No Blaming, Shaming or Dumping

I started my career, literally, as an undergraduate in college. Yep. I’ve basically been doing the exact same work since I was 18 years old. The formal starting point was when I participated in a course called the President’s Leadership Program. I was in the inaugural course and it was being facilitated by a woman named Barb, who I came to know as a preeminent facilitator, voracious learner, and way ahead of her time. Barb designed and facilitated a curriculum that covered interculturalism, leadership, and management, and in ways that connected the three topics. In the early 1990s, leadership, management, and what is now described as equity, diversity and inclusion were approached as wholly separate topics. The program included deep-dive explorations of culture and cultural identity, power and oppression, leadership philosophies, and a lot of self-assessment, role-playing, and simulations. In that year, I came to life intellectually. 

My enthusiastic participation in the program clearly resonated with Barb. She invited me to co-facilitate the program with her the next year – what an honor. I was still an undergraduate and co-facilitating a course in a role typically available only to other faculty members or graduate students. As we spent the summer preparing me for my role, Barb began teaching me some of the more formal aspects associated with facilitation. Perhaps most importantly, she reinforced her philosophy and made it clear that this was not negotiable: “no blaming, shaming, or dumping.” 

In a space where blame, shame, and dumping are not permitted, people can take risks, can be vulnerable, can be free to learn without feeling judged for what they don’t already know. That’s the whole point of a learning and practice space, isn’t it? To acknowledge that we don’t know everything, want to get better, and intentionally place ourselves in the often uncomfortable position of learning something new, or wrestling to challenge and even unlearn something that we haven’t yet resolved. 

I still hold fast to that philosophy: no blaming, shaming, or dumping. I know that the world we live in is often polarizing. I know that calling out is often praised. But our new DJA community of practice is for something else. is a place of generosity, kindness, and grace. We absolutely expect everyone to be fully accountable for how we show up and act and allow for contributions in ways that are not only free from marginalizing practices but actively reflect inclusion and anti-oppression. All of these acts, though, are based on the shared agreement that caring for one another is our primary commitment. 

Through my work with Barb, I met others who would help me flesh out what continues to be my guiding philosophy; Alma, Mims, Mari, and others who to this day are active in advancing equity goals. A cornerstone of our shared philosophy is this: the work of ending oppression in the world is not done for someone else. It’s not effort that is made to increase your diversity hires. Or to get a Great Places to Work award. Or in response to a lawsuit. The work of ending oppression in the world is in my own best interest. I do the work that I do, every single day because not doing what I can to mitigate oppression wherever it exists diminishes my own humanity. That includes how I interact with my team. How I review applications. How I introduce colleagues to new clients or at a networking event. I can mitigate bias and oppression that exists in my day-to-day life, and I do it for me. 

Let’s think about the other perspective for a moment: If I am actively investing in developing language, skills, practices that I want to display for others, it is quite possible that my actions will be seen or interpreted as performative. If my level of satisfaction and willingness to continue investing effort is tied to other people’s affirmation, I have an easy out when they don’t applaud me, or when I get criticized for doing something that didn’t land the way I intended. Marrying my willingness to continue investment to other people’s acknowledgment is shallow and tone-deaf. 

As our work here relates directly to your role as a leader, a manager, and influencer of any kind and in any context, you are encouraged to share examples and practices that really exemplify what Next Generation Leadership does and can entail. This is a place to unpack, to dig deep, to design, to explore... beyond the edges of your current role or current organizational practices. Bring your ideas, bring your voice, bring your aspirations. We are all here because we want to learn, and we want that learning to happen beyond the confines of what is often served up to us in small and arbitrarily separate chunks. 

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