In this episode we examined the unique challenges associated with leading while Black & offered practical solutions for organizations to eradicate these challenges.
Welcome to Conference Room C: Afterthoughts. Every other week I will continue the conversation by sharing a no frills, from the soul reflection on the previous week’s episode.
"I want to see organizations create ERGs that are actually safe spaces for folks of protected classes and not just pretend spaces that are regulated by keepers of institutional norms that never want those norms to be disturbed by the truth in people’s lived experiences."
This episode of Conference Room C reminded me of why I do this work. Not a gentle reminder either but like a punch in the gut. This feeling was due in no small part to this round of experts…it hurt but I love each of them for it! Each guest had super deep stories to tell and their voices were strong. As a nod to their courage, I’m dedicating this edition of the Afterthoughts blog to my guests' stories which I’m certain reflect the stories we all have inside of us. The real value comes from listening to their own words (stream here) but here’s a recap to get you started:
First up, our first international guest of the season! Alethia is a finance professional and experienced leader in Ontario, Canada. During Ep. 2, she talked about a time she organized a diversity-related initiative at work and was ultimately chastised for it. What really struck me was how Alethia described her demeanor when receiving the feedback. She basically took it on the chin and kept pressing forward. My biggest takeaway from her story was that even thought at first she was unsure whether to speak up about the unfair & unprofessional response she eventually did. This reminded me that the stakes are too high to ignore the physical and psychological consequences of not expressing how we feel when we are treated unfairly in the workplace.
Chris shared a story that really left me scratching my head. Chris is an entrepreneur and former corporate leader. Essentially, he started an Employee Resource Group (ERG) for Black folks at a previous job and the executive sponsor ended up turning on the group (so to speak) and expressing to other executives that the group was “racially charged”. First *clap* of *clap* all *clap*…what does that even mean?!?!? Then, I considered that maybe his coworker viewed the group as racially charged because the Black professionals in the group were sharing their genuine, and perhaps troubling, experiences in that workspace. This is a perfect example of how things can go so far left when you don’t have a culturally competent executive sponsor for an ERG. Moving forward, I want to see organizations create ERGs that are actually safe spaces for folks of protected classes and not just pretend spaces that are regulated by keepers of institutional norms that never want those norms to be disturbed by the truth in people’s lived experiences.
Lastly, Alex is a career coach and author and his story left me and the other guests feeling some type of way. Alex reliving a traumatic story that he told his former boss about and her reaction to the story really saddened us all. I’ll let you listen to the episode to get the full details but the bottom line is that we need more empathetic, knowledgeable, and common sense supervisors. When we are willing to make certain people privy to certain experiences that as young Black people then I think the least we should be able to expect is a silent acknowledgment of our truth. At the very least.
FINAL TAKE: A note to all leaders in organizations--> When employees tell you their stories-- when they are brave enough to raise their voices—you have a responsibility to provide a safe space for them to do so with competence, humanity, and space and without fear of backlash.