Follow the ARC to Get Clarity In Any Situation

In a previous post, I talked about how the ARC Method can be useful when you’re in a situation and overhear an inappropriate or potentially harassing comment. The ARC Method can be used to gently call someone out from a place of curiosity, not confrontation.

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The ARC Method can also be used in any situation in which you are looking for clarity. Remember, it’s always better to ask, rather than assume. But, how do you ask?

In the workplace, a perfect example is if you have a coworker who has come out as non-binary and “they-them” and perhaps you’re not quite sure what that means (although it’s not Sam, or any other under-represented person’s job to educate you - but that’s another post for another day…). Let’s take this situation through the ARC. Again, as with the other ARC, context and tone matter! Approach with curiosity, not confrontation!

A is for Ask. In this situation, you are asking questions of your non-binary coworker, Sam. Here are some sample ways to ask for more clarity:

  • “Can you tell me more about which pronouns I should be using now?”

  • “I promise to do my best but it might take me a minute to get the hang of this. How would you feel if I mess up at first?

  • “Do you mind if we chat about this a second? Can you direct me towards a good resource to educate myself about non-binary people?”

R is for Respect. Just as in the previous approach to ARC, respect means that you actively listen, don’t dismiss the answer, and don’t interrupt.

Finally, the C is for Connect. In this case as in the previous ARC, you will be paraphrasing and validating. Here are some conversation starters or ways that you can connect to complete the ARC in the example with your coworker Sam.

  • “OK, just so I’m clear, I’ll be using they-them pronouns for you going forward? Got it!”

  • “So I understand you correctly, I should do my best but you’ll be patient? Thank you!”

  • “Perfect, thanks for letting me know that I should check out the Equality Institute.”

Then MOVE ON! No need to drag out the conversation, although if you need more clarity, go for another round of the ARC. Continue to ARC until you feel like you have the clarity you need to move forward positively.

Follow the ARC to Be a Great Ally

I spend a lot of time thinking and talking about allyship. One of the main things an ally should do is advocate for others. An ally is your voice when you’re not in the room. When I do a training and I’m talking about allyship, one of the tools are used to provide a framework for speaking up, is Follow the ARC.

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If you happen to overhear a comment that you feel is harassing, potentially harassing, borderline offensive, or any other form of micro-aggression, it’s important to speak up as an ally. That is one of the key elements of inclusive leadership. But how do you speak up when you witness such a thing? Follow the ARC.

ARC. ARC stands for Ask — Respect — Connect, and provides a tool for difficult conversations. We created the ARC here at Equality Institute to help others approach these conversations from a place of curiosity, not confrontation, reducing the risk of defensiveness from the other party.

Let’s use a real world example of micro-aggression that you may overhear at work: “LGBTQ? What’s the Q? And what’s next, X, Y, and Z?”

Start with the A: Ask. Again, ask from a place of curiosity.

Allies ask good questions when they follow the ARC. And context matters. The place you approach the conversation may depend on your relationship with the person - perhaps you may choose to pull the person aside to follow the ARC privately. Perhaps, if it’s someone who is half-joking or says, “I’m just joking!”, then approach them with a joking-back tone. To be successful with ARC, the place matters and your tone matters.

Here are some conversation starters for the Ask using the example above.:

“The Q means Queer, which used to be hurtful but is now an umbrella term - but

  • “can you explain what you meant by X, Y, and Z? I’m super confused!”

  • “did I hear you correctly when you said X, Y, and Z? That would be weird!?”

  • do you mind if we talk about your LGBTQ X, Y, Z comment? I don’t get it.”

  • “did you mean to say LGBTQ XYZ? I may have misunderstood.”

Again, stay in the space of curiosity, not confrontation.

These questions challenge the person to explain themselves, and possibly realize how silly and/or offensive they may have been. As they explain themselves, follow up with the R - Respect. Simply put, respecting means being an active listener. Don’t cross your arms, nod your head, and use verbal cues to indicate that you’re paying attention. Don’t dismiss what the other person is saying. Respectfully listen without interruption. Paraphrase and validate.

After you’ve listened and respected the other person, close the arc with the C - Connect. In the ARC, Connecting means to paraphrase and validate. Here are some ways to connect using the example above:

  • “Ah yes, you’re saying that the letters are confusing. That’s what I used to think, too…

  • “OK, just so I’m clear, you don’t really think there’s an XYZ, just that there are so many letters? I get why you would say that but…”

  • “So I understand you correctly, you think the letters are over-kill? I remember thinking that, but…”

Now, the other person may still get defensive or begin debating, so go back to the start of the ARC. This can be a cycle and you can’t expect to change “hearts and minds” with every person, but it does have a powerful ability to “call someone out” and gently challenge them to reflect on their word choice.

Allyship is a key component of inclusive leadership and we all have the ability to use our words.

LGBTQ eLearning

It’s Pride month and we’ve been working with organizations large and small to empower their employees to be more inclusive of the LGBTQ community. This matters to your employees and to your clients. 31% of Gen Z and 20% of Millennials are identifying as LGBTQ+ (Kantar/Hornet 2018) and these workers and consumers value organizations that take the time to educate their employees on diversity and inclusion. Simply put, they want to feel seen and heard by companies. It matters - and it matters well beyond Pride month.

One of the many ways we help companies better serve their LGBTQ employees and consumers is through our LGBT eLearning. In about 25 minutes, your workforce will learn the definitions of L, G, B, T, and Q, a short history lesson, and how to be an ally to the LGBTQ community. There are even videos dedicated to addressing Transgender 101 and The Spectrum of Gender (or Non-Binary 101).

The LGBTQ eLearning is a series of short videos (averaging about 3 minutes each) that provide best practices and practical tips. We have 3 different variations on the product: for Human Resources, employees, and front-line workers. Each is tailored with practical scripted scenes (with actors) to share LGBTQ best practices.

When you license our LGBT eLearning, you will receive SCORM-compliant files that you can easily add to your your Learning Management System. The course includes knowledge checks, can track learner progress, and score learners on their success with the quiz questions.

The LGBTQ eLearning can be tailored for the size of your workforce and scaled up or down to meet your needs. We believe that training should be practical and fun, not preachy or boring. That’s always our goal and one of the reasons many organizations trust us with their training needs. eLearning is often stuffy and boring but that’s not the case here. Our LGBT eLearning is contemporary, quick, and practical.

Drop us a note if you’d like to see a demo!

Diversity Training for Front Line Employees

Most of the diversity training work we do is for industries with a large front line workforce. We define “front line” pretty broadly: basically anyone in business development/sales; customer service; and marketing is at the front line. These are the folks who interact with clients, consumers, customers, patients, students, guests, travelers, you get the picture…

The front line is largely ignored when it comes to diversity training. After all, they’re often out of the office and unable to attend an hour long or half day unconscious bias training. They may be road warriors, going from sales meeting to sales meeting. Or maybe they’re standing all day interacting with customers with no access to a desktop computer or LMS (learning management system).

The challenge here is that the front line is the face of the brand, and if the front line employee engages in a micro-aggression or act of unconscious bias, the brand’s reputation can be at risk. We believe a proactive diversity training approach is best, one that meets these front line workers where they are - on their smart phones. Situational micro-learning and eLearning is most practical for these workers - short videos and exercises that make sense without overly complicating things. After all, most "diversity training” expresses the concepts of the golden (or platinum) rule: respect, great listening, and avoiding assumptions. In our opinion, communicating these concepts doesn’t require a 4 hour (or even 1 hour) training. We can do it in about 10 minutes.

Unconscious bias training is not rocket science. We find that over-complicating things is a turn-off not only to ourselves but to others, and folks shut down when faced with the prospect of another training. We’re all about the KISS method.

We believe that when front line workers are trained to be more inclusive, that will have a profound ripple effect not only on the corporate culture and employee morale, but on the customer experience. If customers feel like they can truly be themselves without fear of rejection, they will carry themselves with greater dignity and have more loyalty towards your brand. That is priceless. That is our vision.

Giving Everyone a Voice: Best Practices for Inclusion

Diversity, while important, means nothing without giving those diverse folks a voice in the workplace – without making those diverse voices feel included. There are numerous ways to create inclusion, but they must have strong buy-in from leadership.

To create inclusion, it’s important to first understand the concept of “covering.” In its 2013 study Uncovering Talent, Deloitte explained why true inclusion is elusive: “The ideal of inclusion has long been to allow individuals to bring their authentic selves to work. However, most inclusion efforts have not explicitly and rigorously addressed the pressure to conform that prevents individuals from realizing that ideal.”

That pressure to conform is “covering” or hiding parts of us to avoid stigmatization. Deloitte found that an astounding 61% of workers cover parts of themselves at work, including 45% of straight white men. People may hide elements that could draw unwanted attention to their race, religion, health, parental status, political party, and so forth. And when people can’t fully be themselves at work, they under-perform.

How do we create a workplace where the pressure to cover is minimized, where people can truly feel like they belong and can bring their full selves to work? Here are five best practices:

1.    Create psychological safety. Truly inclusive work cultures have psychological safety. This means that people feel safe enough to bring their ideas to the table without fear of rejection from their team. They feel safe enough to take risks. One way to create psychological safety is for leaders to demonstrate this themselves, to show genuine emotion and be vulnerable enough to admit failure, talk about their own fears, concerns, and areas to improve. Google conducted a two year internal study and found that the number one indicator of high performing teams is psychological safety. This really matters.

You can start small to create psychological safety. One health care organization asks employees to smile and greet anyone who comes within 10 feet of them. That’s a small, actionable habit that creates a welcoming environment at work.

2.    Train your team on unconscious bias. Trainings are safe places for people to learn how to behave, and then truly understand that DEI strategies are financially prudent and good for them as leaders. A comprehensive training on unconscious bias, the science behind it, and how to reduce it can go a long way towards better understanding and then empowering the whole team.

3.    Create a DEI council or committee. The goal here is to enlist leaders who will use their seniority to advocate for DEI initiatives. Involve 8-15 volunteer leaders from all parts of the organization, especially those with a large span of responsibility. Their role will be to educate themselves, then drive and inform DEI strategy and initiatives, particularly advocating to the “resisters” at the firm. These council members are not subject matter experts nor a stand-in for a paid DEI team.

4.    Create or strengthen Business Resource Groups (BRGs). Your firm may already have BRGs (also known as Employee Resource Groups or ERGs) – the women’s group, the veteran’s group, the LGBT group, etc. These groups are important spaces for employees to connect with one another while also supporting the firm’s business goals. BRGs should always have a business imperative, which can lead to them being more highly valued by leadership. BRGs should each have a unified strategy, even when there are chapters in different offices. BRGs are an important space where employees can find their voice and sense of belonging in the workplace.

5.    Develop sponsorship programs. Sponsors are senior executives who directly enable their protégées with career advancement, and increase objective career outcomes. Deloitte embedded sponsorship in its culture after a pilot program that paired women in a leadership training program with an executive sponsor. Within a year, nearly all participants had received promotions. You can start small with a sponsorship program, even beginning with one department as a pilot.

Kelly Rau from KPMG wrote in the 2018 Prequin Investor Study, “It also takes having senior men in our industry to sponsor women and help them progress inside of their organizations. Given the number of firms that are run by men, it is vital they be involved, to enable this process to happen much faster.”

This work is not easy, but it’s important to make your firm a more attractive place to work, to reduce turnover, and increase revenue by better understanding the market.