Updated: Feb 13
TECHNOLOGY | COMMUNICATION | INCLUSIVE LEADERSHIP
Burst the Bubble and Crush the Clique, why we must Listen to Lead
The EquALLIES team often navigates the most sensitive of conversations. Our own diversity of life experiences fuelling the value we add to each one of our projects. This week, we approach communication and how Covid and online interaction influences a critical part of our leadership model; engagement.
With our very own ‘Story Teller in Chief’, Richard O’Neill, we know better than most how important the purpose and delivery of key messages are. Hannah Cotton’s work with BBC’s Crossing Divides and vision of building balance, imparts how significant deep listening is to heal, mediate and unite and Dr Lo Chikwira’s gender, race and cultural expertise elevates our collective and cohesive approach to every problem.
But with remote working, increased reliance on technology to connect and interact with our colleagues, customers and stakeholders, EquALLIES factors in the risks and opportunities this age of automation presents too.
Bots Build Bubbles
Pre-covid, ‘bubbles’ could be defined as online areas where the audience and content an individual interacts with is manipulated by algorithms. It facilitates a perception for the individual believes everyone feels the same way, with the same passion. The algorithms feed off an individual’s engagement with social media and influence what, who and why you see what you do. This can lead to false assumptions about the strength of feeling about a particular topic.
It has been suggested that they are part of the reason that experts didn’t anticipate Brexit and why the last General Election was lost with such a significant majority.
Although bubbles are lovely to keep us safe in real life during covid, online bubbles pose a real life risk. Targeted misinformation, lack of regulatory control and the spread of hate and divisive content has potential to cause great harm, as witnessed by the Capitol insurrection in the US.
More practical limitations for everyday life are
Bubbles reduce the opportunity we have to refine our own thought processes
Bubbles deny the opportunity to critically review our arguments
Bubble limit our knowledge and understanding of our areas of interest or expertise
Classrooms, Corporations & Countries Construct Cliques
Bubbles are built by bots but Cliques are a human product. Their defining factor is the exclusion of others, forcibly and proactively limiting who it includes. The damage cliques can do is limited by the intentions of those within it.
At high school, ‘Mean Girls’ are often presented as those the girls want to be, and the boys want to be with. A maturer audience and deeper understanding demonstrates that those within cliques exclude others to avoid their own insecurities and issues of poor self esteem, rather like bullies who proactively harm.
Within Corporations, cliques arise which threaten employees protected by characteristics. If the people who are rewarded with the best projects and promotions also happen to those who drink with the boss, support the same football team as the Drector and frequent the same strip joint, expect justifiable claims of discrimination on numerous grounds.
Dr Chikwira recently shared with our team that the English language could also be viewed as such a ‘clique’ and a potential barrier in learning and progress. ‘Daffodils and Snow; Whose Language Matters’ by Riadh Ghemmour highlights how many opportunities are missed when common language remains a barrier to sharing knowledge and experience. There is a persistent expectation that the most ‘valuable’ contributions to intelligentsia will be translated into English - a crude example of how barriers to being seen, heard and received as an equal present.
Burst The Bubble & Crush the Clique
There is hope - we are not rudderless jellyfish incapable of influencing our influencers. Here’s some top tips:
Burst the Bubble;
Follow people online you disagree with
Read, watch and engage with a variety of different sources
Turn off social media. Call a friend.
Be inquisitive and open to hear different points of view
Crush the Clique
Human made barriers to inclusion are harder to overcome.
In the Classroom;
Identify what you think the group offers that you currently lack. Is it really something that you need, from them, or can you get it elsewhere?
If the clique is actively harming you, do raise with a trusted adult
If online and real life bullies intersect, please don’t suffer alone.
In the Corporation
Look at the numbers; who is being recruited and what path are they taking through your company?
Are there any reward and retention patterns to be addressed?
How do cultural influences impact your story telling and leadership?
How will you engage with your stakeholders to understand difference?
Acknowledge language barriers exist, and they might limit the impact of your message
Recognise language barriers may limits our opportunity to include valuable contributions
If English is your first language, respect those making the effort to accommodate your needs
Conclusion - What’s Bubble and Squeak?!
The week started with Hannah proposing an article offering insight into one section of our Leadership Programme, on the importance of listening. An associate had questioned the value of ‘following back’ on social media. Viewing themselves as an authority in a space, they did not see the value of learning who found their content interesting, and engaged no further. Social media, for them, was an outlet to send and not receive information.
Hannah disagreed. By understanding the audience, the customer, the employee and stakeholder, an effective leader is able to adapt their skills and communication style to deliver the right message, at the right time, for the right outcome.
After all, in real life, leaders are only effective when people are inspired to act upon their vision. Having the skills to communicate that vision and motivate action in their followers are hindered if an audience is unknown to the storyteller.
“But what about online? Are people with high followers really leaders? How do followers act in the online space then? Are they really having any impact?” Dr Chikwira asked.
Richard replied; “Well, it’s all about Bubble and Clique, isn’t it? We have Bubbles online and cliques in real life. When what we all need to do is make the most of all the nourishing goodness a host of tasty ingredients provides - just like bubble and squeak!”
Hannah laughed and immediately changed the working title of this publication.
A few moments passed and Lo asked, “What’s bubble and squeak?”
Hannah and Richard’s shared joke, with what they’d assumed was a clever play on words, had lost meaning in our small team. The impact of our collective message was threatened to be lost through assumptions about language - perfectly illustrating our point.
And so the story concludes with justification for the definitions and graphics.
The aim of this article was to impress the significance of communication. ‘Clever’ word play and engaging titles fell shy of our team’s needs. In fact, it’s every team’s needs.
We’re always learning and happy to lead you to learning about inlcusion too. www.EquALLIES.com