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  • Writer's pictureKimmy


Updated: Aug 16, 2021

I'm the CEO of a small company. I've got a few players on my team making a bunch of noise about getting up to speed with diversity, equity, and inclusion. But, unfortunately, I'm pretty sure that I've missed the boat on starting any equity committee. Frankly, I just wish it would just go away. Plus, we're barely keeping our heads above water. I'm in constant crisis mode spend my time putting out fires. M.W. Well, Good on you, M.W, for being bringing this to the table. I salute you, brother. I've owned small businesses and definitely get where you're coming from. When I was a restauranteur, it was bone-tiringly stressful to be praying for a busy weekend to pay rent on Monday morning. Plus, washing dishes at two in the morning because of staffing shortages followed by 4 a.m. prep for the farmers market, fire after fire after fire, literally and figuratively. Those were whiskey-fueled days, oh the restaurant business. If you can relate, hopefully, we're both older and wiser now with improved coping strategies. For as slammed as you are, and believe me, I hear you, the momentum for equality is not going away. Work environments that do not include diverse voices are not sustainable. Why? Because when decisions happen in an echo chamber, assessments that lead to action become myopic. We are operating from a minimal and inaccurate context. Feedback keeps us honest. Do any current events come to mind as an example? Here's the thing, conversations about who holds power, who has a place at the table, and who does not is Damn. Hard. Work. They are confronting. There aren't easy, tidy endings. This kind of change is not linear, and if we're used to clear progressive steps in working towards a goal, this can be disorienting and frustrating. I've crawled away from equity work sick to my stomach more times than I can count. But here's another thing, I am one hundred percent confident that you can do it. You can take one step at a time, and yes, it's going to be awkward and uncomfortable. As a leader, it is up to you (and I could make a theological argument about moral responsibility here) to show up. It starts with conversations about where we've been. This inventory usually brings up where we've failed. None of us like to look at a list of failures. And even more amazingly, we will generate failure in the process of engaging due to our lack of understanding because we are well-meaning people. People who are white. Revealing our ignorance is inevitable. We need to accept this. Many, many years ago, I earnestly used left-handedness as an example of discrimination in my life. God! What a spectacular moment of ignorance. We were talking about police violence discrimination at the time of my statement; the incredulous look on people's faces is burned in my memory. I still feel the sear of shame when I think of that sentence. It wasn't the first time I failed, and it certainly won't be the last. You may or may not find yourself in a similar situation. Fortunately, the story doesn't stop there. Just because there isn't a big prize at the end of one meeting doesn't mean there aren't rewards over time. When we are the people in charge, humility is the bullet train to deepening trust and connection. Trust me here, buddy. Trust is worth the effort. While you may feel daunted, all the inner resources you drew on to get to where you are now, as CEO, are still within you, available to draw on again. I'm guessing your resources include but are not limited to courage, resilience, creativity, focus, drive, and intelligence. I also imagine that you can see the big picture and the capacity to work with many balls in the air. I do not doubt that you can use your superpowers to encompass actively working toward the kinder, gentler world our hearts know possible. (That concept is from the economist Charles Eisenstein). Or, to put it in another language, what if what we are really doing here was learning to love our neighbor as we love ourselves? Loving, as you know, includes giving and receiving. It's generative. Loving sees a person as more than an employer or employee, a cog in the machinery of capitalism. You may not use this language in a work environment, but you can certainly operate from its premise. To love is to draw on that courage I mentioned in your list of tools. Here's a little pep-talk in case you need one: Love. Never. Fails. To recap: Yes, you are slamming busy. Yes, you are running on fumes. And yes, your heart is definitely in the right place; otherwise, you would not have brought this up in the first place. But, putting your trepidation aside, I can see you listening to the ideas your co-workers are bringing to the table. I am confident that this first dialogue is the stone in the water that creates ripples beyond our current vision. We come out stronger from hard conversations. I know you know this! I see your wings expanding, emerging as the most life-affirming version of yourself, your heart and action propelling your beautiful world and the lives of those in your orbit. Cheers! You can do it, buddy! I'm cheering for you! And hey, thanks for listening.


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