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“What can I do?”

You may be asking yourself this as a manager, right now. I am too.

Black lives matter

My heart is breaking. Yours might be too.

Last week was a reminder of how unfathomably messed up our world is.  In the wake of the killings of George Floyd, Breonna Taylor, Ahmaud Arbery – and too many others – I’m disgusted, horrified, and saddened. 

If you’re like me, you may be trying to process what your role can be to fight racism and racial injustice. As a family member. As a citizen.

And, as a leader of a team in your workplace.

That last role – “leader”– is an important one. As managers, we are leaders. Not merely taskmasters of when a deliverable is supposed to get done. Not merely arbiters of what “good enough” work quality is. 

As leaders, our ultimate definition of success is to create an environment where our team can do their best work. An environment where our team feels safe, valued, and respected. An environment where racism is unequivocally rejected. An environment where inquiry, compassion, and inclusivity are encouraged. 

This means we can take meaningful action as a manager within our own workplaces – no matter how small – to combat racism. 

After all, systemic change starts with change within our own locus of control.

Here are a few steps, both big and small, that we can take as managers in our workplaces:

(1)  Start by checking-in on your Black and People of Color co-workers, customers, partners, friends.

Tell them you love them, care about them, and stand with them. At a minimum, words of kindness let them know they are not alone.

(2) Give grace and time-off to your team members.

Allow your team members to take time off to help clean up their communities, donate blood to those affected by violence, participate peacefully protests if they choose to, and/or psychologically and emotionally begin to heal from the trauma of recent events. 

(3)  Share with your company your grief, your pain, and your commitment to fight racial injustice. 

How have you been personally feeling about recent events? Have the killings of George Floyd and so many others opened your eyes and heart to something you hadn’t fully recognized? Be willing to be vulnerable about how you struggle to know what to say. How you may have only recently become aware of your privilege. How deeply you desire to do better.

Don’t worry about perfecting your message. Focus on being empathetic, specific, and heartfelt. This excellent article written by Juliet Bourke and Andrea Espedido details how you can invoke inclusive leadership in an authentic way.

(4) Work with your fellow leaders to decide how you will intentionally build an inclusive culture within your own team. 

Remember that DEI initiative you spearheaded a few years ago but never really went anywhere? Reprioritize and invest in it now. Or, recall how you’ve always wanted to revamp of promotion hiring practices to make them more inclusive?  Work on instituting it this week. 

Here are a few resources to consult as you take action:

(5)  Educate yourself.

 Get curious about your own blind spots, assumptions, and privilege. 

Are there resources here that I missed that you think should be included? Please email me at claire@knowyourteam.com, and I’ll gladly add them. 

I’ll be taking each of these steps with you.  As managers, we have much work to do. We can start by acting as true leaders.

Written by Claire Lew

CEO of Canopy. My mission in life is to help people become happier at work. Say hi to me on Twitter at @clairejlew.