I'm pumped! These recent words from star basketballer Stephen Curry brought me to this feeling:
"Here's the truth: You're not world class if you're not actively about inclusion."
Yesterday, Curry published an article entitled, "This Is Personal," advocating gender equality for his growing daughters— and all daughters.
I wanted to develop new thought around the idea that world class status requires active inclusion— and share with you as a contribution to an ongoing social discourse.
How would the standard of all things be elevated if we linked the measure of "world class" with the wellbeing of the world?
I failed just as I started. I Googled the dictionary definition of "world class." And then, I realized that I was looking to an old world order to define a new world vision. What I call failure is what my friend, medical intuitive Julie Burns Walker, refers to as Core Lore. She says that we participate in Core Lore "when we arbitrarily follow the patterns of our families or those around us, without questioning them"; that "if we are not conscious about what we believe, then we end up claiming the beliefs of others." That's not progress. We know that doing what you've always done gets you what you've always gotten.
I propose that we evolve the definition of "world class": Of, or among the best for, the world. This is version 2.0.
I propose that we evolve the definition of "world class": Of, or among the best for, the world. This is version 2.0; that next-level sh!t. If I were to entrust my understanding to Google dictionary without question, I might unwittingly take up the belief that the term means, "Of or among the best in the world." Having given it a moment's thought, the difference of that one word is a constraint that I'm unwilling to consciously accept. How would the standard of all things be elevated if we linked the measure of "world class" with the wellbeing of the world?
Inclusion is world class because it is best for our world. Inclusive mindsets produce superior outcomes and advance human "be-ing." The working definition of inclusion that I'm working towards with client-partners is about:
As much as inclusion is about universal values and cultural norms, this practice is also deeply personal. It's about personal choice and personal change. Inclusion cannot happen without you.
Malii Watts Carolyn
#StephenCurry #Inclusion #GenderEquality #WorldClassForTheWorld #ThisIsPersonal
Under the banner of EngageBetween, and as a Training Facilitator and Management Consultant, Malii Carolyn balances her time and talent between profit-driven business on a global scope and purpose-driven work on a local scale.
In the five-year span of my high school and college Track and Cross Country career, never did I feel the runner’s high as frequently and as thoroughly as I have these last six years while building my consultancy, EngageBetween.
Expressing my thanks to you here is a small symbol of my gratitude.
I don’t presume to be more sage than Confucius, who is quoted as having said something about never working a day in your life as long as you choose a job you love. For nearly 16 years, I’ve chosen a job that I love—and, have jumped into the work as freely as Gold Medalist Jackie Joyner-Kersee at the 1988 Seoul Olympics Long Jump Final! I continue to work hard, smart and everything in between; locally and globally; virtually and face-to-face; with, and for, you. Gratefully so. For me, partnering with you is the toughest job I’ll ever love—in the best way possible—because the art of synergy between people is simultaneously imperfect for us mere humans, and pure gold.
"Thank you for inviting me into places and spaces where you’re working, and for trusting me with your greatest asset."
This month, a client wrote a generous testimony that I’ve posted to the Relationships page of my website. I especially appreciate that she recognized the creative in me, stating, “Malii is a master architect of human interaction. She creates structures for information, emotion and energy to flow between varying personalities that leaves everyone feeling better equipped to be their best.” She reminded me that when we first met about possible collaboration, I’d shared that training design and delivery is my art form.
Thank you for inviting me into the places and spaces where you’re working, and for trusting me with your greatest asset.
Founder & Principal
For this Jan. 2018 #BlahBlahBlog post, I've created this fun, original work. Enjoy! (Answers below.)
Answers correspond with the 7 words/terms popularly reported in Dec. 2017 to have been banned by the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services for official use by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. Answer Key: 1. Diversity; 2. Science-based; 3. Vulnerable; 4. Transgender; 5. Evidence-based; 6. Fetus; 7. Entitlement.
We’re not Facebook friends, so I’d like to invite you into a current conversation thread on my Facebook page that’s somehow struck a chord. In this blog edition, I share the organic evolution of an unremarkable conversation among my social network, and highlight two things: 1) How we tend to recycle the same kinds of conversations about human disunity, and 2) How we can change the conversation for good.
.Funny how fashion trends can make such strong statements on privilege and power. Before making the post pictured here, I consulted with Uncle Google on whether “holed up” clothing was a thing. First on the list of Internet search results was a set of advertisements for “distressed” t-shirts worn by petite models who presented as young, female and white. Another search produced the article, “Homeless Inspired Fashion Collection Sparks Debate at Men’s Fashion Week” (Feb. 2017).
So yes, the pink-haired person who dined at the table next to mine that Nov. evening was a part of a fashion phenomenon beyond herself. Though isn’t it—and hasn't it historically been— those who are themselves distressed by capital-driven socio-economics that present in public with threadbare clothing? Since when did clothing itself become distressed? And, what does it say that socially-enfranchised white bodies of the right size and ability are the pick of choice for that “super dope” look[i] ? “Never mind,” says the person who points out the obvious, “everything isn’t about race.”
The R-word, of course, made its way into the Facebook conversation in question. Typically, "race"/ "racist"/ "racism" are part of the world cloud when “privilege" and "power” come into play. Stating these words is not the offense—racism is the offense--and as I have experienced it, the introduction of the word tends to color and constipate conversation. Relieving peoples’ discomfort is not my concern here; the greater good is about collectively producing valuable learning outcomes for all involved. PRO TIP #1: Without “coding” your language, mix it up sometimes by editing the R-word from your comments, and then observe how it makes a difference in who speaks-- and what’s contributed-- to the conversation[ii].
Our Facebook conversation started with simple agreements in response to my post: Likes; Sad and Wow faces; the comment, “Fact.” I generally appreciate the figurative nod of a Like, or any other one-click social media engagement as much the next person. Though, it’s those gestures toward dialogue that I super like! Spoiler alert: The criteria for actual communication have not diminished with the explosion of communication by electronic means. Agreements and disagreements alone do not lend themselves to meaningful exchange. PRO TIP #2: Add a comment that inspires more than a modicum of thought.
One friend, for instance—pale-skinned, grey-haired and always with the right shade of red lipstick—gave and lent the following thought:
At some point in our Facebook conversation, I mentioned my speculative fears about raising bebes whom I haven't yet birthed into the sea of bias we all wade through daily. A college friend of South Asian heritage was gracious in her response, sharing her lived experience of “always [being] careful about how [she] dress[es her bi-racial, brown-skinned] child [likely identified by the world as Black] and how [she does] her hair, despite teaching her that the beauty inside her is what is most important.” What did I learn about speaking from fear as it relates to power and privilege? PRO TIP #3: Speak on what you know; on the world you've encountered; on what you choose. And, if in the conversation at hand you don’t know much or what to say, say so. That counts, too.
Malii who? Read my last #BlahBlahBlah blog post, Meet Malii Carolyn! (Previously Malii Brown).
[i] "Super dope" is how the Senior Beauty Editor at Cosmopolitan.com described the so-called "next-level distressed" trend in an article entitled, “Everyone Is Obsessed With Shredding Their Clothes Right Now" (Aug. 2016). Cosmo is an international fashion magazine for women printed in 35 languages and distributed in 110 countries (Wiki).
[ii] Thanks to Dr. Thomas Kochman and Jean Mavrelis from whom I have learned well-researched guidelines for productive conversations around race.
No, I didn’t get married. Though, I am currently accepting applications!
As you may be curious, I’ve changed my name so that it more truly reflects my identity: Malii Watts Carolyn. Carolyn is my given middle name after my paternal grandmother, and is now my last name. Watts is my maternal grandfather’s last name, and I’m honored to include it as my middle name.
I am faithful to the reality that we optimize our living when we unite misaligned parts of the whole.
When we show up as full human beings within our virtual networks, we make ourselves more relatable and accessible to those willing to reach across the ethersphere. Two years ago, I began publishing monthly blog posts via #BlahBlahBlog on my website in order to grow an online identity by sharing my professional expertise and personal character. I asked that you keep your “virtual dial” tuned into this space where our virtual presence intersects, and promised expert insights and thought partnership around the opportunities awaiting us in the diversity of our “glocal” world. I hope you have experienced that I’ve delivered*.
[To date, my most clicked blog posts are #Unfriend, We Are Our Own Work and We Are (Not) Free.]
In reflecting on my decision to name my own damn self, I am reminded to live deliberately. I'm faithful to the reality that we optimize our living when we unite misaligned parts of the whole. In the training room, you may have heard me suggest that this work requires personal choices and practical changes.
Consider yourself invited to be your truer self. Each time I share the story of my name, it's a gesture of authenticity. And when our living intersects like this, you may be more willing to reach across the ethersphere; to make different personal choices; and motivate yourself toward practical change.
Malii Watts Carolyn
*Contact me at Carolyn@EngageBetween.com to share your feedback on this blog series, and suggest blog topics.
EngageBetween…people. place. purpose.
Hard, sweaty workouts have not been my thing. Yet, I’m now on day #9 of my routine. Despite the initial pain, I’m achieving deep and sustained satisfaction.
I’m no sadomasochist. I’m a 30-something woman working to keep a toned body. Yoga is my love, though she needs a companion to help her achieve the results I want. I recently adopted burst training, also known as high-intensity interval training[i], after an inspiring conversation with wellness wonder Sharon Porter. According to my online research, the body can respond to working out in roughly 30-second stints—and at 90-100% maximum effort—by burning fat for the next 24 hours. You’re welcome!
I am playing with an original idea to apply the burst training tactic to the fitness of one’s cultural agility[ii].
In 15 years partnering with people to engage between differences, I’ve been running a figurative marathon. Incremental change over time has been a mantra I’ve advised you to take on, too, as you make way to wholly become the people and places that honor shared purpose. To me, a paced stride of steps toward change makes sense. Especially when among groups of people who both, “collectively create results that nobody wants,”[iii] and demonstrate ambivalence to the possibility of doing differently to achieve different results.
While I stand by this more classic strategy of choice (i.e. the figurative marathon), I am leaning into new learning. I invite you to consider with me: What if the burst training approach was applied as an expedient to promote cultural competence development around the differences that shape and strengthen[iv]? Here are some questions I’m posing so far as I work out this knot of an idea:
It would be a wow experience! When applied to training or workshop design, my idea of so-called culture burst™ training might offer simple choices to:
As your personal trainer, I would support you to build your mental muscle to achieve cultural agility to the level of personal power—whether individually or with a group; face-to-face or virtually; with single or layered goals as our guide. Ready to join me for a hard, sweaty workout?!
EngageBetween…people. place. purpose.
[i] Burst training, also known as high-intensity interval training (HIIT), involves short bursts of high-intensity style exercise for 30-60 seconds followed by one to two-minute recovery periods.
[ii] As I define it, “cultural agility” is the ability to balance cultural knowing and uncertainty for optimized results in real-life, real-time scenarios.
[iii] Quote attributed to Otto Scharmer from his book with Katrin Kaufer, Leading from the Emerging Future: From Ego-System to Eco-System Economies. In context, the quote reads, “We collectively create results that nobody wants because decision-makers are increasingly disconnected from the people affected by their decisions. As a consequence, we are hitting the limits to leadership—that is, the limits to traditional top-down leadership that works through the mechanisms of institutional silos”.
[iv] While my word selection includes terms like “expedient,” “burst” and “intensity”, I maintain that cultural competence development and the one’s practice of inclusion and equity is a process no matter the path chosen.
By the way: As a false cognate, the word, “expedient,” reflects the charm of the English language to sound like one thing and mean another. I looked it up: An expedient (n.) is a means to an end; it promotes a proposed or desired objective.
Venkat, a discerning participant in a recent training I led, asked, “In global, virtual work environments, how do we respond—when others do not?”
I floated the question to our group. My own in-the-moment response picked up on the cultural dimensions on which we focused in our two-day training: Conscious attention and creative play with the tools of Relationship, Hierarchy and Context[i].
A couple of activities and one pause for reflection later, the amplified intelligence of the group articulated another response to the question. A seed of an idea planted in the mind of one participant had been cultivated with reflection partners who were compelled to share with the whole group: “Listen. Understand. Forgive.”
We need not merely survive the uncertainties that we experience with one another at work. That ambiguity that we may feel—as we interact with differences that are different than our own—offers opportunities to engagebetween one another and discover deeper significance.
Collectively, by the way, these trainees are supafly. Cool in the pop culture sense of the term. With all due respect, of course, to the original reference of a similar name, the Blaxploitation film directed by Gordon Parks, Jr.
Together, they are young professionals—originally from Finland and Germany, India and Singapore, Tunisia, Vietnam and the U.S.—who brilliantly portray a range of Gen Y[ii] and cognitive diversity[iii]. One trainee studies business philosophy; another has a passion for the quality cars her company manufactures; one’s thoughts of the procurement process put a smile on her face; another lets his perfectly coiffed hair and dress do the speaking for him until he decides he has something of value to share. All are enrolled in an extensive professional development program organized by their German, multinational employer.
Listen. Understand. Forgive. Circled up and standing outside on the office patio, we discussed this approach to business. Venkat, listening actively behind his black-rimmed specs, may have been touched and inspired as others voiced that they were. What he verbalized was that he was not so convinced about its real-world application.
We need not merely survive the uncertainties that we experience with one another at work. That ambiguity that we may feel—as we interact with differences that are different than our own—offers opportunities to engagebetween one another and discover deeper significance. Sure, change up your netiquette[iv] in response to the opening question of this blog post, though simply “asking about someone’s family,” as one bi-cultural participant put it, can come off on the receiving end as an empty attempt at a “better practice” learned off a LinkedIn meme. Contrary to popular workplace behavior—and as another participant reminded us—associating principally with colleagues with whom we are comfortable has little place within the scope of next level business relevance.
A thriving growth mindset focused on the people who make the organization is no less a calculated cost-benefit.
Like my supafly trainees, we are at liberty to choose the seed we plant. Return to the basics when you’re unsure how to respond to others’ silent response. Before you escalate, endeavor in the effort to listen for what is (not) being spoken; resolve to understand; and forgive without benefit. While bottom line-dedicated actuaries, efficiency auditors and predominant left-brain thinkers have rooted traditional business practice in what’s green[v], a thriving growth mindset focused on the people who make the organization is no less a calculated cost-benefit.
Perhaps the cherry atop the cake—and a fitting summary of the message of this post—was what our group experienced at the end of Day One. During a technical glitch, I used the time to recap lessons learned, acknowledging each accurate response with a “high five.” Two high fives in, a third participant spontaneously stands and embraces me in a warm hug! Not only a beautiful moment in my training career, but a memorable reminder for us all that the people-to-people connection activates human value.
[i] Relationship, Hierarchy and Context refer to well-researched, national cultural dimensions, namely Task vis-à-vis Relationship, Hierarchical vis-à-vis Egalitarian, and Low vis-à-vis High Context. Email in to learn how these factors affect your workplace.
[ii] While "Gen Y" and "Millennial" refer to the same generation, this multinational group of trainees was unfamiliar with the latter term.
[iii] According to the Mar. 2017 Harvard Business Review article, Teams Solve Problems Faster When They’re More Cognitively Diverse, authored by Alison Reynolds and David Lewis, “Cognitive diversity has been defined as differences in perspective or information processing styles. It is not predicted by factors such as gender, ethnicity or age.”
[iv] Netiquette is etiquette for virtual communications.
[v] "Green" is slang for money in the U.S. because of its color.
O beautiful for spacious skies,
For amber waves of grain,
For purple mountain majesties
Above the fruited plain![i]
Until yesterday, I’d not been properly introduced to you.
My name is Malii Brown. I was born and raised on the land that you made your own. I was nursed on the Black American National Anthem (Lift Every Voice and Sing[ii]) as a childhood lullaby. I’ve been schooled in some of your most prestigious schools. In your spirit of the Dream, I am an entrepreneur; the captain of my ship. I’ve stepped foot on 20 of your states and D.C. With my navy blue passport in hand, I represent this republic well when I depart its borders.
Your reputation precedes you. I’d heard of you. I’ve read your history in my schoolbooks, and non-fiction reads in more recent years. At the knee of my great-grandmother, grandma and mother, I learned about your unique self.
Now we meet, face-to-face. And I’m at a loss for words.
Last night, just before you elected to return to your roots and reemerge as clearly as the North Star, I was on the phone with my baby cousin. She’s twenty and in her senior year at a university in one of the states that you claimed. From within her off-campus apartment, she and her roommate sat side-by-side watching the glare of the TV screen like “huddled masses yearning to breathe free”[iii]. My baby cousin told me that she was turning off the house lights, afraid of patriots celebrating in the streets who might introduce you with rock through window. And, I was angry that the cousin who I saw born into this world was made to be afraid by the afterbirth of a nation that is starry-eyed for power.
While you were silent on the lips of so many neighbors and friends—and before your back-and-better-than-ever return—we were trudging towards the promise on which you were founded:
…One Nation under God,
With liberty and justice for all.[iv]
Our struggle is one, America. There is no “us” or “them”. There’s no “other”. E pluribus unum.[v]
I will go about my days as I have before, building you brick and mortar, hand-in-hand with others who bleed red. Yesterday, I was in the Great Lakes State[vi] leading a workshop for K-12 Education administrators rallying for inclusion and equity. Tonight, I write you from my hotel room in the Buckeye State[vii], where I’ll present at annual, national NAME Conference on a similar topic. This Dec. 2016, I’m co-facilitating Race and Reconciliation, designed to prepare leaders and change agents to expand commitment to social responsibility, enhance team performance, and reduce conflict by building bridges to racial reconciliation in the U.S. And—as they say--the beat goes on.
Dear America, I do not exist without you, and you do not exist without me. I live because of your wealth and opportunity. I thrive despite your passion for privilege. And, emboldened by your example, I commit myself to die living free[viii].
From cradle to grave,
[i] Excerpt from the song, America the Beautiful, with lyrics by Katharine Lee Bates and composition by Samuel A. Ward.
[ii] The song, Lift Every Voice and Sing, also commonly known as the Black National Anthem or the Black American National Anthem, was penned as a poem by James Weldon Johnson (b.1871; d.1938) and set to music by his brother, John Rosamond Johnson (b.1873; d.1954).
[iii] Excerpt from The New Colossus, a sonnet written in 1883 by U.S. American poet Emma Lazarus (b.1849; d.1887). The sonnet is engraved at the site of the Statue of Liberty.
[iv] Excerpt from the U.S. Pledge of Allegiance, composed by Colonel George Balch in 1887, and later revised by Francis Bellamy in 1892.
[v] The motto of the U.S. in Latin, meaning “out of many, one”.
[vi] The motto of the U.S. state of Michigan.
[vii] The motto of the U.S. state of Ohio.
[viii] Reference to the motto of the U.S. state of New Hampshire, “Live Free or Die”.
noun | tech·nol·o·gy | \tek-ˈnä-lə-jē\ . a: the practical application of knowledge; b: the use of science in industry, engineering, etc., to invent useful things or to solve problems [i].
Everyone is looking at you. A couple hundred federal government employees sitting in amphitheater-style seating, to be more specific. Your job is to deliver solutions for people to engage between differences that challenge them, and they are questioning how to do their jobs without the resources they say are needed. How do you respond?
This is the scenario in which I found myself earlier this year when contracted as a KMA associate to present on generations in the workplace. Generally, those Millennials present were frustrated that their high level workplace was not equipped with the high tech tools they expected. The resource expectations of Gen X’ers—and some others of more senior generations—were also unmet in that they were not witnessing gold standard “brain power” on the part of newer Millennial hires. As you can imagine, employees had plenty to say about the topic, and I did more listening from the presentation stage than speaking. Which turned out to be what we all needed to get at the solution I proposed at the conclusion of our time together: You are your best technology.
It’s not as much the sophistication of computer-based technology itself—but the sophistication with which we think about using that technology—that is the need.
One set of key take-aways from the generational program that I built with thought leaders at KMA is around collaborating through technology. Throughout the history of organizations, systems of effective cooperation remain the figurative motherboard. Whether it’s the rotary dial phone and the radio, or SMS and a crowdsourcing system, humans seem to continually strive to create gadgets and gizmos to help us connect. These days, computer-based technology is the primary mode by which to transmit data and knowledge across dispersed networks of people—and also the preferred condition by which Millennials—and their junior iGeneration [ii]—more often than not communicate and maintain the momentum of their lives. (That, by the way, doesn’t have to stop in order for all of us to recognize the title of this blog post.) It’s not as much the sophistication of computer-based technology itself—but the sophistication with which we think about using that technology—that is the need.
Here are three suggestions on how to frame your thinking to leverage your best technology:
In short, the concept I’m communicating is simple: Our minds are superior to any technology they imagine, and we can imagine more for our own minds. What’s on your mind?
[i] Source: Merriam Webster dictionary.
[ii] The iGeneration, also known as Generation Z or Post-Millennials, are considered those born between the mid-1990s and the early 2000s. Millennials, also know as Generation Y, were born between 1980-2000. Generation X'ers were born between 1965-1981. Boomers were born between 1946-1964. Lastly—and certainly not least—Traditionalists were born between 1915-1945. All date ranges are estimates and vary by source.
[iii] An abbreviation for face-to-face.
Anecdote #1: It was Day Two of a training of “high potentials” employed by an automotive manufacturing company when one of my participants realized that he was lost. His expectations of a more structured learning experience (as a result of his German training) had distracted him from the learning itself; he was “missing the forest for the trees”. I held space as he thought aloud, arriving at the insight that unearthing his beliefs and assumptions about how our work together “should” be designed was a part of his learning process toward increased cultural competence. He had led himself to a self-knowing that “broke the shell” of his original understanding and expanded his worldview.
This past weekend, I broke out of my own comfort zone, rented a cabin a couple of states east of Illinois in the Michigan woods, and went on a solitary retreat to reach in and reclaim myself. Let’s just say that it was the summer haze into which I recently walked and got lost in the wilderness of that self. Pragmatism is something I inherited by way of matrilineal ancestry, a mindset that may have once fooled me into dismissing my retreat into nature as a frivolous act. Though more than 10 years of partnering with people to engage between one another toward whatever their bottom line, I increasingly experience that connecting to one’s self is what’s needed to work effectively with others.
I reclaimed myself in all the rich and mighty green of the woods. My surround sound theater system was a 360-degree view of a thousand trees from the windows of my cabin. I partied hard into the wee hours of the morning fitting together 499 pieces of a jigsaw puzzle—with one rogue piece. I gave my undivided attention to a two-pound piece of fiction authored by one of my favorites. I walked a labyrinth for the first time. At night, an all-consuming, zero-gravity, pitch-darkness embraced me the instant I switched off the gas lanterns. Instead of feeling small in the face of the depth and wealth of the experience, I felt bliss; intimate familiarity with an awe of our universe; and my own contribution to existence relative to all others’.
"In our business of creating common value, knowing self is gold."
On my way back to the city, I drove under bounds of blue sky clouds and past places with what I consider quintessential country names like Grape Road and Potato Park. I sang aloud--“And I’m free/ Free fallin’…”—down highway that would have most likely been dangerous for me to drive alone at high noon as Black woman barely 50 years ago—and maybe even now. My Ma, a child of the 60s herself, called to ask whether I had resolved what I needed during my time away. It occurred to me that there was nothing to resolve—just someone to reclaim.
Anecdote #2: Kudos to a client of a client who recently paused our negotiations as they grapple with who they are as an organizational culture in offering training on, and advocating dialogue around, race. As a U.S.-headquartered, multinational bank, they had been trying to calculate how to get every penny worth by inviting a significantly high number of participants to a significantly short training. In guiding us all towards a solution, my client and I offered possibilities and set boundaries that supported our client in determining how they want to characterize themselves and their brand—to more deeply engage with key stakeholders within, and external to, the organization.
One of the things that I find most challenging and rewarding about my work—and maybe you do, too—is the blurred line between what’s personal and what’s professional. In connecting with various clients, I’ve learned to speak “business-ese”, nonprofit, academia and more, but only to use familiar terms to convey a common message: Effectively engaging between people to accomplish shared purpose is about personal choice and change. In our business of creating common value, knowing self is gold.
Anecdote #3: Later this month, I’m on the road again—this time to the Sunshine State to meet with a set of participants who are consultants with one of the global Big Four auditing firms. We’ll be cultivating their skills by coaching them to be consultants who don’t get lost in the muck and mire of their own brilliance. They are to be advisors who listen to understand their clients' core qualities, because it’s discovering who we are that leads to us to determine how to get work done together.
people. place. purpose.