Who's Got You? Jennifer and Doug Discuss Supporting the Supporters of Inclusive Leaders in 2023

Jennifer Brown | | , ,

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In this episode, Jennifer discusses the importance of supporting coaches, and other supporters of inclusive leaders. She shares her thoughts about some of the considerations that go into supporting coaches versus supporting leaders and why coaches don’t have to be DEI experts in order to have an impact. Discover how coaches can both support and challenge leaders on their inclusive leadership journey.

JENNIFER BROWN: The coaches and the trainers and facilitators come to the table with kind of, I think, a different toolkit. They're not necessarily building an org strategy, although if they're the head of talent, like a chief talent officer, they do have to build the org strategy, but DEI is a piece of that strategy, right? So they don't have to be the expert in all things DEI, but they do need, I think, to have a learning model that they can deploy to have a tool that you believe in, that you know people are going to understand, and that you can include, and have, and be certified in even, which is something we're really thinking about in the new year. Can I get certified in something without being a DEI expert? Can I get certified in something that I can teach without all of this other scaffolding?


DOUG FORESTA: 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 Greek upheaval and uncertainty, and now onto the episode.


Hello, and welcome back to The Will to Change. This is Doug Foresta. This episode that you're about to hear features a conversation with Jennifer about how do we support supporters, and specifically in this case, coaches who are supporting inclusive leaders, and Jennifer talks about the hub and spoke model, how you can have greater impact by supporting the people who support inclusive leaders, what coaches need to know versus, for example, DEI practitioners, what level of expertise do coaches need to have with DEI, what are some of the specific considerations that we need to think about when supporting coaches who, again, may not be DEI practitioners themselves, but have the ear of leaders, have the trust, and have the relationship to help leaders on their inclusive journey, all this and more, and now onto the conversation. All right, well, Jennifer, happy New Year. It's good to see you.

JENNIFER BROWN: Hey, you too, Doug. Happy 2023.

DOUG FORESTA: I know. I know. Every year it just sounds more and more like science fiction, and now I feel it.

JENNIFER BROWN: It's so true. I know, right? All those predictions of what would happen in these years, right?


JENNIFER BROWN: I think what a year. Last year, I was reading just so many things. So many big things happened last year in the news and in the world, and a lot of hard stuff, and would it be easy to kind of feel overwhelmed, but I don't know. I'm so hopeful, like I always am, and we have to be in this work, and we get to be in this work, right? We believe in human potential. We believe in how agile we continue to be as humans, and that we can continue to grow, and develop, and evolve at any age, and I have a lot of proof, a lot of proof of that.

DOUG FORESTA: Well, amen to that.


DOUG FORESTA: Although there were definitely difficult things in 2022, you also had some really great stuff happen, and some of that is what I wanted to talk about today. I mean, one thing is the best selling second edition of ow to Be an Inclusive Leader came out. Right? Congratulations on that.

JENNIFER BROWN: Yes. Thank you so much. It was.

DOUG FORESTA: And with... Yeah, sorry, go ahead. Sorry.

JENNIFER BROWN: Oh, I'll just say... Let me pause. I'll just say thank you so much and keep going, Doug. Okay? Thank you so much.

DOUG FORESTA: Yes, no, it's really exciting, and one of the things we're going to talk about today is feedback that you got from coaches who are interested in this work and the direction of sort of coaching the coach and teaching the teacher sort of model, and the other thing that's really exciting, I love Ken Blanchard, and you also... Ken Blanchard Companies has licensed the Inclusive Leaders Model, correct?

JENNIFER BROWN: That's right. And you all may know Ken's work. I know I have known, been following the many, many books. I don't even know if there's 50 books that he's written.


JENNIFER BROWN: But the parent of Situational Leadership, Ken Blanchard Companies, and now run by Scott Blanchard, who is Ken's son, but they also publish with Berrett-Koehler, so who published both editions of How to Be an Inclusive Leader. And yes, they have licensed the Inclusive Leader continuum. Some of the Will to Change listeners may have seen this in our social media. We've been sharing out a little bit ahead of these major launches that the Blanchard company is doing this coming year, but yeah, it's wild. The first language that the book is being translated into related to this, by the way, is Vietnamese, Doug.



DOUG FORESTA: Yeah, that's the other piece. I mean, your work is now going to be seen by new thousands of... I mean more than thousands, probably tens of thousands of new people around the world in different languages. I mean, what is that like?

JENNIFER BROWN: That feels so cool. It's a total bucket list, and just the fact that a learning and development preeminent L&D firm like Blanchard would say, "We need an inclusive leadership offering. We need a course to go along with all of our leadership courses," and to approach me, and to feel there's a synergy. They love models, and so do I. So when I asked, "Why us? Why this book? Why this model?" They said, "Well, the model just really spoke to us. I mean, it's so typical of the kinds of things, the way that we teach, the way that we think about human development and the phases of that." And it felt like it was something they could take and build a whole program, which is called courageous inclusion around it, and then also I think models translate really well around the world too, because it's the structure. It's the pieces. What you call the pieces can vary, of course, culturally, but the translatability of the approach is it was just really validating to see it through their eyes.

So yes, so they're a big organization, and they will be launching it in the first quarter, this quarter, and Vietnam has a SHRM conference coming up where the book is going to feature prominently in its translation. So anyway, it's cool to see the rest of the world waking up to the topic and caring enough about what this looks like for them, and I'm just so honored that I was able to somehow craft something that would be able to be translated in this way and adopted by this coaching and leadership company, which kind of leads to your question as sort of who's reaching out now is a lot of teachers, coaches, trainers, facilitators, both internal and external in companies saying, "Hey, can we use this model? I'm using this model with my classes," like professors are reaching out too.

And so what we're looking at this coming year is how can we kind of package this model in a way that equips the teachers? And I use that term with a little T, because a lot of us are teachers in some capacity. What kind of format might we provide it in, so that people feel they can pick it up, they can deliver it, that it helps advance the conversation, and that it also feels digestible and teachable? It's not this big tome. It's not this giant kind of treatise. It's not overly academic. There's a lot of things that it's not. It's very simple actually, but I think its simplicity is what might be an unlock for the learning process.

DOUG FORESTA: Yeah, so let's talk about this piece about this is not necessarily where you started, right? I mean, you didn't start with coach the coach, teach the teacher kind of thing.


DOUG FORESTA: Talk about some of the different approach that you have to have when you're working with coaches and teachers versus other... It's been traditionally directly to the leaders themselves, right?

JENNIFER BROWN: That's right. That's right. Yeah, that's right, and it's a nuance, but I think it's really important, and it's fun for me to wrap my head around how to support the coach who supports the leader. We've been in a mode, I think, of that support the leader directly mode, meaning what can I give someone who's on their journey to help them identify where they are, identify the right next steps, encourage that leader from wherever they are, and somehow kind of get in their heart and mind, and think about how and why would they change? Would they adopt this journey? Right? What would motivate them?

What kind of knowledge, skills, behavior, whatever, but to work through kind of the hub to the spokes, so to speak, is kind of how I think about it. Yes, a leader is a hub, but the person who supports the leader is a hub, because that person, whether it's an HR business partner, whether it's an executive coach on the outside, whether it's the head of learning and development or talent in an organization, that person is making decisions all the time about different tools that they need to employ to support the leadership development in this organization, their organizations, right? So I thought but the nuances, of course, as a teacher then for myself, I have to figure out how to upskill that coach, upskill that hub person to the point where they feel comfortable then upskilling someone else. And so it's an added layer of complexity because you have to understand where the learner is, but that they're not your ultimate end user, so to speak, right?


JENNIFER BROWN: They are supporting others on that same journey while they're traveling the journey themselves, which is super interesting, right? It's sort of the question of can I teach something? Can I provide a framework to someone that I am still using the framework? And I think the answer absolutely is, yes. I mean, as I think about my learning style, I have in my previous years especially, I've had to teach a lot of different models, whether it's the Myers-Briggs, or a DISC, or strengths finder.

I mean, there's a bunch of wonderful tools, and I am in my own discovery process about how does this illuminate and clarify my strengths or my preferences, or where I tend to shine, and then turning around though and facilitating a group through that process is also cool while you're learning it yourself. And also, I think what an opportunity for a coach not to be an expert, to show up and say, "Here's where I'm at. Here's what I'm learning," and not having to position ourselves always as, well, I have "mastered" this, and now I'm kind of bequeathing it to you, or I'm bestowing it on you, right? It's more of a journey of peers, and yet coaches and HR business partners do have a level of authority in the context of their relationship with their clients. They do, because those clients lean on these folks to be better, to have accountability, to have discipline, to have reminders, to have encouragement. That's the nature of that relationship.

Yeah, so I really when I think about this, I enjoy the challenge of saying, "So how would I equip this person who is equipping people around them?" Because if I can do that, then of course, Doug, it's the multiplier too. I mean, working through the hub is the straightest and shortest distance to the people that I really want to get to, which is also ultimately that leader who's being supported by that encourager. Yeah, it's an interesting twist, but let's kick around some of the advice that I give maybe for these folks.

DOUG FORESTA: Absolutely. Yeah. Yeah, so talk about that. Well, first I wanted to say I'm glad that we don't have to be an expert in everything that we coach, because that would be very-

JENNIFER BROWN: That's impossible.

DOUG FORESTA: Right, because that's impossible. The one I've heard is being a fellow traveler.

JENNIFER BROWN: Yeah, I love that. I love that.

DOUG FORESTA: But let's talk about that, I mean, some advice for coaches that are starting to want to adopt this model for their own practice.

JENNIFER BROWN: Right. Well, I love that traveler, kind of peers learning together, and maybe it starts with maybe taking off the, "Hey, these are all the things I know about HR law," right? And taking off the hat of, "I need to know," and say, "We're learning together. Let's do this together. Let's explore this together," and I think that transparency could be really powerful to say sort of, "I'll show you mine if you show me yours." Right? And the assessment helps do that too. That's a great place to start, Inclusiveleaderassessment.com or go to Jennifer Brown Consulting and check it out. There's also a link in the book, but to use that as a baseline, taking 10 minutes and sort of figuring out where is your client, and I'll use that word as I'm speaking to the teacher. Where is your client? Where are they?

And they could be all over the place like we teach, right? They could be very advanced in one level, very clueless in another, maybe they have some questions or resistance to some of the ways that we talk about this. So I think that assessment of where someone is is important, and then how do we really know? I think I would encourage coaches to assess not just your own opinion about where a leader is, but their opinion about where they are, and also others' opinions. And so the other neat thing about HR VPs and others who support leaders is often you have multiple data points about that are external, that are coming in, whether it's how often they communicate about something. How comfortable are they on a scale of one to five communicating about DEIB related topics? Where do they assess their knowledge on a variety of diversity dimensions? How often do they raise their hand to get involved or to lead, right? Or are they completely uninvolved and really on the sidelines?

So sort of getting under the question to me of resistance and where resistance is coming from. It could be apathy. It could be a lack of information. It could be a disagreement with concepts, right? It could be personal values conflict. Maybe it's a religious conflict. I don't know. Anyway, I think all these things are really kind of important to unearth, and then to meet folks where they're at with the right kinds of resources. So I also think developing a learning plan with your client, and then by the way, every time I say that, this can be client organization or this can be client individual. So it can be somebody you're coaching, but it can also be an executive team. I think of it like it's the same thing. It's just at a different scale.

So what is the information then that the coach can provide real time, and sort of just in time, and the right time. All of those things matter. What do I provide to further learning, and awareness, and open up eyes and hearts? Who do I put in front of someone? What do I encourage this leader to do more often or at all? So if I were encountering an executive team, one of the first things I'd look at is how often are you involved and in what way in DEIB conversations, meetings, mentorship? What's your network look like? I would actually want a leader to come and say, "Here's who I spend all my time with, right? Here's where I have exposure to different lived experiences or not. Here's sort of where I have an abundance of exposure. Here's where I have no exposure."

And this can all be professional, but it can also be in their personal life, of course, families, communities, communities of faith, school systems around the country, around the world. I think, "What are you reading? What are you listening to? How do you get your education? Where do you go right now?" And if the answer is, "Nowhere," then you have a wonderful place to build from. And then I think it's partially also really important to let the leader, the client drive their learning agenda. I always say, "Where are you interested? Where do you feel you have a passion already that may be dormant? What are you interested in? Where do you think you can..." And this is where it gets really cool, I think, is how can you link your personal story?

And this is the client's personal story, and this is that person, that human, everything they've been through, all their lived experience. Where has something arisen that feels like for them they can take that and come from a place of deeper authenticity, that it's not just a learning exercise, that's an intellectual pursuit, but that it is actually connected on a cellular level to something that... A challenge they've overcome, a pain point that they've experienced. Lowering that water line of the iceberg, what's something that we can work with as a foundation from which to come? And as I describe that, Doug, I think that's something that percolates. And how I love the coaching relationship is it's such a nice private, trusted space.

And in order to dig under that waterline and really locate the origin of our passion and our caring about something that's a very vulnerable moment and very vulnerable work. And so as such, this is another reason I really love the idea of working through others, because those others are so trusted. They're entrusted in a different way than I might be working with that leader with whom I have to then start from zero and build that trust. That's a longer journey for me, but it's a quick journey for somebody who's already who that leader has really come to trust. And that diversity story, that kernel of a diversity story, that needs to be nurtured I think very carefully. It's very delicate. There's a lot of opportunity for it to get squashed before it has the chance to bloom, the chance to grow, the chance to see, the chance to develop. And so as such, this little incubator relationship I think is a very important place to originate the journey.

DOUG FORESTA: As you were talking, I couldn't help but think about... This is going to date myself, but the first Superman movie with Christopher Reeves in 1970, whatever it was, '78.

JENNIFER BROWN: Oh, you Gen Xd my little Gen X Heart. Oh.

DOUG FORESTA: Exactly. When we grew up, that was a big thing, and there's a wonderful scene of the movie where we haven't seen Superman. No one has seen Superman yet. Nobody knows he exists, and Lois Lane is falling off a building, and everybody is like, "Oh my gosh, she's going to fall to the ground," and all of a sudden this guy in a red cape swoops up, and flies, and catches her, and he says, "Don't worry, I've got you." And she looks down, and she goes, "But who's got you?"


DOUG FORESTA: And so I love this model of you are supporting the supporters.


DOUG FORESTA: Having said that, what I'm wondering about is also when you were talking about this is in terms of approach, in terms of thinking, I imagine there is a difference between creating DEI consultants and supporting coaches in using this model to move leaders through. I mean, is there a difference? Am I getting that right?

JENNIFER BROWN: Yeah. Yeah. Wonderful question, and you're helping me think it through too. So a DEI consultant and somebody who puts that out there has to know a lot of things, like has to know how to, in my opinion, run programs, initiate efforts, structure efforts, and org-wide. When you have that job, you've got to come to the table with a pretty varied and extensive toolkit. The coaches, and the trainers, and facilitators come to the table with I think a different toolkit. They're not necessarily building an org strategy, although if they're the head of talent, like a chief talent officer, they do have to build the org strategy, but DEI is a piece of that strategy, right?

So they don't have to be the expert in all things DEI, but they do need, I think, to have a learning model that they can deploy that is... And this is why I'm excited to think about that this could be an equivalent to a Myers-Briggs for inclusive leadership. It's much simpler than Myers-Briggs for sure, but to have a tool that you believe in, that you know people are going to understand, and that you can include and be certified in even, which is something we're really thinking about in the new year. Can I get certified in something without being a DEI expert? Can I get certified in something that I can teach without all of this other scaffolding?

And I would argue, yes. There are many tools out there that just exist as tools, and people love them, and by the way, they bring all kinds of color to them. When I teach stuff, I'm not going to teach it in the same way, the same tool as somebody else with a completely different kind of lived experience, and framework, and discipline, and experience professionally. And that's the beauty of a good tool, that in anybody's hands you give people enough to run with, and then they make it their own. So I think, yes, it's a great question, however, back to the DEI practitioner, the person that has the responsibility, this obviously is something they could also be certified in. And somebody theoretically, as we build this out this coming year, could build a lot of their self-employed business around teaching this tool and all of maybe the workshop sort of ancillary behavior skills and development that they do in their other teaching, because it could relate to so many different audiences.

I mean, I'm always surprised. I'm always on these lists of populations that I never think of, like these nurses are reading, these public health professionals are reading the book, or it's just really scientists, and people are relating it to their world. And so for authors that are listening, would be authors and current authors that are out there listening, you might want to challenge yourself to think about what you teach, and really this was such good advice I got from my editor at Berrett-Koehler. He said, "Make it about the model. The model will be universal. It'll be timeless, and let people put on it what they see, what they nudge it in certain directions that bring them alive, and what a cool gift to be able to give that."

So I hope a certification is happening this year in some form. I know people are already using it, and I would love to be as most helpful as I can be in actually informing people about how I teach it, if that can be helpful, but then, of course, with all of the color that I just think will really bring it alive for different populations.

DOUG FORESTA: I love the idea of a certification, because A, it kind of gives you a sense, all right, so I'm competent enough now in this that I can start the question you asked about how far ahead do I have to be? How expert do I have to be? And then what I also love is that it just extends. It's like the roots of a tree, instead of it can't only be the one talent. It can't only be the head of talent, the DEI person in the organization. There's so much more going on, and I think it's just brilliant to think about how do we support the people who are already supporting leadership roles, which has to be way more than just one person, especially in a huge organization, which-

JENNIFER BROWN: Oh my goodness, so many. Oh gosh, there's so many directions it could go. And that audience now having done a bunch of keynotes this past year for coaching trade associations, so Institute of Coaching, or ICF, a bunch of others, Hudson Institute, some of these really well known places, I would think this kind of certification would be something they want to make sure they offer, because how can you churn out learning professionals and leadership development people into the world these days without including something substantive on this topic? How can you? And then to have that beautiful energy I'm getting back from coaches, just to pick one community saying, "Goodness, we do not know what we don't know on this topic, but we're being asked to coach across difference, right? We're feeling kind of out on a limb and not upskilled. We feel self-conscious about coaching a leader on a topic that we feel that we're in the beginning stages of."

So how do I help folks at least a way in? And it's not the whole thing, it's not everything you need to know, obviously, but if I could answer that question with what we do, I think that it would be a game changer, and it's so necessary. And that audience is also very human centric. They're very compassionate people. They're very empathetic. Anyone that goes into kind of the people side of work, we all share this baseline, which is we believe in the people we support. We believe in their capacity to grow. We are in the encouraging business. We are in the equipping business, and we're also in the business of making sure that person shows up as powerfully as they can, but we're also in the business of exploring how the definition of leadership is changing, and I would say people who teach the leader, people who hold space, the supporter, the supporter of the supported, know more than anyone that what they're being asked to do, these leaders don't have a playbook.

And so, Doug, we've talked a lot on this, I think, about how worried I am for leaders right now, that people are not skilled up, that they're not comfortable, that they don't know what to say, that they don't want to damage the relationships that they have with others, but they're afraid that they will. They're afraid of causing harm, they're afraid of making a mistake and unintentionally destroying that trust. They don't know how to build trust affirmatively, I think, when it comes to DEIB. There's so many, I suppose, I'll use the word hazards. I don't think I see them that way, but I think that this journey is perceived as a minefield, and as long as it is perceived as a minefield, as I always say, "We're going to lack the support of those with the most power." And that's a real challenge for momentum. It's a big challenge for accelerating this work, a big challenge for having the impact and the change that we not only need to see, we must see. We must.

And so coaching the coach, supporting supporter to me is also kind of I want to make this happen as fast as I can, and I want to cause a paradigm shift in the supporter too, the superman. I'm just thinking about the Superman image, like investing in the Supermans of the world. And then maybe that Superman is not the leader themself. Maybe it is the person lifting up that leader. It's a beautiful metaphor to think about.

DOUG FORESTA: Or a Superwoman or a Supernumerary. I want to add that too.

JENNIFER BROWN: That's right. Super Person. Super Person.

DOUG FORESTA: Super person. Yeah, Super Person.

JENNIFER BROWN: Yay, love it.

DOUG FORESTA: Yeah, it's interesting. As you were saying it, I was thinking what's so wonderful about this is so the model is brilliant. And then the question is you still have to bring people along the change process. So coaches that, like you said, helping professionals, I think one thing that they're really good at is learning how to have change conversations, and learning how to... It's kind of like there's a little bit of nudging and support. Right? It's just like the-

JENNIFER BROWN: Controlling, pressure, right?

DOUG FORESTA: Right, it's all the things that you need to do to have change conversations, so you have these people who know how to have change conversations and know how to nudge people along, but they don't have a framework to do that when it comes to the DEI aspect. And so putting this into their hands I think can really help. Like I said, that combination of I know how to have change conversations. If you can get me the continuum, and I can understand how to do this, I have the skills to help move people along. And like you said, I have the relationships.

JENNIFER BROWN: Right, right. And what does progress look like? You just made me think of that piece, which is people are lacking. And it's not a goal. It's a destination. I'm sorry. It's not a destination. It's a journey to that place that we may or may never reach because it's never really done, but what is the measuring stick? How do I know as somebody who's coaching someone are they making progress, and how do I assess that? And I would imagine in a perfect world, we would assess our leaders on their efforts and their continuing improvement. So what I would be looking for in organizations, of course, is yes, measuring, but what do we measure? What does success look like? And I want to get away from this binary sort of project completed way that we think about performance. Did I do it or didn't I do it?

Well, it's not quite that simple. For a coach to be able to, in a perfect world, weigh in on a leader, for somebody who is supporting the leader to say, "I have seen them from where they were. I have seen them push themselves, get comfortable being uncomfortable, sign up for things, and put themselves out there, and speak new words, speak about something in a different way, use new language, approach something differently, take a risk, receive feedback that something may or may not have gone so well, and incorporate that feedback resiliently, agilely, and come back, and manifest it in a different way." If we could get a picture, a fuller picture of the human in evolution, then the accountability to me, and if we could possibly measure something in a non-binary way, there's effort, and there's skill development, and there's effort, and there's will like the will to change, there's the want and the desire, there's the mastery. So there's different pieces here that I would want to make room for in really saying, "This leader really, really grew this year, and this is how I know."

And so I just wish... And I don't need to wish. I mean, I think a lot of organizations are wrestling with how do we measure people on their inclusiveness? How do we measure their ability to create cultures of belonging? That's the question we're coming into the new year with, because remember, diversity is counting the heads and making the heads, and I guess inclusion is making the heads count. It's one of those sayings we always say, but the representation piece, while not simple, is simpler. Where I think we really have to nail down, like what are we actually looking to expect of our leaders?

And the baseline that each leader is starting at is so different. That's what makes this kind of complex. It's sort of a little bit of a subjective judgment call in the minds of the people around that person, as well as that person's estimation of themselves. I think my impact is this, what is it really, and according to whom? Right? Here's the intent of that person. Here's the hard work that's gone into it, and they have really moved the needle for themselves from here. On this metric, they've really, really progressed. So I hope. Who knows? I mean, I think maybe another application of the continuum is it's a Likert scale of one to four, right?

And so what I might say is in measuring leaders, identify some dimensions, identify leader behaviors, and have they moved from a one to a two this year? Have they come out of unawareness to awareness? How are they deepening their knowledge, or if they've moved from awareness to active, how have they taken what they've learned and really begun to lead? And how do we know? What is the evidence of that? What are the artifacts of that, and how has it been received? So there's effort, but then there's success and impact that then is that kind of lagging indicator that we find out later, Oh, that was viewed positively. When you did this, it had this impact, and we know because of this, right?

So anyway, I mean, I don't think our systems have really caught up with the way that learning and progress really should be measured, but I'm sort of describing, hey, if anybody is out there listening and builds assessment tools into the larger system, this is where I wish we could kind of live in this gray area for a while and build something that is truly representative of the learning process as it happens, because this operates in a kind of really different way, and we can't measure it in the same way that we measure other business results.

DOUG FORESTA: As you were talking, you also made me think about what about the coach's own journey? I mean, do you recommend that they spend some time with this themselves before they...

JENNIFER BROWN: Yeah, oh my goodness, absolutely. And coach, my wish there is that coaches support each other, and teachers, and anyone who's supporting leaders to be better, that we have our own communities, that we have our own discussions, that we bring our own case studies, not just of what's going on for our clients, but for ourselves. One of the things, I think we're triggered in this work. We're human, right? And one of the things I worry about, Doug, every time self-care comes up, every time fatigue comes up, it's the fatigue of I think of either pushing really hard, and being thwarted constantly, and having, having that feel very personal. It's sort of when things like pronouns come up, and I get a lot of pushback from an executive team that says, "It doesn't matter," or, "This is too hard," or, "It's inappropriate," or whatever, I feel very triggered in those moments, because it feels very invalidating to me as a human.

DOUG FORESTA: Yeah, of course.

JENNIFER BROWN: So I take my teacher hat off, and I have my human hat on, and I'm like... Because we have to be so brave for everybody else. We have to be so infallible. I always feel like we have to stay calm in the spite of what we might be hearing, and continue to kind of hold our center of gravity all the time. When we're hearing racist comments, when we're hearing anti-Semitism, when we're coaching a leader through maybe some of the biases that they have, invariably we're sucked in, and it can really, unless we're sort of extremely strong, I think, inside ourselves, and we've traveled this journey and really solidified our foundation, or maybe we're just having a bad day, or maybe it's just the accumulation of this entire organization doesn't get it, and every day I show up, and every day I'm trying to witness a ton of different diversity dimensions, myself and others, and yet I'm getting the vast majority of what I get isn't supportive of all of that, and we carry that.

So for coaches to be really attuned to the emotions that come up I think that relate to your identity, your identities, plural, that are entering the field between you and the person that you're supporting and just being... It's interesting, Doug. Your question also reminds me coaches are trained not to have kind of a point of view. Really good coaches will tell you you're good, whatever. I don't know if it's changed, but I just remember this moment when I was looking into being a coach 20 years ago, and I went to this coach audition with this leading firm. They're still around, and they assessed me, and they're like, "Yeah, you're not a fit for us." They observed me, and I had too many opinions. I had too much guidance. I had so much I wanted to impart.

And back to your question of what's the difference between the coach and the D&I practitioner, the D&I practitioner is imparting information. They are guiding, right?


JENNIFER BROWN: They're informing. With their knowledge, they are informing a strategy and an approach. So as such, you need to have deeper expertise, but you do need to be an effective coach. You do need to ask that leader that you're supporting those coach questions, "What do you need right now? What are you curious about? What are you struggling with? What do you need more support with," all those beautiful open-ended coachey questions, as I would say. But I do think, Doug, though, that I said to coaches recently, "I don't know if your playbook is still the same, and that you need to be so sort of neutral, so kind of question, question, question, no agenda. There has to be I think a balance of the coach's learning journey, and sharing what they're learning perhaps, and knowing enough about the resources out there to supply those resources to the learner."

And maybe that's that middle ground that the coach or the teacher can strike to say, "I want to inform you right now. I want to let you know that what you just said is a common bias or a common microaggression." I think coaches and teachers need the room to say that, but you got to know what you're hearing. You have to know enough in your own sort of phase two aware. You have to know to spot these things for this leader, because basically what you're doing is supporting this leader to go out and hopefully not repeat some of these things. You're trying to literally work through and very quickly. We don't have a lot of time with people. Very quickly kind of look through their language, and inventory it, and say, "Hey, these are some things I'm hearing. You might want to think about this. This may be a better way. This may be an ideal way to tackle this."

So there has to be some advice in there, and I think to give the advice, we've got to be deeper in our own work. When I used to teach things that I didn't know a lot about, I used to actually have to facilitate on topics that I really didn't know. I know that sounds bizarre, but that's what facilitators do, actually, and that was what I was trained to do originally, 25 years ago when I first got up in front of audiences, and I was doing leadership programs. I was fairly green, and I followed a very good design. I had wonderful designers kind of training me on how to follow a structure and get learners where they needed to go, but I didn't have a deep expertise, but that is what good design can do for you. You can actually get somebody to somewhere, and you can follow a process together without necessarily having a ton of the answers.

So I guess those of us who've been where I've been, know that it's possible as long as you let that adult learner... What they say in adult learning is 90% of the knowledge that you really need for an adult to learn is something they already have access to, so that the model of teaching adults... And this was such a revelation in my master's program. My job as a facilitator was merely to have a wonderful design, not to be an expert, and to pull out and surface all the knowledge in a group of people, and literally connect the dots, and make sure that concepts were related appropriately, and that I encouraged actually the adult learner to celebrate what they already know, to tweak or sort of filter it differently, or take what each other knows, not what I know. So it might have been sort of one to many me as a teacher, but really the difference with facilitation is that you're working with the knowledge that exists.

And I think, again, back to the model, if you can have a good structure for that, but then the scaffolding around that model comes from the learners. It just comes from, you can actually knit it together into a beautiful fabric, and maybe you own one thread of that fabric, but that fabric is mainly made up of all the inclusive leadership behaviors that are already occurring in a given organization that you can pull. Your job is to collate, to correlate, to collate, to curate, to pull together and weave, because nobody, none among us would say, "There's no inclusive leadership here," in any environment and in any human.


JENNIFER BROWN: Right? I know we agree on this, Doug, so much that each person knows something about diversity. Each person has experienced exclusion. Each person is probably fighting a battle that you don't know about. Each person is terrified and has pieces of them that are stigmatized, that are definitely under their waterline. And these pieces, I would argue, if not kind of healed, and brought to the light, and utilized may not ever really be healed. And the healing can happen though with sunlight, with awareness, with transparency, with me too, with the opportunity to really see that there's so much community around you that you don't even know, and that there's so much of a legacy to leave for leaders that is more than just what they know how to do. It's who they are.

And if you show us who you are, you will magnetize so much energy and so much, I think, trust to you, and this is what I hope leaders also kind of wrestle with this coming year is what got me here won't get me there. Recognizing that beautiful book title that I'll quote, Marshall Goldsmith. It's like, "I know I need to lead differently. I don't know what it looks like. I know inclusiveness has to be a part of it. I know that that's a key kind of arrow in my quiver, so to speak, and if I could set a goal for 2023 to develop comfort and competence with it, and even confidence with it, it will enable me to go the distance."

And I find that's often the most compelling argument. It's a wonderful, "What's in it for me," for leaders. When all else fails, the business case, they're like, "Yeah, yeah, yeah, whatever People have been telling us this for 20 years," When we have to get creative, I think it comes down to our relevance, our effectiveness, our ability to engender trust and therefore safety, therefore people's contributions, therefore people's loyalty and passion. All of that I think can really trace back to our own work on adding this in a very meaningful embodied way to what we bring, and so it's very exciting.

DOUG FORESTA: Yeah. No, it is. I was thinking about just as we kind of wind down here, as you were saying that, I was thinking about the word education comes from the word educe, which is to bring out, and so the way I'm kind of thinking about it is you have these coaches who can be educators in the sense of using this model to educe from leaders what they're already doing, but it's okay to fill in, then they can help fill in some of the gaps too as they... It's okay to know things as well. Start with what the person knows, as you said, find the 90%, and then at least my bias is I think it's okay to know things too.

JENNIFER BROWN: It has to be. It has to be.

DOUG FORESTA: It has to be, right?

JENNIFER BROWN: And then if you're back to the question of being triggered in that relationship, in those conversations, they're hard sometimes. This is where we have to dig deep into our reserves of kindness, grace, being in service of that learner and their learning, even if it feels personal. And I actually think there's an opportunity to utilize these as teachable moments. So consider giving that feedback around, "Our conversation, it was really helpful. I hope you found some advice that I gave you helpful too, and I just want to let you know the impact on me," reflecting to a leader the stakes of this in the form of you, in the form of someone they care about in the form of someone... I hope. I mean, I hope they care about their relationship with you as their supporter.

Even just unpacking that is a wonderful opportunity in a safe place and in a safe way to go deep with another human on what the impact is of an "innocent question", or a comment, or a microaggression, or a bias. I think that is so ripe for potential, and if that aha moment can happen in this safe context and in this trusting context, and both parties can feel whole after coming through something like that, to me that is building the muscle memory of this was a successful, difficult, and successful, and kind interaction where we both came through this learning more, and we both were strengthened by this interaction. Even though it was honest, hard, it was a learning opportunity. It's good for the coach, and it's good for the leader.

And I know this is true because I've been in these moments, and they're very beautiful if you can come through the other side feeling strengthened. So I would ask all of you listening to this to think about how can I be honest, and honor myself and who I am, and feel strengthened through this interaction?

DOUG FORESTA: And this is... Yeah, sorry.

JENNIFER BROWN: And if we can hold that, that is really powerful stuff for both sides.

DOUG FORESTA: This is so exciting. We definitely I'm sure will be talking more about this.

JENNIFER BROWN: Yes, absolutely.

DOUG FORESTA: My Vietnamese is not very good, so what am I-

JENNIFER BROWN: I know. Yep, yep. I have some friends, and I'm like, "Could you read this translation and tell me? I think they'll probably get a kick out of it, because I just wonder what's not lost in translation, but there's going to be stuff that needs to be changed. That's for sure.

DOUG FORESTA: Well, so how can people learn more? I know we'll be sharing as we go along, but is there sort of a timeline for when the English version of this will come out, and when we can learn more?

JENNIFER BROWN: Yeah, yeah, that's a great question. I think over this coming year, we'll be announcing in social media how things are going and where the model is finding its way to around the globe and maybe some future translations, which I think would probably be inevitable given the global reach that will be a part of the Blanchard extension anyway. So just keep an eye on the space, and if anyone listening is involved with Blanchard already, some companies, Doug, buy a lot of their programs from this company. So this is a new offering, and I know there are some shared relationships between our firms, but it's actually a very different universe too, so there's so much opportunity to leverage what each other has. And the other thing, the hope is that we will continue to develop new things with the Blanchard team who are a bunch of extremely talented designers. I mean, they're doing some stuff digitally that blows my mind. The learning space has gotten so advanced and so synchronous, asynchronous learning, badges, and what's the word? I'm sorry.

DOUG FORESTA: Credential?

JENNIFER BROWN: Let me pause for a minute.


JENNIFER BROWN: What am I thinking of? Not crypto, but the... Oh, blockchain. Let me jump back in.


JENNIFER BROWN: So the way they're using things like blockchain to support learning and gamifying it, it's extremely... So it makes me feel a little like I've been in the D&I bubble for a long time, because a lot of that is not really happening in that space, but the learning space is exciting, and it's been cool to have a front row seat on how all the innovations that are occurring with technology in that space. So really exciting, and I think all of these firms, including ours, are really trying to create bite size pieces that people can really digest, and when they need to, where they need to apply it immediately. So I'm really excited in general about presenting in the coming year at Learning events like ATD, which is the huge training development conference every year.

This year it's going to be in San Diego in May, so I'll probably be doing some presentations more in that world in addition to my old favorites, my favorite DEI conferences like the Forum in Minneapolis, which is in March, everybody. So if you don't know about that, I will definitely be there presenting as well. Yeah, follow me, follow us, keep tabs on what we're doing. We're always doing extremely interesting things. We're going to be looking at a lot of different sort of emerging diversity dimensions in the new year, just like we always do. Doug, we just did an episode on being alcohol free as a work workforce diversity dimension, which affects millions, and millions, and millions of people, but is not at all discussed, particularly when it pertains to work. So check out that episode. It was Kay Ashley's episode in December.

DOUG FORESTA: Allison, Allison.

JENNIFER BROWN: Oh, Kay... Yes, sorry. So everybody check out Kay Allison's episode that we ran in December for more on that. We also did one with Sarah Brubacher McDonald on being a cancer survivor, and her experience at eBay at the time, and it really made me think about all of the ways employers need to really focus in on health in a much more targeted way and in a much more proactive, supportive, and informed way, and an intersectional way. So we've begun to, I think, dive into some of these topics, Doug, that don't get a lot of attention, but are impacting, like mental health, impacting millions of people, and then therefore impacting their professional contributions and impacting organizational strategy then therefore.

So here's to make 2023 a year about lowering that water line and pulling up to the surface all of these dimensions, because we can walk in chew gum at the same time. We have the capacity to address and support all kinds of dimensions that are going on for the humans in our organizations and tackling those respectfully, fully all at the same time. I think we have the capacity to do this. I know that organizations do complex things all the time, so let's make this year about yes, and.

DOUG FORESTA: Well, thank you so much, Jennifer. I mean, you talked about exciting things happening. I think listeners can hear that there are exciting things happening in 2023. I look forward to continuing this conversation and seeing how the journey goes along, but thank you so much. It's just a very exciting evolution.

JENNIFER BROWN: Thank you so much, Doug. Thanks for a great year of episodes, and on behalf of The Will to Change community and my team, thank you, and we're really looking forward to a great year, so everybody, please continue to share the podcast, and if you love the podcast, please leave us a review. We can always use those, and join us on our 2023 journey.

DOUG FORESTA: That's right.


JENNIFER BROWN: Hi, this is Jennifer. Did you know that we offer a full transcript of every podcast episode on my website over at Jenniferbrownspeaks.com? You can also subscribe so that you get notified every time a new episode goes live. Head over there now to read my latest thoughts on diversity, inclusion, and the future of work, and discover how we can all be champions of change by bringing our collective voices together and standing up for ourselves and each other.

DOUG FORESTA: You've been listening to The Will to Change: Uncovering True Stories of Diversity and Inclusion with Jennifer Brown. If you've enjoyed the episode, please subscribe to the podcast on iTunes. To learn more about Jennifer Brown, visit JenniferBrownspeaks.com. Thank you for listening, and we'll be back next time with a new episode.