'Unlock the goodness'

February 1, 2022

Organizational Culture

By Cassie Price

Raegan Williams Morris, ’99, brought a simple message with her when she came to speak in the fall of 2021 at the Jepson School of Leadership Studies: Open, honest conversations are key to developing a healthy company culture and good leadership.

Morris is vice president of card channels at Capital One Financial Group, a Fortune 500 company in Richmond, and she leads a diverse global team of more than 5,000 customer service associates in the company’s credit card division. She also serves on the Jepson School’s executive board of advisors. Authentic conversations have never been more important to her company’s success than during the past two years, she said — a period during which employees and customers have grappled with a global pandemic and heightened racial tensions.

“By improving our employees’ experience, we improve our customers’ experience,” she said. “Our customers are having tough conversations about politics, the pandemic, and racial equity with our associates every day.”

Such topics have often been taboo in some workplaces, but Morris encourages discussion and launched an initiative on open conversations to prompt it.

“The goal is to teach our leaders how to have complex, thoughtful dialogues with employees on difficult issues like race and gender equity,” she said. “It’s about how you unlock the goodness that comes out of these tense conversations so employees feel seen, heard, and valued.”

She took a similar approach in addressing the struggles of remote work after the onset of the pandemic, using herself as an example.

“I shared a story of my son asking me to make toast while I was on a call talking to thousands of people,” she said. “The dog barks, the doorbell rings. It’s OK. Just turn your computer camera off. We have to normalize our reality.”