This year we’ve seen powerful movements for social justice. Many brands have jumped on those bandwagons only to fall off (or get pushed off). One reason social justice messages aren’t landing well with organizations’ audiences is a perceived lack of authenticity on the part of the brand. If your organization isn’t solidly walking their talk, it’s time to think about shifting your mindset from looking good to doing good.
If you’re not there yet, you need a plan to get there
After the George Floyd murder, many organizations rushed into the Black Lives Matter movement due to social pressure and/or the hope of financial gain. They put out powerful statements—that many were then called out on.
Customers and followers quickly called out these organizations as being hypocritical. A look at the Board of Directors, leadership team and partners showed a clear disconnect. In many cases, this hurt those organizations more than posting helped them in the first place.
In my view, organizations that put out a statement in support (but weren’t there yet themselves in terms of diversity and inclusion) should also have put out a plan. You can’t just say “it matters” without acknowledging that you aren’t where you want or need to be yet, and that you have a plan to get there.
This is the difference between looking good and doing good. It’s image versus substance.
Are you about image or intention?
Image is powerful and it’s what many people are chasing on social media, above all else. It’s one of the pieces of controversy over the Instagram black squares that showed up this summer.
If you stop with posting a square, it rings hollow. Don’t get me wrong—if that’s the first time you’ve ever stepped out to make that kind of a statement, that’s great. But the question remains: What else will you do? What’s your next step?
Is your intention to serve or lift others? Is it about something that’s bigger than you, or is it about elevating your own influence and power?
It may be a good exercise for you to do something altruistic that you don’t advertise to everyone else. The need to make everyone aware of every good thing we do is something we need to be very careful about.
It’s OK to be in process.
If you’re in a process to get to where you know you should be, it’s OK to simply say so.
For instance, as a leader and business owner, I’ve made a commitment to decolonize my business. It’s building, on the framework developed by thought leader, CV Harquail called the Feminist Business Model Canvas and some of Edgar Villanueva’s work from a financial perspective, as well.
- Are the legal agreements you ask your clients, employees and business partners to sign written in legalese or plain English?
- Are you compensating team members in ways that recognize all, not just some of the labor they do in your service?
- Where are you banking?
- How are decisions being made in your organization, and who is really making them?
I asked myself those questions and we discussed them as a leadership team when we started on our decolonization journey. And we plan to keep asking those questions of ourselves regularly.
From a business owner’s perspective, what’s your growth plan? In our case, we don’t plan to be an LLC forever.
All these things can take time to shift, and that’s OK.
Ask yourself: What can I do today? What can I do next quarter? What can I do next year?
No one can do all these things at once.
Even if it’s a big mountain for you to climb, you still need to take the step. Don’t just throw up your hands and stop because it’s hard. It is hard. Great leadership is hard, and who really wants to be mediocre?
It’s OK to say to the world, “We’re not where we want to be, but we’re in process to get there.”
Shifting your mindset from looking good to doing good is exponentially transformative, inside and out.
When it is time to talk about what you’ve done, you’re then coming from a place of authenticity. That carries a much stronger impact for you and your organization.