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093 | Creating a more inclusive work culture: how to make an impact, with Toby Mildon
Episode 9314th July 2023 • HR Coffee Time • Fay Wallis
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If you’re passionate about inclusion at work and you want to know how to make an impact to create a more inclusive work culture, this episode is packed full of advice to help. And the advice can be put into action whatever the size of the organisation you’re working in – no matter how big or small it is.

Host Fay Wallis is joined by Toby Mildon, the Inclusive Culture Strategist & author of “Inclusion Matters: Future-proof your business by creating a diverse workplace.”

Some of the many helpful concepts Toby shares that can be applied to organisations of all sizes (no matter how big or small) include:

  • Moving from an environment of exclusion to inclusion
  • The different types of connections leaders have to inclusion – rational, emotional, and personal
  • Demonstrating allyship through the use of visual aids
  • Overcoming fear of talking about diversity and inclusion
  • The ART of Allyship: Awareness, Respect, Trust
  • Using the GC Index to understand the impact you (and others) make at work

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Transcripts

Fay Wallis:

Welcome to HR Coffee Time, it is great to have you here. This is a podcast to help you have a fulfilling and successful HR or people career without working yourself into the ground. I'm your host, Fay Wallis, a career and executive coach and the founder of Bright Sky Career Coaching, and hopefully the audio you can hear at the beginning and the end of this episode sounds okay.

Although I recorded the interview part of the episode a few weeks ago using my usual podcasting microphone, I'm recording this introduction and the outro while I'm on holiday in sunny Spain. I couldn't quite squeeze my usual podcasting microphone into my suitcase. So instead this is being recorded using my trusty headphones that came for free with my iPhone.

So the quality might not be quite as good as it is normally. If you are passionate about inclusion at work and you want to know how to make an impact to create a more inclusive work culture, this episode is packed full of advice to help and the advice can be put into action what the size of the organization is that you are working in, no matter how big or how small it is.

You are going to meet the fantastic Toby Mildon, an Inclusive Culture Strategist and the author of "Inclusion Matters: Future-Proof Your Business by Creating a Diverse Workplace", which is one of my absolute favourite books I've read this year. But I won't talk about the book too much here because I'm planning on creating a Summer Reads episode soon about my top book recommendations you might want to read on your summer holiday.

So I'll talk about it in more detail then. One thing I will say about the book though is that the advice in it is so practical and helpful. And Toby brings the same practical approach to the interview that you are about to hear. Now, some of the things you'll hear him talk about include moving from an environment of exclusion to inclusion, the different types of connection leaders have to inclusion; the Art of Allyship and how to use a profiling tool called the GC Index to understand the impact that you and others make at work. I really hope you're going to enjoy meeting him and hearing his ideas as much as I did. Let's go ahead and meet him now.

Before we launch into me asking you lots of questions, it would be wonderful if you are happy to just share a brief overview of who you are and your career history and the work that you do.

Toby Mildon:

Yeah. So I'm a diversity and inclusion consultant, and I work with chief people officers and senior business leaders to help them put their diversity and inclusion strategies together. Which involves a process of going out to the organization to really understand the, experiences of staff and, and the inclusion or the exclusion that they're experiencing. My team and I also do a lot of speaking engagements just to get the conversation started in lots of organizations. And we deliver very bespoke or tailored training services as well.

Fay Wallis:

We got to meet each other after I read your absolutely brilliant book that I have no doubt I will be talking about on the podcast again later, which is called Inclusive Growth.

Did you want to just give everyone a little bit of a taster of what you talk about in the book?

Toby Mildon:

Yes. I wrote the book because I wanted to reframe diversity and inclusion for a lot of business leaders who maybe would think of diversity and inclusion as something that they feel like they should be doing because their competitors are doing it, or they're just doing it to kind of like tick a box or raise the profile of the organization, to a place where they have an understanding that by having a diverse and representative workforce, by having an inclusive culture that can help your business grow or accelerate its growth.

And that's really what I talk about in the book. And it started off from me observing a lot of frustrations that people in HR and business leaders were facing trying to implement diversity and inclusion initiatives and my own experience of working in big companies. So I started off my diversity and and inclusion career at the BBC and then Deloitte before setting up my own consultancy company.

So I've got experience of really trying to affect change within very large, complex organizations with a culture that needs to shift to be more inclusive.

Fay Wallis:

Yes. And although you've built up all of that initial experience in really large organizations, I know that you do do work with a whole range of sizes of organizations now.

Toby Mildon:

Yeah. I mean, excuse the pun, but our client base is very diverse. We work with organizations across multiple industries. It was really strange because when I left the corporate world and because of my background in technology, I, I started off focusing on tech businesses. But. everyone but technology kept calling, calling me up.

So we work with; we've worked with healthcare companies, we've worked in the charity sector, retail, hospitality, tech companies eventually, finance, professional services, loads of sectors and also different sizes as well. So our smallest client is a small boutique change management consultancy, and they employ 15 people.

And then our largest client; I mean we work with the NHS of, and they employ thousands of people across the UK. We also work with Mitchells and Butlers who own Toby Carvery and Harvester and they employ about 40 or 50,000 people at peak season.

Fay Wallis:

It is really nice to hear that for lots of reasons, and I think one of the reasons it's great to hear that you are even working with a company that has just 15 employees is that sometimes the advice when it comes to inclusion can feel like it's really tailored at massive organizations.

Toby Mildon:

Mm.

Fay Wallis:

With huge budgets. And I know that although some of the listeners do work for really big organizations, there are a huge number of people who are working for much smaller companies and really passionately are committed or want to be committed to creating an inclusive workforce, working environment.

But it can feel a little bit daunting as to how to go about that. So I think it's, it's really reassuring to hear that.

Toby Mildon:

Yeah, I really enjoy working with smaller clients because actually they can move a lot faster. They don't have as much bureaucracy. It really does help if you've got a business owner or leader who really believes in diversity and inclusion and they're really thinking about the culture of their team.

And also it's really helpful for organizations that have got really aggressive growth plans because I, I like working with scale up businesses where they're really trying to think about what culture they want to create right at the beginning. Rather than worry about it afterwards when it might be a bit too late and some of the more damaging behaviours start to, to seep in.

Fay Wallis:

Oh yes, I hadn't thought about it like that before. That actually it can be really proactive, is that the word? No, what's the word for before something happens? It's not proactive, it's something else.

Toby Mildon:

It could be, yeah, to be proactive about developing the right culture rather than being reactive.

Fay Wallis:

Yes, yes. The opposite of reactive, whatever that is. That's what I wanted to say. So then building on this base of people who are listening and thinking, yes, I really want to make sure that in our organization we are doing great work and we are really having an impact when it comes to creating a more inclusive work culture.

What kind of impact have you seen senior business leaders and HR practitioners wanting to make and why?

Toby Mildon:

Different business leaders approach this from different ways. In some of our training, we, actually talk about the psychology of the senior leader brain. Apologies to any qualified psychologists out there;

this is a bit of a oversimplification of the human psyche. But we talk about some leaders having a rational connection to diversity and inclusion. So they like to talk about what is the business case, where's the data to support the assumptions that we're making, that kind of thing. There's some leaders who have an emotional connection.

So they might be thinking about how they want people to feel at the end of a working day. They might even have a personal connection. They might be thinking about what the future of the working world is gonna look like for their son or daughter when they grow up. Or, they themselves might identify as being from a minority background. But there's this big red dot in the middle, which we all have, and this is where there's a lot of fear.

About talking about diversity inclusion, people are worried about saying the wrong thing that might cause offense or embarrass other people or themselves. Senior leaders often suffer from imposter syndrome. It's like I sat down with one director of a bank and we had done a survey in the L G B T staff were telling us that they didn't feel like they belonged in the bank as compared to other people.

But the, the director was like, yeah, but who am I as a straight bloke to be talking about this? And then after a conversation with me, he realized that he had to take accountability and responsibility for setting the tone and to be able to talk about L G B T matters to support those staff. So yeah, we have fear, imposter syndrome. And then the other thing that's in this big red dot is all of our implicit biases. The biases that we adopt as we grow up through social conditioning and just how our brains are engineered as well, and how those blind spots affect the decisions that we make.

Fay Wallis:

Yes. And as you were talking Toby, I was thinking of some brilliant examples that you've given in the book and on your podcast as well. So I now can't actually remember where I've heard some of the things that you have recommended before as to whether I've heard them on your podcast or if I've read them in your book.

But what is great about all this is that, although there are these worries that we're all going to say the wrong thing or embarrass ourselves, or embarrass someone else, that there are all of these biases that it, it can feel like, oh my gosh, how are we ever going to make an impact and get this right?

There is actually a lot that we can all be doing.

And some of those things can be quite simple and have a huge impact. The example I'm thinking of, Toby, in case you're wondering where on earth I'm going with this, is either in your book or on your podcast or somewhere, I've heard you talk about the simple behaviors that can demonstrate and convey allyship.

Toby Mildon:

Yeah.

Fay Wallis:

So for example, there was one company you'd worked with, I think, where there were mugs that had been printed.

Toby Mildon:

Yeah.

Fay Wallis:

And said that "I'm an ally for L B Q T I colleagues" or something like that. There was something on there that conveyed that message.

Toby Mildon:

Yeah.

Fay Wallis:

And actually from one of the senior leaders, just using one of those mugs and carrying it around with them, it was that, that actually made someone, they shared a personal story of feeling comfortable enough to actually talk about their own experiences.

Toby Mildon:

Yeah.

Fay Wallis:

And, and be very open with their colleagues.

Toby Mildon:

Yeah. That was an example from my book about how one way of showing allyship is through visual aids. And there was one story of an organization where I worked in, where an L G B T individual felt confident in being able to come out at work with their colleagues and their manager, because a senior director in the company was walking around

quite comfortably with the pride mug that the L G B T network had got made and put in the kitchens around the office. So, yeah, just the very act that the manager was walking around with the mug gave that individual confidence.

Fay Wallis:

Well, you've just described that far more articulately than me.

Thank you, cl, clearly I hadn't remembered every single detail, but it really leaped out at me, the fact that there are these, small, well, seemingly small acts can actually have a huge impact as well.

Toby Mildon:

Yeah.

Fay Wallis:

So apart from visual aids, it would be wonderful if we could talk about some of the ways that business leaders and chief people officers and people directors, can overcome the challenges that exist in really having an impact when it comes to inclusion.

Toby Mildon:

Yeah, I mean, if we're sticking with the theme of being an ally what that really means is being a supportive person. And there's actually a three-pronged approach to this, which handily has the acronym Art, A R T. First of all, it's work on your own awareness. So attend webinars, listen to podcasts, read books written or created by people from different lived experiences.

So for example, I do a regular webinar talking about my personal lived experience of growing up with a disability and being an openly gay man, and talk about the intersectionality of both of those identities. So first of all, awareness. The R stands for respect. So on an individual level, try and show respect towards other people.

But as a senior leader, think about how you can create an environment that's more respectful and stamps out more of that disrespectful behaviour, or what we might call banter in the workplace. And then the third element is trust. It's really, really important. Trust is about building psychological safety so that people feel able to share what they want to share about themselves, where they feel like they're able to speak up and they're not going to be shot down for speaking up.

So yeah, that's, that's the art of allyship.

Fay Wallis:

That's a great acronym. It's always really helpful to have these frameworks, I think to help us think things through and bear these things in mind. And it reminds me a lot actually of something that I've seen a former podcast guest on the show talking about; Dr. Jonathan Ashong-Lamptey. He is constantly talking about, he's very active on LinkedIn, how important it is to actually be learning and making sure that we're educating ourselves and sharing that knowledge as well.

And one little practical tip that he had around that. So I suppose it's the, 'A' part of your acronym is doing things like setting up book clubs

Toby Mildon:

Yeah.

Fay Wallis:

Within an organization so that you can all agree to read a certain book and then share the discussion about it.

Toby Mildon:

Yeah.

Fay Wallis:

So you're starting to really think about more deeply what it is that you're getting from those resources.

Toby Mildon:

I know Dr. Ashong-Lamptey and he's got some really great advice and I think he does a lot of book club book club type things, but he's also got a really good structure as well in terms of how to actually apply your knowledge as well. And making sure that if you're a HR team, for example, that not only do you read the book, but you then think about the implications on the workforce and maybe your role as a HR practitioner or a business partner in terms of how you can start to implement that knowledge in the organization.

Fay Wallis:

Mm. Really, bringing that learning to life and. I'm definitely guilty of this, reading so many books and thinking, oh, all these fabulous ideas, or, oh, I've really learned something new. But then you shut the book and move onto the next thing. And actually you haven't really necessarily had the opportunity to put some of that learning into action.

Toby Mildon:

Yeah.

Fay Wallis:

But talking about learning new things that aren't necessarily books. You introduced me to a really fascinating tool that I hadn't come across before, which is called the GC Index, and I know that it's a tool that you use regularly with your clients.

Would you be happy to tell us a little bit about that?

Toby Mildon:

Yeah, sure. So the GC Index that stands for the Game Changer Index, is all about how you make an impact in your work. So, I mean, it works in a similar way as, as other tools, like if you've ever done a Myers Briggs assessment, it kind of works in a similar way. But where Myers Briggs and other similar tools are focusing on your personality,

the GC Index focuses on how you make an impact. And it's really concerned about what your proclivities are, which I'll get into, multiplied by your skillset, determines the impact that you make. So the tool was developed by a doctor of psychology called Dr. John Mervin Smith.

He worked in the NHS as a clinical psychologist and then moved into occupational psychology. And he was approached by one of his clients who's now his business partner, who basically said that, they were aware of people in the workplace that seemed to make a bigger impact than others, which they labeled the 'game changers'.

And he asked Dr. John if there was any way of being able to identify these people scientifically and kind of plot them, plot them on a graph somewhere. And so yeah, doc, Dr. John went away and basically came back and said, "Yes, there is absolutely, a way of being able to measure and identify these people."

However, there are four other types of categories where people are, as impactful as the game changers, but they just do it in a different way. And that's what we, the term, the proclivities. There's now five proclivities.

Fay Wallis:

And are you happy to talk us through what the proclivities are?

Toby Mildon:

Yeah. So if you imagine a circle that's divided into four bits, the top two are creative. So they are game changer and strategist. So game changers are all about possibilities. They are the blue sky thinkers. They love coming up with great ideas. They are the innovators. And they come up with fresh thinking and new ways of doing things.

The strategists like to plan, they like to make sense of those ideas. They are very focused on the why; how you want to shift change. You know, they, they're strategizing, they're thinking about how you actually move from A to B. The bottom two are much more about action. There's the implementers.

So they're really energized by just getting stuff done. They live off to-do lists but they're all about actually delivering and being productive and getting stuff done. And then there's the polisher, which I like over-index in which is all about continuous improvement, making things better and polishing.

And we work really well with implementers cuz implementers they love implementing, they're quite happy to deliver something to 80% cuz then they're like, yep, that's good enough. Let's go; ship it out. And then the polishers are like, no, I'm gonna take over. I'm gonna take it to like 110%.

And then sat in the middle of those four. You've got the Playmakers. These are the real kind of people-orientated people. They love to bring people together. They love to make sure that everyone's happy. They love to make sure that everyone's singing from the same hymn sheet; that everyone is working well together, and they're very kind of collegiate in the way that they work.

So those are the five proclivities, and it's all about it's all about where your energy goes. And obviously if you want to be really impactful in what you do, you you want to kind of channel your energy towards what your natural proclivities might be.

Fay Wallis:

Well, similar to you, Toby, when I completed the GC index and then had a whole briefing on it by one of your colleagues.

Toby Mildon:

Yeah.

Fay Wallis:

I discovered that similar to you, which I don't think you were surprised to hear at all. I, I lean in quite heavily towards polisher. And trying to get things perfect. But what was really interesting, I think when I got to go through my results was that I did not rank highly at all where strategist was concerned, which again, probably didn't hugely surprise me. I think when you take these sorts of assessments, if you have got some self-awareness, nothing's gonna come across as a huge shock, I don't think.

Toby Mildon:

Yeah.

[:

And I thought that was really helpful.

Toby Mildon:

Yeah, it is. And the reason why I suppose we like to use it with our clients is because A, it's about making an impact and loads of our clients just want to make an impact in the world of diversity and inclusion. So we use it as a tool to help people identify how they can make an impact and I suppose what they should be leaning into.

So I'll give you a couple of examples. So one of the useful things to think about is about A, are you playing to your strengths? Are you leaning into what energizes you? Or are you in a role that doesn't allow you to do that? So if, for example you are a really strong implementer, but your organization or your team is very cultural, so is culturally like game changer.

You might become frustrated because your team might just love brainstorming and coming constantly, coming up with ideas and talking about things, but not actually doing anything. And then as an implementer you're just sat there going, "Oh, this is really frustrating. They're just talking a load of hot air."

That's, so that's one use case if you like. Another one is, is identifying who you could be partnering up with. So I work with one person who's going for a promotion and she get, she keeps being told by her boss to be more strategic about what she's doing, if she's gonna work at this more senior level.

And it, it was becoming quite frustrating for her cause she wasn't really sure what that meant. And she didn't quite understand how to be strategic. So when we did the GC Index, she scored really low on strategist and she scored really high as a game changer. So that means she's all about ideas. And actually she was also high on implementer.

So she was somebody that loves to come up with ideas and then get straight into doing action. And then her boss was like, hang on a second. We need a plan. We need a strategy. We need to know why we're doing this, which was causing a bit of friction. So one of the things that we did, I was like, okay, right, if you're gonna go for this promotion and

if your energy doesn't naturally lean into strategist, how can we start to fill that void? So one of the things we did is like, okay, what, what might a virtual boardroom look like? You know, if who on your team or who of your closest colleagues are strategists? How can you use them more to do more with the strategy thinking?

And that will free you up to do what you're best at, which is the game changing ideas and the implementation. But form a coalition with other people. That's just a couple of ways that we've used the tool.

Fay Wallis:

As we are talking about it, it's making me realize, as with all of these kinds of tools, there are so many different ways that you can utilize them. Because I've now had the personal experience of going through my own profile and having taken the assessment myself.

One area that I'm a little bit hazy is, well, how can we actually really use this within organizations to make an impact with inclusion? In my mind at the moment, all I can really see is how it impacts on an individual.

Toby Mildon:

Mm-hmm.

Fay Wallis:

So thinking of the person who's listening right now, who works in the people team and they're thinking, "Oh, is this something that would be helpful for us to make sure we are making an impact with Inclusion?"

Toby Mildon:

Yeah.

Fay Wallis:

How could they be using it? Is it within their whole HR team? Is it within the senior leadership team? Does it go beyond that? It would be great if you could talk me through it.

Toby Mildon:

Short answer is all of the above. So first of all, on an individual level you do the assessment yourself and you get your results.

That would really help you understand what you could tweak to be more impactful in your role. So when I was working at Deloitte and the BBC and then I found out that I was a very strong polisher and game changer. I knew that I had to lean into those proclivities

and it meant that if I had to come up with a strategy that I needed to partner up with somebody who was more of a strategist in order for me to make an impact. So that's, that's one use case on that individual level. The tool also allows teams, you can have a team report, so you get individuals to do their assessments, and then you can create a team report and that tells you what your kind of energy is as a team. The GC index team can also create like an enterprise level report. So you can actually map the whole company. So you can say our marketing department are very game changer, you know, our finance department are very strategy. So that's quite useful.

But I think one of the other things that's quite useful with this is being able to talk about diversity and inclusion with senior leaders that might be afraid of talking about the more traditional forms of diversity, like gender identity or sexuality or disability or race and ethnicity. You can have a conversation about diversity within the team, so you can say, well, actually we need to have a diverse team covering all these five areas to be a high performing team.

We need the game changers. We need the strategists, we need the implementers. We need the polishers, and we need the playmakers because if we're too heavy in one of those areas, then we might not be a high performing team. If we're a whole bunch of game changers and we don't have any implementers on the team, we'll come up with really great ideas, but we might not execute on those ideas really well.

Fay Wallis:

And then I'm still struggling though, to fully understand, well then how does it link in fully with inclusion? So yes, we are saying, okay, for a really brilliantly functioning team, we need to make sure that we have got people with different strengths that they're going to be bringing to that team.

Toby Mildon:

Mm-hmm.

Fay Wallis:

But then you could still easily say, well, okay, we'll try and find those people within our current workforce, or there's not necessarily going to be any work happening around that.

Toby Mildon:

Yeah.

Fay Wallis:

That is particularly inclusive, apart from being inclusive as far as those proclivities are concerned.

Toby Mildon:

Yeah.

Fay Wallis:

So could you just take it one step further for me and explain. A, a little bit more of a link with inclusion.

Toby Mildon:

Yeah. So often

we use it as a stepping stone to more in depth conversations about diversity and inclusion. So once a team understands what their different productivities are, it's quite useful to then have a workshop and discuss with them.

Things like what frustrates you about your colleagues? Where does the conflict arise? How can you be more aware, accepting, and accommodating of somebody else who doesn't share the same proclivity as you? So if you are a really strong implementer and you get really frustrated with the game changers who just like to come up with ideas and, you know, and, and not necessarily implement, it's like, well, actually, how can you, how can you acknowledge.

The skills and the qualities that they do bring to the table. And those are the kinds of conversations that we also have about diversity. So it's like, how can we be more accepting of people from different walks of life? How can we be more mindful leaders so that we listen properly at being more proactive about accommodating and including other people.

Fay Wallis:

I see exactly what you mean then. So using it as a, a stepping stone tool.

Toby Mildon:

Yeah.

Fay Wallis:

To really open up the effective communication between everybody.

Toby Mildon:

Yeah. That's one way of doing it. I mean we, I suppose we use it in a very practical sense of, I suppose like the leadership team that we work with would've already decided that they want to come up with a diversity and inclusion plan.

And they are then thinking about how they can effectively implement that as a team and how they can use the GC index to do a better job of implementing it and making a bigger impact.

Fay Wallis:

Well, I could carry on talking to you all day, Toby, but being mindful of the time, I better start wrapping up our time together today. So I'm going to ask you the question that I ask pretty much every guest who comes on the show, and that is, what is your non-fiction book recommendation that you have for us?

Toby Mildon:

I loved reading "The Velvet Rage" which was written by a psychologist over in America. The subtitle of the book was about the, the pain of growing up as a gay man in a straight man's world.

And it was a really informative book when I came out. But as I was reading it, I was thinking a lot of the things he talks about, About, for example shame and how shame is created, was just as applicable to me as a disabled person. So I found it an all round, really helpful book for my own personal development.

Fay Wallis:

That sounds like a brilliant read. Thank you for recommending it. I will make sure that I put a link to it in the show notes for anyone who would like to check it out or get it for themselves.

And then that brings us to the very final question, which is for anyone who's been listening today who would love to learn more about you and the work that you do, Toby, what is the best way of them doing

that?

Toby Mildon:

So there's two places to go. First of all, just connect with me on LinkedIn. I create loads of content every week, so just connect with me, follow me, drop me a message if you've got any questions. And then the second place is just my website, which is mildon.co.uk

Fay Wallis:

Brilliant, and I'll make sure that I put links to those in the show notes as well.

Toby Mildon:

Thanks. I appreciate it

Fay Wallis:

Thank you so much, Toby. It's been wonderful talking to you today.

Toby Mildon:

Yeah, thanks very much. Thanks for having me along.

Fay Wallis:

I really hope you enjoyed hearing from Toby today. If inclusion is a topic you're particularly interested in, there are lots of other HR Coffee Time episodes that focus on this topic, but probably the two most relevant ones that tie in with this episode that you might want to hop back and listen to after you've finished listening to this one, are, episode 42.

Which was "Diversity and Inclusion at work - 7 mistakes to avoid and what to do instead" with Dr. Jonathan Ashong-Lamptey and episode 77, "How to create an effective DEI strategy" with Metra Rowe. Or if you particularly liked hearing about the GC Index, there are a couple of other HR Coffee Time episodes that take a look at other types of profiling tools too that you might also enjoy listening to. They are episode three, "Building relationships with difficult people at work." This episode is actually an overview of the behavioral preferences profiling Tool Disc and Episode 75. "What psychometrics are, how you can use them, and why they're so helpful" with Sue Colton.

I'll pop links to all of those episodes in the show notes for you, because I know it's hard to remember these things, especially if you're busy multitasking like I am normally when I listen to podcasts. And that brings us to the end of today's show. If you found it helpful, can I possibly ask you for a small favour? And that is to rate and review the show on Apple Podcasts or Spotify for me, because ratings and reviews make such a huge difference in encouraging the podcasting platforms to recommend HR Coffee Time to people who haven't come across it before. And I would love to help as many HR and people professionals as possible through this free weekly show. Thank you so much. Have a great week, and I'm looking forward to being back again next Friday with the next episode for you.

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