Equity-Centered Leadership Coaching
I relish the opportunity to work with leaders who aspire to center equity in their organizations and in their approach to leadership. My approach is to start with people as they are and where they are on the path to becoming the equity-centered leaders they want to be. My experience is that all who are called to lead in this way are fully capable of being successful if they are willing to be bold, humble, and vulnerable. Centering equity is not easy. Few established leaders “grew up” in organizations that reflect a commitment to equity, so this work requires them to build their knowledge of themselves and others and to do things differently. In addition, an equity-centered leader has to be a change agent who is relationship-oriented, principled, and compassionate.
I take a grounded, asset-oriented approach to coaching leaders which asks them to explore their own story, identifying strengths and growing edges as equity-centered leaders. I also ask them to take the Intercultural Development Inventory to gauge where they are in their ability to shift their perspective and adapt their behavior to build intercultural relationships across similarities and differences. While leaders are engaged in the process of self-discovery, we look for opportunities for them to apply new insights and skills to the work of centering equity in their relationships and in the life of the organization.
Equity-Producing Planning & Design
The decision to appoint someone or a team to lead diversity, inclusion, and/or equity work must be made strategically with eyes, minds, and hearts wide open. Leadership in the organization must recognize from the beginning that the purpose of this work is to critique the institution’s systems and policies and advocate for the changes required to center equity. That change process, though vital to the mission, is likely to be difficult and contentious as people are asked to learn and grow in order for more equitable systems and policies to evolve.
With proper planning and support, individuals and teams can be catalysts for centering equity. They need to have agency, resources, and a mandate to speak truth and effect change in order to be successful. Too often equity leaders are asked to be equity managers, charged with maintaining the status quo rather than leading the effort to center equity.
In situations where an equity leader or leadership team is in place, I work with them and the leaders of the organization to revisit the original purpose and mandate of the work, to assess progress toward meeting that mandate, and to determine what resources and direction they need to be successful moving forward. If an organization is in the process of deciding whether or not to establish an equity leader or leadership team, I take leaders through the process of figuring out what they want to accomplish in the process of centering equity and what people and resources will be required to make it happen.
Mission Statement Revitalization
The best non-profits and socially responsible businesses have equity built right into their mission statements, stating the benefits they seek to provide for people who would not otherwise have access to their services or who will be supported by their profits.
Does your mission center equity as it defines what benefits accrue to what people at what cost? Centering equity is a non-negotiable which can force an organization to review its policies and systems to ensure equity not just for clients but for employees and other key stakeholders. A robust mission articulates how people benefit from its activities, not what those activities are. In the face of change and challenge, the mission reminds leadership of the organization’s commitment to delivering its promised benefits, even if that means changing long standing institutional practices.
I work with internal and external stakeholders to review and refresh the mission statement to center a commitment to equity and reflect a resolve to deliver outstanding benefits for the people they are committed to serve.
Continuum & Inventory
The Twin Cities has become a vibrant cultural hub in the Midwest as people from all over the country and all over the world come here to get a great education, work for a leading for-profit or non-profit organization, or seek refuge from oppression. The tragic death of George Floyd this summer also reminds us of the work we have yet to do as a community to heal our divisions and come together through our shared humanity and across our real differences.
In order to fulfill our promise as individuals and as a society, we have to start where we are, with the knowledge, skills, and experience we have in building meaningful, mutually beneficial intercultural relationships. Our challenge in building these relationships is to see and understand ourselves and our cultural background clearly and deeply. At the same time, we need to recognize the real similarities and vital differences between us and those whose cultural backgrounds are different than ours. That recognition of who we are and how we relate to others is key to shifting our perspectives and adapting our behavior to reach out to and call in others to join us in connecting and building community together.
The Intercultural Development Inventory [IDI] is a research-based, internationally recognized tool used by leading corporations such as Target and Walt Disney, universities such as the U of M and Northwestern University, and non-profits such as AARP and the YMCA to build intercultural competence and connection The IDI recognizes the developmental stages that everyone goes through in their journey to understand their own and other people's cultural perspectives and behaviors. It offers shared language, frameworks, and activities, to individuals and groups that help them move through developmental stages from polarization to adaptation and increase their capacity to build deep, respectful, loving relationships across cultural commonality and difference.
Equity-Focused Intercultural Training
I find that the IDI’s developmental framework and language call people into the work of building cultural competence in a compelling way. For adult learners, the IDI offers relevant, straight-forward, action-oriented development steps that meet people where they are and help them move forward. I often hear people respond to IDI-based trainings, especially those centered on race, religion, gender, and sexuality, by asking poignant questions like, “Why didn’t I know that history?” or “Why haven’t I experienced that?”
I have also found that for people with multiple dominant group identities, the IDI helps them understand and work through the cognitive, somatic, and spiritual dissonance they experience as they recognize their complicity in systems that lead to inequitable outcomes for people with non-dominant identities. Equity work requires people with dominant identities to investigate, understand, experience and hold that dissonance and the discomfort it creates. Shifting dissonance to resonance requires changing behaviors, shifting perspectives, and taking action, not rejecting, denying, or explaining away the dissonance
I am open to doing specific training that doesn’t involve the IDI/IDC, which I customize based on the specific needs of the individual or organization. Recent trainings have featured Stereotype Threat, based on the work of Dr. Claude Steele, that invites everyone to consider the harmful stereotypes associated with their identity groups and the ways that those stereotypes can limit or define people’s ability to be fully present and perform optimally