In our Reframing Series, we examine commonplaces that, upon closer look, reveal a toxic belief or harmful behavior. Read more from our Reframing Series: Reframing Boundaries; Reframing Burnout, Reframing Nice, Reframing Uncertainty.
We Can’t Do It All
At the White Privilege Conference a few years back, Jennifer accepted a hard truth. “Racism isn’t going to end in my lifetime,” she recalls thinking with sadness.
But, at the same moment, another realization occurred. “It took the pressure of having to fix everything myself and rush to the finish line because we will not solve this problem any time soon.” Ultimately, Jennifer sees her goal as “continuing and expanding the work of racial justice.”
And there are many ready and eager to step into their roles in creating equitable and inclusive workplaces. We see them, these leaders, in the organizations we work with, and we’re taking steps to ensure they’re equipped and supported in their work.
We’re thrilled to launch Leverage to Lead’s new certification program for leaders to facilitate Cultural Competency at your organizations.
This new program is putting us in deep relationship with skilled and passionate trainers. It’s stretching our creativity. It’s pushing us hard to live by Leverage to Lead’s values and commitments. And it’s been some of our most gratifying work.
We can’t wait to share more with you. But first, we want to deep dive into our biggest takeaway for certified trainers who are joining our community of practice: we need to reframe our understanding of “success.”
Shifting the Mindset for DEI Leaders
Beyond the learning blocks and key concepts of the Cultural Competency program, we want to give facilitators a strong sense of the values behind the program. Over a year ago, our team underwent the process of articulating and aligning ourselves with our values, and we know firsthand how crucial and challenging this is. But values are everything in DEI work–the foundation, the guide, the reference point on which all our strategies and decisions rely.
This is why we ask new trainers to scrutinize our standard markers of success and interrogate whether they are truly moving us toward equity and inclusion.
You Can Design Success
Success standards can be paralyzing. They elicit so much fear–of failing to meet standards, of being punished for falling short, of losing our value and relationships, of never recovering from a setback.
And yet our team sets high standards and we ask our trainers to as well. High standards do not equal rigid standards. High standards are not all-or-nothing. High standards are not meant as weapons of rejection.
We can be clear about expectations and we can be humane.
We can set high standards and reject perfection and perfectionism.
We can hold accountability and refuse to be punitive.
We can expect quality work and offer supportive structures.
We can hold equally high standards for all and provide different supports for each.
What we’re really asking leaders and trainers to do is set down any singular notion of success, along with the belief that the only other option is failure.
Here are some new ways to see success.
Success Is a Continuous Process
The first antidote to success anxiety is acknowledging that we are on a lifelong journey toward liberation. We are never going to arrive at a moment of perfect racial harmony, so we can just set that notion aside.
The good news is that seeing success as a process makes individual goals less daunting, and less make-or-break because goals are simply part of the journey. How we live out the journey is a measure of success. Are we seeing each other’s humanity? Are we acting with integrity and living by our values? The essayist Annie Dillard famously wrote, “How we spend our days is, of course, how we spend our lives.” Success is in the spending of our days, not the single wins.
Because we’re all going to fail sometimes, it’s especially important to reframe success as our creative recovery–our ability to invent a new way forward, to make the thing we need.
Success Is the Invisible Made Visible
It rarely feels like a success to see the problem. And yet, we can’t build solutions unless we can see the problem. Sometimes, success looks like acknowledging our unconscious biases, as painful as that feels. Success is naming the assumption we’re making about someone. Success is recognizing the hidden value that’s been driving our organization all along. Success is bringing to light the power dynamic we’ve been trying to ignore. Success is recognizing our emotional responses so that we can uncover a need begging to be illuminated. Awareness is a sign of success.
Success is Discomfort and Disruption
Jennifer vowed years ago to never again be the only uncomfortable person in any room. Knowing that DEI work disrupts our assumptions, scripts, and toxic cultural values, we lean into discomfort.
Our team practices and helps others to sit with discomfort, get curious about it, and find connection in it. The truth is, shared discomfort builds equity in any relationship, and it strengthens our empathy.
It’s true that success doesn’t always feel good. It can feel like aching muscles after a workout, like fear after sharing vulnerably, like releasing control when we share power and give others an equitable voice.
Belonging Is a Shared Success
It may sound counterintuitive, but we are all responsible for our own belonging. Leaders often think the opposite–that it’s their job to ensure belonging for everyone on their team. But, belonging isn’t a status you bestow on someone. Belonging is a partnership that requires both sides to actively participate. And belonging is a process; it’s never permanent.
We’re not saying that leaders don’t hold special responsibility for creating an inclusive environment and equitable policies. But leaders can’t make people belong. What leaders can do is ask questions, listen to what people need, and do their best to provide the right support. Or they can be honest about what they can’t provide.
People can experience real belonging while sometimes struggling, experiencing frustration, being in conflict, and accepting tough feedback. Belonging, like success, should never be equated with temporary contentment.
Training the Trainers
Our Cultural Competency certification program provides DEI leaders with facilitation and implementation tools, group sessions, one-on-one processing sessions, facilitation practices, observations with feedback, and ongoing support.
What we ask of our facilitators is a commitment to be, and stay, in relationship.
If your DEI leaders are ready to join our facilitators’ community of practice, contact anyone on our team today.