Episode 103

LEADERSHIP:

Why creating organization and cultural change is so hard

People, teams, companies, and our entire culture are going through a lot of change. Many of us struggle to figure out how to move forward, evolve, and create real change. In this episode, we will look at the things that stop organization and cultural change, and how we need to approach our problems to create change no matter your role or seniority.


Listen now:


#ShareTheMicNow

A quick update on the #ShareTheMicNow episodes, as you can tell, this episode is back to the traditional format. Because I have gone back to create episodes again does not mean my involvement with this movement is over. I was never sure when I would start recording again, and right now, some of the episodes have been taking longer than I expected to be created.

Salvia Baffour asked me when I was going to end those episodes, and after some thought, I think that I’m never going to stop them. This show and the conversations in this industry needs to evolve. Too often, when there is a problem, we concentrate on it for a short amount of time, and then as it fades from the front of our consciousness, we let it go – this is why sustained changed doesn’t happen. I think this needs to be an ongoing conversation, so I will be making it an ongoing part of the show.

The last 2 months

But this show is based on some realizations I’ve had from the response to #ShareTheMicNow, which has been both profoundly inspiring and has honestly pushed me to my edge of wondering why I don’t stop producing this show. This is one of those moments where if we are going to move forward with this show, then I am going to need to be honest. The reaction to this was the complete opposed of what I thought would happen.

I thought a lot about doing this, and I expected other leaders and influences to see the value and importance in this and join in to help make a statement and start to create some real change. I posted and started work on this about 2 months ago, and in that time, I have heard from around 20 hate and white supremacy groups while I have had 0 members of the white design community joined me in this work. Let me say that again – 0 people. No one even asked about what it would take it show any real support.

There were a few who reached out saying they didn’t have a following but would be happy to help, and I really appreciated that. There were some who reached out worried about what they thought I was doing to my career. Excuse my french but – WHAT THE FUCK

This was so disheartening, and I lost so much faith in this industry and in people to the point where I have repeatedly questioned the point of even doing this show. Why am I giving so freely to a community who so clearly doesn’t care about doing the right thing or stepping up when it matters?

I still have a lot of that anger and will definitely remember the silence from so many leaders that have been deafening when it counted. All the trolls who were more than happy to call me out and troll me for not doing enough in the early days, including the design director at Capitol One – where you at? I would ask you to look at “influencers” you follow to see which tried top create real change, which tried to line their pockets and build their followers and which stayed silent.

This also made me realize that spending even a few days in a minimized and overlooked experience drives me insane – what must it like to spend your whole life that way…But then something else happened that I wasn’t expecting at all. I had black, brown, and LGBTQ+ designers who did start to reach out for help and coaching. I was confused because I thought advice from someone like me would be the last thing they would want.

Why?

This all obviously has led to doing a lot of thinking, self-reflection, and asking why about all of it. I don’t know why it looks me so long to see some obvious problems, but what this has taught me is that it has been in front of me all along. And when we deal with issues like as a white man, I am forced to think that my blindness to this issue has come out of that privilege but am not sure. But I think these are a few issues that we have in society, and that extend, not surprisingly, into what we do at work.

Willful ignorance

What hit me like a lightning bolt is that the main problem is that the dominant group that hasn’t experience a systemic problem or bias either doesn’t see it or don’t care about it since it doesn’t effect them.

A few example come to mind…

• Men mostly don’t care about sexism since it doesn’t effect them

• White people mostly don’t care about racism since it doesn’t effect them

• Young people mostly don’t care about agism since it doesn’t effect them

• Executives mostly don’t care about systemic problems in their companies since they doesn’t effect them

I think a lot of us have felt this lately that all we want is a company who we feel like really care for us and the other people who work for it. Part of this is difficult because businesses need to make business decisions BUT

Everyday biases

Through a number of conversations I have had over the past few weeks I have also seen how we also have terms that we used that support the biases that also prevent change. Some of them like ‘gamification’ or ‘stickiness’ make ethical design issues acceptable which we have discussed before. But more concerning are talking to people who use phrases like ‘cultural fit’ without even understanding what that phrase often means – using culture to create discrimination.

I know the phrase should mean that the people you work with have similar goals and believe in the mission of the company. That sounds good but the reality is something different. It too often is a way to excuse bad behavior, bias, and discrimination.

What can we do about it?

Courage
Be the one everyone has been waiting for

Vulnerability
The new currency for leadership

Risk
Play it safe and nothing will change

Accountability
Nothing can be someone else’s problem

Final thought

We have to risk something if we want anything to change.

We are fine being outrage as long as it is easy and convenient – on society and at work.

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