Featured Expert

Joe Gerstandt

Speaker & Consultant

Joe Gerstandt brings a new clarity and a fresh energy to inclusion and leadership work.

Joe has worked with Fortune 500 corporations, small non-profits, and everything in between. He speaks at numerous conferences and summits, and blogs at joegerstandt.com. He is a featured contributor for the Workforce Diversity Network Expert Forum and his insights have been published in Diversity Best Practices, Diversity Executive, HR Executive, The Diversity Factor, The American Diversity Report, the Corporate Recruiting Leadership Journal, Associations Now and other print and on-line journals.

He co-authored the book Social Gravity: Harnessing the Natural Laws of Relationships, and serves on the board of directors for the Global Diversity and Inclusion Foundation, the Talent Management Human Capital Executive Research Board, the Chief Learning Officer Business Intelligence Board and the HR Examiner Advisory Board.

Joe grew up on a family farm in NW Iowa, served four years in the United States Marine Corps, including participation in Operations Desert Shield and Desert Storm, attended Iowa State University and then spent 6 years working in management and business development for technology and communication companies. He then made a career change and went to work for a grassroots non-profit organization where he found himself drawn to issues related to diversity and inclusion and then became actively involved in that work.

Today, joe is a strong advocate for resetting the diversity and inclusion conversation, and believes that we can ill afford to continue applying a 20th century approach to an increasingly critical set of 21st century issues. His keynote messages and interactive workshops bring greater clarity, new perspectives and fresh energy to diversity and inclusion work.

Joe lives in Omaha, Nebraska (the middle of everywhere) with his kind, loving and patient wife, two daughters, a son, a dog, a frog, and a guinea pig.


Ques 1. You have conducted multiple training workshops for corporate and professional groups. What is that one paramount thought that drives you through each such successful session?

Ans.I think that it probably varies a lot depending on the group and the topic that we are focusing on, but in general I always want to give the folks in the room information and practices that will be valuable to them…stuff that will make them more successful, make their lives easier.

Joe Ques 2. What do you consider as the biggest challenge in making training-as-part-of-organizational-culture successful?

Ans. Like anything else in the organization, you cannot simply say it is important…you have to show that it is important. Invest real resources, provide quality learning experiences, set the expectation, hold folks accountable, reward the people who do the work, factor it in to performance evaluations and promotions.

Do not tell them it is important, show them it is important.

Ques 3. “Diversity is Difference” – kindly share your insight on this school of thought.

Ans. That’s what it is, the word diversity means difference. I think that one of the greatest challenges to diversity and inclusion work today is that there is no common language and no consistent logic inside most organizations. The word diversity is a perfect example…people are confused, amused and even offended when I say that diversity means difference…even though that is what the word means.

This is evidence that the word itself has lost its value because it now means a whole bunch of different things to different people. I do not think that most of our conversations about issues of gender, race, ethnicity, etc. are terribly valuable or actionable because we do not understand the role that difference plays in our lives and especially in our interactions. Let’s start there, lets make sure that we all understand difference. I do not know of another issue that is more poorly understood and misunderstood in the workplace today than diversity & inclusion.

JoeQues 4. Team spirit, team building & team success have become common catchphrases that drive professionals towards greater goals of the organization. Do you feel that with this, a professional’s individual goal setting takes a backseat?

Ans. In a lot of organizations, probably. I think that a lot of work is done today in teams and strong teams have to be really clear on their common goals and aspirations in order to really harness their individual differences. I think that if the organization is honest and transparent, and the employee is honest there is greater likelihood for there to be alignment between what I care about and what we care about, and that is a much healthier and more mutually beneficial way to roll.

Ques 5. From your regular interactions with the corporate entities, do you see any popular HR myth that you would like to demystify?

Ans. Yes, HR gets a pass on diversity…they are automatically assumed to be the folks that “get it.” They do not, HR does not even have a solid understanding of human behaviour which, in my mind, they should really be the in house expert on.

Ques 6. ‘Change is good’ but we often find people taking to change, be it process/people/policy related, with reluctance. How may this reluctance be overcome to bring in effective change management?

Ans. I would say that change is necessary, but not all change is good. I also think that we are much more reluctant to being changed by other people than we are towards change in general. I would stop putting HR folks and managers in conference rooms to discuss and decide how to change employees, and flip the script. Put employees in conference rooms to discuss and decide how to change work and HR and management. The Heath brothers wrote a great book on change, called Switch. I highly recommend it.

Joe Ques 7. Do you believe that the onus of keeping the work culture of an organization positive lies with the management who often tend to overlook individual wellbeing?

Ans. Absolutely. I think that one of the most important roles of management is to be the keepers of the culture, but I think it is pretty rare that this is actually the case. We have done a wonderful job of espousing the right values and aspirations and priorities in more and more organizations, but we have failed miserably at developing managers that actually believe that stuff and act accordingly. The dominant business management archetype of today is a more polite, more politically correct Gordon Gecko with a smaller cell phone. Business schools have failed us miserably. Employees are caught in a tug of war between organizations that desperately need to evolve and a terribly antiquated and increasingly irrelevant practice of management.

Ques 8. How do you define a Leader? What leadership qualities or attributes are imperative for an individual to stand out from the crowd?

Ans. I do not. I think this idea that leadership is an individual practice or trait has been costly to us. I reject the idea of “a leader.” In my mind, if a group of people is able to come together and aggregate their perspectives, skills and gifts toward the accomplishment of a common goal then they have demonstrated leadership, it is a shared behaviour like communication or trust.

Joe Ques 9. When not training or inspiring people and corporate, what keeps you happily busy?

Ans. Mostly my kids. We have a 14 year old, a 7 year old, a 4 year old, a dog, a frog and a guinea pig in our house so there is always something going on. Being a dad and a husband are both pretty good gigs for me. Beyond that, I read a lot and my wife and I try to travel a bit. I also love my work, so I am blessed in about every way imaginable.

Ques 10. Could you suggest a Hollywood movie that you feel a professional should watch for its smart takeaways like work-life balance, focus, learning process, competitive spirit etc?

Ans. The Matrix

“There is a difference between knowing the path and walking the path.”

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