What Makes a Skilled Communicator?

Brave Spaces Roundtable
Brave Spaces Roundtable
What Makes a Skilled Communicator?
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Dede Tetsubayashi
Hello Kele Belton! Welcome to one more episode of Brave Spaces Roundtable, brought to you by incluu; we help organizations, companies, and individuals build brave spaces for their ecosystems, people, programs, and life. Welcome, please introduce yourself.

Kele Belton
Hi, Dede; thank you so much for having me. I’m so excited Brave Spaces Roundtable–what an impressive name! So it’s an honor to be with you today. What brought me to– did you ask me to talk about myself?

Dede Tetsubayashi
Yes. Yes, I did. Give us a little bit about you. Oh, and then what brought you to the work that you do?

Kele Belton
I am Kele Belton, I, although I live in the US right now– in Oakland, California, I’m originally from Cape Town, South Africa. So if you have a bit of an accent, that is why. I have been living in the US for the last 10 years. But when I was living in Cape Town, I was in communications, I was a communications lecturer. And really what what brought me to that work is from childhood. I mean, as an introvert, who struggled with speaking out, who struggled with being visible and being seen. It’s been my life’s work to make sure that I was able to build the skill for myself. And once I eventually did, I thought, Oh, my goodness, what if I could help others, improve their communication skills, become more compelling, more skilled communicators? So they no longer have to worry about how do I get myself heard.

I as a child, I grew up with, well-meaning adults, parents, family members, grown-ups always saying, and you might know this, saying children should be seen not heard. And that is such a typical African thing, at least in South Africa. That was the case where you, you always you are expected to respect your elders, you are expected not to mingle, not to jump into conversations that don’t concern you. And really, that became ingrained for me, it became something where I realized, okay, if I want to, if I want to make adults happy, I need to be quiet. I need to wait until I was spoken to. And that’s when I’m allowed to speak. And unfortunately, I moved in the opposite direction where I really wasn’t speaking.

So you get to school, you get to high school, and there you are expected to speak, they want to know, what knowledge do you have? What do you know, what don’t you know? How can we help you? And I realized I had somehow never had a voice. I never had the opportunity to speak up. So I had to learn how to start speaking up how to share my thoughts, how to respond to questions that teachers had. And then you get to high school well, suddenly, you expected to do presentations, where to talk about essays and books you read. And man, it was hard. I remember this one particular instance. It was during the summer break, we were given some books to choose from, and you had to choose one book specifically. And then after the summer, you had to you do a presentation on the book, why you chose it, what you liked about it, what you take from it. And I remember– I recall, during those times, we didn’t have computers, so I remember handwriting everything… handwriting my entire presentation word for word. I memorized it, and I got an A. When it was my turn. I started off the first part of the introduction was great, but then my teacher asked me something about what I said, and whenI was done answering the question, she said, Okay, continue with your presentation. I could not remember the next thing! Luckily, I have this piece of paper with me. So I read my presentation verbatim word for word. I was nervous. I was red in my face. And afterwards, one of my classmates said, Oh, my goodness, do you know how you were shaking so bad that your earrings were shaking? Oh, and I thought, oh, ouch, that hurts. And I thought, wow, I never want to feel like that. Again. I never want to be in the situation where I lose my train of thought and I don’t know what I’m about to say. And I made it my life’s work to become a better communicator to learn all the communication tools that I possibly could have. And I got it right. But then I got to the point where I thought, you know, what if I could help others become skilled communicators, and that’s really what I’ve been doing for the last two.

Two years ago, I started my business called The Tailored Approach where I facilitate workshops. I coach one on one clients, I have an online course, and it’s all about how to become a more compelling and credible speaker, and presenter.

Dede Tetsubayashi
Wow, that is incredible. Thank you so much for sharing that. And as you were talking about how difficult it was for you to give that presentation to remember where you were and to, to be an extrovert. When intrinsically, it’s so much more comfortable for you, as an introvert. I understand the difficulties that come with that. I’m also an introvert living in a world full of extroverts, and needing to identify the spaces within which I will either need to charge myself up or remove myself in order to function to the best of my ability. But that story is… thank you so much for sharing it. And I really want to connect that to how that work continues as a part of the tailored approach, can you give us a little bit more information as to, for example, how introversion has found its way into mainstream vernacular now. But what is something we may be surprised to learn about introverts as leaders? And the way introverts communicate? As leaders?

Kele Belton
Absolutely. You know, that’s a wonderful question to ask because honestly, growing up, I did not think of myself as an introvert. I don’t think introvert, extrovert, ambiverts–those were terms we use when I was a child. It was simply, you were quiet; I was seen as shy, I was seen as kind of the wallflower in the background.And it was it was interesting now that it’s become so popular.

One realizes there’s so much more to that. And really what made the big difference for me, what was the aha moment was when Susan Cain re-published her book, “Quiet: The Power of Introverts”. And when I read that book, the first time I thought, oh my goodness, finally someone understands me. Finally, I understand me, I thought there was something wrong with me, and to realize there’s nothing wrong with me. There are more people like me, Susan Cain is like me, you know, when you see– when you pick up a book and you love books, and, and and you see a published author talking about themselves talking about their own struggles, their challenges, it validates what I have been going through, and I thought I can finally tell people, I’m an introvert. I need time to process and think before I can share my thoughts. Because when you grow up in an extroverted world, you see extroverts comfortable, they think out loud. And I had a boss who would often say that, “Oh, I’m just thinking out loud”. And I would think, please, can you finish your thinking and then share with me because right now, I don’t know what to do with your random thoughts. Because for me, it wasn’t the way I function. It wasn’t the way I processed. And so that’s when the introvert/extrovert came into vernacular, and it really helped empower a lot of people. And I believe strongly it not only empowered introverts, it gets to empower extroverts. So instead of seeing extroverts, as people who are loud and out there, and in your face, you start realizing that’s just their personality. That is how they process and really, introversion is not about being shy. It’s not about being reserved or being quiet. Not everyone is quiet. But it’s rather about how we process the world around us, and how we get and spend energy. So for introverts, the important thing for us is we when we are with people around us when we are with large groups of people, we spend energy when you see your energy levels go down, and in order to recharge your batteries, you need to we either turn inwards, and just internal and kind of bring yourself to come down or you you you prefer solitude, you go for a walk you read a book, you watch a movie, whatever that looks like. It’s about being alone and giving yourself the chance to just recharge your batteries were for extroverts. They get energy by being with people that energize the more people they with that the more things are happening, they thrive on that way. Introverts don’t necessarily tend to do that. So it’s not about who shy and who’s out there, but really about how do we process and how do we get our energy?

Dede Tetsubayashi
Yes, yes, very much so and I love how you’ve taken the conversation away from whether we’re introverts or extroverts Oh, sorry, not introverts or extroverts, whether we’re shy, whether we have fear of public speaking, or whether we have, what’s the term stage fright? Yes. Those are the terms that I always use for myself and shy and having stage fright. And no matter how many times I practice, public speaking, the first five minutes, yeah, I’m trembling like a leaf, always. And it’s hard to find my voice.

Kele Belton
Yes, I can so relate to that. Because every time I facilitate training, I lead a workshop, I coach a client, they look at me and they say, how on earth are you an introvert, and I have to keep reminding them. Look, being an introvert is not about being having that fear of public speaking. We all have that anxiety, you have extroverts who have a fear of public speaking, they would rather just share their thoughts randomly, then be on a stage somewhere and deliver a keynote. And it’s it’s really about understanding fundamentally, who you are as a human being, how you process things, how you function, and what you need to get you comfortable enough to show up on that stage. Now, it doesn’t have to be a stage. It could be a virtual stage. It could be on a zoom call. It can be in a conference, it can be a roundtable we just having a discussion at the wheel. There’s so many variations of how we show up. And for myself, I have been in communications for 20 years, I have done keynotes, I’ve done presentations, I have been doing doing training. I mean, when I was still in Stellenbosch starting out I started my career as a lecturer and I often had between 305 100 students in a lecture hall, and I had to teach. But it wasn’t about me. I wasn’t concerned that people were looking at me and they were judging me. And they were thinking what is she wearing? What is she talking about? I was focused on teaching, I was focused on helping people understand the material, helping empower them with tools and skills that they could take with them and improve their lives improve their careers, and that ultimately, that’s what’s important to me. Do I get nervous? Without a doubt the first five seconds and data you said it the first five seconds? I am nervous. I feel my my heart fluttering, my hands get a little bit clammy. My voice quivers just a tad where I think dammit voice you are giving me away. Because I focus so much on what I want to leave with the people how I want to serve the people in front of me, within within 30 seconds, I have forgotten about my nerves.And you find what helps you get comfortable. I love music. I love salsa dancing so often before a big keynote or before an important training with a new client, a big client, I will turn on my music and I will dance like a crazy person safely in my space when no one can see me. And then that just that energy boost helps me feel so much better.

Dede Tetsubayashi
I love that. I also do something very similar. What do you do great minds think alike. I also have a series of songs that makes me feel powerful, that I will play and I will sing along to and I will dance along to and then I will make sure to strike a power pose so that I feel centered in myself and feel comfortable in taking on the role. I feel I use the term taking on the role because it seems and feels as though I am stepping into a particular personality or a particular role that I should be performing at that moment. And that helps me Yeah, I love that. You know when Amy Cuddy came out with her study around Power Poses. I believe she did a TED talk on that and she has

Kele Belton
a book called presents, I read that and I thought, Yes, this makes sense. Making that power pose and helping yourself or making yourself bigger, gives you that confidence where if you are kind of collapse into yourself, you have your hands folded you making yourself smaller, you are turning that energy, you making that energy smaller way, if you have that big powerful pose, whatever that looks like, whether it’s your it’s your Superwoman pose, with your hands on your hips, or you standing tall or you sitting in a chair, and you have your legs outstretched on your desk, that creates confidence. So even if you don’t feel the confidence, it’s acting and acting until you become it. So not acting as if but really stepping into it, and acting confident until you feel the confidence. And the more you do that, the more you practice that, the easier it becomes. Because yes, in the beginning, it doesn’t feel it feels silly, it feels silly standing in that Superwoman pose. But you know what doing what works and what what helps you step into who you need to be to serve your clients to do what you want to do, because it’s your big, audacious goal. That’s all that matters. So find what works. And do that. I mean, one of the songs that I love is, Beyonce is I’m a survivor, that song just pumps it up. It’s that absolute hype song that gets me ready and gets my blood flowing, puts a big smile on my face, and I feel invincible.

Dede Tetsubayashi
And I think there’s something to be said about whether you’re striking a pose that someone has suggested, or whether you’re striking a pose that you know, for yourself is representative of you feeling strong and empowered. That’s the key. For me, it’s looking at myself in the mirror, and letting myself know you’ve got this. You’ve done this before you know how it feels once you get going. So it’s just breathe, put back my shoulders and take that deep, you know, stomach, breath, the expanding the lungs, and settling has has been something that helps me and also making sure I have Beyonce. Yes, yes, yes. I mean,

Kele Belton
that the music and the deep belly breathing is so crucial to not only helping you get into the frame of mind that you need to be in but also just tapping into yourself being present with yourself and acknowledging how you feeling. Instead of trying to push it away and pretend it’s not happening. It’s really owning who you are owning your emotion saying, I’ve got this I can do this. I want this.

Dede Tetsubayashi
Love it. Love it. We should invite our audience to share their their power songs with us. Yes.

Kele Belton
I’m always I’m always looking for new ones. So please share away.

Dede Tetsubayashi
It Okay, um, I’d love to find out also, what are some of the challenges that you face or have faced as a black woman in leadership? And specifically, what have you done to divest from the existing oppressive structures in your own business model or business design, as you’re learning for yourself what works? As a leader as someone who is an introverted leader and must communicate with others, derive energy from others, impart energy to others? What What can you say about other people’s experiences and how you and the tailored approach have have been able to coach or guide others to deal with challenges?

Kele Belton
How much time do you have? I mean, I have to it’s, it’s interesting when I look at my own leadership journey, I have sort of two distinct pots. I have one pot in South Africa in Cape Town where I was leading a team as a manager and then became Deputy Director of of Stellenbosch University’s language center. And then I look at my Korea in the US working coming into a foreign job market as a foreigner with an accent so we’ll get into a little bit of that. So I’ll start off with just my experiences from Cape Town and Stellenbosch University and how that played out when I was a leader there. It was interesting some of the challenges it’s it’s really having to work twice, and sometimes three times as hard to get the recognition that your male counterparts and often your white male counterparts get. It’s being mistaken for the for the secretary. When I was the one leading the team, it was interesting. I recall this one day, I was in my boss’s office, I was sitting in one of the chairs, his his, his personal assistant had just gone to pick up something. And my boss was in another meeting. So I was waiting. My turn, I had a weekly meeting with him. And this older gentleman walks in, and he looks at me and he says, Hey, girlie, I would like to speak to so and so.And I looked at him. I’m sorry, what did you say? And I, as someone who’s who processes internally, I can pretty much keep my face straight, while I’m thinking all these great, crazy thoughts. And and I looked at the man and I said, Well, his PA is not here at the moment. If you can wait a minute, she’ll be right back, she will help you out. I unfortunately, don’t know what his schedule looks like. And the man looked at me and he said, Look, I just need five minutes. Can you just get me in there? I said, Sir, I don’t work for him. I don’t run his schedule. If you would like five minutes with with with him, you would have to wait. And he kind of said, well, I don’t have time I have to go, I will send him an email. And I said wonderful. And he was on his way. So it was interesting, just bet assumption. And don’t get me wrong. I have so much respect for secretaries and personal assistants, because we can’t live without them. But it’s so interesting that someone would make an assumption like that, and would expect me to help him even after I’ve told him I am not the person you need to speak to. It’s it’s another talking about challenges. It’s being stateside becoming a corporate trainer in communications, I pre pandemic, I used to travel a lot, I would travel all over the country, the world doing training, helping helping managers, senior managers, executive teams become more stronger, more compelling speakers and keynote speakers. And it was interesting, I recall the specific moment I was traveling with a coach, I was the lead trainer, he was supporting me by coaching the participants. And he’s a man of course. So we finally get to the client side, we got Lyft or Uber or something like that, we get there. And lo and behold, the client contact doesn’t turn to me. He doesn’t speak to both of us. She turns her entire body to my male colleague, and she talks to him about the training, and she talks for a long time. You know, this is happening that’s happening, this is what time lunch needs to be. And he kind of sheepishly said, you need to speak to Keeley. She’s the one leading the training. And that woman can was sort of taken aback, and then didn’t skip a skip a beat. And you tend to be just okay, you heard what I said, this is how it needs to happen. It’s fascinating the kinds of things you are challenged with. And at that moment, like I said, it was a woman. So she made this assumption. So even for us as women, we still fall victim to thoughts of structures and what should be and what is instead of why why why not address both of us and say, Hey, we are so excited to have you here. This is what the program will need to look like that is comes across so much better than making an assumption and then being surprised that it’s not how that works out. Ione of the last things that I want to mention as a as a challenge for me, and it’s funny when I was 1015 years ago, it didn’t bother me as much as it would today. I recall a boss of mine, we were talking about an event that we were planning, it was a very important event. And so we were kind of mapping out everybody working in our environment, all the teams, what we would how we would accommodate everybody. And I recall my boss kind of doing a countdown and then he looked at me and he said, You know, I don’t think of you as black. So we’ll put you in this category.And today I can laugh about it. Because I’m like whoa, but then I was I was doing the work of two people. So honestly, I was in a meeting with my boss, we needed to get the work done. We needed to complete our meeting so I could continue working. I didn’t give it a second thought. And it wasn’t until, I’d say five, seven years later, where I had a conversation with my now husband, he wasn’t my husband then. And he he said, Wait, wait, what? And when just him saying that data helped me understand Hang on. If someone says, I don’t see you as black, and you are clearly black. Does that mean they don’t really see me? He he saw parts of me he saw the competent manager, the support that the person who was helping him out helping him plan this incredible event. But he he chose did he choose not to see certain parts of me. And that’s really hard. When we look at someone and we say, Oh, I don’t see color. But we they is color, they are distinctions. When you see you don’t see color, you saying I don’t see people, I don’t see certain people. And that’s really tough. So that’s probably one of the challenges that when I think back, and I think to myself, gosh, if I had had the skills, and the knowledge and the vocabulary, I would have approached that so much so much, in a very different way, and hopefully helped him understand. Never say that to someone ever again. So when I built my business two years ago, at the start of the pandemic, I wanted to I wanted to build a business where I’m working if I have a team, and now I have a team of three people who are working part time for me, I worked with collaborators, I want people to number one feel safe enough to bring their whole self to work. We are still living in the pandemic, even though people say yes, it is. No it isn’t. But the point is, when one of my teammates is a mom, and she calls in and say hey, Kaylee, unfortunately, I won’t be able to complete that task, or I wouldn’t be able to attend the meeting, my child is sick. For me that is, okay. Take care of your child. When I look back to when I was working in the corporate world, that wasn’t a thing. You said you made a plan with a kid but you showed up for work, where I’m trying to create a space where I say, Look, your family, your your your personal life is important. If you are struggling, if you need some downtime, say it, I can’t guess I can only open up and invite you to the table and have a conversation with me and challenge me. But if you don’t say something I won’t know. And because I’m juggling so many different hats and so many different things. I sometimes run away with a thought, but I luckily have wonderful people I worked with who will say hold your horses, slow it down. Let’s take a moment and really talk about this. So I’m hoping that I am creating an environment where people feel comfortable and they feel seen and heard. Because I I come from a place of active listening. I asked a ton of questions. And I will preface that by saying hey, I’m not challenging you I don’t disagree necessarily disagree. I’m trying to understand where you’re coming from. Can you help me understand x y&z.

So that is really creating a different world where hopefully, this becomes the norm, instead of people being seen as a commodity, that is they seen as a set of skills instead of a human being.

Dede Tetsubayashi
Yes, yes. That’s really, really powerful. And all three examples that you gave, speak deeply, to my own experiences as well. Not surprising. We, since I also, am a black woman identify as a black woman. And each of your experiences I’ve had similar experiences. And it makes me wonder to what extent is it our responsibility? When is it our responsibility to kindly educate others on how to be empathetic and intentionally curious and at practice active listening because in each of the scenarios that you presented, the counterpart, your counterpart whoever was in that scenario with you wasn’t actively listening To you wasn’t actively seeing you. Yeah.

Kele Belton
That is so true. You know, if you had asked me this question 10 years ago, and I literally mean that 10 years ago, I would have been 3435, I would have said, it is our duty as, as the marginalized minority to, we have to teach people how to do this, we have to help them be more empathic, we have to help them be more understandable, be more compassion, understanding and compassionate. But honestly, in the last two years, with everything that has happened with the conversations we’ve had, I understand when someone when someone says, when a black person, a black woman, you know, a gay woman says, I’m sick and tired, and I don’t want to be teaching anymore, this shouldn’t be my responsibility anymore. I get that too. And I agree, it’s, we all need to come together and acknowledge if not only on one party to teach others how to be. It’s also their responsibility to say, oh, my gosh, I don’t know this. Let me find some resources. Let me talk to someone. And before I start talking, ask them, Hey, would it be okay, if I picked your brain about X, Y, and Z? Or can you point me in the direction of some resources, some books that I can read? I mean, there’s so many incredible books that just came out. And that have been the big discussion in the last two years. So yes, we all have to play our part, we all have to say, I am responsible for this. And I want to do that. Excuse me. So what I would probably throw back when somebody says, whose responsibility is it? The question to for me would be, well, how important is a to you that someone is more empathic? How important is it to you that someone understand the double bind that for example, a black gay woman faces, if it’s important to you, then you then it’s, then I would recommend that you, you teach a little, don’t teach all the time. That’s exhausting. Nobody wants to be exhausted all the time, have some resources without having to dig things out. I now have a list on my phone, when somebody says, Hey, I’m looking for a book, I’m like, a year ago, he has a reading list. And I learned that from my husband, he’s such a voracious reader, and I can always go to him say, hey, I need a book on this. And he’s able to point me in the right direction. So it’s, it’s, well, if something is important to you, are you going to leave it to chance?

Dede Tetsubayashi
Fabulous answer fabulous answer, if it’s something that’s important to you. And if that is a relationship that is important for you to keep, yes, it takes it takes two to build a relationship and it takes two to listen to one another. And to build that empathy, that compassion and that humanity for one another. On the other hand, since women of color, and women of color at the intersections of identity are also look to, to do the heavy lifting to provide the support to do the invisible work of caring and teaching of folks in the environments and in the events or the scenarios where you’re tired. It’s also okay for you to just be tired. Yeah. And to say that it’s not okay to keep improving. It’s okay to say, Oh, I’m here. I’m sorry, you don’t see color. That must be very sad for you.

Kele Belton
I love that. Oh, my goodness, I that is a great response. I’m going to put it in my back pocket and take it with me. How sad for you because what makes this world interesting. It’s all the different people. It’s the different colors. It’s the different cultures. It’s it’s the different languages. That was that’s what makes for a richer experience. So when you saying you don’t see one, how really how sad for you?

Dede Tetsubayashi
Yes, yeah, yes. I love that. You cannot see my greatness. Yeah. Absolutely. Oh, I’d love to find out. The challenges that you you you shared with us. How? How are you thinking about it? In our current COVID era, I’m thinking about the environments where we are expected, for example, to either come back to the office or we’re figuring out some new hybrid model of working that hasn’t necessarily worked for those of us who are more introverted and leading from a position of introversion. And it’s also quite common for women of color to not have thrived in environments where their leadership is called into question on the regular, but now you pair that with the expectation to be present virtually and in person in environments that are still not as safe. Because if we’re looking at the demographic groups who are most adversely impacted by the effects of COVID, and the pandemic, women, women of color, who are continuing to give care for the for their families, and maybe not necessarily for themselves, but they still need to show up and they still need to lead. How are you thinking about that? And are you experiencing a shift in how you’re supporting women now, to step into their leadership roles or to be to improve the way they communicate their leadership, skills or styles within this new normal,

Kele Belton
I would have to say, I am fortunate enough, and I’m so grateful that I started my own business, I was fortunate enough to be able to do that. I get to work with really wonderful women, we are all women, who are spread all over the US. And that’s really fun, because they working from home. And so we don’t have the we don’t have the concern about going back to an office what what that will look like, however, I do coach, some women leaders who are still in the corporate world, and they are now all of a sudden expected to go back into the office as of May. And it’s being staggered. So you’re going into the office two to three days, but the whole direction they moving in is by the end of May, beginning June, they have to be back in the office full time. That’s really tough. Because as men, not everyone, but a good portion of women leaders are still caregivers at home. They have their they have their families, they have their kids, their their spouses, they have parents and grandparents and juggling all that does become really daunting. And how I support my clients is by asking them, what is it that you want, because ultimately, this the pandemic has helped us see that work isn’t everything that work is not equal to life. It’s people want a more balanced life, they want a more rewarding life. They want to work so that they can enjoy their time with their families, so they can enjoy doing things outside of work. And I don’t encourage clients to quit their jobs, so to speak, but it’s really for me as a coach, getting to them and helping them clear their thinking and decide what do they want. And if what they want is to move on to a more satisfying career. That is what I help them transition into and out of, but if they want to continue in, in the environment they in, they now get to renegotiate the conversation, they get to have conversations with their own leadership with the executive team saying, Hey, this is in the last two years I’ve worked from home, this has been my outputs. This has been my performance. And simply coming back to the office does not is not equal to being more

working harder, performing better. I would like some flexibility. So I’ve one of my clients I helped her and we role played this. We got into a conversation. She was very nervous. Just she said you know my manager is Go go go. She has decided she wants everybody into the office. So I had a conversation with my client. Let’s call her Susie. And we role played how Suzy could speak to her manager and say I have my kids, two of them are under four. I need to be there for them even though they are all back in daycare and school. But you get a COVID exposure email and then guess what your kids have to be home. So we were able to get her comfortable enough and she went had a meeting with her manager. She was able to get a flex at some flexibility So now, the deal going forward, she only has to go into the office three days a week, two days of the week, she gets to work from home. So when you think about your seven day week, it’s only three days where she has to get dressed, drive through, commute to work. And that already puts power back into that woman’s hands. And that’s really what it’s about. It’s about deciding, what is it as a woman, as a black woman, as a woman of color? What do you want? How can we empower you to make your own decision, and to negotiate what you want? Now, you might not get everything you want. But certainly you might be able to get some of what you want. One of my clients ended up moving to a cheaper state or a state that’s not as expensive as California. And when they were told, Oh, you have to come back to the office, she was able to, to renegotiate and say, Look, I’m willing to take a pay cut, if I can work from home full time, because it’s cheaper for her and her family to live there. And her boss, it wasn’t an easy conversation. It wasn’t an immediate yes. He said Maybe he went to his boss, it was whole conversation. But ultimately, after three months, she got the Okay, that said fine, no problem, you work from home, your output has been great. As long as it doesn’t suffer. We are okay and happy with you to continue doing that. So it’s it’s really there are so many different options out there. And I would encourage your listeners who are struggling, and they are fearing that going back to the office, whether it’s three days, whether it’s five days a week, to do some research, look at what are the options? What is it that you want, number one, number two, what are you willing to do to get it? What are you willing to give in order to get what you want. So really go to the negotiation table, knowing that knowing what you’re willing to give up, knowing if whether it’s your salary might be less whether it is maybe moving into a different team where you’ll be able to work from home more. It’s there’s just so many options. And it’s it’s about looking outside the box and finding that innovative solution. And having conversations simply because somebody says no, don’t accept it for no keep pushing, keep talking, you might get a yes, eventually incremental

Dede Tetsubayashi
changes, incremental pushes.

Kele Belton
Without I love it. Rome wasn’t built in a day.

Dede Tetsubayashi
We can’t expect to be able to make those kinds of changes in one go either. Yeah, it’s a conversation Exactly. Should be. Wonderful. As you were, as you were sharing that I also wanted to find out what role does data play in your business model or business design because as, as you’re coaching people to have conversations to request and negotiate what it is that they need, currently in their life, what it is that they want, and what it is that they need in order to be the most productive self or to be able to bring their full authentic selves to the table. You’re you’re bringing in research and you’re bringing in information that may not be from their particular scenario, but could be pulled from other examples in the industry. And I think of all that information as data, but I’d love to hear from you. For for the tailored approach, what role does data play?

Kele Belton
The easy and short answer is it plays a big role I as as someone who wasn’t an academic, and I still consider myself to be an academic, I was a researcher, I strongly believe in doing your homework, doing some research, finding out what is out there. What are people doing what is possible before you make it before you make a decision because knowledge is power. The more information you have, the more you are able to make an informed decision. So when I’m coaching my clients, I’m able to pull from books I’ve read from training I’ve done I’m able to pull in from the organization lean in and I have to be up front I don’t agree with everything there. It’s not applicable to every one situation but they do such incredible research that you can look at it and and really extract what will work for You it’s it’s empower someone when you can say, Look, this is what the research is showing, in the last two years during the pandemic, it hurt women’s careers more than anyone else’s. We were making incremental progress. And now we’ve we’ve been put back essentially five years instead of just two years, because what happened? Most women are caregivers, and they had their careers had to take a backseat. Some women, because of the inflexibility of a work environment decided to quit their job. And they chose to prioritize their families. And what does it look like? We had a few CEOs who were women, and now we have less, we have we had women who were engineers who were in, they were experts in their fields and in the industry. And now they decided to do something else. Because guess what they got, they were tired of the inflexibility. They were tired of working 24/7 and not getting a break. They were tired of people frowning, when they said, Hey, I need a mental day. It’s when when when the when leaders, executive teams don’t acknowledge the impact that the pandemic that COVID has had on everyone. It negates any progress we’ve made. So data plays a big part. I often whether I’m coaching, when I’m leading training, I like quoting data, because it’s, it’s it helps cement that I’m not just speaking, I’m not sucking things out of my thumb. But it’s really people are doing incredible work. And it’s all about get on Google Google a few things. But also be mindful that there’s a lot of nonsense on. So you don’t want to believe the first thing that you come across. But really get into some research, get into some books. And it’s not about buying all the books, we have libraries, they are all they are online free resources where you can really get into some meaty discussions and topics and learn a few things. So when it comes to communication, I look at things I mean, we talking about Susan Cain and Amy Cuddy. I know Amy Cuddy study about Power Poses. And basically that study a few years ago was refuted, it said, there is no real based evidence that this works. But guess what, when I do it, when my clients do what it works for us something in our brain clicks. So simply because it’s out there. And this is what the experts are saying, doesn’t mean you should stop doing it. If you’re doing something that works for you, that helps you show up as a strong, compelling woman of color and a leader, keep doing that. Don’t just don’t don’t negate your own experiences and your own knowledge for the data that I might be presenting to you.

Dede Tetsubayashi
Fabulous. And I think it’s really important also to remember that, like you said, there’s, there’s a lot of data that we can find on Google. But Google also has a lot of nonsense. So getting good at being able to sift between the information that overload that we we currently experience is really important, but also remembering that just because that information is available, and it works for some and may not work for you. So keep in mind, what does work for you. And and keep doing that. If you’re ruffling feathers, you might be on track but also check in with yourself and check in with your your close and and your your network, your your board of advisors, whether they’re real or in your head, to make sure that you’re actually doing you’re actually enacting behavior that it is in your best interest to do as a leader that is moving you forward to building collaborative relationships rather than rather than not seeing people and not listening to people.

Kele Belton
Yeah. I mean, we all have to have we have to have our circle of friends, our counsel, where you you, you have that friend, we all do. Where you can go to that friend and they will unequivocally tell you Yes, you did good on know that that was not what were you thinking? And they it comes from a place of love. It’s somebody it has to be someone you trust, and you know that they have your best interests at heart.

Dede Tetsubayashi
Yes. But I think it’s also really powerful to make sure that you are equipped with data that’s necessary to have those negotiations to have those tough conversations and to present your your your side of the story, your reasoning as to why things need to change. So without without data, it can be a lot harder to do that. Absolutely. All right, Kelly, I have one more question for you. What advice do you have for other bipoc women and FOMs in leadership, or on their leadership journey? And feel free to plug your courses or coaching sessions? Any materials here?

Kele Belton
Thank you very much. I appreciate the question. I would say the first thing is, don’t sit on the sidelines, don’t don’t let life happen to you. It’s find a seat at the main table. Don’t don’t sit against the wall. If there’s a table in the middle, arrive early and claim your seat unequivocally unapologetically. Because that’s ultimately what it is. And working. When many of my clients are introverts, they’re not all introverts, but many of them are, it’s helping them find that internal confidence. And what happens is when you arrive early, and there’s not a whole lot of people in the room, you can find your seat and not have to worry, it’s a different story. If you arrive when the meeting has started, and you’re kind of looking around and you basically become a disruption. So arrive early Claim Your seat is the first one. The second one I’d say is become a skilled communicator, communication is everything. It’s not only about speaking, speaking, speaking, it’s also about active listening, intentional curiosity, that’s a term that you coined data that you talked about, when we when I had you on my show. And I love that and it’s something I just put in the back of my mind, because that’s all part of communication. When you are able to articulate your thoughts, your ideas, your vision, clearly. And in a compelling and credible way, people will sit up and pay attention to you, as a bipoc woman, female leader, they want to they want to know more, they want to the you peeking their interest you engaging them. And when we are unable to articulate our thoughts, we are unable to verbalize what it is we need we want we want to do, then people struggle to meet us halfway. So it’s really important to keep keep working on your skills. And the wonderful thing is, you don’t have to be be you don’t have to be born a skilled communicator, it’s a skill that you can learn that we all did, I learned it the hard way. I’m proof that ad works. You somehow you have to be willing to put in the work, you have to be willing to put it in the just top of mind. Find a coach, work with someone who will help you hone your communication skills, who will help you to tell your story as a leader authentically, who will help you craft your vision so that you can share it with people and people buy into it, how to deal with pushback those all the things how often as leaders do we have to think on our feet, even more so when you are a woman when you are bipoc Woman and in a leadership position. People will push your buttons people will will push back, sometimes validly sometimes, heck for the because they can and it’s how do you deal how do you deal and navigate those those difficult situations? Sometimes you’ll get feedback or you’ll get feedback that is helpful. You’ll get feedback that is completely baseless. And it’s still as a leader. How do you show up? How do you navigate that? Find a coach. I am a communications coach. You don’t have to work with me. But suddenly find a speaking coach a presentation skills coach who will help hone your voice not help you turn into someone else. You don’t want to be someone else you don’t you don’t want to be

whoever you idolize, you want to be authentically you. And really authentic communication comes from your integrity, who you are what your voice sounds like. And start by sharing your thoughts. Even when your voice shakes. Even if it quivers, even if your face turns completely red, when you are willing to be vulnerable, and share your thoughts. Even if you you think a few people it’s going to ruffle feathers people are going to disagree with you. The more you do it, the more confident you become and the ease See it becomes to do that. And then lastly, find allies in the roof. Find people who have your back find in data, you said it beautifully. It’s look around. And don’t always just go for the people who look like you find different people have conversations, invite somebody for a coffee, if you are working from home, have a zoom, quick contact, drink coffee together. It’s fine people who, who who support your thinking, even if they don’t think like you. And if you are one of the women in the room, become an ally, for others become that ally when Jane in the room is trying to say something and her voice gets drowned out by her male counterparts where you say, Hey, I wanted to hear what Jane had to say, can we give her a minute to finish your thoughts? Because the more we do that, the more we train those in the room, that it’s not okay to just jump in and negate what someone was about to say. So those are the three things I would say, go for it. Because when we have allies in the room, when we become the allies, we strengthen not only ourselves, we strengthen our circle of influence, and we shift the culture and that’s crucial.

Dede Tetsubayashi
Wonderful, wonderful. Thank you so much for sharing that. And sadly, sadly, we can’t idolize, we can idolize Beyonce, but we can never be Beyonce because there is only one. There’s only one day there’s only one QE there’s only one you so you in all your wonderful difference. Yes, amen to that. Absolutely celebrate the differences instead of trying to mold ourselves into someone else.

Thank you so much.

Kele Belton
Absolute pleasure. This was so much fun. Thank you for having me.

Dede Tetsubayashi
Looking forward to the next one, Kele.

Kele Belton
Yes. It’s always a lot of fun.

Transcribed by https://otter.ai

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