DEALING WITH FATIGUE

How are you?

Yeah, how are you? 

How am I? Well, to be honest with you. I am tired. Yeah, I am tired. It’s been 15 plus months that I have been in semi or full lockdown conditions and I am just tired. 

  • I’m tired of being positive. 
  • I’m tired of being upbeat. 
  • I’m tired of all the million and one the recommendations of what I can do to get ahead and be ahead in this pandemic. 
  • I am tired of social distancing. 
  • I am tired of hearing people complain. 
  • I am tired of the debates around the vaccine.
  • I’m tired of the conspiracy theories. 
  • I’m just tired. 

What about you? 

I’m not being extra. I am admitting that I am fatigued. I am not talking about normal fatigue that happens after physical or mental exertion or to some of us who have debilitating illnesses. I am not talking about a general feeling of lethargy, exhaustion or low levels of energy.

I am talking about two types of fatigue – acute fatigue and chronic fatigue.

Acute fatigue is a temporary tiredness, such as fatigue during or after exercise and lack of sleep, that happens on a normal basis. About forty five percent of healthy individuals occasionally report feeling acute fatigue. 

Chronic fatigue is long-term fatigue and tiredness, that occurs for a period of six months. Normally about 11 percent of individuals in the general population experience chronic fatigue. 

As I said before, it’s been 15 plus months that we’re in this pandemic situation.  That’s longer than six months, which means that a lot of us are probably suffering from chronic fatigue and we are not aware. 

Studies show being fatigued is heightened by the presence of three psychological factors

  • Depression, which is severe and prolonged feelings of sadness, dejection and hopelessness. 
  • Anxiety and stress. When we are stressed, our body is in overdrive and constantly produces adrenaline. This in turn exhausts our body and makes us fatigued. 
  • Grief – when we lose loved ones and are dealing with the shock, the sadness, the depression, the despair and the loneliness. 

Some of us are depressed.

Some of us have different levels of anxiety and stress. 

And by now, most of us could put a face to a name of those who have passed with covid-19. 

If you don’t feel buoyant, if you’re not excited about life, if you are lethargic and you don’t want to exercise, believe you me, I understand. Maybe you are like me. We’re suffering from chronic fatigue. 

What does it chronic fatigue look like?  Here are some symptoms  

  • Blurred vision
  • Chronic tiredness or sleepiness, 
  • Concentration is low – maybe you’ve been looking at that screen of the computer for the longest while and can’t get anything done. Maybe you find yourself gazing at the television and not really looking at a show
  • Decline in your physical capacity after you exercise.
  • Dizziness,
  • Headaches,
  • Higher levels of inaccuracy, 
  • Hallucinations
  • Impaired decision-making,
  • Impaired judgment, 
  • Inability to complete tasks, 
  • Inability to pay attention to what’s at hand 
  • Lack of enthusiasm, 
  • Loss of appetite. 
  • Low motivation. 
  • Mental or physical capacity is depleted
  • Moodiness and high irritability 
  • Muscle weakness, 
  • Poor concentration, 
  • Short term memory problems, 
  • Slow reaction time,
  • Sore or aching muscles,

If you have more than one of these symptoms, check yourself. You may be fatigued. 

Today I can say that I am fatigued I am tired. It’s been 15 plus months and we’re in a lockdown situation, a semi lockdown, and it’s affecting me. I realize that I’m suffering from chronic fatigue..

I’m sharing some tips to deal with fatigue. I have tried some of them and some of them work sometimes and some of them don’t work at other times. I keep playing with them to see what can keep me from feeling less fatigued or make the effects of being fatigued less impactful. See what works for you.

  1. Ask for help – This is not a time to be Superman or Superwoman. This is a time when we need each other. So please ask for help. 
  2. Chat with co-workers, family and friends – Check in with everyone because we can all potentially suffer from fatigue, though some of us may not be able to name it.
  3. Chat with team members Those of you in leadership positions and if you are a supervisor or manager, encourage these discussions with your team members.  Talk about your own fatigue so that you can give team members permission to talk about theirs.
  4. Drink lots of water. Recommendations are that men drink 3.7 liters of water a day and women 2.7 liters a day. You can flavor the water with fruit or vegetables to make it more exciting.
  5. Eat differently – Eat more of foods that are high in protein and less of foods that are high in carbohydrates. Carbohydrates can add to the feelings of lethargy.
  6. Exercise – One of the symptoms of fatigue is that you don’t want to exercise. You need to push through and get some exercise. You don’t have to do it all at once. You could do five minutes throughout the day.  For example I want to do fifteen push-ups today, – 5 in the morning, 5 at lunchtime, and 5 before you go to bed. Get that blood pumping. 
  7. Limit alcohol consumption.  Most of us use alcohol to relax and unwind at the end of the day. While alcohol can be used as a sedative and a sleep aid, studies show that for some people, alcohol increases wakefulness, especially in the second half of the sleep night. Each of us needs to look at our pattern and ask ”Is alcohol helping me to sleep at night or is it helping me fall asleep only to get up later on in the night?”
  8. Reduce your stress levels – Indulge in your hobbies. I’m reading and listening to relaxing music and meditations on YouTube, especially at night when I am sleepless.  Video chat with friends. Take lovely long showers or baths. 
  9. Take a walk in nature.  Some of us are in lockdown and can’t do this. If you live on a compound, walk around the compound. If you live in an apartment, find a little space in your apartment. If you have a porch, try and go outside. 
  10. Take frequent breaks – Those of you who work and have deadlines take frequent breaks and don’t sit at your desk for extended periods.
  11. Take a mental health day / hour. – Take a mental health day if you can. If you can’t then each day build in some mental health time that you spend alone taking care of yourself. You listen to music or pursue a hobby. You can take this time as you commute. In this time turn off all of the pressures of the world
  12. Watch out for addictions – Around the world there has been a spike in addictions, both alcohol and other drugs. 

That’s all I wanted to share with you today. We have been under these lockdown/ semi lockdown conditions for a while. At times, we have been unable to go outside and take our walks. We have been unable to socialize.

Today is a particularly tough day for me because I feel like I’m at the end of my wits. 

Now having shared with you I feel a lot better. I can breathe. maybe you can share how you feel with someone too.

I realize that I needed to write this.

I needed to admit that I was not doing well and that I am suffering the impacts of chronic fatigue. 

I hope this also really helps you.

DEALING WITH LONELINESS

The month of May is the month of mental health awareness. And even though it is over, I need to ask you, “How are you doing? 

I’m doing OK. I have moments of buoyancy and then moments of flatness. I guess it’s really because I am starting to know people in my circle who have

  1. Contracted the Covid – 19 disease or 
  2. Have been lost to this disease. 

We have spent a lot of time focusing on adults. Some of us are anxious, with high stress levels. Some of us, unfortunately, have lost our jobs, and we’re not too sure what the employment scenario will look like in a few months. Some of us have had reduced incomes since 2020.  

Financially and emotionally we’re taking a hit. 

While that is relevant I am wondering what it’d be like if we spent some time looking at the effects of the pandemic on children and teenagers.

Think about when you were a teenager. Yeah, 20 years ago, 30 years ago, 10 years ago when you were a teenager. What was life like for you? Where did you spend your free time? I’m sure that most of us, when we were teenagers, used to hang out with our friends, go to the mall, go to the movies, pile ourselves in somebody’s parents’ car and go to some event. 

Those of you who are willing, I invite you to even go further back to when you were a child. What was school like for you? I was never a fan of school, I liked recess and I loved lunchtime and of course, after school to be with my friends for a while before I went home. 

When I think about children and teenagers in this time, I shudder.

When I was a child/ teenager I tuned into my mother’s emotions. Sometimes I would actually feel guilty when I irrationally concluded that I was the cause of her emotional pain.

I often became a container for my mother’s emotions, even though she nor I was aware that I was doing this. Looking back, I understand that this was my process as a kid.

So I’m wondering about the teenagers and the children, who like me, may be taking responsibility for their parents’ emotions.

What burdens are they carrying and how are they feeling?

We talk about parents who have to work from home while their children are attending on-line school and how challenging that is for parent. What about the children?

Adolescents and children have not been doing what they naturally should be doing at this age and stage of their development. 

Teenagers tend to get together in groups and now they can’t. Children love to hug and touch each other and now they can’t.

If you notice that the teenagers/ children in your household are acting out, or sleeping a lot, or lethargic or disinterested, or have lost interest in online school or are having flare ups, or throwing tantrums, or have regressed in development ( finger sucking or bed wetting) then view this as evidence that they are also being affected by the pandemic. 

I’m calling on all adults, who have teenagers or children in our lives to spare a moment for them and think about what they must be going through in this situation. 

Yes, they will bounce back. Yes, kids are resilient. And right now in the here and now, they may be suffering.

The invitation is for you to check in with those young people in your life, and ask them what is going on.

Give them space to talk to you, give them space to express their emotions. Encourage them to have video chats with their friends. Encourage them to reach out to their family members via video calls. You can arrange an online games night for them and their friends.  

I encourage you to spare a few moments and think about how difficult it must be for them. It’s difficult for us as adults. So imagine what it must be like for them.

This brings me to the topic on hand – loneliness.  Some of us are being adversely affected by being lonely.

There is a difference between being isolated and being lonely.

People who live or work alone, people who have to quarantine are isolated from their friends and family  This is different from people who experience perceived isolated

Perceived isolated can happen when we are in a crowd.  

I’ve been there, when I was with a group of people, not having fun. As my mind drifted I realized that I was not connected to anybody in the circle, so I left and went home. 

It could happen in a relationship, though everything looks great on the outside one partner is disconnected from the other and feels quite alone in that situation. Sometimes it happens on the job – we have no connection to any of our team members and if we didn’t work with them we would not speak to any of them

We have all been in situations where we have experienced this perceived isolation. We were disconnected, and felt part from the people in our social network.

Perceived isolation is the expression of loneliness – a state of mind in which we feel apart from other people.

Research shows that teenagers and older people, are more severely impacted by this feeling of perceived isolation, i.e. loneliness. (Hence the reason I asked you to check in on your teenagers and to keep checking on them.)

Loneliness can lead to a downward spiral. We have been isolated and therefore we get a feeling that no one wants to be around us.

Whenever I spend long periods of time by myself, guess what? I don’t want to go out. I don’t want to see anybody. The more I stay home is the more that I want to be at home. That’s because I begin to disconnect with others and I don’t want to connect. 

The paradox is that even though we don’t want to connect there is a  part of us that yearns to connect which makes us internally conflicted and confused.

Unfortunately, the first person who reaches out to connect with the lonely one gets the brunt of his/her confusion and it is an awkward interaction.

The lonely has lost the practice of connecting. The lonely has lost the practice of having the social interaction and therefore is uncomfortable.

The person who reaches out to the lonely, also leaves the interaction feeling just as uncomfortable. And guess what? That person does not was want to interact with the lonely again. What is the result? The lonely is left in his/her our loneliness.

Loneliness leads to antisocial behavior because we are out of practice of connecting with others.

There are physical effects and impacts of loneliness. For those of us who like to take a little drink in the evening, ask yourself if you are drinking more or less than you usually do or more or less frequently, than you normally do.

Those of us who may have an addiction, this is a time where past and, present addictions may flare up.

Research has shown that people who live lonely lives, are more prone to cardiovascular disease and strokes. They also are at risk of a shortened lifespan . Lonely people have increased stress levels, high levels of anxiety, and poor sleeping habits.  They may be unable to sleep or have intermittent awakenings during the night.

Loneliness can also lead to depression and in extreme cases, levels of suicide. 

More than half of adults have reported that during the pandemic there has been a negative impact on their mental health and loneliness is on the rise. 

What do we do if we’re feeling lonely whether or now we are living alone? 

We need to reach out. 

We need to practice connecting with people. 

We need to talk to each other. 

We need to make the calls. 

We need to do online games. 

We need to stay connected. 

We need to deliberately speak to the teenagers who are fading away, and to our children who have lost their voice. 

Those of us who are not lonely we need to check in with others, we need to be deliberate in speaking to them.

We all need to listen effectively. We need to listen without judgment. We need to listen in a way that allows the lonely person, the teenager, the child, to speak for 80 % of the conversation. 

We need to become containers for each other. Imagine yourself as a container and allow that child, that teenager, that lonely person to pour him/herself into you.

I want to encourage everyone to a speak to a counselor, find a therapist, find someone a friend or  someone  who you can trust and keep having conversations with them about the way that you feel. 

If you can’t speak to anyone, then in your Fortress of Solitude, you can write. Write down how you feel. It doesn’t have to be perfect. It doesn’t have to be a poem. 

I’m really concerned about myself.  I make an effort to reach out to my family, and connect with my friends on a daily basis. It’s part of my routine and I’m encouraging you to do the same.

Do not sit alone. You may live alone, you may have to isolate, you may have to self quarantine. You don’t have to enter the lonely state of mind. 

You can reach out to anyone and yes, you can reach out to me – info@maxineattong.com or on facebook or Linked in

My intention  is to fuel your leadership speak so that together we can bring real change to the systems that we live, work and play with.

3 Tips to move to Acceptance

How are you? Now that we are back to near lockdown conditions in Trinidad and Tobago and we are seeing a surge of Covid – 19 cases and unfortunately an increase in the number of deaths, I need to ask, “How are you?

I reflect on how felt in 2020.  

I was nervous, I couldn’t sleep and I couldn’t think.,  I was annoyed Every time someone said to me “Oh I attended a webinar “or “I am learning this and that,” I thought how annoying. 

 I was restless I felt very confined. Days turned into night in a blur and I was not doing well.

This time in 2021 I am much better with the lock down situation even though the days are still a blur. 

 I have been through 2020. I know what to expect and I have learned a few things. 

I have learned to be gentle with myself this time 

I am comfortable with this lock down. I know that there is nothing that I can do to change it and all is well in my world.

Its is a decision that I made, I survived 2021.  Back then the idea of curtailed movement, masking and constant hand washing were very, very strange .  Now my muscle memory has kicked in because I have done this before.

My body and my brain have registered this event as something familiar.  I no longer fear it, because it is no longer new. 

Yes it still is strange and in some ways very familiar. 

I also notice that I am more hopeful than I was last year.

I have no inkling to return to the normalcy of pre-covid.  I remain excited about the future knowing that after the pandemic some things will have changed forever.

I accept that this is where I am. I would admit that at times, I watch myself to see if this is real or  if I am pretending.

I know that some of you are not on the same page as I am and that’s ok. 

In 2020, I was certainly not where a lot of my peers were.  I ended 2020  really disliking the word pivot.  

All around me people were saying pivot and I was like really.

Instead of pivoting , I stood still. 

What most people don’t understand is that before we can  pivot we need to be still.

Think of netballers or basket ball players.

When they get the ball they don’t move. One foot remains planted on the ground even as lift the other and turn. We need to be still before we can pivot .

You got to have a foot on the ground before you can pivot.  

If you are staying still good for you, then maybe you are getting ready to oivot.  You can’t move and pivot.

I’m sharing this to say to you that it’s perfectly ok if you are anxious and worried.  I get that. 

It’s not easy for any of us.

A lock down affects all of us. 

Some of us are still attending get togethers. Some of us are still having people over and some of us are pretending that things are as they were before the pandemic hit.

If you’re pretending that your life doesn’t have to change and that you can go ahead doing as you were before the pandemic, then you are resisting change.

Some of us are keeping busy because we don’t want to stop and deal with the negative emptions that we may be feeling.  And there are a lot.  There is the depression, the frustration, the despair, the hopelessness a, the sadness and .the fear It a lot 

This is a difficult situation.  It can take an emotional toll on you and we can’t run from the feelings 

Think of it this way when we run away from a problem we are also moving away from the solution.  

We have to go through the difficult patch to emerge on the other side. Avoidance does not work

We have to accept that this situation is out of our control and look for ways to enrich our lives even as the pandemic rages.

We are all in pain and we don’t have to suffer because of it.

Pain is a natural and inevitable condition for humans, and we can choose whether or not we will suffer.

I an inviting you to Acceptance. I am inviting you to make an active choice to allow unpleasant experiences to exist, without trying to deny or change them.

Acceptance is a method of encouraging action that will lead to positive results.

I am inviting you to sit with the unpleasant feelings, to be present with them and accept them.  Let the sadness wash over you, you can take it. Cry if you need to.  Feel the anger swell up in you and punch a pillow or yell into it.  You can take it, Shake if you must, run if you must just feel it.

Believe it or not when you allow yourself to feel the feelings you will begin to be more comfortable with the feelings. Now that you have felt the feelings you can move beyond them by trying these three tips 

1. Reframe

We can’t always change what we experience, but we can change how we think about these experiences. We can choose new ways of viewing the same situation. I like to make the reframe a game and wonder how can I look for what’s good or neutral about the situation.  I say to myself, “I love to be out and about and I like breathing more.

Instead of saying “I feel confined staying at home doing the same things day in and day out,” I admit  that I am having a difficult time staying in one place. And I say to myself that it will soon be over. 

2. Trust the process 

The more we fight against the restrictions they harder the disease will seem to rage and the more that we will feel hopeless and overwhelmed. None of us has the power to change the regulations nor can we change the fact that we are in the middle of a worldwide pandemic. Look around the world, there are lockdowns every time there is a surge in cases.

When we accept a situation and let go of our need to control we will feel like a weight has been lifted off our shoulders.

We have to embrace and make friends with the situation.  We can move from feeling stuck and trapped into a place of recognizing “what is” and what can be done about it. 

3. Choosing Purposeful Action 

What actions can you choose to move forward in a positive, productive direction? 

We have to create the positive experience for ourselves. No one is going to do this for us.  What is your daily routine? Does it contribute to building a positive experience?

I journal how I feel most days.

Speaking to a mental health professional or a therapist or a counselor can also assist you to deal with your feelings.

You can also chat with friends who understand.

With these 3 tips I really want to support you to get through this difficult time.  It’s not easy and it’s not impossible to get through this.

It may sound silly but we can decide to accept the we are in a lockdown situation.  We are not in a unique position this is happening all around the world, and my hope is that you get through it.

Which of the three tips can you apply in your life?

My intention is to fuel you leadership spark so that together we can change the systems that we live work and play within.

Women are missing at the Board Level – Choose to Challenge

We have a problem. Over 80 – 100 millions young women are missing globally every year. 

How does this relate to leadership? 

Whatever is happening in the larger system shows up in the smaller systems. Whatever’s happening in the wider society, it is happening in our workplaces. 

Women are missing and dying in the wider society and they are missing and are dying at workplaces. 

What do I mean by that?

We can look at a registration in the University of the West Indies. In 2017 women comprised 68 percent of enrolment across the Caribbean. Yet when we look at the highest ranks at the workplace, it doesn’t seem as if women exist. In fact, they are missing. 

A 2018 Deloitte study showed that only 14% of board seats in the Caribbean were occupied by women. That same study showed that only 1.7% of board chairpersons were women.  Globally 17% of board seats are occupied by women and 5% of board chairs are occupied by women.   

We are missing. 

We are dying. 

We have a problem. 

Our women are missing at the board and executive levels, even though we occupy most of the managerial and supervisory positions in organizations, 

it’s a huge issue for me and it is a huge issue for all of us.

Men and women are unaware of the gravity of the situation. 

I was facilitating a strategic planning session with an executive team and the members of that team proudly stated that in that company there was no problem with female leaders. The executives boasted that more than 50 percent of their managers were, female. I invited the executive team to look around the table and as they did, they realized that of the 20 executives around the table, only three were female. That is, 15 percent of the executive team will female. 

  • How do we treat women in our organization? 
  • How is it that we are good enough to be managers and we’re not good enough to get into the boardroom?

Women go missing when we enter organizations and we have horrible experiences. Almost every woman I know has a tale of an unwanted or uninvited sexual advance, or heard an unnecessary comment about their physical attributes whether or not the comment was directed towards her. Some tell stories of men brushing past them, and one woman told me her superior locked the door behind them and proceeded to physically attack her.

Women go missing, when we take maternity leave. Some organizations go so far as to police the amount of children that women can have over a stated period of time. It wasn’t too long ago that local banks, stipulated that women can’t have more than two children and five years.

Women lose their place when they choose to actively participate in their children’s lives, when they choose to attend school functions or when they choose to not work overtime. They are not given promotions and they are not given the sexy projects.

Then we wonder why the brilliant young women who walk into our organizations don’t shine. 

They don’t shine because they don’t feel safe. 

They don’t shine because they are afraid to be seen and they do not want to be heard.

They don’t shine because they want to stay invisible 

They don’t shine because they want to stay in their lane 

They don’t shine because it’s really scary to step out. 

How do we change this? 

I want you to think about it 

I want you to think about it in your organization and think about the reasons why these women are missing. 

Women die many small deaths when we suffer several small indignities that add up at the workplace. 

When we are subjected to mansplaining – when men take their time to explain to us in condescending tones to tell us exactly what we know. This makes us feel terribly small and we slowly die.

We are killed in offices when we do not get credit for our work. I’ve sat around the executive table and pitched an idea, that no one heard. Then a man repeats my same idea and he gets credit for it. 

Of course we die when we are harassed. 

What remedies are there at your workplace to make sure that this brilliant woman who walk through our doors does not go missing or die slow deaths?

It sounds really dramatic and it’s not. 

I will ask you female readers, have you died any small deaths at the hands of your male colleagues?

Male readers, have you ever been the reason why a young woman in an office goes missing? 

What are the remedies for this?

We don’t have to look for as a country for solutions.

India, Israel, Pakistan –  have mandated into law that there must be one female board member for publicly listed companies.

Australia and Norway mandate that females must constitute 30 percent of boards.. Around the world, governments have mandated quotas for female representation on both state/ public boards and companies that are listed on the stock exchange. 

What would it be like if all governments mandated female quotas for boards? 

I think it will send a strong message about female equity. 

It will send a strong message that there is no glass ceiling 

This will make sure that a lot of women are not missing, that they are seen and heard. 

There is a call for harassment policies to be put in place in organizations and for these to be enforced that women are not penalized for blowing the whistle.

Women be each other’s keeper. Don’t turn a blind eye when you know someone is being harassed at the workplace. If you see it happening, blow the whistle, speak up, speak to the person who is being harassed and create safety for other women. 

Women. When it happens to you, speak up. You are probably not the only person to whom it is happening.

Men, I know that they are those of you who support women, you exist. Then you need to act. You need to stand up. You need to say, hey, she said that when ideas are stolen, You need to ensure that your female colleagues get the credit for what they have done. 

Women, those of you who are on boards, throw down the ladder to others when there is a board position open, recommend another woman, share your networks, share your opportunities and help young woman enter the space. 

In organizations we learned from covid-19.

We can allow mothers to work from home, especially those with young children or we can implement flexible hours.

We women are smart, we are intelligent, we want to work. So stop putting limits on us. That’s my show for today. Let us stand up, raise our hands, to raise our voices and choose to challenge.

I invite you the annual Gestalt Leadership Conference, which takes place on April 29th, 2021. It is a virtual event. The theme is Leading with Equity. Learn more and register at maxineattong.com

5 Tips to Lead with the Use of Self

Today I am reflecting that leaders can lead using ourselves and that leading from whom we are is possible the most powerful leadership tool that we have and possibly the only one that we will ever need. 

When I think about the self, I’m thinking about the self as the physical, spiritual and emotional being. Leaders can integrate those three experiences to lead our teams effectively.

Yes, it sounds a little strange, but walk with me and hear me out. 

 I refer to myself as the CEO of this entity called Maxine Attong. Whatever I’m doing, I am first leading this entity and then leading others. 

When I think about the self, I think about two aspects of self. 1) personality and 2) self belief

My offer is not a psychological self. I will leave that for the social scientists.

‘m going to explain how these two aspects can impact upon our leadership. I’m also going to share some tips of how to engage this idea of self to effectively lead.

PERSONALITY

Personality is our way of thinking, how we are feeling and behaving. This includes our moods, our patterns of thoughts, our attitudes and behaviors.

What is your personality?
Does your personality change according to where you show up

Most of us belong to different groups, social groups, and professional groups. If we trace our interactions in those different groups and how we navigate each we will realize that we probably show up differently in each group.

We show up in professional settings differently from how we show up with our very close friend groups or how we show up with our football team. The language that we use, the emotions that we show and the attitudes that we display are different. 

A lot of my coaching clients share that they wear a mask when they get to work

They put on their professional mask and their persona changes when they walk through an office door. They leave a part of themselves somewhere on the commute to work and pick it up on their return.

  • At the workplace, the attitudes and beliefs that you display, how much of that is you? 
  • Under this veil of professionalism, what parts of you have you sacrificed?
  • What part of your genuinely true, funny, creative, highly intelligent selves are you not showing up with? 
  • What are you leading with under this mask, this personality that has been tailored for a particular environment?

What essence of you is missing? 

The invitation is for us to understand what mask we are wearing and to determine how it has impacted upon our leadership.

Consider that the strongest essence of who you are may just be missing in your leadership. The call is for us to establish

  1. What mask we are wearing?
  2. Is that mask serving us in the realm that we’re entering?
  3. What other elements of ourselves can we inject into that mask to make a difference in our leadership? 
  4. How do you lead with a mask on? 

SELF BELIEF

.This is trickier than the mask because our self belief determines how we look at the world and how we make meaning of what is happening in front of us.

For example, most of us have learned how to behave, how to treat and think of other people from whomever we’ve been listening to. The voices of the people who loved us, the people who raised us, the people we have experienced all play in our heads and heart.

Have you ever questioned if these voices are still relevant? 

Think about it. You learned a lot from your teachers, who were 10 to 30 years older than you. Now that you are in your 30s, in your 40s or your 50s are those voices still relevant? 

The way that our parents saw the world, the things that they experienced, what they told you about people who look a certain way or who behave a certain way, is any of it still relevant? 

The world has changed so much in the last 20 years. 

If our self belief is hinged upon what we learned from those voices is our self belief relevant? 

How do those self beliefs show up in our leadership in terms of how we behave and how in terms of our attitudes and most definitely in terms of the way we treat other people?

Oscar Wilde said, “Most people are other people.”

 Who are you when you show up? 

What is your personality when you show up and what is your self belief? 

A BEAUTIFUL GARDEN

Consider this a story.

A woman tended her garden with beautiful flowers, every morning. One day, she became ill and was bedridden. Her son, who loved his mother dearly and knew how important her garden was to her, made a commitment to this garden until she recovered.

Each day he watered the flowers, and cleaned the leaves. 

After three months his mother recovered. 

He excitedly said, “Mom, I took care of all of your plants.”

When she saw her garden she began to cry. 

Her garden was in ruins and she and she yelled at her son. 

He in turn was confused. He said, “Mom, I took care of your garden. I cared for each and every flower and each and every leaf.”

His mother then said to him, “The life of a plant is in its roots. They are invisible. You forgot to water the roots and the result is visible in the complete devastation of my garden.”

It is easy to tend to the flowers that we bloom and or leaves. As leaders we have to pay attention to our roots. We need to examine our self-belief and our personality to ensure healthy roots,

I will share five tips on how to lead with ourselves from the root of whom we really are.

  1. Understand and know ourselves. How can  we understand other people if we don’t understand ourselves? We need to understand our virtues, our vices, our attitudes, our perceptions, what makes us tick, what makes us mad or what makes us sad. Most of us know our strengths and weaknesses and this is just the tip of the iceberg, because that is about skills and competence. We need to know whom we are deep inside. We need to be aware of what motivates us, what drives us, our limitations, what we believe about ourselves. We need to go deeper and understand our inner critic, that voice that says you’re not good enough and where this voice came from.  It is critical for us to us to know what where our self belief emanates from.
  2. Honor your story. You have a particular story that makes you unique. Tell your story in a positive way to yourself. You are not a victim because you have survived and you have thrived. Tell your story in a powerful way that makes you claim that narrative in a way that removes all shame and eliminates any suggestion that you are not good enough in this story. It doesn’t matter what was done to you, and by whom. What matters is that this is your story and you honor your story by seeing it in a really, really positive way. Yeas you can do this and tell the truth.
  3. Understand your emotions. Do you know why you’re jealous of some people? Do you know what makes you sad or do you even know what it is to feel sad when you’re feeling sad? When we understand the emotional range of whom we are we unravel a huge piece of whom we are. 
  4. Empathize with yourself – I’m still learning to have great empathy for myself. It’s very easy to project and have empathy for others and to walk in their shoes and to give them the benefit of the doubt and treat them as if they are coming to you with best of intentions. What would it be like to do this for yourself? What would it be to look at yourself as the little child who resides inside of all of us. What would it be like to deal with ourselves with great empathy and believe that we are operating every day from our best self?  How about giving yourself the benefit of the doubt? 
  5. Pay attention to your emotional and physical sensations  When I understood myself, my emotional range and I began to have great empathy for myself, I began to zero in on the emotions of other people . Then I realized that I am a mirror for you, just as you are a mirror for me. The physical and emotional sensations that I have when coaching an individual or facilitating a group allow me to be better and more effective coach and facilitator.

Leading with the use of myself was one of the most powerful lessons that I’ve learned over my leadership journey  

This is my lived experience and so I ask leaders to understand and accept  themselves.

What are you walking away with after reading? Which of these tips do you want to try? What has been you experience.

Drop me a comment I would love to learn your story.

  • Leaders, let us understand our flaws, our brilliance, that we are perfectly imperfect, that we make mistakes, and that we have sparks of brilliance. 

My intention is to fuel your leadership spark so that together we can co-create in the systems that we live work and play within.

Our 4th annual Gestalt Leadership Caribbean Conference – Leading with Equity is on April 29 2021. This year we are discussing Leading With Equity. This is a virtual event.

Register at maxineattong.com5

Leadership Lessons from a MAGA Loss

We  know that whatever is happening in the larger system is being mirrored in the smaller system

Hence, when I talk about leadership. I’m not only speaking about a role in an organization, I also speak about what’s happening in families, communities and even your football team

Whenever there’s a lot of attention and energy around an event, I pay attention. I’ve been paying attention to the aftermath of the U.S. election results. 

The results are that Biden won 306 electoral votes and Trump won 232. Biden received 51% of the votes cast, while Trump received 47%. Yet for weeks after the elections, there has been a dispute. 

I’m not a political pundit. I’m not qualified to talk about that US elections. I’m qualified to speak about how this situation shows up in three common issues in organizations.

  1. Engagement surveys
  2. Succession planning 
  3. When leaders fight.

Lesson 1: Leaders need to believe the results of Engagement Surveys.

If you’re part of an organization, then you’ve probably experienced an engagement survey. The organization issues an anonymous survey, which asks employees to rate the organization’s performance in different categories. These questions are inter alia about physical conditions of the workplace, how you feel about the leadership team, vision or goal achievement as well as if employees would recommend the organization as a place to work.

Just as Trump has not contested the election results for any state that he has won, leaders do not complain when engagement scores reflect positively on their performance.

Just as Trump has contested the election results for the states that he did not win, leaders often protest when the engagement scores are less than they expected. 

They say to me, “Maxine, are you sure people understood what was meant by that question? I think that these questions are dubious because it could be interpreted many ways.” 

When I saw Trump’s lawsuits and recount requests, I recalled those leaders who question the validity of negative results.

Now you understand why I believe that if it’s  happening in the world, it’s probably happening in our organizations. It’s being played out in a different frame, at a different level. 

Lesson 2: Leaders need to train team members for Succession Planning

The aftermath of the US Elections holds lessons for us as leaders.

Let me share a story about Alice who didn’t get promoted. Alice was a supervisor, she worked really hard, and did all the right things. Every year when she asked for a promotion, her boss would say, “We can’t promote you.”

This went on for years. Alice was really frustrated. At her next performance assessment she asked, “What is going on? Why am I not being promoted? What’s wrong?” Her leader said “ Oh no, Alice it’s not about you. There’s no-one to replace you in that supervisory position.” Alice was puzzled, “What do you mean? A lot of my team members work well.” The boss slowly shook his head, “ I agree that they are good. But guess what? We can’t promote you because you haven’t trained anyone to take your position.” 

When I think about Trump not conceding, I think about all of those leaders who are not conceding their current positions by not training team members to take their place.

What is the demographic of the leadership at your organization? What is the average age of the Board members? 

Baby boomers are fit and living longer than their predecessors. I know a number of retirees, who are still working within the same organizations that they retired from. As much as I love them, I am hard-pressed to believe that there’s nobody to replace them. 

While I understand that these seniors hold the organizational intelligence I question if the best place for them is within the rank and file of the organization. How about them being advisers? How about them training up younger people to have organizational intelligence? 

One of my peeves about rehiring retirees is that most organizations have a definitive retirement age. Why is it that 3 – 5 years before retirement no one is identified as a successor for a retiree?

Organizations often talk about succession planning and organizations are not very good at it.

Lesson 3: Leaders need to give the newly promoted the tools to succeed

About 3 weeks after the elections, the General Service Advisory of the US government handed over keys to office space to the Biden Harris team. What does that have to do with organizations? Think about it. How many people have been promoted to managerial positions without being given the adequate resources to succeed? What happens? 

I have heard leaders lament, “This guy was a star performer. But he’s just a horrible manager. I really regret promoting him.”

When the newly promoted are not giving the training , the tools, the resources that they need they are being trumped. They will fail or succeed with great personal pain.

The US political pundits have predicted that the Biden Harris team will have a bumpy start when they take office on January 20th, 2021, since the team has not yet received critical information.

This is exactly the scenario we create for our newly promoted managers/ leaders when we don’t provide them with adequate resources.

Lesson 4: When leaders fight, the organization suffers

Right after the US election, Trump tweeted” he won because the election was rigged”. In Biden’s first address as US president-elect, he vowed to “unify” the country and said it was a “time to heal”. 

When leaders fight, it’s never pretty. 

Two years ago, I worked with an Executive Team. Each was brilliant with relevant experience, highly educated and qualified, with impressive track records. Together they were abysmal.  They fought, called each other names, undermined the decisions made and served their personal agendas at the expense of the organizational goals. 

Their fight seeped through all levels of the organization as the team members squared off and took sides. Between departments there was little or no internal service. Processes remained incomplete and customers suffered.

As the infighting among the executive team continued, the organization split into silos, with each silo serving itself and not thinking about the organization. There was a lack of trust amongst employees and the organization lost credibility as the news spread.  Sales were negatively impacted and customers lost, while the executives continued the blame and shame game.

Those are the three lessons for leaders that I gleaned from the aftermath of the US elections mimicked in organizations.

What about you? What aspects of the aftermath of the US elections have you seen mirrored in organizations?.

My intention is to light your leadership spark, so that together we an bring change to the systems that we live and work within.

A Leadership Tale from Current Events

Today I am going to relate to you a tale. This is fictional tale regardless of how familiar it may feel or how much it may remind you of recent events.

We are going to look at the events that involved three men John, Arnold and Barry who all work for Trinity Tailors.  John is the HR Manager. Barry lives in as poorer area and Arnold lives in a more affluent part of the country. 

The company recently announced a new company wide dress policy, which stated that red must be worn on a Monday.  From that announcement date all staff abided with the policy, even though HR did not translate the policy into a formal procedure that stated the WHAT and HOW of the policy 

Neither Barry nor Arnold are rule followers, they both do their own thing,  They dot’t think that the company is serious because they have made many past infractions that went unnoticed  They thought What’s one more? They didn’t think that the company policy applied to them because they were low down on the totem pole and they never got  caught

One Monday, Barry wore a blue shirt to work. When the HR Manager spotted Barry he became incensed.  How dare Barry flaunt a clearly stated policy? The HR manager severely berated Barry in front of the entire company. Barry felt embarrassed since some of his colleagues laughed loudly at him and teased him long after the event.  While Barry agreed that he did the wrong thing he felt that the HR Manager could have treated with him in a more humane manner.

The company was split on the issue since most people didn’t appreciative the manner in which the HR Manager treated with Barry. Some employees thought that the HR Manager acted as a bully and could have acheived the same result without demeaning Barry.

Those who agreed with the HR Manager, said that some people need to be shamed to do the right thing.  What was certain was that persons both for and against the HR Manager actions agreed that shame was  used as a disciplinary tool.

A month passed and the policy about wearing red on a Monday still prevailed without being translated to procedure.  The staff including Barry continued to comply.

One Monday Arnold was working from home. He was hosting a Zoom call attended by a client and his work colleagues.  Midway through the call, his colleagues noticed that Arnold was wearing a purple shirt. This was brought immediately to the attention of the HR Manager, the company policy was breached.

The HR Manager took the complaint, called Arnold and had a long discussion with him. 

Staff waited to see what would happen next. They waited for Barry to be reprimanded yert nothing happened. Staff slowly accepted that nothing was going to happen. 

By Wednesday, the rumblings started at the bottom of the organization and swelled to the top.  People were disappointed, they were mad and they were uncomfortable. Why were the two same offfenses differently treated? 

Debates were being held. Did Arnold break policy? Did he not wear a purple shirt on wear red Mondays? Was the HR Manager going soft or did they just witness blatant discrimination?

As the noise grew so did the mistrust for the HR Manager.  Things got so bad that the Manager issued a statement that read as below

Dear Staff

I am aware that there is growing discontent about the policy of wearing red shirts on Mondays.  Please note that the CEO has not given HR specific instructions about how this translates into procedure. Further more Arnold was having a Zoom meeting at his private residence, albeit with clients and colleagues. Because of the great respect that I have for the privacy of one’s residence I could not impose the wear Red Monday policy. Please note that wording of the policy states that red must be worn on a Monday and purple is red and blue mixed. Regards The HR Manager

That statement caused even more havoc. Team members began to question the HR Manager’s credibility. They shouted that the Manager was not to be trusted since he used a technical loophole to explain why Arnold received no reprimand.  Some explained that the HR Manager was correct while others claimed the Manger was a trickster. Comparisons were made about the bullying of poor Barry and the defense of Arnold. Staff noted that while the HR Manager denigrated Barry he allowed Arnold to have his dignity intact.

The debate raged on as staff took sides.  They took to social media and accused the HR Manager of discrimination, unfair treatment. favoritism and having different rules for different people.

Eventually the CEO was compelled to put his voice in to the fray.  His statement was short and to the point.  He said, “Company policy is company policy and is to be applied the same across the organization”.

The HR Manager was not happy with the CEO’s statement.  He felt exposed for he knew that with every passing minute he looked less and less credible.

Once again he went on the offence.  He sent an all staff email that said that the CEO had thrown him under the bus and that he was not being supported.

The last I heard of it the CEO and the HR Manager held a meeting to trash things out.

What do you think of that story? 

The main issues for me are 

  1. Inconsistent application of policy
  2. Differential treatment of staff members
  3. Loss of trust and credibility
  4. Public airing of issues among senior staffers.

The dynamic between Barry, Arnold and the HR Manager play out in organizations many times. While this is a fictional tale we can learn a lot from this. 

We all have unconscious bias.  Our unconscious bias is at work when we prejudge persons based on our assumptions. Leaders we are asked to rise above our bias. We need to ask ourselves.

What is the evidence to support my conclusions? Whose voice am I speaking in?

Most times the voices that loudly shout our assumptions are often not our voices. Our assumptions usually reflect what we never questioned, the things that we grew up hearing or saying or the things that we learned from people whom we trust. Unless we question where these thoughts came from we may never find our own voice as leaders.  Once we understand our bias we will act differently.

Companies need to think deeply about policy and the far reaching impact of these. Policy is a broad statement that needs to be translated into procedure so that all employees understand What it means and equally important How to ensure that the policy is not breached.

Whether policy or  procedure, leaders need to apply these in similar fashion across the board. Policies and procedures need to be consistently applied. Breaches also need to be dealt with in the same manner.

If the HR Manager was consistent he would have reprimanded Barry and he would not have the issued that statement defending Arnold’s shirt. When leaders do not apply policies equally they suffer a loss of credibility and trust in their leadership is diminished 

Employees who identified with Barry, as well as those who identified with Arnold took sides on the issue. This led to overall disharmony within the ranks of the organization.  Consistent application of policy allows greater harmony amongst staff as team members believe that they are being treated the same. 

The HR Manager did not understand precedent. When he publicly shamed Barry he signaled to the rest of the organization that this was how he would deal with breaches of the Wear Red Monday policy. Granted the HR Manager may have learned after deep reflection that the way that he treated Barry was less than desirable and adjusted his approach. However, his written statement indicated that he gave Arnold a full pass. His lack of action cast serious doubts on his decision-making capabilities as well as his ability to see clearly the issues on hand.

Leaders with each action and decision we set precedent and the expectation is that we will operate similarly whenever a similar situation raises its head. We need to pause and think. What is the message that I am sending with this action? Is this fundamentally different from what I did last time? How can I do it differently while ensuring that I treat the issue the same?

Leaders need to be consistent because staff are always looking and comparing.  This calls for leaders to be transparent in the application of policies across the organization. 

The HR Manager aired his disagreement with the CEO for all to see. How can a leader who is disrespectful to his superiors expect to be respected by his subordinates?  Through his action, the HR Manager is showing persons in the organization how to treat him and how to treat other leaders. This I consider unacceptable.

The HR Manager’s behavior also aised questions about the leadership of the organization and brought the HR Manager and the CEO under scrutiny. Leaders need to provide a united front if they want to promote harmony within the organization. When leaders seem to have a united front, harmony is promoted. When leaders squabble, staff squabble.

Going forward all is not lost for the HR Manager.  The HR Manager needs to get to a place of humility and seek feedback from his peers and others whom he trusts. This is one way in which he can get another perspective on his behavior and the way that he treated with both Arnold and Barry.

One the HR Manager understands how he offended persons he can then make amends for his part in the dissent. Ideally the manager should apologize to Barry but everyone knows that this will not happen. 

The HR Manager needs to work with the other leaders to translate the policy into procudeure. Staff need to be informed of the proceudere and how breaches will be treated with. After this all leaders need to consistenly apply the plicy and deal with breaches in similar fashion.

Here ends my tale.  

Tell me what situations have you seen at play out in your organization?  How were these resolved if at all?

 If you have any topics that you want discussed or any questions answered then visit my website http://www.maxineattong.com and send them to me 

We are running our Women’s Program – Enhance U for women. Awaken to Your Truest Self  -reclaim your passion and rekindle your joy

Covid-19 has affected all of us. We have been disappointed, frustrated and stressed.  Yet, we still have desires, dreams and hopes. 

The pandemic makes us wonder if we will ever achieve our goals. How much longer will you wait? How much more will you sacrifice? 

Deep down we know and feel it – we were each created for an unique purpose, beyond our roles as aunts, daughter’s friends, lovers, partners, mothers, wives and sisters.

How do we find and live our purpose in these new times? What steps can we take to do so?

I have lived with these questions and luckily found some answers, which I would love to share with you. Since 2010, I have helped over 100 women to find and live from their purpose.  Covid is another reason for us not to live our fullest life and the very reason why we need to live our fullest.

If you are interested then contact me. I would love to share these with you.

Thank you for reading 

Leadership Lessons from The King

Leadership is always contextual.  Hence the reason I would never advocate for one type of leadership. According to the situation we dip into our resource pool and fish out the relevant way of being for the situation.  Individually we will have some basic traits that either support  or do not support our leadership .  

Leadership is all around us hence the reason I invite you to embrace your leadership wherever you may live play or work. As I listened to the tributes that rolled in after the death of Chadwick Boseman I thought that his life story held some great lessons for us as leaders.

Today I’m sharing the leadership lessons that I learned from the life of Chadwick Boseman.

Lesson 1 – He left a legacy

The media and the acting fraternity refer to Chadwick as the King.  Beyond his role as T’challa in Black Panther, there is great detail about the choices that he made, the way that he carried himself and the way that he treated people.

The word legacy keeps coming up as discourse is held about the impact he made on diversity in Hollywood and what they may translate to for black actors.

After reading and listening I ask myself, “Maxine what is your legacy? And I stopped to think.

So leader what’s your legacy? What is the legacy that you are leaving with your family, your team or your organization. It is a big question that we need to answer. 

Lesson 2 – He reframed experiences

Chadwick refused to take roles that made him seem as less of a man.  He avoided stereotypical roles that cast people who looked like him in derogatory roles. He chose roles hat were inspirational, celebrating the lives of phenomenal men – Jackie Robinson, James Brown, Marshall Thurgood.  

Breathing fresh air into their stories, telling them with dignity and offering another perspective from what we were commonly told. He deliberately chose these stories knowing that there were young men and women who are watching and observing.

He knew as we do that our  leadership can change lives.  Through our demonstration we can inspire others. As leaders we can choose the role that we play and the impact that our leadership can have on others.

Lesson 3 – He served a higher purpose 

Chad believed in a higher power. He made decisions and was guided from that perspective.  

What guides you as a leader? What drives your decision making process? What is the higher purpose that you are serving through your leadership?

Every decision that we make every action that we take should be based on something loftier than the task at hand. For some of us it will be the organizational vision, for others it may be a personal vision for others their God.  

Whatever the reason, when we operate from a higher purpose it means that everything and everyone becomes sacred and we treat everything and everyone as such. Leadership is about divinity.

Lesson 4 – He raised the bar

Boseman’s co-stars, his producers and his directors all speak highly of his work ethic.  He raised the performance bar for every one, in every scene, in every movie. He encouraged others to bring their best game with each and every performance. 

As leaders we are called on to inspire others to raise their game. We don’t do this by bribing or cajoling or pandering, We do this through the authority and power vested to us by the organsaiton but more importantly from the person that we are.  

We can lead by example and encourage and motivate others to attain a standard higher than they thought possible.

It also means that we don’t get a day off from setting the standard.  We need to keep our ‘A’ game going and yes we will have off days but these need to be less than more.

Lesson 5 – He broke barriers 

Chadwick broke barriers and showed that beliefs can be changed.  Who knew that a movie with a black cast would gain over 1Billion US$ in sales or that a superhero movie would be nominated at the Oscars.  He took risks throughout his career even when people made fun of the fact that he played the roles of other men. 

The invitation is for each of us to take risks.  

We can dream dreams that others don’t hold for us, and achieve things that others can’t envision. We can behave in a manner that challenges old beliefs about leadership and show that these are no longer relevant.  We can go beyond what others think about people who look like us, grew up the way that we did and went to the schools that we went to by our leadership.

Lesson  6 – He showed up

The most amazing fact about Chadwick Boseman, for me, is that he was diagnosed with colon cancer four years ago and showed up every day that he was required.  During that time he had physically challenging roles and he never complained and he never let his personal issues affect his job.  I know that was difficult to do.  

When I reflect on his ability to show up and perform I reflect on my bad days when I could not adequately support team members or when I would have been less than a pleasure to work with. Let us do as Chadwick, work through our personal issues in our personal spaces and don’t let these impact on the way that we treat with team members.  They don’t deserve that.

Lesson 7 – He was more than his issues

During the production of his last film Da Bloods, Peters – his co-star described himChawick as ‘Precious’. Peters explained that Boseman had a Chinese practitioner massaging his back, and a makeup artist massaging his feet, as well as having his girlfriend hold his hand, while on set. After Chad’s death, Peters was full of regret since he had prejudged Boaseman as a diva thinking that his Black Panther success had gone to his head.

This is a quick reminder for us – leaders we cannot afford to make assumptions about our team members.  We may see them acting out and not understand the why of their behavior.  It is our task to understand what is going and to work with team members from where they are to bring them along. We can only know what is going by having a conversation with them. The lazy team member may be lacking motivation, the sleepy team member may be studying.  

Let’s not make assumptions and to give team members the benefit of the doubt.

Beyond those 7 leadership leassons, reports are that he brought his passion, his humility, his creativity, his intelligence, and his drive for his craft. I think that was probably a combination of who he was as well as the deep respect that he had for the roles that he played and for his audience.  Beyond himself he understood that he was having a systemic effect on every black child on Earth and from his death some writers were lambasted for not  acknowledging that he also impacted non-black persons as well.

Humility, creativity, intelligence, passion and drive.  What a powerful combination of characteristics that will serve us well as leaders.

We can be passionate about the vision of the organizations, the work that we are doing and about the team members and their futures. It’s a good time for us to reflect on what are we passionate about.  

Maybe your leadership sucks because you are not passionate about the company that you are working in or the job that you are doing.  Only you would know.

We can be humble.  Our humility allows us to not take things personally when given feedback, allows us to admit when we are wrong and make amends.  We are expressing humility every time that we admit that we don’t know as well as when we show our vulnerability.

We also want to have a drive and energy that will bring enthusiasm to our workplaces.  As we work we can infect others with hope and optimism especially in these times. We also need to create the space for others to bring theirs.

One thing that stood out for me in all of the talks that came after his passing is that he was well supported as a fledging.  When Phylicia Rashad spotted Chad’s talent she encouraged him to study in London and Denzel Washington paid his tuition.  Can you imagine what the world would have missed if these two senior actors did not get involved with this protege?

As leaders we have an obligation to create other leaders. We need to blaze a trail and help others to run on that trail.  This can be an encouraging word, imparting knowledge, having discussions, giving advice or training.  

It is my wish that we use the life of Chadwick Boseman as a reminder that we can lead from wherever we are and bring systemic change to the places that we live and work.

What lessons are you walking away with today? What takeaways for your leadership journey have you gleaned from the life of Chadwick Boseman?  I woiuld love for you to share them.  

My intention is to fuel your leadership spark so that together we can bring change to the systems that we live in.

Look out for our Enhance U for women – Awaken to Your Truest Self  – Reclaim your passion and rekindle your joy.

Covid-19 has affected all of us. We have been disappointed, frustrated and stressed.  Yet, we still have desires, dreams and hopes. The pandemic makes us wonder if we will ever achieve our goals. How much longer will you wait? How much more will you sacrifice? Deep down you know and feel it – we were each created for an unique purpose, beyond our roles as aunts, daughter’s friends, lovers, partners, mothers, wives and sisters. How do you find and live our purpose in these new times? What steps can you take to do so?

I have lived with these questions and luckily found some answers, which I would love to share with you. Since 2010, I have helped over 100 women to find and live from their purpose.  Covid is another reason for us not to live our fullest life and the very reason why we need to live our fullest. If you are interested then connect me at http://www.maxineattong.com. I would love to share these with you.

Thank you for reading 

Leadership is Promoting Racial Equity

The last 2 weeks have been particularly difficult for me.  I don’t know about you but whenever there is turmoil in the wider system I feel it in my body as well.

I had to make several decisions when writing. Do I write about it? Do I just press on and pretend that it’s not a problem?  In the end I decided that I have an unique opportunity to have my voice heard so I have a responsibility to share a perspective about what’s happening.

Trinidad and Tobago held its 5-year general elections a week ago.  Both the lead up to and post elections have been problematic as supporters of political parties took to social media to spew insensitive and derogatory comments that reflected long held misconceptions and false beliefs about ethnicity.

This name-calling and insulting behavior doesn’t bother me at one level., since I understand the disappointment, hurt and anxiety that is present at this time. People are free to express themselves and they are doing so on their personal pages and personal posts.

What worries me is that most users have worked or work within organizations and this behavior may have spilled over into their teams, .

What worries me more is that some of the users maybe or have been in leadership positions as supervisors, as team leaders as managers or as executives and negatively impacted the lives of team members they think of as on the other side of the political divide.

Beyond the people who made their feelings and thoughts known there are many who share the same sentiments and do not post. 

Social media misleads some of us into thinking that we are invisible and invincible, some freely type the things that they wont dare say. Some have alter egos that are fearless, opinionated and know it all, 

While it is possible that we can act differently from the way that our social media posts suggest no one can sustain a façade for an extended period, the mask often cracks, and the alter ego shows itself when we least expect.  There is truth in our social media representation of ourselves.  

We each belong to affinity groups, which means that we more or less involve ourselves with people whom share similar outlooks and perspectives.  In these relationships it feels that we are speaking to ourselves, our beliefs, our opinions and our world views are never challenged and our groups confirm our beliefs with every interaction.  

You are wondering if this is true for you. Lets do a quick exercise.  Outside of your immediate and extended family write down the names of 5 to 7 people whom you trust. For each characteristic that you share with them put a tick next to each name that bears the same characteristic as you do.  For example if I say same sex then tick all of the people who are same sex as you are on your list. 

Lets give it a try.

Tick for same background i.e. way of growing up, 

**Give a tick for Same Religion, 

**Tick for Same educational level, 

**Tick for Same sexual identity,

**Tick for Same ethnicity or race, 

**Tick for same school 

**Tick for similar geographical area

**Tick for same manner of speaking – accent, language 

Now look at the list. Do you share 3 or more characteristics with the people on your list?  Yes that’s because you share the same affinity group.  This is normal for us, the people whom we trust most are the people who have similar backgrounds and think like us and act the same way as we do.

This is not a bad thing.

It becomes a bad thing when we believe that only people from our affinity group have positive qualities and that people from other affinity groups have negative qualities,  

It only becomes dangerous when we determine that taking care of our affinity group is to be done at the expense of persons external to our affinity group or when we deliberately exclude or treat badly persons from other affinity groups. 

So what does that look like in organizations and why does it perturb me?  

In the recruitment process we may give preference to people who went to your alma mater. The interview panel may ask discriminatory questions to ensure that only people who share the same beliefs and experiences enter our organizations 

It may mean that team members believe that if they don’t look or speak a certain way that they will never be promoted or will never be a manager. 

New hires maybe readily embraced by some leaving others uneasy, the promoted may be celebrated by some leaving others fearful.

This negativity is unfair to the new hires or promoted as they are also left feeling uneasy. To ease their hurt feelings some recruits/ promoted may hurt others external to their affinity groups fostering even greater divide with their teams  Eventually everyone pretends that is has faded away while leaving a bitter tastes in mouths.  These actions builds mistrust in the workplace.  It promotes an us vs. them environment and leads to discord.  

Who can trust a leader who promotes or hires people based on his/her affinity group?

Who can trust the leaders who notice these patterns in teams and do not speak up about them?

 What is the leaders role in ensuring that there is fairness and equity?

How can we trust an organization that turns a blind eye to actions like these? 

And what do we do if the leaders are the perpetrator of these offences?

When we do not choose the best for the job then we are not serving the organization we are serving our selves. When we don’t promote on merit or have a transparent process then we set up our organizations for failure. 

I’m sure you are thinking about other actions that have been perpretarted in  your organsations.

Who gets or does not get  selected for projects, who is praised or vilified, who receives priveleges or reprimands, who feels this is the best place to work and who describes it as the worst place to work with the relevant examples.  

Leaders.  What is your role either by your silence or thorugh your actions in perpetuating these behaviours at the workplace?

How do we limit the occurrence of this phenomena?

Leaders we need to stop this behavior at the gate and do not allow this behavior to enter our organizations.  

Check out the social media profiles of potential recruits and review the profiles of people whom they follow.  We use psychometric tests to evaluate aptitude and capabilities; we need to expand these tests to determine tolerance or bias for persons external to their affinity groups.

I am not saying do not hire. I am saying increase our awareness of whom is entering our organizations and the potential impacts they may have on our organizational culture.

Ensure that the workplace has policies and procedures that speak to equality, equity and the limitation of affinity group biases and that there are stated consequneces for not adhering to these.

How may offices have a written policy and procedure around derogatory behavior whether within or external to the organsaiton? How many organsaitions have consequences for behaviours like these?  

I know that you may be thinking that my social media posts are my business. And you’re right let me ask

Did you use your company issued phone or other equipment to access social media?

Do you have your place of employment listed on your social media profile?

Do people know where you work?

If you have answered yes to any of these then you can be called to task and suffer consequences of your behavior, if your organization was serious about having zero tolerance for this behaviour.

Our policies and procuderes also empower any staff member to hold others accountable for derogatory behavior in the public domain. 

Courageous Leaders can host conversations about differences in affinity groups. These will offer team members different view points from those touted within their affinity groups.

We can start with the stories of how people grew up, the primary schools they went to, how they succeeded, what their hopes and dreams are and celebrate how well they are doing.  In doing so we need to ensure that we keep an open mind and not let persons external to our affinity group feel ashamed of where they have come from and the challenges they have faced. When these stories are shared we will realize that though our contexts may be different our issues are the same.  

Think about it gambling addicts from all walks of life attend Gamblers anonymous and share their stories.  There stories are always different since they are from different backgrounds, and take different risks. In the sharing the addicts realize that they are all the same in their addiction, their stories allow them to identify their shared humanity.. They are different and yet the same

How many of us undersatnf the words cedula and concordat, how they came to be and how these two words have impacted our history?

I’m thinking that instead of dressing up and sharing food for ethnic holidays we can use these holidays to remind people of the history of our countries. How it is that people from the 5 continents all came to be on this small islands.  We can tell the historical and factual accounts of how various groups came to this country and the contributions that they each made to this nation. 

In so doing we will begin to see value in other than our affinity groups and we can intelligently and rationally challenge some of our long held beliefs.  Over the long term we will see clearly the myths and falsehoods that we hold on to as a conduction of our affinity groups.

My personal belief is that affinity groups and differences are part of a capitalist agenda.  

The few will contain the majority by pitting them against each other.  

It is an old playbook that we continue to live without questioning, we are playing our roles in a very old script and benefitting others by the suspicion we have for anyone external to our affinity group. Understand that when the majority is set against each other so that the few can stay in control 

Our organizations are not functioning optimally and we lament that our nation has not achieved its true potential. If only everyone acted behaved and believed as the people in our affinity group did, then this would be a wonderful and magical place.  This is a naïve and simplistic viewpoint that holds limited truth.

Without the benefit of various affinity groups Trinidad and Tobago would be a myopic place, short in Vision and stunted in tits growth potential because all affinity groups are limited in their thinking.  From the viewpoint of our affinity group we only see one frame, we need the impute of other groups to capture the whole picture. When we embrace and include our rich diversity we can spawn true innovation and creativity.  

Leaders what do you want for your organizations?

How can you ensure that the diversity in your workplaces is used to propel your organization and our country forward?

How can you limit your natural urge to serve your affinity group and instead serve all?

The first step is to be aware and the second step is to always be aware of our potential to behave this way

Our responsibility to the organization is not to your affinity group. We are to provide leadership to all members of your team regardless of their affinity group

In our communities and our families how do we treat the persons who are not within our affinity groups?  What assumptions do we make about their intentions?

What are you going to do differently?
This is a big question that we surely need to consider.

My intention is to fuel your leadership spark so that together we can bring change to the systems that we live in.

 If you have any questions or want me to speak on a particular topic then visit my website maxineattong.com and send them to me.