In celebration of Black History Month, we joined in conversation with leaders across Caribou Coffee to share their voices, experiences and love as we strive to co-create progress and possibility as a reflection of our commitment to equality, our community, and to each other. In our continuous Self-Pourtrait series, we’re shining a light on members of our team to share their advice, career journeys, and hopes for the future.
“When I think about what Black History Month means to me, I don’t want another generation of Black boys or girls to not be fully aware of how incredible their VERY RECENT ancestors and family members were and the contributions they have made on our society. My leadership style was really inspired by my father and mother—in very different ways. Dad was always about helping people in need. Mom was the superglue of our family and community, and it was always important to her to make sure everyone was loved and connected.
As a leader I try to be about helping people achieve what they want and marry that with my responsibilities to the company. I can absolutely say that I have learned more from the people I have led than they have learned from me.
When I think about leadership and celebrating Black History Month, this is a great time for reflection. If you want to be antiracist, take a personal and professional inventory of what you are doing to be a participant and contribute to a more just, equitable and loving world. And appreciate the work you have already done towards progress!”
“Black history is every day because someone paved the way for me to be where I am right now—but this month means that I get a chance to hold the space that my ancestors created for me. I get to have a seat at the table because of them. Black History Month is about humility and reverence, and the acknowledgement that I am here today because of the hard work, resilience and courage of my family and ancestors. It can be so easy to get lost in the day-to-day work, but this is a powerful moment to stop and reflect on the sacrifices and work that made this moment possible.
My leadership style is coaching inspired. I really love to see other people grow. My career has been in Talent Acquisition for a reason—I want people to thrive in their work. There is no better motivation to take on my day than seeing the success and relationships that transpire from this work. I am a working leader, or a play-coach who is not afraid to get in the weeds and roll up my sleeves to be a part of a solution.
As Black leaders, we face very dynamic challenges both personally and professionally—so I believe is it is so critical to take care of ourselves. It is important for us to break down the stigma that you must be strong each day. I believe the future can be about shifting from generations of resilience and hard work to a future of hard work coupled with self-care and self-love.”
“I am bi-racial. My mom is a white woman, and my dad is a Black man. I have always existed in the middle ground, not always knowing exactly where my identity lies. For a long time, I felt like Black History Month was celebrated by one half of my identity and not by the other. What I have learned is that celebrating the struggles and successes of Black people is for everyone—inspiring for everyone and powerful for everyone.
When I think of what leadership is to me, it is more about the questions that I ask along with the listening that I do, rather than my talking and doing. The more I listen, the more success my team and I have. I love giving space for people to be honest with themselves and me about their journey. My dad is the same way. I specifically remember when I was growing up, he would never answer my questions, but instead, he asked me what I thought I should do. Listening is one of the least used tools that is the most effective. I would encourage you, regardless of race, to examine what Black History month means to you. And what inspiration you can absorb from it.”
“Black History Month is a celebration. A reminder to remind YOURSELF about what Black Excellence looks like and to be in awe of how much Black people influence culture. This is less about the month that we uplift Black people, but rather, a month to be PROUD of. I am motivated by the opportunity to impact change in the lives of people around me. No matter what position you are in, you can make change.
I have a very communal leadership style—I want my team to know that they are critical to our success. My leadership has been inspired by my grandma, Debbie Montgomery—first female police officer hired by the St. Paul Police Department, the youngest member of the national NAACP board, a leader who walked with Martin Luther King JR. Her mentality of creating a path for yourself AND others reminds me that I have more opportunities to lead, so it is my responsibility to lift other people up. There is nothing more satisfying than to know my team gained skills and behaviors from our relationship that will better their life and others’.
This month, reach out to Black people in your community and ASK how they want to be celebrated. Seek to understand. Be curious about their story. Don’t make a plan without involving the voices of the Black people sharing their history. Bring more Black voices to the table.”