Jackie Ferguson: Hello everyone. And welcome. My guest today is LaTonya Wilkins. LaTonya is the founder of The Change Coaches LLC, keynote speaker and author of the book Leading Below the Surface: How to Build a Real and Psychologically Safe Relationships with People that are Different from You. She's the president of the True Star Youth Foundation board and was awarded the recognition of the most inclusive HR influencer in 2019. LaTonya, welcome to our show. Thank you so much for being here.
LaTonya Wilkins: Absolutely. Thanks for having me.
Jackie: Yes. Would you tell us just a bit about your background, your family, your identity, anything that you'd like to share?
LaTonya: Yeah. So a little bit about me. I'm LaTonya. I grew up in a small town, in Iowa, Des Moines, or sorry, Marshalltown, Iowa. I grew up in Iowa because my grandma migrated north from Jackson, Mississippi, to get away from Jim Crow laws. My mother did not want to drink from a colored fountain, and so she was terrified was after Emmett Till was lynched. And so she migrated us all north. I grew up there and I grew up in a very blue-collar family. And my grandmother probably was one of the biggest inspirations of my life.
Now I live in Chicago and I live with my partner and a 12-year-old or 13-year-old actually boxer shepherd mix, and I run my own company and I am. Yeah, I'm just trying to live life within all the bounds that we have today that make that difficult sometimes. So that's, that's a little bit about me.
Jackie: Well, thank you for sharing that LaTonya and you know, let's dig in a little bit. You, you mentioned your grandmother at growing up in the south or mom and moving to Iowa, which is interesting, right. Tell us a little bit about the inspiration that your grandmother was.
LaTonya: Yeah. So first off I, thank you for acknowledging that, because what, when I was growing up and actually I grew up in Iowa and then I, when I went to college, moved to Chicago right after college, people would always laugh at because they're like, you're from Iowa. And I have a reason why I'm from Iowa.
It's because my grandmother was running away from these crazy laws and she didn't want my mother to get ledged. And so that's, that's why. And so, yeah, my grandmother she was such an inspiration. She basically was the brainchild really behind this book or the inspiration behind this book.
You know, I watched my grandma through a lot of different things. She was very involved in our lives. She was very accepting of me, even though I was different and everybody knew I was different at a very young age. If all you don't know, I identify as queer, and my grandmother knew that right away.
Everybody knows that before you do right. when you're a child and she was always very, very accepting of that. She also was just amazing with having relationships with people who are different from her, she was also just a really huge light. I remember I would always let the world stress me out when politicians were changed or something would change.
And the narrative on TV was like the world's ending. And she'd always sit me down and be like child, you don't, you have to know what I've been through. And this is, this is nothing compared to that. And we will get out of this. And so she was always my voice of reason. And so now I kind of have that, that wisdom and planted in me.
We were blessed with her for 93 years. Her sisters were also were blessed with our sisters. And so the nineties, and so. To have these amazing women, amazing Black women, in my life for that long. It's just phenomenal and it's unheard of. All of them have been such an inspiration to me.
Jackie: I love that. And you know, LaTonya you, you said your grandmother had lots of relationships with people who are different from, from her. And very often when we think of older people right they're stuck in their ways. They're not as inclusive. They're not as open and welcoming, but your grandmother was different.
Tell me a little about her story so that we can kind of mitigate, right, that the assumptions that we put on older people and how she wasn't like that at all.
LaTonya: Yeah. So she, and I talk about this a lot in my keynotes because it was such a fascinating story. So I would go visit my grandma a lot. And at one point she moved into like nursing care, I guess, an assisted living. And so she always loved taking pictures. So I wish I had, I wish I had that as much as her cause I have a lot of pictures now because we have iPhones.
But back in the days before I phones, I did not take pictures like that, but she had no money. she didn't have a lot of money growing up, but that's one thing she always valued. So she has all these pictures and every single time I visited her, she'd show me the pictures of her coworkers. she was a cafeteria worker, both in an elementary school and a middle school, and everybody loved her. Like when she passed away, I got all these Facebook messages from people that were like, you know, really poor kids, and people that were like, yeah, your grandma would slip me an extra cookie or slip me this because she knew that my next meal wasn't going to be coming for a while. cause my family, you know, was on food stamps or, you know, that was like, this was like my only meal for the whole day, you know?
And yeah, so this picture, she showed me how to all of her coworkers, they're all white women except her. And what's so amazing is these women visited her in the nursing home. their children visited her in the nursing home. She, she would tell me stories about them, what she talked about with them. And then when she passed, when we celebrated her life and she passed away, this young white woman came up to me and it was like most beautiful moment. And she just said, hey, are you Tanya?
And I said, yeah. And she's like, well, your grandma Ruthie, she talked about you so much. She's like, you know, I want you to know that when my mother died, she took me under her wing, kind of raised me cause I was without a mother. And that story right there just shows like how deep my grandma was with people who are different from her.
And she just was able to see hearts, she was able to just bring the lights into the world that just impacted so many souls. And so, yeah, so that's, that's what she did. And she did it throughout her entire life.
Jackie: I love that, you know, it's sometimes we don't realize the impact that one person can make on so many people. But it's good to remember that. So thank you for sharing that about your grandmother. Let's talk a little bit about your early career and then what inspired you to start change coaches?
LaTonya: Yeah. So, I got ended up going to college. I was one of the first to get a degree in my immediate family, a four-year degree and I studied psychology and I thought I was going to go work for a nonprofit and I did, and I thought I was going to love it and save the world, but I had a terrible leader in that first job, horrible, abusive.
And so then I was always fascinated by business, but back then I was like this business evil, you know, what's really going on. So I tried my hand in business. I, it started in recruiting. I really liked recruiting and I liked working in business and I realized while I was working in business, I was like, think I want to be an entrepreneur.
And so I ended up going back to business school and pursuing a career in consulting, leadership development, and talent. When I was in leadership development, talent, leading leadership development teams, I was seeing that the work that we were doing, wasn't really that effective. It felt very cookie cutter.
A lot of what I did in my units was I would support like diversity equity, inclusion, those teams. I would embed some of that stuff within our programs, but they never helped people like me. Like I, I, I was working in these jobs, developing these really neat programs, but I was finding that, I wasn't getting promoted.
I wasn't doing, you know, I wasn't moving up in the ways that I saw my colleagues move up, that didn't look like me. And then I, I just, I just had this calling and it continued, I ended up leaving corporate and working for a business school. And I love that. I, I wanted. Just try something a little bit different ended up teaching some classes and leading culture in leadership at a business school.
And then, I had this calling and I was like, I became a coach. I did coach training and my mentor had told me to do that. And I was like, how can I really change the workplace? Because you know, we're talking about diversity and inclusion, but we're not doing it. It's just not the way that the industry is structure.
It's wrong. And it's like, it's not helping me. It's making people like me what's supposed to help for like tokens. It's not really focused on the day-to-day. You know, they, they, things that are needed in order to, to have inclusion or belong or feel like you belong, I never felt like I belonged and, you know, even talking to a friend last night, I was like, I just still feel that way.
Like I have to be very careful to find those places in spaces where I belong. And so that's where the idea for change coaches came up. I was like, I'm going to, first I started just doing regular career coaching and I'm like, coaching's powerful. I said, I'm going to coach leaders and executive teams to create cultures of belonging.
I started doing that. And just found a lot of power in it. And so we do that alongside of other types of things like workshops, we do culture academies, and then I still do one-on-one coaching. I do a lot of speaking. Yeah, it's like the big vision for me and Change Coaches and all the folks that I work with at Change Coaches, is to create real change in the workplace.
And it starts with, you know, the day-to-day of how do we treat each other. How do we involve each other? How do we see each other? You know, it's not just about how many Black people can you hire, it's about how am I actually treating my people.
Jackie: Absolutely. And, you know, I love that you said that a lot of organizations and companies talk about it, but they're not doing that day-to-day work. And it's in those everyday interactions that you cultivate those environments and cultures of belonging. So. That's so important.
And, LaTonya at Change Coaches, your team helps clients create cultures of belonging, as you said, while also amplifying the voices of the only ones, right? So that they feel valued and engaged. So this is a two-part question. One, how to companies go about creating those cultures of belonging? And then two, as the only one or one of a few, how do you navigate the corporate environment successfully when your organization may not have made that commitment?
LaTonya: Yeah. So, first of all, how do you create a culture of belonging? The way that we work with clients, usually, we'll start with executive teams and then maybe the next level down. And we will do some intensive coaching and learning sessions. We do one on equity, power and privilege, and we, in that workshop, we allow clients to experience what these words mean? So we're not given in these definitions, and then to figure out these words where, we actually take them through experiences so they can feel what this means, and we're not calling people out for their privilege. We're just, we're saying, okay, we all have privilege experience it. You tell us what yours is and you talk about that.
I also take them through some team coaching and in that team coaching that's when we, in addition to learning, we're exploring at the core of everybody's leadership, how much are they creating a culture of belonging? What do their structures and systems feel like? I also have them do like an analysis of their, their network and you know, who are the people who are high-potentials and I have them kind of go through, and these are just a couple of examples of activities, but one person, for example, in each team, every single time says, oh, I thought it was inclusive, but when you asked me who I call, when there's a problem, it's all white guys.
Right? Right, when you want that informal advice, who you call and that, so it's through a lot of these types of activities through like a coach, like way. I, I question leaders at the time, and how they have, have done leadership, and through that through multiple months and years, even, that's how we start building cultures of belonging. They, you know, through the coaching, I don't know how many people out there have had a coach or listening to this most of the coaching or the effectiveness of coaching happens outside of the sessions.
So they're doing these things or doing these things as we're going along. And it's really great for them. They really like it because they have, they have a guide and that's us, as they go through this, a non-judgmental guide. A guide that's letting them kind of, I mean, these are leaders, they know what to do, we're just guiding them.
Right? Like, we're not there to tell you what to do, where to call you out. We're there to tell you were there for you to learn. So for people that don't belong, one of the advices I would give you is, to think about and make a list of the things that make you feel like you belong in a workplace.
Is it the look and feel, is it the people on the walls? Is it the leadership team being diverse? Is it just day-to-day people including you? McKinsey recently did a study that showed belonging was one of the number one things employees want, right. And, but employers think it's not that, they think it's other things like remote work, but it's, it's actually more than that.
And so making a list of those things, really like embodying those, like, thinking about, you know, if I have these things, what will my life look like, how I feel in my body, how I feel going to work every day? And I know that sounds squishy and touchy-feely, but this is the kind of work you have to do if you really want to belong.
And when I did that kind of work, I did that kind of work through coach training. I didn't even know I was doing it, but I was. What I did is I, for example, I just started coming out and all my interviews. So I was closeted for a long time and I realized that for me to belong, I had to bring my whole self to work.
And that's part of myself that, I'm married, how could I not bring that to work? So I just that's, that's one of the examples. Then you have to just start making decisions and bringing pieces and pieces, more pieces of yourself to work. And if you're feeling like it's not working, then that company is not for you.
And that's okay. And that's, that's what I had to deal with a lot, Jackie, is grappling with, wow. There's only like, you know, very few companies that I could work for. And that's okay, and that makes your job search a lot easier. But for people that are intersectional and have multiple identities like me, that might be a reality and it's like, fine, then you just, you just focus on those and that's, what's wrong with that, right?
Jackie: You know, I love that because that's something that we all have to really think about, right, are we as individuals slowing down to determine what things are important to us, as we're thinking about where we're spending so much of our time. And what, what sometimes happens is we take whatever the next job is, right the next offer is, rather than taking the time to evaluate what looks right for me, what feels right for me, and then making sure that we're moving in those directions. I think that's great advice for all of us because we don't take the time to slow down and be intentional around that. So I love that.
LaTonya: No we don't. And just one more thing. I have a friend, friends that are doing amazing things. And one of my friends just, just got a CHR job for a company that's going to be IPO soon. So it's going to be great for them, right, and I think when I, before I thought about what's really matters to me, I would have been like, oh my gosh, I got to go find a job like that.
I would have been like, oh yeah, that sounds amazing. But now it's like, the first thing I do is I go back to my list of things. You know, that are important to me, and that make me feel like I belong. And I'm like, yeah, I don't know, I mean, that company, I mean, this friend doesn't look like me and it's probably going to be a lot easier for her to function.
So you just have to decide what you want. And, yeah. And once you do that, it's just, it could be so powerful.
Jackie: I think that's great because you know, in this economy of right, that great resignation is what it's being called, people are looking for jobs, they're looking for that next place where they feel that sense of belonging. And as you said in that McKinsey survey, it's a more than just your salary. It's more than, you know, a flexible work schedule. They're looking for a place where they can belong. And before you can find that place that you feel that you belong, you need to determine what that means for you. So I, I love that, that's such great advice.
LaTonya you talk about having developed a unique evidence-based approach to diversity, equity and inclusion and belonging. Tell us about that. What is that evidence-based approach? Because very often people think that it's kind of the soft skills, right? Tell us a little bit about the evidence-based approach.
LaTonya: Yeah. So I recently wrote a book it's called Leading Below the Surface. So you mentioned that a little bit earlier. This book CA was inspired, you know, I felt like I kind of felt like I was bursting at the seems like a year into Change Coaches, after it was, that was before George Floyd, but we were kind of moving in that direction.
There, there are so many other things that happened before George Floyd. So it's interesting that that's usually the big event that it's like, okay, that's the mushroom cloud, but I don't know. I think the mushroom clouds, there were smaller mushroom clouds before. And so I, I started thinking about leadership and how leadership and the way we lead is the most important. And I was reflecting on that over and over and over again, especially through my coaching and everything that I do.
And so I started doing a ton of research, cause everything I've always done is evidence-based. I mean, I worked for a business school and so I worked with some of the most brilliant people in the world. You know, there's so many people out there that come up with these trendy terms and that's fine, but it's like, it doesn't really do much. I mean, it's fun and it makes you feel good, but there's not a lot of evidence behind, you know, long-term change with that stuff again, it makes it feel good. It's probably, it's probably has some value in some ways.
And so one of the things that I found when I was doing the research is that leadership archetypes are outdated, you know, it's like, they're all about, you know, what, what types of skills you have and that how you lead or how you treat people. And so I did a lot of research around that. I did a lot of research around how do, what, what creates belonging at work, and I looked at studies, I did a lot of research around what type of DEI work actually has effectiveness.
And so that's what this evidence-based approach is. And the three prongs of below the surface leadership that I came up with from this evidence-based approach are real leadership, so that's being relatable, equitable, aware, and loyal. And this is an archetype, and it's an archetype that is more expensive, right. Instead of equity being over here at a side dish it's part, front and center, part of your leadership. The second pillar is empathy. So I talk about two different types of listening in the book, person to person listening, person to belonging listening. Person to belonging listening is more, you're more listening through observing, and I could talk a little bit more about that. We don't do enough of that. We could do a lot more of it.
And the third is psychological safety. And I've always been fascinated by psychological safety. Amy Edmonson actually wrote my four and I was really excited when she said yes, cause I just been following her work and it was such a big part of my research. And I just, there's a serendipitous moment. I was talking to like someone that knew her really well. And they were like, and, they were just like, hey, I'll introduce you. I was like, oh, and it just happened. And it was, it's one of those things that like, yeah, it did feel serendipitous. And so, but psychological safety is being able to speak up at work without repercussions or punishment, being able to bring yourself to work, being able to make mistakes at work. So those are types of things that, that are really the epicenter of belonging.
Jackie: Absolutely, and LaTonya let's talk about your book Leading Below the Surface. Now, we got into a little bit about what people will learn and the leadership archetypes are one. Remind me again, you said Relatable, Equitable. What's the A?
LaTonya: Aware, and then Loyal.
Jackie: Got it. And then what else, as readers go through the book, what else are a few of the pieces that they'll pull out in learning and discovery, through reading the chapters.
LaTonya: Yeah. So there are some like more scientific, like factual things that you'll learn, right. Like from, I did a ton of research. But you're also going to read about the second chapter in my book is called the dominant leadership standard or the myth of the dominant leadership standard, and the dominant leadership standard is what we're all suffering from, right? It's like 80 years ago, people came up with these standards of leadership and competition, right?
Meritocracy, all these things that are not real and they don't, we don't resonate with those words. A lot of people don't resonate with those words. And so I talk about the dominant leadership standards, what that looks like, and how you can challenge yourself to kind of think yourself out of that, and how there's ways that you could do that to subvert this dominant leadership standard.
And you'll also learn a lot about what it feels like to be excluded and what it feels like when these diversity programs don't work. I had a CEO share with me after he read my book recently that just reading my stories, just ignited a whole new level of empathy in him because it, the stories I share, I mean, it was kind of uncomfortable to share some of those and like triggering but those things all happened. I mean, I changed the names.
I also share a lot of positive stories too. But, yeah. You'll just learn, like, if you are someone who is underestimated or, you know, intersectional, you're probably going to be like, yep. Like I hear that. I hear that from an Indian man the other day, that he was like, oh my gosh, it's the same thing.
And I'm like, wow. It's like, it's crazy how universal belonging is. So you're going to hear stories that are familiar to you. So be careful you might get triggered, but if you're someone that's of a dominant group, you're probably going to be like, wow, that's, that's how this happens? And yes, it is how it happens, and it's really hard to talk about sometimes.
Jackie: Yeah, absolutely. But you know, I love LaTonya that you do it anyway, because I think it's important for people, especially who are not underrepresented, right, or not marginalized, that they can understand from a human perspective, rather than a theoretical perspective what that feels like and looks like, and what that experience is and how people, you know, move through the world differently from their experience. So I love that you have those real stories of real experiences, because when you talk about things, theoretically, it just doesn't have the, it doesn't resonate the same way. So I think. think that's fantastic.
Excellent. Tell me, what are some of the challenges that you face in the work that you're doing with getting organizations to make meaningful changes?
LaTonya: Yeah. I think that one of the things that makes us really fortunate is that 50 to 60% of prospective clients that come to me, they've read the book or they know of a book, or they've listened to like a podcast like yours. So they know we're not messing around. They know, they know if they want this to training that we're just not going to provide that. We do workshops.
But I would say that the hardest thing, you know, we work with a lot of tech companies and I think a lot of times they can still get caught in the dominant leadership standard. And that like the speed, like, which I'm not saying that's not important, right? Like you have to come out with the technology the quickest, or the updates the quickest, and you have to stay in front of the market.
But one of the things that I work with these companies on is how can you, how can you have both, right, right. If you, if you need the speed to market how can you have speed, but be thoughtful at the same time. Right, there seems to be this dichotomy of either you're fast or you're slow and deliberate, but I don't, that's not true.
And so that's a huge challenge where, you know, it's like, even if you've been through an unconscious bias training, like one of the first things you learn in that basic training, like that is like, oh, I just slowed down with my thinking, so I'm not biased. But then people are like, well, we don't, I don't have a lot of time. So. How am I going to slow down? I really have to make decisions. So it's, its helping people find a balance with that.
Jackie: You know, that's such an important point and I, I want to stay on that for just a second, because what happens, right, if you don't take the time to slow down, is that very often, and if you think about hiring, you might make the wrong decision. And very likely if you're not slowing down to be intentional, you do make the wrong decision.
So then how much time does that cost you? Right, how much productivity does that cost you? So I think that's a challenge that a lot of organizations face because doing this work requires so much like personal reflection and then changes in your behavior, changes in your thinking, changes in your language that takes time and it's hard. It's hard work, but there's certainly a difference between the performative piece or that saying that this is what my intention is. This is what I want to do, and really digging in to do the work. And you mentioned LaTonya, just, you know, your organization is not just a training, right? It's not a check the box.
Jackie: You've got to really dig in and do the work. So I love that you talked about that. That's so important.
LaTonya: Yeah. It's so important. And even, I mean, even in the workshops we do, it's like, there's still a coaching flare to it, so we're coaching you through it and yeah, it's, it takes time and that's, that's why we do this through coaching because coaching relationships take time and effort and collaboration.
Jackie: And speaking of time and effort and collaboration, companies sometimes will simply allow their cultures to evolve right, organically without being intentional about how they want to direct it and, and the actions and steps that they want to take to create those cultures of belonging. What tends to happen when leaders aren't intentional about the culture that their organization has, or the culture that they want?
LaTonya: I talk about this in my book. I mean, it's takes on a mind of its own. This takes on what it is and what ends up happening, especially if it's, if it's a smaller company and what's going to happen is that it's going to, the culture is going to be the personalities of the, the, the founders. And do you want that?
if it's a large company and you're not being intentional, it's going to be the personalities of the C-suite. And a lot of times that C-suite has climbed up the ladder. And so it's going to be a culture that you probably don't want because it's going to be a culture that's that they experienced early on and it's going to replicate what they experienced climbing the ladder, which is probably outdated, if that makes sense. And so it's, you have to think about that.
And one other point I want to make is another issue that when you're thinking about that, when you think about molding your culture, I have a whole chapter about this. I don't know why people think this, but, a great culture is a culture of belonging. People think that a great culture is something else. I don't know what they're thinking, but it's like, it's a great culture of like innovation or a great culture of, and I wrote a, I wrote an article called the great culture lie, or, you know, a great culture of meritocracy or, or whatever.
A great culture is a culture of belonging. I don't know why we got off that whole thing. And we're where this lie started, that a great culture is not that, and that inclusion is a side dish. So, so yeah, the two points to summarize, you have to really reflect on what you want it to be. Otherwise, it's just going to become the leaders, which I see a lot. And then second, a great culture is a culture of belonging.
Jackie: Absolutely. And you know, when you think about cultures of innovation, that starts with belonging, that starts with the ability. For people to feel comfortable enough in that space to speak up and say, I've got an idea, or I have a different way of approaching it. And I don't want to skim past that you've just said, inclusion is not a side dish.
I love that. That is, that is so true. You have to be intentional about that. You have to make that important. That's not just something on the side, and I think that what happens with a lot of organizations is they make that a nice to have instead of an imperative. And it's so important because that is necessary to create that culture that you want and that you need to be sustainable going into the future.
LaTonya: Yeah. I mean, I want to give side dishes love, cause I just had collard greens as a side dish last night when I went to dinner with a friend. And so those are very important, but you know, people get more excited about the main dish, right? The main dish takes, takes more coordination. The main dish takes more perfection and all that stuff. So it's really important.
Jackie: Absolutely. LaTonya, tell us about Truestar Youth Foundation.
LaTonya: Yeah. I love that org. When was in corporate, I was looking to engage with arts organizations in different ways at first? And so I joined the Arts and Business Council of Chicago. They have a program called business volunteers for the arts. So I did that for many years. And then, I was like, I think I want to be back on a board cause I'd been on a board before.
And so I did, I asked my company and they paid for a board of directors’ program for me. And then I facilitated a strategy retreat for Truestar, and I just fell in love with them. they it's two founders, DeAnna, and Na-Tae' and they, their big thing is to bring media education to black and brown kids in Chicago.
And so the media education includes everything from video to digital marketing, to media, anything to do with media. And we went digital, was it 2020, all digital. And it's you got to check it everybody that's listening to this, go check it out because it's kind of like Blavity where it's like this big curated platform and you're hearing Black kids, Black and brown kids talk about everything from COVID to the presidential elections, the vaccines, why they're important.
And it's amazing because these voices are what we need to be hearing and reading. And so it's so, it's so amazing to be part of this organization. I've been, I've been on the board for about four or five years and it just dip growth that we've had. And the attention that we've gotten has been phenomenal.
Jackie: Oh, that's so fantastic. You know, I, I think it's so important to amplify those voices, right? Those are the voices of the future, right? If we think about the people, you know, in corporations that are making the decisions, right. They certainly don't look like us. They've got these perspectives that are not necessarily reflective of the way the world is evolving and shaping and how our society has changed, and so being able to amplify those voices, being able to hear those voices and really give space for those voices is so important. So I, I think it's fantastic, the work that that organization is doing.
LaTonya: Yeah, absolutely. And I love what you said, cause like we do sometimes have corporate clients that ask our kids to come in and do marketing and branding. And I'm like, these are the companies that are going to you know, be set ahead because they are, this is, I mean, they don't know how to communicate to this group of, of people which are the future. You're right.
Jackie: Absolutely. So LaTonya, your bio mentions somatic coaching. Am I pronouncing that right?
LaTonya: Yeah. Yes.
Jackie: Tell us what somatic coaching is and how you use it in your practice?
LaTonya: A really good question. I just had a client right before this and that's probably why I'm so calm. Cause I, I love being able to meditate with my clients. And that's basically what somatic coaching is. So with somatic coaching, it was talking a little bit about earlier, when you think about belonging, think about how you feel on your body.
You know, cause it's always where we're always up here and we're trying to think of words, but it's like, it's so powerful if you could think of, you know, what you experienced in your body, what you experience around you when something changes. That's, that's exactly what it is. It's you know, I was just talking to a client earlier and this client is having some difficulties in their life.
They thought they just wanted to make a big career change, but there's so much more and. It's a great thing to bring into my practice because when people are feeling stressed out, I can have them take a break, take some breaths and tell me, you know, what they're feeling in their body and be able to identify what's really happening, or what's really taking over their life, and what's getting in the way.
It also works really well for DI or belonging type coaching where I can do that with someone that is feeling stressed out, or maybe they had a contentious interaction with someone different from them, and through somatic coaching it takes the judgment out.
Right it takes the them judging themselves out like, oh, I messed this up. Oh, no, like, what am I going to do? I just, just tell me the checklist. No, there's no checklist. So what's going on. What's going on in your body? Like how did that make you feel? Once we can kind of see where that tension is, it says a lot to the person, it tells the person a lot about what's really getting in their way of truly connecting with people and truly connecting with their life. And it's, it's very, very powerful.
Jackie: That is fantastic. And you know, I've, I've never heard of that. So I didn't know about that until I looked at your bio and did a little bit of research. LaTonya, can we take just a second? I know I'm putting you on the spot here, but with you asking one or two questions so that we can experience what that is and, and walk us through how we should be feeling or, you know, how we should think through the process of that and feel in our bodies.
LaTonya: Yeah, so I, we could do a quick demo. So Jackie, is there something in your life what's what in your life is causing you maybe tension right now?
Jackie: Well two weeks ago I lost my very best friend in the world. She was my best friend for 25 years and she passed away from, after a battle with cancer.
Jackie: I'm having a struggle navigating everything.
LaTonya: I'm really sorry to hear that.
Jackie: Thank you.
LaTonya: All right. So I know you're, you're going through this, this loss. And so I kind of, I want you to take a couple deep breaths. Can you take a couple deep breaths with me?
LaTonya: So w when you're reflecting on this, this grief and this loss, where, where what's coming up in your body,
Jackie: Tension, sadness, fear, a little bit of guilt, right? She was my age and I'm here and she's not and,
LaTonya: hmm, tension, sadness, guilt. When you, when you're thinking of a tension. Where is that tension? Like if you could just check your body with me and just stretch your body a little bit, where are you feeling that tension?
Jackie: Definitely in my shoulders, I noticed that I've been grinding my teeth a lot.
LaTonya: So here, what I would do is, and I know we don't have time for, because now I'm getting into it as a coach, so here, what I probably usually I do these for an hour. So the next step would be to have you breathe into your shoulders, and we would do some visualizations together to see what might start eliminating some of that tension or easing some of that tension. And this is typically how I do that. And what people find is they're able to see or experience the stress that the stressors that they're having known where they are in their body, and then they're also able to experience what makes that lighter.
Right, instead of me saying, Jackie, go join a support group of cancer, you know, cancer survivors or cancer people that lost people because of cancer. But it's more of doing the somatic, so you can, you can learn what you need to do next to, to, to kind of navigate this grief. That's the nucleus of everything that we do. It's you experiencing where you need to go next, right?
Jackie: Yeah, thank you for that. You know, one of the things that we often forget, especially in the workplace is, how many things people are dealing with on a personal level, right. And what they bring with them to, to the office or to the virtual office. And so I love that method of coaching because. It's not just, you know, here's your plan, right?
It's, it's you’re a participant in it, right? It's not coaching where someone is assigning you a plan, or these are the steps and, you know, do this very calculated thing. It's very custom. It's very much about you and how you feel and, and what you're experiencing. So I think that's great. LaTonya, thanks for taking a few moments with that.
LaTonya: Yeah, absolutely. You nailed it. It's I would say right now, 80% of my executive coaching clients that come to me for one-on-one coaching, they think they want something. Like, they think they want something transactional. Like, hey, help me get promoted. Hey, help me lead a more effective team, but what comes up is all this other stuff,
LaTonya: that they're dealing with right now.
Jackie: That's exactly right, exactly right. And it's so important for us, you know, as good teammates, as good leaders to remember that. And remember that people have a lot that they're dealing with, you know, and whether it's a reflection of what's happening in society. And if we think about the things that are happening right now and the stress that those things can cause, you know, or an easiness and uncertainty or what might be happening with an individual, it's important to remember that.
So I think that's great and so important in cultivating that, that culture of belonging as well. Right? When you belong, you get to bring all of who you are, to that, to that environment. So I think that's fantastic. LaTonya tell me the best advice anyone has ever given you.
LaTonya: The best questions always give me because I've been given so much great advice, but one of the things that I was told early on when I, after I started my business was to not care about the number of clients that I had, but care about the impact and also to care more about doing things for people.
Rather than doing than them doing things for me. And that was amazing advice because what happened is my first year in business, I did a lot of things for other people and I did a lot of it for free. And I didn't, I'm not saying you should do like free talks or free. I didn't do anything hugely laborious for free, but I did do, I did get people free advice. I'd say, hey, why are you doing this? You should do this. Or here's this? And they're like, oh my gosh, that was such a thank you for that. And it was like nothing. It didn't cost me anything, didn't cost me that much time.
And so that, since I did that the first year, it really set my business up for long-term success because I created a lot of amazing relationships and I didn't go at it from that perspective, but it was one of those benefits that, that brought me.
Jackie: I love that. I love that. Yeah, and again, going back to your grandmother, right? You never know who you can impact or what small thing, or what piece of advice may really make a difference for someone. So I think that's fantastic. LaTonya, what's the message that you want to leave with our listeners today?
LaTonya: Yeah. Well, if you really love what you are hearing today, I want all of you to join me in making real change in the workplace. I want you to, to all become below the surface leaders. These are methods that, that work, and please like, let's join together and do this. We can, we can do this. That's the good thing is that it's already happening. I'm already seeing the effectiveness and all of us can do this. And so don't think you cannot, we can.
Jackie: Amazing advice. LaTonya, thank you so much for taking some time and talking with me today. I really enjoyed learning about all of the amazing things that you're doing and thank you for the change you're making in the world. And thanks for taking some time with us.
LaTonya: Yeah, thanks for having me, Jackie.
LaTonya Wilkins’ team helps clients create cultures of belonging while also amplifying the voices of the underrepresented so that they feel valued and engaged. So how can companies create cultures of belonging? And, if companies aren’t committed to DEI, how can employees navigate the corporate environment successfully? We answer those questions in this week’s episode.
LaTonya Wilkins is the founder of The Change Coaches LLC, keynote speaker, and author of the book Leading Below the Surface: How to Build Real (and Psychologically Safe) Relationships with People Who Are Different from You. She’s the president of the True Star Youth Foundation board and was awarded the recognition of the most inclusive HR influencer in 2019.
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