"I'm a white executive.  How can I lead a conversation around racism and equality?"

by Paul Tripp in

two of my clients asked me this week.  "Who is going to listen to me and what could I possibly say that's going to have any type of effect or allow me to lead through this time?"  one stated.   Perplexed and scared, it makes complete sense that some leaders may be having feelings of uncertainty around how they can lead without offending and participate without shaming the subordinates who came forward.  

Another client called me in a panic this week "Paul, one of my employees brought up a conversation he had with another co-worker that made them feel uncomfortable and besides talking to HR, I have no idea what to do next" he said.  While addressing harassment should be a bread and butter leadership skill, the need is much larger than a one-on-one conversation.  As we worked through this issue together, this leader realized that he wanted to expand the conversation to his entire staff.  "I don't want to re-victimize the person who came forward" he stated.  In our work together he came up with the solution to partner with the person who came forward to find resources to educate his staff, and then provide this education to his staff.  In addition to the education, he decided to partner with HR to have a facilitated session in where his team could openly talk about racism and equality. 

The conclusion of my clients this past week is that in order for them to be able to lead discussions, they have to get educated, and once educated they want to share what they have learned as the starting point of the conversation.  "I need to create a safe space for my people, and the only way I know how to do that is to get vulnerable and share what I've learned, and then encourage them to share also."  one of them stated."  My other client realized the need to create a safe space for people to share.  "I think I need to let them know that we're not all going to be perfect in our thoughts as we talk this out, and I need to encourage them to have grace and be kind to each other as we grow in our collective knowledge."  

If you're a senior executive, you may have been put in this same situation or have experienced some of the following thoughts:  "I'm White."  "I'm not diverse."  "I am a white person leading a diverse group of people, who is going to listen to me?"   To help you I've worked with one of my clients to put together a document that has six resources in where both privilege and racism are defined and discussed.  The last resource is a Podcast that talks about Reparations for African Americans. 

Here is the document we put together.  No strings.  No expectations.  

I hope this is a helpful tool as  you navigate these necessary conversations.