Some people may think that when I train for inclusion and equity in an organization, I’m there to put my personal values on people.
I’m not in the business to change people’s values. It’s their behaviors that I’m trying to work with them on.
“To change any behavior, we have to slow down and act intentionally rather than from habit and impulse.”
Getting Real About People’s Values
Over three decades ago when I started in homophobia work, I was naïve enough to think that I could change people’s values, to let them know how wrong they were because they were so homophobic.
Then reality hit: Changing a person’s values wasn’t my role. Instead, I focused on helping people see the negative impact of their behaviors and how homophobic comments and microaggressions hurt people and undermine organizational values and goals to create inclusive work environments for all.
I’d say things like:
“You might still believe that being lesbian, gay or bisexual is wrong. I get it, I was taught similar things in church and in society. In spite of these attitudes, I believe we can agree to create a work environment where everyone is treated with respect and mutual dignity, where we can commit to working together effectively to serve all of our customers and our clients.”
That was 35 years ago and I still believe our role as change agents is to focus on people’s behaviors, not try to change their beliefs. If we create opportunities for building meaningful relationships through authentic engagement, then more people will not only change their behaviors – but may also begin to critically examine and question the attitudes and biases they absorbed in their childhood and still hold onto.
“Behavior is the end result of a prevailing story in one’s mind:
change the story and the behavior will change.”
-Dr. Jacinta Mpalyenkana Murray
Coach, Trainer or Counselor?
When you’re trying to get fit, you go to a gym and you might work with a personal trainer to up your game and workouts. When you can’t see how you’re going to accomplish your goal, the trainer can show you the way.
That’s how I like to view my role when I work as a coach and a consultant within an organization: I am there as a personal trainer.
Organizations that want to do better at inclusion and acceptance for all employees hire me to deepen the capacity of leaders and employees to reach their equity and inclusion goals.
Awareness and skill-building is the 1st step to organizational change.
In workshops and leadership coaching sessions, people can gain greater clarity of how they were socialized about issues of race, sex assigned at birth, class, sexuality and other categories of diversity.
As we grow up, parents, siblings, teachers, friends and the community influenced our beliefs. Then when a situation occurs or we’re triggered – we react – often not consciously, but as we were trained to, often fueled by implicit biases.
I teach people skills to interrupt these automatic reactions so they no longer perpetuate microaggressions and disrespectful treatment, and instead, intentionally act in ways that may result in:
- Behavioral shifts that help the organization truly serve the increasingly diverse client-base.
- The ability to recognize and interrupt microaggressions and to shift implicit bias.
- Hiring practices that result in pools of people that are racially diverse and culturally competent.
I help folks recognize and change their thinking.
“Our thoughts shape how we behave.”
In our privileged groups, there are so few opportunities in most organizations to take an honest look at how we were socialized and how we may still react out of unconscious biases.
It may be useful to share this webinar on Interrupting Racism with whites as well as people of color in your organization and create the spaces for some real truth talk about our pasts as well as the current race dynamics in society and in organizations. It is focused on getting more whites to step up to shift racist dynamics and partner with colleagues of color to create true racial justice.
You can access my free webinar anytime, anywhere: https://drkathyobear.com/racismwebinar/ – it could be a powerful professional development session!