In this episode of Culture by Design, Timothy R. Clark is joined by Bobbye Sweat, Director of Diversity and Inclusion for First Command Financial Services in Forth Worth, Texas. Bobbye shares her experiences in seven different industries as she has worked to meet people where they are. She explains that if you really care, you’ll be authentic. That foundation of inclusion makes all the difference.
Bobbye’s origin story (02:00). Raised by a single dad in Arkansas, Bobbye learned the importance of relationships and caring for others from her father, “Mr. Mom”. That one lesson changed the way she approached interactions for the rest of her life.
How Bobbye got her professional start (13:30). When Bobbye worked at Telecom during her junior year of college, she was encouraged to take a full-time job in the engineering field when all she wanted was to be a teacher. Her mentor helped her see the opportunities in front of her, which jumpstarted her professional career. Bobbye took her dad’s words to heart when he said: If you have the attitude and aptitude for learning, you can do anything you want to.
How do you leverage and take advantage of opportunities? (18:00). Bobbye tells the story of how she has been able to work in seven different industries during her professional career. She explains that when people enter new environments with enough support and encouragement, they thrive. They put their head down and get to work.
From phones, to airplanes, to DEI (24:45). While Bobbye was working at Boeing, she noticed that while the work atmosphere was diverse, people weren’t talking. She wondered: how do we get people to look at each other and leverage our differences? As a pioneer in the DEI space, inclusion solidified everything that Bobbye had learned in her career. She learned to link the passion to the purpose of the work.
A foundation of inclusion makes a world of difference (30:00). Bobbye explains that organizations that are truly inclusive will enjoy its byproducts: diversity, equity, innovation, and other business outcomes. When inclusion is the primary focus and foundation, you can get your footing and build from there. No organization can commit itself to a diverse workforce without an inclusive culture, where policy and practice works for everyone.
Leaving a legacy (31:30). When asked what she wants to pass on to the next generation, Bobbye responds that authentic caring is her main focus and goal. As Theodore Roosevelt said: “People don’t care what you know until they know that you care.” When we’re willing to meet organizations where they are, culture can change.
Meet unkindness with kindness (34:30). Bobbye says: pick your battles. Sometimes you'll have to remove yourself from situations, sometimes you need to speak up. This balance of forgiveness and standing your ground is one that Bobbye has learned well. Ask yourself: “What did I do to serve someone else today?”
Maintaining authentic caring through intent and motivation (39:10). Bobbye shares her practical tips on how to care authentically. Sometimes it means doing the opposite of what people would expect you to do.
Creating a speak-up culture (44:00). People continue to ask the question: “Will I have a voice in this position?” Bobbye explains that you can’t expect an organization to magically produce a speak-up culture when it is not designed to sustain one. You have to meet the organizations where they are.
About Our Guest:
Bobbye Sweat is the Director of Diversity and Inclusion for First Command Financial Services in Fort Worth, TX.
Bobbye joined First Command in August 2020, bringing over 16 years of Diversity & Inclusion leadership experience to her current role. Prior to First Command, Bobbye was D&I Integration Director for Hallmark Cards; the Head of the Diversity & Inclusion at Mercedes-Benz Financial Services; Senior Manager Diversity & Inclusion at JC Penney; Associate Director Diversity & Inclusion at AT&T and Senior Manager Network Services & Customer Care Operations at The Boeing Company.
Bobbye received her MBA in Total Quality Management from City University of Seattle. She is a Certified Diversity Professional (CDP), and a Certified 4 Stages of Psychological Safety Consultant.