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Our world is constantly changing. To keep up our companies have to be constantly changing too. For leaders, this presents an incredible opportunity to drive new initiatives that can make a positive impact on individuals, teams, and culture.
But igniting change can be scary. Being the first person to speak up and be an advocate for better can feel precarious — and lonely.
We sat down with Chief Diversity and Inclusion Officer at Chevron, Josetta Jones, and Allyson Felix, the most decorated Olympian in history, to learn from their experiences how to advocate for better and what it takes to create change.
3 tips for creating change
#1 Build your mental fitness routine
Change is difficult, for everyone. To handle the mental and emotional demands of trying to do something novel and innovative, we have to anchor into a strong mental fitness routine. With mental fitness, we get a little bit better every single day. Mental fitness is a practice of understanding ourselves, how our mind and body interact, and how to build strength and work with weaknesses so that we can improve our well-being and move forward despite life’s ups and downs. It gives us the capacity to embrace our agency and take action toward creating change.
When we commit to a mental fitness practice, we thrive at work, in life, and in all we do. Like hitting the gym, it’s a never-ending journey of maintaining and building the strengths that precede health, happiness, and success.
Though there was plenty of physical training that went into Allyson’s record-breaking performance in the Olympics, she also had mental fitness techniques to help her manage the pressure. When four years of training boil down to 49 seconds, there’s pressure. For Allyson, visualization stood out as a practice that really helps her to tune out the noise and feel more confident under the pressure of a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity.
Josetta mentions boundary-setting as a key mental fitness practice for her. As a diversity and inclusion leader Josetta is passionate about creating equity and belonging — it’s too easy to bring her work home. Because it’s such an emotional topic, she sets limits on how often she talks about DEI outside of work so that she can sustain her passion and energy to keep advocating for change.
“You have to do the work to give yourself the rest and mental space you need to come back to your organization and take on these challenges.”
#2 Embrace agency
There will always be things that we simply can’t control. Agency is about recognizing what we can control and taking action on it. This concept is easy to say, but it can be difficult to embrace. It takes courage to focus on what you can control when the mountain of what you can’t control seems so daunting. Embracing agency is the key to unlocking the self-belief, optimism, and well-being needed to keep going even against remarkable odds.
How do we learn to embrace agency? For Allyson Felix, finding her voice and the courage to use it was a journey. For so long she thought that as an Olympic athlete it was her job to just run fast and win medals. Being an advocate didn’t come naturally to her. A few key experiences helped her find confidence, but it was when she became a mother that everything changed. Her daughter inspired her to embrace a purpose greater than her athletic abilities, to use her platform to advocate for others.
“I like to say it was my daughter who really helped me find my voice and showed me what is possible when you get outside of your comfort zone to speak on the behalf of others. I learned that there were so many other women who had a similar situation.”
Josetta believes that the current exodus from the workforce is the result of many employees discovering their agency. People realize that they deserve to have a fulfilling career and feel a sense of belonging at work. For organizations to retain their top talent, they need to create space for employees to practice agency by giving people the freedom to flourish and create change within the work environment and beyond.
“People are realizing that they need something different to have a fulfilling career. They want psychological safety, they want trust, and organizations need to change.”
#3 Lead with compassion
Compassionate leadership inspires others to embrace their agency and become changemakers themselves. When you lead with compassion you create a trusting environment where team members feel safe to speak up and advocate for better. As leaders, this type of feedback and transparency is critical to making a positive impact. For Josetta, a culture of trust is what allows for this type of constructive conflict. And constructive conflict leads to progress.
“It takes leaders genuinely asking their employees how they are doing and giving them the freedom and flexibility to be at their best.”
At Chevron, leaders are learning how to create cultures of trust through BetterUp coaching circles. Coaching circles provide a model of psychological safety for the leaders who participate in them. The leaders can take that example back to replicate with their teams. Under the guidance of a trained coach, leaders are able to raise questions and test out different ideas with their peers and also learn how to facilitate a group experience that fosters connection.
“When you're in a coaching circle, you have safety in that circle. You can test out ideas with that group and you can see firsthand the ways you can prevent a lack of psychological safety on your team”
For Allyson, her coach Bob Kersee served as an influential example of compassionate leadership. Season in and season out they would have an open dialogue about what worked and what didn’t. When you are trying to do something that hasn’t been done before, it is important to have that safe space to make mistakes and have difficult conversations. Allyson shared that Bobby created that safe space by caring not only about her performance but about her well-being, her mental health, and her as a whole and complete person. Now, as she is creating her own company, she hopes to be that same kind of leader.
“I want to make sure that our team is deeply collaborative and everyone feels safe enough to be themselves and make mistakes so we can all reach peak performance. I think the only way that happens is by creating that from the top and starting with myself.”
Whether you are a senior executive, a people leader, or a passionate team member, you have the ability to create the change you want to see in your life, career, and workplace. When we embrace our agency and sustain our performance with mental fitness, we can be the compassionate leaders that the world needs to spark change and build a better future.
I’ll ask you though, are you ready to ignite the change you wish to see?
Content Marketing Manager, ACC