What I’ve Learned Leading Diversity, Equity & Inclusion at My Creative Agency

Note: A short version of this essay was originally published on December 29, 2020 by The Portland Business Journal.

Amid today’s rapidly shifting societal landscape, leaders are scrambling to navigate the waters of diversity, equity and inclusion (DEI). I started doing the work to build a more equitable and diverse company five years ago, when 13 of my 18 staff members were male and only one was BIPOC (black, Indigenous and people of color). In a rare epiphany, I realized workplace homogeneity was a problem and I committed to addressing it. This was us in 2015:


I’ve become increasingly aware of a challenge facing leaders (and lots of people) today: storytelling. And I’m not talking about the kind of storytelling families and cultures use to pass down history and traditions — nor do I mean storytelling contemporary creatives use to cultivate connection and meaning for brands. I’m talking about internal storytelling — the unconscious fiction humans make up when faced with challenges, conflict and important matters.

A tell-tale sign is seeing someone stuck in “analysis paralysis” — a term you’re surely familiar with. Observing closely, you’ll notice their time is spent worrying about the many ways…

A version of this essay was originally published by Forbes.com on April 13th, 2020.

Leading amid a global crisis requires a very specific skill set. First, one has to find a way to stay centered and clear, mentally healthy and strong. Then comes the hardest part: one has to be 100% focused on the most important thing — whatever that may be for you, in your business. Here are five principles to help leaders do just that.

Principle 1: Differentiate between what you can and cannot control.

During a global crisis, the biggest factors are usually outside of your control. Rather than fixate on the newest statistics from the Centers…

Recently, a friend of mine, Brianne Mees — brilliant leader and co-founder of Tender Loving Empire — shared something with me that’s been on my mind ever since. She explained that, in her opinion, the popular saying, “do what you love and you’ll never work a day in your life” is bullshit. It’s a fantasy and a lie that’s misled and confused an entire generation of young people — many of whom are entering the workforce right now. Brianne explained that to truly find, pursue and live one’s passion, there will always be a counterweight of pain and suffering. It’s…

July 29, 2019

A version of this essay was originally published by Forbes.com on August 8th, 2019

My family and I recently enjoyed three nights at a Japanese onsen resort on the bank of Lake Chuzenji, tucked away in the mountains of Nikko National Park, Japan. This onsen, and others like it, exist because of the natural hot springs in the region. The water from these hot springs — which has long been believed to have healing and rejuvenating properties — is piped into pools for resort guests to enjoy. These pools are known as onsens.

I love crushing on a good podcast. It’s what I do while running, taking road trips or whenever I’m having a hard time falling asleep. Lately I’ve really enjoyed crushing Harvard Business Review’s Women at Work podcast.

HBR editors Amy Bernstein, Amy Gallo, and Nicole Torres interview experts at the intersection of gender in the workplace, sharing their experiences, giving tons of brilliant and insightful practical advice.

The way they describe the podcast:

“Women face gender discrimination throughout our careers. It doesn’t have to derail our ambitions — but how do we prepare to deal with it? There’s no workplace…

July 22, 2019

For almost seven years my company had zero turnover. But don’t be fooled by how impressive that statement may sound. Just wait until you read the whole story. It’s a doozy.

In the Beginning…

When I say “zero turnover” what I really mean is nobody quit or left the company of their own decision during the initial, almost seven years of our company’s existence. Yes, we did choose to part ways with 4 or 5 individuals during this time for regular, run-of-the-mill sort of stuff. But even that was minimal, considering the seven year span. …

This essay was originally published by Forbes.com on July 2nd, 2019.

Man’s Search For Meaning, by Viktor Frankl, is a book that’s always struck me like a punch to the gut because the story is so dark yet so real and so recent in terms of the timeline of human history. In reading it again more recently, it lit up like a signal fire of meaning and context for life as I reflect on my own journey leading a creative company.

Austrian neurologist and psychotherapist Viktor Frankl viewed life through a different lens than most. On September 25th, 1942, Frankl…

Image courtesy of The National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases

I’ve been thinking a lot about morale lately. I think the modern day interpretation is “vibes.” Am I right? It’s a fascinating concept if you really dig into it.

Morale is a psychological state of being, measured in terms of confidence and enthusiasm, especially when in challenging situations. I’ve been thinking a great deal about the morale of my own community lately, in addition to that of our world — thinking about how we’re wired, what brings us up…what pulls us down. On one hand there’s a lot to be hopeful and encouraged about. Yet on the other hand, I…

In Jay Z’s 2010 single, “Most Kings,” he muses in the chorus how most kings get their heads cut off. A dark thought, where Jay is reflecting on his own story and on the challenges (and challengers) when you’re at the top of the game. As I listen to his words, propped up by a Run-DMC sample, I ponder a broader meaning, considering the weight and complexity for anyone on top of their respective games, in positions of power and leadership.

Leadership in business is an immense responsibility — a responsibility that only grows and intensifies as a business grows…

Ryan Wines

Ryan is the leader of Marmoset: a global music agency based in Portland, Oregon. He’s given TED Talks on leading creatives and shares ideas at nurturetheory.com

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