When you think of a Diversity & Inclusion (D&I) champion, you might not initially think of a guy like Joe Stackhouse. As a middle-aged white guy, even he wasn’t sure he was the best fit when he was asked to co-lead the Land O’Lakes, Inc.’s Diversity Enrichment Council (DEC). He knew he could learn a lot but was apprehensive about what he could bring to the team.
But Joe has been a great fit—and has become a D&I ally both in the workplace and throughout the greater Twin Cities community. He’s always looking out for others, doesn’t matter who it is or what they do. Joe has a passion for helping the less privileged, learning more about the person next to him and challenging the status quo.
He learned from his family and mentors how it felt to have others lift you up and he has tried to pass that gift along.
Importance of mentorship
Growing up, Joe wanted to be like his dad. This meant pursing a finance major in college, just like him. After school, he was looking for an industry with deep rooted values. He stumbled into agricultural. He initially started in finance at Land O’Lakes, moved to supply chain and eventually landed in his current role as WinField United’s sales director for Mexico.
Along the way, Joe says a series of mentors taught him lessons he’ll never forget. Two stand out: 1) integrity is the foundation of your character and reputation. He learned this from a previous boss who lived his life and led his team by this example 2) is best described by a quote from Maya Angelou, “I’ve learned that people will forget what you said, people will forget what you did, but people will never forget how you made them feel.” One of the most influential mentor’s in Joe’s life was a model in the way he treated others.
“My mentor, Fernando, had a big job with a lot of responsibilities, though when we sat down to talk none of that mattered,” says Joe. “He didn’t have single thing on the table, no computer or cellphone. He would talk to me like I was his highest priority and the most important thing in the world. He led with his heart and that is something I will not forget.”
Joe’s parents and mentors have helped shaped who he is today. They each provided a road map helping guide Joe on how he wants to continue shaping his character. A key part of that character is helping others and fighting for those who don’t have the same privileges and opportunities as others.
Paying it forward
Joe knows there is so much he can do to pay it forward and gets involved in a variety of ways. During his time with the WinField United supply chain organization, Joe was asked to be part of a leadership training group. The leadership cohorts is an eighteen-month development program, focused on building relationships and leadership skills, for leaders within the Winfield United Supply Chain. “Mentoring others and guiding leader development is a personal passion where I find often I’m the one receiving far more than I give,” says Joe. “So, while the program was about developing leadership skills, we ended up building wonderful and lasting relationships.”
From mentor to Ally
Looking back, it wasn’t that long ago that Joe learned the term ally. However, it is “etched” into his soul how it made him feel when others were an ally for him.
Joe describes an ally as someone that supports a group or individual other than their own and reaches across differences to work together. Joe points out the impact allies have had on social change such as The Civil Rights Movement and the fight for marriage equality.
Joe was asked to co-lead Land O’Lakes Diversity Enrichment Council several years ago. He thinks its because he may have spoken up a few times on some diversity and inclusion issues. That’s the kind of guy Joe is – if he sees something that doesn’t seem right or needs a different perspective – Joe steps up. “It’s another opportunity to add value, help others and broaden my perspectives,” says Joe. “Being an ally comes naturally and it’s something we can all do.”
When asked what he does to be an ally, Joe emphatically says not enough. Outside of Land O’Lakes, Joe serves on several nonprofit boards. One of the boards is dedicated to helping the mentally ill and another is focused on providing Minnesota youth with development outside the traditional classroom. Within Land O’Lakes, Joe believes his ally work is in the form of mentoring and speaking out when he sees a need.
A recent example is the message that Joe and his DEC co-chair, Leah Anderson, wrote for the employee intranet regarding the events in Charlottesville reinforcing that Land O’Lakes stand with all employees in the fight against racism and oppression.
Joe talks about growing as an ally by making connections and learning people’s individual stories. “Once I get to know someone’s story, I am much more likely to fight for them,” says Joe.
“It is important that fellow employees know I have their back and that I will do what I can to eliminate barriers to their success. Being an ally means championing a cause that isn’t necessarily your own and having the courage to lift up others.”