Khaliah Guillory, a professional speaker and coach, gets asked that question a lot. Inspiring “dopeness” is her value proposition, but it comes with a learning curve for most of us.
It certainly did with Khaliah, our guest this month on Coach’s Corner on May 10. (Register here— Coach’s Corner is always complimentary for Pink Petro members!)
The concept came to life for her early in her 14-career in banking — which had never been part of her plan.
Originally from Port Arthur, Texas, Khaliah got a basketball scholarship to the University of Central Florida and majored in communications. She wanted to work in radio as an on-air personality. She even landed a job at an Orlando radio station post-graduation.
But around that time, her mom was diagnosed with ALS, a terminal illness also known as Lou Gehrig’s Disease. Khaliah decided to move to Houston. But, without the radio connections she had built in Orlando, she needed a new career track. Her sister suggested she give banking a try. So she took a job at Wachovia.
Khaliah was on the fast track from day one. And just before Wachovia merged with Wells Fargo, she was asked to join the company’s diversity council, a group populated almost exclusively by C-suite leaders. It represented an incredible opportunity for Khaliah, then just 26 years old.
Except for one thing.
“I got the application, and they asked for sexual orientation. I was not out at work. That presented a problem,” Khaliah recalls.
She had heard the horror stories about those who disclosed their sexual orientation to their company and suffered extreme consequences — getting shunned or outright fired.
“I thought: ‘My career’s on the fast track. I don’t need anything that’s going to deter it. I only want to be measured on my performance,’” she recalls. “At the time, it was all about my career. It was about how can I get to the next rung as fast and furious as possible.”
She reached out to her HR liaison and confessed her fears that coming out would constitute career suicide. The liaison assured her she was not about to sacrifice her potential. But Khaliah was still scared.
So she called her sister, who was significantly more direct.
“She said, ‘If they don’t want you because of that, then despite all that you’ve contributed, you shouldn’t want them either,’” Khaliah recalls. “And I was like, ‘Whoa, you’re right.’ I hung up the phone and completed the application.”
She also made a decision. She wasn’t going to compartmentalize her life any longer. She was going to bring her whole self everywhere — something she decided to call “dopeness.” And it was about more than just sexual orientation. It was about embracing everything you bring to the table, even the parts of ourselves we may be inclined to hide — whether that be religion, age or socioeconomic status.
“That’s how this really all came to be. I want people to avoid having to navigate life through society’s lens. Instead, I want them to view the world only through the lens that was specifically prescribed for them,” she says. “Then — and only then — you can truly ‘unleash your dopeness’ on the world.”
That message has brought her speaking gigs from big-name clients, including NASA, Wells Fargo, Microsoft, GameStop, Keller Williams and the National Diversity Council — all organizations that have hired Khaliah to preach about “dopeness” and why companies need to embrace the human element.
“We speak a lot about customer-centric approaches and all this jazz, which is true: Without a customer, we wouldn’t be in business. But I’m focusing on a people-centric approach,” Khaliah explains. “Having a human-to-human connection — that’s what we need to get back to.”
And don’t worry about ROI, she adds. That will come, in the form of greater employee engagement, creativity and productivity — and the removal of limiting thoughts.
“Who wouldn’t want to work for a company that is literally putting their people first?” she says.
Want to hear more from Khaliah? Register for Coach’s Corner on May 10!