Time to LISTEN & LEAD!
Chris Powell, CEO, Talmetrix
and C2HR Board Member
Connect with Chris at: LinkedIn
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wasn’t always just black. I used to be just a
kid...you know a human being.
was 7 years old and landed the lead role as the frog
in the spring school play. My entire family was excited,
including my grandmother who made my costume, and my
mother who taught 6th grade at the same school that
was 95% white. The play was a success. A few days later,
some of the older students commented to me that they
had never seen a black frog before me. I was curious
and confused about why I had to be a black frog versus
just a frog.
it was one of those moments that stick with you. That
was the first time I can remember having to so literally
put on the weight vest of race. Because that’s
what being black in America can feel like and has felt
like to me many times; like putting on a vest, just
enough to slow you down, just enough to make the next
rep require a little more effort, sometimes a lot of
was just the beginning of my life as a black
professional, a black executive, a black
entrepreneur, a black investor. Everyone comes
face to face with their socially prescribed identity
and for many people of color, that encounter ranges
from the benign to death.
going through something right now in the summer of 2020
that’s both very old and relatively new. Racism
is old. The way we react to racism is old, too—everything
from righteous anger to ugly disregard has been expressed
before, just not on Twitter. But I saw some things out
in the streets of my neighborhood that felt different.
I joined a peaceful protest and I saw diverse people,
Gen Z, and Millennials, step up, facilitate, organize,
and capture it all on social media. This is a movement
of humanity coming together to say Black Lives Matter.
But something else feels new, something even bigger.
want to listen. Not everyone of course, but now
more than ever, people, maybe even the majority, are
going back home from protests, they’re going back
to their communities, and yes, they’re going back
to work, ready to listen. More than ready, in fact,
desperate to listen and learn. We are all trying to
figure this out. And by “this” I mean race,
culture, diversity, inclusion, equity, equality here
at home and globally. By “this” I also mean
COVID. We’re all anxious to understand what’s
going on and how we’re going to get through the
summer of 2020 and beyond. We’re curious and skeptical
to know what the post-George Floyd, pre-COVID vaccine
reality is going to look like. What’s new about
the summer of 2020 is that we’re all sifting and
sorting, and we all sense, each in our own way, that
the way forward is to listen, to learn, and then to
the thing: most businesses have not caught up to this
new reality. How could they? Many of them have done
all they could to survive the last few months. Nevertheless,
most traditional work environments are just not equipped
to listen to the diversity of voices and experiences,
much less actually hear, what their people are saying.
America is having radically different experiences in
life and in the workplace. At times, things feel like
they’re falling apart; systemic injustice one
day, a novel virus the next. The whole world is listening,
leaning in, hoping to hear something that will help
them make sense of it all.
believe this is a unique moment. And I also believe
that the most successful, and forward-looking organizations,
boards of directors and leaders are going to lead the
way. We need more leaders who have sustainable courage
to cultivate cultures of trust and inclusion.
me bring it back home by saying that we all carry weight.
There’s the weight of having an identity that
is feared or exalted. There’s the weight of unconscious
bias. There’s the weight of fear—fear of
the unknown, the unspoken and lost. What are we learning
as leaders in this highly charged, tinder box summer
of 2020? We’re learning that if we want to change
and transform our reality, it starts with self-exploration
(“me” search research) to develop our abilities
to listen better, to be better, to do better to move
us forward to higher versions of ourselves, our communities
and our organizations. Join me and other courageous
leaders in listening better to your employees’
diverse voices and experiences to understand what actions
and commitments are needed to create cultures of trust,
inclusion and equality for all. History will judge,
but from my vantage point, I can tell youit might
be the most important thing you can do.