Talking #ICantBreathe at Work

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Howard Shultz, The CEO of Starbucks

Howard Shultz, The CEO of Starbucks

During the economic crisis it seemed the best guidance financial advisors were able to offer was to tell us American’s to “Give up your $5.00 daily Starbucks and save that money.” A Starbucks coffee cup was like the logo for excessive spending when excessive spending was not cool.

Very few executives have shown as much resilience as Howard Shultz, the CEO of Starbucks. As if the economic climate was not enough to deal with, Shultz has had to take on the NRA, and Anti-Gay Marriage activists and shareholders.

Now Shultz is encouraging Starbucks employees and partners to openly discuss taboo topics like racism in an open forum setting. 

 

quote_simon-sinek_100-of-customers-are-people-100-of-employees-are-people-if-you-don_t-understand-people-you-don_t-understand-business_us-1

Increasing profits is accomplished through influencing human behavior.

If you want people to care about the bottom line, you have to let them know that you care about them.

We have arrived at a time where leaders need to be an expert in both human and financial capital. Leaders must be proficient at inspiring collaboration and comfortable with relinquishing control. They must remember that they are not leading through hierarchy, but they are leveraging networks. To do all of this, leaders must understand how to synergize people through meaning and purpose rather than push numbers.

It’s Never Convenient 

Recently, my check engine light came on in my car, which sent me into a frustrating place. You know that place, the one where you throw yourself a pity party and focus all that is wrong in the world.

After I pulled myself out of my mini-funk, I knew I needed to make a choice. I could take it in to a mechanic and gather more information or ignore the light and hope for the best until a more convenient time.

Well, America, our check engine light is on. Fact is, it has been on for a while and most of us have chosen to ignore it.

Here is the deal, it is pretty clear that we can no longer avoid taking steps to eradicate racial injustice, so we better become more comfortable engaging in meaningful discussions around race and racism in our workplaces.

Most American’s grew up being told not to discuss Taboo subjects such as Race, Religion, Politics, and Money.

As a result, race relations are strained, our political system is broken, religion has stifled spirituality, and most people only know how to let money go rather than understand how to make it grow.

Denial is Racism Rebooted.

“We are drowning in information, while starving for wisdom.”  Biologist E.O. Wilson

Just because there is a national conversation on racism taking place, we can not assume that it is meaningful. One of the greatest gifts a leader can give to person is to make them feel understood.

When we fail to acknowledge the struggles of another person, we are not creating a safe space where they can fully invest their unique talents and gifts. If the recent events have taught us anything, it is that pretending that there is no problem is THE problem.

Regardless of a leader’s intentions, if they fail to inspire civil discourse around racially charged topics in the workplace, their silence sends a powerful message.

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Moving Beyond Tolerance

In leadership, you get what you tolerate…if your workplace is teaching tolerance, then you are tolerating mediocre results. We know that employee engagement, creativity, and productivity all increase in healthy and inclusive environments.

Tolerance is about surviving together, empathic concern allows organizations to thrive together.

This is not about expressing sympathy or casting judgment. Meaningful connections are fueled through empathy. Highly valuable leaders make the time and emotional investment to learn how others think and feel. They know how to listen with the intent to gain understanding (not exactly a strong suit for a lot of today’s leaders).

As a White male, I would not say that I am the best-qualified person to lead a thought provoking discussion on the American experience for marginalized people. However, I am sure being a part of one will challenge me to grow.

Let’s hope that other CEO’s follow in Mr. Shultz’s footsteps in an effort to let every person in this country feel like they matter.

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How to help “At Risk” Kids Succeed in Life.

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Al Pacino delivers a powerful and inspiration speech in this scene from "Any Given Sunday". Image courtesy of Pauseforclarity.com

Al Pacino delivers a powerful and inspiration speech in this scene from “Any Given Sunday”. Image courtesy of Pauseforclarity.com

Recently, I was asked to speak at a leadership event for student athletes. A prominent political figure in our area was scheduled to speak prior to me on the importance of the pursuit of academic excellence.

I was excited to hear this individual drop some knowledge on these kids and inspire them to greatness. I was hoping he would go all Al Pacino from Any Given Sunday and spit out some powerful metaphors and personal stories that would move the needle in all of our lives.

**Mini-lesson** 
High School Students love this clip, have them interpret the meaning in a writing exercise.

Unfortunately, he went all Ben Stein and started dropping statistics about how difficult it was to earn an athletic scholarship for college. He then essentially proceeded to explain to them how to forget about becoming a professional athlete because the odds were stacked against them.

All I could think after hearing him speak was…

“You had ONE job to do!”

Self Doubt Kills Ability

The quickest way to stifle a student’s development is to set limitations on what they believe to be possible. Or as the French artist Edgar Degas articulated, Self doubt kills ability.”

Now before you start referring to me as Captain Optimism (I would probably find that flattering, I could go by Captain O, for short…never mind, that sounds like a SNL skit), I do believe a healthy dose of reality is good for children when placed in the proper context. However, when talking to young people about their hopes and dreams, we must understand the weight our words carry.

I am probably more sensitive to this type of stuff because I was labeled by educational leaders as an “at risk youth” and was told more times than I can remember that I need a “back up plan” if and when I failed to achieve my dreams. I still remember standing in front of my 4th grade class being told by the teacher that “professional athlete” was not a realistic vocation to choose for the upcoming career report because only a gifted few make it that far.

Here I was, a latchkey kid who was struggling in school, my parents were going through an ugly divorce, my older brother had just ran away from home, and I was surrounded by adults who wanted to teach me about “realism.” Being that I walked by drug dealers and sex workers on my way to an empty apartment, only to boil some Top Ramen for myself for dinner, I think I had “realism” figured out.

I served myself a healthy dose of “reality” every night. Image courtesy of Wikipedia

The ONLY thing I had in my life was baseball; I did not understand why the adults in my life were not leveraging my enthusiasm for this game which gave me purpose. Instead, they treated it as a negotiation tool. I know they all had my best interests in mind, and I am sure this elected official had noble intentions as well. However, if we are going to have a shot of preparing our young people for the complex global issues that await them, we need to think critically about the language we use.

3 Practical Approaches to Positively Influencing Youth in High Risk Situations. 

See what I did there?

You are not dealing with “high risk” children. It pisses them off when they hear that…good luck earning your way into their circle of trust with that mindset! 

You are serving children dealing with “high risk situations,” often times due to circumstances outside of their control. [Read more...]

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CivilSchools Parent Dialogue – How to Build Empathy in Your Child to Prevent Bullying

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In this discussion, our Director of Education, Jamie Utt, leads a Q & A session with philanthropist, retired professional athlete, and current University of Arizona Assistant basketball coach, Joseph Blair. Joseph is also a father of three, one of whom has struggled with bullying.

Joseph offers up his own wise advice for parents about the necessity of open communication with your children, and Jamie brings in some of the tried and true teachings from our UPstander Intervention Training to support the discussion.

In this CivilSchools Parent Dialogue, Jamie and Joseph will cover:

1.  Reasons that open, honest communication with your child is vital to bullying prevention
2.  How to build empathy in your child through critical conversation and modeling of empathetic behavior
3.  How to teach your child to be an UPstander to prevent bullying

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Bullying, the Empathy Gap, & the Diffusion of Responsibility

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(Photo: Catherine Ledner)

(Photo: Catherine Ledner)

By Eric Thompson

We humans tend to behave strangely when we are in large groups; the social pressure to act “normal” can be incapacitating.

We have all heard a story about somebody in need of assistance surrounded by a group of people who then fails to receive the help they need. This phenomenon is called The Bystander Effect, and it refers numerous studies that have concluded that the greater amount of people present, the less likely people are to help a person in distress.

Researchers explain this behavior as being a result of the Diffusion of Responsibility. Basically, the burden of responsibility to intervene is diminished because it is shared by all of the spectators.


Prezi created by Sabrina Etcheverry

One of the other reasons psychologists explain why people fail to intervene in these situations is because people fear disrupting the social norm. When a person sees other observers fail to take action it sends a signal that an intervention may not be appropriate or needed.

Now mix in the social pressure that comes with being an adolescent, the lack of judgement thanks to an under-developed frontal lobe, and a constant stream of marketing messages that celebrate those close to power and exploit those furthest away from it, and it is clear why bullying is so pervasive in our schools.

That is why implementing an UPstander Intervention Training Program is crucial to creating a safe and inclusive learning environment.

If we are going to prevent bullying from occurring and build a culture of civility in our schools, we must empower our students and provide them with the critical tools necessary to do it themselves.

Entire school communities must be properly trained in how to recognize, interrupt, and respond to social situations that threaten the collective brilliance of their community.

© Copyright 2010 CorbisCorporation

One of our highest points of leverage in our society is the ability to develop empathic concern in our young people.

Developing a culture that promotes empathic concern is a deliberate process. The social psychologist Daniel Batson explained empathic concern in his book, The Altruism Question, “as other-oriented emotions elicited by and congruent with the perceived welfare of someone in need.”

Basically, understanding how a person feels is not enough to influence a bystander to become an UPstander, they must also care about the person’s well-being to take action and offer assistance. Schools and organizations able to create an other-oriented climate lay the foundation for community members to move from survival mode to performance mode.

When this happens, it is easy to recognize because stake holders connect rather than communicate, educators teach students how to think rather than what to think, and individuals are celebrated rather than indoctrinated.  The energy is palpable.

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Building a culture that shifts focus from me to we, is like steering an aircraft carrier, it takes a lot of energy and is a methodical process. However, cultivating a culture of respect and civility requires students to appreciate their ability to influence the social norm and inspire UPstander behavior within their community.

Closing the empathy gap is not only essential to building safer, more inclusive learning environments, but it is also a prerequisite for success within our global economy.

Leaders who possess a healthy balance of self-awareness, empathic concern, and systems awareness are designed and developed, not discovered.  Moreover, these qualities are the conduit for innovation. Shaping curriculum and seizing opportunities to develop these executive functions in our young people builds healthy, socially-conscious communities that thrive.

Do not get stifled by the Diffusion of Responsibility phenomenon.  Take some deliberate steps so that your school community can make some strides towards narrowing the empathy gap.

Here is a simple and quick assessment that measure a person’s empathic concern. Take a look at the questions and see what current tasks you may be able to integrate to foster other-oriented focus.

If your school community is hurting because of a bullying culture, it sounds as if there are students and families who could use your help. If you think that you lack the necessary skills to facilitate change, let me assure you that if you’ve read all the way through this article, you may not be an expert, but you are equipped with specific knowledge that can serve your community.

Energy flows where attention goes.

Now here is a little motivation for you:

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