Transcript: Leadership Series: Embodied Leadership for Anti-Racism, Equity and Inclusion
[The CSPS logo appears on screen alongside text that reads "Webcast".]
[The screen fades to Kelly Folz in a video chat panel.]
Kelly Folz: Good afternoon and welcome to today's event as part of the Leadership series Embodied Leadership for Anti-Racism, Equity and Inclusion.
Kelly Folz: My name is Kelly Folz, and I am the director general of the Respectful and Inclusive Workplace business line at the Canada School of Public Service. I will be your master of ceremonies this afternoon. On behalf of the School, I would like to welcome all participants to this event.
Before we begin, I would like to acknowledge that I am joining you from the traditional unceded territory of the Algonquin and Anishinaabe people. I encourage you to take a moment to reflect on the traditional Indigenous territory upon which you reside.
I would just like to share a few administrative details to support your experience during this session. Today, we'll be taking questions through the webcast interface. Please go to the top right corner of your screen and click the participate button. Enter to your question along with your email. We may not get to all of your questions, but we will answer as many as we can. Friendly reminder that we have simultaneous interpretations available through teleconference lines and through the webcast cast platform for this discussion. You may also access Descartes services, communication access real time translation, through the Webcasting platform. Please refer to the reminder email sent by the school to access these features.
Now let's get this session started.
[Dr. Rachel Zellars appears in a video chat panel.]
It brings me great pleasure to be here with you today and introduce our guest, Dr. Rachel Zellars, who joined the school in September as the inaugural visiting scholar under the Jocelyne Bourgon Visiting Scholar Initiative. This initiative is a way to recognize academic expertise, foster fresh ideas, and obtain external perspective on priority issues within the Government of Canada.
During her time with us, Rachel has met with our clerk, deputy ministers and senior leaders from across the government and hear first-hand, some of the work that is underway, but also the challenges we are facing when it comes to creating meaningful change within our workplaces. Outside her tenure at the school. Rachel is a lawyer, senior research fellow and assistant professor at Saint Mary's University. Her research and scholarship focused on the history of Black Canada, beginning with the American Revolution. She also looks at slavery in the Maritimes, the lives of enslaved women and gender violence and transformative justice. Rachel is also nationally recognized as an expert in critical implicit bias. I am so grateful that Rachel will be sharing her expertise with us today to inspire leaders of the public service to adopt leadership practices that will promote racial diversity, equity and inclusion.
Over to you, Rachel.
Rachel Zellars: I'm so happy to be here as well. And it goes without saying that Kelly is my teammate, along with Aiesha, to Charlene and Nathalie of the Canada School of Public Service. I can't be good without this team of women. So, I want you all to know that I have spent the last few months in this position asking people that, you know, some who you don't know about leadership and what specifically leadership looks like to them. I've asked one particular question of a number of people, and that is this one. Where have you seen excellent leadership displayed in your career? Where have you seen excellent leadership displayed in your career?
[A slide appears with the same text in English and French: "Where have you seen excellent leadership displayed during your career?"]
And here are four things that leaders have consistently shared with me.
[A slide appears with the same text in English and French: 4 Key Takeaways]
[A slide appears with the same text in English and French: 1 Leadership entails living by basic, core principles]
The first, leadership entails living by basic core principles. And these core principles for leaders that I've spoken to serve as a bridge between home and work between one's professional life and one's career.
They are a protective anchor against self-interest and the game of one as one leader shared with me in our interview. To lead in public service, this person told me one must be completely liberated from self-interest. So, that's one of the things.
[A slide appears with the same text in English and French: 2 Leadership entails living by authentic values that are modeled]
Another thing that I've heard consistently is that leadership entails living by authentic values that are modelled and then translated into action for employees, for teams, for a group of people that someone leads or serves in public service.
[A slide appears with the same text in English and French: 3 Leadership entails doing what is right in the moment]
Leadership, thirdly, entails doing what is right in the moment, even when it is not popular or not likely to be well received or accepted by one's boss.
[A slide appears with the same text in English and French: 4 Leadership is a commitment to leading with curiosity]
And then fourthly, leadership is a commitment to leading with curiosity, particularly in moments of painful conflict or profound personality difference.
When a leader that I spoke to said to me in moments of conflict, I really, really tried hard to be in the shoes of that other person and I would stop and ask myself out loud, what is this person thinking and why are they thinking this way? Another leader said to me something so beautiful about their now retired deputy minister that the quality that they valued most in this person was the ability to confront each new conversation, even in moments of conflict, as if it were the first one, as if the conflict was not present in the moment. All of these really beautiful qualities have one thing in common; they are all qualities of something called embodied leadership.
[A slide appears with the same text in English and French: Embodied leadership]
Embodied leadership is becoming more well known as a leadership model. But the one that I am referencing today comes from an organization called Generative Somatics.
[A slide appears with a logo of Generative Somatics and the same text in English and French: Embodied leadership model. Developed in early 2000s, Created for community organizers, Attuned to conflict, Co-founder, Staci K. Haines]
It's an organization that was founded in the early 2000s and it was an organization that was founded by long-time community leaders and organizers who faced truly daunting challenges in their work, but deeply desired to continue in their work, despite the difficulty in it.
The founder, in fact, one example I often think of is a woman named Staci K. Haines. She was an organizer for decades on the west coast and she organized to protect children from childhood sexual abuse prior to founding this organization and in her work, conflict was absolutely central. She had to constantly confront the decision whether or not to leave an abused child in a home or to remove a child that would be likely placed in an equally violent, different kind of violence, but equally violent foster home.
[A slide appears with a colourful image]
I think of this leadership model as something that is designed to build a body that is ultimately undeterred in the face of ongoing conflict and heartbreak as well. Here's the most common or easy way to think of embodied leadership.
[A slide appears with the same text in English and French: Embodied leadership is when our actions and words consistently reflect our values and commitment, especially under pressure.]
Embodied leadership is when our actions and our words consistently reflect our values and commitment, especially under pressure.
[Kelly Folz appears in a video chat panel]
And I know this sounds a bit daunting, but really the best way to think of embodied leadership is to think of it as our actions and our values coming together closer over time, our actions and our values moving closer together over time.
There are three key qualities that make up embodied leadership. I know Kelly and I will talk about these in great detail at the end of my short presentation. Embodied leadership is on purpose, it is conflict curious, it is trauma aware. Over the last few years, as institutions including public service, have moved towards commitments to greater equity and inclusion. Many leadership models have been floating around compassionate leadership, inclusive leadership, courageous leadership. In fact, the call to action states the importance of inclusive leadership and I think that all of these styles of leadership are very, very important, and they are all contained within an embodied leadership model.
But, in the context of the call to action and the transformational work that so many have committed to, I've come to believe that those models alone are insufficient for addressing the many, many decades long patterns and systems that those examples of leadership are really designed to disrupt. So, this question probably is not fully answered by that explanation. Why embodied leadership as opposed to those other models of leadership that I just mentioned? Well, the call to action importantly demands something much more than knowledge and tools as a way of leading change in public service and it stresses this oft repeated point here bolded on the screen, and that is inaction is not an option. Inaction is not an option.
But here's the question, how does one act to end discrimination, constantly challenge one's biases and create an environment that is safe for all employees as a leader? Are all of our disaggregated data sets, our targeted staffing processes, our implicit bias trainings, our diverse executive leadership development programs, are all of those things really enough to lead the kind of culture change that public service is now setting out to lead? Are all of these very essential material changes that I just named, are they really enough to change leadership behaviour in public service?
A second reason for looking more closely at embodied leadership is because every single leadership model that I named just a few moments ago and that I can think of, focuses on teaching or improving the quality of awareness in leadership, but those models don't focus on how to cultivate the capacity to respond differently or to behave differently as a leader. In short, those other models don't focus on behavioural change, how to change the kinds of behaviours, in short, that led to the call to action.
Executive Coach Pete Hamill refers to embodied leadership as leadership that happens from the chin down rather than the chin up, leadership that happens from the chin down rather than the chin up, and think about this for a moment. These three qualities that I named to be able to do something immediately, to be able to respond immediately in the moment, in the face of something very uncomfortable, to actually find conflict as something interesting or to be acutely aware of the way that trauma impacts how we each behave under stressful situations, something much more than a book or a brain is needed. We need a body that literally knows what to do in those situations. We need a body that knows what to do.
Here's a really keen example. You are speaking with a close colleague about another uncovered residential school grave, a colleague that you work with. The colleague expresses great sadness about this news that has just been revealed, but then adds, at some point, we have to be willing to move on from the past. We've done so much as a country to acknowledge this awful history. We have a federal mandate, we have all of these things, a federal apology, I don't know what else we can do as a leader or as a colleague. You feel flushed, really uncomfortable in this conversation, but you make a decision to excuse yourself from that conversation. You make a decision to avoid having that conversation.
Here's the question, what is wrong with not acting, with not responding in that moment? What is wrong with that? Well, of course, the great impact, first and foremost, that these kinds of comments have on racialized Black and Indigenous public servants. I mean, that's certainly one answer. If there's one thing that gets highlighted in my work, more often than not in my notes, in my report, in my reports and my interviews with employees, it's the tremendous physical and psychological impact that statements like the one I just named in that scenario have in the lives of career Black and racialized and Indigenous public servants. These commonly repeated statements and the lack of action by colleagues and leaders are the things that cause long-term psychological physical trauma in the lives of racialized Black and Indigenous employees.
But to link that scenario back to the call to action for just a moment, it is absolutely impossible as a leader, as a colleague, as a manager, to create an environment in which employees feel empowered and safe to speak up without leaders who know how to address these kinds of impactful statements head on. So, it's through this lens of embodied leadership that we learn how to do it.
The problem with not intervening in the scenario that I offered is this. As a leader, your inaction failed to demonstrate that your actions and commitment under pressure were your actions and your values under pressure were deeply aligned or moving closer together, right? The pressure, of course, in the scenario that I gave you, being the proverbial elephant in the room, the feelings of discomfort or uneasiness or shame that arise in the body when the subject of race is on the table.
In short, as a leader, you have ignored this elephant in the room because you feel uncomfortable, you feel unsure of what to do.
[Dr. Rachel Zellars exits the screen.]
Dog (laughter). You feel unsure.
Kelly Folz: (Inaudible) slides again.
Rachel Zellars: Sorry, I don't know exactly what happened here. When did you lose my slides? Kelly?
Kelly Folz: Just as you started talking about the scenario.
Rachel Zellars: Oh, you should have interrupted me. Oh, I'm so sorry. Oh, my goodness. Well, let me share them again. Get us back on track here.
[A slide appears with an image of an elephant teaching people.]
How's this? You can see my elephant.
Kelly Folz: Yes.
Rachel Zellars: Okay and please, at any moment, I should have said this upfront, please interrupt me if you cannot see my slides right away. Thank you so much for letting me know.
So, what I'd like to do is take that scenario that I gave you just a few moments ago, and I'd like to run it through an embodied leadership scenario. I'd like to run it through an embodied leadership scenario.
[A slide appears with the same text in English and French: 3 qualities of embodied leadership On purpose, Conflict curious, Trauma aware]
So, in that situation, we have these three qualities, on purpose, conflict, curious, trauma aware. And the first one, on purpose, really speaks to knowing what to do in the moment, in the immediacy of the moment.
[A slide appears with the same text in English and French: On purpose I am present for the conversation I don't have the time, but will return to it I am not ready, but will get myself ready]
On Purpose speaks to showing up and knowing what to do in a way that's really clear and really intentional. And in the scenario that I offered a few moments ago, deflecting or excusing is not at all purposeful, it is not intentional and discomfort is not an excuse.
Now, this doesn't mean we need to have the answers right now or even the social context to really be able to unpack the problem with that scenario. But on purpose means that you are not going to run away from the situation because it feels uncomfortable. So, it could mean I'm present for this conversation, I want to have this hard conversation with my colleague. Being purposeful in the moment means I don't have the time right now. I really do have to get to a meeting, but this conversation is so important to me that I'm going to return to it.
And then thirdly, it could mean I'm really not ready for this conversation, I'm so uncomfortable, I don't have the social context, the history, the words to unpack this, but I'm going to go and I'm going to do the work I need to do to get ready for this conversation. That's what being on purpose means and importantly, all of those responses are totally fine, all of them are fine.
[A slide appears with the same text in English and French: Conflict curious Conflict is an opportunity]
They're all purposeful responses within an embodied leadership model, because in each of those scenarios, we are intentionally not being avoidant, respecting the limitations of where we are, but clearly prioritizing the importance of and the impact of what was said in the workplace.
I'd like to move to the second point that I mentioned that embodied leadership is conflict curious. Here's the guiding idea behind this. All conflict is generative. All conflict presents an opportunity. It presents an opportunity in a relationship to deepen a relationship, or on the other side, it presents an opportunity to break trust, to create distance in any relationship. But it's guided by this idea that conflict is an opportunity. It presents an opportunity.
[A slide appears with the same text in English and French: Conflict is the spirit of the relationship asking itself to deepen – Malidoma Somé]
This quote here by Malidoma Some is really a guiding principle of embodied leadership. That conflict is always the spirit of any relationship asking itself to deepen.
[A slide appears with the same text in English and French: Trauma aware Outward Facing
"The west has been gazing at us for so long, that we forgot to gaze back."
Inward facing Conditioned tendencies
A slide appears with the same text in English and French and a painting of a young man "Trauma is a wordless story our body tells itself about what is safe and what is a threat." – Resmaa Menakem An image explaining fight or flight is shown.]
The third prong of embodied leadership is that embodied leadership is trauma aware and there are really two prongs here to keep in mind, as a colleague, as a leader.
The first is that embodied leadership has an outward facing dimension and an inward facing dimension. But first and foremost, I want to take a moment to unpack what I mean by trauma. This is so important. I don't mean that trauma is something bad that just happened in the past and now it's gone, right? It's not something that happened in the past.
One of the things that psychiatrists like Bessel van der Kolk teach us is that body- trauma is something that happens in the body. It's not something that happens in the thinking brain. It's something that happens in the body and stays there long after an event is over and this is really, really crucial. Trauma is the body's protective response to an event or a series of events that one perceives as scary or dangerous. We'll talk more about that in a few moments. A therapist, Resmaa Menakem, one of my teachers says that, "Trauma is a wordless story that the body tells itself about what is safe and what is a threat."
So, the first prong of trauma that I mentioned is outward facing, outward facing. So, as a leader, as a colleague, as a manager, to be a trauma aware human being is to really understand the crushing impact of historical silences and erasures that have impacted the lives of Black, racialized and Indigenous colleagues in this part of the world.
The second dimension that I'll move to is inward facing, inward facing, and this part is probably familiar to most of you. You've probably heard these terms before, right? Fight, flight, or freeze. The fight or flight response is an automatic physiological reaction to an event that is perceived as stressful and it's something that all human beings share. It's a deeply human centred and human quality that all of us have inside of us in the study or practice of embodied leadership. This tendency, fight or flight, is simply called conditioned tendency. The words are almost interchangeable.
So, in the scenario, right, with your colleague that I offered just a few moments ago, the condition tendency of someone responding to stress in having to talk about race or racism, the conditioned tendency is to excuse oneself, I have to get to a meeting, right, because of the discomfort one is trying to avoid having that conversation. That's called a conditioned tendency. So, a person who excuses themself out of an uncomfortable conversation about race is really revealing that fight or flight tendency to flee in the context of conversations about race or racism.
[A slide appears with the same text in English and French: What is a conditioned tendency? "Our automatic response under pressure or stress"]
One of the things that I think is so beautiful and I want us all to keep in mind, is that conditioned tendencies are fundamentally adaptations for safety, for belonging and for dignity.
[A slide appears with the same text in English and French: Conditioned tendencies, Adaptations for safety, belonging, and dignity, Decrease our choice to respond differently, Belonging, Safety]
Condition tendencies are fundamentally adaptations for safety, belonging and dignity.
So, in that earlier scenario, the person who was avoiding speaking up is doing so because they don't want a group of people in the room to reject them. They don't want the person in the room or the others who may be overhearing this conversation to ostracize them right? So, there's a sense of wanting to belong as a reason for excusing oneself out of that otherwise uncomfortable conversation or maybe it's because the person is conflict averse. We can talk more about that later, and they simply don't want to feel uncomfortable or unsafe in a disagreement with a close colleague.
But here's what's really important, conditioned tendencies necessarily decrease our choice to do better. Conditioned tendencies necessarily decrease our ability to do better, to respond differently when we react automatically rather than respond in ways that reflect and honour our commitments and our value systems. So, an embodied leadership model teaches leaders how to identify and how to manage their conditioned tendencies, which means we get to develop new choices about how we want to respond in really stressful or uncomfortable situations and of course, acknowledging, learning about our conditioned tendencies in an embodied leadership model means we need to deepen our relationship, our capacity to build relationships meaningfully with our colleagues.
So, this is the third quality here of embodied leadership and embodied leadership models on purpose, conflict curious, trauma aware. Importantly, and I'll just end here before we move to a broader conversation, I've just hit you with a lot of information. I hope you have some questions for us. Much of it probably feels a bit abstract. Much of it probably feels very, very new and maybe even uncomfortable. But these three qualities are things that simply cannot be gained overnight, they cannot be gained in a few weeks, they cannot be gained in a two or three or multi-tiered workshop about diversity, but rather through a long-term commitment to and process called embodiment and through this model, we learn how to move from what we currently do, into a greater awareness of what we call building a new shape in our interpersonal relationships.
So, I'll pause right here. Sorry for the bit of wonkiness, but I can't wait to be in conversation with Kelly. So, thank you.
Kelly Folz: Thank you so much, Rachel, for this thought-provoking presentation.
So, we're now at the discussion portion, which will be followed by a Q&A. So, question and answer period and please remember for those of you in the session to enter your questions to the Webcast platform so that we may get to them a bit later in this event.
So, Rachel, I love this notion of being conflict curious and I wonder if we could talk about a little bit more about what it means to be conflict curious and how one would begin to cultivate this embodied leadership internally.
Rachel Zellars: Such a beautiful question. We've talked about this a little bit and so I tried to put this like in steps for folks to come back to hopefully again and again.
So, the first, probably most important thing is figuring out how to just become aware in the moment. I think of it as like building a body that knows what to do in the moment, so simply paying attention to what happens and this term, it's probably going to sound like a kindergarten word because I think kindergarteners really get this. But in embodied leadership in Generative Somatics, the group that has trained me over the years, we literally call it noticing, right? It's noticing what your body does and maybe conflict, right, is not the starting point for a number of reasons. Maybe we can talk about that in a few moments.
I have a very, very close friend, for example, who grew up in a home with alcoholics, two parents who are still together to this day. And so, over the years in our friendship, a long friendship, I've had to learn the reasons that this person is conflict avoidant in our relationship and learn with compassion how to engage difficult conversations. So, conflict may not be the place where you want to notice where your body does, but you can notice your conditioned tendency, that fight or flight response in a million different ways.
So, what happens when you're really tired at the end of your work day? These are all very personal things. What happens when you're really tired at the end of your work day and your kids, little, big, doesn't matter, what happens when they come running through the door and they're grumpy and they're hungry? What do you do as a parent in that moment? Do you reach for a gin and tonic, as I sometimes do, right? Do you bury yourself in your work? Hi, how you doing, snacks are in the kitchen, to try to avoid. What are you doing in that moment when you're not at your best and they're not at their best? That's noticing, noticing what you do right. And the point of noticing what we do in those moments is so that we can make different choices.
What do you do when you wake up? These are so personal. What happens when you wake up and you have so much work to do? It's just an exceptionally busy day. You've got a project to finish, something that has a hard deadline, three presentations, whatever it is, and instead of getting up and doing your normal healthy routine, you have a bowl of oatmeal with some amount of flax seeds on it. You take a long walk. Instead of doing those things, you skip them because you feel time constraint, right? Notice what your body does when you have the sort of pressure and stress of a hard deadline, a very busy day. That's another way of just noticing.
So, noticing what your body does in other really stressful situations is key here. It doesn't have to be conflict ridden, although sometimes when my kids walk in the door, there's conflict just around the corner, I digress. So, that's the first thing, noticing. I gave you some examples.
The second thing that we can do is just learning more about the point of conflict. This is so huge. This is huge and this is something that took me 45 years. I'm almost 50, right, 45 years to figure out how to do. Most of us, I'm just going to say this, probably grow up with very unhealthy models of conflict, and in my case and others, like a close proximity to violence as an acceptable response in moments of deep conflict. Most of us also grow up witnessing and experiencing really punitive responses to conflict and violence. So, as such, we have developed clear fight, flight or freeze responses when we feel or sense conflict getting ready to pop off or when we're in the moment, when it's happening without us being able to do anything about it. So, just taking time to understand how conflict can be dealt with, understood or felt differently, is something that most of us as human beings have to work because we didn't grow up with models of conflict that were generative, that invoked curiosity in us unless we had, I don't know, super hippie and progressive parents. Kelly, I think you got hippie parents in there somewhere, you got to talk about that. I want to hear what you have to say.
So, secondly, the second point after noticing is just to really think about the ways in which we have learned conflict wrong and just getting more attuned to what our response is in the context of conflict. And then I guess the third thing I'll say is practice, we get to practice.
So, that question I asked a few moments like, what do you do when it's the end of your hard work day, you're tired, and then your grumpy kid or partner walks in the door, right? Is your tendency to avoid your child or partner? Is your tendency to reach for a gin and tonic, whatever, and then practicing means I've acknowledged this thing that I do every day and I can make a different choice here, right? I can make a different choice. I really can say, let's go for a walk. Let's go get some popsicles at the store. Walk down to the- I'm thinking in Montreal, to the depanneur, walk down to the corner store, let's get some popsicles, let's get moving. We have a myriad of choices, but we can't really exercise those choices unless we figure out what we do.
And I'm just going to say one other thing with respect to this question. I'm getting goosebumps already. I wish we're all in a living room. There has been one thing in this part, in this question around embodied leadership, that has been totally life changing for me and it's probably because I grew up in a home where there's lots of shame for reasons beyond the scope of this conversation. And the thing that has been life changing for me is this idea that's really absolutely central to embodied leadership that even our maladaptive behaviours are the things that we use to keep us safe in the past.
And it's really profound for me because if you just pause for a moment, so maybe I reach for that gin and tonic, right? Maybe it's something that I don't want people to know about, maybe I have two gin and tonics on a lot of nights, right? But that's a thing that I've done because literally drinking that alcohol makes me not scream at my kids, right? I know there's something better, I can't get there yet. But the idea that even that maladaptive thing has been something that I've done to keep myself safe in the past so I didn't scream, I didn't freak out, there's a gift in that and it's an opportunity to shake off the shame of the stuff that we do, that we all do, so that we can acknowledge and then build better choices.
I hope that is- is that clear? I tried to be really clear because this was wonky stuff the first time I heard it.
Kelly Folz: Yeah, no, it's super clear. I think it's just a change in perspective and that so much of us are taught to avoid conflict, manage the conflict, don't go near it. And really, it's where conflict, that's where the change happens. That's where we engage in a conversation and actually get to where we need to together and I think that's the biggest difference in this approach that I found so kind of transformative in a way, because I'm able to think about it and frame it differently.
And I think it's valid just in that example of the kids coming home. Often times, I go to how I want to respond and I have to wait for a moment and actually think what they need in that moment because sometimes it's like they want a solution because they're fighting, and sometimes it's just they want to be heard or show me something. And I think it takes that moment of pause to notice what the other person needs, and I think that the notion of parenting can kind of resonate in some workplaces situations as well.
Yeah, and on my hippie parents, so I think for me I was really lucky in that my mom was the second oldest of eight and so there wasn't a lot of opportunity to engage in a lot of conversations about how to change an outcome. So, we were taught pretty young to just, if you had an argument to be made, you can make a presentation and you would be heard, not always listened to, but you could talk it out. So, I was quite fortunate to have that environment to begin with.
Just in your presentation also, Rachel, you quoted the call to action, that statement of being a leader means taking an active role in ending all forms of discrimination and oppression, consciously and constantly challenging our own biases and creating an environment in which our employees feel empowered and safe to speak up when they witness barriers. So, what if one is not in a safe space and so how do you practice embodied leadership in an unsafe work environment and get started?
Rachel Zellars: Yeah, this is the one that I was like, oh boy, this is hard. And I went back to the call to action because the mandate is there, right? The words, the expectation is there. It's a call, a clarion call to all public servants, not just leaders.
So, leaders have this responsibility, it's clear, but this question of how to create safety and belonging, the most instinctual response that came to me as I was preparing for today is simply listening to Black, Indigenous, racialized employees there. There aren't more clear responses that I've received over the years listening to Black employees, racialized employees in particular, than when I ask, what's needed to make your workspace feel better for you so that you can be in it and be your best self, what's needed. And the responses are clear, they're sharp, they're often built around scenarios, and it's really the responsibility of managers, leaders and colleagues to engage in that question and receive the answer and respond accordingly.
I mean, there's nothing more sharp and clear than when that question is asked to racialized, Black and Indigenous employees and their answers are received. So, listening, take their direction. I was thinking too, it's also the job of a good leader. Whether we call ourselves embodied leaders or not, it is the job of a good leader to be able to respond to microaggressions, the most common thing that I hear from employees of all marginalized groups. But it's the job of a good leader to be able to respond to those microaggressions, to foster a learning environment for the long term where change happens and to create accountability mechanisms, consequences when behaviour doesn't change.
And one of the questions I had for you as a leader is, well, what would that look like? If you are doing what you need to do as a leader to intervene, that scenario, I know we have a scenario we're going to walk through that I offered where that colleague says, why can't we just move on from the past. So, you know how to intervene, you've set the tone in your team because of the ongoing learning expectations and activities that you've set. But then what does it look like when people are not changing? What kind of accountability as a leader would you build into your team and to your evaluation, your PMAs? What would you do? I'd love to hear your thoughts about that.
So, that's some of my thoughts around that. Importantly, I think I said this, but it needs to be stressed that embodied leadership is not just for leaders, it's for everyone and it is a step-by-step process. I often talk about implicit bias as work that we do, like taking out the garbage so we don't want our house to stink, take our garbage out every few days. Embodied leadership work is really long-term work.
But I want to throw that question back to you. What does accountability look like for you as a leader? What are some of your thoughts about that?
Kelly Folz: I think accountability looks different for many people. For me, I would say starting with acknowledging that I make mistakes and taking ownership of those. So, if I didn't speak up when I should have, it's about acknowledging the responsibility I had in that moment or even if later, a word was used that we found out that was harmful, in terms of a specific context, is to kind of go back and learn about that and make sure everyone understood why so that we can actually work towards not a shaming of the person who has made the mistake. If it's myself, I want to understand why those words were a microaggression or how that could be harmful so that we can actually educate the whole team.
And I think another part of that accountability could be as a manager, could be as a leader of a working group, is really like setting the tone at the front end, kind of how we expect to work with each other and how we will hold each other accountable and I think that's part of creating the safe space, is really just about making sure we kind of set those clear objectives right at the beginning, so we can hold each other accountable.
Rachel Zellars: I really appreciate that. I really do.
Kelly Folz: Yeah, and I think it's acknowledging that, like you said, it is a step by step process of just starting to learn how to feel, what you're feeling and connecting that to the kind of the work that we're doing, for sure, and I think too, I know you asked about kind of performance. I think it's really important that everyone sees their role in creating that respectful and inclusive workplace and then there's an opportunity for all leaders, all public servants to have some accountability in those agreements in terms of what actions and measures they'll take to move forward, whether it's mentorship, participating on different forums or groups to really acknowledge their commitment to the principles that we all hold through the call to action for sure.
Rachel Zellars: That's beautiful. Perfect, yeah. That's really, really beautiful.
Kelly Folz: How do you think we can teach public servants to have conversations when many feel they're, like I mentioned, saying the wrong thing or often described as having uncomfortable conversations? How can we teach public servants to start moving forward?
Rachel Zellars: Yeah, that's a great question. I mentioned a moment ago it's the job of leaders to know how to intervene when those microaggressions take place or when they come back to leaders. We have a responsibility to address them head on, but we also have this profound responsibility to not only give people grace but to make sure we're extending it laterally. And what I mean by that is, I've just been in so many situations where someone says the wrong thing. Oh God, this has happened as a professor so many times. A student will say the wrong thing and other students in that space will rush to sort of, I guess, what we call cancel, that other student that was super transphobic, what you just said right now, and my job in those situations is always to intervene. Sometimes it's through personal acknowledgment.
I get my pronouns wrong still and I'm working really hard to figure out how to move from a 1990s model of queerness into what you all are shaping for us, as you know, elders, that word now. So, making sure that we are extending grace to people that make mistakes but also setting that expectation in our teams and in the spaces that we hold weight in, can we give each other grace? I think, like you said just so beautifully a few moments ago, setting that expectation, setting the tone, but setting the tone with grace that mistakes are going to happen.
Maybe we can talk about that a bit more, but this thing about discomfort, I don't use the word white privilege much. You and I have talked about this because on my mother's side, my mother's family, her family roots are white German, of German ancestry, and that part of my family is poor, working class, deep working-class roots. I'm the only kid that has gone on to be a professional, and I was the first kid in my family to go to college from that side of my family. So, I'm very hesitant to use that term, white privilege, but the ability to invoke discomfort as a way of disabling or shutting down a conversation is totally a privilege that attaches to whiteness because on the flip side of that, I think about all the hundreds and hundreds of narratives that I hold of racialized and Black employees telling me how uncomfortable they felt when being aggressed, when being at the receiving end of microaggressions and how speaking up was met with a myriad of reactions that didn't help that discomfort, that lack of safety, the trauma that was experienced in that moment.
So, it truly is a perk that attaches to whiteness, saying, I'm uncomfortable. One of the things that my teachers and body leadership have taught me is that if you are not profoundly uncomfortable and just wanting to crawl out of your skin when we are in the thick of diversity work, then we ain't doing the work. I mean, there is nothing more uncomfortable than having to face down the history that we are and our ancestors are a part of that fostered. There's nothing more uncomfortable than having to attend to our own biases. I mean, you and I have talked about this so much. I have my own biases. I'm working on them y'all. So, I want us to be in a place where we can say, as leaders and as colleagues, (inaudible) work, whatever we call it. I'm using these soft terms. Anti-racist work is uncomfortable and so you'd better build a body for it. It is uncomfortable work. So, I mean, that's the first thing.
We've talked as we're getting ready for today, I just flagged this term, non-partisanship, because I have heard as an outsider to your house that public servants really take this commitment to be non-partisan and I'm really concerned about that the way that I see it being weaponized in this moment. First and foremost, the commitment to be non-partisan comes from a long tradition, historically, of patronage, right? Like, politicians hooking their friends up and thrusting them into leadership positions without merit, without being qualified for those positions. So, historically, I understand the rationale of its location, but a couple of things.
The personal is political for many, many, many, many, I would venture out to say probably all marginalized groups, the personal and the political are not things that you can separate. Think of things like abortion, sexual harassment. Those things have policies that attach to them, but those are things that only attach to an experience, very specific kinds of bodies and people and those things that I named, abortion, sexual harassment. Through the lens of intersectionality, we know that they disproportionately impact racialized and Indigenous employees over white employees. So, anyway, personal is political, but we are also living in a moment unlike one that I have seen in my generation, my parents or my grandparent's generation, which is a moment of extreme political polarization whereby issues that are fundamentally about personal liberty, i.e. abortion, have become these dog whistles for party political affiliation, right?
So, for example, one that's crept over the border is critical race theory. Literally, when critical race theory became this dog whistle for liberalism in the United States, I started laughing when I first started hearing these news stories last year because I'm a lawyer and I've only taught critical race theory to college students and graduate students because you're reading cases. It's hard to read a case unless, you know, I'm sure there are brilliant five year-olds in the world, but critical race theory has never, ever been for elementary, middle school, or high school students. It's just not. Our schools aren't ready. We don't train students for that kind of intellectual engagement. Anyway, I digress.
It became very clear to me that critical race theory was standing in for something else. It was being used as a political dog whistle for people on the right, right of centre, to identify and finger point to people who are left of centre liberals, as we call them in the U.S., but had a very particular affiliation and that terminology was just weaponized and it was weaponized in a really unfair and untruthful way. So, I think we have to be very, very careful about saying, oh, that's political, we can't really bring that into public service because of this commitment. Many things that we have labelled political are being used right now to shut down conversations. They're dog whistles, they're used to stand in for something else and they are used in ways that are really disingenuine and just untruthful.
When you and I were talking, we talked about the ways in which some public servants are hiding behind a political wall. I have heard in my interviews with Black and racialized employees a shared sentiment and that is when I engage in my EDI employee network group's work, whether it be in-house or public service wide. My manager, my boss, has said these snide comments to me along the lines of, well, be careful, you're just mixing up this political work with your day work, make sure you keep them separate. And to hear Black employees who are doing this labour beyond the already incredulous work demands off the clock, late into the night, parenting, volunteering, dot, dot, dot, to hear that as the sentiment for me is really dangerous and we just have to be aware of the way that doing EDI work is being weaponized, as political affiliation that's in conflict with being in public service.
Maybe we can talk about the truck convoy a bit more as time goes on. But I want to pause there and see what your thoughts are, because we've talked about this issue kind of extensively. What are your thoughts about what I just said?
Kelly Folz: Yeah, I think the whole notion of discomfort is such a- I completely agree with the coming from privilege and positionality in power, right? So, for someone in a leadership position or having that power to say I'm uncomfortable talking about that, I'm not going to go there is really shutting the door on conversations that really need to happen, particularly for those who are marginalized or racialized. So, yeah, I think as we kind of, back to the question, how can we teach public servants to have the conversation, what I took from it is really it's about trying to understand why that's uncomfortable for me. What is it that I'm uncomfortable with and what work do I need to do to get over that? Because this conversation needs to happen in terms of really kind of digging down into all of it so it's not a political situation. It's not. I just think it's really important to recognize the work, the internal work that has to happen.
Rachel Zellars: Yeah, I appreciate that so much.
Kelly Folz: Yeah.
Rachel Zellars: Appreciate it.
Kelly Folz: Did you want to talk about some of the conversations that kind of have come up about the trucking convoy?
Rachel Zellars: Maybe later, it might come up a little later. One of the most important things that we planned for today was a modelling exercise, because we get to model what embodied leadership looks like in the context of real, real stuff within public service. Do you want to talk a little bit about that?
Kelly Folz: Yeah, I mean, we've heard from many leaders that they're looking for practical suggestions and scenarios to move towards becoming conflict curious. So, we were thinking we'd model this for our viewers today to give a sense of what this looks like in practical terms and really what opportunities embodied leadership practices do create.
So, here's the scenario. A few months ago, Rachel, you delivered a presentation and it was fabulous and we scheduled a meeting with you afterwards to debrief and so in that, we started giving you feedback. So, we'll start this scenario. So, Rachel, I wanted to talk to you about a complaint or a concern that we received on your presentation and in particular, some participants felt that it was really biased against one region because you kept using examples and scenarios. We should probably stop and look at that part.
Rachel Zellars: Yeah, I know exactly what you're talking about. I'd love to hear more about that. I will tell you, it's feedback, it's criticism even that I'm familiar with and it was really important for me as I was planning for that presentation, to think about the models that I chose. I tried to balance it out by using examples from other regions, but I really also tried to use data from that region, from really good researchers, reputable researchers, to sort of support the points I was trying to make, and as you know, I've lived and worked in that place. So, it was important for me to sort of bring my personal experience into that presentation. So, that feels important to share. Do you have suggestions for me, I guess, moving forward about ways that you think I could do a bit better or just at least give a presentation that seems a little bit more evenly balanced? What are your thoughts?
Kelly Folz: Yeah, it's so helpful to have this context because I can understand why you selected those, in terms of, I wonder if there's a way to bring balance by bringing examples from other areas of the country. Do you think you could find other examples that you feel you know very deeply as well?
Rachel Zellars: Sure. I mean, I can definitely. I am not a region discriminator. I can talk about all regions equally with respect to history, histories of settler colonialism and slavery. I'm comfortable doing that. So, I think that's a really good idea moving forward. I'll give some thought to how to incorporate, I mean, we're not on the west coast, so I feel like because we're so east coast cantered here, I tend to be more heavily focused on this region. But I will take some care in the future to incorporate more examples from the west coast, from British Columbia and the prairie region and then it would be really great if we could do a check in, maybe before the next presentation, just to get some feedback. You'll be seeing something new and so having your eyes on that presentation before I give it would be really important to me. How's that?
Kelly Folz: Yeah, that sounds perfect. Great.
Rachel Zellars: Good. Okay, let's unpack.
Kelly Folz: Sure.
Rachel Zellars: You start because we talked about this, that, this, this. We wanted to provide an example of how to give embodied leadership feedback with a white supervisor or manager to a Black person, to a Black employee. And we wanted to model what that looks like. So, what were some things that were important for you to model, Kelly?
Kelly Folz: So, I think what was really important, and you and I talked about this yesterday, is so often we want to just kind of embed comments of criticism or feedback around positive and I really wanted to demonstrate just that you and I have that trust going in. You know how much I value the work that you're doing and all that you're bringing. And so, to really just start at that point but also, I think the really important part was about listening. So, that feedback is not just me giving you feedback. It's really understanding why you framed it that way, and then working together to find a way that we can kind of hold true to that framing, but also kind of have that balance to recognize the comment that we received.
Rachel Zellars: Yeah, so beautiful.
So, this really happened and this is really along the lines of the conversation that we had when we actually had this conversation. So, I have learned from studying embodied leadership this fun saying that goes sandwiches are for eating, not for feedback, meaning that when most of us give feedback to students, to people we supervise in some capacity. My kids, we usually do something really good, something not so good, and then maybe close with something good, right? That's a sort of sandwich approach to giving feedback. And what embodiment leadership teaches us is that it's often really confusing for employees to have something good, something bad, something good. The goal of embodied leadership is to do work before that moment so that you create the conditions for which you can just say the hard thing. You can just say the hard thing because in part, your relationship, of course, is founded on trust giving feedback and appreciation is just a part of your relationship.
I think of the times that Kelly and I have sent little texts at all hours of the day, sometimes on weekends. I appreciate you so much. Thank you so much for doing this for me. This was so helpful. And one of the things that I've witnessed is how Kelly is as a leader with her team. So, it's easy to come into that circle and say, I really want to be a part of this way of communicating, of building trust, of giving appreciation. So, that's one of the things we talked about.
I guess maybe there's one other thing I want to say before we shift into some of these questions. I know you have some questions, is I used to be profoundly anxious when someone would say to me, let's debrief or I want to- let's have a meeting where I can give you some feedback, right? Tomorrow, I would respond in a way I needed today. And the reason that I was anxiety or sort of dread ridden is because I grew up through systems and families through which I learned to expect that the worst thing I had internalized in some way that I wasn't going to get good feedback, that these kind of meetings on the side were only to say the worst or hard things. And so, we were talking about the dance that we need to hold in our workspaces about, you know, it really is just clarity about the work that I have to do.
Now, I love to debrief. I'm like, let's debrief, tell me what you saw, what kind of eyes, perceptions. Who did you see on the screen? What were those people doing? What did I miss? And then when I ask for feedback in those sort of debriefs, I try to do it specifically, not tell me what you thought, but did you notice places where I could have been more engaging? Could I have been a better listener in some capacity? So, I asked for very specific things instead of leaving, like dropping this world of openness into the debrief space. So, in part, we have to learn how to debrief and see those as places where we can grow, figure out how to shed the terror, have terror anymore. Sometimes I get a little nervous, but the terror is definitely gone.
And then, of course, on the other side, leaders, people who are giving the feedback need to learn what's best for their persons. I mean, I often find myself with students or with people. I need to give feedback to saying, is this a good time for you? Maybe we have a date on the calendar, but I have learned to respect in this capacity-shrunk world that we've lived, we've been living in for the last years, that not everybody has capacity for feedback. Is this a good time for you? If not, let's find another time. But it's really a dance. What are your thoughts about that, Kelly?
Kelly Folz: Yeah, I think we need to be really clear about what kind of feedback we want, because I think it's also demonstrating that trust, it's a two-way street. So, if I just say anything different I can do, you're probably going to say no. But if I say is there something I could do differently to support you as you deliver those sessions, as you prepared, could I have supported you with better research or other pieces? But if I don't actually show a willingness to want the information, you're not going to give it to me either. And so, I think it's really, you know, you could be leading a working group and really just creating those opportunities for real honest feedback so that those don't become areas of conflict that need to be kind of talked about later.
So, I think it's really important, especially in a leadership role, to kind of be the first one to start that dance, to ask for feedback. And I think too, in the context of our conversation, as is knowing that I wasn't right in that moment, like why I might have said, we've got to cut out that example of that region. But really, if that's not the solution, the solution we worked out together was there for a very important reason and so it's about that kind of work ahead of time that I have to do as well as you, as kind of being ready to get the feedback and kind of resolve different issues.
Rachel Zellars: Yeah, that's so, so great, so vulnerable. I hope that was helpful. I hope that was helpful. We should go to some questions. What do you think?
Kelly Folz: I think so. We have a lot of questions.
Rachel Zellars: We do.
Kelly Folz: We do, yeah. So, maybe we'll start with this one. So, how do you get a resistant leader to do this self-awareness work?
Rachel Zellars: You chose the easiest question first. Oh my God, a resistant leader. Okay, so, I think it depends on where that leader is at for sure. I think it depends on where that leader is at in their leadership level. This is a question I'm going to toss back to you. Okay, let me just try one of the things that I've learned from some folks at work with folks at the top, is that there's resistance. There's resistance. And I mean, the call to action sets the tone but it doesn't provide strict guidelines. It in no way creates the sort of needle to weave consistent see-through departments through public service. So, there's a lot of variance in what people are doing, how they're responding to the call to action, as those letters, published letters have shown us.
So, my belief about that question, sorry, is that leaders have to hold other leaders accountable. It's really the job of colleagues to hold each other accountable as it is the profound job of white colleagues to be in conversation with their white colleagues about behaviours that they notice and that they need and expect to change in the workplace. So, I mean, that's one of the things that comes to mind. I mean, we can talk about maybe some accountability mechanisms that are being experimented with but I think I want to hear what you have to say to this question. What are your thoughts about leaders that are resistant?
Kelly Folz: I think it's really challenging. I've had the privilege of working for many very self-aware leaders, and some surrounded by those who are not quite so self-aware. And I think the main piece is really modelling this type of behaviour so that others start to see it and feel it. And the risk, I think we work in a risk averse environment and nobody wants to say the wrong thing. However, saying nothing is worse. And so, I think for me, it's to speak up or say something or kind of pull someone aside. It's not to call someone out, but I've talked about calling people in really just to kind of understand how they feel that way. And then bringing forward-
I mean, Rachel, you've taught me so much in terms of storytelling, kind of hearing the public servants, the stories that they've told you. I'm sure everyone on this call has heard stories of people who've experienced different forms of microaggressions or discrimination, and so it's about raising these in a careful and kind of caring way with the other leader in a way that they can start to hear the stories, see the data, and kind of read some of the commitments that we have. But I think that for me, that's the start. But it's definitely, I feel that if more people start doing it, the less self-aware leaders will be kind of among the minority. At least that's my hope.
Rachel Zellars: Maybe I appreciate what you said. Maybe I'll follow up here briefly. So, I was just jotting some notes. So, in the short presentation that I gave, I talked about all these things that are being done right now. So, we will soon have the most finely tuned, disaggregated data sets that we've ever had in the history of public service.
Many H.R. groups are experimenting with and firmly holding the line on targeted recruitment processes, implicit bias trainings and a myriad of education sort of workshops, projects, trainings have made their way through departments, and I've had the real honour of watching and then also working with the executive leadership development programs that are the most diverse, I would say, for the longevity of public service. They're very diverse. So, I want to be clear that embodied leadership is an approach to changing behaviour, because I believe for reasons that are probably beyond the scope of our time, I believe that we can do all of these things that I just named and more. We can build very specific accountability mechanisms into PMAs that have punishment, accountability, you name it, built into them, and I don't have faith that those things alone will change behaviour.
Now, there are employees, racialized employees who've challenged me on that and would say, doesn't matter, I don't care if people, if my boss or my manager likes me, I don't care if certain kinds of behaviour or empathy shifts in this human being. All I need to see is results. But my response is always the same. So, if we do all of these other things that I enumerated, which we have to do, I believe we have to do well, I have not seen any institution or system go through real system or culture change that doesn't address other side of the coin, which is the expectations, disappointment, the issue of empathy, embodied leadership.
And at the end of the day, I think that we are, you all are undertaking a grand experiment that really entails putting all of the tools on the table to move the needle in a direction it's never, ever been moved before. That's really important for me to say. I mean, lots of stuff was done for women, for veterans, for French Quebeckers, all white, and now we are asking public service to move the needle in a very, very specific way for Black people, explicitly for Indigenous and racialized people. But the call to action came as a result of execution of a black man. It is also very much for Black employees. So, that being said, we need these enumerated material things to be done for Black public servants, for racialized public servants.
And it is also my belief that to get people to move, to care, to change, something else is needed. Our teacher, Robert Livingston, starts his book with a story whereby he walks into a relationship with a very resistant leader who's a kind of disinterested black guy talking to an older white corporate guy who's like, I don't care about this EBI stuff, and talks about what it took to transform that relationship that he still holds to this day. So, I know not everyone agrees with this, but I think that we are in a moment that demands putting all the tools on the table. And I don't know that performative and accountability and punitive mechanisms alone can create the kind of system and culture change that is being asked of public service right now.
Kelly Folz: Right. And so, this question actually follows really well from that. So, that comment, even as a racialized individual, I find it difficult to recognize when I'm witnessing poor behaviour or racism. How does one recognize and call out this kind of behaviour, particularly in a culture where there are large power differentials with our leaders?
Rachel Zellars: I feel like I need to look at that question. Kelly, it's in our chat, huh?
Kelly Folz: Number six? I think it's that kind of- just maybe give some examples. You kind of mentioned how in those moments, do we call people in or recognize, you and I've had a number of conversations, even if you just can't deal with it in that moment, how to kind of have a caring conversation?
Rachel Zellars: Yeah, that's really good. So, the question is, even as a racialized employee, I have a hard time recognizing poor behaviour. How do I do that, particularly in the context of power differentials?
So, I hear two things going on there. The first thing that comes to mind is I resisted implicit bias for about 20 years, and then I lived in Quebec, raising children for 16 years and realized that I could not take my American centric discourse around race cross-linguistically and map it into the history of Quebec. I needed a different language set in a different sort of logic system to talk about race with people who had a lot of power over my life and my children's lives. And so, implicit bias became that tool.
And there were two really profound moments that happened for me early on in my study of implicit bias. I did this this training program at McGill in 2014, and I just was running with interest and curiosity after that. The first thing that happened is that I learned that the amygdala, which is the part of the human brain that activates and that sort of fight or flight tendency when we sense fear, does when we see or experience the presence of Black bodies. And I remember sitting in the library and breaking down in tears that day at the thought that a part of the brain of a person, a white person or other people could be activated and sense fear when in the presence of my Black son, like it just broke me down.
But the other thing that I learned that is really profound and has shaped me is that implicit bias because of the nature of these big systems we live under, settler colonialism, white supremacy, transphobia, homophobia, patriarchy, all of those systems live inside of us too. So, the implicit association test is a simulated module created by Harvard that people sit down to a computer and they test their implicit bias. Well, what happens is that Black people who sit down at the computer and test their preference for whiteness under an implicit bias test regarding race, also test as though they are white. Black people in short, test having a preference for whiteness, test in ways that expose their own internalized anti-blackness.
So, I mean, for me, the starting point into this question is that we live under systems that live inside of us, and even though we live in a racist world, that racism doesn't embed itself, those stereotype don't embed themselves just inside of white bodies. They live inside of us too. So, learning how to see racial discrimination, harm, microaggressions, might be the work that one needs to do in light of what we know about the world, about hegemony, about how implicit bias works. I guess that's the sort of starting point. But then power differentials.
This is such a good question, right, Kelly? Because I'm probably being too naive here. But what I will say is that I have seen, at least with some leaders, a genuine openness that I am told and have to presume didn't exist three, four, five, ten years ago. I see an opportunity, the employee networks that I've been privy to learn from and with be closed spaces that I've had the opportunity to learn from. Racialized employees have taught me that there's this dynamic right now whereby voices are not only being gathered but voices are being heard. And in a way, that means something. Now, I don't know what that will mean in four or five years. I'm not saying that, but I guess what I'm saying, if there's ever a time to speak to power, it is now. If there's ever a time to sort of bond yourself to your employee network that represents who you are, whether it's BEN REN, FBEN or the myriad of other employee networks regarding diversity, now's the time to be a part of that, work those groups and amplify the voice that needs to be amplified.
So those are just those are just some thoughts. What do you think, Kelly?
Kelly Folz: There's so much there and I think, really, in the power conversation, that power dynamic is really where it gets difficult because particularly when it's about microaggression and not about, say, the work, you don't want that to affect kind of the end of year discussion or other things. And so, how do you deal in those moments that kind of removes those power differentials? And I think, again, it's everything that you talked about in terms of kind of opening the door. So, kind of the person in the power position to kind of be vulnerable and to engage in the conversations is really, really important.
And I mean, I also often kind of reflect after and moments, like I should have said something and it's me trying to understand in those moments, okay, next time, this is what I need to say, because I think if you stop for all, people will remember how they felt and then later realize it's your body catching up with your mind.
Rachel Zellars: Beautiful. And just what you said is often the response that I give to people who sort of ask that question or express that sentiment, I wish I would have spoken up. And my response is always, well, next time you can because you were able to catch yourself, right? You were able to catch your condition tendency. Why didn't I respond in that moment, what was happening with me? And you can make a different choice next time. Look, those opportunities are not going to go away any time soon.
Kelly Folz: So, I think we probably have time for one more question. This is their meaty question. So, how do you notice and respond, but then let it go. So, what techniques do you have? So, this comment came from someone who said that they tend to absorb everything, including emotions, and then hold onto it, which ends up burning them out and impacts the rest of their life.
Rachel Zellars: That's so great. So, how do you say what you need to say, the hard thing, the confrontational thing, and then let it go so you don't hold on to it and let it fester? God, that's such a beautiful question. I absolutely believe that is the work of embodied leadership. I hope everyone will be shared these slides because there are some resources that I very intentionally embedded into the presentation at the end. There are some amazing YouTube talks, very funny YouTube talks about how to see conflict as generative, and they work through real-life scenarios. One is really tender because it's a dad and his daughter and then there's some just really beautiful books. They're short pieces because not everybody has time to read a book, and then there are some meatier resources there.
I think it is just part of the work. I will say this, and this is a hard question. You have to say the thing, you have to say the thing, you have to say the thing. I have three kids. One did a really terrible job on Mother's Day. I was telling Kelly this, terrible, terrible. And on Monday morning, I said to this child, I love you so much. I take such good care of you, even when you're grumpy and screaming and you come in the door at the end of the day, I always leave you a nice snack on the counter, even if you're like, grrr. I do those things. That's what love looks like. And this child is a teenager now, young teenager. I say, you're old enough to really think about how you can give love back like that, even when you're not at your best. And I have to tell you, I'm disappointed that you didn't handwrite me a note that says, I love you, mom, for Mother's Day. I'm disappointed. I'm disappointed.
And it was really easy to let that go. It would have been not saying the thing that would have driven me crazy and maybe come out in really passive aggressive ways because I can do that. And I want us to be really aware of the way that we do those things interpersonally when we don't say the thing. What's the cost of not saying the thing? Sometimes there's a cost to saying the thing too.
I will be quick. I was interviewing this leader once and she had to say the most difficult thing to her boss who was like a big, big, big leader with a big L, and I was like, did you say the thing? And she was like, I said the thing. I was like, whoa, what was the cost of that thing? And she said, I was unpopular with this boss for a while because it made my boss look bad. I wasn't going to lie. I was like, whoa, this is like, this is crazy that you actually did that, and she said, but I could sleep that night. I could look myself in the mirror. I could do what was authentic to me and be totally at peace. So, after I said that hard thing, I went home and I slept good that night. So, I think there are just so many moments like that, that we just have to weigh the thing.
And for me, with that, with my kid, it was really like, I have that instinct in me to be passive aggressive. I do have that thing and my training around embodied leadership has taught me how to catch that thing, to catch that place. And plus, I'm a mom. Should I say I have to go through all this stuff. This is a little person. I'm a big person. I have power over, you know, should I tell this person how I feel? Of course, you should tell this person how you feel. That's the point. That's the point. But I think learning not to expect grandiose things. I still didn't get the card. That's the point of saying the thing. I hope that resonates, yeah.
Kelly Folz: It does. And I think it's showing that you're investing in them back in terms of like working together.
And the other thing, you and I have such amazing conversations and we talk about this, and so for the person who put in that comment, having that group of people that you can be totally vulnerable and real with to be able to talk about how these things feel, whether it's a group of leaders or your friends or your colleagues, just to have those support networks where you can talk it out and feel it, and then maybe that will help let it go, but kind of like what you said, Rachel, it's kind of like you said it. You can sleep at night, but also knowing that you've got someone that you can talk to about how it felt is, I have found super profound over, since we've started working together.
I'm just mindful of the time and I know that we never have enough time for questions before we close. Rachel, I just wanted to know if you had any anything, any closing remarks.
Rachel Zellars: I always feel like we need more time. And so, I hope that if this is useful and after this event, you find it is useful, I hope we can do this again, because I know these opportunities are really, really rare. I think they're rare. Maybe I'm wrong, but just a lot of gratitude to be here with you as an exceptional leader and someone who's taught me so much and been profoundly patient with me. So, thank you.
Kelly Folz: Thank you.
So, everyone, this concludes today's events. So, we'll work to share the slides that Rachel presented with the evaluation form. Your feedback is super important. I encourage you all to complete the form that you will receive in the next few days and that we can use that to build other events. On behalf of the school. I'd like to thank you for being part of today's discussion.
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Kelly Folz: I'd like to thank Rachel for joining us today and having this important dialogue as we work to do this in the public service. And I hope that everyone enjoyed this as much as I did. I encourage you all to visit our website to keep up to date on future events, other opportunities that Rachel will be presenting, including one on May 12th on combatting unconscious bias. And also to mention that next month, as part of the leadership series, you can join us with an international expert on the integration of emotional intelligence as he unpacks and tells it, so emotional intelligence toolkit for leaders at all levels. Sorry, his name is David Cory.
Kelly Folz: This concludes our event for today. Thank you again, thank you everyone, and have a good day!
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