8 Ways To Be A Difference Maker- Your Voice Matters

Last Saturday, my business partner, Sandra and gave a keynote at the AISNE Middle School Student of Color Conference to over 250 middle school students across 50 schools in the New England Area and our topic of discussion was... you guessed it, "How to Use Your Difference to Make a Difference in today's world?"

It was a meta experience experience for me because I was the same age as my audience when I dreamed of doing what I am doing right now. Teaching people how to communicate across cultures and speaking to audiences in different parts of the world about the importance of embracing their identity. A lot of what we talked we about were centered on what's going on today and how in many cases history is repeating itself today. It was incredibly humbling seeing and hearing how progressive people are at such a young age. They all wanted to use their voices to make an impact. Bottomline, you can make a difference if you want to. Here are some steps to doing just that.

It's never too early or late to start making an impact

"You can't make time; so those who waste the least, achieve the most." - Tim Fargo 
"The secret to success is doing the stuff other people won't do & doing it for a really long time." - John Jantsch

The world we live in today is one that has several complex problems going on simultaneously so what that creates is a situation where several people are looking for solutions that answers problems they have. That fact alone never goes away so while you're still living you can make an impact. Don't take THAT for granted. To give up the task of reforming society is to give up one's responsibility as a free individual.

Representation Matters

"The world is a complex place, and the influence of the media in its representation and its power of communication and interpretation is a remarkable amplifier of emotions, and of illusions."- Tariq Ramadan

One of the most important things I witnessed was the power of representation. My business partner is a Latina from Colombia and the United States and I am a Nigerian black male. The number one thing seventh and eighth graders came up to tell us was how cool it felt for them to see a possibility of what they could be in us. There isn't one singular voice that represents all people so sharing your story and raising awareness about things that affect you and people that look like you is bound to impact someone's life.

Always be positive

"Successful people make the most of the best and the best of the worst." - Steve Keating

Every day you wake up you have two options and those are to either be positive or be negative and what you do with that choice has the ability to impact your whole life. At the talk, I shared stories of me being fired twice, getting turned down by 85 companies, being $20,000 in debt, surviving a near death experience, getting a conditional admission to my MBA program. All this happened before I was 25. The easiest thing would have been to give up on life but I chose to make the best of the worst. Mark Twain once said "don't do around saying the world owes you a living. The world owes you nothing. It was here first."

What choice are you making daily? That choice has a direct impact on whether you become a difference maker or not? 

Discover who you are

"Find your spirit, and no challenge will keep you from achieving your goals." - Christopher Penn

Before you can truly help anyone in the world, you have to be able to help yourself. To help yourself, you have to be comfortable being yourself. To help yourself, you must be yourself. Be the best that you can be. When you make a mistake, learn from it, pick yourself up and move on. Too many establishments have determined what success should look like but don't let any one or group tell you who you should be.

Commit to daily improvements

"Your life will never improve unless you start making daily improvements." - Lewis Howes 

To go off the last point, you have to live in a state of constantly challenging yourself. That's what gives you the confidence to remain in a room where you're not the smartest. That's what gives you confidence to explore your curiosity and be comfortable being uncomfortable. If you're comfortable being uncomfortable, then you're one step closer to being able to facing the challenges that life will throw at you when you're trying to make a difference.

Amplify movements

"Consistently investigate what gives other people energy. Be the fan that fuels it." - Darren Rowse

A lot of people sometimes feel like the only way they can make an impact is if they are the first to start a movement. False! In fact, a lot of the great leaders that we revere today fanned movements of previous philosophers. Find a cause you resonate with and amplify that movement. Followers are leaders too.

Seek to understand not convince

"The most important thing in communication is to hear what isn't being said." - Peter Drucker

As a world, we have lost the art of hearing people truly out. If we truly want to communicate across cultures then we must learn to go beyond listening. HEAR people out. Go into every discussion making sure you're informed of the other side. Even if it is a ridiculous point, just understand the premise of the other side. This way you will be more than informed with the best ways to attack problems from a macro and micro level. 

Live Your life to the fullest

"You have one job. And that is to live an extraordinary life." - Umair Hague

For much of the early part of my life, my biggest fear was fear itself. Now, my biggest fear is not achieving my fullest potential. FEAR is False Evidence Appearing Real. Don't take the bait. Just like Umair said you have one job and that is to live an extraordinary life. Create a list of all that you want to do and spend your life knocking down every one of those goals. You might not achieve all of them but you'll have one heck of a ride along the way and you'll learn so much about yourself.

Become A Difference Maker

* indicates required
Email Format

How To Have The Political Debate At Work

Last week, the world witnessed the inauguration of the 45th President of The United States, Donald Trump and the following day we saw a historic amount of men and women participate in the Womens March (over 5 million worldwide & 1 million in DC alone!). If you observed both events, it was clear that the themes of both were diametrically opposite to each other. In other words, the juxtaposition of these events painted an accurate picture of how divided our world is right now. This division not only extends to our personal lives but it also extends to our professional lives. So how can we have the political discussion at work?

Don't Look to Convert, Look to Understand: This is very tough especially for someone like me who is so activist driven but I have found that productive conversations about divisive politics only move forward when we seek to understand why people think the way they do. So ask questions like "can you explain to me why you feel like this about this situation?". If it is a contentious subject, try saying something like, "while I don't agree, i'm curious to learn more about what it is you think I am missing".  Your chances of converting someone to your side is slim to none so don't send them articles that confirm your way of thinking. That only creates a back and forth that isn't productive for anyone. 

Remember the goal here is not to convert, rather to understand. Acknowledge the disagreement and immediately follow up with a commonality. Something like, "at least we agree on one thing and that is the improvement of our nation".

Speak Your Truth Without Demonizing: The next point I want to make is the idea of speaking your truth. The key to having an inclusive work environment is making it safe for all involved to be themselves. You can't have that environment if your colleagues are constantly walking on egg shells or censoring themselves. Encourage your team members to talk about the issues that are important to them. If you're a team leader, have a meeting with your team and acknowledge the political tension that exists. Express to them that you want them to be able to say what's on their mind. The only rule is that they be civil and that no demonizing occurs. I recently went through this exercise with one of my clients and it was amazing to see the amount of walls that came down through the exercise. A lot of people felt like they would be fired if they expressed their opinions. Some felt that they wouldn't be accepted because of their orientations and views. It definitely got heated at times but the most important thing was that the team as a whole acknowledged the elephant that had been in the room for a while. This acknowledgement led to some break throughs. Acknowledgement can lead to acceptance if you create an open environment that allows freedom of expression.

A political election usually happens once every four years and you usually go to work five days a week for most of the year so it is more important to know how to have open conversations with people you see almost everyday rather than about someone you might never meet.

Leaders in companies need to be open to acknowledging divides and creating forums for these disagreements to be aired out. 

"Rome Wasn’t Built in a Day, But They Were Laying Bricks Every Hour"

 

Become A Difference Maker

* indicates required
Email Format

What We Can Learn About Workplace Inclusion From Martin Luther King Jr.

"Injustice anywhere is a threat to justice everywhere." - Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr.

That by far is my favorite quote from the late Martin Luther King jr. because it spoke to the courage of the convictions he had when he was alive. I find that this same attitude is essential as you strive to create an inclusive work environment. Martin Luther King Jr. is best known for his role in the advancement of civil rights using nonviolent civil disobedience based on his Christian beliefs but I also feel like there's one lesson that we can learn from the life he led and that is... 

Lead By Example

“I neither started the project nor suggested it. I simply responded to the call of the people for a spokesman” – Martin Luther King, 1958

Love this particular quote because Martin Luther King Jr. recognized that there was a problem and simply took it upon himself to be the symbol of the change he wanted to see represented. Another important thing here is that he sought to be a spokesperson of a group of people that weren't being included in America. SO important!

As a leader in your workplace, you should know what is important to all the stakeholders in your company and why.

  • Seek to understand what you don't understand
  • Get comfortable being uncomfortable

To inspire the type of change you want to see in your organization, you have to lead by example and set the stage. Your title is just a name but your action is the real game.  To play the game the right way, consider the following:

  • Create opportunities for staff to interact in settings outside of work so that employees feel more comfortable: This allows you to learn about the interests, cultural backgrounds and motivations of your colleagues. It also increases trust and understanding which ultimately creates inclusion.
  • Ensure all employees have the opportunity to take part in decision-making and planning for social activities: Whether it is potlucks or lunch and learns, let every employee get a chance to be part of the decision making process.
  • Revamp your calendar to include multicultural, religious and international days:  Chances are you work with people fro multiple backgrounds and with that being the case, there's bound to be a day that aligns with them culturally, religiously or otherwise. Include things like International Womens, International Day of Persons with Disabilities, International Day to End Racism, & Gay Pride celebrations. If you want to score extra inclusive points, you could offer a float day for employees to use at their discretion to observe such events or days

These are all ways to lead by example. You set a good example by valuing each individual’s opinions and making everyone feel comfortable sharing and expressing themselves fully in the workplace.

 So What Can You Learn?

Beyond the significant contributions Dr. King’s made to our society, his methods and reactions remain as important lessons for us to apply in any challenging situation. From confronting difficult relationships with peers to challenging accepted social norms to even overcoming unconscious bias, he left a trail of lessons that each of us can apply in our own lives and workplaces.

So what can you learn? Lead by example.

 

 

Become A Difference Maker

* indicates required
Email Format

[INFOGRAPHIC] 10 Commandments of Diversity And Inclusion In The Workplace

Become A Difference Maker

* indicates required
Email Format