Webinar presenter Dr. Kimberly Miller answered a number of your questions after her presentation, Transformation and Change for Justice Professionals. Here are just a few of her responses.
Audience Question: You use two terms that I think a lot of people use interchangeably. What is the difference between equality and equity?
Dr. Kimberly Miller: Fantastic. I love it. So, equality is giving everybody the same thing, whether it’s access to the same thing, whether it is – let’s just use the example of evaluation. Everybody gets an evaluation. Check the box, done. That’s not going to serve all people because all your employees are different. You might have somebody who’s rocking along who doesn’t need a lot of feedback, is doing everything, really exceeding expectations in some ways and they don’t really have any major challenges. You talk to them on a regular basis, so they might get their evaluation, talk to you about it, then they might need 10 minutes. You might have another employee who’s brand new and only been on the job six months. They are a little bit more hesitant. They don’t have confidence. They’re, let’s say, maybe more shy or introverted. Then, you, as a supervisor could say, I give everybody 10 minutes. And then, in those 10 minutes, you talk the whole time about how they need to get better and be different and because they’re shyer and more introverted, they just sort of sit there. They don’t really speak. They say yes, ma’am or yes, sir and they leave. Those two people got a very different yet equal 10 minutes and they got an evaluation but that didn’t meet their needs. So, equity is about giving people what they need, based on where they are, or what they already have. So, in my view, evaluations are a great example of this. They should never be equal. Evaluation should be about equity, not being equal, because everybody’s going to get one. Yes, check the box. But you’re going to have some people that, you can have a 10-minute conversation with and that totally works. You’re going to have other people that might need 30 minutes or an hour of your time or they might say to you, “Hey, I’m more introverted and I’m an internal processor. Can I look at my evaluation before we meet? So, I’m prepared with questions and things that I want to do?” Now, some supervisors go absolutely not, you cannot. That’s not going to meet the need of somebody who is an internal processor. So, that’s the difference. An equitable evaluation is giving people what they need, based on where they are and what they have. Equal evaluation is saying, everybody has 10 minutes, and here’s your piece of paper.
Audience Question: A sense of control kind of sounds like an illusion of control. Do you think, perhaps, that sometimes we can grant a degree of control, perhaps, if we identify some limits first? So, give them all an ounce of control just a little bit to help things along?
Dr. Kimberly Miller: Well, I don’t think it’s an illusion of control. So, here, I’ll give you an illusion. The illusion of control, in my mind that’s just how I’m seeing it. If I were to tell my employees, I want you to do a survey and tell me what you really like and what you don’t like and I promise, I’ll listen. That would be an illusion if I have no intention of listening. So, I would give them an illusion of control because I say tell me the feedback, let me know what we need to do. I’m open to feedback, trust me. They take a risk they’re expecting to have control because there I’m going to listen to the feedback and then I don’t. So that, to me, would be an illusion of control. Actual control doesn’t mean that that person, in particular, has to sit at the table and be a decision-maker, right? Because I think a lot of people think, well, I have to run it. If I want to have control, I have to run it. It has to be my decision, my ideas, etc. No. By just saying what’s your feedback or there’s one of your peers that sits on this committee and you can give them your ideas and your feedback. A sense of control could be to let me know what to expect every day because that’s one of the things and I don’t think it’s an illusion. Like, I think of one of our big challenges in our country right now is that we don’t have a sense of control about this pandemic and people are panicking and freaking out because they don’t know when is it going to end and when is the vaccine going to come and everybody wants to talk about the end game which I totally understand. But it’s like, well, what can you do right now, right? Wear a mask. Keep your family safe and make good decisions, right? Figure out how to homeschool your kids. For me, it was totally reimagining my business because I could have stayed on unemployment and go well, I don’t know what to do because I’m not in control of when I can do in-person training again. Instead of sitting in that place where I had no control, I said, Well, you know what? I control me and I can control reimagining my business and moving to 100% online for now. I got control. I still don’t know when the pandemic is going to end but I think that the things I talked about through all of those different variables reducing impacts, empowerment, all of that stuff are ways to give people an actual sense of control in their life, what to expect, how they can participate doesn’t mean you have to be a decision-maker. Many times, we get in that mindset and I’ve heard many people say well I’ll be happy when this pandemic is over. I look at them and say, well, why can’t you be happy now while we’re in a pandemic? I’m like and there’s a lot of other great things. I mean, I’ve been on unemployment for months trying to figure this out and now I figure it out. I’m just going to re-imagine and do all my stuff online and that’s what I’m doing. So, we have to figure out a way that we can get our own sense of control when we’re not always in control of the big things. So, I don’t like the idea of an illusion and of course, I don’t know exactly what this person meant but I think the last part of what either they said, or you said, I agree with. Give people a small way to have control. You don’t have to put them in the driver’s seat but give them a voice. Let them know they’re appreciated. Listen to their feedback, that’s all the different ways that we can give people a little sense of control or predictability in the midst of a change process.
Audience Question: A lot of organizations do employee surveys, but then feedback is given, and nothing happens. How can a leader overcome that objection from employees that they’ve done this, too? They’ve done these employee surveys, a number of times had gotten nothing back, how do you overcome the employees who say, well, what’s the point?
Dr. Kimberly Miller: Right. So, that’s the big pothole in that one and we said before what makes people get on board or off-board with training. Past experiences, trust, influence, relationship. If people have had bad past experiences with you, with your organization, with executives in your organization, you have to do something to prove it’s going to be different this time. You have to create a new experience. You have to show you’re trustworthy. If you’re, let’s say a mid-level manager, what you could say is, “Look, I’m asking you to do the survey. We have a new CEO. I don’t actually know if they’re going to listen to y’all. I wish I could tell you. They’re brand new. I’m just getting to know myself, but you know what I can tell you is I will listen and whatever I can change on our shift or in our division, that is my commitment to you.” Because, right, your people might trust you, but not the new CEO or not the boss that’s been in there for 10 years and never listens. You can ask people to participate yet again if at least you would do something and then that is your relationship on the line. But I’ll tell you, a lot of people have been asked to do a survey after survey after survey and they either don’t do it and some organizations take a heavy hand, which I totally disagree with, which is forcing people to do it. You have to do it by whatever ??? or you get in trouble. Then people just halfway do it and it’s all BS and then you don’t get good data anyway. So, I think what you could do, if you’re the CEO, then I think you spend time building relationships and listening, maybe before you even do a survey, you build relationships. You listen. You just have informal conversations with people and then you do something with what you’ve already been told. You make a change, you change policy. You create a diversity and inclusion committee, right? You do something, you already act before you ask them to give you more feedback and that right there builds trust and relationship.
Audience Question: How much transparency should be given? We all talk about transparency. Is there such a thing as too much?
Dr. Kimberly Miller: I don’t know but here’s how I look at it. I like to be totally upfront with people and I like that in return. I like to tell people, look, this is what’s going to happen, and I don’t know the whole road. I haven’t figured out the whole – I know the next five miles I’ll tell you. I know the dream that’s about 50 miles from here ??? But you know what? I know the next five miles and I am figuring this out day-to-day. I am listening to you all day today and we’re going to work on this, but I don’t know everything. Here’s what I do know and here’s what I need you all to do. I need you all to take a risk. I need you all to trust me. I need you all to give me feedback because it’s going to be your feedback that determines how the first five miles go and what the next five miles are that we’re on. So, I like to tell people upfront. This is what I know. This is what I don’t know. This is how I’m going to show up. This is what you can expect from me because all of those things give people a sense of control. Like if I only say I know the next five miles, but I have a relationship where people trust me and I have influence, they’ll get on board to even a rickety bus with me because they trust me. And they know that if it breaks down on the good mechanic and we got spare tires and parts and all that. So, we’ll figure it out. So, I don’t know if there’s too much transparency, like, Okay, let me say this like I’m saying all the things I just said to you. Inside, I am having a complete panic attack and I’m freaking out. I wouldn’t say, that right? So that’s what she means by too much transparency. So, I wouldn’t say, oh, my God, I’m up till three AM every night and I don’t know what I’m doing. I’ve never done this before and I’m panicking. I’m anxious. I can’t eat. No, don’t tell people that. I haven’t it all figured out. We’re going to figure it out together. Now, I’m assuming that’s maybe what she meant. I would be so transparent. But remember your goal in this is to instill faith and trust. If you’re telling people you’re up after 3 AM and you can’t manage your own anxiety, there is no trust, and they are not on the rickety bus.
Audience Question: For a leader that is a scary proposition for some leaders to say, I don’t know. That can be a really scary proposition for some folks.
Dr. Kimberly Miller: Yes, and that is the work, isn’t it? Because it all, to me, it comes down to character. I mentioned this before about humility is one of the most underused character traits in my mind, especially these days ???? But humility and vulnerability are how we connect with people. If y’all aren’t familiar with Brene Brown, I encourage you to explore her work. She’s done amazing work on this. Think about it. You can’t connect to a perfect person. We say we want perfect people. We say we were trying to be perfect, we sell this stuff. We don’t connect to the perfect people. We connect with other humans in our shared, flawed humanity. We connect with people that we can look at and we can listen to and go, oh, my gosh, that’s me. ???? I don’t know, everything, either, and remember, part of this work and getting your organization in a better place with change is you role-modeling the behavior. So, if your expectation for your people is to be humble, to admit when they don’t know stuff, to admit when they’re confused or unsure, you have to go first. You cannot ask your people to be vulnerable if you won’t be. And, let me just clarify. Vulnerability does not mean crying and falling apart on the floor. Vulnerability means you know I struggled too. I get it. I’m not sure how it’s all going to work out, either. I’ve done this in other organizations, and honestly, they haven’t all gone well. I’ve learned from every mistake I’ve made but I’m not going to sit here and tell you, I’ve done this perfectly in the past. I haven’t. But I can tell you this. I’ve learned. I’ve grown. I’m open to feedback and we are going to get the ball across the goal line together. That is honest. It’s transparent and it’s open and real. People can connect to that and they go, Okay, you don’t know it all. We don’t know it all figured out together. Let’s go. I wouldn’t tell them that you’re in therapy or have anxiety attacks, and you can’t sleep at night, and that’s too much information.
Audience Question: So, let’s look at it from a different perspective. How can line staff get the needed buy-in from the top? So, we’re flipping the script here just a little bit. It’s not the leader who’s necessarily getting folks onboard, its employees getting the higher-ups on board. How do we manage up and get them on board?
Dr. Kimberly Miller: Yeah, I love it. I love it. So, here’s one thing to think about. Frame the change and make your sell based on something they care about. You could frame it as this will enhance the reputation of our organization. This will enable us to recruit more high-quality individuals. This will help deal with the issues we’ve had around productivity, engagement, and job satisfaction. This will help reduce turnover. This will help us live from the values that you talk about are important every week. Talk about what they care about, what is important to them, and how making the change is going to fundamentally solve a problem that they care about. Then it will be super hard for them to not get on board. So, you have to sell to them, just like they would sell down, right? What is the benefit? You need to sell up especially if your change is going to cost money. I wouldn’t lead with the number, the number is later. You want to lead with the reason and the outcome and the urgency of doing something then later talk about the money, but you already have to come prepared with the whole proposal and different money options and different vendors or whatever but you’re selling the vision. You’re selling the solution to a problem that they care about, and it could even be like a risk management issue, right? This, doing X, Y, and Z is going to significantly reduce our liability in these ways. Now, additionally, ways to sell it is if you know of another organization that’s already done it, succeeded and crossed the goal line, use them as an example. You could say, well, this other organization that’s just like our organization already did this, and here are the benefits they’re fundamentally receiving right now. So, this is a lot of prep ahead of time, but you can absolutely sell up and lead up and I love that you asked the question. Frame it in the context of something they value, and they care about, and they couldn’t say no to. It’s easy peasy after that.
Audience Question: So, I get the last question of the day, Kimberly. We’ve been talking about changes and we lived a heck a lot of shame seems like we’ve let the lifetime of change in the last 8 to 9 months. What do you know now that you didn’t know 8 or 9 months ago?
Dr. Kimberly Miller: Oh, so good. I have learned that I am even more resilient than I thought. I have learned that the reason that I am and I am now able to be successful in my new, reimagining my business is because I really do, and I’m very proud of this, I really do live what I teach. I have worked on my own resilience over the last 15, 20 years, and really hard to core, the last 10 to 12. I see myself as overall, a really resilient person. Somebody has a really good mindset, positive, always hunting for the gift and all that kind of stuff but I will honestly tell you this stuff around my whole business got shut down because of the COVID and then I didn’t know what I was going to do and then I was trying to get unemployment or what I qualify. I mean, it was like, oh, I don’t know how I’m going to get through this. Like, so, I had some moments. They are obviously of doubt and struggle and in worry. I did get through it. I utilize my coping skills. I tapped into my network of friends and family members, and I was willing to take a risk and get help. Like, I wanted to go in on this online world. I didn’t know what I was doing. I had thought about hiring a coach for years to help me with it because they always say, every therapist has a therapist every person who wants to get better hires a coach. I was a little resistant to it. Going well can I just buy the stuff online and figured out myself? Well, I couldn’t. And so, I said you know what I’m just going to take a risk, and I’m not making any money right now, but this is important. I will take money out of my savings. I’m going to jump off the high dive in a calculated way. I picked somebody that was very successful, who I knew a little bit. I did it. I went and did the scary thing, which is jumping into this stuff I don’t know anything about. I am not super tech-savvy and all of that. What this whole thing did that I didn’t realize it was doing at the time it was doing it, was it gave me an opportunity to practice what I teach. Gave me an opportunity to fundamentally say, Okay, So you teach people about all this different stuff. Resiliency, and mindset, and coping, and risk-taking, and being brave and all the stuff ???? Everything. It’s like, can you do it? I could, because I had been making those intentional small moves every day, working on my mindset, working how I talk about what I offer the world, being very clear about my vision, being intentional about practicing my character. All of that kind of stuff and because I already had those things, and then pretty strong habits, I was able to pull from it and say, you know what, in the beginning, it was scary. I didn’t know what I was going to do, and I figured it out. We can all figure it out. We just have to believe that we can number one, and then sometimes we have to do the scary things, the things we aren’t sure about and I will tell you, I’ve told Aaron and Chris this before. I told them earlier today, don’t wait till all your ducks in a row. I kept trying to get all my ducks in a row, get them all in a row and be 100% sure that whatever my class was would sell like, oh, ducks, ducks, ducks in a row in a row. Then my coach is like we’re jumping off the high dive and I’m like what. She’s like, you’ve got a suit on, just jump. You have to have your ducks in the same pond, right, with some familiarity but you do not have to have your ducks all in a row, to take a risk and do something you know you need to do and you’ve wanted to do. So, I’ve realized that too, it’s a good reminder for me that, most of the time in my life when I have been the absolute most successful, I will tell you it all started, and I swear y’all, It has all started with me saying, well you know what I don’t know what I’m doing’, but I’m going to figure it out. Every single time I have said that I have had unbelievable success. And to start, wherever you are today, whether it’s you want to change something in your personal life, you want to change something in your professional life, your ducks do not have to be in a row. Make a calculated, right risk but jump. You will make it through this. You will survive. You are resilient. I’m here to tell you this is not the only pandemic we’re probably going to face. This is not the hard thing to end all hard things, they’re going to be hard things in all of our lives personally and professionally, the unexpected will come. So, build your boat, build that ark. Don’t wait for this pandemic to be over to start building your boat of resilience. Build it and maintain it and I guarantee you, you can weather any storm.
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