Our online membership program, Pathfinders: Leadership for social and racial justice, uses the blog posts for members to read, reflect, and discuss.
Jean and I have been friends for over 30 years. Knowing I was a proofreader and copy editor prior to becoming a social worker, she asked if I would help her write a blog by serving as the content editor. I wasn’t at all sure what it would entail or if I was up to it, so of course I said yes.
Here is how Jean explains it:
For nearly a year, I couldn’t shake the feeling it was time to share what I have learned throughout my career – and was still learning – about social justice, leadership, and change. Every day, people experience stress and anxiety in their workplaces; a blog could provide them with needed support. Yet I held off the impulse to start a blog by saying to myself, ‘Someday, maybe, I will try writing a blog again.’
Then George Floyd happened.
Soon after, with me as editor, she wrote the first blog post:
On May 25, 2020, George Floyd died under the knee of a White Minneapolis police officer while handcuffed and lying face down.
Over that week, I wondered if I was experiencing PTSD. Memories of my childhood kept flashing into my brain. In the midst of my emotional turmoil and flashbacks to my childhood, imagine my sheer relief to see on the news and in social media Whites protesting, Whites posting on social media, Whites refusing to be bystanders to blatant acts of racial violence. I had to write about it.
Race is part of my daily life and daily conversation – with family, with my Black friends, with work colleagues since I do diversity work. The question is not whether I talk about it. The question is whether you are a close enough friend that I can talk about it with you. During this time of upheaval, your posts and your talking about it with family and friends influence the Zeitgeist. For that I am personally grateful.
That was our first blog post. And just like that, we are now up to #100.
“We” are more than just Jean and me. We are the mighty team of Leading Consciously, Jean’s leadership development firm. Beginning with that initial post, those involved in producing the blog have expanded to include Eillen (technical guru); Virginia (podcast scheduler); and Valentina (social media producer); among others. [Resilience in dark times: What keeps us going (#96)].
Some of us are directly involved in creating our blog posts, now written every other week. Others contribute in getting them online, or shared via email or social media. All of us have the same goal: to provide you with practical, useful, research-based information on how to foster racial and social justice in your sphere of influence.
It started with a heavy focus on leadership in the racial justice arena, concentrating mostly on anti-Black racism. Since then, we have expanded to include other groups who experience oppression and inequities.
The first guiding principle is that all selected topics should be useful and interesting for people who want to actively lead or take a stand for social justice. Our second is to write about only what we ourselves want to learn and know more about. We reason if it interests us, it may interest you.
Topics generally fall into one of two categories: what to know and what to do.
We imagine our readers as people who want to have more in-depth knowledge about the social justice landscape, yet have limited time. They either view themselves as leaders now or believe leadership is in their future.
The blog posts are a complimentary resource to you for your own learning and development. We want them as accessible to you as possible. If you find you don’t want to read an entire blog or watch an entire podcast, you can find excerpts on our various social media platforms:
Glad you asked. This was our quandary also. There are many blogs out there and, in the last few years, many more have emerged. We felt gratified when people commented that original posts were informative and interesting,
To add to the value the posts bring, we considered how to make it possible for people to read, reflect, and discuss the blog so they can harness its lessons in their own unique way.
The answer was a new, unique online membership program that we named Pathfinders: Leadership for social and racial justice [The road to Pathfinders (#24)]. People sign up to read and discuss three posts every six weeks, followed by two weeks of individual reflection. This model has worked beyond our wildest imaginings, particularly when work teams participate.
The blog posts provide an everchanging, ever-fresh content, making them authentic starting points for Pathfinders. The discussion groups provide a safe space to explore, gain increased self-awareness, and change our own attitudes and beliefs. Despite our commitment to social justice, many of us also harbor hidden fears about opening up. Imagine a community where we can acknowledge our fears, our prejudices, our incomplete awareness and know that we are in good company with others who are similarly trying to expand their awareness.
Rather than minimizing how difficult these steps can be, Pathfinders’ facilitators guide critical self-reflection. Especially as we have expanded our team, we in Leading Consciously face similar dilemmas in our own working environment. We find the best ways to facilitate these discussions are to be open about our own struggles and learning as we encourage others to do the same. Through Pathfinders, we reveal how being open and honest has led to some of our greatest successes. The essence of the Pathfinders discovery process is to continue to listen, dig deep within ourselves, and respectfully encourage others to do the same.
Some observations from our facilitators:
Amy: Using the posts for facilitation and teaching is so fantastic. They are varied and interesting enough that people begin to look forward to reading them. You know when you read a good article, you want to share it with your friends or tell them about it? With Pathfinders, when something is really good members get to actually have a fruitful discussion, which deepens their understanding. It's so much more satisfying/gratifying. It allows members to talk about issues they may be having in their workplace in a safe, indirect way – before addressing it head on.
Working from the blogs helps us to focus on gaining skills, as opposed to “fixing problems.” There is always a new skill and food for thought. Sometimes members read a blog and feel really good about their organization or personal life. They may recognize that they have some skills they didn't have names for. Sometimes they see great opportunity for how it can help them professionally AND personally. And it's a safe way to learn new skills before trying them out on each other.
Simi: In the context of work and our day-to-day activities, it is unlikely we allocate focused time to sensitive topics, so we don't get to build the "mental muscles" required to address them. When faced with a situation that challenges our way of thinking, we default to "fight or flight" because we have not practiced dealing with such issues. It's like attempting to run a marathon when you've only ever practiced sprints (or never worked out at all). Pathfinders provides the opportunity to practice the difficult but necessary leadership competency of leaning into tough conversations. By creating a “holding environment” in which participants are both supported and challenged, the program offers space for all to grow, regardless of where they are on their journey.
The facilitated discussions offer a balance of questions engaging both thinking and feeling faculties, as well as opportunities for reflection and action. All of these are necessary for personal and collective growth. Through the highlighted skills and discussions, groups develop a shared vocabulary with which to more easily navigate difficult conversations.
Larry: Your team is stuck. The state of your team is threatening the mission and goals. The team seems to be robbed of its joy and peace. Internal influences are not enough to motivate your team. Your best move is to use an external team to influence your internal team. There are lots of options in the consulting world to get unstuck. So, what is different about Pathfinders?
We walk with a unique style and confidence that will influence your team to think and behave differently towards each other. We model behaviors and attitudes that will challenge your team to become unstuck and walk with confidence and peace.
Jean: Those who join Pathfinders in work teams are especially enriched by the experience. People learn about each other’s thoughts and backgrounds as they compare their lives with those revealed in the blog posts. Differences in values and work conflicts gently emerge in the context of the blog topics, and through discussion team members begin to bridge their differences and resonate with one another more deeply than ever before – or even than they thought possible.
First, join us in celebrating this, our 100th blog post! Raise a silent toast on our behalf or post a comment below. Share our jubilation that we arrived here.
Second, give us feedback on the posts. We are hungry for your feedback. Find us on one of the social media outlets and give us a thumbs up. Every time someone leaves a comment or sends an email, we celebrate. Criticism, ideas, agreements, thoughtful responses are all welcome.
Third, let us know topics that interest you. You are the reason we are doing this, so the more we know about your preferences, the better we are able to give you what you are looking for.
Fourth, would you like to be a guest blogger? If so, send us one or two paragraphs on potential topics. We’ll send you the guidelines for how to write it and wait for your submission.
Fifth, consider joining Pathfinders. Or, if you work in an organization, put us in touch with someone who could help organize a group within your organization. We very much enjoy creating this blog. Facilitating Pathfinder groups take us over the moon. Being a part of someone’s transformation is more fulfilling than we can ever describe.
We are glad you are here.
Questions to ask yourself
#ChangeStartsWithMe #BeTheChange #CanWeTalk #ConsciousChange
We are a leadership development firm that helps people and organizations create resilient, sustainable, multicultural, and inclusive settings. The ability to lead consciously can help you gain true awareness and earn the respect and trust of others.
It’s the assumptions we have about people’s lives that are the biggest obstacles to growth, awareness, and success. We help you understand how those assumptions are preventing you from becoming the best you can be as an organization, an inclusive leader, and a person.