Last week I did a talk for 80 bankers.
What image does that bring to mind?
We all have prejudices, biases, preconceived ideas and generalisations we apply to each other. Some are just plain wrong and others are out of date.
With this particular group of bankers I was talking about the future and about the need for authentic leadership to create an environment of psychological safety and trust. In fact virtually everyone in the room other than me was wearing a Christmas jumper and the atmosphere was very relaxed, open and engaged.
It was not so long ago that corporations in general and perhaps banks and oil companies in particular, were seen by many as a sort of global Grinch, exploiting everyone for their own ends. While there was some truth in that, many of these organisations have learned tough lessons and today are seeing that the best results are delivered by people who feel trusted and who feel safe to be themselves.
Amid all of the evidence of sexual harassment and abuse in politics, entertainment and tech sectors these stories are not really coming from more conventional corporations. Today these corporations are hotbeds of diversity and empowerment. Of course there is still room to learn and improve, but the shift over the last 10 years has been substantial.
The key to success in any endeavour is collaboration and the key to collaboration is being able to build trusting and supportive relationships with those who are different to ourselves, those we might find a little annoying or those we might be tempted to exploit.
In this season of goodwill to all, how can each of us create that authentic safe space around us where everyone feels free to be their authentic self? How can we hold our families, friends,colleagues and most importantly ourselves to complete inclusivity?
One of the tensions of “liberalism” is the intent to be tolerant of all views and to give all of them equal air time. However, I read an interesting perspective recently, which is that the only thing it is right to not tolerate is intolerance. If we want a community, society or world where everyone feels psychologically safe, we must all be intolerant of intolerance. We must take it upon ourselves to call out bias, prejudice, abuse and bullying. We must learn the skills to do this effectively and we must work hard on our own biases and prejudices.
Perhaps a good way to start is by identifying one person in our circle that we fail to include equally. I am sure we all have one. And making a deliberate and consistent effort to include them. Not just for the next few weeks, but all of the time.
Or perhaps there is someone in our circle who says or does things that make other people feel uncomfortable about themselves and maybe you can find a way to help them to understand the effects of their behaviour and help them to change it, skilfully.
Or perhaps you feel that you are excluded of find it difficult to be yourself in some situations. Perhaps you can find a way to express your truth to those you feel excluded by or focus your time on environments where you feel safe and are included.
Over the last few years we have seen the effects of polarisation on the global stage. If we do not want to live in a polarised world is is up to all of us to create an integral one. We wish all of our readers and colleagues the most joyful and peaceful festive season and every happiness however you choose to celebrate.
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