Avoiding the Unintentional Exclusion Trap with Robert Heath Sr.

Are you unintentionally excluding customers, clients, and talent from your organization?

In this Coffee Klatsch, Vince sits down with Robert Heath Sr. — Marine Corps veteran, attorney and CEO of The Legacy Leadership Consulting Group — to discuss practical approaches to inclusivity and how to avoid the “unintentional exclusion trap.”

Top Takeaways

  • Exclusion is often unintentional, but intentions don’t matter as much as results.
  • Inclusivity is not simply a value to champion. It requires action and practical application.


Vince Boileau: Hey friends, welcome back to the Coffee Klatsch, our show, our series where we bring on people that we think are interesting to talk about insights and things that you can put to practice in your own organization. Today, I’m joined by Robert Heath Sr., who is CEO at The Legacy Leadership Consulting Group and, prior to that, was an attorney and a trainer and commander in the US Marine Corps. Welcome to the show.

Robert Heath Sr.: Thank you.

VB: First thing I want to tackle is something that we’re calling ‘the intention trap.’ Is exclusion bad? Is it inherently bad? And what does that mean?

RH: That’s a phenomenal question and a lot of people think that inclusion means everybody should be included, nobody should ever be excluded. And what we know is that’s just not possible, right? There are certain people that we don’t want in certain spaces. The one that I always give — the kind of tongue in cheek one that we talk about is, if somebody believes that the way that you solve business disagreements on strategy is to punch people in the mouth, you might not want them in your team.

VB: So help me understand this idea of unintentional exclusion. I’ve heard this saying before and I can’t remember the attribution that goes with it, right, but we tend to judge other people by their actions and ourselves by our intentions. So, how do we identify where there are areas, maybe, where there’s unintentional exclusion happening? And maybe you could give us an example of just what that looks like.

RH: I love it. And so, first of all, when you think about unintentional exclusion, the analogy I always love to give is, say you have beachfront property, lakefront property and you decide to build a house. Now, what you know is if you build the house kind of close to the beach you need to make sure you have room for the waves to come in which is gonna require stairs and all the rest of that. Now, when you’re building the property, you’re building it for you and your family and everybody you enjoy. Everybody in your family — they can get up stairs, they can do whatever they need. Now, you’ve owned the property for 10 years. Somebody in your family is either in a wheelchair, just can’t traverse stairs or anything like that. Ostensibly, they are going to be excluded from the experience, right? Was that exclusion of them intentional when you built the property? No. Does that change the fact that they’re excluded if they can’t get up steps? No! And so we’re faced with this reality that even if our best intentions didn’t encompass what’s actually there…what do we do now? Especially in businesses, we have policies, we have procedures, we have systems that, when they started, had a very good purpose and inadvertently are excluding a particular group of people, are excluding a  particular demographic, are excluding potential talent that we can bring in to our organization.

VB: Even in our business…so we moved into this space. This is not an ADA accessible space. We actually had it where we had a group of students that was visiting, and on the day of, there’s a kid that’s out front and he can’t get in because he’s in a wheelchair. It’s like, “Alright, how do we solve this?” Now, thankfully, we have neighbors here that are across the hall from us. They have access to an elevator through their space and they welcomed us to use that to help people get into this space. But when you talk about, from a talent standpoint, you know, is my company really accessible? Is that really a group that we’re including? And so next time we consider an office space, that’s something we actually have to solve as a company as we move forward to make sure that we can include as many people, right, in the way that our company moves forward.

RH: You understood that there was a problem. What most people do with the intention trap is the young man will still be outside because we would be talking about whose fault it was that he was outside instead of fixing the fact that he’s outside. What you did is, instead, you went and figured out, “How do we get him inside? Because that’s what we want. The key to that is what we call at Legacy “intentional excellence,” right? It’s not just about what our intentions are but it’s also about making sure that our results line up with our intentions. It actually allows people to collaborate instead of to feel adversarial in those situations. If everybody can agree, “Yes, we want the young man inside,” Now we’re all figuring out, “How can we make sure he’s inside? Can we even get better ideas about it in the future? How can we make sure he’s inside without us having to do all of this?” That’s the power of avoiding the intention trap and focusing on intentional excellence.

VB: That’s great. Hey, thanks for -joining us today. We appreciate it.

RH: Appreciate you, brother.

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