August 04, 2021

POV: Let's Get REDI for regroup

We have recently launched our plans for the UNA Annual Conference for September 21-23, 2021. Everyone here at Team UNA is excited to see so much interest already. It is always great to finally reach a point where our planning and strategizing (huge thanks Alison and the Conference Planning Committee!) converge and we roll it out to all of you.

I am so excited about our keynote, Dr. S. Atyia Martin. I have been fortunate to meet Dr. Martin in person, she was a presenter at a DC based conference I attended a couple years ago and again at her presentation in a virtual setting last year. Both times I heard her speak I have learned something new and I have been energized to try something new. I expect nothing less from her upcoming Keynote–Resilient Organizational Culture by Embedding Equity.  

Here is what I know–so many of you are starting, wanting to start, scared of starting, or exhausted from thinking about starting your organization’s journey to focus on equity. (Here at UNA we use the term REDI for race, equity, diversity, and inclusion. There are many acronyms for this work and it’s probably best not to get too hung up on the different variations.) Speaking from personal experience I have been scared, exhausted, angry, worried, fired up, complacent, excited, and hopeful about REDI. Sometimes all in one week!   

But here is more of what I know–our workforces are changing. Our entire culture is shifting. It is clear that the way each of us views the world (personally, professionally, and within our communities) has shifted and a new lens is being placed before us; a lens that is unnerving and sometimes humbling and yet necessary. This range of feelings and reactions is ok and even follows a normal trend in the adoption and implementation of new and emerging concepts.   Case in point: My dad was a tile setter his whole career and the vehicles that he used for work were never geared toward carting kids around instead they were utility vehicles–vans specifically. So, think back about 30+ years ago as I describe this for you. I have a sister and whenever my dad was in charge of taking us anyplace, we’d all pile up in his van for the journey. Between my sister and I, we’d normally decide who got the real seat (complete with seat belt) and who got the bucket seat. When I say bucket I legit mean a 5-gallon bucket that was turned over and placed squarely between the two seats. There was no seat belt. Instead, we had to outstretch our arms and brace ourselves on the two front seats. There were likely varied reactions to my story–some cringing, giggling, and/or nodding in acknowledgement of a similar memory. This whole scenario would not fly today. But in the 80s and earlier it was socially acceptable not to have seat belts. Incrementally however, changes have been made and humans are safer.  

Socially accepted norms are shifting and we, as a society, are more conscious and aware of our divisions, inequities, and pain. And some of us have always been aware and some of us are just stepping into our awareness. And that is ok. My older sister always knew before I knew that she needed to ‘call’ the real seat and I always ended up on the bucket seat.  

Looking internally now, with an organizational frame of mind, I assure you that once everyone feels seen, valued, heard, appreciated, and safe at work their creativity and productivity will really shine. And this full acceptance happens when we level the equity playing field and we start to look at equitable solutions that meet each and every person where they are and equally meets them with the tools they need to be successful.   

At various points in my career, I have been de-valued at work, I have felt uncomfortable being me, and I have been given little-to-no support. I assure you it’s an awful place to be. And I also assure you that if you are an organizational leader and are willing to intentionally examine culture at your organization it will have high dividends. We do not always have to agree and in fact we are most likely going to disagree more often than not. But when folks are respected, valued, and heard there’s a positive benefit for organizational culture. A positive one all of your employees equally will appreciate.