We are marking Black History Month at a unique time in our history. Political upheaval and conflict, increasing COVID-19 case counts and the national changes that come with a new Administration draw our attention outward to watch the news and check in on family and friends. Marking a diversity holiday can seem like a small item on an already long checklist.
And yet, this year, finding personal ways to look within and identify a personal change we can make in our world may be the best way to mark Black History Month. Because this month is not only about our history – it is about our future.
A client of ours was recently mentoring a Black woman in their company. She is an emerging leader who was processing the results she received from a 360-assessment. The assessment included what she saw as a lot of mixed messages. Some praised her for her confidence and engagement; others said she needed to work on letting others shine more. Some praised her for her flexibility in taking on multiple roles; others said she needed to be more accountable for fewer projects.
The client patiently helped her work through her feelings about the feedback, and then helped her identify the 2-3 actions she could take that aligned with the feedback and her values and identity. During this process, she acknowledged her loneliness and uncertainty about being the only Black person in her leadership development cohort – and shared that it led her to second guess herself more.
Our client couldn’t fix that for her. Nor did he try. He listened, he validated her feelings and showed empathy, and he helped her chart her own path forward. At the end of the meeting, he offered a follow-up meeting with her to check in and connect. She gladly accepted.
Our client recognized that the best thing he could do to mark Black History Month was to help this one person chart her own future. And THAT is inclusion, one conversation at a time.