At the start of this year, I was happy with my business; my coaching, executive coaching and female coaching programmes were going well.
I had just been approached to work on a very exciting programme for ‘BAME’ colleagues in a large organisation. It has always been on my radar to support the personal development of executives and leaders so they will feel equipped to use their voices in an authentic way to make a difference in their workplaces and in the world, whilst living uncompromisingly joyful lives.
Working with culturally and ethnically diverse leaders is an important, interesting and enjoyable part of this work. This particular programme felt like steering my boat down a different tributary of the same river, and I was really looking forward to having a paddle to see how it went.
Then Covid hit, and along with it came a shift in society I don’t think anyone could ever have envisaged.
Suddenly the voices of black and brown people around the world were being amplified. And, finally, it felt like the world was listening. Black square, BLM statements and D&I initiatives blew up.
I have always been discerning about which entrepreneurs I work with, making sure they understand and are on board with equity in their work and in the world. I have always applied my coaching expertise to help people find and use their voice.
And now, with the changes we are seeing in society, I am being drawn to use my own voice, my expertise and my experiences in a bigger way. I see new opportunities for my own leadership to emerge, even more personally, even more authentically.
As a black British woman who worked in the corporate world for much of my early career, I know what it feels like to be the only black face in the room. I know how it feels to be on the receiving end of a micro aggression. I know how it feels to be alone, sad and angry without anyone to share in that moment. And that feeling of powerlessness as you sit alone in that space.
Black people in corporate spaces still carry the weight of responding and in some cases educating on behalf of a larger group. More than ever, we’re under a microscope when sometimes we’d rather just get on with the job. Those who decide to put some energy to the fight are being derailed from doing their job; the skill and expertise they worked hard to acquire and their attention to opportunities to advance their career are forced to take back seats as they fight inequality. And the irony is that their white counterparts enjoy yet another advantage – they get to carry on learning, developing and advancing, without the distraction of this critical fight.
Then there are the questions that black people in prominent positions face about whether they got there because of ‘positive discrimination’ and diversity quotas. This is insulting and degrading.
Before ‘all of this’ I was doing work with black and minority ethnic leaders already, in large organisations, with coaching programmes and 1-to-1 coaching. Now the demand for this has grown. This is a good thing, as long as the intention is to address real issues that exist, and entrench equitable opportunities for black and minority ethnic colleagues to emerge as leaders rather than using coaching programmes as a box-ticking exercise.
The organisations that are committed to change have listened. This listening goes beyond performative statements and manifests itself in strong coaching and development programmes. They recognise how black and minority ethnic staff have been disadvantaged and they show a real willingness to support change.
For me, it’s heartening to see and hear the experiences of those who, for a long time, have felt unseen and unheard. To SEE and HEAR is life-affirming; it acknowledges what has gone before, and it provides the tools to create a new way of leading.
It is also affirming to support organisations in creating work environments that are inclusive, as it is proven that inclusive spaces are more creative, productive and profitable.
So this year, my work has deepened… evolved… become ‘more’ of what I have always done.
I am still guided by my overarching purpose to help people find their voice to do work that matters whilst living a life they love. This is still true for my entrepreneurs, executives and corporate leaders.
And, as part of a team of coaches providing a safe space for black and minority ethnic executives and leaders to explore their career development and develop as leaders in a strong and authentic way. I am drawing even more personally on my own experiences and embracing the opportunity to develop my own new way of being and showing up.
We all have a difference we can make with our work, and for those that we lead. It is a joy to identify that difference so you can really make it count. I am here to help you do that, with a willing ear, challenging heart and lived wisdom.
If you’re looking for a safe space for self-development, I’m here for you. Get in touch.