As a Managing Director at beLithe, the scope of what I have to deal with on a day-to-day basis is immense. Dealing with topics like Finance, HR, Sales, and Delivery every day is a common occurrence and where I traditionally focus my reading energy. A book about squishy stuff is not at the top of my Must-Read list. This book strikes at the conscious and unconscious biases that we all have.
So, why did I decide to read Julie Kratz’s book “Lead Like An Ally!”? I have to admit I don’t know what the real reason is. Yet, for some reason, this book caught my attention. I’ve never met the author, Julie Kratz, even though I know a number of people who do know her. After all, there are only about two degrees of separation in the Indianapolis business community. Why the disclaimer? I wanted to make sure that you knew this is not a slimy promotional review. I just thought it was a great read.
We are currently living in one of the most divisive times in our history. Mask vs. no-mask. Color vs. white. Male vs. Female. Hetro vs. LGBT. Elephant vs. Donkey. Old vs. Young. I’m probably missing a few, but you get the gist.
What captivated me about this book was the unique approach that the author took to the explosive topic of discrimination and how it impacted me. Instead of writing about the inequalities of being a female in the male-dominated workplace, the author focused on reaching those who can enable and help enable females by providing practical tactical techniques and approaches.
The book is a parable whose beginning starts with a young woman trying to choose between two companies at the beginning of her career and concludes with her achieving success in creating an environment that nurtures and enables everyone.
Each chapter is organized in a manner that continues with the captivating story line, and concludes with two features I really like:
- “Lead Like an Ally Insights”
- A brief summary of each of the key points of the chapter along with the author’s insights into each point.
- “Lead Like an Ally Ideas”
- A discussion of practical, tactical ideas that can one can apply toward creating the right environment for all.
For me, the book was an important reminder about unconscious bias. Everyone has unconscious beliefs about various social and identity groups. These biases come from our environment and from experiences we have either had or have heard about. We tend to organize our little slice of the world by pattern-matching and organizing by categorizing. Many of our biases come from our early formative years growing up.
I was born in Indianapolis almost 60 years ago to a white middle class working family. My dad was a diesel mechanic for his whole life. My mom went to college part-time earning bachelor’s and master’s degrees while raising three boys. Most of my childhood was spent in, what was then, a small farming community. I didn’t realize it at the time, but I was constantly flooded with social and racial stereotypes until I went off to Ball State. Over the years, I have had a number of experiences that have opened my eyes to my own unconscious biases. I have been fortunate as I have not had the challenges faced by many. Being white, the biggest challenge I may have faced was age discrimination when seeking a job. That was only recently and nothing compared to what those around us face. Think of what your friends, co-workers, associates face every day.
As I have watched my children on their path through life, I have watched as they have struggled against unconscious biases in others that were unjust and unfair. Their struggles, while frustrating to them, are nothing compared to those that are treated unjustly because of where they were born, their sex, or the color of their skin. I personally have had to push my own unconscious biases out of my little brain. My experiences as an adult have debunked most of them.
Maybe it’s guilt for having unconscious biases or a sense of my own mortality that led me to read this book. I walked away considering my own actions and those who have helped me look in the mirror to see my own biases. Fortunately for me, I have had several courageous mentors, friends, and co-workers who have taken the time and energy to push me in front of the mirror. I am still not the person I wish to be. I have a long way to go. This book has ended up being a part of that journey. Not in what is written on the pages, but the self-examination that occurred as I was reading.
I also loved the concept of giving specific things that I, as an ally, could do. Many of us are paralyzed by the fear of offending someone as we try to figure out how to help.
Julie – thanks for encouraging us to speak up.
I am adding this book to my list of recommended books. Check out Julie’s other work on her nextpivotpoint.com website.
Whatever the motivation, this book is a must-read for those who aspire or are leaders.
For most of us, we can’t change the world, but we can start to change our little corner of the world. Reading this book is a step you can take in the right direction to change your corner.