Racism: The importance of listening to create change

create change, black lives matter
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Robbie Green, The Working Mom’s Coach and Coach at Talking Talent, discusses how to create change in the contemporary climate of racism

During this extremely delicate time in our history, it has never been more important for the ‘right voice’ to be heard. We are currently witnessing HISTORY as we speak, as the world has risen up into the largest anti-racism­­ movement on record.

The veil has been lifted and the nation has been slammed by the reality of the situation. For some, they believe this ‘racism thing’ has only just showed up in the country. Well, that’s just not true. It’s been here for 401 years. But over the past few months, we have witnessed people, who never previously considered how the other side lives, experience an overwhelming compulsion to enact change. It may have arrived years past the deadline previously set for change, but I believe it’s right on time. Now we need to focus our efforts on the opportunity in front of us, our real chance to make a difference, and not dwell on the time it took to kick in.

One of the first trends I witnessed was a number of white people stand up and say, “It’s not enough for me not to be racist, I need to be anti-racist. What books can I read to learn more?” In a moment of my own transparency, I was puzzled by the question: “What can I read to learn more?” My first reaction was, do you really need a book to show you what has been going on for the last 401 years? I shared these thoughts with my 20-year-old daughter and her response was fascinating. She said, “Yeah Momma. They need a book because many of them think this is something like a cool story. They are fascinated by it – this racism.”

The reality is you simply don’t know what you don’t know – no matter how shocking this sounds. Your perception is your truth, and only your personal life experiences can develop your character and build your countenance for injustice. If all men and women are ever to be considered equal, then all men and women have to be given the opportunity for their stories to be told and, more importantly, heard. We have to LISTEN to truly create change.

How can we enact real change?

L – Lean in

Lean in and have real and honest conversations with your staff. But you must listen more than you speak – this is their time to talk, not yours.  It is imperative that you ask tough, and pointed, questions, to trigger change within your organisation. These conversations are uncomfortable but necessary. My best friend recently told me that our feelings have nothing to do with the difference we are destined to make in this world. In other words: get over yourself and get to work. And my grandmother used to say to me that anything worth having is always worth a little trouble. These notions are especially true for business leaders, and justice for all is definitely worth fighting for.

I – Interview people – Again

This practice to create change will not be for the faint of heart. It’s not for ‘bosses’ who are only focused on being the boss. Instead, this exercise is for ‘leaders’ who are purely driven to improve. Sit down and ask the questions that have never been asked. So, instead of the typical, “So, why do you think you are a good fit for our company?” ask “Do you ever feel like you are a misfit at this company? Help me understand why or why not.” Instead of, “Tell me about a time you overcame difficulty in your current role at your current company,” say, “Tell me about a time you or your family faced racial discrimination. How did it affect you?” Now here’s the challenge – switch seats. What would you say?

S – Support where needed

In my role of professional coach for working moms, I coach black women who are worried about the safety of their black son. And I coach white moms who are genuinely concerned about the state of the world. Shockingly, I have heard women admit that their sons have asked them, “Am I going to be shot by the police?” It’s heart-breaking, but it’s real. So, approach your staff and ask them what they actually need – and be ready to offer solutions as well. Ask them, “How can we support you at this time? Would it help if we brought in a professional coach that specifically works with working moms to be a resource to you? Would it help if we had open-ended dialogue as a team?”

T – Take the time needed

Remember, this is year 401, so real change will take time. But be committed to be a willing and active participant, until…

E – Enlist the help of a professional coach

To help with these discussions to create change, I urge you to ask for the help you need as an organisation. As an employer facing this a important yet sensitive topic, no one expects you to have all the right words to say. Wise men and women seek counsel.

N – Nurture the wounds of the people

What you say matters, but it also matters how you say it. It’s important to choose your words wisely, but also don’t be hesitant. This is a time for complete transparency, as well as compassion, and love. Now, the reality is, not all of these things come naturally to all people – and that’s OK. See E.

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