Three Years Later: 3 Lessons I’ve Learned Since Launching Hummingbird Humanity

by | May 16, 2023 | Hummingbird Blog

Three years later and what I know for sure is that being a human-centered leader isn’t a linear process of constantly moving forward and not making mistakes. The word before centered is human, meaning I’ve been navigating this journey imperfectly while determined to do this work – as a leader, a CEO, and a change agent. 

I started Hummingbird Humanity to fulfill one mission: to amplify the voices of the unheard. Though I didn’t have this language when we launched in May 2020 – this purpose, our ‘why’, serves as our guide for everything that we do.

It’s hard to believe it’s been three years since Hummingbird Humanity launched. Two months after the world shut down, three weeks before the murder of George Floyd, and the beginning of my nomad journey.

The context of our beginning: A global pandemic brought on by the coronavirus and a racial reckoning sparked by the murder of George Floyd produced a time filled with uncertainty, and loss, and also sparked a movement, long overdue, to bring humanity to our workplaces. 

In the early days of Hummingbird, it was me, Ben Greene, and Taylor Beaven, trying to make a difference during an unprecedented time in our society with the help of the many mentors, friends, and colleagues who shared their wisdom, experience, and encouragement. Hummingbird launched with a conversation series – aptly titled “Hope, Heart & the Human Spirit” – in recognition of what was guiding each of us, what we believed everyone needed at that terrible time, and honoring my hope to bring this message, this possibility, to workplaces. 

What started as a belief in the potential of creating workplace environments where humans – all humans, no matter their lived experience – can bring their best selves to work, ultimately contributed to our success. 

Good for humanity. Good for business.

Hummingbird has expanded and grown beyond what I could have imagined. While we began as a diversity, equity, & inclusion (DEI) firm, our work included workplace culture and employee experience approaches – and also considered the organization’s ecosystem through our 4 Lenses of Representation model (People, Culture, Customers, & Community).

Today, Hummingbird is:

  • A consulting firm working with organizations around the globe on their commitment to creating diverse, equitable, and inclusive environments and who believe in igniting human-centered workplace cultures. 
  • A speakers bureau featuring storytellers who share their lived experiences in service of our mission and meeting the need of DEI and ERG/BRG leaders to find great speakers that fit their budget.

And recognizing that what is learned outside of the workplace comes with us to work, earlier this year we launched 

  • the Hummingbird Humanity Foundation honoring our belief that diversity conversations are for kids too and serving the needs of parents, caregivers, and educators who need tools for these conversations.

I have been reminded, more than once, that it’s okay to celebrate success – even when there’s more work to do. A few things about Hummingbird that make me proud:

  • The amazing people who choose to be part of Hummingbird. I am grateful and honored – for every member of our team, past, present, and future committed to this work; for our broader community who believe in us; for our clients who trust us; and to the people who support me, challenge me, and guide me.
  • Our collection of resource guides! We are committed to sharing our expertise, in service of work that is bigger than each of us (and bigger than Hummingbird). Our resource guides are one of the ways we contribute to supporting the work in progress and we know you like them too as this is the most frequently visited section of our website.
  • We do things differently! Our approach to DEI work is considered through the 4 Lenses of Representation, is grounded in the power of shared humanity, and is fueled by incorporating change management principles into everything we do. Humans, all humans, are at the core of our work – and we are focused on both honoring their full humanity (which includes our first Special Edition Report: State of Humanity in the Workplace) – and developing approaches to getting everyone in the conversation (and in the work)!

A lot has changed in the world since we launched, and while the learning continues, I am a different person and leader than I was when we first started. The business has grown significantly and we’ve seen the impact of our work be realized in rich and meaningful ways. 

After leaving NYC, I spent about 18 months as a nomad, building Hummingbird on my 15” laptop, and landed in Fort Lauderdale. I’m closer to my family and have good friends here. And moving to a new place, particularly the work to get settled, takes time and energy.

Gratitude keeps me centered. And Bosco too, of course!

In the spirit of service and honoring our value of progress over perfection, as I reflect on the last three years of Hummingbird Humanity’s work, I’m sharing three things that I’ve learned along the way:

Lesson #1: No Leader is Perfect.

I thought I had to be a perfect leader to prove I could lead and grow Hummingbird Humanity. Instead, I have had to learn to fly through life like a Hummingbird, with the ability to be flexible and pivot, even if a decision made me feel like we were flying backward. Not every decision I’ve made in the last three years was the right one or an easy one to make. I’ve made mistakes, but that is all part of the journey as I work to cultivate the kind of human-centered workplace culture we help our clients develop. I remain committed to continuously learning, celebrating my success, and acknowledging when I could have done better. (And I’ll continue to embrace a bit of levity along the way!)

Lesson #2: Surround Yourself with People Who Help You Grow.

I can’t do it all, and I am learning that as I envision a world filled with human-centered workplace cultures, inviting in people who know more than me, who have different lived experiences, and who bring their expertise, will continue to be important to Hummingbird’s growth (and to my learning journey as a leader and CEO). I will continue to invite the team to challenge me, to help me grow, and to guide me – because this honors our mission, enhances our culture, and helps us do better work.

Lesson #3: Workplace Humanity Includes All of Us. 

A world free of systemic oppression and dehumanizing workplaces challenges us to take action and use our position and privilege to amplify other voices. We all have the opportunity to play a role in dismantling systems that have historically silenced too many voices. Sometimes this means that I am challenging a CEO, a leadership team, or a Board of Directors – and there are moments of real discomfort. I’ll keep doing it though – and I will continue to learn how to convey these challenging messages in ways they can be heard because these leaders are also humans who want to feel part of something bigger than themselves.

Bonus Lesson: Our Shared Humanity IS The Key.

Foundational to our work is a belief that humans, even with our unique stories and experiences, are more alike than we are different. Our commitment to building bridges of trust between humans, paired with learning experiences that expand awareness and understanding, and enhanced by developing skills to navigate sensitive conversations, allows people (employees, colleagues, co-workers, managers, leaders) to hear each other, in particular those who are different from us, in ways we haven’t before. This ‘bridge’ is just the beginning, the foundation, for tearing down the systems that don’t work for all of us (and towards building systems that do)!

Leading Hummingbird Humanity is an honor, a privilege, and, at many times, a humbling experience, I don’t do any of it alone. I am grateful to do work that I love – and work that makes a difference. And I am filled with overwhelming gratitude for every person, every human, who has made the Hummingbird Humanity journey possible. 

Thank you. Thank you. Thank you.

Brian McComak

Brian McComak

CEO / Founder

he / him / LGBTQ+

Brian McComak is the CEO & Founder of Hummingbird Humanity. He 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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