Why is Inclusion so hard?

 I have recently been asked by a few reporters to talk about my work in Diversity, Equity and Inclusion projects.  To be honest, I work less on the topic of diversity and focus almost exclusively on how to proactively create inclusion by preventing and eliminating exclusion.

I am not an expert in diversity issues.  I am passionate, however, about equity. Part of my practice as a Humanist is to view everyone I meet as a unique individual with dignity and worth. It hurts my heart when I learn that someone was abused because of something as stupid and arbitrary as race or gender or whatever stupid metrics are used to divide people.

What I am an expert in though, is how to stop harassment using behavioral science techniques.  Basically, I focus on the – how to actually create inclusion part of the DE&I equation.

Inclusion really is the challenge. For those of us who see all humans as: humans with dignity and worth – the challenge is what to do about the people who don’t. How do we fight back against the people who seek to exclude. It's clearly not enough to want to include people. We need to actively learn how to prevent exclusion. 

The question I seek to answer is – how do we actually create diverse yet cohesive workgroups? The answer is, we must make sure that the people who don’t want inclusion, aren’t able to derail the inclusion project. In other words, how to we make sure that bullies and let’s be honest racists and sexist and other otherists, don’t kill the diversity initiative.   

The next question is how do we make sure that people are actually actively included so that vulnerable people protected by the team and allowed to bring their unique perspective to the problem-solving process and yes – so that the problem solving process is fully collaborative and … inclusive? That is why I focus on inclusion. How to create it and how to make sure it isn’t derailed by bad actors.

The behavioral science on how to stop unwanted exclusionary behaviors is critical to the success of these initiatives.  

The good news is that we have 70 years of behavioral science to know not only how behaviors are learned but also how to cause them to be unlearned. The good news is that the only way to make these techniques work, is to implement them with love and to at all times, validate the dignity of the people we are working to stop.  We can actually do this if we use science and compassion.

It’s long past  time for us to start using these tools and teach ourselves how to actually be the change we want to see.

If you want to learn these skills, visit my course website at: https://humanistlearning.com/category/bullyingharassment/

What leadership of the commons can teach us about leadership and governance in general

 I had the pleasure of interviewing Randal Joy Thompson the other day for the International Humanistic Management Association. She was talking about Leadership on the Commons: Lessons for Government, Corporations, and NGOs.


You can view the video here: https://www.ignited.global/ihma/blog/leadership-commons-lessons-government-corporations-and-ngos  The link includes her slides and other resources mentioned during the presentation.

I really enjoyed her presentation.  One of the main questions we got and that I really liked her answer for had to do with whether or not leadership of the commons equated to some form of socialism.  She said no. Exactly the opposite actually. Leadership of the commons is actually - self leadership.  Socialism/Communism is government control of the commons and the means of production. In contrast, commons leadership is actually, us taking it upon ourselves to come together and decide together how to manage things. It's democracy, at the local level. This sort of leadership is about freedom for the group. It reminded me of some of the statements made in the Federalist Papers about how people in the USA practice democracy at all levels.

Commons Leadership requires a specific set of skills or rather a change in the way we think about how we make decisions and the ethical framework we use to make decisions.

It often arises organically and locally in response to a problem. It happens when people come together to solve a collective problem. If you watch the video, you will hear me talk about a near miss of an ecological disaster in my community. The response to this was collaborative. The problem was 60 years in the making. No one currently caused the problem. But we collectively had to figure out how to fix it. And it is getting fixed, finally.

Anyway, here are my notes on what is required to lead on the commons:

  • Think of things as larger – whole – complex systems. 
  • Proleptic – anticipate and open to positive future.
  • Need for homeostasis – creating stability
  • Shift away from egocentric to ecocentric of all the interconnected elements. 
  • Leading Proleptically - Lead with a glimpse of the future – what is that – how do we create it?  How are we influencing systems.
  • Based on Ubuntu – relationships embedded in an interconnected system. 
  • Mutual benefits to everyone and all subsystems and society and earth.
  • Power to rather than power over. It’s about empowering. 
  • Concept is more expansive than commonly understood.  Diverse resources to strengthen capacity

Implementing this

Practical 1: Create an ethical agreement about interactions to govern the community. Groups should discuss: What are our ethical principles? It is critical for the community to decide what the values are and what are the ethical principles through which they want to interact.
Practical 2: What matters – in an ecological way – whole system approach. See my above notes.

Individual responsibility

Finally, I asked her what the 3 things are she would want us to change as we think about ourselves as leaders.

1) Examine own perspective first
2) Do you see the interconnections between your organization and others organizations and do you include that in your deliberations?
3) Are you willing to really sit down and look at your ethical values?

I thought this was an excellent list. I talk to people all the time who want to create unity with others and end divisions. But what they really want is to change other people. They don't want to change themselves. They just want everyone to agree with them. That isn't actually how leadership works.  Real leaders make space for disagreements and look for the foundational ethical principles that bind us together so that we CAN work towards a common goal together despite our differences. 

So, what are you doing, to examine your own perspective? 

Grief and denial for conspiracy theories and bullies

 What do grief, denial, conspiracy theories and bullies all have in common? They all are behavioral manifestations known as an extinction burst. Or to put it another way, what happens when we don't get our way? 

I teach how to get unwanted behaviors to stop. If you are dealing with bullies go here: https://bullyvaccineproject.com/  If you want more general applications and personal development go here: https://humanistlearning.com/

All our behaviors are learned. Our thoughts, are also basically, learned. Here is a good book about how we think and what we think we think - https://amzn.to/3oNRDc4

We learn behaviors because learning them helps us. In laymens terms, that means, they were rewarded in some way. When the behavior stops being rewarded or stops working, the brain doesn't like it much. So, the brain tries to figure out ways to make it work again. How do we get our reward back - the reward being, things going - our way.

It does this in a variety of ways. Sometimes it grieves. Sometimes it denies reality. This happens even when reality can't be denied. Sometimes it constructs theories about why things in reality don't match up to our expectations. 

For those of us watching someone in grief, or denial or spouting off an absolutely ludicrous conspiracy theory, or even bullies, we should understand that the reason they are doing these things is because reality isn't being kind to them. 

And no, you can't just slap them and say snap out of it. They just have to go through this on their own. And just as some people get stuck in grief and denial, some people get stuck in their conspiracy theories. They come up with hypothetical ways reality might not be real and then they forget that it was a hypothetical and they treat it as real.

ALL of this, all of it, is a manifestation of what we call an extinction burst. 

Bullies do this to. If you don't respond to a bully the way they want, they will escalate to get you to respond again. They do this because the reality didn't match their expectation. 

All you can do - and really the kindest thing you can do, is to keep presenting reality in a kind and gentle way. Sorry, that's not how this works. Sorry, I know reality is painful at times. But the sooner we all accept reality, the less problems we cause for ourselves and for others. 

So, the next time you find yourself talking to someone who seems, out of touch or in serious denial, treat them with compassion. Oh - and as an exercise in critical thinking for yourself, ask them for evidence of whatever it is - just in case, you are the one in denial.

Be kind to everyone you meet. You don't know what they are going through. Even and especially the ones causing problems. 



Liberating Work With Agapic Love

 I am participating in a writing project on love and organizing in the workplace with some colleagues from the International Humanistic Management Association. It's been really fun to talk about love and organizing with such brilliant minds.


We had a conversation the other day and so many things stood out in how I understand love and organizing and I thought I'd share them here.

From Renato Ruffini on Liberating Work: Isn’t about freedom – it’s about connection. It’s about co-creating to create value for society – and through that – economic value for flourishing.

I love that - liberation isn't about freedom - it's about connection. Think about what you like about work the most. It's probably your connection to your colleagues and the work you do that really makes a difference for society.

Also from Renato Ruffini on the difference between erotic love vs agapic love in the workplace.  Now, I understand for westerners, the concept of erotic love in the workplace is probably limited to the porn industry. But Renato explained that erotic love is about reciprocity. Meaning - I give to you with expectation of getting in return.  This contrasts with agape which is about giving for the sake of giving.

In reality, both exist. Work for reciprocal exchange (erotic) and work for the sake of doing good work (agape).  The challenge is how we balance between the 2 forms of love in our work.  We need to have both in the workplace, but usually, we only have erotic and not agapic relationships in the workplace. So, think ... how much better would work be if it satisfied both agape and eros?

Renato also talked about Fraternity as the first form of Agape  but that we need to move to full agape. In other words, Humanism. 

This gets us into the nature of man. We all have a need for love.  In many people, this desire and need is not fully developed.  So we experience this form of love - fraternity, as very tribal.  This is not agapic.   Agape does not require reciprocity.  

When we get stuck in fraternity, we can become very tribal. This causes problems like racism.  Fraternity is a form of reciprocal love. If we move past that - into agape, we find the Gratitude.  But Renato made clear, the term Gratuiti in Italian doesn't mean what Gratitude does in English. It doesn't translate. Instead, Gratuiti is the opposite of reciprocity.

Basically, we need love and fraternity. But if we get stuck in fraternity and never move past that to humanity in total (ie: agape) then we don't reap the full benefit of love in organizations. We should instead, look to be gratuiti in our relationships.

  Don't require reciprocity.

Finally, my colleague Harry Hummels, who is seriously brilliant, in the spirit of agape, said, great leaders don't tell people what to do. Great leaders invite people to contribute as full partners to the mission of the organization. 

To recap:

  • Liberation is found in collaboration.
  • Don't require reciprocity to do good work
  • Invite people to be full partners with you!





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