How to be human

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From the start of the day I was hooked. It was an event that had speakers I was connected with on social channels, but hadn’t met – and this was just some, as the majority were people I wasn’t connected with. There were attendees from all over the world who I didn’t know and yet this was a conference organised by Priya Bates and Advita Patel, co-founders of A Leader Like Me and fellow communication consultants. It’s easy to hear the same voices – I know because I am a voice that often speaks at conferences around the world. The event demonstrated what all events should be when it comes to a diverse conference. An event that represents the diversity of the humans on our planet.

I talk about action a lot. I talk about the need to get comfortable being uncomfortable and I’m always talking about reading and learning. Sponsoring this conference was an easy decision for me – it was about action and in 2021 that’s exactly what we need.

I’m not going to list the top takeaways from the conference. There are lots of things about it that I enjoyed. I am going to share how it has made me reflect and what I am going to do as a result of listening and learning. The conference was called Diversity in Action and that’s exactly what is needed.

We are human. We are people. There is nothing else to it. If we can stop dehumanizing individuals and groups and recognise that we are all human beings, it would be a foundational shift in the systemic issues that plague our society. We are easily flippant. We are quickly judgmental. We aren’t purposeful enough and we aren’t always aware of our impact on others.

Forgiveness, healing, bravery, energy, vulnerability, consequences, dedication, intersectionality, safety, belonging and inclusion.

These aren’t words you often associate with the world of business. But then you don’t often see a panel with just one white man talking about leadership. You don’t hear these stories. And this isn’t about bringing your whole self to work. It’s about being you, a human.

But with that comes a challenge. We have to be responsible for our own emotions. Who I spend my energy on, where I spend that energy is down to me. Forgiveness is not weakness. I am in control. So when we talk about inclusion and how people can feel excluded because of any number of reasons (and there are a vast number of reasons) it’s hard to imagine a world that is truly inclusive.

Last week on my Clubhouse chat, the conversation led me to wonder; do we know what a ‘good’ culture feels like? Do we know what it feels like to be working in a place that is psychologically safe? That is inclusive? I don’t think we do.

This conference supports my wondering. I’m still not sure we know what that is meant to feel like. But equally that feeling is so individual, how can you create a space that doesn’t accidentally exclude anyone?

I’m comforted in the knowledge that there is science to support the action that’s needed. That we can look to experts in this field who have been working in this area for decades. I want to step out of the “echo chamber of nonsense” (my favourite quote from Dr Leeno Karumanchery) and listen to the science that helps us understand what action to take to solve the system problem.

I was struck by how much of the conversation today linked to my recent course on mental health first aid. And how much I talk about being human when I talk about communication at work. My book on influential internal communication has a whole chapter about the importance of understanding people because I have always believed that if we just understood people a bit more, work would be a much better place.

So I left the event with a plan to re-watch some of the sessions and read some of the presentations. There are specifics I want to look at more – like allyship – to make sure I’m doing the right thing. I’m going to have the courage to stand with those around me who have the courage to speak and I’m sure I will speak first too. I’m going to coach and advise my clients when it comes to language, empathy and leadership – all things I do already but with some additional aspects included.

I feel more ready to take action this year. I could keep reading and learning forever but that can’t stop action. I’m constantly learning and reading about business, communication, leadership and people and that doesn’t mean I can’t have a voice on all those things at the same time.

There is more to do. There will always be more to do, in every aspect of work. But we can all do one thing from right now and that’s be human.

If you have any questions about the issues raised in this blog around DE&I, allyship and leadership, please get in touch with me at info@redefiningcomms.com

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