Tuesday, 12 February 2013

Let's Talk About It

As those of you who have followed me on social media know, I strongly believe in “walking the talk”.  I have tried to practice the art of inclusion in everything I do, and am deeply committed to being there for others in any and every way I can. It is because of these strong convictions, that the start of 2013 has been especially difficult for me from a personal standpoint.  Much to my deep sorrow, my mother passed on January 1st.  I had a special bond with her and we were each other’s companion, confidant and best friend.  And I was extremely blessed to have her until the age of 88.  But as much as I will miss her, it was her time, and I take comfort in the memory of a woman who lived a complete and joyous life, full with those who loved her.    

However, it is the news that I received the week after the passing of my mother that truly rocked me to my core.  A very dear friend of mine had taken his own life and I couldn’t have been more surprised.  I had known my friend for almost twenty years, and never once had I ever seen a sign of despair from him.  We weren’t just casual acquaintances, we had a strong connection and so with this news came a wide range of emotions; emotions that have been associated with those who are left behind after a person commits suicide.  

Initially I was in denial; how could this have happened without my knowing that he was in need? Then my feelings progressed to intense grief, mixed with an element of anger that he hadn’t reached out to me for help.   And then finally I was left with true emptiness mixed with some component of guilt for not recognizing that I had a special friend who I might have been able to help if only I had known or looked hard enough to see the signs. All genuine emotions when we lose someone we love under such circumstances. 

One never truly knows what anyone else is feeling, thinking or going through.  Our mental health is personal, and as such, difficult to share with others.  It takes deep confidence and trust to let someone in, to allow them to see us at our rawest.  And for some reason, unknown to so many of his friends and loved ones, my friend was unable to do that.  

Outwardly, he appeared genuinely happy, living the “Canadian Dream” as he liked to say.  But inwardly he must have been suffering in silence, attempting to chase away his fears and doubts all by himself. If only he had decided to “talk about it”.  Perhaps things would have been different. 

It is for this very reason that I ask all of you who can, to support Bell’s Let’s Talk today, February 12th. For every text message sent*, long distance call made*, (*by a Bell or Bell Aliant customer) tweet using #BellLetsTalk, or Facebook share of Bell’s Talk image, Bell will donate 5 cents to help fund mental health initiatives across Canada.  “Often invisible, mental illness is one of the most pervasive health issues in the country with far-reaching consequences for every Canadian.  One in five people will experience a form of mental illness at some point and most will be reluctant to talk to a co-worker, friend, or family member about their struggle, let alone seek treatment.  While you may never experience mental illness first-hand, it is likely that you know someone who will.” I commend Bell and others like them, for their commitment to making a difference in the lives of others.

Personally, I do know a number of people who experience mental health issues.  They have trusted me enough to confide in me and I hope, in some small way, that I have been of help and comfort to them. For those who have suffered in silence, I ask them to trust and “talk about it”.  It could make all the difference.

                 “To be trusted is a greater compliment than to be loved.” – George MacDonald

Monday, 11 February 2013

A Change Will Do You Good

Change is a fascinating beast, whether it is by choice or by nature. While we may not be able to always predict when change is coming, navigating a transition is the perfect opportunity to explore and understand one’s sense of diversity and inclusion.   

In the upcoming weeks, you may notice some changes made to our social media voice. Global Learning is very excited to introduce you to Breanna Rothe. A young, vibrant mom of two with a background in sociology and women and gender studies, Bre will be stepping into the role of “Director, Social Media and Research” for Global Learning.  We are thrilled to have Bre joining our team. 

I asked Bre to share with us some of her thoughts on taking over the reins for Global Learning’s popular Social Media voice:

 “I am honoured and excited to have the opportunity to join such an innovative team, that has such integrity and forward thinking. I am eager to find my voice in the social media realm and look forward to sharing my ideas and passions with the Global Learning community”.

Not only will Bre be coordinating our social media presence, but also keep an eye out for her own Global Learning perspective to be featured on the Difference at Work blog.   

As we launch into a new social media era of our own, I thought this might be a great opportunity to offer my thanks to all of our friends, fans, and followers who have connected with us along the way. These very connections are what have inspired us to operate as a connector of people. The more we each seek to connect with one another, the more we see opportunities for unexpected innovation. I will always champion the use of social media as a tool to that connection and innovation. 

In addition to Bre offering her own blogs through Difference at Work, along with mine, I have invited a number of guest bloggers to join the Difference at Work conversation in 2013. We also encourage you to email us your blogs, thoughts and musings as we look to be a vehicle for “differences at work” and our community of practice. Diversity is about community and our community is filled with diversity, leadership and H.R. thought leaders. Send us your writings and, after review, we would be honoured to share them with our social media community, as an official Difference at Work release.

We never could have imagined two years ago that our back-burner thought to jump into the Twittersphere would ever have led to the valuable and innovative connections we have made. Every day we are enlightened by the connections we have made through social media. We are proud of the opportunities that have been granted to us because we took the time to engage.  

While we plan to maintain the bold and proud social media stance we have taken the time to build over the last several years, the changes ahead are absolutely thrilling as we celebrate the “power of possibilities” at Global Learning. 

“I think accepting change is quite as important as defending the past.” – Downton Abbey

Thursday, 24 January 2013

Commemorating Progression

On Monday January 21st, the United States inaugurated Barack Obama for a second term as president. He is the first person of a racial minority to be elected into the role’s 225 year old history. That same day also celebrates the historic life and leadership of Dr. Martin Luther King Jr., whose bible was used to swear in President Obama.

Keeping in stride with his path of firsts, the president chose to use his speech to solidify his evolved position on dignity and equality, matching Dr. King’s “Dream”. 

As I listened to the president’s specific calls for gender equality and LGBT social justice, an unexpected thought passed like a cloud in my mind’s eye, subtly nudging me toward a connection: that on Sunday, January the 27th – less than a week from the inauguration – we will mark the UN's International Day of Commemoration in Memory of the Victims of the Holocaust. 

At first, I was taken aback by the thought, a bit overwhelmed even. In North America, we have certainly seen historic discrimination-based violence, laws, and societal actions in our communities. My view is that the Holocaust stands as one of the untouchable poles of inhumanities; one of the Earth’s lifetime of lessons.

That’s when the connection hit me: that it goes beyond the fact that oppression, levied in any degree, is still oppression. 

We must constantly acknowledge not only the oppression itself, but just how far we have come as a global community when it comes to diversity and inclusion. 

The social media sector dedicated to diversity will frequently have an article that will pass by, insinuating that diversity education is a waste of time, and that it only leads to more discrimination. Yet the examples that are often given to make the case only point to poor education practices, not to the ineffectiveness of diversity and inclusion. 

So to those bloggers and diversity doubters, I ask that you look at this progression of time between the Holocaust, whose victims we commemorate this Sunday, to the very fact that we have an inspirational African-American leader in one of the most powerful global leadership positions using his voice to champion human rights. Voted in on a day historically set to celebrate one of the greatest civil rights leaders we have ever known. 

I adamantly stand by the work we do as diversity professionals seeking to create positive change within our global workforces, and that our work plays a hand in guiding the progression forward. 

As a general practice, we all must seek employment to sustain our lives. This offers us new opportunities to meet, work alongside and learn to understand that the world consists of people built on endless possibilities.

We spend more than half of our lives if not more engaged in work. By learning to communicate and grow comfortable with one another’s existence while working, it leads to expanded thinking outside of the workplace. It leads us to trust difference, rather than fear or oppress it. 
I leave you with the thought to constantly examine your progression, your family’s progression, your community’s progression. Then ask yourself what you are doing to help guide that progression in a positive direction.

As I finished this blog, I popped on the television, and a program my son was watching came on. To my pleasant surprise, it was a recording of the Metropolitan Opera’s production of Phillip Glass’ “Satyagraha”.

I’ll let you go on your own journey of reading up on Satyagraha(the opera)'s characters, plot, staging, and serendipitous connection to my blog. 

  “A man is but the product of his thoughts what he thinks, he becomes.” - Mahatma Gandhi



Thursday, 10 January 2013

Living in Your Own Word Cloud

Happy New Year everyone! All of us at Global Learning hope you had a lovely holiday season and that you are looking forward to a brilliantly unexpected 2013, filled with innovation. 

Sometimes it’s the smallest things that catch our eye and lend a simple explanation to an even more complex pondering. 

You may laugh, but as of late I cannot stop thinking about word clouds.   

What is a word cloud? You have certainly seen them; as they are everywhere. A word cloud is a digital graphic of a grouping of words, bound in relation by the common goal of describing a single existence or concept. 

For example, we recently added a word cloud as our @eGlobalLearning Twitter profile background. It consists of the phrase “Be Different” written in a variety of languages. 

One of our favourite Twitter go-to’s @MaryFWinters of The Winters Group and Let’s Talk About Work, also updated The Inclusion Solutions Blog banner to include a fantastic word cloud: 

I am moved by the simplicity of the concept of a word cloud because it enables us to tangibly showcase just how vast the diversity of something or someone can be. We are not only representatives of our visible demographics. Each of us is comprised of our own word cloud; a cosmic list of descriptions based on our genealogy, environment, life experiences, passions, and personal wisdom. This list is our own identity.  

What if we incorporate even just the idea of a word cloud creation into our everyday thinking? We actually do it already, and it has the potential to instigate a sense of pre-determined empathy and compassion when we interact with one another.

When we meet new people, go to new places of business, or attempt to deconstruct a situation, we should encourage our brains to immediately begin the process of building a word cloud.

What exactly does your word cloud look like?

What exactly does your word cloud look like in comparison to others?

The process of building our own word cloud creates the opportunity to understand that every individual comes to the table with traits and situational experiences that we may never be privy to.  

It’s a great opportunity for both sides of the employment interview table to take stock of what and who they are there to represent. As an employer, it’s your duty to fully represent organizational culture, expectations and expertise, while the potential employee must have a sincere understanding of who they are and what they are bringing to the table. 

Take a few minutes to sit down and develop a word cloud of your own, or one for your organization. Include everything you can possible think of – even pieces that you may not wish to share with others. It’s a brilliant way to examine exactly what each of us is made of. 
Diversity is the power of the individual. Inclusion utilizes those powerful individuals to spark innovation at every opportunity possible.

“Clouds come floating into my life, no longer to carry rain or usher storm, but to add color to my sunset sky.”  - Rabindranath Tagore