Tell Me Anything Sessions: When Leaders Really Listen
Tell me anything sessions are a way of helping organizational leaders connect with the experiences and challenges of diverse groups within their organizations. They are simply meetings at which a senior leader meets with, listens to and gets to know and understand a group of individuals from a specific diversity strand.
Summary by The World of Work Project
Tell Me Anything Sessions
Quite often senior leaders in organizations are removed from the experiences of many others within their organizations. And when these senior leaders don’t have experience of being part of a minority group themselves, they can find it difficult to really connect with the experiences and challenges faced by such members of minority groups.
Organizations can use “Tell me anything sessions” to help overcome this. The name is a play on “ask me anything sessions”. In ask me anything sessions senior leaders speak and others listen. In “tell me anything sessions”, senior leaders listen, and others speak.
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Tell me anything sessions are quite simple to set up and run in organizations, provided senior leaders are willing to make time for them and comfortable taking part in them.
To run a “tell me anything session” you simple need to set up a time for a group of employees from a minority group within your organization to speak to a senior leader. For example, you might set up time for six employees who are all part of your organization’s BAME community to spend an hour speaking to a senior leader. Alternatively, you could do the same thing with members of you LGBT community, your inter-sectional community or your younger employees.
In the sessions themselves all that happens is that the senior leader listens to the experiences of the minority groups they are speaking to. The rule is that the participants can tell the senior leader anything.
It may be helpful to support both the senior leader and the members of your minority population to prepare for the conversation. Conversations like this can be a bit stressful for all parties, at least at the start.
It’s often helpful for attendees to have thought a bit in advance about what they might want to share, and it’s particularly important for leaders to have thought about how they can help eliminate hierarchy in the room and help everyone be comfortable. Fundamental to this is the ability of leaders to be present, mindful, open and genuinely curious and keen to learn. This can be demonstrated through the use of open questions, asked with good intentions from a place of humility.
Tell me anything sessions can be helpful for teams looking to improve their diversity and inclusion, as can diversity networks. If you’re looking for a fun icebreaker to bring some aspects of diversity to life in a team, you might
There is magic in truly hearing and connecting with others, in understanding their lived experiences and developing empathy with them. And there is magic in truly being listened to and understood by others. And “tell me anything sessions” have the ability to help both of these things happen, if they work well.
Fundamentally these sessions work by helping leaders really build connections with minority groups. In doing so they break down barriers, overcome biases and open eyes. They help leaders build real relationships and humanize, or individualize, members of diverse groups. In doing so, this improves empathy and help convert leaders into allies.
We recommend them as helpful activities that can support a broader inclusion and diversity programme. We do though, think they are best used in larger organizations, perhaps those with existing diversity networks already in place.
Also – don’t use them if your senior leaders are jerks and likely to just make things worse. This hardly ever happens, but you’ll know if there’s a risk in your organization.
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