancing the conversation. You know? And it’s such a shame. It’s also really uncomfortable. I mean, it’s gotta be 10 times more uncomfortable than people realize to be a non-white in the workplace today, you know?

Shan Cooper: Right, right, right.

Shan Cooper: Oh, absolutely, absolutely. I tell you, and you know, for some of the folks that I coach and it’s and it’s and it’s people of color, but it’s also still women. Of all colors, right? And you talked earlier about, you know, being I remember sitting in succession, planning sessions as well, right? And, you know, and I remember even talking to women saying, you know, hey, you know, talk to me about your career aspirations, what have you, right?

Dr. Jessica Kriegel: Mm.

Shan Cooper: And they would just talk themselves right out of, because they thought they had to be perfect. Well, I’ve never done that. And I would be like, wait a minute. But you’ve demonstrated here that you can learn. You’ve got great learning agility. I really think you can do this job. And then, of course, because I believe that, I believe that to be true, I kind of did my own thing in the same way, where I went from HR to operations, which is unheard of in any company.

Dr. Jessica Kriegel: Mm.

Dr. Jessica Kriegel: Mm-hmm.

Dr. Jessica Kriegel: Mm-hmm

Shan Cooper: But when the opportunity may became available and they called and said, hey, would you be interested in competing for this role? I’m like, absolutely, I would. I’d never built an airplane or a website in my life. But I’m like, you know what, I can learn. And I think I got the call because I had demonstrated that I could learn, right? And so we as women, sometimes we just talk our ways out of, talk ourselves out of these wonderful opportunities, right? Versus just saying, you know what? I’m gonna take this on. Because trust me, John is saying that he can do that. And

Dr. Jessica Kriegel: Yeah.

Shan Cooper: Three other things, right? And he’s never done any of it, right? So, you know, right? Right?

Dr. Jessica Kriegel: Yeah, John’s got it. John is all over it. Freaking John. That’s so funny. So I mean, yeah, in case any listener out there, male listener thinks that being a woman in corporate America is now easy. It’s not, it hasn’t, I mean, maybe it’s gotten easier, but I am to this day getting mansplained things on a regular basis. I remember I got an email from someone.

Shan Cooper: Oh gosh, so yeah.

Shan Cooper: Mm-hmm.

Dr. Jessica Kriegel: Wanted to forward an article to me because you know, I’m a thought leader. I’m talking about things. I’m thinking about things. They want to give me something to read. So I love it when people send me articles that they think I might find of interest. But the way that they introduced the article was, Hey, Jessica, I thought you might like this article in The New Yorker. The New Yorker is a well regarded weekly magazine. And I’m like, dude.

Shan Cooper: Uh huh. Right, right, right.

Shan Cooper: I’m sorry.

Dr. Jessica Kriegel: Subscription to the New Yorker when I was 23 years old. You don’t have to tell me what the New Yorker is. I have three graduate degrees. What have you done lately? Don’t tell me about the New Yorker. And you know what I did instead? I ignored the email. I didn’t even, you know, should I have told that guy? How dare you explain what the New Yorker to me is? That’s so insulting. I don’t even know what the right answer was.

Shan Cooper: Bye bye.

Shan Cooper: Yeah, but that was a teachable moment, right? And that I will teach as much as I can in a way, and I always do things with a smile. But you know, Jessica, you mentioned something earlier, and the one thing that I am, that I’m a little concerned about, and I’ve got to, I want to do a little bit more research in this as well, but there’s a wonderful organization here called Path Builders, and they’ve just recently done, I haven’t read the whole thing, but it’s talking about women who are mid-career women who would be in that pipeline.

Dr. Jessica Kriegel: It was a teachable moment.

Shan Cooper: To be the senior, they’re opting out. They are opting out in droves. And that concerns me.

Dr. Jessica Kriegel: Oh yeah, I’ve seen that too. You know why? I know why. Because it is insane to operate at the level that we have to operate in order to make it as an executive in corporate America today. The burnout is real. And women are smarter than men, just kidding, but they are smart and they’re saying, no thank you. I’m not gonna do that. I don’t care about power that much.

Shan Cooper: Yeah. Yes. Yes, yes, yes. No, it’s very real. Right. No, no. But. Ha ha ha.

Shan Cooper: Right, exactly, exactly. And so that’s when I talk about, and I wanna dig into the research, because I think that it just kind of reinforces my belief that how work gets done in the next 10 years, it’ll look nothing like it is today. Because women are a talent pipeline that we need in these organizations. So please do.

Dr. Jessica Kriegel: Yeah.

Dr. Jessica Kriegel: Yeah, well, we did research last year. I’ll send you the research we did. We looked at organizations that had less than 20% of their leadership roles filled by women and compared it to companies that had somewhere between 45 and 75% of their leadership roles filled by women. The companies with more women in leadership outperformed in every dimension, not just for the women, but for the men as well, in engagement, in development, in clarity of results, men and women. You know, I mean, it’s…

Shan Cooper: Mm-hmm.

Shan Cooper: Uh huh.

Shan Cooper: Uh-huh. Yes.

Mm-hmm.

Dr. Jessica Kriegel: Doesn’t, you don’t have to be a rocket scientist at Lockheed Martin to figure out the power of diversity and leadership, but you know, it feels like we still have to keep doing all this research and sharing it, yeah.

Shan Cooper: Yeah.

Shan Cooper: But we still have to keep doing this business case work. And it just makes my head spin. Just makes my head spin.

Dr. Jessica Kriegel: Yeah, yeah, it’s interesting. I am writing a paper right now, actually. It’s the end of the semester, and I’m in a class about ethics. And the paper, every paper I write, I bring it to the corporate world, because it’s the lens through which I see and process everything. And I’m writing about the circular lack of accountability, the absolution of accountability that we all.

Shan Cooper: Hmm.

Shan Cooper: Right, right.

Dr. Jessica Kriegel: Are a part of systemically in corporate America. So you’ve got the employees who are, whatever they’re engaged in, they blame the leaders, right? It’s the leaders’ fault. And then they, right? And then the leaders, they’re like, well, we would love to do better. Actually interviewed a CEO who said these words, I am just as exploited as the frontline worker. I was like, really, tell me more about that. He said, yeah, because I would make all sorts of changes at this company if I could, but I can’t because…

Shan Cooper: Right. They.

Shan Cooper: Right.

Dr. Jessica Kriegel: The shareholders and the investors expect something of me. And I was like, really? Okay, so then you go to the investors, even those managing big funds, right? The investors are managing funds for the general public, for the people. You know who the general public are? The employees. And so we go back to the employees that are like, it’s not my fault, it’s the leaders. And so there’s this circle, systemic lack of accountability that exists. And there’s no, you know, the only way to break out of it? Personal responsibility, accountability.

Shan Cooper: Oh my gosh.

Shan Cooper: Right.

Shan Cooper: Mm-hmm. Right.

Shan Cooper: Right, very true.

Shan Cooper: Oh, absolutely, that’s exactly what it’s gonna take, exactly. They absolutely are, yep, absolutely.

Dr. Jessica Kriegel: To just say, I’m gonna do it differently, even if the system doesn’t, and then enough of us do that. Yeah. Yeah, it’s the only way. And I think women are gonna be a big part of that. People of color are gonna be a big part of that. Yeah. Okay, so we have a caller that has a question for you. So I’m eating up all of our time. This has been such an awesome conversation, but I’m gonna share you with our caller now and see what they have in store.

Shan Cooper: Okay.

Shan Cooper: Okay.

Dr. Jessica Kriegel: Oh, top five attributes. Okay, what do you think, Shan?

Shan Cooper: Great, so a couple things come to mind for me. One, I want people on the team who operate at the highest levels of integrity. That to me is job one. Then having a team where, as you talked about, I see it, I solve it, I own it, I do it. I take accountability, right, for what I have to bring to the table.

Dr. Jessica Kriegel: Mm.

Dr. Jessica Kriegel: Are you quoting the Oz principle right now, Shan? That’s our book! That’s our book, you know that? That’s us!

Shan Cooper: You know, it is one of my it’s one of my favorite. It’s one of my favorites. It is one of my favorites. It’s one of my favorites. Let me tell you my favorite book of all time. I make everybody read is Change the Cults will change the game. But getting back to her.

Dr. Jessica Kriegel: You know that that’s our company’s book? Yeah.

Shan Cooper: Do you, I did not know that, but do you know that was the book that I used to drive the culture change at my last Simon and Lockie Mart? That was what I used. No, oh my God. I, let me tell you, it’s my favorite thing. I’ve got a, you can’t see it on my bookshelf back here, but it’s right here, back here behind me. I give it out. I’ve ordered copies. It’s just wonderful.

Dr. Jessica Kriegel: Shane, we have to go back and do this whole interview over again because you are leveraging our tools. That’s so cool. You didn’t even know that was us.

Shan Cooper: But that whole notion of just you talk about accountability, being a part of the team, you have to bring it to the table, right? The other thing is I like to see good judgment. And unfortunately, judgment is not something I can send you to a class to get, right? But I like to see people on the team who have good judgment. I want people on the team who have ambition. People with ambition, they want to be excellent, right? And so if you got people around the team who are about, who are ambitious, and who want my job even, right? I mean, great things happen.

Dr. Jessica Kriegel: Yeah.

Dr. Jessica Kriegel: Yeah.

Dr. Jessica Kriegel: Mmm.

Dr. Jessica Kriegel: Yeah.

Shan Cooper: Great things happen. And then I want people who are just great communicators, that are open to feedback, good listeners, that whole communication process is absolutely key when you’re building a team. So those are the things that I think are important.

Dr. Jessica Kriegel: Yeah.

Dr. Jessica Kriegel: Well, that’s excellent. I mean, and I obviously agree because you’re quoting our books. I can’t believe it. It is brilliant, isn’t it? That’s my number one book recommendation is Change the Culture, Change the Game. You wanna know anything about culture, that’s your book to read.

Shan Cooper: I love those books. It’s absolutely mine too. That’s the book. And let me tell you when I was leading the culture change here at my last job at Lockheed Martin, I will tell you we had a book club. So every Friday you had, and I wouldn’t do it myself. I assigned, leaders got assigned a chapter and they had to come teach the rest of us. Now we had to read it.

But the more, if you have to teach something, you begin to kind of own it, it becomes a part of who you are. And everybody in the facility, in the leadership team, top to bottom, everybody had to read the book and we had to talk about it and just bring it. So I love it, it’s my work Bible. Ha ha ha.

Dr. Jessica Kriegel: Yeah.

Dr. Jessica Kriegel: That is amazing. Okay, I have one last question for you before the last question. So secretly, it’s two questions. What is the thing that you are most worried about right now?

Shan Cooper: Okay, okay, okay.

Shan Cooper: I am worried about really this movement in the technical world, AI, you name it, right, that’s happening and people not being able to catch up, right? So you talk about, you’re talking about, you know, transformation. People often talk about, you know, people processing technology, but you also have to think strategy and structure, right? And I think technology is

Dr. Jessica Kriegel: Mm-hmm.

Shan Cooper: Going to be continued to be, it always has been, a driving force in business and how work gets done. And I get word that we’re not investing enough in our people so that they’re ready. So that they’re ready, right? And it’s an expensive proposition, I get that. But if you think of people as your assets, then you invest in your assets, right? We talk about, oh, our people are our greatest assets.

Dr. Jessica Kriegel: Mmm.

Shan Cooper: The moment we have to cut costs, what do we do? We cut our people, right? Versus policy to look at, well, can we do the work differently? What is the work that we should be doing versus not? And so I just get worried that we’re not bringing people along, that they can be competitive in the future work world. I worry about that.

Dr. Jessica Kriegel: Hmm, that’s, yeah, I worry about that too. I mean, I don’t know how to talk about AI with business leaders because there’s so much unknown. Everyone’s talking about education, education. Okay, but how do you educate on speculation about the future? Yeah.

Shan Cooper: Yeah.

Shan Cooper: Yeah, yeah, exactly. And we’re all trying to figure it out. We’re really all trying to figure it out. But yeah, that’s the one thing I worry about. Will we, will it be ready?

Dr. Jessica Kriegel: I mean, I look at the OpenAI Sam Altman fiasco, right? He was pushed out by a board that was concerned about this very thing. And then the employees rose up, non-unionized employees all spoke up and said, no, we want Sam back. And, you know, ultimately the money won, right? I mean, the money won in that situation and the people wanted him. He’s a great leader, I have no doubt, but I worry about these companies who are

Shan Cooper: Mm hmm. Yeah.

Shan Cooper: All right.

Dr. Jessica Kriegel: Putting profits before what potential harms this might cause. You know?

Shan Cooper: Mm-hmm, mm-hmm. Absolutely, and like I said, we don’t even know where it’s gonna go from here today, but I think we’ve lost the moment to be able to really manage it or put structure or framework around it. So it’s gonna have to be done at an individual company level, and will we get that right? But we’ve got to prepare people to be able to be competitive in the future, and I’m not sure that we’re thinking enough about that today.

Dr. Jessica Kriegel: Mm.

Dr. Jessica Kriegel: Yeah, fascinating. Okay, well, here is my actual last question and my favorite one. What is one thing that no one really asks you on these interviews that you wish more people would ask?

Shan Cooper: And I had just a few minutes to think about that. So, people often ask me, Ching, what was the defining moment in your career or what happened that happened that either prepared you for the next leadership role or that prepared you to lead people? They never asked me about the personal side of my life. Like what were those defining moments, right? That caused me to say, gosh,

Dr. Jessica Kriegel: Hahaha

Dr. Jessica Kriegel: Mmm.

Shan Cooper: I want to be a different kind of person, right? And I’ll never forget, I was in the, I was going between my, it was a summer between my senior, my junior year and my senior year in high school. And I was off at Dove Island doing a marine biology course. And back then, I’m dating myself, long distance calls were not free. And I remember talking to my mom and she’s saying, Shani, you know, Edwin keeps calling you. One of my friends was Edwin Ramos.

Everyone keeps calling you. She said, well, I finally told him, listen, Shannon’s not coming home until the end of the month. What happened? It was a month program. And he committed suicide that summer. And for years and years, I didn’t talk about it. My parents say, when you’re a believer, people often say, well, pray about it, whatever. But at that time in my life as a young person,

Dr. Jessica Kriegel: Hmm

Shan Cooper: I didn’t know how to deal with it, didn’t know how to process it, right? But the one thing I knew is that, gosh, you know what? If anybody ever calls me, I’m returning their call. Because could there have been a different outcome, right? If everyone had been able to talk to me, and probably not. I can’t say, I don’t know that to be true, right? But in a young person’s mind, that’s what you’d think, right, gosh, if I had been home, right, he’d still be here.

Dr. Jessica Kriegel: Mm-hmm

Dr. Jessica Kriegel: Mm.

Dr. Jessica Kriegel: Hmm.

Shan Cooper: But what I said at that moment and forever, and I’ve carried that throughout my entire life, people will say, oh gosh, I really wanna talk to you, well give me a call. And it drives my executive assistant crazy, but I just determined, because she was like, you have no time, why are you telling these people to call you? But I just believe that when people say, gosh, I just wanna talk to you, that we should make ourselves available. And oftentimes they’re saying, well Shannon, I want you to be my mentor, and I can’t take another mentee, right? And I’ll just say, look, I’m not,

Dr. Jessica Kriegel: Hahaha

Dr. Jessica Kriegel: Mm.

Shan Cooper: But I’ll give you a career discussion. I’ll give anybody a career discussion. I’ll help you. But I can’t own mentoring, right? Cause that’s a very, that’s a real long commitment. But that’s what that experience taught me. And so if you know people that know me, they’ll tell you, you got a chance to return your call. Now you don’t want to call me though, if you’ve been arrested, I’m your first call. Don’t call me, don’t let me be your first call. Cause it might take me a bit more.

Dr. Jessica Kriegel: Will not be doled out.

Shan Cooper: It might take me a few days to get back to you, right? But within 48 hours, you’re gonna hear from me, right? So that’s the one thing. It’s different things like that happening in your life early on that make you say, gosh, I’m gonna always do something. I wanna do this differently. But that was one as, yeah. So answer that.

Dr. Jessica Kriegel: Hmm, what a beautiful story. Yeah, thank you for sharing that. I love hearing that personal side of things. Out of curiosity, what is your faith?

Shan Cooper: I’m actually 10th St. Philip AME Church. So just, I grew up Pentecostal though. So interestingly, I grew up Pentecostal, no makeup, women didn’t wear pants, all that exterior stuff that my dad finally said, what are we doing, right? This is a, he cares about your heart. He doesn’t care about all that stuff. So now I never leave home without makeup. It’s like my American Express card.

Dr. Jessica Kriegel: Yeah.

Ugh.

Dr. Jessica Kriegel: I also never leave home without makeup unless I’m giving a keynote at Lockheed Martin, in which case I do leave home without makeup and I never forget it after that because of how embarrassed I was.

Shan Cooper: That’s why I said that I had to bring up America. But yeah, but I grew up in a coastal, yeah.

Dr. Jessica Kriegel: That’s the fastest growing Christian faith in the world right now, interestingly. Yeah. It’s not, it’s showing up differently though, right? There’s like the Diet Coke version of Pentecostal, which not the snakes and the talking in tongues vibes, but more just kind of like preachy preachy. And so, yeah, I mean, I’ve gone to a lot of churches that after the fact, I’m looking it up to figure out, what was that? It was Pentecostal, you know? And yet it’s kind of the more.

Shan Cooper: Oh, is it really? Yeah.

Shan Cooper: Yeah.

Shan Cooper: Yes, though, yeah.

Shan Cooper: All right.

Dr. Jessica Kriegel: What do you call it? The less hard to relate to Pentecostal for the outsider. Interesting. Okay, well anyway.

Shan Cooper: Mm-hmm. Yep, yep, yep. Well, we’re very demonstrative. I’ll say that. Yes, yes.

Dr. Jessica Kriegel: Indeed, book of Acts, right? I mean, the Pentecostal, that’s, you know, it’s interesting. I thought I might be Pentecostal for a minute because I had a spiritual experience. I had this miracle happen that I knew undeniably was not of human power of this earth, right? And so then I was like, well, what religion believes in like lots of miracles and stuff? Because that’s what I’m into. The Catholic church also, by the way, really in a miracles.

Shan Cooper: Ha ha!

Shan Cooper: Wait, wait, wait.

Shan Cooper: Right, right, right.

Shan Cooper: Bye!

Dr. Jessica Kriegel: I’m still trying to figure it out. But then I found out that the Catholic Church doesn’t ordain women. And I’m like, I can’t get into a church that doesn’t ordain women. It says I don’t belong. And yet is the only Christian faith that believes in the divinity of Mary. So there is this divine feminine in Catholicism that doesn’t exist in the other religions. I am on a total tangent right now. We gotta wrap it up. Okay, Shan, thank you for your time.

Shan Cooper: Yeah.

Shan Cooper: Right, exactly.

Shan Cooper: BYE

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