Talk About It
Check your EQ!
Why, my soul, are you downcast? Why so disturbed within me?
I have been wrestling for the past few days. I have been wrestling with how to respond to yet another person who looks like me, senselessly losing their lives in law enforcement custody. Law enforcement officers who had a blatant disregard for the value of his life because he was a suspect. An alleged criminal. Someone beneath them. Beneath their need to show respect or dignity. In truth, these are assumptions about their character based on a snapshot into their life captured on video. Still, that momentary window into their lives displayed a callousness that cannot be unseen.
I woke up this morning, checked the news on my phone, and suddenly, I couldn't stop the tears from falling. The dams of my eyes couldn't handle the overwhelming anxiety, frustration, anger, disappointment, hurt, rage, helplessness, uncertainty, disillusionment, and pain - bursting forth with the grief they could no longer contain. My very soul - is hurting! As a black male architect, in an industry with not many who look like me, I've had to swallow this pain for a long time, having to always show up 'professional.' However, I'm unable to remove my skin like a jacket at the entry to an office and professional environment. I'm ALWAYS me. So I move throughout my professional life with my coworkers and colleagues, either unaware, unconcerned, or merely oblivious to the weight I carry as a representative of my entire race.
The burden and weight are heavy with the feeling of having to be my best at all moments, thinking even the slightest hiccup or mistake could limit the opportunities for someone else who looks like me to enter the door. And unfortunately, that weight and burden are felt by so many others who look like me, who are trying to set themselves apart, do their jobs effectively, and pave the way for others to walk the journey as well. Unfortunately for minorities and underrepresented classes of people, this is a daily reality. Indeed, some don't feel this burden, but I would surmise that for a vast majority of us, this weight is all-encompassing and ever-present.
I've seen several posts recently on LinkedIn, where commenters berate the original posts for bringing Facebook material to LinkedIn because this is a professional environment. LinkedIn is ONLY supposed to be for networking and connections, finding jobs, and spreading business news. To those people, I would say, CHECK YOUR EQ! If you are unaware of what EQ is, it's your Emotional Quotient or Emotional Intelligence. It's your ability to be empathetic. It's your ability to be aware of yourself and others. It's your ability to be human.
Over the past several years, there have been many articles and books written about EQ, and how, in many instances, it is more relevant than IQ. As leaders in professional environments, if you are not aware of, in tune with, or concerned with the WHOLE employee that shows up to work, you are failing your company. There are many factors outside the walls of employment that affect the well-being and effectiveness of the people who show up at your offices, occupy cubicles, sit at the desk across from you, and in this new age, show up on your Zoom calls and Microsoft Teams meetings.
When you notice they aren't acting like their "normal" self, inquire about what may be wrong. Try having a conversation you otherwise might not have. Simply asking someone how they are doing can go a long way. When people feel seen and know they matter to you, not just as an employee or colleague, but as a person - they will work that much harder because they know they are valued. A number of people have displayed incredible strength over the past few days, and even months and years, holding back their heartache and pain with a smile; remaining professional. You would never know the burden by only looking at them. It's time for a shift to occur in our work environments.
There has been much conversation about a new normal. I agree, there is and needs to be a new normal. We should no longer encourage people to be automatons, but to simply be themselves, unashamedly. Grief and hurt are real emotions, and when stifled tend to boil just below the surface until the dams of your eyes can no longer contain them. As leaders, I encourage you all to check on the people in your immediate circle. The saying, "A shepherd should smell like his/her sheep," has stuck with me, and it's the guiding light I use to pattern my leadership style.
So I'm asking you to check your EQ. Not the rhythm of the bass or the treble, but the beat of your heart. Be empathetic, lead courageously, and run towards the hard things. It's there you'll find the grace and compassion to lead effectively and gain the trust of the people you lead.
Hard conversations are just that - hard, but they are necessary. I invite you to click the link, and let's talk. https://calendly.com/brien_graham