What Leaders Need to Consider When Responding to Current Events

by | Apr 5, 2022 | Hummingbird Blog

Welcome to the Hummingbird Blog.

Hummingbird continues to explore how we contribute to creating workplace cultures that allow humans to be human. Currently, we offer a weekly newsletter, monthly Hummingbird Hour conversation, and regularly create resource guides. 

This blog serves as our next contribution to creating workplaces where humans thrive. I hope you’ll discover helpful insights and perspectives to navigate the changing landscape of workplace cultures that meet the needs of your employees. 

While it can certainly feel vulnerable, I welcome the opportunity to share my perspective on human-centered workplace cultures – borrowed from my 25+ years of experience in various HR, DEI, and operations management roles. Of course, I also have my lived experience as a gay man and person with a disability. Over the course of my career, I’ve been fortunate to work with many wonderful humans in a variety of roles that have offered moments of success and, without question, experiences that provided difficult, though important, moments of learning.

That said, while I am happy to talk about my experiences and share what I’ve learned along the way, deciding on a topic for this first blog admittedly sparked a bit of anxiety. Where do I start? Will I get it right? What would be most helpful? 

These questions reminded me of my conversations with leaders about their diversity, equity, and inclusion journey.

These questions reminded me of my conversations with leaders about starting their diversity, equity, and inclusion journey. I often say that you start by taking a step forward. Then you take another step. And so on. The work of creating a company culture where humans thrive is a marathon of many steps. While we can get stuck by trying to find the “right” place to start, I encourage folks to take the first step. It’s most important to move forward. If we don’t take that first step, we risk fear and perfection resulting in stagnation rather than progress. 

So, this is my first step. 

For this first blog, I chose to borrow from recent conversations at Hummingbird about how we respond to current events in the world around us.

In my first ‘Message to the Hummingbird Community’ last month, I wrote about the “Don’t Say Gay” bill in Florida because the bill hits close to home for me. I’m a gay man. My sister, and her fiance, are also part of the LGBTQ+ community. We live in Florida, as do our parents, my godchildren, and many others I care about and love. The legislation, which Florida’s governor signed into law, sends hurtful and harmful messages to LGBTQ+ youth and their families. I also felt like my message I shared, which highlighted legislation across the country impacting the LGBTQ+ community, aligned with our approach at Hummingbird (more on that later) and with our commitment to amplifying the voices of the unheard.

Shortly before I chose to share that message, we had conversations about what statement Hummingbird should make about the war between Russia and Ukraine. There were different perspectives, and some felt we should publicly condemn Russia for waging war on Ukraine. While I condemn the war, I felt a statement would be performative recognizing we aren’t directly supporting those impacted. I also felt like denouncing the war was outside of the work we do at Hummingbird and beyond our core expertise. 

Ultimately, I decided that Hummingbird would share a message about our collective humanity in support of employees in workplaces who are impacted by this terrible war, particularly those with loved ones directly affected. This message felt necessary and aligned with our commitment to humanizing the workplace. Since that decision, I have wondered if we could have said more about the mental health toll this war is causing and the reality that we are already facing a mental health crisis due to the coronavirus pandemic.

In the last couple of years, among the messages we have shared, we have taken steps to support the Asian American and Pacific Islander (AAPI) community in light of the hate crimes impacting their community. We have also elevated and affirmed that Black Lives Matter and have made an effort to raise awareness around legislation that aims to limit the rights of the transgender community.

During these moments, when deciding what statement Hummingbird will deliver, I try to engage the team with their thoughts – though, admittedly, this effort is sometimes imperfect. We’ll have conversations about when we make a statement, why we make it, what we say, and how we say it. We also allow space for reflections and thoughts after a statement is shared – acknowledging that hearing each other is an ongoing commitment. While we don’t always agree, we try to listen and understand each other. 

I can sense you wondering how these conversations lead to a decision and I appreciate your curiosity.

I am committed to inviting voices from the Hummingbird team to these conversations and to empowering our employees. I also recognize that making a statement on behalf of Hummingbird is ultimately my decision. As I consider thoughts from team and gauge the landscape, looking at the messages other leaders and companies are sharing, these questions guide me:

  • Should we make a statement?
  • If yes, what do we say? 
  • Why are we making a statement?
  • How does our work inform this decision?
  • What is important to the team at Hummingbird?
  • How does our response align with our commitment to creating human-centered workplaces (a core value for us)?
  • What are we actively doing to support those impacted?
  • What do we have to contribute to the conversation?

If we are going to make a statement, we also try to explore options available to us. For example, do we share our message on social media or an email to our community? Do we encourage our clients to get involved? Do we create a resource guide? Do we host a live conversation? Ultimately, we try to make a choice that best serves the message.

Click the buttons below to check out our resource guides and past Hummingbird Hour events. 

Additionally, when deciding whether or not to make a statement on current events, I try to be guided by our commitments at Hummingbird, several of which include:

  • We start with the voices of our team (and do the same with our clients). 
  • We amplify the voices of the unheard. 
  • We endeavor to create workplaces where humans thrive. 
  • We are advocates for tangible change. 
  • We believe meaningful conversation is essential to expanding awareness and understanding.
  • We focus on progress over perfection.
  • We recognize the value of igniting both heart and mind.

As I make these decisions, I also want the team at Hummingbird to feel seen, heard, and valued in the work we do and the messages we share.

As I make these decisions, I also want the team at Hummingbird to feel seen, heard, and valued in the work we do and the messages we share. This is one way that I try to ‘practice what I preach’ – recognizing that I regularly encourage leaders to invite their employees’ voices into these conversations as decisions are made.

While I am new to the CEO role, leading is still leading – and I have experience as a leader, a decision-maker, and a coach to other leaders. I have also had the opportunity to learn from some truly inspirational leaders, including my Dad, who I respect and who have helped shape how I lead. Together, these experiences inform my approach as the leader of Hummingbird. I always welcome other perspectives, thoughts, and suggestions, recognizing that my learning is never done.

Deciding when and how to respond to current events is an essential aspect of leadership – and one that is also human at its core. I hope that what I’ve shared here helps you feel empowered to reflect and create a system for responding to current events with your team, in your workplace.

The work of creating human-centered workplaces where people can thrive is truly a journey. A process that tackles systems of oppression that have existed for hundreds of years while navigating a constantly evolving landscape, and one that requires us to listen to each other, share ideas and perspectives, and continuously learn. It’s essential to recognize that there’s always another lens to explore, another view to understand, and another approach to consider. But I’m here for it and grateful that I get to do this work.

I hope you are too!

Brian McComak

Brian McComak

Founder | CEO

he / him | LGBTQ+

Brian McComak is a consultant, speaker, author, and facilitator with over 25 years of experience in DEI, HR, culture, change management, internal communications, and employee experience. He is an openly gay man and a person with a disability who shares his lived experiences in service of fostering workplaces where humans thrive.

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