Queen's University IRC

Trust Yourself First: Addressing DEI Using Emotional Intelligence


Linda Allen-Hardisty
Queen’s IRC Facilitator

August 16, 2021

Trust Yourself First: Addressing DEI Using Emotional IntelligenceThink of the last time you questioned how much you trust yourself – to make a tough decision on your own, to initiate a tough conversation with someone not knowing if you can handle how it goes, to admit to others you were wrong, to learn something new, or to simply be honest with yourself? Exploring your self-trust is what I call “inner work”, and it is foundational to your contribution to addressing one of the most critical forces of our time – creating a more diverse, equitable, and inclusive (DEI) workplace.

As organizations continue to make and refine plans for a hybrid workplace, they are also focusing on the leaders’ top five priorities for 2021. According to the July 28, 2021 issue of HRD Magazine, diversity, equity and inclusion is number two.[1]

Let’s explore how trusting yourself will help you to listen, learn (and unlearn), and be extremely open to your role in making a more diverse, equitable, and inclusive workplace.

Addressing workforce diversity, equity, and inclusion (DEI) is one of the most prominent focuses of organizations today. It is a business imperative.  With all the reports and headlines capturing our attention (as it should), many leaders I work with find themselves overwhelmed with closing the many gaps, for example:

  • “A 2020 Ipsos poll found 60 percent of those surveyed see systemic racism as a serious problem and a majority believe more needs to be done to ensure equality for all Canadians”[2]
  • “But what surprises some people is how far behind Canada is compared with other OECD countries in narrowing the pay gap between men and women. Of the 36 OECD countries, Canada ranks 29th.”[3]

There are some good examples of well-designed policies and practices for corporate DEI efforts to be successful.   As you grow in your ability to trust yourself to learn and unlearn, here are a few ways to get started to trust yourself more.  The emotional intelligences to lean into are:

  • Empathy
  • Interpersonal relationship-building
  • Stress tolerance
  • Self-awareness

Empathy

Empathy is recognizing, understanding, and appreciating how other people feel.  Empathy involves you being able to articulate your understanding of another’s perspective and behaving in a way that respects other people’s feelings (MHS).  A recent example is Penny Oleksiak’s reflection on how her relay team leveraged empathy over time to achieve:

“I’ve grown a lot as a person in the last five years,” said Oleksiak. “I think we’re all so supportive of each other when someone else is going through a tough time. … Having a team that’s that professional, that empathetic, that amazing, you don’t see that anywhere else in the world.” (Tokyo Olympics, August 2021) – Canada’s most decorated Olympian[4]

To trust yourself to be empathetic, really be present to listen to someone’s reply about what would make a team meeting more inclusive so all can contribute in a way that works for them. Trust that you can learn to set up a team meeting based on what they said – and to also unlearn or stop doing something that didn’t help.  An example question – “When do you feel most included in a meeting?”.   Your intention doesn’t matter as much as people feeling that you understand and recognize their view – only they can tell you if they feel included.

Interpersonal Relationship-Building

Interpersonal relationships as an emotional intelligence refers to your skill of developing and maintain mutually satisfying relationships that are characterized by trust and compassion (MHS).

Use a coach approach to build relationships with your team members. For example, research has shown that what is known as “political correctness” in the workplace inhibits cross-cultural interactions, when leaders struggling under pressure of rule and regulations limit contact with diverse staff for fear of causing any unintended offense.  A coaching approach, on the other hand, promotes mutual respect and inclusion in a way that raises your interpersonal awareness.[5]

To trust yourself to build interpersonal relationships, engage your team in a discussion about how they define success in the workplace – ask what beliefs and criteria are important.  Trust yourself to build trusting relationships with all people, regardless of your feelings toward them. For example, identify people on your team with whom you have not developed a strong relationship; list areas of these relationships you’d like to improve, and talk with them.

Stress Tolerance

Stress tolerance is an emotional intelligence that involves you coping with stressful or difficult situations and believing that you can manage or influence situations in a positive manner.

High trust relationships lower individual stress. For example, I have noticed that some leaders question their ability to lead the change in shifting their workplace culture to more diverse, equitable and inclusive – because they know it comes with potential conflict and challenging conversations.  This can be so stressful!

Trust yourself to hear difficult things that others may raise, and reframe your role as the one to listen. Listen, listen, listen.  People do want to be heard – that could provide priceless release for people and strengthen level of trust in relationships. The path to DEI workplaces is a journey. Build a strong level of stress tolerance so you can create space for such conversations.

Self-awareness

Self-awareness is “the ability to see ourselves clearly to understand who we are, how others see us, and how we fit into the world around us.”[6]

Trust yourself to learn and use the essential coaching skills to listen with empathy and ask open-ended questions and show your genuine curiosity without judgement. For example, ask your team what you can do to build a more diverse team that you currently have now, or what you can do to ensure the new DEI policies are followed and leveraged. Be open and don’t be afraid to hear that you may need to change your own actions.

Where to go next?

In our Building Trust in the Workplace program, participants complete an online self-assessment of how they currently use emotional intelligence, and their results are woven into the program self-reflections and discussions. A past participant said:

“This program has changed how I think about my role in improving my relationships; there is a lot I can do to become more trustworthy to others. That EI self-assessment was an eye-opener for me.”  

Of all the definitions of trust that we explore in the program, the one most participants gravitate to is this: To talk about trust, Brene Brown uses the acronym BRAVING which stands for: boundaries, reliability, accountability, the vault, integrity, non-judgment, and generosity. Trust is choosing to make something important to you vulnerable to the actions of someone else.[7]

Building trust with others begins with building trust in yourself to do the inner work that you are so capable of doing!  Trusting yourself will help you to listen, learn (and unlearn), and be extremely open to your role in making a more diverse, equitable, and inclusive workplace.

Addressing workforce diversity, equity, and inclusion (DEI) is one of the most prominent focuses of organizations today. It is our collective responsibility. The next time you question if you trust yourself, consider your focus on using empathy, growing your interpersonal relationships, strengthening your stress tolerance, and raising your self-awareness.

 

About the Author

Linda Allen-HardistyLinda Allen-Hardisty is an organizational development professional (Queens IRC OD Certificate), an executive coach (ICF PCC professional designation), a team coach (EMCC Global Accreditation), and a Forbes Coaches Council contributing member. She’s built a reputation as a vibrant, contemporary voice in the business world by blending her grounding in OD with a practical approach to addressing organizational challenges and opportunities. Over her 20-year OD career, she has helped many leaders – from corporate executives to entrepreneurs – improve their personal and professional success. She is a sought-after facilitator and advisor for executive development, strategy and change, team effectiveness, and emotional intelligence. With a Masters of Education from the University of Regina, Linda’s uniqueness is that, prior to private practice, she fulfilled corporate leadership roles including the Director of Organizational Development in a company listed on the Hewitt Top 50 Employers in Canada and became the first Manager of Strategy and Performance for a municipal government undertaking cultural transformation.

Linda is the lead facilitator for the Queen’s IRC Building Trust in the Workplace program.

 

References

Brady, R. (2021, August 1). Penny Oleksiak becomes Canada’s most decorated Olympian as swim team Finishes Tokyo Olympics with sixth medal. The Globe and Mail. Retrieved August 11, 2021, from https://www.theglobeandmail.com/sports/olympics/article-canadas-swim-team-finishes-tokyo-olympics-with-sixth-medal-penny/.

Brown, B. (2018). Dare to lead: Brave work, tough conversations, whole hearts. Vermilion.

Eurich, T. (2017). Insight: Why we’re not as self-aware as we think, and how seeing ourselves clearly helps us succeed at work and in life. Crown Business.

Small, T. (2021, August 1). Canadian companies emerge from COVID-19 pandemic with new diversity and Inclusion plans. The Globe and Mail. Retrieved August 11, 2021, from https://www.theglobeandmail.com/business/article-canadian-companies-emerge-from-covid-19-pandemic-with-new-diversity/#comments.

Syed, N. (2021, July 28). Top leadership priorities for 2021 Revealed. HRD Canada. Retrieved August 11, 2021, from https://www.hcamag.com/ca/news/general/top-leadership-priorities-for-2021-revealed/292735.

Tanneau, C and McLoughlin, L. (2021, 06 21). Effective Global Leaders Need to Be Culturally Competent | The International Coaching Federation. Retrieved August 11, 2021, from https://hbr.org/sponsored/2021/06/effective-global-leaders-need-to-be-culturally-competent.

Zink, L. & Squires-Thompson, K. (2021, August 1). Opinion: Companies, get your pay equity act together. The Globe and Mail. Retrieved August 11, 2021, from https://www.theglobeandmail.com/business/commentary/article-companies-get-your-pay-equity-act-together/.

 

Footnotes

[1] Syed, N. (2021, July 28). Top leadership priorities for 2021 Revealed. HRD Canada. Retrieved August 11, 2021, from https://www.hcamag.com/ca/news/general/top-leadership-priorities-for-2021-revealed/292735.

[2] Small, T. (2021, August 1). Canadian companies emerge from COVID-19 pandemic with new diversity and Inclusion plans. The Globe and Mail. Retrieved August 11, 2021, from https://www.theglobeandmail.com/business/article-canadian-companies-emerge-from-covid-19-pandemic-with-new-diversity/#comments.

[3] Zink, L. & Squires-Thompson, K. (2021, August 1). Opinion: Companies, get your pay equity act together. The Globe and Mail. Retrieved August 11, 2021, from https://www.theglobeandmail.com/business/commentary/article-companies-get-your-pay-equity-act-together /.

[4] Brady, R. (2021, August 1). Penny Oleksiak becomes Canada’s most decorated Olympian as swim team Finishes Tokyo Olympics with sixth medal. The Globe and Mail. Retrieved August 11, 2021, from https://www.theglobeandmail.com/sports/olympics/article-canadas-swim-team-finishes-tokyo-olympics-with-sixth-medal-penny/.

[5] Tanneau, C and McLoughlin, L. (2021, 06 21). Effective Global Leaders Need to Be Culturally Competent | The International Coaching Federation. Retrieved August 11, 2021, from https://hbr.org/sponsored/2021/06/effective-global-leaders-need-to-be-culturally-competent.

[6] Eurich, T. (2017). Insight: Why we’re not as self-aware as we think, and how seeing ourselves clearly helps us succeed at work and in life. Crown Business.

[7] Brown, B. (2018). Dare to lead: Brave work, tough conversations, whole hearts. Vermilion.

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