Cultural Competency in Leadership Programs (w/ Louria Lindauer)

Neil creates space for Louria Lindauer, a high energy, real, practical, and down to earth agilist, professional coach, and leadership development consultant to share the story of her leadership range from anger as a new college graduate to using open heartedness as a superpower to do her work. In this down to earth conversation, Louria talks about how organizations just need to “Stop it”. She drops a cool acronym called FLEX as a tool for majority white leaders to use a to minimize microaggressions, and offers a reflection on how we can all think about our roles in new ways to create culturally competent leadership programs.

Connect with Louria on LinkedIn.

Louria is the founder of Success Agility – check out their website.

You can email her at info@successagility.net.

TRANSCRIPT

Neil
Hi, I’m Neil Edwards, and this is The Leadership Range, where we elevate the voices of Black and brown coaches, leaders and allies, and have soulful conversations about all things at the intersections of leadership, relationships and teams, well-being and inclusion. Today we hear from Louria Lindauer. Louria is an analyst, professional coach and leadership development consultant with a passion for doing Diversity, Equity and Inclusion work for organizations around unconscious biases, becoming a culturally competent organization, creating ERG groups that align with organizational initiatives, and customizing DNI programs. More than that, Louria is energetic. She’s real, practical, and down to earth. Louria shares the story of her leadership range from anger as a new college graduate to open-heartedness as her superpower. In this down to earth conversation, Louria says organizations just need to stop it. Listen for what she means. She drops a cool acronym called FLEX – F-L-E-X – which acts as a tool for majority-whites to use to minimize microaggressions and offers a reflection on how we can all think about our roles as ways to create cultural competent organizations and culturally competent leadership programs.

Hello, Louria. Welcome to The Leadership Range. I’m so happy to have you here today. I think everybody’s going to be in for a treat. I always like to introduce my guests and share a little bit about them, especially when I know who they are. And I know you. I haven’t known you for that long, but I know you well because of what we’ve gone through together. We lead or we are new leaders of the Co-Active leadership program, a 10-month program. That’s how I came to know Louria. We both had to audition. We both went to something called a dance camp, which I don’t know if we’re going to talk about that today at all. It’s deep stuff, but this woman is wild, you know? She’s real. Expect a full range. Expect a lot of energy today. At least, you know, I’m putting some pressure on you. But anyway, you’re just going to do what you do. Lauria is a coach, but before that–and she’ll correct me if I make a mistake here, but–you are an agilist. You’ve come from an agile background professionally, so you do a lot of great work in that space, as well as coaching and leadership. And we’re gonna get into a really delicious topic today that shows even more of your range. So welcome, Louria, good to have you here.

Louria
Thank you, thank you so much. I appreciate being here. I am super excited to be here today. And yes, we did meet at dance camp, which is a funny name to me, and we danced and we are continuing to dance.

Neil
You know, it’s an interesting pseudo secret world, and maybe some of that will come out today. So Louria, what I want to do, and I like to do this with all my guests, is get a little bit of a story from you on who you are as a leader and sort of your journey as a leader. But before you go to that story, tell folks a little bit more. Fill in the gaps around who you are professionally and just a little bit about who you are as a person. But we’re also going to take a little bit of a journey through time so people understand where you came from and how you got here.

Louria
Ooh, juicy. A journey through time. I love it. Can’t wait. Well, my name is Louria Lindauer. I just go by Louria. And I call myself a techie who can talk. I have a technical background. I was a developer, and always created a path for myself. I blaze trails, as I say. And I’m also an agilist. I help companies with their cultural development. I lead agile enterprise transformations. I teach DEI and help organizations align their DEI initiatives, their programs to actual initiatives, making it actually something that means something, not just another thing that they put on their website. I am very passionate about that initiative. I have, like, 25–not going to tell my age–too much years of professional experience, and I played every role from the implementor to the middle management’s middle managers. I know you’re going through it, because you’re always at the top. And now I’m an entrepreneur, because that’s what I love, I love to read the system, and I’m a coach, I have many certifications and all that good jazz, but I have a lot of experience from very different sites. So I love to have fun, I love for companies to love what they do and do what they love, having employees have their voices heard and their talents realized. Can we have that type of environment where people are? So I help people-centric organizations help create those. I’m passionate about it, and I won’t stop.

Neil
Louria has so much energy, and what I love about you is your playfulness with all of this. I know you’re passionate, I’ve seen it. We’ve seen your energy, seen your excitement, I’ve seen your anger and frustration. I’ve seen your tears. I’ve seen it all, almost all, and I love that about you. So this is a fully expressed leader in the house right here. So Louria, I want you to, if you can, you know, just sort of think of a journey, you know, from a younger age up to now, and, you know, maybe three or four or five events, I don’t know, along that journey that really helped to shape who you are as a leader. And, you know, invite our listeners into that journey with you and just, you know, sort of paint the picture of your range and take us right up to where you are today.

Louria
Wow, that is a deep question. You’re gonna get me into that [?] of vulnerability. So I’ll take you back to the time where I thought vulnerability was a bad word. So things that have really impacted my life were one time I went to University of Michigan. I was the top person coming out of the University of Michigan Dearborn, and I interviewed and I killed it. I know I did. And all of them was like, “We love you.” And then the person that was interviewing was a Black male, and he gave me the hardest time, and he just was like, you know, “Who are you?” “What is your grade?” It was awful. I had three other people who were like, “I want you to work for me and everything.” And it was all through this program. I won’t say the name of the company. And I think back, and it came back that he was the only one who turned me down, but he was head of HR. So I didn’t get this position to be in their MBA program, and it broke my heart because it was from a fellow African-American, and it set a stage where I would not stop. So it sent me on this thing. I said I won’t cry because I was–at that time I did not like vulnerability. So I was just leading with anger, which isn’t always the best way to lead. So that’s very monumental, and life isn’t fair, and it can, you know, really do some things to you. As I moved on, I’m always a learner. I love, love, love to learn. And so I went on, and I remember–here’s another event that’s kind of funny, but I rarely cried. I did not hug. I did understand people who did hug. I came from a family of huggers, and they were just so strange to me, but I was driving and I felt guilty about something that I did. I don’t remember. I probably said something to someone. And I was driving, and I started to cry, and I didn’t understand. I called my mother and I was like, “Mom–” I told her what happened. “This doesn’t make any sense.” And I told her what happened. I said, “But I’m crying,” and she started to laugh, and she said finally you found your emotions. And she was laughing, and I was like “What are you talking about?” It was the first time I actually felt I would say guilt or some form of empathy. I don’t know what it was at that time, but it was gut-wrenching too, because I just said what I felt all the time, unaware of my impact, just completely unaware of my impact on the world, that I was being honest and helping people out. And then I learned the thing called listening. For all you listeners out there that love your voice, there is a value in hearing what others have to say, which Neil is very great at. [?] had no awareness that people were interesting. I thought I was the most interesting creature in the world. And so yeah, I sound like “Who would want to be coached by me?” Well, I’ve been through the journey, people. Okay? I’ve went through it all. It feels like–so another journey was I had someone that I was working with. I was in middle management and we were working together, and they was like, “Louria, I was saying I have this thing, and I want to share it with you.” And I was like, “Yeah, that’s interesting,” and then I was like, “Put it on the board.” But I wasn’t listening. I was listening at level one, maybe two, but his emotions were “I’m not feeling heard.” And he grabbed me–we were really, really close, we’re good friends–he grabbed me and said, “Can you listen to me? Really listen with your feelings,” and at that moment, it woke me up, and I went and we had a Scrum master, an agile coach, and I went and talked to him, and it’s when I was introduced to coaching. And I was like, “I want to do what you did for me.” He sat me down, and he showed me his impact, my impact. He said, “What is he saying?” And all I could tell him was the data, because I wasn’t looking deep enough. I wasn’t still enough. I wasn’t silent enough to look and see what was really screaming at in my face. And that was so impactful. And now I went on a journey of learning these vulnerabilities for a whole year. Oh, it was so hard, people. I’ll be honest with you. Now, I wouldn’t even tell any of those stories. I just want to tell you I didn’t like those. And then also another great event was being open heart. I can lead fiercely. I can lead with fun. But the unknown and open heart, leaving control behind, and this actually happened at an event where Neil was. It was a fellow leader, and I broke down in tears. Now I can cry all the time. Now I–you know, I don’t cry often, but I can cry now, and it feels good. It’s actually a superpower to cry, to be able to express yourself with full vulnerability, not for control, but for vulnerability. But I was there and they were going around the circle. I don’t know what’s happening. And they said, “We’ll come back to you,” and then they wanted to move on. I said, “No. You said it’s my turn, and I need help. You guys are gonna help me please. I don’t know how to open up my heart.” And one of the leaders, she came over to me and she opened up my arms, and it felt like I’ve never opened up my heart that wide. And I felt a crack. I was like, “Well, this muscle has not been used,” and it set me free. And I felt so uncomfortable, but now I lead with so much open heart, and it’s so easy. So my range was closed in a silo to community, open, love, fierceness, and having my voice and its so much beautiful range, and being silent, which is a skill that is amazing, because you don’t know what can happen in that silence, you know, with someone else. So that’s part of my vulnerable stories. I’m not telling any.

Neil
Yeah, still working on it. Right? No, that was beautiful. Thank you. And I heard it, you know, the anger early on and the revelation of noticing you were coming from this place of anger, and then the tears, and then the listening. And then the hugging, you know, the hugging.

Louria
As we were saying that, and you said the word anger, it made me realize that as a Black woman, what I was told by my grandmother and my mom is you have to be strong. You have to be 10 times stronger, 10 times fiercer. I already had fears down. I was born pretty fierce and bold. It was a protection I was born already with. I didn’t hug. Just wasn’t me. But now that you’re saying it was just protection. It wasn’t anger, it was safety and protection. It was “I dare you. You don’t define my destiny.” I never believed in anybody, any organization saying you got to work here for six years so you can do that. Like, whatever. I would flip it, turn it around and create my own. And so that’s where it went from. It was that realization that I had to be a certain way, and now I realize I can make my way, that I’m not what they say is the minority, the black woman, the lowest, you know, whatever they call us, that I am strong and I create whatever I need to. And so that’s what happened in my range.

Neil
That’s so beautiful. And, you know, you finished with, you know, being open-hearted, letting go of control. How do you find strong in that open-heartedness? I want listeners to understand where the strength is in that for you now.

Louria
It takes courage and love and passion for yourself to open your heart when it’s not your natural first stance. The strength is being able to go into the unknown without knowing. It’s easy to clam up and hide. That’s so easy. Anybody can do that. Anybody can call names and run away and, you know, like, “Oh, that’s stupid,” which is everybody’s–you know, they prove how someone else is wrong. But it takes so much strength. I see my daughter do this every day. She leads so easily with open heart, and I tell her every day, I paid 1000s and 1000s of dollars to learn a speciality she was born with. So the strength is when you can look at someone and you can open up your heart and you can say, “I love you. I’m afraid. I don’t agree with you.” [?] conflict. “You’ve wronged me. I don’t want this,” with an open heart. Without judgment, but with an open heart. It takes courage every single time for me. So the strength isn’t doing it and then being open to what comes next and not thinking–whatever happens happens, you know? For me it’s just doing it and then being open to–not just doing it ’cause we could all just do it and just sit there. It’s like being receptive. You have to open and then receive, but you can block. Sometimes I block some receptions. I’m like, “Nah, I want that. I don’t eat that. You can keep that.” I don’t have to receive it. It might be the wrong meal and might have mold on it. So you can send some plates back.

Neil
What I’m hearing in there is you get to choose what you let in, and there’s a difference between that illusion of strength and protecting yourself from everything. It’s like if you’re not that old, strong, then it could feel like you’re not protected. But open-heartedness and love and empathy, in some ways. is more powerful. You’re still protected. You’re in power. You have choice. “I don’t want that today, so that’s not coming in.” Right?

Louria
Yeah, power is not just the lion. It is the lion when it hugs its cub. The elephant is strong and family-centered. It’s one of the strongest animals in the world, but it loves deep and wide. And so strength looks different. It doesn’t have to scream, it doesn’t have to shout. It can do whatever it needs to do. But being able to have range, is that strength? Not in one note. Like, what song can you play? I used to just play one note, and who wants to hear that same note, you know? And so now I play beautiful songs in my leadership range.

Neil
Yeah, I love that you bring up a lion and elephant, in particular an elephant. I think this is correct. I don’t know. I heard it somewhere, and I don’t remember, but when an elephant is about to charge, like, they’re checking you out, they’re a little bit insecure, not sure, and they start that air flapping thing, you should run, because that’s when the ferocity is coming out. And they’re probably protecting family or protecting the young or something like that. So yeah, beautiful, beautiful contrast. So let’s shift here. We came here today to talk about something, and what we framed it up as together, what we agreed the topic was–and then you’re going to break this down for us and we’re going to talk about it–is cultural competency in leadership programs, and there’s a subtitle to that. And I think it is–and you correct me if I’m wrong–it’s about being competent in these programs so that you don’t harm people, how to do this so that you’re not creating harm in these leaderships or leadership development programs. I think is where we’re going today. So I want you to give us a little bit more framing around that from your perspective. What is it that you mean, and where do we need to point this conversation today?

Louria
No, you hit it head on. I’ve been in a lot of programs, and they tend to focus on one dimensional culture. It’s normally just American culture or white American culture. And we go into these, and sometimes we cannot relate and are told we’re wrong, or we have to deal with it, or this is what it’s about. And it’s even in work, those type of programs as well. We’re shown a video that we, you know, people cannot relate to, and it’s how do we create and give space for people of different cultures? Especially from my point of view. I’m looking at people of color, but especially, you know, African-American people, because we’re just–there’s not many programs, even in work situations, you know? I’m looking at these programs, and I’m like, “Where am I? Where am I in the picture? Oh, yeah, there I am in the back.” So it’s all due to these programs, then leaders start to recognize that they have a monocultural mindset. That means that they’re just looking at it from one lens. And so many people have came to me literally in tears from different programs because they felt it was just so harmful. Either they use something that was special to who they are, or it just didn’t relate, or they were shut down by people who call themselves leaders.

Neil
Now, we talked about you being an analyst and an a technologist. And so obviously, something came up along the way that compelled you to sort of lean into this area and say, “I’m going to do something about this.” So I [?] some experiences that you’ve had, that have moved you sufficiently to do something about this. What was the program–and you don’t have to get specific or, you know, call anybody out–or the period of time that really drew you into this work or something that’s important that you need to do.

Louria
Oh, I also worked in D&I with companies before this happened. It comes from–it’s hard to be an employee in an organization and there is no path for you really or you’re shut down or things like that. And it starts there, even on those programs of how to move up to different leadership levels, and then they assign you to a leadership program. And so that happened for me where they’re like, you know, “Louria, we’re just so gungho. We want you to go through this leadership program.” And I was like, “Yay,” and–I walked in the door, and I was the only African-American woman. It was the CEO [?], you know, white males. And the whole time, I was just negated. Like, anything I said, they were like, “No, no, no, that doesn’t matter.” I’m like, “Well, this doesn’t relate to me.” Like, “I can’t even understand the situation that you’re at as a female.” And as an African-American woman, I could not relate to some of the topics. Not all the topics, but some of them were about how do you lead? How do you handle situations? And they would say things like, you know, “Well, you know, you may get emotional.” [?] Like, I don’t cry a lot. Like, they just assumed, and so it’s from that standpoint. You hear tons of micro–I call them macroaggressions–thrown at you constantly and their attempt to include you.

Neil
Hmm, you know, it’s interesting, and this just bubbled up for me just now, is sort of a distinction around whether or not you relate to something, and that will be true for a lot of people in any program, whether or not you can relate to it, but to be negated all the time, that’s like–the negation, the being made invisible or “You don’t matter,” or “Your perspective doesn’t matter.” That’s a nuance that I just picked up on in what you said.

Louria
Yeah, because they’re, first of all, in the monocultural mindset, people are in denial first, then if they move from denial, they go to defense, and then they minimize. And so if you’re constantly being even denied, anything that you’re saying, they just negate you from the beginning. I’ve had it so bad that even in leadership programs where I have a question or an opinion and I say something and it’s profound–not everything I say it’s profound, but it was profound–and then someone else says something, and it makes no sense, you know, from a technical standpoint, and they’re like, “Oh, wow, great idea.” And so that led me to go into leadership programs. As I went to leadership programs, my voice still wasn’t heard. They do little things as they explain things, as simple as white and black. White is always spiritual and enlightening. Black is garbage and yucky. You know, like, they give you these experiences that make no sense. They ask you questions like, you know, “Well, we don’t know how minority people would feel,”and they look at you. Like, “I can’t speak for every person of color.” It’s things like that, where they’re not talking, they’re not–you’re not included. At some point they start talking at you instead of with you. And for me, and for many, it just feels like, “Well, what’s the point? I’m just here. I have to try to get along.” I would love a program that spoke from my point of view to get some of my feedback in, you know? These organizations are so driven and, you know, it’s very white-centric, American centric, and we’re just supposed to fit in and figure it out. And they harm us with definitions. My favorite is, “Give a definition for something you’ve never experienced, and then try to explain it as someone who’s never done it.” It’s like if you’ve never given birth but then you wrote a book about giving birth. Well, thanks a lot. And that’s what they do, and it’s jacked up, and they need to stop it, because it’s a hot mess.

Neil
They need to stop it. Yeah, so so I want to try something here. So you said that there’s these little things, and then you also talked about things that are that feel like microaggressions. So I want to cast a tiny net here. Okay, what’s an example of–I don’t want to say the simplest, but a really small thing that was easy for whoever the program developers or the deliverers, you know, could do or say? What was a small thing that happened in a program that you thought, “Wow, that was silly,” you know? “They don’t even know what they did,” and then I want you to give one that, like, you could see how they could easily make that error, right? And then I want you to give me another one that’s, like, egregious, so that we have sort of, you know, your contrast of what you’ve experienced from small to big.

Louria
Okay. Here’s one. A lot of times they’re talking about, let’s say–like, I’ll give you the definitions. It’s a minor mistake, but because they don’t understand a situation–it’s not small, but it’s easily fixed. It’s something that you can just ask someone. So for instance, if someone–they were explaining microaggressions in a program I was actually looking at to help them with, and they were explaining microaggressions, and the facilitator was a white female, and she gave an example of, you know, a microaggression, and she personally was right, but she was like, “But it’s okay to ask someone who’s Indian, like, “Do you make curry?”” and I was like, “Stop. Timeout. Who did you review these cards with?” And she said, “Well, in my DEI program there was nobody of color on the whole program.” So how can you create something–easy fix. Put someone of color who can speak up for themselves, you know? But it was outrageous, but it was a small fix. That is very hurtful, like, if someone’s Asian and you ask them “Can you do karate?” or asking a Black woman, “Can you touch my hair?” No, you cannot. Stop. Don’t ask. It’s little things like that that they just didn’t have a handle on, because that’s an easy fix. You know, just because you read a book doesn’t mean that you understand the experience. Go to the people who actually experienced something. And then, you know, an outrageous one was once I was in a group, and they wanted to–it was sexual harassment, and they wanted to show the men what it felt like to be sexually harassed, and so they they had a lineup, like in a Soul Train line, and then had the men come down, and then we were supposed to hoot at them and call them names. And I was like, “No, I’m not. We can’t–” I was like, “What?” And the men were just so–they were like, “Well, we’re men, you know? We can take it.” You know? Like, I was like, “What? You’re getting a lawsuit.” Like, it was so bad, and I said, “Just imagine if we just, like, slurred racial slurs at you.” Like, the guy just could not get it, and it was so awful that, you know, I’m like, “I’m walking out the door. This is the worst thing I’ve ever seen.” And, you know, it was awful,, and they got a lot of trouble for that. But those are things that, like, they just think things are okay. Like, that–and it’s just… come on, people. Can we not hoot and holler at each other? I don’t understand. But that was outrageous. It was a form of just [?] a lawsuit. Can we call a lawsuit?

Neil
Yeah, yeah. You know, we chuckle about some of these things, but they’re serious. And like, like you’re saying, most of these things, just take a little bit of thought, you know, if you notice that, I guess you first have to notice that your team is not diverse, that’s building something, and choose to choose to make it diverse by you know, inviting another voice into it. That represents at least a part of the population, or at least have it reviewed. And ask somebody such such simple things. And, you know, that’s where diversity begins, you know, just a numbers game, you know, mix it up a bit.

Louria
Yeah, but there’s a lot that are really serious, that really hurt though, like, when you’re in a room and your voice is not heard. Because they tell you, you know, “Black women can be angry, it’s okay.” Things like that is said in, you know, DEI a lot. Like, you know, culture things, they automatically assume that, you know, like, we’re just gonna come in and cuss everybody out. I don’t know what they thought of. But those type of things happen a lot in these situations, but my biggest pain is a lot of times–I have a really big thing, and it sounds small, but definitions of certain things really make me upset because it minimises our experience of hurt and pain or they want us to tell a story. And they’ll look at you and say, “Tell this personal story so we can learn.” It’s not my job to share painful experiences so that you can learn how to be culturally aware and what cultural awareness is, and it’s time for these leaders to have open minds and stop blaming and saying, “Well, you know, I feel like I can’t say anything now, you know?” “Well, welcome to the party.” I tell all white people, “Welcome to the party,” because we’ve had this for a very long time where our voices are not heard or were shut down. It’s not that we don’t want to hear from you. It is that it’s your turn to be quiet and listen, so that you can have open heart, and that you can feel what we were going through so that you can understand. There’s a big difference between sympathy and empathy. Don’t like sympathy. I don’t need sympathy. I don’t need you to patronize me, I’m not going to tell you a story. But for you to understand, to be willing to understand–and you don’t have to go away crying later. I had someone tell me a story regarding–it was a religious issue, and they were telling me, and I wasn’t sad after the story, but I had empathy. I felt their pain, I listened, I didn’t just block it away, and a lot of these programs, you go away and you spend all this money, and you still feel victimized because they just didn’t simply create a diverse, inclusive and have equity in the actual program of development. So the people of color on a team does nothing if we’re not in it. And then if you give us a thing–if you say go plan a part, and then you plan it, then we don’t have any equity. We’re not even included. But don’t just invite me in, “Good job,” and then also let me figure out what–it’s like being given a cake, you say, “I’m gonna bake a cake,” and then they give you the ingredients to cherry pie. Like, they’re mad at you because you didn’t bake a cake and you gave me the ingredients to cherry pie. I’m tired of getting–I don’t even like cherry pie. Stop giving me cherry pie. I don’t want cherry pie. You know, I don’t like pumpkin pie. I want sweet potato pie. Okay? I’m getting tired of getting cherry and pumpkin pie. You know, that’s what I’m talking about. It’s time for them to move from denial, not even seeing the difference, being defensive, minimizing it, and it’s also time for us to step up and speak about it and to create programs and things like podcasts to get our voices heard, because–I need change. I’m so tired of–I want you to hear me, and we need to create awareness, but it’s time to create programs that are centered towards people of color.

Neil
Mm-hmm. Yeah, I’m hearing, you know, bluntly, “Shut up for a minute and listen to me. Listen to us so that you can understand.” I’m hearing “Don’t define me, or don’t use terms to define me that you don’t understand. Maybe ask me. “How do you define it?” Here’s this term. How do you define it? Versus, you know, coming up with a definition and then telling me how you’re going to define me?” That’s what I’m hearing. “Don’t tell me you’re gonna give me x and give me y.” You know, “We talked about cake, and you brought me pie. Right? You know, let’s stick to our agreements.” And being able to name when an agreement is broken and not to be, again, shut down, because you did so. All right. And then also, you know, just towards the end there I heard you say we–and when you say we I’m making an assumption you’re talking about Black people or Black and brown voices, need to talk about this, we need to share our experience so that there is understanding as a part of the journey, the exercise of changing things. Like, stopping the foolishness, changing it, and shifting, pivoting, you know, going in a different direction, at least a little bit.

Louria
Yes, a lotta bit. Yes.

Neil
A lotta bit. Thank you for that correction. [laughs] So the world is what it is right now, and there are a lot of people who are working on trying to change things, and when we look at what we think about inside organizations, in corporations that either design and deliver these programs themselves, or they bring in consultants to do this, what would you say is the first thing from your experience that needs to be solved and resolved in order to move the needle in a remarkable way so that these programs produce less harm? What’s the first thing that needs to happen?

Louria
We need to first stop doing programs just to check a box, really investing [?] and what outcomes. Many companies just want to put a picture up on their website to say, “Look, we’re doing it,” and it’s harmful, because they [?] with no experience. Most programs, like, companies that I go into to help them with their DEI initiatives, they’ve hired someone with no experience, because it wasn’t a thing. Not all companies, a lot of them. It wasn’t a thing. They have no experience. So basically, you have someone making your Thanksgiving dinner that’s never cooked before. I want someone’s grandma in there making my food or someone who can cook. And that’s what’s going on. So why? What are you doing this for? You know, what is the whole point? What do you want to get out of this besides checking this box? And so if you want to change, you invite people to the party at the beginning. “Who is this going to impact?” Why do we put the people who last–we build the program and then we say “Hey, look, [?] you. We’re gonna do this to you.” No one wants anything done to them. Bring those voices in from the beginning. So I say, “Who are we looking at? Who are we actually recruiting?” “Oh, [?].” Already? Well, how do you know what to build if you haven’t asked people? And if you’re only targeting certain [?], make that clear, I know you’re not supposed to do it in this world, but if you start to expand your programs and you get a deeper reach, don’t get married to it. It is a program, so–people are like, “It’s a baby.” It is a program, people. You did not give birth to this. It is supposed to grow and expand. So many people teach leadership, but they don’t live it, and it is disgusting when I’m in these programs and they teach us so many things – to be open, to [?], and then they’re like “Be quiet. We know more than you do.” And it’s like–really though, what are we doing now? And it’s very disheartening, and it stabs you in the heart with “I no longer trust because it’s happened to me a lot recently.” And, you know, my grandma says, you know, “Don’t just talk about it. Be about it and walk the walk.” If you can’t put on heels and walk good in them, don’t put them on, you know? So I’m very tired of people. If you don’t see yourself, you can’t understand the impact you have on others. So they talk a good game, but they don’t live it. And so these leaders first need to understand what they’re teaching, and live it and breathe it, or don’t teach it.

Neil
I love–I don’t know if it’s you or your grandma who said this, but it doesn’t matter. But I love the point of “If you don’t see yourself or if you can’t see yourself, you can’t live it,” or, you know, don’t try to teach other people. And, you know, I mean, we kind of live in the same world of leadership and what it is, and I recently summarized it as full expression. You know, it’s not some corporate made up set of constructs. It’s full expression, you know? It’s you knowing yourself and being true to yourself and being able to fully express yourself through your own filters. You know, the filters designed by you, defined by you. And, you know, that’s what I love about you, is people listen to this, I’m sure they can tell, they can see, they can feel the realness that you’re bringing. It’s not made up. This is Louria. This is Louria Lindauer right here, folks. So I like to leave people–I mean, a lot of good nuggets in here, and hopefully people will listen carefully around what to do, what not to do, but as we get close to landing this conversation, what are a couple things that majority white leaders need to take away, just two things from this conversation? And then what’s a couple of things that Black leaders in corporate America need to take away from this conversation to play their part in creating the change that you would like to see?

Louria
So there’s a quote I say that I say is for white leaders. “Intent does not supersede impact.” And I’m very passionate, almost–it brings almost me to tears, because I am–I want them to know I don’t need your explanation of why you hurt me. Just know that your intent does not supersede the impact that you’ve caused. And this is for any leader of any color, but it happens a lot in white America, because it’s death by 1000 paper cuts. So that’s one thing. The other thing is something I call FLEX, and what it is is–the F stands for focus and self-awareness. That means be aware of yourself and your current emotion, that you may want to talk, say something, you may get defensive. Be aware of that and be still. Be quiet when you hear that voice, when someone is trying to say something. The L is for learn about others. You know, be quiet and allow yourself to learn with an open heart, hear different perspective. The E is engage in dialogue. Be open and engage in the dialogue, ask open questions. No blaming or shaming. And the X is expand your possibilities. When you do these things, you will learn so much. When you go from the range where I was, not listening, being siloed, to having an open heart, you will learn so much. And so that’s one thing that I leave for, you know, white America is that in certain areas, you are babies, you are a 101 in certain areas. In some areas, you’re superstars. But the range is knowing when you’re a 101 or when you’re leading the program. For Black America and corporations it is do something. [?] group who–they’re like “Nope, I’m starting an ERG program.” They called me. “We’re going to do it.” They wanted to know how. They asked for help. Ask for help. You need allies. You need to define what that means. You need to share your story. I know it’s hard, and we’ve all been shot so many times by those bullets of microaggressions. You can stand there and you can keep taking that, or you can build your own armor. And I help people build that armor to take a stand. And use your groups, you know?? Use the people around you. Ask for help from coaches and other people when you don’t know how. And don’t just come with the problem, come with a solution. You wanna talk to an executive? You better have a solution, because they have, like, a 10 second attention span, like, two euros. But it is tell your story. Go out there. People want to hear this now. We are so powerful right now that our voices–it’s a time in history that is so amazing and so beautiful. It is time to stop waiting, and it’s time to take a form of an action that can make change happen.

Neil
No, I love that. So, you know, for white leaders and all leaders, FLEX. You know, I love that. That’s a nice acronym, easy to remember, FLEX. And then for Black leaders in corporate America, wow, yeah, do something. Ask for help. You know, I personally think this time in history, in particular in the United States, our lived experiences are a gift to the nation, and it is a privilege and a privileged time for this lived experience to bring specific and broad value to the dream of an inclusive nation of inclusive workplaces. And so it is our time, you know, to give in that way, to give to our communities, to give to our brothers and sisters, to give to our allies to make things better. And it doesn’t mean necessarily changing your vocation, changing your career. You can still support these types of initiatives, these types of programs, you know, enter your voice into them, be a contributor in some way. It doesn’t mean you need to completely make a career change. But, you know, having legions and legions of people offering their gifts and offering the privilege of the lived experience and the actual technical expertise, the knowledge through training in this space is something that we all can do.

Louria
Really quick, something just bubbled up in me, and I have to say this. As you were talking–you always inspire me in such a amazing way, and what I remember is one thing I help people is when something happens to you, and you’re the receiver, you become the teacher. So if you’re in a situation, and you’re the teacher, so white America, you’re the student. So when you have this microaggression–and it could be unconscious–we’re assuming sometimes best intent, and if it’s not best intent, you know, that’s another topic for another day, but what it is, you become the student. And so leaders, you need to know that sometimes you’re the student, and then we have to know that when that happens, we become the teacher, and we share our story to inform, not attack or defend. I share my story to inform. And if you really want to get through to people, they have to share an experience. It’s hard sometimes, for me even, to understand something until I get into that experience. So these programs need to create experiences for people. Talking at people does not work, right? Definitions doesn’t do anything. But we’ve all had micro-aggressions. I don’t care who you are, something has happened to you where you felt some type of pain. And so these programs and leaders need to create experiences, and we need to share stories to inform, not defend. So Black people, you are teachers.

Neil
Yeah, you know, that makes the conversations more equitable, when we understand that dance, you know, in context, and the role shifting that needs to happen in order for the entire system to move. Sometimes you’re the teacher, sometimes you’re taught. Sometimes you co-create, you know? And really understanding that there’s this dynamic nature of the systems and relationships that we live in. It’s not static. One person who is the boss and has high rank and power is not always in that position, is not always the teacher, is not always the one who’s in the front of the room telling and teaching. They’re helping. You know, co-creation has become a buzzword, but that’s really what we’re saying is co-create. Be equitable. A co-creative process is an equitable process. So yeah, sometimes you teach and sometimes you’re taught. Thank you so much, Louria. This was a wonderful conversation. I want to give you a moment to let people know how they can get in touch with you if they want to get in touch with you and bring your realness, your flavor of realness, into their organization or into their life. How can people get a hold of you?

Louria
You can go to my website, success agility dot net. You can also find me on LinkedIn at Louria Lindauer, and you can email me at info at success agility dot net.

Neil
Yeah, and we’ll put all of Louria’s information in the show notes so you can reach out to her. You don’t have to remember it if you have a short memory. And, you know, hopefully, she’ll come back and bless us with more of her energy in the future. Louria, thank you so much for being here today. Louria Lindauer, folks. Everyone is a leader, and Louria laid out how moments in our personal and professional life informed and conditioned her to be the entrepreneurial leader she is today. She transformed herself from leading with anger and control to leading with an open heart. From closeness to hugging, from stoicism to listening with feelings. She learned how holding back tears does not serve her leadership. We heard many nuggets from Louria. One we heard, FLEX, which is F for focus and self-awareness, l for learning about others, E for engaging in dialogue, and X for expanding your possibilities. We heard when developing leadership programs, bring in others who have lived experience to the table who can inform these programs that need to be culturally competent rather than getting stuck in the mind trap of thinking we know everything about others who are not like us, which seems so obvious, yet it is an easy trap to fall into. We just need to stop it. Like Louria said, son’t promise cake and then bring pie. We heard that we need to recognize that sometimes we are teachers and sometimes we are taught. We heard that Black and brown people need to do something with the voices and the lived experiences that we have because there’s a lot of value in our lives. We heard to ask for help. Nobody can or should do this challenging and emotional work alone. We will all be better off for it if we ask for help, and we will all expand our leadership range. There was so much more. I hope you will re-listen to capture it all. And as always, you can connect with me on LinkedIn, Twitter, or Instagram using the links in the show notes. If you have a topic or suggestion for me, or want to join the conversation here, just send me an email at Neil at Neil Edwards Coaching dot com, and I look forward to you listening to future episodes. Thank you for joining me today.

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