WorkHuman: Inspiring Engagement & Inclusion

johnny and many wise women copy.jpg
Kris Torres & her beautiful little boy.jpg

Cool people were not only on the stages at WorkHuman; they are in the seats next to you. Never one to let a wise person go by without inquiry, I have been asking leaders I met there what they are doing with the content and insight gained at the conference. Steven Urban of Accenture, whose very good company I enjoyed over dinner — and whose friendship I plan to enjoy from here on out — was kind enough to indulge my curiosity and comment on what he is taking back to work. What you will read below are the many ways the presenters inspired him to land in his own bravery, to work even harder as part of a team, and to see the meaning in his unique story and value of his work. If that these are not levers for engagement and inclusion, I don’t know what is.

Thank you, Steven.

Steven Urban on WorkHuman

Looking over my notes from the conference, a couple of things stood out, having hit me at my core. They were powerful quotes from some of the presenters that made me sit back and think. "What does this mean to me, what does this mean to my organization, and how can I take this knowledge and make a difference?" I hope they have the same impact for you.

"You can be 100% correct in what you are saying, and you can also be 100% incorrect by how you say it" - Viola Davis  

In business we get so wrapped up in being right (with metrics, POVs, methodologies, etc.) that people often forget and lose their listener, and this is evident in how we deliver the message. It is so simple, yet so profound. 

“When you are poor, black (any minority race), disabled, etc., you are a throw-away, and this is how society makes you feel" - Viola Davis

Understanding the privilege you have when you are part of the majority takes courage. You have to drop your defenses, see the other side, and not make people feel like throw-aways. Viola's whole speech had me tearing up. As someone who truly believes I am an advocate for the throw-aways — and at times I have felt that way once people confirmed I was gay — I still know I have many privileges afforded to me because I am a white male. I try to be mindful of those and use them for good.

"How can we reach parity if you cannot see or hear us?" - Gena Davis

This echoes what Viola said about the invisible/throw-aways. How are we striving to reach equality in the workplace if there is not representation from all sides at the table?  If you do not see or hear from your peers who are different from you, can we say we are really striving for excellence through your diversity and inclusion programs?  

“Our core emotional need is to be valued and, when that is threatened, we call up our inner lawyer which immediately goes on the defensive to protect us, to avoid discomfort or shame, and will fight to justify or deflect the blame off of us.” - Tony Schwartz 

This is significant for every type of relationship, work and personal, because every single human being does this. Knowing that we are going to go to this place, which does not help for constructive conversations (it is our critter state as Christine Comaford like to call it), allows us the opportunity to circumnavigate the unnecessary defenses. It is ok to say, "I was being an asshole and I am sorry" when it is warranted. It is powerful. Basically own up that you made a mistake instead of deflecting and defending a bad decision.  

"If you do not allow vulnerability in your organization, then do not ask people to innovate" - Brene Brown 

This was profound and things most leadership teams should hear on repeat daily. So many times I walk into organizations and I hear the mantra of "we must grow through innovation," but yet there is no opportunities to fail or make mistakes as you try new innovations. In those cases, it is hard to be brave enough to innovate, to take a chance to do something differently without fear of rejection or perhaps even retaliation.   

"We push for success instead of significance" - Viola Davis

My work helps clients advance the workforce experience, and that leads to better success, so this struck a chord for me. People in business-support roles can feel overlooked or even like second class citizens. Many people are striving for individual and group success first and foremost, instead of focusing on the significant impact we have on others. That has a profound multiplier impact on revenue. What if we focused just 10% more on tracking our significance?

Overall, it felt great to be at a conference focusing on these topics. For the first time, in a long time, I felt like I was with my people. 

For more, view cool photos of WorkHuman by Victorio Millian.

Catherine Flavin