Leadership Boost: EI + Unconscious Bias

I’ll never forget the day I learned about the impact unconscious bias has on behavior. It was 2012, and I was beginning my second year in a leadership position. My eyes were wide. On that day I also reflected on how systems of oppression are in the air that we breathe. It pained and confused me to learn about things I was never taught in school. The event was hosted by the National Equity Project, an organization I’ll always be grateful for.

On that day, in that conference room in Oakland, a lightbulb went off.
On that day, my perspective on leadership and cultural consciousness shifted forever.
On that day, I made a commitment to learn (and unlearn) as much as I possibly could—so I could be the best version of myself as a leader.

Thanks to my brilliant leadership coach at the time Mark Salinas (who I had the privilege of working with for years thereafter) I became conscious of the myriad invisible tensions and opportunities that were the embedded in fabric of my context. I saw layers and micro-layers of white privilege and cultural hegemony everywhere. Blindspots were illuminated everyday. And I learned a ton leading during my time at ECP.

And I’ll always have more to learn.

Since then, though, my commitment to learn & lead differently took off. I haven’t stopped learning and unlearning. I’ve read up on neuroscience and adaptive leadership, I’ve surrounded myself with people who push my thinking and hold up the mirror with love.

In 2016 I threw up an idea on Kickstarter for a product that would be a tool for counteracting unconscious bias (SPARK Community), and to my surprise we met our goal and were able to fund our first prototype.

A year later I created a leadership framework to help other leaders uncover their blindspots and lead with integrity. To say it’s an honor to host SPARK Leadership courses, to coach, and to lead this work everyday is an understatement.

When I look back and reflect on how far I’ve come since that day in 2012, I feel great pride, because I put in countless hours of hard work, energy, and I persevered when things got hard. I did all that because I have been committed to being the best leader I can possibly be.

As I’ve shared more of my story and lessons-learned in the SPARK Family, folks have asked for more resources and research on unconscious bias and emotional intelligence…SO I put something together that I’m excited to share.

I have limited seats available, so if you’d like a leadership-boost and want take your EI to the next level, check out my upcoming 3 week mini-course below.

Here’s a link to the page.

Got questions? I’d be happy to chat more. Comment below or send me an email at spark@rachelvrosen.com.

Rachel Rosen, the founder of S.P.A.R.K. Community and S.P.A.R.K. Leadership, is on a mission to start a global conversation about inclusion, empathy, and racial equity. With a Masters from Stanford, and extensive training in leadership, coaching, team and organizational development, S.P.A.R.K. experiences are grounded in theory and practice–all in service of making the world a better place. With love. For justice. 

Language Matters

Why We Must Resist & Reject Discriminatory Statements

 

When I heard John Kelly’s recent statements on the radio, my heart started racing with rage. Hearing someone–in a position of authority in the White House–call an entire community “lazy” made my blood boil.

 

Immediately I thought:

 

  • How dare he talk about the undocumented community like that?
  • How could he be so incredibly disconnected from reality?

 

 

Our words are vehicles for our values, and his words say a LOT about his values.

 

We can’t afford to be careless with our words OR our values for so many reasons.

 

One of which is because the children are listening. All of them. They are sponges. What they absorb eventually seeps out into their actions and words. 

 

And they’re learning lessons like this in school, hearing A stereotype is a generalization about a person or group of persons.”  + “When we judge people and groups based on our prejudices and stereotypes and treat them differently, we are engaging in discrimination.”

 

…so we can’t be silent.

 

This is close to my heart because I taught many undocumented students and know DACA recipients.

 

I’ve heard stories of college students who arrived to the United States at a very young age, who were 4.0 students (and valedictorians of their high school class)–some of the most dedicated, driven, and responsible people I know–who now commute one hour to college, who struggle to access financial aid, who can’t leave the country to visit loved ones, who have no healthcare, have never been to the dentist, have no drivers license…the list goes on.

 

I know parents who have emergency backpacks by the door and pre-written goodbye letters, students with emergency contacts on them at all times. I’ve heard stories of confusion about the DACA paperwork, which includes questions about the time and place their parents crossed the border. From what I’ve heard, the fear of getting their parents in trouble is pervasive, persistent, and painful.

 

I can’t begin to understand or empathize with that type of pain and anxiety. I can only listen and show up. I’ve attended events in solidarity to better learn how I can support.

 

My new friend, Antonio, (below) couldn’t be farther from “lazy” — he’s one of the most resilient people I know. He drove 4 hours to attend a DACA event to share his inspiring story, to be in community, and to have hope. Just hope. That tomorrow could be better. That someday his dream of becoming a teacher could come true.

The depth in his eyes captured so much: perseverance, pain, confusion, love, anger, sadness. Hope.

 

So I hold his story and the powerful conversation we had close to my heart.

 

His story adds more fuel to my fire (my moral imperative)–to resist unjust practices and statements.

 

I feel so strongly about this because this is life or death for many students these days. 

 

Bullying and hate-crime-related incidents at schools are on the rise in an unprecedented way. 

 

It’s being referred to as The Trump Effect by the Southern Poverty Law Center.

 

They note:

“In the immediate aftermath of the election, the Southern Poverty Law Center (SPLC) noticed a dramatic jump in hate violence and incidents of harassment and intimidation around the country. At the same time, a wave of incidents of bullying and other kinds of harassment washed over the nation’s K-12 schools. The SPLC decided to make an effort to document all of this in real time.

Incidents were reported in nearly every state. The largest portion (323 incidents) occurred on university campuses or in K-12 schools. The incidents were dominated by anti-immigrant and anti-Muslim incidents (together, 329), but included ones that were anti-black (187), anti-Semitic (100), anti-LGBT (95), anti-woman (40) and white nationalist (32). A small sliver of them (23) were anti-Trump, but the vast majority appeared to be celebrating his election victory.”

In another article by SPLC, they note: “Ninety percent of educators report that school climate has been negatively affected, and most of them believe it will have a long-lasting impact. A full 80 percent describe heightened anxiety and concern on the part of students worried about the impact of the election on themselves and their families.

Here are more facts on cyberbullying + a rise in youth suicide rates in case you’re interested.

 

Needless to say, we have a LOT of work to do to fight this administration, to resist this divisive discourse and ALL the unjust laws and practices in our current government.

 

A lot of work to do.

 

So, rather than get angry and frustrated, throwing my hands up, and giving up–everyday I make a choice. I think of Antonio’s radiant resilience, and I choose radical hope. I channel his perseverance and strength, and I show up in solidarity.

 

Because I know I’m not alone, and strength comes with unity.

 

Because thousands and thousands of people are by my side. 

 

Because countless organizations like Jolt Texas, attorneys like Alfonso Maldonado Silva, and countless organizations like United We Dream, and community members on the grounds working tirelessly, advocating for the rights of undocumented citizens every day.

 

It truly takes a village to change the conversation.

 

We ALL can–and must–stand up and speak out against injustice for the next generation.

 

It starts with one step. One conversation. One choice.

 

To listen. To show up. To ask. To see.

 

To say “that’s not how we talk about groups of people, and here’s why…” or “hurt people hurt people” over and over again to our children.

 

To put a sign on your window saying “no human is illegal + we support DACA” to signal to our undocumented community members that they are safe and welcome in our space.

 

To choose courage over the comfort.

 

To resist silence.

 

It starts with one choice.

 

So what is one choice you will make today?

I’d love to hear about it.

Please comment below and/or share with friends. 

 

Also, if you have other resources to share or ideas for organizing, please contact at spark@rachelvrosen.com.

 

Rachel Rosen, the founder of S.P.A.R.K. Community and S.P.A.R.K. Leadership, is on a mission to start a global conversation about inclusion, empathy, and racial equity. With a Masters from Stanford, and extensive training in leadership, coaching, team and organizational development, S.P.A.R.K. experiences are grounded in theory and practice–all in service of making the world a better place. With love. For justice. 

 

PS-If you resonated with this blog, these may be of interest to you too:

The Key to Successful Communication

Why Internalizing What We Hear Is Important

 

Between 70 and 80% of our day is engaging in some form of communication with about 55% of that time dedicated to listening. Even so, most people can only actually remember between 17-25% of what they hear. 93% of all communication is nonverbal. (recent report)

 

I’ve come to realize that there are three levels of listening: listening, hearing, and then there’s internalizing.

 

Hearing:

We chunk information as quickly as possible

  1. What is this information?
  2. Is it worth my attention?

Listening:

We make connections and make-meaning

  1. What does this information really mean?
  2. We listen before reacting/defending (Put Out The Fire: Stop think respond)

Internalizing:

We take the time to really reflect and process:

  1. What else is going on that maybe isn’t being said?
  2. Do I connect with and resonate with this?
  3. If not, what information is needed in the moment?
  4. Empathize – Can I imagine what it’s like to be them in this moment?

 

As a coach, I see internalizing is missing in a lot of conversations, and it is holding us back as leaders with diverse teams who need to process nuanced information.

 

Roger O. Crockett wrote for the Harvard Business Review that “Some call this sort of multicultural interaction “listening with empathy.” Janet Reid, a multicultural expert and managing partner of Global Novations, which does corporate diversity consulting, describes it as listening to connect with a person’s feelings and thoughts. “To do so, you not only have to train your ear,” she says, “you have to build your multicultural muscle. You have to slow down your knee-jerk reaction to talk over people and listen in the cadence and rhythm [of their culture].”

 

If the person we’re listening to is frustrated, I have to remember that underneath all frustration is something deeper. It’s my responsibility to listen carefully and try to understand what is driving the frustration.

 

Internalizing means being transparent in our processing. It’s okay to say, “I’m still processing and trying to figure out how I can help.” or “I’m working on being a better listener and I don’t want to make assumptions. What do you feel you need right now?”

 

2 things that we always can do to be better listeners:

  1. Hold up the mirror: reflect on your own reactions, tone, body-language, and try our best to empathize
  2. Speak with intention: say some version of “I hear you. How can I support you?”

 

Because, to be listed to–fully, to be heard, to have space held for us–is a powerful thing.

 

We support leaders not only to be better listeners, but also to be conscious, courageous communicators in our  SPARK Leadership courses.

 

Now, it’s your turn to reflect on your listening…

 

One question to reflect on on your own:

–> When was the last time you felt FULLY heard, seen, & understood? How does that make you feel? 

 

One question for you to respond to below:

–> What’s something you can do today to be the listener you hope for? 

 

If this topic interests you, you may also resonate with three of my other blogs:

 

Rachel Rosen, the founder of S.P.A.R.K. Community and S.P.A.R.K. Leadership, is on a mission to start a global conversation about inclusion, empathy, and racial equity. With a Masters from Stanford, and extensive training in leadership, coaching, team and organizational development, S.P.A.R.K. experiences are grounded in theory and practice–all in service of making the world a better place. With love. For justice. Want to know your SPARK Leadership strengths and growth areas? Check out our self-assessment here

 

PS- For the next few weeks I have carved out space to support more leaders. If you’d like to talk more about working on effective communication strategies and/or what SPARK Leadership looks like, it would be my honor to support you. Feel free to book your 20 minute complimentary strategy session here.  

Are You A Catalyzer or Controller?

What Basketball Coaches Can Teach Us About Inspiring Communication

 

The language we use matters. So does the delivery of it.

 

As a basketball fan, I’ve come to realize there is a spectrum of two types of coaches: Catalytic champions and Controlling directors.

 

Controllers <——————————————————————————————> Catalyzers

 

Controllers need order. They focus on what’s not working. Power, attention, and ego drive their moves.

 

Catalyzers acknowledge progress. They praise the team, encourage reflection, and champion other people’s ideas.

 

I remember watching a middle school basketball game and observing the stark contrast of coaching styles. One coach was screaming, pacing, red in the face, and even got a technical foul for yelling at the referee. The team mirrored back the energy of their coach; several players fouled out, the team ran fewer plays, with more players putting themselves (and their layup, their jump shot, etc.) first before the success of the team. At one point the coach yelled, “Take down the shooter!” There was no respect, sportsmanship or civility.

 

The other coach, however, was calmly encouraging and smiling, while sitting on the bench. His team gave each other more high-fives, smiled more, and executed more plays.

 

These were middle school students.

 

His quiet, yet profoundly impactful presence reminded me of a Richard Smith (of Wild Ink) quote, “Whispers are often thunderous.”

 

I recall a very specific incident when I was teaching. I found myself at a stand-off with a 14 year old student one day.

 

“Stop talking. Sit down and listen up!” I yelled at the class

“Dang, why are you yelling, Ms. Rosen?” the student asked.

“Because y’all are so loud. I need your attention so we can finish the lesson”

“Why do you look so irritated though? Somebody woke up on the wrong side of the bed…” she said as other kids snickered.

“We don’t respect you when you yell at us all angry and stuff. You should go watch how Ms. Dixon teaches”

 

I was trying to control my classroom. I was frustrated and triggered and found myself wondering:

  • Why was I yelling?
  • Did I not sleep enough?
  • Was i projecting my issues onto my kids?
  • Why was I doing all the things I knew not to do?

 

When I held up the mirror and reflected on the situation, I didn’t like the controller I had become. I had always wanted to be an inspiring, loving teacher. I never wanted to be perceived as angry. I had to humble myself and go see how Ms. Dixon handled her classroom management.

 

In my experience, at some point, we teachers/leaders/coaches inevitably project our stuff onto teams they support.

 

We’re imperfect human beings with complex and multifaceted pains, experiences, and struggles. At some point our pain is going to seep out into our communities. How we navigate and work to minimize those moments matters.

 

Ms. Dixon (as well as numerous, brilliant basketball coaches) taught me that being a calm, catalyzing champion for your team’s success means that you win every game–no matter the score. I made a commitment that day to be a leader who supports, uplifts, and who is a guide on the side for my champions. I hope to always allow my team to discover their unique strengths…without projecting my issues.

 

The spark acronym helps us remember how to consistently be a catalytic champion:

 

S– Show up authentically. Share your intentions, values, and hopes in a real way.  Remember to show up as you.

P– Pause and breathe. Distance yourself from your ego and ask “how do I want to be experienced right now?”

a– Ask questions and stay curious. With yourself first, and then others. (ie: why am I triggered right now?”)

R-  Respect diversity. Let the differences on the team harmonize like a good song.

K– Kindly expect tension. Messiness is a part of the game. Control and order don’t drive transformation.

 

The world needs more catalyzers.

 

Through intentional habits, decisions, and moves we can move closer to being the leaders we desire to be.

 

Leave a comment below with the answer to these questions and what they bring up for you as inspiration or motivation to make a change in your own leadership style.

  • Can you think of a time in your life when you taught/led/coached/parented from a place of control / frustration? How did it make you feel?
  • Now, can you think of a time when someone helped you learn and grow with grace?

 

Rachel Rosen, the founder of S.P.A.R.K. Community and S.P.A.R.K. Leadership, is on a mission to start a global conversation about inclusion, empathy, and racial equity. With a Masters from Stanford, and extensive training in leadership, coaching, team and organizational development, S.P.A.R.K. experiences are grounded in theory and practice–all in service of making the world a better place. With love. For justice. Want to know your SPARK Leadership strengths and growth areas? Check out our self-assessment here

PS- For the next few weeks I have carved out space to support more leaders. If you’d like to talk more about what SPARK being a Catalytic Leader  looks like, it would be my honor to support you. Feel free to book your 20 minute complimentary strategy session here.