JBC’s Year in Review and Look Ahead: Community Call Replay with Elfi Martinez, Adrienne Lawrence and Jennifer

Jennifer Brown | | , ,

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This episode was originally recorded as a DEI Community Call and features a conversation between Jennifer and JBC Vice Presidents Elfi Martinez and Adrienne Lawrence as they take a look at top trends, themes and conversations that surfaced in 2022, and what we can expect in 2023. Discover what effective allyship will look like in 2023 and how to convert meaningful intentions into actions that drive change. Tune in as Jennifer, Elfi and Adrienne discuss what action towards equity looks like in 2023 and reflect on how far we’ve come in 2022!

ELFI MARTINEZ: I think when it comes to emerging trends, I think the big conversation is around, again, the word diversity and what does it mean because we still have, despite our best efforts, a huge swath of our audience and population who thinks diversity may go to race, gender, sexual orientation. Well, that's what an EEOC report. And look, those are all important. It's still parts of the conversation. And it's about the other elements of us as well.

And really, I think the next level of the conversation is going to be around intersectionality and how these different pieces of us combine and really help us define who we are and what we actually care about. So the reality is as, that human beings, we're all a combination of places where we're privileged and places where we are not. But we're often hyper-aware of those areas where we are not privileged and hyper-unaware of those places where we are.


The Will to Change is hosted by Jennifer Brown. Jennifer is an award-winning entrepreneur, dynamic speaker, best-selling author and leadership expert on how organizations must evolve their cultures towards a new, more inclusive workplace reality. She's a passionate inclusion and equity advocate committed to helping leaders foster healthier and, therefore, more productive workplaces, ultimately, driving innovation and business results. Informed by nearly two decades of consulting to Fortune 500 companies, she and her team advise top companies on building cultures of belonging in times of great upheaval and uncertainty. And now, onto the episode.


DOUG FORESTA: Hello. And welcome back to The Will to Change. This is Doug Foresta. This episode was originally recorded as a DEI community call and features a conversation between Jennifer and JBC vice presidents, Elfi Martinez and Adrienne Lawrence, no strangers to the will to change, as they take a look at the top trends, themes and conversations that surfaced in 2022, and what we can expect in 2023. And now, on to the conversation.

JENNIFER BROWN: Hi, everyone. It's Jennifer. Welcome. I'm super thrilled to be joined by my team. A couple team members that you'll be hearing from today, Elfi and Adrienne, whom many of you probably know from other programs that we've done. We're going to be asking you to weigh in with your impressions of looking back and looking forward, what are the biggest opportunities for this field, for this space, for this work?

We're all in that introspective mood right now at the end of this year. As we wrap it up, we wonder, and I think we're all thinking about, and it's very much on our minds and hearts, are we where we should be? Are we where we expected to be? Are we where we wanted to be? Some days, in my teaching, I think, "Wow, we're still talking about these things that we've been talking about for, in my case, 20 years." Still coming back to the basics, still needing to refresh people, still needing to explain certain terms and concepts and principles.

But I hope that that's not all we're doing. I hope that we really feel that there's some fresh innovations happening in this space too, and heading into the New Year that we can really take a leap forward and get more traction, get deeper implementation, get more of the will to change, like my podcast title says. Can we ignite more will for the change? And can we involve more change agents?

Can we awaken more change agents? So let's get to the meet of today, which I'm so excited. I'm joined by Adrienne Lawrence and Elfi Martinez, both senior consultants on the JBC team and two people that I work with and I learn from so much. And that's going to happen today, no doubt, and I hope for all of you. And I want to encourage all of you to please ask your questions as we go. The three of us and the team on the backend is going to be keeping an eye on questions as they come in.

So we'll be pulling them out and sharing with us so that we hopefully see them. We probably won't get to all of your questions. That much is true. But we are going to try. And we're going to be rather organic about it, too. So we're going to try to keep this very loose. So Adrienne and Elfi, welcome.




JENNIFER BROWN: So good to see you both. Hello. Hello, hello. So everybody, these are Adrienne and Elfi do a ton of our consulting work. So JBC, for those of you that aren't so familiar with what we are known for, it's really our DEI strategy works. So these long-term relationships of building a strategy, refreshing a strategy, expanding it, making sure it's connected to business care abouts and bottom line measurements.

And then, also a ton of design for education and training around inclusive leadership. And then, of course, within that, there's a lot of ERG strategy, obviously, because I always say that's where I started as a baby consultant myself. My first work was with LGBT, not Q, because we didn't have that... We didn't say that 20 years ago. But with the ERGs in their early days. And some of you know some of the papers that I've written on that. But it's still a big pillar of our work together. And we'll be talking about it today. So Adrienne and Elfi, I wonder, kick us off. How would you have answered the optimistic, pessimistic, mixed uncertain question? And I don't know if you had a chance to read some of what came in from the audience. But any reactions? And Adrienne, let me start with you.

ADRIENNE LAWRENCE: Let's see. Actually, I was going to let Elfi go ahead and jump on this one first.

JENNIFER BROWN: Okay. Go ahead, Elfi.

ELFI MARTINEZ: Okay. Yeah. I think my original take was that seems about right just kind of thinking about the general sentiment that we've been encountering with some of our clients is that there is that mixture of optimism and uncertainty.

And I think it kind of goes back to this bigger idea of where we are in this work more generally, which is that the E in DEI is becoming increasingly prevalent. And the bigger part of the conversation is that it's all based on power and behavior, the big shift that we've been asking for years, which is converting your intentions into actions is now really where the rubber meets the road.

And people are saying, "We need to see it. We need you to show us that you care, not just say it." And so, those behaviors that prove the actual support need to be demonstrated. And I think that's the challenge that we're seeing two middle managers and leaders today, is we want you see you walk the talk, we want you see behaving in ways that show that you're inclusive. Words are good. Behavior is better.


ADRIENNE LAWRENCE: No. I absolutely agree. A lot of people are just... They're kind of tired of feeling like that they're just witnessing performative antics as opposed to actual investment. And then, also on top of that, seeing so many societal changes and seeing conversations being had that generally have not been had at even a public level, whether it's on social media or not, but it's definitely entering the workplace as workplaces are just microcosms of the larger society.

And so, there's considerable pushback in that regard because it does mean to some extent change because people who were silenced before, whether it was social pressure, ostracism, are now being vocal. And so, having in the workplace this interjection of so many new issues and having so many conversations and seeing a lot of the power struggles going on, it is really emphasized the need so much more for DEI and putting a lot of the onus on the employer to ensure that their workforce is educated and also reflective of their principles and mores. And so it's such an exciting time. But at the same time, it's quite volatile.

JENNIFER BROWN: That's right. That's right. It's VUCA. It's unpredictable. Every day is different. And also, the issues that are happening to the workforce are being vocalized in such a different way. And I don't think we're ever going back. I mean I think if anything, we will... that will continue to bubble up, particularly with generational differences with these younger generations that are all about, "Hey, practice what you preach. Walk the talk." Here's all of who I am and all of my identities, the expectation that I'm going to be able to bring my full self, they never knew any other way, whereas some of the older generations knew the opposite way.

I mean I can say as a Gen Xer, it was not in our vernacular. It was not accepted. It was TMI. It was not appropriate. It was not professional. So I think we also have this tension between these generational norms, and the ways that they understood their identity in the system. It was sort of assimilate, keep your head down, cover all of the covering, research we teach all the time. That is anathema to younger talent, which I, for one, and I know us on this call are very grateful, grateful for that agitation, grateful for the irritant and the system that's going to cause the change and keep the urgency.

So I want to ask about urgency. We talked in our prep. It sort of came up, and it felt very alive, Elfi, for you in particular. But how do we balance? So we want to keep the heat on, the urgency. And I think the heat is all around us. So it's not even like we have to keep it on. It's on because it's the world we live in. The urgency for change, for nimbleness, for flexibility, for being responsive, for being in tune, for being resonant with the moment and yet good DEIB work takes time. It's not something we want to just slap together. It's not something we want to do surface level. It's not something we want to do performatively. So there's another really interesting tension. Could you elaborate on that, and share your thoughts?

ELFI MARTINEZ: So it's open to both of us or were you addressing-

JENNIFER BROWN: Yeah. Oh, let's do Elfi. Let's do you.

ELFI MARTINEZ: Okay. No. I think you're absolutely right. I think a lot of times when something happens either the broader society or an event in an organization, I mean look. We're the consultants. We are the firefighters. We are the people that you call in when things are not going great. Something happened that brings us your organization.

And a lot of times, when something does happen, whether it's in an organization or more broadly, there is the desire to just change everything overnight. And we're just going to do things differently, and everything's going to happen right away. And practically speaking, it's just not realistic. Oftentimes, behaviors and ways of doing things are deeply embedded. And if you want to address and change behavior, it has to be incremental. It has to be evolutionary rather than revolutionary if you want to have a mass buy-in right from different stakeholder groups.

And you have to be able to create and celebrate small wins along the way, things that people can see and point to and say, "Hey, look at the things that we're doing. Look at the outcome that we've had." And those small wins start to add up and start to get more momentum and more buy-in. Sometimes, we go for the home run. We swing as hard as we can. And we're not going to communicate anything until we hit our three-year goal. Well, three years is a long time for people not to hear anything. So you have to be able to communicate what's going on in the meantime, what's working. And oftentimes, more importantly, what are you struggling with because that's where your authenticity comes in. That's where the buy-in comes in. And that's where the help comes in. But you have to say it out loud. You can't just assume everybody knows what's going on because most of the time, they don't. Not unless we share.

ADRIENNE LAWRENCE: Absolutely. Yeah. A lack of communication and transparency is something that I've often run into with clients that their workforce is really struggling because they're not getting enough intel and insight. And they can't see everything that's going on. So they can't see what efforts are being undertaken. And as a result, they start losing faith in the system, in the process.

And because of that, it doesn't fare well for anyone. So keeping that open level of transparency about the steps being undertaken and also, one thing that's really important is to realize not everybody communicates the same way. So just because the successes are maybe posted on an internal portal, that may not cut it for some people because shucks, I'm not trying to read anything more than I need to.

I do my job. And then, I'm trying to live my life. So it might be on the onus of the management team to have conversations with their team members during meetings to uplift what's being done with the organization. There are so many important pieces to connecting with people. And when people truly understand that DEI is about not only that connection and see it as a business imperative, then, they fully invest the resources and the opportunities and everything that's necessary to go with it to ensure that it is something that the company is really undertaking and embracing. And that is where you end up seeing fewer issues in the DEI department. It's truly just having that sense of integrity where your principles align with your actual practices.

JENNIFER BROWN: And communicating the incremental progress that's being made, which I think balances... When it works well, it balances out the heat coming from the impatience for greater change, faster change, more attraction. And it's hard because you inevitably feel like you're letting somebody down. You're having to make hard choices. And it may not be the sexy work. But the incremental work is the lasting work. It's a sustainable work.

So we often actually find we have to help companies sometimes with communications like writing comms and really being more transparent about the progress and the commitments that have been made and what's being done about those. It's sort of like the plane has to be flown at the same time. But the new stuff has to be being built. The additions need to be being worked on. And how do we communicate that we're doing both at the same time. And this kind of leads into my question around emerging issues for both of you.

We have such a robust conversation about the emerging issues that I think are very urgent, identities that are now top of mind that I think were not necessarily part of the discussion a year ago or two years ago. Adrienne, you began to allude what I heard and what you were saying was, for example, communicating with the neuro-diverse community in our workforce, which is substantial. How do we communicate information that can be received and can be understood and can be digested and taking into account divergent thinking styles is one way of making sure that we're reaching people and letting them know we have this commitment, this is what we're doing. But can you elaborate on some of the other work we've been doing and other identities that you predict we're going to need to... we're going to be paying attention to in the new year?

ADRIENNE LAWRENCE: Yes. So as you mentioned, neuro-diversity is definitely picking up. And the thing is being also in the media space, I spend a lot of time on social media. And you can see what's happening based on the conversations being had. And so, neurodiversity is something that I fully anticipated. And I recently did a conversation with Kaiser in terms of educating individuals on neurodiversity and how to interact with not just patients and clients and community members but also their fellow team members who have different neuro-types, who simply think differently and their brain functions differently.

And so, providing that more broad sense of understanding where it's invisible inclusivity are invisible differences. And meeting that is such an incredible strength for an organization because it lets you leverage all of your assets. And so, in addition to neurodiversity, also definitely conversations now more on anti-Semitism in the workplace, which I know we've given a conversation with the Anti-Defamation League and a partnership on that, which I know sits on our website for the advocacy and action series. And that was very powerful.

And having that conversation is incredibly important because people often think, "Oh, well, Jewish people are white. And they're doing just fine." And all of the stereotypes start coming into play when that is not the case. And we need to have conversations that impact all aspects and dynamics of ourselves and recognizing all the oppressions and the marginalizations within society.

I also find that people, some of the conversations I have had that I've interjected that people have found to be really rewarding and it helps them feel seen are things that are more on the physical element. For example, hype bias and beauty bias, people... and thin bias. And people really are receptive of it because they've lived in their skin and they've been treated certain ways based on that. And so, it's just really... it's this emerging site and understanding of how these physical aspects of ourselves just beyond race and gender can also be very limited in the workplace.

JENNIFER BROWN: And I've been raising that a lot in my talks, trying to list the advantages I have had both earned and unearned, which is an interesting way to look at that. What I was born into and then what I have today as I have acquired the privileges that I've acquired. And like you say, Adrienne, it's a really interesting exercise and very important one to go through.

And I think one of you said declare this publicly. This stuff is not only not kind of thought about as the tailwinds. But also it's not articulated. And there's a lot of fear around articulating it. But I think in order to get underneath what the work that has to happen, we have to look at ourselves as full humans and all the things, both the marginalized identities that we might carry that have caused challenge and hopefully pride and overcoming of challenge, but still cause angst and difficulty for us.

But also the things that have enabled us to get into rooms to have a voice that's powerful. So it's really an interesting or a physical expression of our bodies that makes people more or less comfortable. I think that's so fascinating because I'm always aware. I'm so acutely aware of myself as a messenger. And what comes out of my mouth is going to be received differently than what comes out of either one of your mouths in all directions. It just depends. It just depends it on somebody's bias that's sitting across from you. It depends who they assign authority and credibility too.

And it depends also on that comfort that comes with sameness. So if somebody assigns sort of credibility to somebody because I feel comfortable with her or him because I feel that's somebody I listen to and somebody I admire and respect, let's not deny that. Let's work with that. I mean that's why I think we need every kind of messenger in this work. But, Elfi, I wanted to invite you to answer the same.

ELFI MARTINEZ: Yeah. I think when it comes to emerging trends, I think the big conversation is around, again, the word diversity and what does it mean because we still have, despite our best efforts, say a huge swath of our audience and population who thinks diversity may go to race, gender, sexual orientation, because that's what on an EEOC report.

And look, those are all important. It's still parts of the conversation. And it's about the other elements of us as well. And it's really, I think the next level of the conversation is going to be around intersectionality and how these different pieces of us combine and really definitely help us define who we are and what we actually care about because the reality is that human beings, we're all a combination of places where we're privileged and places where we are not.

But we're often hyper-aware of those areas where we are not privileged and hyper-unaware of those places where we are. And so, how can we hold that tension between these different parts of our identity and utilize that to be effective allies for ourselves and for the people around us? I think that's really kind of the heartbeat of where the work is. And I think when you look, again, tying it back to behavior, how ERGs are treated is oftentimes a reflection of how diverse talent is treated in an organization.

The fact that so much of this is voluntary or defined is voluntary and extracurricular, really goes to show that they're not really seen as business resource. They're called business resource groups. But they're not really seen as business resources because in a true business resource, you would consults us before you made decisions that impact us. And that still has not happened to the degree that it should.

Now, those things change based on what's happening in the broader society. We know we have the overturning of Roe versus Wade. We have the recent events in Colorado Springs that have these pops of awareness in conversation. But inevitably, it dies down, and we go back to status quo. And so we, really have to have conversations around how do we center some of these marginalized groups so that we don't go back to the status quo and have the exact same conversation three, six, 12 months down the road?

JENNIFER BROWN: We have a question up here about the headwinds against DEI, all the noise, slowing progress, slowing momentum and feeling more emboldened, emboldened to speak these things too. I think that's another thing I'm really noticing. And then, hence the focus for example, on a more proactive anti-Semitism strategy, for example.

So there's sort of an action and a counteract action. But actually, the counteract action makes us better. It takes us forward as a field. And it begins a process of inquiry and investment, which is really exciting as we brought in other mental health crisis that really has been with us now for a couple years for all kinds of reasons.

Now, I hope the resourcing in 2023 really happens. We begin to nail down how do we acknowledge this? How do we manage... I don't want to say through it, not deny it. How do we elevate it to our awareness? How do we resource it and support? How do we train leaders to support people through it? And then, what kind of resources are available on the part of the organization to support individuals through it?

So following that all the way through and making it real and making it intersectional, I love the word. I mean, mental health and how it's experienced and dealt with is intersectional. The stigma on that topic is different community to a community and identity to identity. And that's a fascinating sort of example I always use to say how intersectional is our lens on each one of these challenges that is being experienced by all identities but just different?

And so, I think of it there are horizontal things like parenting, caregiving, mental health. And then, we have vertical silos of identity that are the traditional ones. Elfi, you just said, which is race and gender and sexual orientation. We think of it that way. And ERGs are structured that way. But I think the big opportunity also is in the horizontal, is in the shared, is in the exploration of what are we all kind of coping with. Gender identity goes across all different communities. But there are all kinds of cultural stigmas that accompany that conversation depending on what community of identity folks are in. Any other ERG predictions or DEI councils for that matter?

ADRIENNE LAWRENCE: Yeah. I think that moving forward, we're probably going to definitely see ERGs in the neurodiversity space without a doubt. Since it's something that impacts so many people, it is invisible. So people often feel unseen or unheard or challenged in some way as to that aspect of their identity. And so, I think with having these conversations and also having so many high profile forward facing individuals in our society owning publicly, owning their limitations or differences such as Gavin Newsom being dyslexic and on a number of other members of society coming forward, I think neurodiversity is definitely something that's going to take off.

I also expect hopefully more support and uplifting for LGBTQ IA plus groups in part because of the attacks from the trans community. And so, hopefully, that's something that's bolstered. I do not think necessarily that the workplaces are going to shift overall in terms of creating more isolated and safer spaces for members of the trans community. But I do think that people will uplift groups in queer particular.

And I think that that will be something that will help set a platform hopefully to uplift members of the trans community as well as I think there are going to be more conversations, at least on just different forms of bias and limitations, especially as there are more conversations on ableism as we saw in the media with I think Beyonce was called out for and several other artists for having words in their songs that did have ableist language attached to it. And so, I think that there are still going to be a lot more conversations where people are going to be informed, educated, and opening their mind to the fact that a lot of the things that are baked into our society or that we do subconsciously are hurtful or offensive and not inclusive.

JENNIFER BROWN: True. True. Elfi, anything to add?

ELFI MARTINEZ: Yeah. I think for me, it's the big trend for the upcoming year is the ERGs seeing a substantial level of investment from the organizations and not being asked to do all the work themselves, to unpack the very things that marginalize them. You really hard to tell marginalized community, "Hey, unmarginalize yourself. We'll be here when you're done." I don't choose to be all center. That's kind of where I have been pushed to.

And so, I think when we look at ERGs, they're a really great kind of proof of concept because if you want to look at where the state of equity in your organizations look at how the ERGs are being treated, because it tends to be a straight line to the kinds of behaviors that you see and the kind of experiences that people have.

So really is time now, I think, for organizations to treat ERGs as an investment and not a donation to a charity because that's what they're supposed to be. And just like any other business investment, you would put in the time and the resources to make it happen. It's the same thing with the ERG. So I think that's really going to be where the work is going to be happening in the next two years is that we're going to see ERGs demanding. But that corporations back up their talk with the corresponding money, time and resources to get things done.

JENNIFER BROWN: That's right. And paying leaders. I just viewed a report that said 5% of the ERG leaders are paid now and this is very new. And so, in chat, I'd love to hear if your organization is actually paying the leaders for their time. And I think, Elfi, it builds on what you're talking about, which is not taking this work for granted or expecting those of us who, in some ways, have the fewest seats at the table to have the most ownership for organizational change. That's inappropriate. It's inefficient. It's also super bad for our mental health and our stamina and for our burnout because I think part of what triggers burnout is feeling it is all on your shoulders and for it to have the change in this massive organization where you don't have a lot of the levers, your hands on the levers of change but to be responsible for that change, that doesn't make a lot of sense.

You need to be participating. But ideally, as an advisor and then somebody else's sort of has the levers to pull for change. But the water carrying does not land on your shoulders. And so, I think someday we'll see a rebalancing of this and the accountability and the work being spread more widely and the role of the ERG leaders and indeed underrepresented talent... And I say underrepresented interestingly, not necessarily in the more junior parts of organizations where it's much more parody, much more representation.

But as we get up to the top, we don't see so much. And many of us are not making it through that pipeline for all kinds of reasons. And speaking of that, I mean, how do you articulate the business case going into 2023? That still is so effective. And however we feel about, there's some chatter about, well, I don't... Why am I part of a business case? Why is my human experience being related to the bottom line?

And it should be, A, the right thing to do. It should be the smart thing to do. I think for business, we all know this. But how are you both articulating that, especially when you come up against some serious resistance because some would argue the resistance is getting louder and more given the environment that businesses are in. So what is the most powerful business case that you often make to our clients that really gets people to pay attention and do something?

ADRIENNE LAWRENCE: Yes. So without a doubt, the resistance is getting louder. But that's always what happens when there's change. People want to maintain the status quo because it means certain individuals don't have to change. And it's this thought that they have to give up some sense of power, which generally is the right to treat others any which way.

And so, when it comes to making the business case, I am very much a proponent of it. I don't think it reduces anyone to necessarily being just dollar signs, numbers at all. What I think it does is it's just another avenue and way to reach and motivate someone because the fact is that if doing the right thing were enough, then, we wouldn't have any of these isms. And we wouldn't need DEI consultants, and we wouldn't need any of these conversations whatsoever.

But the reality is doing the right thing is not necessarily motivating to a number of people. In addition to that, the fact is also that we're talking about oftentimes companies, organizations. As an attorney and a business person myself, I fully appreciate the fact that what my objective should be is making money, is producing as many widgets. It's providing as service and content. And I want to do it to the best of my ability.

And so, that means that I'm going to be focused on things that will help promote and advance that effort. And so if DEI does that, which it does and inclusivity does that which it does, then, I want people to hear that, to understand that because they're going to be plenty of people out there just like me who are motivated by how does this move my bottom line? How does this benefit my organization and our goals as a business?

And lastly, I think it's important to also provide people with a business case because when people hear the fact that it's, "Oh, well, it's just the right thing to do," then, they hear charity case. Then, they hear, "Oh, well, we're hiring this person as a way to uplift them." Then, you end up with some kind of saviorism mentality as opposed to, "No. This person has skills that will benefit our organization." This person has had a walk through life that tells us they can see blind spots we can't. And thus, they'll be able to contribute their knowledge to make our organization better. And so, having the conversation about the business case, being able to address the benefits of DEI from all angles, as I like to say, ethos, pathos, logos, whatever it takes, I think, is the winning way to go about it.

JENNIFER BROWN: Love it. Elfi.

ELFI MARTINEZ: Yeah, I would say one of our core roles as DEI practitioners is being valued translators and being able to frame what we're trying to talk about in the ways that our audience can hear. And there is a substantial part of our audience who does want to know, "Okay. Is this the right thing to do?" But is it the right thing to do for our business because we don't want, people have in their minds that those are two different things or I could do the right thing. It'd be altruistic or I could do the right thing for our business and be profitable because we know what people are going to pick when it's framed that way.

And DEI is seeing as a luxury. And it's the first thing that gets asked during our recession or any other time of belt tightening. So I think the most effective business case that I've come across is this idea that individuals or organizations are always versions of themselves. And we can get better or we can get worse. And right now, we are operating at a small fraction of our potential. Only about 30% of folks report being engaged at work.

Maybe, it's a whole lot of people just surviving and giving you that transactional performance that doesn't really make much of a difference, but to get that discretionary performance that the way people show up when they feel like they belong and they feel like they're part of the team, that is what this work is all about. How do you connect across differences? And so, we talk about through the frame of disengagement, talk about through the frame of innovation, talk about the frame of team performance because those are all really tangible pain points in many organizations. And so, if you can draw the line between DEI and soothing some of those pain points, you get much more of a positive reception, then, when people think going to Adrienne's work that this is sympathy work, charity work, altruistic work. But it doesn't really make our business better.

JENNIFER BROWN: Right. I mean the good news is it does fuel business. We know this. So the question is how do we communicate that? And the only message that matters is one that's received. So if you're not getting through, I think the onus is on us. And maybe, that's a bad thing. I don't know. But I like it because it sharpens my saw. It makes me think about how might I communicate this in a way that can be heard, truly heard.

And in order to do that, you've got to understand what's behind the resistance? What's underneath it? What is the missing piece in this argument that you just beautifully laid out, both of you, that I need to bolster to... What gap do I need to fill in? Where do I need to connect the dot so that somebody says, "Oh, I see."

Another piece I lean on sometimes is leader relevance. Truly in the book, I felt like I was writing a message from the future saying like, "Hey, change or die." And especially, I'm very mindful of those of us in certain generations of certain identities that are very behind. We're behind in the evolution. We have fallen behind, and we're falling behind. And the world is meantime changing and changing and changing.

And your kids are... I say, "What do your kids say to you?" They criticize you for all kinds of things because you don't know, because you haven't thought about it, because you haven't done your homework, because you haven't expanded your consciousness that you're unaware of where you sit in a system, and you've taken all these things for granted in terms of what might be comfortable for you, but uncomfortable for so many others.

But it's change or die. I mean leaders really cannot afford not to deeply think about this and feel it. I don't just want it to be cognitive. I also want it to be felt. And so, I do think too, what we want from our leaders is an expression of not just what I understand but what I feel. And maybe, I feel trepidation. Maybe, I feel fear. Maybe, I feel anger. And maybe, I'm angry at the state of when Colorado Springs happens, what we want to hear from leaders is not just we are heartsick about how this impacts the community. But this is what I feel about that.

And these are the things I'm sitting with. What am I going to do about it? So two, there's the macro. But there's the micro in terms of every leader has an opportunity to really figure out what am I going to say, and am I going to be prepared to meet that moment? That is what we're looking for in leaders.

And as I described that, I'm sure everybody here can imagine, "Wow, our leaders really are not prepared." They're not even... I mean they're literally waiting for their talking points. It's a very passive stance that I see a lot of people in. And that's I think what I would really like to see change. Let's see. So, oh gosh. I don't want to run out of time with both of you. Let's talk about leading in the hybrid world and leading inclusively in hybrid and remote and virtual teams.

I mean I get this question a lot. One thing that's so critical and that I worry about is that those of us who've been at risk from a belonging point of view are one foot out the door and that working in a hybrid or remote scenario creates yet more kind of exclusionary dynamics and that those coupled with our identities and the micro-aggressions and the way that we really haven't felt a sense of inclusion will push us out the door. And this will deplete so much good talent from organizations.

So what I say to managers and leaders is you've got to really up your game. You have to begin to develop trust with people that you don't share a physical space with ever. How do you do that? How do you check in? What questions do you ask? How do you know that someone's on the cusp of leaving and is struggling? And I say, "You're not a leader worth anything if you are not aware of what your people are struggling with, and you're not working on that."

It shouldn't be a surprise if somebody makes a decision to leave. And part of the reason why is their level of inclusion and belonging. So what advice would you give for us to make sure our managers, and I'm thinking very much like about the middle, the frozen middle as we call it in the consulting world? I'm thinking very much about those managers. What's your answer to how do I increase this inclusion and belonging when I never see my team in person and where there's a lot going on but I don't built the trust or the psychological safety to really know. But what I don't know can really hurt me and hurt us as a team and as a leader. So Elfi, you're shaking your head.

ELFI MARTINEZ: We go back to the fundamental issue of asking the wrong question. When we have a situation like, oh, we're trying to reopen the office and people don't want to come back and what's their problem? I think the more helpful question is, "Well, why don't people want to come back to the office five days a week?" What were they experiencing when we worsen each other all the time that they don't want to return to? And they would prefer to be in alternative environments. When we look at patterns of things like micro-aggressions, patterns of who gets to live close to work and who has to do a long commute and things of that nature, we have to realize that hybrid world is just, I think, an amplification of whatever disconnects are already existing in the organization.

It all just is hyper-amplified when you're remote because you feel even more disconnected and even more far away from your team because if you add higher during the pandemic, you may have never met your workers in real life. And they only exist in Brady Bunch Squares. And so, you don't really know them in ways that you otherwise would. So I think it's more incumbent upon managers to focus on things like psychological safety and building that trust and that feeling like we can't have real conversations because you do need to understand more deeply what's going on for folks and what is motivating them. What are they struggling with in a remote environment?

And it requires more time. It requires more effort. But it is more important than ever to ensure that our virtual folks do feel like they belong and they're part of the team because I just know naturally speaking, whenever we have an engagement or a workshop, the folks that are calling in are almost always right. They're diminished. They're a side note. They're an afterthought. And we try to integrate them. But a lot of times, it takes a lot of intentional effort to do that because they're so easy to pay attention to the person in front of you rather than the person that's on your computer.

JENNIFER BROWN: Adrienne, anything to add?

ADRIENNE LAWRENCE: Yeah. Absolutely. Not much to add. I think it's a very delicate dance because of the fact that you can't necessarily always hear the inflection in the person's voice or read their body language. And so, as a result of that, it does take a keen sense of awareness to focus on almost the little things. Is the person all of a sudden slow to respond to email and they're responding now 24 hours later as opposed to when they would just respond within an hour or something of that nature or are they now shorter than they were before?

It's very subtle things. But it's a matter of paying attention to your team members. And that can be very difficult if you have a larger team or maybe you don't have the strongest skills on that kind of emotional intelligence level. But still, it's like those are things in which an individual should invest if they are going to be a leader and a manager.

It's not a take me as I am. It's the adaptation that is necessary in order to thrive and to lead a team to develop the dynamic skills that are necessary to assess what's going on and to realize something has changed. And also, something that I find to be very helpful to remind managers and several clients that found this to be very helpful is that you want to create an environment that is psychologically safe so that your team members feel comfortable in coming to you. But they don't need to come to you.

It's okay if other people don't open up. I have heard way too many stories about people feeling like managers were crossing a line, pushing them to figure out what were they doing this weekend? Where did they live? All these things going on when the initial read of the situation should have realized that this person has certain boundaries in this professional landscape or at least in their interactions with me, and I'm going to respect them. I'm not going to continue to push through them to try to hope that that person is going to share with me, simply letting someone know that they can share with you and creating an environment where they would feel comfortable sharing with you is the goal. It's not to get them to share their personal life. It's to create that psychological safety to where they feel that they can reach out if they needed something.

JENNIFER BROWN: That's such an important nuance, Adrienne. I'm so glad you said that. It reminds me of when I share my pronouns, which are she, her, people say, "Well, I can't expect everybody else to share theirs. " And I say that's not the point. The point is that what you can control is that anywhere, anytime you're involved, you share yours. Period. And you might do that for a year before somebody trusts enough that they take you aside and say, "You know what? I've been hearing you do this." And now, I feel safe enough to share mine, which are this.

So it's not about the immediate reward. And I think you're right. People misinterpret perhaps inclusive leadership as needing to know all the things. And there's introversion, extroversion. There's neurodiversity going on. There's a lot of reasons for different processing styles. There's a lot of reasons for not wanting for privacy being defined differently person to person. But I think of the tone that we can set. I think of the things we can do proactively without expecting for every action, there's a reaction.

When we lead inclusively, it always feels to me like we practice it whether we know it's landing or not, because we don't know who's in the room. We don't know how people identify. But what we're doing is establishing and opening that door and saying, "I am someone when and if you want." This is a conversation I'm ready to have. That is it. And it's hard. It's funny. I feel people want that gold star. They want the recognition of the action and the reaction. And this is the kind of work that you put tons of investment in.

And sometimes, you don't ever even see what you're building, the impact of what you're building. And we have to do it anyway. That's the thing. And I love that doing allyship is 365 days a year. It's not always flashy. It's not always public. It's not always recognized. You could sponsor someone and have them not have any idea that you sponsor them. So I think there is a piece of this that we have to fight against our want to complete the task and get recognized for it. But at the same time, that intrinsic, I think where we have to come from that intrinsic place of I'm doing this because this is what I'm learning, this is where I want to, the tone and the expectation I want to set. And I want to show what this looks like and sounds like.

And I can start with me. And I appreciate somebody corrected some language in the chat on which I loved. It was a great learning about reproductive rights and reproductive freedoms for all humans because everyone can be apparent of all identities. So let's be inclusive of all parents of all identities. But anyway, I wondered if you all are hearing and in the chat as well, everybody, I'd love to know the question of the position taking or lack thereof on the topic, on the part of companies. Does either one of you have insights, guidance, things that you would help our clients and you have helped our clients think through on that front?

ELFI MARTINEZ: Yeah. I can say on my side, I mean one thing that's very important that in doing this work effectively going forward is that it has to be seen as part of being a good leader. DEI is directly a part of you being a good leader. Being able to connect with folks that are different from you should not be a luxury. It should be a core necessity of your job function. But that's only true when it's embedded in your reward systems, your recognition systems, your assessment systems, your development systems, your advancement systems because that's what keeps managers honest, keeps them accountable and forces them to grow.

Again, adapt or die. And if we're now saying, "Hey, we're expecting you to get good at this," and you're going to be held accountable if you don't. It suddenly changes the ways people think about and behave. And there was another thread I wanted to mention that I saw in the chat as well, Jennifer, around there's a big disconnect between upper and middle management on some of this. And I found that to be very true. When we talk to senior leaders, there's a huge blind spot when it comes to hybrid work and people wanting to be more flexible.

And there's a huge generational divide there because when we talk to the execs, it's mainly bloomers. And we're talking about Gen Xers. And I remember we had one counselor where they couldn't figure out people ... Well, they didn't want to come back to work. And there was 15 people in the room, one millennial. And it's like... But you look at the broader workforce, it was mostly people in the millennials age group that work for the company. It's like we're not getting representation and voices in the room here.

We're hearing from people that are very distinct idea of what work means and why it's important. And younger generations fundamentally see it differently and don't agree with our old ways of thinking. But since we're not talking to them and only to each other, there's an echo chamber effect where we're missing a lot of the voices that we need to learn from to look, to grow, and get better.

JENNIFER BROWN: Absolutely. Being able to have conversations and also to have the humility, empathy, and wherewithal to realize that everybody does not operate the same. Again, being an inclusive leader is about adaptation and developing skills in which you can navigate different approaches and mindsets, finding middle ground, also serving the needs of the organization.

I think we have generations in the past and just practices in the past. It was a thought, if you were good at your job, we're going to elevate you to management. And now, people are recognizing how problematic that is. And I've had a number of clients voice their concerns and their realization that not everyone is fit to manage or lead. And so, to have alternative avenues is an incredibly important thing for organizations to adapt to realize that some people don't necessarily have those skills, nor do they necessarily want to do that.

But maybe, they still want to continue to grow and contribute to the organization and take on greater responsibility. And so, being more mindful of that and breaking away from old kind of more antiquated organizational practices, that is the way to truly be able to move into the future and have succession planning that will ensure that the organization is better positioned to continue to remain competitive and also attractive to viable talent.

ELFI MARTINEZ: I, at one point, Jennifer, as well, is that a lot of times when people leave, people don't leave organizations. They leave bosses. So I'm seeing a quote here in the chat around when people are just outside with their direct boss, they leave. And it's not because you don't deal with your organization every day. So you deal with your leader. You deal with your boss. And 80% of the time when someone's disengaged at work, they're dissatisfied with their direct manager.

So again, this is part of the mandate of why this is so important because that person could be someone's greatest support or someone's greatest enemy in terms of them building a career. Now, people don't feel it. They will leave or they would turtle up and show up at a fraction of their potential.

JENNIFER BROWN: Right. And this is part of the reason that we all need to manage our career in such a way that we are putting tendrils out and making connections beyond our immediate reporting structure. It's so important. Not also while that direct boss is super important in terms of leaving or staying in engagement, there also... we can support and lead inclusively from any level and from the 360 degree around any individual.

So if we are on a team, but we're not leading that team, we can have a lot to do with the culture of that team. We can have a lot to do with the way that we interact, and the way we hold ourselves accountable for inclusive behaviors, for example, the way we give feedback.

A lot of that can happen when you're not the leader technically on paper. So that question also came up in the chat too. So as important as the manager is, and then all the research shows that, I do think we need to be mindful of broadening our network, getting what we need from multiple sources. And back to the ERG comment, I mean, we get so much of what we need from our ERG community, so much calibration and community and safety, psychological safety, trust, advice, space holding, healing.

So those communities and others like them outside of the workplace, if you don't have them. But connecting in, that's a place that I think we can also get a lot of support. So look. It's chaotic. Your manager may be there today and gone the next day too. I mean that's changing a lot as well. So I think starting this new year, my advice is to really think about who has your back? Do you have adequate sponsorship and mentorship? Are you communicating across difference in getting that support or are you investing in those relationships? But also, are you sponsoring and mentoring?

I always turn this around when people say, "I need more sponsors," or I don't know if I have one or nobody cares. It's like, "Well, how are you then turning around and giving back and practicing this thing that you want and you need and turning around and providing it," because at any point in our careers, doesn't matter how junior we are. There's always somebody whose card we can play. There's always somebody we can champion.

And there's always a way, particularly those of us who've enjoyed an easier road in the current workplace as it's configured, there's always power and capital we have access to that we are under-utilizing always. So let's practice it so that we get good at knowing what it looks like and feels like. And then, let's go seek it for ourselves at the same time.

And let's make sure that we don't... we're too important in the work we do is too important to burnout. Let's work smarter, not harder in the New Year. Let's remember to activate our allies also, that we're not alone, that we aren't doing this work alone, but that we can tend to be isolated. We can tend to take it all on. But that's not working smarter.

So how are we raising up that next generation of allies around us? How are we pouring into them to support us? And how are we a part of somebody's ally community? Whose community are you a part of where you are uplifting that individual, that high potential, that high performer, that amazing person? How are you giving in that way at the same time as you need to receive?

So I love that as a sort of parting thought. And we're out of time. Oh my goodness. Everybody, thank you, Adrienne and Elfi, for joining. Everybody who's been commenting and asking questions, thank you so, so much. And you always give us so much food for thought. And I also want to just remind everybody, January 9th, keep an eye on our mailing list for January 9th is our level two practitioner program, everybody.

So January 9th is that next cohort for level two. And then January 23rd is our next cohort for level one. So I know we have some graduates from those programs on this call. Wonderful level one and level two practitioner courses. Please, look into them, Jennifer Brown Consulting under our courses tab. But we'll be communicating out more information about those. But if you want more of this kind of dialogue, this is how we roll. This is what we talk about. This is what we care about. We hope you all have a really safe and wonderful holiday. And Adrienne and Elfi, thank you very much for joining us today.


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