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Courageous Conversations: Navigating Divide and Discrimination with Brenda Harrington
Episode 3316th November 2023 • Speak In Flow • Melinda Lee
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Welcome to another episode of Speak in Flow with your host, Melinda Lee. Today's episode is all about navigating challenging conversations with courage and onfidence.

Key Points: Dealing with Discrimination: Melinda and special guest Brenda Harrington dive into strategies on how to respond when faced with discrimination. Learn actionable steps to address and counter discrimination in various settings. Understand the importance of empathy and open communication in overcoming divisive situations.

Speaking with Confidence Amid Team Divide: Explore techniques to foster unity and effective communication within teams facing internal divides. Melinda and Brenda share insights on how to navigate and bridge gaps among team members. Gain practical tips on fostering a collaborative and inclusive team environment.

The Risks of Silence: Delve into the risks associated with remaining silent in the face of injustice and discrimination. Understand the impact on yourself and others when avoiding difficult conversations. Discover the power of speaking up and advocating for positive change.

Addressing Uncertainty with Curiosity: Melinda and Brenda discuss the role of curiosity in addressing uncertainty. Learn how curiosity can open doors to understanding, empathy, and productive dialogue. Explore ways to encourage curiosity within yourself and your team.

Amplifying Voices: Discover the significance of bringing more voices into conversations.

Learn strategies for creating an inclusive space where diverse perspectives are valued.

Melinda and Brenda emphasize the power of diversity in decision-making and problem-solving.

A powerful episode filled with actionable advice on courageously navigating tough conversations. Remember, speaking up and fostering open dialogue can lead to positive change in your personal and professional life.

BIO - Brenda is a Certified Executive Coach and the founder of Adaptive Leadership Strategies LLC. She works with leaders globally in public, private, government, intergovernmental, humanitarian, and nonprofit organizations. Brenda spent more than thirty years in private industry, in positions ranging from first-level management to senior executive leadership. She has had countless firsthand experiences with issues involving diversity, both explicit and implied. In her coaching practice, some of the circumstances she encounters with clients and within organizations involving diversity, inclusion and acceptance mirror experiences she has had, or has been aware of over many years. She knows that in the absence of mentors, sponsors, professional obstacles can be much more formidable. "When all you hear is that you can’t or that you shouldn’t, chances are that you don’t and you won’t. "In many cases can’t means that you can, and shouldn’t often means yes—you should!"

Website - https://adaptiveleadershipstrategies.com/

All socials here are confirmed correct.

https://www.linkedin.com/in/brendaharrington

https://www.instagram.com/authorbharrington/

https://www.youtube.com/channel/UCV2eLbFKa53jFwcpYnzIdCQ

About Melinda:

Melinda Lee is a Presentation Skills Expert, Speaking Coach and nationally renowned Motivational Speaker. She holds an M.A. in Organizational Psychology, is an Insights Practitioner, and is a Certified Professional in Talent Development as well as Certified in Conflict Resolution. For over a decade, Melinda has researched and studied the state of “flow” and used it as a proven technique to help corporate leaders and business owners amplify their voices, access flow, and present their mission in a more powerful way to achieve results.

She has been the TEDx Berkeley Speaker Coach and worked with hundreds of executives and teams from Facebook, Google, Microsoft, Caltrans, Bay Area Rapid Transit System, and more. Currently, she lives in San Francisco, California, and is breaking the ancestral lineage of silence.

Website: https://speakinflow.com/

Facebook: https://m.facebook.com/speakinflow

Instagram: https://instagram.com/speakinflow

LinkedIn: https://www.linkedin.com/in/mpowerall

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Transcripts

Melinda Lee:

Today, my guest is Brenda Harrington. She's a

Melinda Lee:

founder of leadership adaptive strategies, LLC. She's an

Melinda Lee:

executive coach to global leaders in nonprofit profit, and

Melinda Lee:

inter governmental organisations. She helps leaders

Melinda Lee:

refine their leadership competencies, so that they can

Melinda Lee:

make a bigger impact. She's also the author of Access Denied,

Melinda Lee:

addressing workplace disparities and discrimination. Our topic

Melinda Lee:

and conversation today is huge. It's important, because it

Melinda Lee:

addresses all people. And the productivity that we have are

Melinda Lee:

not based on our own subconscious, conscious biases.

Melinda Lee:

Many of us are not aware of what we're doing and our unconscious

Melinda Lee:

behaviours. And so through her book, she educates us, she helps

Melinda Lee:

us to understand the discussions that we need to have. And even

Melinda Lee:

though it's difficult to have, what we can do when we see

Melinda Lee:

disparity or discrimination. So whether you are a leader from

Melinda Lee:

the top all the way to the bottom, I hope you learned just

Melinda Lee:

as much as I did in this conversation. Hello, Brenda,

Melinda Lee:

welcome to the show.

Brenda Harrington:

Thank you, Melinda, thank you for having

Brenda Harrington:

me, especially to be here.

Melinda Lee:

Thank you so much, especially with your wealth of

Melinda Lee:

knowledge of workplace discrimination and workplace

Melinda Lee:

disparities. I'm so interested in fascinated in this topic. And

Melinda Lee:

I wanted to get the sense, from your perspective, what does that

Melinda Lee:

mean to you?

Brenda Harrington:

Well, I appreciate that. So, you know, I

Brenda Harrington:

wrote a book a couple of years ago, Access Denied, which

Brenda Harrington:

addresses workplace disparities and discrimination. And that was

Brenda Harrington:

my response to what I considered to be a bit of a call to action,

Brenda Harrington:

following the things that we experienced here in the United

Brenda Harrington:

States, the spring of 2020. It's not that those events were so

Brenda Harrington:

new. But they were certainly alarming. But what what really

Brenda Harrington:

got my attention, even more so was the conversations that

Brenda Harrington:

emerged as a result of things that have been happening for a

Brenda Harrington:

very long time, certainly things that I've experienced over the

Brenda Harrington:

course of my career, and work with my clients, and both

Brenda Harrington:

individual and organisation, individual clients and

Brenda Harrington:

organisations, and the fact that it was just such such a surprise

Brenda Harrington:

to so many people. And so what I decided to do was put together a

Brenda Harrington:

compilation of stories, no fiction, it's all real life

Brenda Harrington:

experience, the lived experiences of people in the

Brenda Harrington:

workplace, who are impacted by some of these circumstances, but

Brenda Harrington:

more than tell the stories I wanted to create awareness for,

Brenda Harrington:

for people who, for whatever reason, you know, we're

Brenda Harrington:

unknowing, I'll say, and also provide tools, there are a lot

Brenda Harrington:

of coaching and reflection tips in the book, to help people who

Brenda Harrington:

are experiencing or who are being impacted by these

Brenda Harrington:

circumstances, to, to work through them and to consider

Brenda Harrington:

what their options are, and to consider their choices. So when

Brenda Harrington:

you asked me to define it, it really is you know, about just,

Brenda Harrington:

you know, not including everybody in the workplace, we

Brenda Harrington:

talked, we hear the term diversity, and inclusion so much

Brenda Harrington:

you can achieve what appears to be a level of diversity,

Brenda Harrington:

compliance by numbers. But that's very different than

Brenda Harrington:

really fostering an environment of inclusion, which means

Brenda Harrington:

everyone is participating at a high level. And, you know, the

Brenda Harrington:

reflection of equity across the board, when you look at, you

Brenda Harrington:

know, how people are engaged in the work at all levels of the

Brenda Harrington:

organisation. Right,

Melinda Lee:

right. And what were your findings? It sounded

Melinda Lee:

like you've you heard some stories and experiences that

Melinda Lee:

were surprising. The discussions are, it's

Brenda Harrington:

surprising to me, I've lived, I mean, so, you

Brenda Harrington:

know, my findings were that, you know, over the 40 plus years

Brenda Harrington:

that I've been in the workplace, there are a lot of things that

Brenda Harrington:

are still quite pervasive and that are still not being

Brenda Harrington:

addressed in a meaningful way. And when I say addressed, you

Brenda Harrington:

know, you know, it's interesting, I, all of this

Brenda Harrington:

comes from, in my opinion, you know, when you talk about

Brenda Harrington:

discrimination, when you talk about xenophobia, and all of the

Brenda Harrington:

things that divide us as individuals as people, it comes

Brenda Harrington:

kind of from a place of fear and certainly unknowing, right

Brenda Harrington:

people are more comfortable with, with people and

Brenda Harrington:

environments and things that are familiar to them. And so when

Brenda Harrington:

something is somewhat unfamiliar, they then move away

Brenda Harrington:

but no On top of that, or the the, the perceptions that people

Brenda Harrington:

have of people, you know, have a different gender have a

Brenda Harrington:

different race have a different ethnicity or nationality. And so

Brenda Harrington:

when we're not willing or able to break through those barriers

Brenda Harrington:

then results in marginalisation. And so, you know, I often say

Brenda Harrington:

you can change hearts and minds can change, but you can't change

Brenda Harrington:

them. This is a very individual experience. And so through the,

Brenda Harrington:

the awareness that I talked about, you know, my, my hope was

Brenda Harrington:

for people to, you know, really begin to think about things

Brenda Harrington:

differently. And I'm grateful that that is reflected in a lot

Brenda Harrington:

of the feedback that I'm getting, you know, that, you

Brenda Harrington:

know, when people read some of the stories, and they start to

Brenda Harrington:

reflect on experiences of their own in the workplace that says,

Brenda Harrington:

you know, I had no idea or, you know, I, I'm thinking back on

Brenda Harrington:

something that happened, and now I understand more, what might

Brenda Harrington:

have been at play? Yeah,

Melinda Lee:

so then it's helpful for someone who is not

Melinda Lee:

as aware, subconsciously, or even consciously to help them be

Melinda Lee:

more aware by reading the examples, right, because we all

Melinda Lee:

have them. And we were all running around with unconscious

Melinda Lee:

biases, and questions, not even knowing it. And so educating

Melinda Lee:

ourselves by reading something, like the reading your book, is,

Brenda Harrington:

educating ourselves. But you know, there's

Brenda Harrington:

also, you know, in some cases, unfortunately, there is an

Brenda Harrington:

underlying belief that there are people who are more superior,

Brenda Harrington:

and there are people who are inferior, and, you know, ideally

Brenda Harrington:

breaking through those barriers, and that's, that's difficult.

Brenda Harrington:

Because, you know, those are, then you're getting to the core,

Brenda Harrington:

you know, the essence of individual values. So, you know,

Brenda Harrington:

but what organisations can do, certainly what organisational

Brenda Harrington:

leaders can do is to hold people accountable, for particular, you

Brenda Harrington:

know, standards of behaviour. And so, you know, if you are a

Brenda Harrington:

CEO, or you know, senior executive in an organisation,

Brenda Harrington:

you know, making sure that people are, are working to a

Brenda Harrington:

particular standard people who are in, you know, leading teams,

Brenda Harrington:

and then management roles, that people are getting the same

Brenda Harrington:

access, and people are getting the same level of visibility and

Brenda Harrington:

engagement, and that, that, you know, just paying attention to

Brenda Harrington:

make sure that people are not being marginalised. Yeah,

Melinda Lee:

versus I think, because it's such a sensitive

Melinda Lee:

topic, I would imagine some people don't even know what to

Melinda Lee:

do don't even know how to address avoiding it. And then

Melinda Lee:

that isn't a situation at all. No,

Brenda Harrington:

you know, it makes it worse, it really does

Brenda Harrington:

have amplifies that. I'm glad you said that, because people

Brenda Harrington:

don't know what to do. And so, to that end, they do nothing.

Brenda Harrington:

Oh, is that, you know, certainly my, my book, and many others

Brenda Harrington:

will help people to figure out where to start what to do?

Melinda Lee:

Yeah, what could you share some things of what

Melinda Lee:

they can do when they see something happening like this?

Brenda Harrington:

Well, you know, I hate to be cliche, you

Brenda Harrington:

know, we hear this with terrorism and everything else,

Brenda Harrington:

you see something, say something, but the reality is,

Brenda Harrington:

if you're questioning something, to be willing to address it,

Brenda Harrington:

right, to be willing to, to, to look further and scratch beneath

Brenda Harrington:

the surface. And, you know, that shows up in a lot of different

Brenda Harrington:

ways. So for example, you know, it's, it can be very awkward to

Brenda Harrington:

be the only person of colour, let's say, on a team, for

Brenda Harrington:

example. So if you notice, there's a team of, you know, six

Brenda Harrington:

or eight people and, you know, you're not hearing from one

Brenda Harrington:

person there, you're not seeing this person, participate in

Brenda Harrington:

presentations or engaged in meetings and projects and things

Brenda Harrington:

like that. That's something that needs to be checked out. You

Brenda Harrington:

know, let's, let's ask a few questions. And you know, what's

Brenda Harrington:

happening? And, and, you know, those are simple starting

Brenda Harrington:

points, have sessions with people, you know, to learn more

Brenda Harrington:

about their experience or what might be creating a barrier for

Brenda Harrington:

them.

Melinda Lee:

Right. Yeah, I love that. So helping just to be more

Melinda Lee:

aware and including that more in the discussion, when you notice

Melinda Lee:

that they're not an engaging as much What if somebody is saying

Melinda Lee:

something that is discriminatory? How can I

Melinda Lee:

address it in a way that doesn't offend the person but shed

Melinda Lee:

light? Like, can you give some tips on how to do that?

Brenda Harrington:

When you say doesn't offend the person, can

Brenda Harrington:

you or

Melinda Lee:

I guess, so that they're more open to hearing the

Melinda Lee:

feedback and not be defensive and say, That's not me.

Brenda Harrington:

I'm not really, you know, when you say

Brenda Harrington:

something, go ahead. Let's

Melinda Lee:

say I said something I asked a question the

Melinda Lee:

to somebody that may have been discriminatory Are you? Okay?

Melinda Lee:

And then I'm a CEO. And I saw that I think that that's

Melinda Lee:

disrespectful or potentially could be discriminatory. How

Melinda Lee:

would I address it to that person in a way that's open? Or

Melinda Lee:

enlightening conversation?

Brenda Harrington:

If you're, if you're so if you're, if you're

Brenda Harrington:

addressing it with the person who made the comment, yes,

Brenda Harrington:

that's just a matter of saying, you know, that's, I think, well,

Brenda Harrington:

there's so many reasons to do it. I mean, because you have,

Brenda Harrington:

you know, you have personnel and risk management, all kinds of

Brenda Harrington:

concerns. But he say something that's, that is inappropriate.

Brenda Harrington:

And so, you know, in a situation like that, I mean, it's just a

Brenda Harrington:

matter of saying, you know, this is, this is inconsistent with,

Brenda Harrington:

you know, the, our standard for, for communication, you know, in

Brenda Harrington:

the organisation of bringing it to the person's attention, they

Brenda Harrington:

may or may not know, I don't know, but I think that it's a

Brenda Harrington:

responsibility, you know, for, for, for those kinds of things

Brenda Harrington:

to be addressed. My bigger concern is the person that it

Brenda Harrington:

impacted, and their, you know, concern about being able to

Brenda Harrington:

bring it forward, you know, whether or not there's a safe

Brenda Harrington:

space, you know, for that individual to raise a concern,

Brenda Harrington:

if they feel that something has been said or done, you know,

Brenda Harrington:

that's offence,

Melinda Lee:

do you recommend that go to the manager or the

Melinda Lee:

direct person? Or both?

Brenda Harrington:

It depends on the it depends on the

Brenda Harrington:

environment and culture? Honestly, there might be, I

Brenda Harrington:

always prefer that, you know, I always think it's best if people

Brenda Harrington:

can, you know, address those things, one to one, you know, if

Brenda Harrington:

I come to you and say, you know, Melinda, the comment that you

Brenda Harrington:

made in the meeting, you know, made me uncomfortable, I would

Brenda Harrington:

hope that we could talk through that. Yeah. And so that to me,

Brenda Harrington:

if possible, would be the starting point. Sometimes,

Brenda Harrington:

unfortunately, it's, it's necessary to to escalate those

Brenda Harrington:

things, but I don't think should ever happen is that you remain

Brenda Harrington:

silent? Because, you know, that one sends the wrong message

Brenda Harrington:

that, that whatever was said or done is okay. And number two,

Brenda Harrington:

you know, the person may or may not be aware, right. I do think

Brenda Harrington:

it's important to know, though, I mean, the person may be fully

Brenda Harrington:

aware, and it might have been intentional. That's not okay,

Brenda Harrington:

either, right. But whatever the case is, whichever of those is

Brenda Harrington:

the right answer is, you know, something that needs to be

Brenda Harrington:

revealed.

Melinda Lee:

Right. Right. And having a conversation about it,

Brenda Harrington:

having a conversation? Yeah, for sure.

Brenda Harrington:

For sure. As

Melinda Lee:

difficult as it is. And so can you share, I can

Melinda Lee:

imagine that this work is so powerful and meaningful in

Melinda Lee:

organisations, can you share any like, what are some of the

Melinda Lee:

results that you've helped some companies achieve when you feel

Melinda Lee:

when they're more inclusive, going from and feeling more

Melinda Lee:

inclusive? You have? Well, it's

Brenda Harrington:

certainly better for retention. And it

Brenda Harrington:

has, you know, both increased this, there's tonnes of research

Brenda Harrington:

that points to the top and bottom line value being more

Brenda Harrington:

inclusive, not just from the standpoint of, you know, race

Brenda Harrington:

and ethnicity, but also gender diversity and everything else. I

Brenda Harrington:

mean, because you just have the value of the benefit of so many

Brenda Harrington:

more perspectives and ideas. And, you know, it's less and

Brenda Harrington:

less myopic. It's much better for retention, when people feel

Brenda Harrington:

included. And when they feel a sense of psychological safety,

Brenda Harrington:

you know, that they feel that they're in a place that in an

Brenda Harrington:

environment that is where they're able to add value and

Brenda Harrington:

have an impact.

Melinda Lee:

Right, they're spending so much time there, and

Melinda Lee:

there's so much time. Yeah, yeah, or more companies more

Melinda Lee:

open to doing this. Unfortunately,

Brenda Harrington:

no, I think that there's been quite a

Brenda Harrington:

rollback, you know, it became the thing to do. 2020 2021. But

Brenda Harrington:

there's been a significant rollback, unfortunately, you

Brenda Harrington:

know, focus and attention to this, which is why, you know,

Brenda Harrington:

among the things that I do, just in general, in the leadership

Brenda Harrington:

space, and I'm really committed to, to keeping this conversation

Brenda Harrington:

alive. Yes,

Melinda Lee:

yes, yes. And anything I could do to I mean,

Melinda Lee:

it is so important, and it's so unfortunate that I would I asked

Melinda Lee:

him surprised. I thought more companies are more are invested

Melinda Lee:

in seeing the importance of this. You

Brenda Harrington:

know, what companies are doing, you know,

Brenda Harrington:

things that are, I call them box checkers. They they somebody

Brenda Harrington:

came to me earlier this week and asked me to participate in a

Brenda Harrington:

training that included DTI and the DTI portion was about an

Brenda Harrington:

hour and I said no thank you, because it really isn't much

Brenda Harrington:

that you can accomplish it. In an hour, except to say that, you

Brenda Harrington:

know, Melinda attended this training, but it doesn't change

Brenda Harrington:

anything. Yeah. So it really is important for, you know, for

Brenda Harrington:

companies that are committed and who really take this seriously,

Brenda Harrington:

it's important for this kind of thing, and, and many other

Brenda Harrington:

things to show up in the fabric of, of the organisation. So I

Brenda Harrington:

talked about accountability earlier, you know, how we

Brenda Harrington:

holding managers and others accountable for the for the type

Brenda Harrington:

of behaviour that we want to see for the type of culture and the

Brenda Harrington:

environment we want to foster for everybody. And I think that

Brenda Harrington:

that's where we have an opportunity to do so much more

Brenda Harrington:

work.

Melinda Lee:

Yeah, I could see that. I could see that. And they

Melinda Lee:

might think that oh, doing this work is taking away from doing

Melinda Lee:

things from the bottom line, doing things that affect the

Melinda Lee:

bottom line, it could be seen as that. And that's unfortunate,

Melinda Lee:

because it actually supports

Brenda Harrington:

it apps. It's it absolutely supports bottom

Brenda Harrington:

line growth and bottom line growth. That's where I come back

Brenda Harrington:

to, you know, personal values and personal beliefs. So, you

Brenda Harrington:

know, like most things, it starts at the top.

Melinda Lee:

Yes. Yes. Changing the hearts and the minds of from

Melinda Lee:

the top. Yeah, yeah. Yeah. Awesome. Thank you so much. Can

Melinda Lee:

you share one, what is your key insight or tip that you can

Melinda Lee:

leave our leaders today to help them with their leadership,

Melinda Lee:

unleashing their voice? Your

Brenda Harrington:

well, just in general, you know, whether we're

Brenda Harrington:

talking about this or any other topic with regard to leadership,

Brenda Harrington:

I think that the, one of the top leadership traits or

Brenda Harrington:

competencies in our current environment is curiosity. You

Brenda Harrington:

know, we can't rely on all the things that we've done over the

Brenda Harrington:

last 10 or 1520 20 years, even five years, you know, to to help

Brenda Harrington:

us to address and navigate today's challenges effectively.

Brenda Harrington:

So be willing to be curious, be willing to take some risks. Be

Brenda Harrington:

creative, innovative, and and let more voices bring more

Brenda Harrington:

voices into the conversation. Yeah, yeah. Yeah, leaders. I'm

Brenda Harrington:

sorry, I was just going to say, you know, some leaders seem to

Brenda Harrington:

be end of the mind that they need to have all the answers.

Brenda Harrington:

And you know, and that's not the case at all. So the more you can

Brenda Harrington:

be open and be collaborative, and just cast a wider net. I

Brenda Harrington:

think green. Yeah. Yeah.

Melinda Lee:

I mean, that's, especially in today's nobody

Melinda Lee:

knows, like, there's so much going on. Nobody knows. I mean,

Melinda Lee:

I mean, the more as a leader, especially if you're at the top,

Melinda Lee:

the more you can welcome and open and be able to listen to

Melinda Lee:

diverse perspectives, have an open mind, stay curious and stay

Melinda Lee:

in the present moment versus kind of thinking about what

Melinda Lee:

worked in the past, because you have to be very curious about

Melinda Lee:

what's here today.

Brenda Harrington:

I talk to clients a lot about, you know,

Brenda Harrington:

being careful with people like lean on best practices. You

Brenda Harrington:

know, there's some of that that's very valuable. There's

Brenda Harrington:

some of that it's a lot of it has outlived its usefulness.

Melinda Lee:

We were in a different day, different time.

Melinda Lee:

And yeah. Yeah. Yeah. Being more objective and being open to an

Melinda Lee:

open and willing to be here. Right, even though it can be

Melinda Lee:

very ambiguous. And

Brenda Harrington:

so don't be afraid. Don't be afraid. Yeah.

Brenda Harrington:

Yeah. of not knowing. Yeah.

Melinda Lee:

Yeah. Yeah. Thank you so much have such valuable

Melinda Lee:

insight. I trust the audience has so much value in that a

Melinda Lee:

takeaways from this. I know I did. Thank you. Appreciate your

Melinda Lee:

time. Brenda, thank you so much for being here. Until next Yes.

Brenda Harrington:

Thank you for having me.

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