I'm a 4-day work week coach who values belonging and efficiency.
In a world where we often sacrifice our needs on the altar of efficiency and/or productivity, efficiency is still one of my core values.
Folks often ask me how I can hold both belonging and efficiency as core values while talking so adamantly about getting our needs met. I go into detail with Tara McMullin on the What Works Podcast.
I believe in creating efficiencies where I can so that I have the energy to do the deeply inefficient work of belonging.
In a 4-day workweek context, I strive to make sure your systems are efficient so that folks can have space to belong.
I often tell people there are two facts you need to know about me: I'm an Abolitionist and a One Direction Fan.
As an Abolitionist, I believe that we have a responsibility to one another and the collective good. I believe in undermining systems of oppression while also building and imagining a new future. I believe that people require care and community. And as a white, cis-gender woman with access to resources, I believe I have specific responsibility for how I move in the world.
I learned about Abolition and my own personal responsibility and investment in collective liberation from Patrisse Cullors, Black Lives Matter, Janaya Future Khan, Richie Reseda, Toi Marie Smith, Desiree Adaway, EbonyJanice, Jade T. Perry, Sharyn Holmes, and Bunny McKensie Mack.
Being a One Direction Fan at 40 is about embracing what brings me joy and encouraging others to do the same. To me, it means, bring your whole self and I will celebrate you.
Here are my lessons learned and how I learned them. See a discussion of the intentional choices I make for this company here.
Always ask why.
I was what many would call a precocious child. I'm sure many would still call me a precocious adult.
For as long as I can remember, I've always wanted to understand the whys.
When I got braces on my teeth in the fourth grade, I remember asking my orthodontist why he was doing what he was doing while he was doing it.
I was the kid who had to bring a notebook everywhere so I could write down questions and not interrupt adult conversations.
The desire to question and understand stayed with me through growing up between Suburban Detroit and Easley, South Carolina as a child of divorced parents.
It followed me to NYU's Gallatin (School for Individualized Study), where I dug deep into how narratives shape history and our actions. September 11, 2001, was the beginning of my sophomore year and slammed much of my learning into a real-world context.
And for my 20th birthday (also in 2001), a dear friend gave me The Fire Next Time by James Baldwin. I think of 2001 as the beginning of my anti-racist education, even though it would take many more years before I had that language.
Asking why for a long time means that I'm always searching and pulling from different contexts to support my clients.
People have needs, even me.
I grew up an overachiever with a significant vigilant self-reliance trauma response. Vigilant self-reliance is my way of saying I can only count on myself so I'll do everything myself.
I didn't know I was allowed to have needs. Truly. Until I started organizing with AWARE-LA in Los Angeles, no one had ever asked me, how can I support you?
Everyone I've ever worked for has loved that about me. I'd always been all too willing to burn myself out with constant availability and immediate responses regardless of actual urgency.
Naturally, the first time someone asked me, how can I support you? I mostly stared at them slack-jawed, struggling for an answer. And a little mystified. I was 35 years old. I'd been working for more than 20 years.
From that experience, I learned that I had to think about my needs before people asked me. Later, I worked it into the first iteration of the work you see now. From there, the 4 Elemental Needs at Work were born. I need to name immediately, that I am not the first or only person talking about needs. Although there are far fewer talking about the workplace.
The modern Abolition movement taught me about my own needs and acknowledgment that we cannot and were never meant to meet our needs alone. Three pieces have been particularly meaningful in this regard: Patrisse Cullors's Abolition And Reparations: Histories of Resistance, Transformative Justice, And Accountability, Mariame Kaba's We Do This 'Til We Free Us: Abolitionist Organizing and Transforming Justice, and Leah Lakshmi Piepzna-Samarasinha's Care Work: Dreaming Disability Justice.
A 4-Day workweek is not as impactful or effective outside of a collaborative discussion of your team's needs at work.
The stories we tell about ourselves and others shape our everyday experiences and the world around us.
For more than 20 years, I've been studying the way narratives and stories change our world.
At NYU, I got to study with brilliant professors and peers. Some of the most influential were George Shulman, Angela Dillard, Robin DG Kelley, and Betsy Esch. Some of the most impactful books from college were Silencing the Past: Power and the Production of History by Michel-Rolph Trouillot, Decolonising the Mind: The Politics of Language in African Literature by Ngugi Wa Thiong'o, Discourse on Colonialism by Aimé Césaire, The Possessive Investment in Whiteness: How White People Profit from Identity Politics by George Lipsitz and the collected works of Arundhati Roy.
This orientation has shaped how I approach both the work of Abolition and anti-racism.
Part of the process for every client is what I like to call "excavation." That means, we look at what stories we've bought into and been taught over time. It helps to get clarity so we can move forward.
Find one person who believes in you.
In my professional career, I've had a lot of different kinds of experiences. Some awesome and some less so.
Across all of them, I've learned the power of a single person who believes in me.
Kimberly Faith was one of my first bosses, and I still think fondly of our time together. She taught me that "systems drive behavior" (from Peter Senge) and the importance of immediate and caring feedback. When I coach about generative feedback, I bring these lessons to bear.
I do my best to bring this energy to all of my clients. One person who believes in you can change your world.
Everyone has a nervous system, and sometimes they interact.
In 2019, I connected trauma-informed practice to the workplace. It seems bizarre to me that more people are not talking about nervous systems at work. But here we are. Deb Dana's work (recommended to me by Andrea Gutiérrez-Glik) has been influential in the ways I think about my own nervous system and nervous system interactions.
I deepened this practice by engaging with Jake Ernst and his program, Becoming Trauma-Informed.
Dr. Jennifer Mullan reminds all of us that a focus on individual nervous systems without holding collective care and responsibility can be harmful.
Trust is earned.
I spent time as a high school dean of students at the Academy of the Sacred Heart in Bloomfield Hills, Michigan, and worked with the students of Mar Vista Gardens in Los Angeles. In both of those contexts, I was in a position of "authority" that many people expected came with trust.
I don't expect immediate trust from anyone. Perhaps it's a trauma response; perhaps it's just a way of moving through the world.
I am grateful for the enduring relationships I've fostered by slowly earning trust.
As Jade T. Perry says, I don't want a sage on the stage. I'm not here to be an authority. I'm here to support folks to find their own brilliance.
Capitalism and White Supremacy Culture have a vested interest in my burnout.
As I've said, my anti-racist journey began in 2001 but I didn't have a real critique of capitalism until much later.
I came to the Nap Ministry's work in 2017 or so and it changed my life. Until then, I didn't realize how toxic productivity culture is. And I didn't connect it to capitalist exploitation. Tricia Hersey's analysis of "rest is resistance" is such a departure from the often touted feel-good idea of self-care. Her work is deeply grounded in Womanist theology and the history of Black resistance. I'm forever grateful for her work and the place it's played for me. I cannot wait for her forthcoming book.
My journey has also been influenced (and continues to be influenced) by the following folks Toi Marie Smith, Jen Lemen, Bunny McKensie Mack and the MMG Team, Desiree Adaway, Clarinda Braun, Dr. Rocio Rosales-Meza, EbonyJanice, Jade T. Perry, Sharyn Holmes, Thea Monyeé, Sonya Renee Taylor, Dr. Jennifer Mullan, Bear Hebert, and Tema Okun.
Influential books: Emma Dabiri's What White People Can Do Next: From Allyship to Coalition, Caitlin Rosenthal's Accounting for Slavery: Masters and Management, and Cyndi Suarez's The Power Manual: How to Master Complex Power Dynamics.
All of these folks underscore the way interlocking systems of oppression are harming us all. By keeping us burned out and tired, it becomes harder to imagine and organize.
Digital facilitation is an art.
In 2019, I facilitated more than 150 meetings in digital space. And then the pandemic came, and suddenly, everyone had to be in digital space.
In the several years since I've revisited Priya Parker's The Art of Gathering: How We Meet and Why It Matters more times than I count. And it pushes me to organize my programs and gatherings with intentionality and space.
I try to use Around (a Zoom alternative) as much as possible to limit fatigue.
We are the system and the revolution.
Andréa Ranae was the first person I saw say this. But it has been echoed by many people I admire and learn from.
In different ways, both James-Olivia Chu Hillman and Toi Marie Smith hold space for folks to grapple with how we create and impact the systems we live in.
It isn't enough to imagine that systems are either wholly outside or wholly within us. As with most things, there is a both/and.