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Level 5

You Said It: Dawnet Beverley Wants to Inspire Every Business to Lead with Dignity

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1-Dawnet Beverley Picture (1).jpg

Jamaican-born Dawnet Beverley (@DBeverley) once dreamed of being a lawyer. But, after studying business education at Jamaica’s University of Technology and then teaching high school, Dawnet left her island homeland for the United States. Here, she earned a degree in sociology and economics and then worked in various industries including education, banking and financial services. Eventually, Dawnet earned a Master’s degree in Organizational Development. Today, she channels her expertise and insights as a senior executive at Donnelley Financial Solutions, a global financial software and services company.

Throughout her career, Dawnet has been widely recognized for her natural communication skills, leadership abilities and strategic thinking. In fact, her super power is helping companies – and, most importantly, the people who work at them – thrive. She deeply believes that protecting and preserving professional dignity and integrity is paramount to successfully running a business. We caught up with Dawnet in-between flights (she spends almost as much time in the air as she does on the ground!) to talk about an experience that shaped her business philosophy and how the lessons she’s learned about dignity apply to, well, everyone.  

Dawnet, back when you were starting out in business, what were your professional goals and how did you set out to achieve them?

I have always believed in being informed, educated and likeable. It was never enough for me to be “good enough” – my goal has always been to be the best at executing all of my responsibilities. I believe by excelling, I can make a difference.

I’m known as a “fixer.” I help transform organizations and teams so they can achieve operational excellence. I always endeavor to leave a company or situation in better shape than I found it. Even more importantly, I’m just as well-known as someone who inspires confidence in people at all levels of business. I passionately believe in supporting people so they can develop and reach their fullest potential. This way, a company thrives -- and individuals thrive, too.

You explain in a podcast that a critical shift you’d like to see is for business leaders to always “safeguard” other people’s dignity. Tell us what you mean.

This was a very important lesson I learned early on in my career. I had been brought in to a big New York company that was having issues due to growth and expansion. My focus was singular – I was going to “fix” the problems. I observed how things worked for two days and then let the president of the business unit know I’d figured out the problems. I listed about ten million things that would be so “easy” to fix.

Let me tell you, I did not do a good job of understanding the situation or who these people were. The way I went about it was all wrong. I never spoke to anyone, including folks who had been there for a long time. I removed all emotion. Sure, I fixed some things -- but I also hurt a lot of people.

A couple years later, I was asked to come back to the company, this time to stay. A woman leader recognized me and pulled me aside to tell me how I’d made her feel. She said to me, with tears in her eyes, “I had been married to this company for many, many years. I had been a loyal wife, and you were the sweetheart. You came in, you had a one night stand with my husband, and you destroyed me.”

Hearing that story changed my life, personally and professionally. At that moment, I committed to always being intentional about safeguarding other people’s dignity.

How does setting that intention affect the dynamic of a conversation?

If I’m thinking, first and foremost, about protecting your dignity, it doesn’t matter what I’m saying. I could be firing you, talking to you about a challenge or praising you. It’s about leading with compassion and always seeking to be authentic, to understand and to honor another person’s humanity. 

This is how I lead. In every conversation, this is my active tool. 

How can we make “protect dignity” a priority for business owners everywhere?  

Say it, teach it, preach it. It’s smart business. And you will be amazed at the goodwill you develop and the loyalty you earn when this becomes your practice. 

I’ve realized that not only can we “fix” things without being cold or calculated, we should. In fact, it’s easy. Just think about the legacy you want to leave. You want people to feel you came, you inspired, you instructed, and you did it all with dignity and by treating others with the respect they deserve.

Remember, anyone can have this intention, even children!

What challenges do you think women face in the business world right now?

Women, far more than men, have to balance the desire to excel in business (their own or someone else’s) with the demands of raising a family. Women, especially women of color, have to navigate a workplace culture where they may be distinctly different than their “team” in terms of race, ethnicity and experiences. They have to contribute an intelligent voice in the dialog around harassment, discrimination and equity – and, at all times, women must adhere unabashedly to the principles of ethical conduct.

Dawnet, what do you know now that you wish you’d known when you were starting out?

Remember this: Those who have been there before you have been there for good reason. If you have the opportunity to try to improve a situation, you must always recognize you are building on something that already exists – including other people’s legacies.

Before you go

QB Community members, tell about a time when, as a small business owner, you chose to protect the dignity of an employee, supplier or customer. What happened – and what did you learn from the experience?



1 Comment
Level 7

@DBeverley, thank you for sharing your story about what happened when you tried to "fix things" at a company without first consulting its long-time employees. It's one thing to hear about the importance of respecting workers' dignity and another to see it illustrated by such a moving personal anecdote. Very much appreciate your points here!

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