Rina Goldenberg Lynch on how listening drives inclusion
Value through Vulnerability (boosted by HumansFirst) Host Garry Turner, Sponsored by Aequip
Rina Lynch 0:00
I started my professional life as a lawyer out in the States, before moving to London, and had been practicing law for about 20 years. And then I reached an in the law, you might listeners my career progression is relatively automatic you just keep going and you become more and more senior. But when you reach a relatively senior level then you kind of have to start looking at what’s next for you. And when I reached that level. I found a number of things. One was that I felt not entirely fulfilled in my career progression and what I was doing. At that time I was working for a bank. I realized that a lot of people around me had lots and lots to offer. And yet, the company, the organization wasn’t equipped with identifying what that extra value was that individuals have to offer, and therefore were able to tap into. And I felt that as an organization we were leaving a lot of untapped talent and motivation and engagement behind.
So I wanted to do something about that. And specifically for me it has to do also with how women do that, if they did not feel that they could contribute fully in the system. So that set me on course to setting up Voice at the Table and Voice at the Table is a gender diversity and inclusion consultancy. So what we do and this was about six years ago, what we do is work with organizations to make them more inclusive, to help them, tap into that extra talent and extra motivation that individuals have that perhaps has not been asked of them, or perhaps they don’t feel that they need to or want to contribute. So that’s what we do.
Garry Turner 0:48
That’s brilliant What a wonderful introduction and what I really appreciate, Rina, that you shared there is quite often, unfortunately, people still talk about not inclusion diversity, from a sort of HR lens or not a performance lens, almost in a way, and what you’re supposed to bring up there is actually what we’re talking about here is actually unleashing people’s gifts, so they can contribute more
Rina Lynch 2:14
That’s exactly right and I think in the world that we live in today, and the world of tomorrow, it’s absolutely inevitable for us to be able to do that diversity is becoming the way that businesses will have to, to cope and in order to thrive. It’s no longer enough to have the smartest person doing the job, if that’s my discretion, looks like the person right next to them. And that person right next to them, it’s more important to have people with different experiences, different perspectives, different opinions or contribute to a decision that then will be addressed and looked at from so many different facets and therefore be the best decision, the best decision for complex issues. And to do that, that’s when you need to have a culture of inclusion. So, as businesses are waking up to that they’re starting to look at how can we engage and motivate and tap into the diversity of our people, not just because it’s the right thing to do, but also because it’s the main thing we need to do in order to progress and thrive as a business.
Garry Turner 3:39
Brilliant. I’m going to come back to you around sort of inclusive behaviors and sort of culture shortly, Rina. But what I’m really interested in, both for myself and also our listeners today, is can you check sort of give us a little bit of a view how did you go from studying or into being where you want to put some of that journey from here make some of the courageous steps or some of the learning throughout that process?
Rina Lynch 4:01
Yeah, thank you for that question. It takes me back. Of course, all the way to when I was still in at uni. I studied law in America. In America, you have to get your undergraduate degree at university before you can go to law school, which is what I did and at that point I did the same thing. I got myself a business degree in marketing and business administration, thinking that it was the practical one to get. And in fact I enjoyed it, and then joined the University where I studied and worked for two years with international students, so it was my first exposure to, I suppose, diverse backgrounds and cultures and views, I very much enjoyed that.
And in the process, I came across a man who spoke well and and very much impressed me, and I could see myself as that person, and he was a lawyer helping helping poor people, and it felt like that’s the right step for me, which is what catapulted me into wanting to go to law school and attending law school, and following that career path. And when law school which is three years in the states I was exposed to so many other tactics and facets to the law. And what I love the most about the law, then, is to deal with people, help people finalize transactions, try to think strategically, come up with ideas and ways around complex issues.
And that served me well for, like I said, 20, years or so. But in the process, like I said, I noticed that, you know, lawyers are a, shall we say unique species, if you will. They have an outlook that one might say is slightly different from your everyday person and I felt some times that I had something different to that that wasn’t necessarily as accepted as one would as I had hoped. And that’s when my first journey started to see other people like me who were not necessarily cookie cutter representations or reflections of whatever it is that they were working as.
But I did notice that they have a lot more to contribute and I felt like I had a lot more to contribute that was being asked of me. So, that’s when I started looking at options and ways in contributing so I started mentoring a lot I started mentoring people like me, people like that who didn’t necessarily fit the mold, the necessary mold. And a lot of that was around, encouraging us, encouraging people like me to to step into who we are and contribute without authenticity, with courage.
And when people do that they found actually that acceptance was a lot easier to have than they had maybe originally thought they would. So they started succeeding and they started advancing, progressing. That was very rewarding to see for me. And that’s when I decided that perhaps I had a different calling. And that’s when the idea of Voice at the Table came about. I had three years, where I nurtured the idea and shaped it and talk to professionals. One of my supporters here was Jane, my coach at the time. And she helped me shape the idea of Voice at the Table and what it would look like, what I could do.
And of course you say courageous acts and learning. The idea of doing something that is an unproven path, something that may or may not be a success, is a very scary proposition. And it took like I said three years for me to get behind that idea, but having people like Jane and others who has done it themselves. And who have encouraged me to follow my passion, and then having obviously had the right conversations with my family to make sure I could do it. I jumped ship. I left the corporate bit, the comforts of a corporate career to set up on my own. And like I said that was six years ago and the learning was that, it’s great it’s the right thing to do to do something you’re passionate about, follow a path that is perhaps not as well explored as others. And because I never looked back. I love what I’m doing. I love the variety of it, I love how I am able to energize and support people on their journeys. And I hope that I will be able to make a lot more impact than, then I’m already doing.
Garry Turner 9:15
Brilliant. Thank you so much for expanding on that. I’m really grateful you have mentioned Jane as well so Jane, thank you so much for public shout out to you for connecting Rina and I today for this conversation. And what I think can be useful for because one of the things I sometimes have a challenge with, Rina, I’d love you to challenge me or sort of feedback for the mirror, is that we’ve got this. I agree with you like this inclusion diversity discussion is so important.
At the same time, so sometimes the great work you’re doing seems to be at odds with sometimes HR, owning diversity and then accidentally innocently keeping diversity in a box, somehow, the tension between, sort of, allowing people to step into their gifts, yet being stuck in a HR process which is sometimes a bit box ticky now, wondering what your thoughts or challenges or how you serving the sort of whole person view and trying to sort of make sure that people are able to understand yet, while still making sure HR is getting done what they need to get done.
Rina Lynch 10:18
That is a real challenge Garry, I think when we look at organizations, and how they operate. Obviously, there has to be a structure in place. And what I, and perhaps you are proposing is that there is more to give to an organization, than just structure. So we’re essentially causing a little bit of chaos in organizations in order for the human to shine through. And that is I think the friction that I see at all times. So absolutely, I work with people in HR, but I tend to work with organizations who have visionary leaders who get it to understand that this is important, and then it’s about taking those messages and embedding them in any way we can through the processes that are in place.
So for instance, a lot of the things about Voice at the Table is we have a lot of different ways in coming into an organization and meeting them where they are on their journey. And that is because it will take a different form, what a company needs or what HR system is in place or what structure is in place will differ from organization to an organization, but ultimately what we’re trying to do is reach big tools and trying to get the individuals in teams to see how they individually can shape inclusion. So, whether it’s through training, whether it’s through initial talks, whether it’s through coaching and facilitating with the leadership team or the HR team. It just really depends on what the appetite is, but the messages will be the same and that’s how we hope to spread, I suppose, the inclusion impact
Garry Turner 12:23
That’s great. What a wonderful answer, thank you so much for sharing that, that really does sit with me, from this sort of really people-centered heart-centered approach. And I think what I’m really intrigued by at the moment with this, you know, I don’t want to be another podcast talking about the COVID-19 continuously Yes.
However, I do think there’s something interesting going on and i’d love your thoughts on this, Rina. There seems to be an opportunity at a time of chaos to use your word to really accelerate this conversation because it seems to me that belief systems that were once held here. And as truth, are now being shattered overnight. Do you see that you have experienced some of that in your conversations?
Rina Lynch 13:04
Absolutely, absolutely. I think every disaster, if you will, has a silver lining, and our current situation is no different in that, it absolutely questions the process and the structure that we adhere to as humans today, as a society today. And that’s what hopefully we’re starting to question and recognize that there is so much more we could be doing to unleash the human and benefit from. So, I think right now we are in a stage of still processing. And we’re swinging from extreme to extreme so we started, let’s say the norm has been more or less for people to go into their offices to work. And now, nobody’s doing that, so that’s the other extreme so on top of changing the structure completely everybody has to deal not just with the technology fallouts but also that the human aspects of them and that’s what everybody is struggling with, people are also starting to replace their connections with online connections, their daily routines with online routines, and that’s causing overwhelm.
So I think the pendulum has swung a bit too far. At the moment it needs to be rebalanced and as that rebalancing is happening in the months and perhaps years to come, it’s going to be up to us to try and pick out the messages, the good messages, the good things that are coming out of this behavior and lead them through into that future, make sure that people don’t forget that there is a learning here that there are things that we are doing now that can benefit us and conserve as well going forward. So, you know, I’m going to continue to talk about diversity and inclusion throughout this time although my sense is that people are not paying attention to it right now. And that’s fine, because there are lots of other priorities right now to to juggle. But let’s not forget the things that we’ve been working on and that we can now actually actualize, make them real because we now know what it feels like. And let’s carry that through into the future. So yes, opportunities. Absolutely. But we have to be patient.
Garry Turner 15:27
I’m glad you challenged me with that one because my bit that’s my challenge at times. You know when you can see the opportunity to go like come on let’s all jump on this ark, we’re ready to go for a sail. Now I think that’s a really good point. You mentioned before about sort of meeting people where they’re at. I think it was inspiring and then what you said earlier on, as well is that there’s this. I think we’ve given away and I think this just linked to inclusion as well. I think we’ve given away as individuals, particularly within the workplace, power, quite easily. For a long time, an agency our belief that we can make a difference and make choices that matter. How does that show up and please do challenge them if you disagree with that, I’m just wondering how that sort of unleashing of individual and collective contribution. How does that come up in the work that you’re doing in terms of sort of embedding inclusion?
Rina Lynch 16:24
Yeah, that’s a great question, and a great challenge as well I think, because what I’m advocating is causing a little bit of chaos, as I said earlier, it’s a very uncomfortable feeling for people so I’m saying structure, yes, but let’s loosen it up let’s, let’s shake up the framework, and let’s introduce a little bit of flying by the seat of your pants and doing the kind of things that perhaps, we’re not used to and are slightly uncomfortable with. Let’s also introduce a little bit of friction into teams. Let’s allow people to have different opinions and a few disagreements Because ultimately, the result will be a better decision or a better outcome. But how do we do that? How do we continue to motivate and lead people who are individuals, people who have different values? To me the answer is sticking to the purpose, and the mission of the organization, and the values of the organization and making sure that every time you talk about a direction of the company or a direction of the team, that we weave in those values. This is the reason we are doing it, this is the reason you joined and yes your contribution is different, but it is serving the bigger mission, the bigger direction of travel, of our team, our organization.
So, and I know that there is a school of thought and leadership schooling at the moment, that is focusing on purpose, that is trying to motivate teams to focus on the actual outcome, the actual mission, the service that the organization is bringing rather than the tools and the processes and the methodologies of getting there. This allows individuals to act more freely and to contribute in different ways in different working styles with different opinions, so long as it’s all leading in the right direction. You’ll ultimately get there, but you’ll also have the benefit of people contributing in their individual experiences and identities. So that would be my recommendation and that’s how I see it working well.
Where I find my proposition is very difficult to adapt is with businesses that are traditionally much more hierarchical and much more structured, like the professional services for instance, law firms in particular, I know that work very very well and I can see that they are struggling, because they’ve been working with the same business model for hundreds of years, and to propose something that is radically different is quite a difficult pill to swallow. So I know that there are lots of little, little bits of break-off law firms that are starting to form on the fringe, that are embracing some new business models, some new ways of working, allowing their people to be more free and more individualistic. And that’s working well, but only in small numbers, it’s very difficult to translate the fringe into the mainstream, but I think we’re traveling in that direction, Garry.
Garry Turner 19:55
That’s great to hear and it’s certainly something that resonates with me so even with so I work within a corporate my day job is in a corporate and I have to give credit to our CEO so this week we actually had, he literally filmed it on his mobile phone I’ve never seen this in 11 years with the company Rina talking about the crisis, talking about that no jobs that risk that we are healthy company, but there are challenges ahead, and vibrancy complete clarity. I mean, just incredible humanity and leadership. Through his mobile phone, yet we’ve had 11 years of polished perfect presentations in line with the corporate branding, and that’s not a bad thing, but I think what’s amazing right now again these belief systems that we need to be seen to be perfect, are being shattered and replaced with a human being transparent clear communication. It’s one of those moves me the most, Rina.
Rina Lynch 20:58
Yeah, and I think you’re absolutely right, I think, you know, it’s that kind of leadership that gets a lot more accomplished I call it an inclusive leader and surprisingly somebody who can be vulnerable as a leader and is humble in front of others and admits to their mistakes or weaknesses and ask for help from the team, from your employees that I think bonds people, much more so than a polished approach. Yes, it’s great to work for an organization that looks fantastic. But I think the actual results of what you get done and how you motivate people if you can be that kind of person who acknowledges their humanity, I honestly believe and have, at the very least anecdotal evidence for that that bonds teams and creates followers much more strongly than than just that the polished hierarchical top down approach.
Garry Turner 22:05
Brilliant. In terms of, I’d love to explore a little bit more With you around some of these other inclusive behaviors that you see within leadership or maybe some of the behaviors you’re coaching, to help organizations move from more hierarchical or maybe more traditional ways of working Rina. So you mentioned vulnerability is one of them and of course this is a podcast about vulnerability. So I’m pleased you mentioned that. But what other behaviors do you see, do you experience, do you believe are important, as we navigate not only today but this, you know, this fabled future of work as we do become more interconnected yet remote potentially
Rina Lynch 22:42
Yes, vulnerability absolutely is one of those behaviors vulnerability, I couple that with humility as well, they go together hand in hand. One of the other ones that we work on quite a lot is unsurprisingly empathy. And that’s about understanding or standing in the shoes of another to try and understand what they might be feeling when you say something to them, or when you do something. And that is a really important one. And I think, regardless of where we are on the scale of how empathetic we are, there is still more room for growth. And I know I’ve been working on myself, for instance, and this is true for every single person, including myself, we have to keep working on those behaviors, and I’ve been working on developing my empathy and I’ve come a long way since I started working on it and yet I see there’s more work to be done. So empathy is an important one.
The other one that you will also not be surprised to hear is your ability to listen. And when I say, listen, I don’t just say, as in Jane’s words, opportunity waiting to speak. It’s actually listening to the person, what they’re saying, why they’re saying it, what is motivating them, trying to genuinely understand where they’re coming from. And that requires empathy, so a lot of these will be interconnected. So empathy and listening are very very important, but also things like mitigating our own biases. There are two steps involved in this and his first step is understanding that every single person with a brain will be biased. That is the way our brains are wired and there is a reason for it. And that’s okay in most situations but not in all and to understand that sometimes our reaction to another person can be driven by an unconscious bias is very important in order to be able to test it and mitigate it. We’ll never get rid of our biases, nor should we. That’s the way for us to learn and go forward. But we have to be able to mitigate them to be aware of them and to be able to mitigate them. So those are examples of a couple of others and we’ve developed eight of them. And I’m not going to go through all of them right now but those are the main ones.
Garry Turner 25:14
Great, well thank you. If you had more time I would go through all of them I’m not gonna lie, Rina. I won’t do that to you today, but I’m really, really curious, you mentioned about empathy and I appreciate your vulnerability to say it’s something you continue to work on as indeed we all should. What does it look like to fail like for you, when has it been uncomfortable, or maybe what’s surprised you that has led you into developing your own skills around empathy.
Rina Lynch 25:40
Yeah, that’s a really good question. I think empathy is a really is a very difficult thing to do what surprised me is, and that’s pretty surprising to a lot of people in their own behavior is when you think you say something, or ask a question that comes from a place of curiosity, and it lands, as offensive or racist or sexistn t ohe other side, and you know you did not intend to approach it from that perspective, maybe you were genuinely curious. I remember when I was in my 20s, I had actually spent a semester in law school in London, and at that point I met a man from Australia, and we got to know each other very well and we became boyfriend and girlfriend and he followed me back to the States, where I was living at the time.
And in one of our excursions to one of the theme parks, we approached I think it was one of those games where you throw the basketball into the basket and with your score you win the prize. And we stood next to a tall black man there and he said to him, said oh you should be good at this. And I thought to myself, Oh my goodness, where is this coming from, you know that that was an obviously racist question, or or statement for me, but for him it wasn’t for him, he did not realize, or intend to be offensive. And that’s where I think the empathy becomes a little bit uncomfortable.
So if you don’t understand how the whatever statement you are making to another person can show your lack of understanding of their situation or where they’re coming from, or how they might feel, that’s a very uncomfortable feeling, and I’ve been caught out with different, you know, different types of situations as well, where I’ve said something that you know you can sense it when there is a pause before the answer comes, where the person receiving it is processing what they are hearing and trying to identify, is this a bad or a good thing.
That’s when you go uh oh I must have said something that has created an issue potentially. And the thing about that is it’s okay, it’s okay for us to make mistakes, it’s okay for us to understand that we are not aware of what everybody’s feeling, and their backgrounds. Allow yourself to make mistakes. As long as it’s coming from the right place. And as long as the motivation is to learn and to become better at being empathetic. It’s fine. And so I think in those situations where you said something that lands, not as you intended, own it, own up to it, say I’m sorry if this is, if I said something offensive or not quite right. Please help me understand what that is so I don’t make the same mistake again. And that’s the learning I use here.
Garry Turner 28:52
Brilliant, thank you so much for sharing.And one of mine at the moment, actually, and it’s one again it’s me, called Value through Vulnerability, the one I’m still working through even now is pronouns, for transgender, you know, like using the correct pronoun, or, you know, even communicating. My preferred pronouns and appreciating other people’s. But yeah, I’m still working through that now, but in my mind as a sort of, like, it’s quite it’s not a complicated thing but it’s something that like you say I’m a little bit wary of getting wrong, but like I get it wrong as you just said it’s okay as long as I own it and just apologize or ask for clarification, but it is, it is definitely for me right now still something I’m working through.That’s an uncomfortable one for me at the moment is getting that right.
Rina Lynch 29:40
I think you’re not alone, Garry, I think gender has become so complicated, and is, you know, rightly so, because one of the things that I’ve learned is that my learning is people are far more complicated than we give them credit for. We are so much deeper than we think we are. And so, to understand how people might feel how people would prefer to be treated. All of that is incredibly complicated and gender is, I think we’re at the very beginning of understanding what about, the 50 shades or 100 shades of gender is still a journey to travel.
Garry Turner 30:20
Sounds like you just created a name for film, Rina.
Rina Lynch 30:26
Starring Garry and Rina.
Garry Turner 30:31
As we look to wrap up what comes up for me really, really strongly is all the stuff we spoke about in this conversation, thank you so much for this is really rich. There’s something about slowing down. Next week and I think part of the reset as well. Now, if we actually have time, or we create intentionally within organizational settings in particular, time to connect on a human level to learn about each other, to really be curious about our backgrounds and our life stories, etc. I think all this stuff around inclusion becomes easier but we keep running 90 miles an hour, as we have been to this reset, I think, and I just wonder what your thoughts are around there in terms of slowing down, intentionally part of this journey.
Rina Lynch 31:15
Absolutely, absolutely. I think we are just racing too fast, and the pace of change is too fast. Because, as human beings we need time to adapt and we need time to slow down and think about it. And that’s one of the reasons I actually became a coach. When I first set up Voice at the Table, I became a coach as well. And it’s not so much because I use it as part, I do use coaching in my business but I don’t coach other people as part of my business, but I genuinely believe that every single person can benefit from coaching and the very simple reason is, is because we do not have time to stop and think, and coaching, if nothing else, it creates that. And I think that’s the important bit about slowing down. We do need the downtime.
One of the habits that I’ve developed since setting up Voice at the Table is getting up every single morning bar weekends, at 5, am, and that’s to allow myself some thinking time, so that I can sit down and think about business what’s important, to what to do, what not to do, maybe, maybe read a little bit and learn some more, the kind of things that there is no time during the day to fit in. And I have to say it now that we’re all working from home and we’re surrounded by other disruptions of disturbances and interruptions like my daughter just walking into the space, a second ago. All of that is a lot to juggle. And also we constantly think, you know we don’t spend enough time on things you know what is the, the current attention span of the human is something like three seconds. That’s not enough to do anything. You know, so yes absolutely slowing down is a very integral part of this work.
Garry Turner 33:20
Well thank you for building on and expanding our conversations. I really really enjoy that. Just one last thing I’d like to ask you is, what’s giving you personal inspiration right now and it could be anything. I’m just really intrigued to understand what’s what’s inspiring you at this sort of time of volatility. I thrive on change, to begin with. So that in itself is inspiration. But again, what I think is tremendous that we see in this time is people’s creativity. What I find even, even the tiny little means that make you laugh out loud when I come across your words that are amazing to me people are so creative. And that inspires me every single thing that I see on social media is just amazing and then just the belief that we have so much more inside us to give is also an inspiration. Thank you so much for sharing.
Thanks for joining me today Rina. How can people that have been kind enough to listen to us today reach out to you and connect and talk about this conversation with you.
Rina Lynch 34:31
Yeah, thank you, Garry. Well I am. My website is voiceatthetable.com and people can find me there. Thank you, Garry.
Garry Turner 34:44
Lovely. Thanks for joining us today, and all the very best with your endeavors. Take care for now.
Rina Lynch 34:49
Thank you. Thanks a lot.
Garry Turner 34:51
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Garry Turner With over 20 years of international sales, business development and relationship-building experience combined with a deep understanding of people, team and culture dynamics, Garry Turner serves individuals, teams and leaders as a strategic advisor and interpersonal catalyst.