How do you see me?
Updated: Nov 26, 2019
This was how I opened a talk I gave at a recent diversity conference. We were examining what could be done to improve the state of D&I in business today. There was an audible hush and intake of breath as my challenge resonated around the room. It was the only speech on the day to receive spontaneous applause and several people approached me
afterward in the breaks to describe their own emotional reaction t what they’d heard sitting in the audience and to explore a bit more in conversation. To many people, it was the line ”…..or do you not see me at all?” that landed hardest. Why? Because, I suspect for them, it was a true reflection of their natural response to meeting people who are different.
This very fundamental point about whether we see new people through the lens of (our idea of) their group, or as individuals that we’re genuinely curious to get to know, really sets the tone for the relationships we build, the types of teams we lead, the kind of organisations we run and the culture (that word!) that we ultimately build.
All the Unconscious bias training in the world won’t make a jot of difference, if there’s no attempt to unpick that one. It’s a very useful marker, for me - a 5’11” woman of colour, with a non-british accent, to notice the response (or lack thereof) of people that I meet for the first time.
Because I fully appreciate how societal norms and unconscious biases work, I can quickly and easily connect with leaders who operate like this.
It’s hugely gratifying to work with leaders who are open to challenging themselves, growing their leadership and seeing the change in their own behaviours and in the people around them. They love learning to enlist their teams at a deeper more powerful level, driving stronger engagement and delivery. In the end, that’s the payback we’re all after, isn’t it?
How do you manage meeting people from under-represented groups? At a first-time meeting – do you see the person or the type? Drop me a line and let me know what works for you.