Dan Weil, CPCC

Leadership, Empathy, and Belonging Impacts Employee Retention

When I hear clients’ stories about the intense resistance they have experienced — to perspectives that are not where they’ve claimed a stance — I’m reminded of my inventory and the frustration and anger I felt before I understood.

At the beginning of the pandemic, a well-established coach and friend said to me, “Just wait, Dan, you’re going to be confronted with your white privilege. Get ready for it.” At the time, it was the beginning of many social justice waves across the country. I thought I had some insight into social justice because I had witnessed and experienced a lot while living in Johannesburg, nearing the end of apartheid (then the Republic of South Africa). I admit, as an American living there, I thought I had a stance for something. Yet, I was told, “Don’t say anything, or there will be severe consequences for our family…and yes, this isn’t right.” What was the impact of that? From where did that come?

So, in short order, my coach friend was right. I was confronted with my privilege. When I got over my anger about feeling blamed for something that had to do with how I was born (ya, I look like a typical white guy in his 50’s), and how dare they accuse me (don’t they know who I am?!), and some of my best friends ever are (I think I threw up a little in my throat). I’m a part of this because I’m gay (um, okay – ya, I almost didn’t survive this one). I’m the son of a Rabbi (I’m verklempt!). My family comes from suffering. If not for the heroic fortitude of only two relatives that escaped the Ukraine massacre of Jews during WWII at Babyn Yar and whose memorial was recently bombed by Russia’s aggressions – I would not be here! And of course, my own direct experience of chaotic family dynamics (Personal stories I may/may not share.). Talk about inventory. I’m not only what I appear to be (although it’s easy to settle comfortably in what the mask of me looks like…. ahem, privilege!).

I realize that what I can offer is sharing my experience AND what got me to shift my perspective more into the world of diversity, equity, and inclusion (DEI) learning. It began with a shift in my stance inside my stuck perspective that had expired, “I’ve seen stuff, I come from stuff, so I know.” This weight shift had me feeling where my fear was and where my curiosity was. “Hmmm… curiosity. I can do curiosity.” What is the impact of curiosity? What is the cost of a lack of interest?

In leadership, creating a safe, inclusive environment for your organization is a compass to a path toward successful employee retention. Creating opportunities for vulnerability and curiosity instead of judgment will shift perspectives, inspire connection, increase empathy, and enhance learning — fostering a sense of belonging. Curiosity will shift your workplace culture. High-performing workplace culture will attract new employees and retain your inspired talent. At the root of most organizational challenges are people challenges brought forth by a lack of people strategies that align with business plans.

People want a sense of belonging; they want to be heard and seen for who they are and feel safe doing so.

Creating a people strategy is a business initiative that should align and walk next to your overall business strategy.

People are what deliver your best results.

What is your workplace culture? Do your employees feel like they belong? Let’s find out!