By Jordan Stark
Partner, Next Step Partners
We’ve devoted our careers to helping leaders grow, both through executive coaching and leadership development programs. Over the past year, amidst the national conversation about the struggle for racial justice, we’ve asked ourselves what are our individual roles, and more specifically, what is our role as coaches in making a difference?
We are clear that we need to do our best work in supporting the psychological safety and growth of leaders of color. We also realize that in working with senior leaders, we have a unique opportunity to challenge thinking and biases that may unknowingly perpetuate inequity and exclusive (versus inclusive) environments. And while we are a diverse firm of individuals with different life experiences and perspectives, we need to learn more and we need to get better.
To this end, we recently convened an internal Racial Equity and Inclusion Learning Summit to help us better understand how coaches can make a difference.
We designed the summit to help us address the following questions:
Here’s how we structured the day:
1. We started with Tonya Echols, who helped us understand what it means to be a diversity-informed coach. She introduced us to the Intercultural Development Inventory to identify where each of us are on our own journeys and the distinctions between Denial, Polarization, Minimization, Acceptance and Adaptation.
2. We then talked with a panel of our own coaches who were gracious and open, sharing their lived experiences as Black and Asian-American professionals and the work they do with leaders of color and white leaders.
3. Finally, Germaine Hunter, Global VP of Inclusion and Diversity at Clorox, spoke about the work and the progress Clorox has made, and the challenges still ahead. He also shared his perspective on how coaches can help.
The flow of the day was designed to help us look at ourselves, listen to our colleagues and then broaden out to the work happening in organizations. It was an inspiring day of learning.
Here are our top 5 take-aways that apply not only to coaches, but also to leaders:
This was the first in a series of learning sessions on racial equity and inclusion. We learned so much from our speakers and colleagues. We also believe that true leadership is inclusive. Inclusion isn’t an add-on or a side note. It needs to be part of the essence of what it means to be a leader. We are working on explicitly including this in all of our leadership development processes and will continue to look hard at ourselves, to ask how we can be better, to learn and grow, and to strive to make a difference in important ways – big and small – every day.