So here we are, post Labor Day, and the pandemic, while in the rear view mirror, still lingers.

And we are just beginning to experience the secondary effects of the pandemic…its effect on our personal and work lives, being called back to work “in office”, possibly being laid off,  not to mention the  mental health challenges that affected each of us and our loved ones, especially young children, teenagers, college students, all having to endure a very different experience with respect to their education.

The pandemic didn’t stop there. DEI budgets, in the face of a potential recession that changes monthly or in the face of politicization, have been slashed. Our DEI colleagues are hanging on by a thread, and also face another challenge…DEI backlash. Never in a million years did any of us see this coming! 

It is quite a challenging environment and yet I still have hope. More importantly, I have a plan.

But before I share with you what I am doing, I need to call out what is lingering everywhere and not being talked about nor confronted..Grief.

Grief is loss and there has been a lot of loss. Personally I have experienced a lot of loss.

My good friend and colleague, Jennifer Brown, was speaking the other day about this and how difficult it is to be with everything. We recognize that we too are experiencing loss. We both agree that if we are to be true inclusive leaders, we must also do our work so we can lead accordingly.

One thing is for sure: COVID put most everyone, if not everyone, in touch with loss.  Loss of a loved one. A job. Connection. Loss of being able to experience our friends and family the way we are accustomed to. Most of us didn’t take a grief class in school (I Didn’t); it’s usually the “ school of life” that has us learn and experience loss, and the accompanying stages that come with grief.

In my own life and in my work with men, I’ve found that being ‘with sadness’ is a body of work that men need to learn most. And it’s not just men; it’s all of us. We all carry past losses from our upbringing that still reside, un-experienced in our bodies. And in the context of being an ally and leader, it’s extremely important that you connect to and experience your own sadness and grief when it shows up.

 Why? Because if you don’t, it will remain buried— until an unsuspecting life event comes along and triggers you. Then,  instead of you experiencing and showing your true feelings, anger  will rue the day. This is what has been true for me for quite some time until I chose to feel. Experiencing grief is all about release and enables us to be present with others. 

Most importantly, you will be ill equipped to deal with these same emotions when others around  you experience them. Part of being an ally requires that you be empathetic. The people with whom you work and lead, especially women and marginalized folx, live with loss, sadness, and grief all the time.You will need to be grounded in understanding what’s true for them so that you can be a supportive ally and leader. (In my book, Showing Up: How Men Can Become Effective Allies in the Workplace, I offer several grief experiencing exercises) .

My plan is this 

To upgrade the critical importance of engaging men as allies to a leadership imperative. While in fact most of my interactions with companies have been with my DEI colleagues, I am coming to recognize that it’s the leaders of the organization that usually are men, that need to be met where they are, to get connected to their core why this is important, so that they can lead inclusively. They have the position, the budget and the influence.

What you can do

Come to the Better Together Conference and reconnect with people and lean even more into your allyship & leadership….being a good human. 

Day One’s partial focus is, The “State of Together is not Together” will support our efforts to be Better Together 

Day Two (Limited tickets available)  will be more hands on, roll up your sleeves experience,  that is conversation focused. Breakouts will be arranged to further develop your story and how it can foster your inclusive leadership chops.

See you soon!

Ray Arata

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