This is the second in a 2-part series on what happened when the Leverage to Lead team underwent our own values excavation. Read about why we needed to do it, how it went, and what’s changed for us since.
Our first values excavation meeting with Alison Park of Blink Consulting didn’t go as we had planned, or even as we had wanted. We all left the meeting feeling raw and exposed. And then we had to get back to work.
Part of us wanted to jump right back in and finish the excavation immediately, perhaps to avoid the awkwardness of having exposed some vulnerable parts of ourselves, then seeing each other back on Zoom and engaging with clients while trying to process our experiences. But, as Joy notes, “Clients often tell us they want all their DEI work done by a certain date and don’t need to take a break. But they do–they need space between sessions. We definitely needed space.”
Each team member processed the first session in their own way, with therapists, friends, partners. It affirmed the Leverage to Lead practice of holding individual processing sessions with our clients. “After our first session,” recalls Aubrey, “I sat there and stared at my screen wondering, ‘Who am I supposed to talk to about this?'”
We were affirmed in the value of planned processing with a facilitator, and how important it is to talk through your experiences and feelings with an objective observer in order to move through them and not get stuck. “What you experienced in the meeting,” Aubrey continues, “might not be the whole story.”
For Joy, processing meant examining her response to the facilitator. “I projected my discomfort and irritation onto Alison. During the session, I thought, this isn’t working because she’s not doing her job. I realized that I felt this way despite knowing that Alison is very skilled at her job. Going forward, I want to stay aware of holding that space for our clients’ discomfort and being okay with how they are feeling about me.”
The Second Meeting
A seemingly simple question altered the course of our second meeting. Why are you doing DEI work? The question returned each of us to the core of why we’re here, why we joined this team, why we want to coach and transform organizations. What brought us here? What keeps us here? To move forward, we needed to draw on where we came from.
In our answers, we found connections among our experiences, motivations, values, and humanity. It matters to know why we are all here. It matters that we know each other. There’s no other way for us to do this work.
Inside all this, Jennifer recalled one of her core values: leaders go first. “I had to say, we’re going to do this,” she reflects. “We needed to get to our values. Even if it killed me, I knew we were going to get through this. So, we picked a date and committed to having our values statement by then.”
In the end, it was in our own work that we found a way forward. The process we’ve developed to help organizations conduct their values excavation gave us a much-needed structure to follow. Everything—including our feelings, experiences, personal stories, relationships, job duties, etc.—felt immediately grounded in talking about our values.
One advantage for our Leadership Coaching team was they could foresee the next steps and phases of the process, having accompanied clients through it many times. They knew we next needed to talk about the ways we do and don’t live our values. And there’s safety in being able to prepare yourself for uncomfortable conversations. There’s safety in the structure, which brings predictability to the process.
And yet, we didn’t always feel completely safe. We felt judged. We felt angry. We felt unheard. We felt alone. We weren’t always prepared for the hard conversations about accountability or how to change. Psychological safety, we learned, is not a constant.
MJ reflects that, at times, she took on creating safety for herself. “Using our own emotional exploration tool, I tried to keep track of what I was feeling during our meetings. I looked honestly at what was causing my emotions to try and figure out what I needed. And what I know is that sometimes feeling safe or unsafe isn’t necessarily related to other people’s actions, but rather my own emotional state. Rather than expecting my environment to take care of my safety, I had the power to self-regulate.”
Where We Are Now
Though it feels like the hardest part is behind us, we wouldn’t say we’re done with the work. We do have a values statement we’re proud of, and we continue to try and live it out every day.
What we’ve gained is a deeper connection to what our clients go through and clearer ways to support them during their process. Transition time has become paramount to every meeting—helping them step away from what they were just working on and be present with us, offering ways to help them connect to the DEI work that’s coming up in the middle of their day, and just honoring everyone’s need for the space to transition. We need more than the usual five minutes we give ourselves to move into the next thing. And we need to protect the time between meetings, prioritize processing, and keep working together.
“I wouldn’t say that I didn’t show up as myself before we did this values work,” Aubrey acknowledges. “But I did have a strong corporate mindset of never showing emotions or vulnerability, which was hard for me to let go of. Then seeing all of us in the muck together, and all of our humanity in those meetings—it gave me space and permission to be myself, to make mistakes, to have feelings. I like caring about my coworkers as people, not only because I want business success, but because I want them to be successful.”
Success is something our clients ask about often. They want to know what the product or outcome will be after working with Leverage to Lead. They want to know their success points. But success isn’t a one-time outcome. Success looks like deeper connections, mutual respect and regard, shared values, and accountability, all of which all lead to better, more creative work.
We would love to share more with you about our team’s values excavation and how we can be part of your team’s values journey. To learn more, contact any member of our team today.