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Season 2, Episode 1
Creating Inclusive Cultures with Faith Clarke

Faith Clarke (she/her) is an organizational health and teamwork specialist committed to helping business leaders cultivate a values-infused, inclusive culture where people feel like they belong, so that they can deliver on their business and social impact promises. Faith is particularly passionate about inclusion for BIPOC and neurodistinct individuals, grounded in her experience as a Caribbean immigrant and as a mother of neurodistinct humans. 

Faith’s background in computer engineering, doctoral research and numerous experiences with organizations that care about their social impact curate a high-touch, systematic approach to building strong teams, which has helped her clients improve operations, maximize productivity and double their revenue. Faith is a published researcher, author of the Amazon bestseller, “Parenting like a Ninja,” and host of the Peak Performing Team podcast. She has contributed widely to publications and online shows in the US and UK, and delivers workshops and lectures in a variety of academic and professional settings.

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Discussed in this episode:

  • Faith’s relationship with feminism
  • The differences in racial dynamics in Jamaica vs. the US
  • Why we must widen the “Circle of Concern” vs. falling into the “us vs. them” trap
  • Why changing individual behaviors is only 20% of the solution
  • Watching for triggers and tending to your needs as an activist
  • Shame and burnout don’t do anything to change systemic problems
  • What decolonization means, and how it looks in the workplace
  • How workplace cultures form and how they can change through micro actions
  • Why top-up revolution works, but top-down leadership is more compassionate and effective
  • The role that compassion plays in Faith’s decolonization work
  • How to maintain compassion in challenging conversations
  • The role of self-care and community support for folks engaged in social change
  • Faith’s self-care practices
  • How Faith is challenging capitalist norms in her business

Resources mentioned:

Learn more about accountability coaching with Becky Mollenkamp

Becky Mollenkamp:

Hello Faith, thank you for being here today.

 

Faith Clarke:

Hi Becky, this is great, I’m so glad we’re getting to talk.

 

Becky Mollenkamp:

Me too. As always, I’m gonna start with a quick little description from you or a story from you about your relationship with feminism.

 

Faith Clarke:

You know, as a woman growing up in the Caribbean, I don’t, like, I didn’t have feminism as an idea that I was wrestling with in any way. In some ways, at that time, it felt like a white woman’s idea. And as I’ve lived here now in 20-something years, I have been introduced to womanism. And there’s even a womanist interpretation of the scriptures. I grew up Christian, and have embraced variations of the Christian faith. And there’s a translator that I love who uses a womanist approach to translate the scriptures. And it was so nourishing to me because she’s so intentional about spotlighting the places where women are invisible. And so my relationship to feminism and womanism is more around, I think everybody needs to be feminist and womanist because it’s similar to this idea around all lives matter versus Black Lives Matter. Of course, all lives matter. And to make all lives matter, Black lives must matter. I feel like the embracing of womanist ideas is the embracing of all life. And the acknowledgement that when we said our lives matter, whenever we said it, we didn’t mean the woman’s body. The people with these typical bodies with breasts and vaginas, we didn’t mean those bodies when we said they mattered and we made them commodities. And so for me now, it’s more about reframing, redefining my own tropes around what it means to be a Black woman in America, a Black Afro-Caribbean immigrant in America, and to give those edges something softer so that it expands with me as I become myself. And yet still, I’m a woman. So.

 

Becky Mollenkamp:

Ooh, that was good. I love that. I’m going to re-listen to that a couple times. I have a feeling to just take it all in. And you mentioned being an immigrant and we talked about that previously when we met the first time about you coming from Jamaica. And one of the things I thought was interesting was that your children, because I believe they were born here, correct?

 

Faith Clarke:

My three kids, two were born here.

 

Becky Mollenkamp:

And you had mentioned that for them, they would hear white liberal people saying ‘we’ and learning that they had a wake up of learning that ‘we’ didn’t mean them. Tell me a little bit about that because when you talked about it before it really struck me.

 

Faith Clarke: 

So, we homeschooled. I homeschooled for 14 years. And in our homeschooling, we were very intentional about where, which classes, who we hung out with, and that kind of thing. So when we transitioned into it was a private school, it was an alternative private school, it’s a beautiful space, primarily white space, and we’re in communities that are largely white, we’re one of two black people, maybe black families on the street that we’re in at the same time, my kids had this sense that we were all the same, because that was how it felt in homeschooling. We were just an eclectic mix of different people that had the same ideas. So when, in a more traditional, it wasn’t traditional, but yet in a more collective learning space where the predominantly white population is wrestling with racism and all the things that are happening, and they were asking questions about how they should be responding to things, there would be expressions like ‘we need to’ and ‘we need to do this thing in this way,’ ‘we need to remember this thing this way,’ ‘we need to act in this way,’ and it was just, I remember my daughter saying, ‘which we? That’s not me. I don’t, I don’t need to do that.’ And it was like when she said it to me, I stuck a pin there because I remember at the same time as a coach consultant, there was all this talk about doing education and educate yourself about racism, educate yourself about this thing, which books are you reading? What’s the reading list? And people would ask me, have you read this? Have you watched that? And I’m like, I don’t need to read that and watch that. In fact, that’s trauma to me. I actively avoid a ton of that material because I can’t read Caste. I’m not gonna debate whether Caste is accurate in terms of its theoretical underpinnings. I can’t read the stories because they echo in my bones. So there’s something about, in our spaces that are liberal and that want to be inclusive and have this language around activism, the lack of awareness that you’re talking about something that does not include everyone in the room, and that it actually feels, my kids actually felt invisible. I think I have enough years and skills to acknowledge the separation without feeling hurt by it, but they were in a room to be in a collective learning experience and found themselves on the outside while inside the conversation. And they were startled by that because they were surprised that facilitators didn’t notice that they were on the outside of the conversation. This is not about them. And that also showed up whenever some of the tropes came up about Blackness. And so understanding that you know, the African-American experience is like this. And then my son would say, but I’m African-American, and that’s not my experience. And you know, just it was difficult for them, the constant sense of I’m invisible then. I’m invisible to white people, but I’m invisible as a Black person because I don’t fit the Black trope. And I’m invisible because I’m not white in this conversation that white people are having with each other.

 

Becky Mollenkamp:

You talked a little bit about that sort of, I feel like that’s othering, right? This othering thing that happens. And we talked about that previously and you had mentioned that instead of creating belonging where and bringing people into these like circles of care, we just sort of move the circle around. Because I think this is going to be a nice bridge into the work you do, so I’d love to hear more about that and how that showed up for you with your children and how you’ve managed that.

 

Faith Clarke:

I love John Powell’s work on othering and belonging. His institute is in, I think, UC Berkeley. And they talk about the Circle of Concern. And I am, hopefully, you know, he’s not ever listening and doesn’t critique my poor description of it. But the visual was so helpful to me. Everybody who gets access to support is who’s in the Circle. And so a lot of, once you have a marginalized identity, the whole definition of marginalized identity is you’re not in the circle. I wasn’t a marginalized identity when I was in Jamaica. I had, you know, I was in the privileged group. I had a certain kind of education. I was middle-class, you know? And so when you recognize that you’re outside of the circle, a lot of the activism that happens to point that out tends to move the circle because, in essence, we vilify the people in the circle. You’re bad, you’ve done this thing, you’ve created this system, what you’ve benefited from this thing, you know, boo for you. And I’m being reductive, but what happens is your thing is not important, this thing is. And so the circle shifts. And so as I mentioned, I grew up Christian, and when you step into liberal circles that are wanting to do a lot of the activism, then people are like, wait, you’re Christian? Suddenly you move from being smart and like current and make a mover and a changer, to somebody who’s stupid because how can you be a person that… And it was such a great example to me, that feeling of the circle moving because here I’m in the circle and suddenly you’ve identified a thing that you disagree with, and I’m not in the circle anymore and I’m now on the outside. And I understand in a country where it has been perceived harmful, some Christian structures have seemed harmful, that you then say that structure is harmful and you shift it. But then what you did was a whole bunch of humans who were not harming people, were just kind of living their lives and they suddenly move on the outside of the circle. So there’s something that we do when we say, hey, we need to point attention to these people that seems to mean move attention from those people. And I think that’s really against an understanding of the systemic nature of stuff, that the systemic issue of supremacist thinking, patriarchal thinking, racist thinking, ideologies that create value hierarchies of people, and therefore determine that someone is on top or some entity is on top that knows it, the solution isn’t to change the ‘it’ that is known and therefore change who’s on top. The solution has to be to figure out, oh, actually the ladder has to be, there’s no ladder. How do we imagine a world where there is no ladder? When we can imagine that world, what we’re doing is creating a circle that’s more elastic, that’s responsive, that adjusts like a pregnant woman’s body adjusts to the growing baby, we need a circle of concern that responds to the actual humans in, not moves around because it’s rigid in size. I think that has to do, John Powell calls it ‘bridging’, and bridging is an active, intentional, person-to-person process of understanding difference, and building that pathway across difference constantly as a practice all the time so that we are always thinking about the both/and. That we’re not ever saying you had your needs met 50 times, I’ve had it one time, so you know that we’re always in this collective conversation about what’s the world we’re creating where we’re all in the circle of concern.

 

Becky Mollenkamp:

I love that because the whole idea behind what I want to do with this podcast and this movement is exactly that, of it’s not about winning at their game, changing who’s at the top, but saying that the game is rigged and this game doesn’t work and let’s create a whole new game where we could all win what would that look like, and that is so beautiful and I can also feel my own tension around this idea of widening the circle, allowing all the people into the circle when there are people who don’t share a very basic understanding of humanity with me. And it’s exhausting to try and have those conversations and build that bridge when the other person on the other side isn’t interested in getting on the bridge, and you’re just diametrically opposed about really basic things, around who deserves care, love, rights. I wonder how you navigate that.

 

Faith Clarke:

You know, this is an ethical and moral issue for me. I mean, when I’m talking to business owners, I basically say, you’re leaving money on the table when you’re not building inclusive, restorative work cultures, right? Because for some reason, the question always is about the ROI. But fundamentally for me, it has to be an ethical and moral issue that we want to live a certain way with each other. and we’re willing to do it, not because there is this perception of value to us, but because it’s the right thing to do. And I know that we may not all agree on what the right thing is, but I do feel like whatever your right thing is, you have a commitment to live that way and not, I have a commitment to live according to my right thing and not make another person have to deserve my right thing. Because once they have to deserve it, then I’m setting up the same system. I have initiated the hierarchy. So for me then, I’m a systems girl. I believe that 80% of the value that’s created in any system is from 20% of the stuff that’s going on. I believe that only the behavioral change between individual humans is only 20% of the solution, 80% of the solution is changing the system. And so even for that person who is stubborn, who is a byproduct of a system that’s been harmful and has therefore been harmed, and because of their power position, you know, like the powerful 6-year-old, their thoughts may not be communally supportive, still they are impacted by the system. And so if we change the system, whether slowly or quickly, they will be impacted. So it’s like, how do we change our minds from this overuse of individual responsibility into systems thinking, knowing that just the same as if I suck the oxygen out of the air, all the people, ‘good and bad,’ whatever we call that, will struggle. And if I oxygenate the air and if I make the food more nutrition rich, all the people will benefit. How do we continue to design systems where everyone benefits? Because the people who look like they’re benefiting, they’re really not. bell hooks said that for the patriarchy to survive, it had to first harm the men. And so, I have a colleague who’s a relationship and dating coach who works to build anti-patriarchal relationships with her clients. And she was like, the men who are in relationships and function as, you know, in a, in a super patriarchal model, they’re dying early too. Like the, the health risks of this toxic environment is for everyone, those who appear to be benefiting and those who aren’t. So I think that that’s why it becomes an ethical and moral issue for me that I when I meet that resistance, yeah, I need to do some self care, yeah, I may need to back away from specific individuals, but my work has to be for the sake of my children who are going to meet their children in the future. And so it’s my business to kind of be part of shifting the environment so that that person has a chance to heal. But if not, their children have a chance to heal. So that when my children meet them, there’s a possibility of something different.

 

Becky Mollenkamp:

Faith, I needed this conversation today. Thank you. And I think that I do fall short sometimes where I get fixated on the individual who is spewing hateful rhetoric, and not thinking systemically. Even though in my bones, I know this work is systemic, and that is where I want to focus, changing these systems and these structures it’s very easy, especially in a social media world, to have your focus go the wrong place. So thank you for that reminder.

 

Faith Clarke:

You’re welcome, I think for a lot of, you know, that kind of exposure, that’s just the signaling of the tending that we need. Like that’s the reason I don’t read Caste and such. Like to do the work I need to do, I need to be able to position myself a certain way so I can’t have my system inflamed. I have Black children, Black boys. My system is inflamed just every time they wake up and think about stepping out the door. I’m not adding to that inflammation. So the moment I notice that there is a particular person saying stuff, I’m going to hide, block, and I don’t believe in information for the sake of wide knowledge. I really need to curate my experience as much as I can so that I can be able to be present. And I also need to tend to my parts that are tender and that need support. And often, just imagine that you’re in a relationship and a person is yelling things at you that’s triggering you every day. I need to tend to those parts that are delicate and that are easily triggered, and I need to stay away from that input. It’s like poison ivy. So, and I think that there’s a way that in our society, we feel that we need that information to respond to so that we can create content and so that we can… Life is short.

 

Becky Mollenkamp:

It is. And I think because I sit on the other side of that equation as a person who holds far more privileged identities, at least in the US, that I feel a responsibility to some degree to be more actively engaged because these are the systems that I benefit from in many ways. And so it feels like it’s my responsibility to a greater degree to be a part of dismantling those systems. And it can be both, I think. And I also deserve to tend to my needs as well and to watch out for my own triggering and inflammation, and so it is a great reminder and thank you. 

 

Faith Clarke:

I just want to comment on what you just said because a lot of what I’ve seen when I work in corporate spaces, that a lot of my white colleagues really struggle with over-responsibility for the system while being less effective in changing the system. Because of that over-responsibility, that can even be crippling, and there’s a lot of shame. And I think that there’s a difference between the shared collective responsibility that’s needed and overexposure in the system. That I am as effective as anybody else in disrupting the system and being in a revolution by avoiding the input as I would be if my place in the system was in dialogue. I think that we all have places in the system and knowing what your weapon, your medicine is in the system wield that because your medicine as you’re wielding it has the power to insulate you and support you, but sometimes we’re willy-nilly kind of just battering ourselves around. I have I have friends and colleagues who because of the over-responsibility allow the system to consume them for the sake of the revolution, and I say no you don’t deserve to be killed by the system that your ancestors created that’s not what this is. That actually you want to be caring for yourself and figure out what your, you might, it might be strategy, it might be loving for people, whatever that thing is. And I think back to just how the system was created, the system was created to destroy people. So regardless of which people we are, once we see that the effect is this kind of triggering an inflammation and we’re like, wait, that’s a symptom of the system, especially when we feel that that’s just the price we pay for our activism. 

 

Becky Mollenkamp:

I definitely have released blame and shame and guilt because I know that those are just really sharp tools that patriarchy and racist patriarchy capitalism use to maintain the status quo. My white guilt does no good. And I’ve learned that a long time ago, and have set that down. I do feel a greater responsibility because I do feel like I don’t think my Black sisters should have to be the ones to change things. You know, I do think it falls on, it should, fall on white people to dismantle the system that, like you said, our ancestors created, and that we benefit from. And I hear what you’re saying, and feel like I could do a better job of recognizing that I also do deserve to tend to myself as I do that. I can’t do that to the degree of it debilitating me. Cause then what? Then I can’t be in the fight anymore. So I think that’s smart. And my way of showing up is this. I want to create conversations. I want to create community. I want to create space. And I think that brings us really into the work you’re doing. A lot of your work is around culture design and decolonizing in work spaces. And I want to create a culture of belonging. I want to create a culture of care. I want to create inclusive, intersectional sorts of cultures. I want to create a culture where we are engaged in the fight to dismantle systems and caring for ourselves. So on the culture design and decolonizing work, is there a difference between those two things? Like how would you, or do you, like for you, do you feel like they have to go hand in hand? I’m not sure if everyone fully understands what those two things are about.

 

Faith Clarke:

Yeah, and I think definitions are varied. So I think people have to decide what they mean when they say these various terms. So when I say decolonizing work, I did an interview series called ‘Decolonize Work’ and I was just trying to find out what people mean when they say it. And I had a bunch of conversations with thought leaders and I extracted, one particular person, she had her own definition and she mentioned she called it, I can give you a link to her stuff for the show notes, ‘a return to right relationship with,’ and then she had a bunch of things, Mother Earth, our people, knowledge, old ways, etc., and I have the definition, we can put it in the notes, but I think that the key elements of the definition for me was ‘return’ and ‘right relationship.’ And just this acknowledgement that right relationship with a lot of these entities—ourselves, our bodies, knowledge, the old ways, the land—that right relationship was disrupted by bunches of forces. And so decolonizing is acknowledging the disruption in the various ways it plays out as per 2023, and then figuring out what the return would be. And the return is not going back in time. The return is re-imagining, relearning what this right relationship is. So at work, our relationship to work is still very much built on extraction of people’s labor, people’s time, and extracting that and turning that into money for some entity that’s not the people. And when we extract, and we pay people whatever we pay them. No, we’re not doing it for free, but it is… people are an expense and that expenses should be managed and the business is the asset which should be grown and should flourish. I’m saying that decolonizing that is putting that on its head. So people shouldn’t be extracted from, if there is a dynamic exchange of some sort, people are a part of the asset that’s being built, people are a part of the community or whatever that is being built and the nourishment should be happening for the people and the nourishment that’s…it’s like an ecosystem, the nourishment that’s happening within the ecosystem must directly benefit the people. When we are holding that as a big idea, then it means paying attention to the small ways where extraction is the primary currency that we’re working with. So whenever it is that people have to ask permission, full stop, period, full stop, when people have to ask permission, there’s an element of power hierarchy and extraction happening there. ‘May I take time off to tend to my children?’ That immediately, that’s power hierarchy, right? I’m not saying that we don’t have, as people who employ people, the right to say what the terms are of that employment. But I do think those terms need to be collaboratively designed and they must be responsive and capable to change, capable of change. Not I determine what people who work for me do, but how do we, together, co-create this thing that we’ve agreed that we’re going to co-create? So, more along the lines of the way we think about partnership now, when we have a couple of people owning a business, how do we co-create our thing, even if we have people down underline as employees? When we determine that the system knows the right way and that the people don’t, and that people must toe the line, and that people can’t change the system, all of those things are structures of the, you know, these hierarchies that we, that were created that were designed to harm people and extract value from them. So I think that if we want to build organizations and businesses that nourish humans, and our businesses are built on these old hierarchies, old structures, which all of them are then we need to be willing to take each symptom at a time and just say, hmm, how would I do this differently? How would I do vacations differently? How would I do salaries differently? How do I do leadership differently, where we have job descriptions that I’ve created, that people fit in with, but that’s built on some kind of piece-part system where humans actually don’t change. When in reality, humans are changing every single day. Me human as the leader, and my team members are all changing and how do we build a mental model that’s also responsive and adjusting? That’s what interacting with humans who are alive would look like versus the resource commodity model that we have.

 

Becky Mollenkamp:

The piece that’s definitely going to be sitting with me, and my work with business owners, is that bit about permission. As a really clear sign of an area to examine. It doesn’t, like you said, maybe it’s not about it being bad or wrong, but it’s the approach, right? And this idea of collectively agreeing to terms and creating the space together because that’s definitely been a theme that’s come up so much in this podcast is the collective, and how for things to be feminist or womanist, it’s got to be about the collective and thinking, shifting our thoughts from individual to collective, and from top down to across the board.

 

Faith Clarke:

This permission piece, similar to the criteria piece, it’s fine to ask permission if everybody has to ask permission. The moment some people have to ask permission and other people don’t ask permission, then permission is a signaling of the structure, right? So if it is that we’re all asking permission of the collective, that’s fine and we have some structure for checking whatever it is that we’re checking. It’s just that the hierarchy basically says, people on the top, the higher up you go, the less permission you have to ask. Similarly, the higher up you go, the less of a criteria there is for you to access resources. The lower in the hierarchy you are, the more you have to prove that you need something to get it. So let’s use the medical system. That you have to jump through a hundred hoops to be able to say, I need access to this resource, this support, whatever it is, this proving that you should get it. Right? A client of mine asked, what’s the definition of family? This was bereavement leave and bereavement leave could be given for family members X amount of time. But what’s the definition of family? I’m like, whatever people say family is. People shouldn’t have to prove that my definition of family is what I say because there is someone in this system that doesn’t have to prove this. Somebody can just go and say, I’m sad, I’m grieving, I’m going to go and deal with myself. So it is more about the fact that if this isn’t for everyone, and not on paper, but in practice, if this isn’t for everyone, then it signals a system that needs some decolonizing.

 

Becky Mollenkamp:

It sounds like it’s like asking for your humanity to be granted, and that doesn’t feel good. And when you say it that way, like, I don’t know. These are the ways that I feel like these capitalist ideologies are still in me because I hadn’t thought of it that way until you pointed out. And it’s beautiful. I mean, what a beautiful thing to explore. How can we remove that? Remove those barriers and give everyone their full humanity. What does that look like? And I’m guessing this is where it feels like you get to the culture design around creating cultures of trust and respect, because I would think those would be fundamental to being able to make a system like that work. Is that, does that seem right? Like the decolonizing piece is sort of examining all the ways the old way of thinking is showing up, even when you are, I think most of the people listening to this are people who are really trying to do it differently and do it better, and finding all those ways it’s still showing up. And then the culture design piece is how do we create a culture that supports doing it differently? Am I right?

 

Faith Clarke:

I mean, so culture really is, as according to how I define culture, culture is the habitual thinking and doing and feeling that a bunch of people have. You know, it’s the thing that happens automatically in our togethering. That’s culture. And culture is also our meaning making together. It’s the way we interpret stuff. So we have a habitual thinking and doing and feeling and meaning making already that’s creating one outcome. So how do we change our thinking and doing and feeling and meaning making so we can get a different outcome? So the culture design or culture redesign, sometimes I say culture detox, is the identifying, maybe because of some struggle that’s going on or just some awareness that the organization has come to, identifying a particular thing that our thinking and doing is at odds with what we want and is producing or reinforcing the culture that we don’t want. So then how do we know what that culture is? So we have a culture already. Everybody has culture. I would say the culture emerges or we design it. So culture is already there. Two people, culture. So there is, this is what we have. This is what we want. What’s the gap? And then what are the micro practices? What are the rituals and structures? What are the processes? What are the organizational touch points? What are the things that we need to do to create an entirely different culture? And it may be that we say, because everybody says we need to build trust and yet when we look at what trust creates for this organization, it might be something different than what it creates in that organization. And so what we want to start looking at is, okay, trust is a big idea, but I like trustworthiness sometimes, because, I don’t trust you, because you’ve proven yourself to be trustworthy, because although you invited me in as a Black woman and said you’re changing this whole thing, I come in here and I feel othered. So you’re not trustworthy. So then there is an element now of deliberate, like how do we build our trustworthiness in this area? And so it could be trust building in that. Or it could be every time issues are raised, they go somewhere and they don’t return, so we don’t actually feel like we have voice, so we don’t trust you. So then what’s the mechanism for transparency and active discussion around things so that we can co-create new solutions instead of sending problems to the mystery place and then they don’t return. So it is this like, processing of where in a particular community, among a particular group of people, what’s emerged as the culture, and then what that bridge is to the culture that they want, specifically around the things that people are actually experiencing.

 

Becky Mollenkamp:

I love the specificity around actions. I have worked in corporate America and I can’t tell you the number of bosses who would say that they have an open door policy, which I think in their mind means I’m available, I will listen, action will happen. But in effect what usually looks like is yes they have an open door policy I can come talk to them and then what nothing happens so what does that actually mean in practice if I can come talk to you about anything, but it won’t result in any change. And so I feel like that’s what it’s like looking at the actual actions that are happening, and what needs to shift in those little actions to actually create the result you want in the feeling that it’s giving people, which is challenging because it means you have to, I would imagine a lot of your work then is with leaders and having to, confront things that they believe to be true about themselves vs. how their actions are actually being received. Especially like you said about, you know, as a Black woman feeling unsafe or unwelcome in spaces. And going back to those good, well-meaning white liberals, and I am sure in many times I’m still one of those and have certainly in my history been, where you want to believe you’re doing the right thing or that you’re showing up a certain way and to learn that maybe you aren’t if you haven’t done enough work will lead to a lot of defensiveness and shutting down. So how do you navigate some of that kind of stuff that I would imagine that your work results in a lot of challenges for leaders? How do you work through that with them?

 

Faith Clarke:

I try to approach some of the challenging topics in low-risk, tiny ways. So as a person who I parent, my son has a disability and I have done a ton of my own work on my privilege and my power in relation to my son who has a disability. And called myself out on a multiple of the ways that I still other, that I still don’t bridge the gap, that I leave the labor to him knowing fully well he can’t do the labor, and all of that just persistently over and over again standing in my privilege. And I tend to invite leadership teams, I do prefer to work with leadership teams because it’s frustrating … although revolution can happen ground up and often does, it has so much collateral damage. And it’s really frustrating the labor for, you know, everybody in the organization that’s experiencing the pain to agitate up and out. To require that while people have rent to pay and kids to go to college. The cost of revolution is so hard, right? So I prefer to work with the leadership teams to help them see their own internal blocks. And so when I’m talking about privilege and power, I tend to use identities that are a little bit less fractious than race and gender. So I will go in through the lens of disability, I will go in through the lens of simple things like I’m a morning person and you’re an afternoon person, I’m an auditory processor, and all these meetings are with visuals, and you know, or whatever it is. Guaranteed on a homogenous leadership team, all white men. it doesn’t matter what the sameness is, there’s diversity there that’s not being acknowledged because that’s just the way we roll. We’ll just like same, shh, you know, and then ignore the things that are different. If I can get a leadership team to acknowledge their difference and acknowledge the struggle across difference and to begin practically noticing where power flows on that team among them, an executive team, but this person and that person, there’s a power differential. And then for them to have honest conversations about what that power differential feels like, in a low risk-way, because hopefully if they’re a tight team, it’s not a super like people aren’t walking out the door. Then they build some muscle for the harder conversations. Now, if that executive team has some racial diversity, and they have courage, then we’ll layer in, okay, so what’s this thing that happens? I recently, with one of my clients, I was so grateful when this person just said, when I received this email, I wondered, would this email have been worded this way if I was a white woman? I’m like, great. Because if you can get people mentioning the elements of their own difference that causes that question… A friend of mine said recently that what happens is that the person with a marginalized identity has the weight of the question. Is this happening because I am X? The presence of that question is the indication of the problem. People aren’t just kind of willy nilly coming up with this question because they feel like it, it’s the indication of the culture problem. And so when that question can be put out of people’s mouths and brought into the room, then, and we can have empathy for that, that builds muscles within the team. I find that leadership teams that can’t build muscles for micro-inclusion among themselves will not be able to lead change organization-wide. They’ll be able to put policies in place and stuff like that, and then they’ll wonder, while they, why aren’t those people not doing the thing that we said? Bring in the DEI consultant, bring in all the people. We had all the trainings and people aren’t doing it. Why aren’t people doing it? Because they haven’t done enough work to notice how they are not doing it among themselves, just between Ken and Tom.

 

Becky Mollenkamp:

Yeah, and they don’t think that matters. And it does because, again, we see that as the people who are working with Ken and Tom or for Ken and Tom. And you mentioned building empathy as a muscle and I think from what I remember when we talked before, that compassion is something that is important in the way you approach decolonizing work. How does that play a role in what you do and why do you think it’s important to bring compassion into it?

 

Faith Clarke:

Let me go back to me as a person with a power identity, neurotypical if I wanna go with that. Through the lens of my power identity, I harm people. It’s a given. Through the lens of my marginalized identity, I have been harmed. That’s also a given. So I must stand in the room as a person who has done harm and who’s also experienced harm. The moment I acknowledge that I have done harm and I’ve experienced harm, then it’s super helpful to me to just extend that to everybody in the room. That even that person who is right now, like I wish you’d just stop speaking and just listen, even that person has been harmed through the lens of, because, you know, through the doorway of their marginalized identity, whatever it is, especially these hidden identities that we don’t talk about because we know that they open us up to risk, right? And so when I know this, and I know that we’re all in the same boat of, this is actually a system problem then it makes me compassionate out of the individual responsibility as much as into this kind of like, this sucks to be in this pond that’s polluted this way, that sets you up to be this person who is doing this kind of harm because of your position of power. And I think that just for me, building that compassion in helps me to be persistent in the work and yet to be loving with people. John Powell says that he is gentle with people and hard on systems. And I’m like, I want to be able to be gentle with people. And I want to be able to say, burn it down, let’s trash the system. But not trash the system and collapse it on the people. But to kind of, how do we be loving? And I think compassion is the doorway into that.

 

Becky Mollenkamp:

I hear and agree with everything you’re saying. And on my good days, I can get there. There are days where I don’t. What are the things that help you, like, find that space and stay in it, even when it’s challenging? Because I just can’t believe it’s not challenging for you quite often as a Black woman going into these corporate spaces and dealing with the Kens and Toms of the world. So how do you find that and cultivate it and keep it present even when it’s hard?

 

Faith Clarke:

Two ways. A friend of mine and consultant, Jade Connolly Duggan, keeps asking her clients, for the sake of whom? For the sake of whom? Because when I’m like, you all stay with your problems, I’ll just go step off with my children and just sort yourselves out. Enough. I get to that feeling and then I’m like, for the sake of whom? Usually that feeling is an indication of rest that I need. And so I can rest and then come back with, for the sake of whom, and then my children show up in front of me. And I’m like, right, that’s why we do this, right? So, and I, in accessing for the sake of whom, I’m accessing children and I’m accessing ancestors. I’m accessing my mom who recently passed, and my grandmother, just a gangsta wild women. And I’m like, I stand in this spot because I was the person that when they asked for the sake of whom, it was me that showed up in front of them. So, you know, and so it’s that kind of sense of lineage that keeps me connected to the work. And communal care and support is essential. So where is your pocket? Where is your tribe? Where is your squad? Where is the group of people that you 

go in and have that vent with and say, Ken and Tom though. Who are your people that hold you, and then kind of nourish you and refresh you, so that you can come back and put your lipstick on and then be like, okay. And then you’d be compassionate with Ken and Tom. Because there is, I think peak-performing athletes, lots of my research was in performance psychology, and a lot of that just talks about the elite athlete working. But you have elite level work, and then you have deep nourishment and recovery. You don’t do elite level work and then be like stingy, McDonald’s and five hours of sleep. It’s premium on both levels. And so a lot of this work requires a certain kind of presence. And so how is the rest of your life also mirroring that back to you? Who are the people who are giving that back to you and what are the things that are giving that back to you so that you’re not in a deep deficit? Because there is a cost to navigating these spaces with courage. I’ve been in spaces where I, and I’m working full on, and somebody has a reaction. And their reaction triggers some ancestral situation in me, and then I have to go take myself and tend to myself and be with whatever that was that came up, before I can kind of, you know, be back in a space. So it’s elite athlete. And I think when I say elite, I’m not just talking about the people who are leaders, anybody who is about social change is an elite performer and must get high-quality care. And if you’re a marginalized identity, you don’t have easy access to that high-quality care, so you need to be even more intentional about communal support, and all the ways where we just pull in that nourishment.

 

Becky Mollenkamp:

Love it, love it, love it. The collective comes back again and community, and having that care. And I think it’s important to be in spaces with people who won’t just go into, yeah, Tom and Ken, they suck. And why are you even doing that? Like I think sometimes we surround ourselves with people who it feels supportive, but ultimately we realize it’s not actually supportive of how we want to show up in the world. And I think it’s important to be in spaces with people who also understand compassion and who are doing deep work and who practice self-care so that they can reflect those things back to you. I know that I hate to say the quality of community because that sounds as if I’m somehow ranking people, but the kinds of people you’re in space with really matters. I have discovered that for myself deeply in this last year in a way that I hadn’t before because like you, I’ve had people tell me again and again, get off social media, right? If it’s triggering you, stop. And I need those reminders to say, I don’t have to engage, that’s right. And if I was in a community with other people, it’d be like, oh, you should just tell them to fuck off, then that’s not helping me. So I think it is that reminder to evaluate the kinds of people you’re in space with.

 

Faith Clarke:

I mean, it’s like the McDonald’s, right? I mean, you’re hungry, and so what do you want to eat? And I think sometimes we grab what feels good and is easy, and that’s different from what’s nourishment for me. I’ve found that I may not be able to get all my nourishment in one space. So I need to be really clear on the type of nourishment that’s needed in the moment, and then go find that. So one space may just be my girlfriends that just like listen to me vent and say, yeah, boo Ken and Tom. And then I have my other people and say, boy, the Kens on the Toms though. And you know, and I can allow myself to have a gourmet meal in multiple small courses in different spaces, so.

 

Becky Mollenkamp:

And what do you do to protect yourself and to I mean, what does rest look like for you? Right. And then also, how are you making sure that your business doesn’t just recreate all of the capitalist norms that you probably have left from your previous work experiences? Like, what are you doing to make sure that your own business is doing things differently?

 

Faith Clarke:

Um, rest for me, first of all, it changes so much. So I think part of the structure is not acknowledging that we change every day. So I can tell people I’m a woman of a certain age. Um, and you know, all of the ways that your body changes, it kind of brings a different kind of demand. And so part of what I’m exploring right now is where would, how would I structure a 25-hour work week over three days so that I can have deep pockets of time off because of the way my brain works, I will just be on. If I have one appointment on a day and one appointment on another day, I’ll be on. So there’s something in terms of rest about designing work so that there’s space for rest, even if you don’t know what the rest is. And then following that up, I love deep, I love the rabbit hole. I love following my thoughts all the way around every corner. And I love conversations with people who can do that with me. And so having people in my life that when we hop on Zoom or when we’re seeing each other at coffee, I can just become excessive with following all of the thoughts that I want. So what kinds of relationships that the relationships provide me with a lot of rest. And especially having people who offer me what I offer to people. So when I go into organizations, I’m the person that tracks patterns and that listens deeply and that helps people bridge. When people listen to me deeply, I tell people that the medicine you give is the medicine you need. So when I find people that give me the medicine that I give to people, that’s rest to me. And then I am a big fan of a lot of body work and as much as I’m able, acupuncture, reiki, a friend of mine just introduced me to zero balance, massage, and then, you know, therapeutic support and that kind of thing. I just, I, as much as I’m able, I layer it in so that I always have a touch point that’s restorative outside of my normal life with family and life with, you know, kids and work. So in terms of my own business, I think one thing that I’m doing is going really slow in terms of you know hiring people because, well because all kinds of reasons, but one of my reasons is I think it’s important to be intentional. I think the first mistake we make is hiring that first person part-time to help us out with a thing. That’s different from inviting a person to join us on mission. And when I start to feel desperate, oh, I need help with a thing, I’m working on resisting that because I, whatever the gap is, if I’m plugging a person in to just fill that gap, I am again back into the system. I’m in the matrix. And so if I’m not prepared to invite people to be on mission with me, then I need to figure out what kind of supports do I need to be ready to invite people to be on mission. I know how to lead people on mission. I’ve run volunteer teams. I’ve run, you know, the people who know how to do that are the people who gather people and they dig wells in faraway places with no pay, right? There’s something about calling people into a cause. If I’m not willing to do that for my business, but I still want help, then I pause. And then, because I have a staff team that supports my family and my son, on that team, I’m practicing a lot of the stuff that I’m teaching. So when I find myself becoming, I don’t micro, I’m not detailed about, you know, time sheets and pay and things like that. I really trust people, and I will trust until there is something that falls apart. And I am kind of training myself to be transparent and to let people know fully as much as I know about everything, staff-wise, and to be interested in their lives so much broader than the work that they do with me. And then to support their actual lives, not just support them in terms of salary. So I’ve often said to entrepreneurs, if you have $80,000 that you’ve put aside for compensation, what Faith needs that 80,000 for, is different from what Mary needs that 80,000 for. And you might find that Faith would benefit from some kind of student, tuition college, something, whereas Mary needs some kind of childcare or yoga, something. There’s a differentiation of compensation that’s really important to me. So I listen really well to what’s going on for people and then offer them something. I’ll pay people ahead of time for that thing or offer to do the thing so that their core needs are met. Because their needs being met is them being a full person to be in the mission I’ve invited them to be in. So that’s how I work my personal team at home. And in terms of my business, I am inviting partners and co-owners in. Um, and when I’m not able to do the work of inviting people on mission, then I, then I should not have people just coming in for, you know, $20 an hour or whatever it is.

 

Becky Mollenkamp:

I just want to be clear on that inviting people in on mission. How does that look different than just inviting someone in to help? In your mind, what’s the difference there? I think I kind of get it, but I want to make sure I’m clear.

 

Faith Clarke:

Yeah, there’s an intersection between what that person wants in their life and what I want. What is that intersection? And what’s the bigger umbrella that we’re both under that feels like calling to them? And the thing is that because so many of us have been socialized and kind of enculturated into just get a job, pay your bills, they may not even know what that is. So I tend to spend time inviting people into kind of like, so what do you want to do in the next five years, and what kind of things do you love, and let’s do a personality profile, and let’s talk about the things. Because the work in my home team is not linear work. I need a whole person in to kind of be present in moments that I may not be able to describe. And so I want to understand them deeply. I want them to understand themselves. And so if people aren’t, when in my part of my recruitment process, if they aren’t able to access like what’s their big-picture stuff, they may not be good candidates for me because I really want to lean into that big picture, both in terms of accessing their strengths and what they want to be developing in the future. I don’t have any illusions that they’re staying with me forever. So I want to set them up for their future, whatever that is. At the same time, I want them to feel like they’re in partnership with me on this goal that we have together. So what do they want to do? What do they love? And how can we put that into the thing I’m creating here, so that we are both on this thing together, that we’re working this thing, you work in that part, I work in this part where we’re in a thing that’s going together. That’s different from saying, ‘hey, you know, spend 30 hours doing this task with my son.’

 

Becky Mollenkamp:

It definitely feels different than saying I have this singular task that I just want to pay $15 an hour and get it done. And, and it’s very it’s transactional versus relational, I think, is sort of like if I had to boil it down. And that is maybe part of what a lot of this is about, isn’t it? So I think that’s a great place to finish even though there’s so much more I could ask you about, but I want to be mindful of your time. So to finish, what is a resource that you would want to share or that’s been helpful for you in your journey. You mentioned one around the circle of concern. I don’t know if there’s a book there that would be helpful or if there’s something else.

 

Faith Clarke:

Yeah, I know that’s, I think anything by John Powell, I loved listening to his, the Othering and Belonging Institute has, so they’re so generous with their free resources. So they have a ton of curriculum, a ton of videos, and they have a university, so there’s an online piece. A lot of that just kind of helps you think and listen to creating stories, listen to how to create stories of belonging. Because we say we want to, but then there is a visceral human reaction to difference and to other, and kind of really healing that in ourselves and building those bridges. John Powell’s work and the other in belonging Institute work is really fantastic. So I would say that’s a good one to do. And although I created this resource, I think the Decolonizing Work Series, which I can give you a link to. The different thought leaders that I got to interview give great examples from their perspective as to how they’re decolonizing work. So looking at individual entrepreneurs or people who have small businesses and companies to therapists, to people who are consultants in this area, and the different perspectives and how they’ve implemented it. Doing those interviews was a teaching tool to me in helping me think about this and figure out what I, where I stood with a lot of this work.

 

Becky Mollenkamp:

I can’t wait to listen to that. That’s fantastic. And we’re gonna do a little bonus content on healthy work cultures, which I think is probably some of the things that are born out of some of that work. We’re gonna talk about three signs of a healthy work culture. So if you want to hear that bonus content, make sure you’re signed up for the Feminist Founders Newsletter. It’s free, link is in the show notes, but it’s a great way to get additional information and content and also to meet some community of people who care because again, community, the collective that’s come up a lot. I know that you’re doing a masterclass this season when this is coming out that talks about a lot of these things that we’ve been talking about today. Can you tell me a little bit more about it?

 

Faith Clarke:

Yeah, some of the stuff that I’ve been noticing with my clients, because I tend to be almost on location with clients working through pretty deep issues. And what I’ve noticed is that retrofit is a beast. Like fixing is so hard. And so the masterclass series is a survey of some of the issues I’ve seen on designing restorative work cultures. And we’re gonna start off by figuring out what inclusion can look like. And we’ll end up talking about onboarding, and how do we onboard in ways that connect people to mission, similar to what we’ve been talking about. And we’re gonna go through to talk about what inclusive leadership and what restorative leadership practices are like to help leaders audit their own work and see where some of the supremacist leadership strategies are hidden. And to talk about things like co-creating, shared decision-making, creating community at work, fixing training—that’s a big one. It often is that lots of small businesses use training as a way to help employees be able to be productive and yet the training methods are themselves, you know, byproducts of the colonizer system. So we touch on some of the pain points that I’ve seen just set business leaders up for asking the right questions. Because often when the problem shows up and they invite somebody like me in, we need at least two to three months of auditing to figure out where to intervene. And if business leaders are more savvy at understanding some of the culture dynamics, then they’ll be able to save themselves money and also maybe shortcut the problem. So this is a six-episode, a six-part masterclass series that I’ll be running perhaps February through July. And people can, will be able to access the entire series or they’ll be able to access particular classes that feel more resonant based on the type of organization or the problem that they’re having right now.

 

Becky Mollenkamp:

Well, it sounds amazing. So I definitely think it’s something people should consider if the things we’ve been talking about here feel like issues that you’re wanting to explore because it sounds like a really beautiful entry point into some of this work. So thanks for sharing about that. All right, and then the last thing I want to ask about is an organization that’s doing good work in the world that you’d want to feature, put a spotlight on.

 

Faith Clarke:

Yeah, the organization that I am in love with is Kaiser’s Room. Kaiser’s Room is a New York City immersive performing arts organization that focuses on offering performing arts classes and experiences to people with neuro-variance and other cognitive disabilities. So autism, Down Syndrome, etc. And what they’ve done is that they specially design shows so that the participants, the very small shows, so you could have maybe six to 10 participants who get to be on stage and be part of the show. So musical theater full on, props, everything, and every participant gets to be in a role with an actor who’s trained to be with people who have variances and different neurotypes. And the bridge that they build for families to be able to participate in theater is life-changing. And then they also offer classes, music, dance, theater classes. And so I support their work because it was started by a black man who is an artist whose life had been changed by working with a child with autism and wanting to share that change, that feels like something that is expansive that just feels big in my heart. So I love their work.

 

Becky Mollenkamp:

I love that it sounds beautiful and your passion for it is clear. And I’m going to make a donation to say thank you for your time today and encourage people listening to do the same. This has been such a life-giving conversation, truly. And I really thank you for the work you’re doing and for showing up and giving so much. Beautiful. Thank you for your time, Faith.

 

Faith Clarke:

Thank you for having me.

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