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Working to diversify internal talent pipelines

McKinsey’s Black Leadership Academy helps build specialized career skills

As we continuously foster a diverse, equitable, inclusive culture, diversifying our internal pipeline by helping our employees of color develop and accelerate their careers is a priority.

Gadder Feaman

Gadder Feaman

This includes preparing our employees for leadership roles and helping them achieve their professional goals. McKinsey & Company’s Black Leadership Academy is one program Securian Financial employees participated in recently that provided core management capabilities and cross-functional knowledge for leading teams.

“The Black Leadership Academy is an example of the types of opportunities we’re looking into as an organization to diversify our pipeline and build and grow employees’ careers at all levels,” says Dexter Davis, Securian Financial chief diversity officer.

Dexter himself participated in McKinsey's Black Executive Leadership Program. “Exposure to other Black professionals at the executive level and the camaraderie that it brought was impactful to me,” he says. “That kind of access is so important to help Black leaders see they have a network they can tap into and share experiences.”

Gadder Feaman, compliance consultant at Securian Financial, participated in McKinsey's Management Accelerator program, designed for mid-career professionals interested in advancing to senior leadership roles. Read on to learn about his experience.

Why did you feel it was important to participate in this program?

Through prior work with McKinsey consultants and my past encounters with McKinsey publications on multiple business topics, I developed an appreciation for the company’s structured, thoughtful approach to disciplines like strategy and problem solving. Naturally, when Securian Financial offered me the opportunity to train with McKinsey, I jumped at the chance to learn more about their methods. I also really looked forward to connecting with other Black professionals from different industries and from across the globe. 

What are the top takeaways you gained from the program?

I had three top takeaways from the program.

  1. Being intentional is critically important. Whether solving a problem at work, thinking about your career, or building and nourishing a network, being intentional about goals is critical to success.
  2. Effectively working with others increases chances for success. People bring diversity of thought, perspective, experience and skill to every situation. Seeking the support of others and their diversity increases the chance for success in any endeavor.
  3. Frame appropriately. Every business opportunity and problem should be properly “framed” before planning a response. For example, are all the facts collected and understood? Are we at the root of the problem? Are we missing anything?   

In what ways was connecting with other Black professionals important to you?

I’ve always found it important to find and connect with others who are also interested in personal and professional growth. In the McKinsey program, I found a supportive community of professionals with similar experiences and aspirations who were willing and committed to growing together.   

How was the program structured? What topics, assignments, discussions did it include?

The program included three digital courses on business strategy, problem solving and business fundamentals, plus introductory, mid-point and capstone webinars. We were also assigned to two groups: a formal work group that met regularly to complete group assignments, and an informal peer group that met for support and networking. The digital courses consisted of 6-11 weekly lessons thoughtfully laid out in McKinsey’s structured approach to each discipline and were facilitated by McKinsey experts from across the world.

Can you share an example of a project that was particularly beneficial?

I have two examples. First, I joined a strategy forum at Securian the same month I started McKinsey’s business strategy digital course. McKinsey has a well-developed approach to the discipline of strategy, and I used the material as an immediate reference in my contributions to our strategy forum.

Second, in my work as a compliance consultant, I often triage new business opportunities, providing an initial assessment of all potential compliance challenges that need to be addressed before capturing the opportunity. The problem solving digital course had a lesson on debiasing that proved incredibly insightful for this part of my job.

McKinsey outlined several types of biases that can lead to inaccurate framing of a problem, and subsequently, a less-than-optimal solution. As I look at business opportunities from a compliance framework, this lesson encouraged me to intentionally ask myself whether I’m approaching the issue objectively and recognizing all pertinent facts.

How did you grow professionally and/or personally from participating?

For me, the program reinforced the importance of slowing down when confronting a business need while also providing processes applicable to developing goals and solving problems.

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Dexter Davis and Gadder Feaman are Securian Financial employees and thus have a financial connection to Securian Financial. Their statements were given freely.

DOFU 7-2021