My Approach. My goal in the work I do around issues of diversity and social justice is partly about empowering individuals within organizations who have taken on the important work of helping shape their organization around these issues, and to provide a place of support for them as they go about doing this often lonely and challenging work. It is also, of course about working with the organizations themselves to help them create truly inclusive entities that honor, respect, and value the talents, skills, work and humanity of each member of their team, workgroup or organization.
I've worked with various issues related to diversity since 1983. Much of the work I've done has been internal to the institutions I was employed by. Increasingly, I've been working with a variety of organizations and individuals who want to engage in social justice work and need the tools to learn about their own individual challenges as well as help their organizations, institutions, and communities forward.
Like much of the work I do as a life coach, I spend a lot of time listening to prospective organizational clients and asking a lot of questions:
- What is it they want for their institution, corporation, agency, community?
- How do they envision an "ideal" organization?
- What steps do they need to take to move them toward what they want?
- What's working effectively now? How can they work through places where they get "stuck?"
- How can I work with them to move in the direction of creating the organization they envision?
Listening to what is said (as well as observing what's not) often gives me the cues and signals I need to begin to identify what's needed and to co-create the framework for doing the work that needs to be done. Once that framework is in place, we can begin to develop and implement the structures and identify the appropriate tools that will help the organization to move in the directions they hope to go.
Are We There Yet? People who do diversity work know there's not a point at which you arrive. There is no "there" there. This journey toward a just, equitable society is not a sprint. We who are in it for the long haul know that it is a long, arduous, often exhausting marathon, one that requires all the strength and stamina we can muster. We also know that it is probably the most important work we'll ever do, and for many of us it is our life work and life passion. We can't not do it. What I bring to this work is a deep passion and belief that we can create a more just and peaceful world and that we can change the systems that create and maintain inequality.
The skills I bring are the same as I use in much of the other work I do, and in other areas of my life. I listen carefully and as fully present as I can. I speak with truth and integrity, as people who've worked with me will attest to. Along with that integrity I hold a depth of wisdom and keen insight that sheds new light on an issue or clarifies a previously cloudy situation. I am a lifelong learner, which means I ask a lot of questions and do not reach a place where I know everything. The more I learn, the more I realize I don't know.
I believe that everyone has the potential, the capability and capacity, to know what's right and to do it, to acknowledge what they don't know and be willing to learn about themselves, no matter how painful the truth might be. In that regard, I don't ask of others what I am not willing to do myself-the deep personal work, inner reflection and willingness to confront the "good, the bad, and the ugly" inside me-and then share what I learn about myself with others.
The Power of Collaboration. In addition to working as an individual, I find that working with a co-leader has a powerful impact on the work I do with clients, particularly when that individual is of a different race or gender or is different from me in some noticeable way. I've had the privilege of collaborating on a number of projects with Frances Kendall, a white woman who has dedicated over half her life, 35+ years, working toward racial and social justice in our society. Our racial difference enhances our effectiveness working together much more than if we worked individually, particularly when working with racially mixed groups. Through this type of collaboration we strengthen the work we do and increase the possibilities of achieving success in bringing about the institution, organizational, and ultimately the societal change we seek.