Today I want to pay homage to the people who have courageously and compassionately kept the conversation about racial inequalities going even when it was difficult, unpopular, or even unproductive. If that’s you—thank you! And if you are one who just entered the conversation, wanting to learn more, welcome!
At the end of this message (a bit longer than usual) you will find my gift to you for all you are doing and for all you want to do to ensure your workplace thrives.
Twenty-two years ago, I started Workplace Success Group (WSG) with a team of strategists, advisors, and educators who were not only qualified, but also deeply passionate to use their voices and expertise to help build diverse talent pipelines. Today, we continue to educate and build corporate cultures where inclusive excellence is woven into the fabric of those organizations so everyone can thrive. More than ever, I am deeply proud that we have helped develop hundreds of effective and more culturally responsive leaders. We found our lane and never wavered.
I could not have predicted that in the wake of the murder of George Floyd—one of many—and the complexities that COVID-19 has delivered to our clients’ doors, my team and I would become the trusted partners they needed to navigate the ambiguity of this moment. Whether helping our clients craft meaningful and strategic communications or educating them on why anti-racism has become a corporate priority today—this work requires curiosity, courage, and compassion. I’m proud that this has been our approach from the very beginning.
The Black Lives Matter movement is not going anywhere soon. This is the time for us all to find our lane and decide how our cultures will come together again—physically and emotionally—and become productive, collaborative, and innovative. But better.
Whether you finally feel “woke” or are covered with battle scars from this fight, there is a place for you. Whether you are a board member, executive, emerging leader, middle manager, entry-level professional, or entrepreneur—you have influence over someone—at home and at work. You can be the change the world needs right now and help shape the workplace.
My team and I have been telling leaders that this is not the time for boilerplate and impersonal communication. Leaders who are willing to lean into the discomfort of talking about racial inequality will be the transformative leaders of tomorrow. So, let me do just that.
I am a black woman, the mother of a black son. I too have had to process my own emotions while my team and I help our clients process theirs. Privately, I ache. I ache because the murder of George Floyd picked at the emotional scars incurred from my own battles, trying to fight racism at my predominantly white college in Maine over 25 years ago. At that time, I was newly aware of what it means to be black in America. Born and raised in the Caribbean, I had not yet experienced the “n” word thrown at me or being followed while walking through stores. And I certainly had to get used to expressions of surprise like, “Wow! You are so… articulate and… smart!”
I have plenty of cherished white friends who confess they can’t possibly comprehend this experience, especially what it means to constantly worry that my son’s beautiful dark chocolate skin may be seen as a weapon—by the wrong person in the wrong place. Deep down inside, I hope and pray that meaningful and transformational change is possible this time around. That’s why we show up to work every day, despite the ache, despite the fears. I am not easily swayed or simply encouraged by the statements of support, peppered all over social media, by organizations that have the best of intentions. Yet, I am encouraged by the individuals who want to have the hard conversations and understand why systems are set up—intentionally or inadvertently—to reward whites and erect barriers for blacks.
I am encouraged by the leaders inside organizations who are willing to discover blind spots and are committed to changing policies and impacting the cultures and attitudes that promote and keep racism in the workplace. I am encouraged by you, who has paused to read this message all the way to this point. And I am encouraged that my team and I found our lane 22 years ago and are prepared to help remarkable individuals and organizations like yours find theirs as well. That’s what this month’s free webinars are all about. I hope you join us and #Findyourlane.
I invite you to register for the webinars below: