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I took notice this weekend when the New York Times quoted a law professor saying most CEO statements about the George Floyd killing “were put together by the marketing team that was trying not to offend white customers and white employees.” Maybe some were. But it’s pretty clear to me, having spent a lifetime poring over dull corporate press releases, that some definitely were not.
Chuck Robbins, CEO of Cisco, falls into the second camp. He called it “horrific,” “maddening” and “truly abhorrent”–words not normally found in the PR playbook. For Robbins, it seems, this was quite personal.
So Fortune’s Ellen McGirt and I decided to invite him to join us on Leadership Next, our podcast about the changing rules of business leadership, out this morning here.
Robbins says Cisco will work on making its highest ranks more diverse, and emphasizes internal communications with its employees.
“Times have changed,” Robbins says. “Running a company, the most important asset you have are your people. In order to create an environment where you want the best talent to be, there is an expectation that you will talk about these issues.” The interview is well worth 20 minutes of your time.
By the way, Robbins said he read the book White Fragility nine months ago, and it helped prepare him for communicating in this difficult moment. My daughter recommended the same book to me over the weekend. It’s next up on my reading list.
More news below. And tomorrow, we’ve got a stellar selection of Asian CEOs meeting virtually with members of the Fortune CEO Initiative, to talk about lessons they’ve learned from reopening. The group includes Alibaba’s Daniel Zhang, Grab’s Anthony Tan, Rakuten’s Hiroshi Mikitani and Yum China’s Joey Wat. I’ll report back here.
Many companies are speaking out against racial injustices right now. But how do they fare in their own workplaces? Black employees in the corporate world, we want to hear from you: Please submit your anonymous thoughts and anecdotes here.