Whether we wake someone with a sledgehammer or with an alarm clock, the result will be that they are woke, but is that the goal? The question is, do you want them woke and ready for a fight, or woke and ready to get up and get going with the day’s work of achieving Diversity, Inclusion & Belonging?
Consider this: when delivering the message of Diversity, Inclusion & Belonging, do you want to be right, or do you want to be received? People experience the process of awakening by being drawn to different alarms. In response to those different alarms, different outcomes will be the result. If you wake someone with a sledgehammer, expect the result to be a fight. If you wake someone with an alarm clock, expect the result to be a realization of becoming awakened.
In my work, I'm very, very careful to say, it's not my role to get participants to reach agreement about Diversity, Inclusion & Belonging, which some people might see as using a sledgehammer. It’s my role to help participants raise their awareness by just 1% about how they situate themselves in the Diversity, Inclusion & Belonging space, which I prefer to see as using an alarm clock.
It may seem like a low bar, but remember, some of the people I encounter have been sleepwalking through this for years. If I wake them too abruptly, it may become psychologically dangerous for them, for me, and for everyone else in the room. Stating clearly that my goal is to raise their awareness by 1% absolves me of the responsibility to ensure they apply what they’ve learned. Not only would that be impossible, considering I work with groups of up to 60 people at one time, it wouldn’t be fair to them and those who are within their circle of influence. Let me give you an example.
This week, I facilitated a two-day offsite with a group of leaders who are critical to cascading the message of Diversity, Inclusion & Belonging at their company. They all came to the offsite meeting with the misperception that I was going to use a sledgehammer to achieve compliance. Instead, I used the most appropriate alarm clock that would reach the most people. And the people I had identified as being my biggest challenge at the beginning of day one, seemed to have had the most impactful experience by the end of day two. One of those people hugged me and whispered in my ear, “I’ve been changed.”
Yesterday, one of the participants sent me an email thanking me for the session and promising to make me proud. I took the opportunity to help him reframe his intention and this was my reply: “Steve, I want to share something with you, as a form of encouragement. At least twice, I shared with the group that my goal is never to reach agreement about this work, but to raise awareness. I came to that conclusion last year so that I don’t allow myself to get caught up in whether or not people actually move forward with their new knowledge.” I went on to write,
“Steve, I’ll be your cheerleader in this effort. And it won’t be because I don’t want to be let down. I have given of myself and poured all I had into each one of you. At this point, it’s a matter of keeping whatever commitment you made to yourself about how you will move forward with this work. In that regard, it isn’t about letting me down, or the CEO, or your peers, or even the people you lead. It will be a matter of whether or not you keep your commitment to yourself. And I believe in my heart that you will!”