Get to Know a Co-Lead of B.E.L.T.

Marquis Smallwood

Learn more about the Black Executive Leadership Team at MetLife and Marquis Smallwood's perspective on winning together, embracing change and leading with empathy. 

With his high pace job and young family, Marquis Smallwood tells us he’s finding it harder and harder to serve others as much as he would like, though service remains an essential component of his well-being.

During the week, Marquis provides senior leadership to MetLife’s Western Sales Region, where he’s responsible for leading business development using a broad portfolio of MetLife products. While he spends much of his time leveraging the availability of a vast brokerage community that serves the Western marketplace, he also directs a lot of his focus on advancing Black talent at MetLife. Alongside Anika Wall, Marquis serves as co-lead of MetLife’s Black Executive Leadership Team (BELT), which was co-founded in 2022 by Dr. Cindy Pace and Cynthia Smith and is committed to addressing the unique needs of MetLife’s Black talent pipeline and customers. The program is designed not only as a leadership bridge for the Black Professional Network within MetLife, but also as an advocacy tool for Black Executives across the organization.

Each weekend, Marquis then spends time with young people at his church where he technically serves as teacher but, instead, he says, “These kids are teaching me.” Keep reading to learn how the practice of inclusivity and empathy and the power of change define Marquis’s career at MetLife.

To start, let’s talk about inclusivity. Why do you think inclusivity is such an important practice at MetLife?

Inclusivity at MetLife is essential to delivering on our promise to our customers. At MetLife, our purpose is to always be with you, building a more confident future. For us to deliver on this committed purpose, this promise, we foster and embrace a diverse and inclusive environment across our organization.

It’s clear that we are better when we come together as a collective team driven by our purpose. We are better when all are welcomed, when all have a voice and when all truly know they matter and are needed at MetLife. And when we are better at MetLife, we are better for our customers.

Thanks, Marquis. I know you also have an interesting perspective on change. Why are you a proponent of it?

Change is required if anyone or anything is to grow. Recently I heard someone say, ‘The minute we stop growing, decay sets in.’ Regardless of the growth, personal or professional, for us to be better versions of ourselves than we were yesterday, we must continue to push boundaries to new limits. We must stretch ourselves, and this requires change.

I have found that when you resist change rather than embrace it, you often waste a lot of valuable time and, in some cases, get left behind. After coming to this realization many years ago, I’ve become a champion for change and doing all I can to help others understand not only its value, but also how it can be seen as a positive rather than a negative.

This mindset shift, of course, requires clear communication and space for understanding, all while very different people and actions are seeking alignment. I don’t want to sugarcoat it – Change can be and is often hard. But it refines us, it makes us stronger, smarter, and I believe it opens our minds to new possibilities across new horizons.

Excellent, thank you. Could you speak to the importance of leading with kindness and practicing empathy to drive success at MetLife?

I love this question. I wake up each day with gratitude. I think about how grateful I am for the beautiful things in my life and for the day ahead, and I often will say to myself, ‘Go out there and kill them with kindness.’ This is what sets my mindset and attitude.

When you put people before yourself and look to meet them where they are, it changes your perspective and approach to otherwise difficult things. It allows you to take a step back and focus on the person across from you as another person and not as a transaction. Acting in kindness and with empathy often will have a contagious effect on others and will travel far beyond our span of knowledge and care. The opposite is true, too. I would hate to think if I were rude to someone, the effects that could have on others and how far those effects might have traveled.

So kill them with kindness, be empathetic, listen and do our best to be there for others in their time of need. These simple acts will go a long way and make the workplace a better place to be.

Brilliant. Lastly, what's a key lesson you've learned along the way you would like to share with others?

I am still applying my ABC’s in life. I share them with just about everyone:

  • A. is for Attitude. No matter the situation, if you have the right attitude, some of life’s most difficult moments will be better. 
  • B. is for Believe. Believe in yourself. Each of us has something to offer and the potential to do great things. 
  • C. is for Courage. Have the courage to stand up for what’s right and for one another. There will be many times in life when we need to have the courage to use our voice to make a needed change. When called upon, my hope is that we use this courage to speak boldly for what is right.

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