For the last several months, I have noticed a disturbing trend. The emergence and escalation of an undercurrent … something like I have never felt before … fear. So. Much. Fear.  It seems that every conversation I have with clients has the undertone of fear.

At GWLF, most of our work focuses on inclusion and diversity. We equip individuals – all individuals – to lead. We encourage them to bring their whole selves/best selves to work. We encourage authenticity. We encourage that individuals stand up. Stand Out. Create real (and meaningful) change. Yet, in recent days, I have seen and felt a significant shift.

The data confirms that diversity and inclusion increase innovation, engagement, and forward progress in organizations. Corporations “talk” about how diversity and inclusion matter. Yet, the behavioral evidence in most companies contradicts the talk.

I have felt such a void in my own life about my place in the universe since coming back from battling Stage IV Lymphoma. This work has always been tough, but since I’ve been back it can seem insurmountable. I thought maybe something had changed in me. Surely it has, but the issue is so much bigger than I am.

Several weeks ago, I met a guy in the airport who turned out to be an HR leader in a major corporation. We exchanged greetings, promising to have a follow up call. That call happened last week. This man was able to articulate that which I have not been able to express or even fully understand. He spoke so eloquently of the shift that is happening in our organizations. There is SO MUCH FEAR. Fear of job loss, fear of restructuring, rightsizing, downsizing … capsizing! Fear of challenging current leadership. Fear that there is lack rather than abundance. Many people are choosing to keep their heads down, to not make any waves, to blend in. At first, he felt fearful about sharing these comments with me. I assured him that he was safe, and that we needed to create the agreement that we did not need to sterilize our conversation such that it had no meaning, which so often happens in corporations. What we needed was to be truthful as to what we saw and experienced.

The conversation was rich because it was truth based. Finally, he suggested that he consider how to bring me into the organization. In that conversation, I did something that I have not done before. Typically, I would’ve jumped at the opportunity to navigate into the Corporate “Mothership.” Instead, I told him that I did not want to work with the organization. I wanted to work with HIM. That’s when it dawned on me that the shift that needs to be made next, will be made by individuals who realize that the wheels have fallen off the cart, and we just keep driving it.

What is happening now is that fear is winning. Division is winning. The dark is winning. You who are reading this blog, and I, and so many others know that amid this darkness, WE HAVE TO BE THE LIGHT.  We must exude kindness.  We must use our voices to call for inclusion.  We must treat each other with dignity and respect.

Exhausting? Yes.

A lofty goal … making space for EVERYONE?   Yes.

Impossible? Might feel like it.  

Mandatory? Yes.

Because each of us is called. Because we can do better. Because we MUST do better on behalf of each other. Because our organizations and frankly, our society cannot sustain if we don’t. We must cultivate, develop, and determine that ALL TALENT is necessary for growth.

This week I was at Lowe’s picking up mulch. I was struggling to lift the bags into my car; my strength not yet fully returned from being so sick. A stranger came over to the car and asked if he could help me. I gratefully accepted, thanking him profusely.

He then said, “We must remember that we are here to take care of each other. It seems as though we have forgotten.”

An incredible reminder and summary of all the feelings I’ve carried lately. We are here to take care of each other. Let us not forget!