Episode 16

Published on:

13th Jul 2023

CultureRoad Podcast EP 16: Holding onto your Superpower Featuring Kyle Oldham

Join us on the next episode of the CultureRoad Podcast featuring Dr. Kyle Oldham. Kyle is Director of Workplace Inclusion and Talent Management at Colorado State University and is a consultant with DeEtta Jones and Associates.

With joyful moments, laughter, and deep-dive conversation, we share personal stories, expert insights, and actionable tips for navigating cultural dynamics and fostering inclusivity. Celebrate the unique superpowers within each of us and gain inspiration to create a more inclusive world. 

Don't miss the CultureRoad Podcast Episode 16: Holding onto your Superpower, where culture, authenticity, and self-discovery intertwine.


okay Kyle oh my goodness I'm so happy to have you here on the culture broad podcast welcome we are going to have a great time um I I'm full of Giggles because we were giggling so much before we turned the cameras on that I have a feeling we're just gonna have a wonderful conversation um and just to set the stage a little bit this is the culture Road podcast you and I work together all the time on all sorts of uh different engagements related to equity diversity inclusion managerial Effectiveness interpersonal


and Intercultural Effectiveness leadership but today I'd just love to spend time talking with and getting to know you and all the kind of multi-dimensional parts of you that I know a little bit about but I'd love to be able to learn more about and share with others and the format that we're in is the culture World podcast which is really about understanding that there are all sorts of things that are happening in the world right now that are signaling cultural transformation everything is changing which is fantastic it's


complicated it's messy but it's also a brilliant moment in time for us to kind of come together and culture road is really about thinking about coming together and pursuing kind of a a new way of being in culture in community with each other and a path that can lead us towards the way in which we are going to continue to work together and be in that community and so it's about what is our journey how do we kind of get on it together in a way that's meaningful and helping us to connect with one another


and then where is it that we're trying to go and how do we have meaningful and values Rich experiences relationships and ways of contributing to the world along the way so welcome to the culture World podcast and I'm really honored for you to be a guest here uh the the I'll start off by saying you know you are uh the director of workplace inclusion and talent management at Colorado State University and you also are a very dear colleague at Diana Jones and Associates and I absolutely love working with you


um so welcome again to the podcast and before we start talking about all of your kind of accolades and all of your interests uh personally and professionally I'd love to just start off with this question tell us a little bit more about you who are you who is Kyle Oldham well how much time do you have I don't know if we're going to unpack all of this beauty in one setting since go for it um we're gonna have to first start with I am a cincinnatian at heart um while I will never ever live in Ohio


again I'm gonna say never ever I'm gonna say it I will always say that that's where my heart lies in the sense of that's where I'm from and so so many things I think about myself stem from being from Cincinnati the history of Cincinnati being part of the Underground Railroad the history of Ohio being what it is and where it has had some challenging moments Cincinnati having a segregated history and still having a lot of racial tensions and I say that because it framed how my mother helped beer me


um or I should say my family helped remember my mother taking center stage on that and being a historian herself has always embedded in me what it means to be black and what it means to be from a city like Cincinnati and understanding The History of the United States and so I think that that rich history of Cincinnati is always deep in my blood I'm a Capricorn with a little bit of magic with unicorn sprinkled in there is what I am and who I am at my core as well um I would say that I am a educator at heart


I always uh revolted against my mother telling me that I was going to grow up to become a teacher and I'm like no no no I'm not going to do it why because that's what she was and that's what she wanted me to do so of course it has that young pubescent understanding boy I was always like nope I'm gonna revolt against the regime and become whoever I want to become and then what did I do I became an educator because I believe in the power of change and the power of learning and what does it mean to truly


engage and learn and so even when you were doing the introduction and hearing about the culture of where we are at and the complexity behind it to me that's that's life with opportunity yeah that an educator should be at the Forefront of that and I feel as though um that is a part of my being as well I am a big kid I am a black nerd is what I would like to call myself uh recognizing that I love most things anime animated not anime anime I'm still learning about there are two different communities


there um a lot of Animation I love a lot of children's stories I love a lot of growth that's a part of who I am it's what I embed in as you can probably see if you're looking at me at this time uh Marvel is something that I love and there's a complex history behind Marvel that I'll talk about maybe um really understanding what it represents and what it means um I am also someone who just loves life um I like to laugh I like to joke around even to the point where I'm probably distracting in most meetings that I sit


in in the workplace so sometimes I wonder how I still have a job at times but for me it's I I can't take things too seriously because I think everything that you take seriously can weigh on you and stress you to points where you will never be able to move and it'll paralyze you so I think all of those things make up who I am and I would say there's probably so much more but I want to make sure we have time to talk about a lot of other stuff and I'll pepper it in later I'm not a cook but I will sprinkle some


seasoning sprinkles of the season I love the Capricorn with magical unicorns foreign I have to tell you I asked that same question of everyone every guest you know who are you and everybody answers it differently but the fact that you just were able to here's who I am in a way that's just super crystal clear and very like it's like you thought about the answer a million times in a million different ways which is fantastic a lot of people are we think about our accomplishments or think we think about


what we are responsible for vis-a-vis other people we think about our roles we think about those things and you're like this is who I am in a way that I think really is powerful so thank you so much for that answer I think it set a beautiful tone well thank you I I would also add to I think with what you just said I don't think we're always given the opportunity or the support to think about Who We Are it's in relation to ourselves it's always in relation to other people and I think that that's still important right


I could think about in relation to other people I'm a brother I'm the youngest sibling which means I'm Perfection incarnate I am like a son right I am a uncle by marriage you know all of these things are relations to other people but even still then it doesn't mean you have to become who they want you to be but it's about becoming who you need to be as your core and what drives you and we don't I don't think we're given time to think about that because we're in an Ever moving changing fast-paced Society


that's always sending us messages and marketing dust telling us oh I'm supposed to be this or I have to do this or because I act this way or look this way or like this one thing I'm supposed to do these things and we can't necessarily mix it together because we're not always given the tools to do so and so I think I think it's sometimes hard to do that and and it's and it's sad at times because it's we miss out on opportunities to know and love ourselves absolutely absolutely and the other


thing is that's really interesting is to think about that you know you as an educator even the way you answered the question and model what it sounds like to answer that question gives some education for other people who are thinking you know it's interesting I actually don't know how I would answer that question and so now that I've heard the question and now that I've listened to Kyle answer it now it gives me some ideas about how I might actually spend some time reflecting on myself not only because it being my


relationships and to other people but me myself so the answer itself was educational in a lot of ways it was it was really beautiful speaking of beautiful X-Men I am so interested so I just watched your amazing Ted Talk let me get the name right mind body and mutants navigating socialization to find your authentic self fantastic title love love love that mutants are part of this and you talked about your your journey and the important role that the X-Men played in it I would love to you know have you share a little bit of that with us and I


also encourage everybody who's watching and listening to go to the Ted talk because it was fantastic but tell us a little bit about how X-Men played into your journey first of all thank you for the Kudos um it's funny like X-Men was something I knew nothing about until I was 12 years old um and I only learned about it because it would became a cartoon and it was on Saturday morning cartoons and that was my way of not having to do my morning chores on Saturdays so that was my distraction and so I had always liked


superhero things such as um the Power Rangers or watching the Transformers or GI Joe because those were things that were on the TV and Batman had a cartoon out I believe at the time as well uh or He-Man or Shira all of those things were things that I watched it was fantasy it was sci-fi it was something about um having the power to make change or do things or serve others and I think a lot of the stories allowed me to just really think broadly about what was out there and have an imagination and I was always thinking and playing with


different action figures and so when the X-Men came out I was like oh this looks interesting let me see what this is about in the first episode was just so crucial and cool for me because there were these powers that people had that allowed them to do these special things because up until that time I mean you know there was Voltron and they had these big cats and there was Transformers and they actually weren't even human and there was He-Man and he had his magical sword and while I pretended being He-Man all the time at


the same time it was still like okay there's a magical sword but these people carried around these powers that they you didn't even know that they had and so watching that I was like intrigued and I was becoming and thinking oh I'm going to be stormed because she can fly and control the weather and make it rain and have lightning and all these powers and I was like this is awesome and then when I learned that there were comic books that these cartoons were based on that's where all my allowance started to


go to because I know I needed to understand and learn so much more about these characters and the stories were just so rich and fulfilling and again I and if you watch the Ted Talk which I also encourage you to go see um you'll know that I allude to the fact that they're not perfect that there's a lot of Oppression in uh systemic things that are about it that are not necessarily all-inclusive or Equitable um I could tell that you know the way people are drawn are ideal body shapes and sizes with muscles and looks that


most of us will never ever achieve as human as humans but looking beyond that for me it was the story under that it was the story that powers manifested at an age usually around puberty where you start to grow into these things and you change and then people started treating you differently because of this and even if they didn't know you had powers they would talk about creating mutants because they're not human and that they're different than us because there's this fear that people with powers are going to treat us or mistreat


Us in ways as humans differently and so as I started digging more and more and becoming more aware of my own identities and more aware of what was happening in society as I continued to grow up and having conversations with my mom who would talk about this is what's happening or this is why people are saying these things I started to draw those parallels between like wow this is really some real life stuff in these comic books and in these cartoons that are telling us embedded in these fantastic sci-fi stories is the reality


that we judge a book by its cover or we are we make assumptions about people because of a difference that they hold other than ours and even within the comic books as I got older there was language in there that was specifically like why do you hate me for something that I was born with that I had no control over and all I'm trying to do is live my life you know if you prick me do I not bleed right all of these poetic sentiments that we are seeing paralleled whether it's race or gender or sexual orientation or gender identity and


expression nowadays or you know even looking at class or ability status and even age all of these things were being paralleled in these stories from a mutants perspective all while they're trying to save the universe and there's days when I question I'm like why are y'all trying to save a planet that don't like you yeah right and I need and I see that paralleled in conversations I have with co-workers and colleagues and other people is why do I work so hard to educate about equity and inclusion and


law put in place back in the:


you know you're there's there's of course people understand how you know we start socialization process very early in our lives we all get all these messages about who we are and who we're not and judgments you know through those messages about what it's good to be and what it's not good to be vis-a-b who we are and what we're not um and but the other thing that happens is over time and you know this as a person who you know is in higher education that socialization keeps going for a long time right to be the The


Becoming aware of who we are um is something that is an onion that we're constantly either peeling or layering onto for many many years how did you navigate that Journey I'm going to ask you some specific questions about some of the messages that you received but also like how did you start ingesting that and making sense of what you were just describing related to the X-Men and like all of this the parallels for you as a 12 year old who's still just like wanting to be a kid yeah I think it's powerful to think about so the cycle of


socialization Bobby Haro out there giving us so much knowledge excuse me is that when I think about how pervasive it is because even at 11 and 12 when I started to come into my own of recognizing that the people I was paying attention to that I found myself attracted to that I was crushing on were different than the people that everyone who who looked like me or who identified as a young boy were talking about I even knew in that moment that I wasn't supposed to say something yeah and I cannot even remember a message being


told to me explicitly like you're not supposed to like that that's how pervasive socialization is because we're getting these indirect and direct messages so I think growing up I mean there were things that I noticed things that I saw you know I had my mom and my dad I had my aunts and my uncles I had cousins who had boyfriends or girlfriends based upon how they expressed themselves with their gender identity and I think even observing all of that sent me messages of what I was supposed to be talking about and so as I


navigated things I was happy go lucky boy I did things I wore very loud colored clothing which today you look at like oh you know eight epitome of the 80s I was wearing those Jam outfits oh my gosh I know exactly the color of my turtleneck oh my God the color of my what are those zebra colored pants that can match the white socks the tube socks colors on the tomb socks had to match a color that I was wearing what sensibilities are offended right now I was I was a run-on sentence there was never an exclamation


point or a period I just my colors just kept going right and so and I got messages that oh why are you wearing that or you shouldn't be wearing that but it was still my style but I also equate my socialization and upbringing on how to navigate things from my mom bless her heart sat me down at the dinner table in second grade and said you're black and I looked at her like oh okay I don't know what that means right and so she had to explain to me what black men in the context of the United States and it all stemmed from my


brother being called the n-word on the playground at this private Catholic school that we both went to he was three grades ahead of me happened to him I think he was in fifth grade at the time and he had this happen to him and I didn't understand why he was upset because we weren't on the playground at the same time it wasn't you know it wasn't these types of things but at home at dinner after dinner it was pile you're black and this is what it means people are gonna look at you and certain


things about you they're gonna assume things about you and you're gonna have to work twice as hard as your white peers in school to prove that you belong there and that you deserve to be given the respect of your of who you are as a person and that has stuck with me yeah one of my favorite numbers I have to work twice as hard I'm also the second child as I said earlier if you didn't catch that youngest sibling all of these things continue to cycle around me and I think helped guide my socialization of being like okay I'm not


supposed to say these things I don't know if this is going to happen I don't think this is right and that's how pervasive it is it tells you what rules you're supposed to follow and how you're supposed to act and what you're supposed to say and when you're supposed to say it and it's also layered with the identity that I held in my privilege of being a man of being a young boy of being able to ask certain questions certain ways or play a certain way or go out and do certain things and so there's


a lot of complexities of like well if I can do this why can't I do this yeah and so there's a lot of questioning and there's a lot of understanding and meaning making that I think I had that went into my growing up asking questions reading a lot of books and really talking about it and then again my mother being a teacher making me do extra homework I came home without my books now we're going back to just go and get your book bag you bring school work home and if you don't have it I'm


going to assign you homework and I think those were ways that I navigated this concept of like I'm not going to be enough to I am enough and let me show you how and why and I think that was part of my socialization that was different that y component I gotta tell you what people are going to think about you but let me tell you why that is and give you some context so you understand the importance of you do not have to just be at that level you can travel to other levels and continue to progress and let me tell you why that might


so there there's a million things that I want to unpack about what you just said one of them is um that the way that you describe some of the messages that your mother shared with you I've done that with my son my parents did that with me and by the way all black folks I know in the entire United States of America have had this conversation I can't I have never had an experience where I met someone else who also identifies as black who hasn't had some version of this or many versions of it over time


and I try to explain it to people and they're like really why and it's very it's very interesting to think about the the different kinds of conversations that happen in Black homes and I think there's a lot of different ways in which this happens in different kinds of communities um and also um what that what that does what one what it means is that we talk about race early and often and what we're more kind of comfortable and sometimes even competent talking about race and even racism because we practiced it doesn't


mean that we like it doesn't mean that we're perpetuating it but we mean we've been practicing it in our day-to-day lives for a long time where if that hasn't been the conversation and then for the first time you're in a workplace setting in this conversation about race is happening it's it's much more uncomfortable we don't have the tools we haven't said it these are the things that aren't supposed to be spoken out loud right those sorts of things this isn't appropriate conversation in a


workplace Etc and so now all of a sudden we're in that space But the other thing that you described as this concept of socialization where somebody is feeding you out of love right this is how culture works and socialization right this is how culture works your mother in this case or me as a mother I'll use myself out of love I'm saying to my son I'll personalize this just to you know take the pressure off because I don't know exactly how you and your mother manage this dynamic out of love I want to tell you this what


I also though am pouring into my son is fear right I'm also saying I'm telling you this out of love but really really my overriding desire is to protect you to keep you out of harm to keep you kind of safe from the evils of the world and so also one of the things that happens with socialization as we're describing it is that we are pouring fear into other people and sometimes even other sorts of things that might end up being kind of ingested as or expressed as shame or as a need to feel less than


um and it's not that it's coming from a negative place it's often coming from the most pure Kind of Love Like A Mother's Love but it means that we're absorbing it and then we're trying to figure out how to navigate it and so when I talk about like your journey and your socialization and you talked about kind of separating out the messages that were poured into you and then the work that you have done over time to kind of separate out I can transcend those messages and I can be I can have a


bigger kind of understanding of myself then then those messages is that's the journey that I'm really really interested in because that's really hard to separate out the messages that were given to us from the most honorable places from from the kind of parts of ourselves that are like I want to break past that sense of fear and into a place where I can truly like live in my own light which is a really hard process for a lot of people at least when I talk to people and definitely it's freeze for me


well I think the complexity behind what story you just shared which resonates completely is is fear and confusion and ignorance you know are at the core of why the cycle moves right and that it stays perpetuating because we don't want to challenge it because we know if we challenge it we're gonna then meet hardships and tension but it's it's the fear that drives us to make the decision to share those messages out of love so we're having fear and love Yeah walk hand in hand yeah because I'm scared that if I don't


share this with you you're not going to understand the knowledge but I also know that it can turn into that pouring of fear because that's how it might be received and if you think about the development of our children and our young folks if you were sharing like how are they taking it in and how are they making sense of it and even as an older individual we when it's being brought to our attention there's a fear there that they're receiving out of like did I miss something oh wait a minute


why don't I know this already oh my world is actually as messed up as people keep telling me and now I have someone who I trust through who I'm engaging with that's telling me this and have they thought about so now we have all of this happen yeah but it's because we love someone that we actually take the time to actually engage in that and so it's it is it's hard to narrate navigate for sure this is this this this conversation that we're having right now is the reason why I'm in love with the topic of culture


because to me this is what culture does right it's so complicated it's it's about who are we what are our values right the who what do we care about deeply held values and then how do we show those in ways that allows us to create that sense of community and belonging and family and usness that can be so beautiful but along with that are all these other things right that also exist inside of culture that are super complicated right and that are super either isolating or fear-based or perpetuating negativity or toxicity in


the complexity is so compelling to me that I've spent my entire career kind of in the service of understanding culture and it's a reason why culture Road exists because I feel like it's a fascinating place to spend time thinking about and also we're all in it no matter what and no matter what we're all not just in it and drinking it we're also teaching it right we're also teaching it and perpetuating it and so every single one of us has part of a role to play in this journey whether it's our own


personal work or how it is that we show up with and for other people yeah it's pretty powerful let me just ask you one other question that comes to mind as you think about you know your own Journey over time and kind of looking back on some of the messages and experiences that you just described when you talk to when you said you're a nephew when you talk to kind of younger generation of people in your family or in the world you're you know you work with young people and different people all the time what are some of the ways


in which you send messages Maybe because of what you learned or differently than how it is that you were socialized what is it that you bring now as far as your sensibilities when it's time to talk to young people for example in ways that give them maybe different ways of thinking about their socialization opportunities yeah I I mean I think when I'm talking to any young person I go in under the assumption that they know what I know and more like I don't want to assume that I hold all the knowledge I assume


that I'm going to bring a different way for them to look at it so it's that turning of that prism and looking at it from a different angle um so when I bring in the realities or I ask them about their lived experiences it's to get them to see that they actually already hold a lot of the knowledge that they don't realize they hold and I bring names or concepts or Frameworks to them that help explain what they are experiencing when I think about student development theory from a student affairs


perspective and we think about our cognitive dissonance and the way we see things in black and white and how we try to understand there's a gray in their right it's not just right or wrong but that it's a it depends sometimes based upon the situation or when I think about how people are coming to understand their own identities based upon their lived experiences when I get to talk to students at College who are on their own for their first time and they're able to actually articulate that they have a different


gender identity or expression or that they're able to articulate their sexual orientation or they're able to challenge the notion of what they understand their racial identity to be and not be the identity that people always assume that they have that when you walk into a black African-American culture center and you identify as black because that is visually what people also see you as your lived experience does not have to be the same as the others and it's okay yeah and then I flip it and say and what


are you doing to allow that person to explore their identity the way that they are and understand who they are and how do we do that in a way that allows us to hold each other's experiences and be able to welcome each other in and teach each other right I know for myself I I've learned code switching you know the ability to speak into a way based upon profession and experience I've learned how to code switch into a predominantly white identity um a white identified space but I've also had to


learn how to code switch into a predominantly black identified space because I did not grow up in a predominantly black environment my most predominantly black environments was either family reunions or church on Sundays outside of that in school I went to mainly predominantly white schools and even with the larger black population I was in classes that were predominantly white because of the way that students were typically tracked in our school district and so going to predominantly white colleges and graduate schools I learned


how to code switch in both ways and I'm still learning how to code switch in certain black environments because certain things that are that are um that I find enjoyable or exciting aren't necessarily the things that some of the black identified folks I engage with find enjoyable or exciting we have different likes because we are different people yeah I think my cousin and my brother they'll probably make fun of me for this but we get on text messages and they'll put videos or they'll say quotes


to things that are typically from r b or rap songs that I don't even know and so then they're like oh for you Kyle and then they'll put video in there or they'll explain what is actually being said or why it's and I'm like I got that thing and so I think that's the approach that I think is we need to be able to hold yeah and understand and that yeah it's so complex it is oh my goodness I'm so happy that you just talked about the things you talked about and it's it's


interesting because um when I think about even my own Journey the people some of the people who have been most instrumental in my life are not people who taught me they're people who coached me who listened to me who created space who asked me questions that often originated with a question that I asked and they just invited me to reflect on it well I don't know what do you think about that in a space that I hadn't ever had before you know I grew up in an era where and maybe in my household where I had


Parents you know my father was one of 18 children my mother was one of ten so they they didn't have a tremendous amount of parenting themselves and and with families that size and coming out of the kind of poverty that they both came out of it was just do what I say don't ask questions we're not learning to come Converse we're not learning to have kind of crucial kind of thinking it's not this is not an option go out there for my father's they can pick that cotton literally right it was literally


like this is how things worked to get kind of through life and so when it came time to parent me the skills that they brought to the table were don't talk do what you're supposed to do help raise your other kids right the other your siblings and so for me to have when I went to college people in my life for the very first time in my life and I'm not saying my parents weren't wonderful and aren't wonderful they are they but they taught me parenting the way that they knew how to parent at the time what


I had in addition to parenting when I first went to college were people who came from an educator point of view like what you're describing and who also understood that there's this really important identity development stage that all of us are going through at college and there's an opportunity to and help to help people think about themselves as they go through it without having to spoon feed them is the answer about themselves but allowing them to grow into their identities and have their own voice and


develop the kind of competence and competent competence and confidence that goes along with that process so I love the way you just unpack that and the reason it was so powerful to me is not just because it resonates with me personally and and literally transformed my life and set me on my career path but it also is one of the main questions that I have you know and that we have with with clients people saying you know this is really important in my workspace but at home how do I talk to my kids right everybody's like yeah yeah I'm a


CEO and I want to know how to do what it work with but I really want to know how to talk to my teenager I really want to know how to help my kid who is bringing really important and complicated subject matter to the dinner table and and I I don't want to betray them and I don't want to seem like I'm out of touch but I don't know what to say and I'm not sure how to show up as their parent so this kind of guidance that you just shared is pretty powerful what I like about what you just shared


and it's making me giggle is that I think it's maybe even two weeks ago working with some folks um particularly in some clients that we serve like they actually made that comparison the reverse so we brought in a technique and we talked about it and we talked about how to use it and then people started fitting into the chat and speaking into space but like I use that with my kids right you know so it's always in reverse that there are techniques that we use in parenting that we don't even know where


we might have gotten it from that actually work in the workplace as well because it's about asking questions and it's about building a container for people to be able to explore and make meaning yeah because we're looking at two individuals regardless of their age we're looking at two individuals about to engage in an environment that they have questions about yes and we don't always feel okay to ask those questions yeah and it's also about you know having a model like in those in that situation


it sounds like the model of parenting it's about creating space and having a container right as different from yeah yeah just but it's different from kind of just do what I say but to be able to like take so you know sometimes I I hear people say oh yeah yeah I do the same thing when I'm parenting you know in the workplace but to to make sure that the way that we're thinking about it philosophically is really about creating a container in a space where people have the ability to kind of learn


and grow and be held um and and also be kind of held accountable right to learn and have a mirror put up and say really is that how you wanted to show up in that space is that is that really the best you got but to do it in a way that allows for us to develop skills that are applicable in all of other on all the relationships in our lives right it doesn't have to be that these are non-transferable you don't have to learn management skills in a management skills environment and then parenting in a whole separate


environment these are transferable skills yeah pretty powerful yeah so I want to ask you um about semester at sea can I change the subject you recently did a time at Sea with colleagues and students this amazing semester C program I am dying to understand like what is it now first of all I'm slightly jealous it sounds amazing right it sounds amazing to actually be working and get to do this as a person who absolutely loves being in the water on the water but I also want to just unpack it a little bit what is it that made you say


yes I want to go and live on a boat with a bunch of people that I don't know all that much in relatively close quarters in a over a concentrated period of time where you can't just Escape right and you have to figure out how to coexist together in in a way that's probably quite different and much more limiting probably in some ways than your own real life on a day-to-day basis off of a boat tell us a little bit about why you made that choice and what some of the um lessons that you learned through that


experience so first of all let's be real if you are given the chance to sail for 108 days on a ship for free I'm gonna take it so that was first and foremost I had never been to half the places that they were going that was also intriguing to me I think the one trepidation I had is what you named very eloquently which is you're on a ship and you can look at it as being trapped for some time period with no other place to go I mean there is somewhere else but do you really want to like jump ship right we ain't trying


to create an international incident right and so and having been on a cruise ship before which is a much larger vessel than the one that we sailed on like I'd done two or three days on the water at a time so that wasn't the concern for me and recognizing as I look at the experience of what semester at Sea brings I mean we're taking 400 to 600 students around the world to two to three different continents that these different 11 different countries or so to be able to experience and and um I would say Don't eat first into a


different culture that they might not have either experienced before or ever been to and see it from different eyes and different lenses for me that's what was the exciting pool for it I am a Residence Life housing person at heart I love living on college campuses I lived on a college campus well I currently still live on a college campus um and so for me to be in those Close Quarters with people where there are different ways of thinking being different cultural aspects of understanding that's the exciting part


that's what I was excited for and looked forward to I knew I would have a room that I could go back to and decompress when I need to at the end of the day but to be able to be in a space where education ran rampant where we were living and learning together was what the exciting draw was I didn't even think twice really about like I'm about to get on a ship for four months what I was thinking about was okay the longest stretch I have to do is 10 days 10 days on C if I can stay busy I can make it work and so


I think it was a it's it it's pin ultimate um experience I would say of mixing my work with my pleasure with my ability to my values as an educator into one space to be able to see the world see the water see the ocean visit countries that I know that I never thought I would ever be able to get to and do it while I was challenging my colleagues and young minds and myself to see things differently I saw things that really once again pulled back another layer if we want to go back to the onion metaphor of my own


socialization of countries that I'd only seen through the lens of the United States media oh yeah yeah and I'm sitting here in these countries like yeah this isn't what I expected and I had to you know humble myself a little bit put my perfection on a shelf and realize that I actually had a misconception of what this culture and what this country actually was yeah and while there was still my observational and environmental awareness being done because I'm still a black man who identifies as gay


in a country that I've not grown up in in a culture that I've not grown up in that I'm not accustomed to I still wanted to be aware of my surroundings and make sure that I was being safe and I also knew a lot of that came from my own socialization around what this country was or who the people and the culture were of that success area of the world I love that I love that yeah when you were saying you know being in a different space black man identifies gay I'm like I can imagine I know a lot of


people in the United States without ever leaving the United States having the same conversation right now um and also that to me as a person again who you know really is in love with the idea of exploring culture but grew up it would not with the means to travel internationally I really invested heavily as an adult in traveling internationally because it's perspective is so important it's invaluable you can't read about it I mean you can but it's not the same as having like interactions with people who


show up and bring this beautiful generosity you know everywhere I've ever been um without exception I've had more extraordinary experiences than anything I can't even really think of negative experiences that I've had as travel when traveling people usually are incredibly kind and generous as I believe is kind of human nature I know that's not always the way we show up but to go around the world and see how this beautiful generosity and expression of self and culture and identity show up in


different ways in different places it you can't help but grow from it right you just you can't help but grow from it so as you look back on that experience for for yourself but also for the students what do you think are some of the benefits that they'll take with them like as you you know if you were talking to the next you know next set of students parents for example about the benefits of an experience like this what are some of those lifelong benefits I think one that I centered in on while I was doing my experience


is the ability to identify elements of your authentic self um you are like I said want to ship with about five to six hundred other people and there are um opportunities to through either your roommate or people in your classes you're going to get to know someone yeah you're going to get to know someone probably more than you really want to get to know them because you all have these stretches of time where you're in at Sea in class walking a ship you have nowhere else to go and so you truly learn what it is that drives you what it


is your passion might be what it is that perturbs you a pet peeve of yours and you have to now navigate that relationship and navigate that interaction in a way where you can't just walk away and say I just won't see them for the next couple days because you're gonna see them the next couple of days yeah and I think that's part of dismantling some of what we come to these experiences thinking and realizing right we see it all the time from what I've been told and what I did experience is that people come in thinking these


are going to be their groups of friends and then six weeks in they're starting to question the things that they were finding friendships are one were very surface level it wasn't about who they actually were or what they actually value or their integrity or their ethics it was more around oh well we're from same schools or same area or we liked the same thing but they didn't dig deep below that level of water to really look at the bottom of the iceberg if you will right really think about who that person


is and what culture they hold and so seeing folks from around the world because there was non-us passport holders and U.S passport holders as students coming together to truly engage in conversations that they might not have had had the opportunity to have on a land campus or somewhere wherever they were at because of the culture that they might have come from was a great opportunity to see people flourish and grow I spoke with students who were like this is the first time I've been able to articulate my sexual identity on this Voyage because


back home in my home country you're not allowed to talk about it and I can't talk about it for fear of whatever fill in the blank and so watching them truly be able to live their best life and navigate what that means and how they show up you can't replicate that yeah and to know that you're a part of someone else's journey and story that way is can't be replaced either it's a double Journey isn't it it's a journey within a journey it's it's fantastic it's interesting to to think about the


um you know the way that you described people being able to find their authentic self that's the way it is in so many parts of our lives where um people you know we say we care we we we are allies we want to show up in community with but our day-to-day lives are very uh are very segmented they're very they're very separate from people who are outside of our own Affinity groups when it comes to finances or or race or ZIP code or food preference whatever it is we we absolutely segregate self-segregate you know the


the religious institutions that we frequent whatever it is our kids school if we have children whatever it is we self-segregate and so to kind of force kind of this um Community or this opportunity Force Us in we kind of are in the same space together and we have to develop up relationships because we're in proximity and it gives us a space to be able to do that is pretty powerful and even if we go back to our lives and even if our lives are continuing to be somewhat segregated for the practicalities that I just named we


still now have a deeper space that we know we can go to and also we potentially are more actively and proactively looking for ways to get outside of those very specific Affinity groups that we might naturally fall into otherwise I know so many people who say I I care and I see myself as an ally but no I don't know anyone who is X or Y none of I don't know I don't have dinner with or I don't have friends who or there's none of people like this or like that who come to any of my parties how


do we get to a place where we can kind of normalize having relationships with people who might sit in different spaces than us regarding a whole lot of different aspects of our lives and identities in ways that allow us to understand each other maybe dig a little deeper and maybe understand ourselves a little bit more or because of that experience and those experiences I often describe and you know this because of our work is I think that this is the absolute formula for reducing bias right getting close you know


getting proximus like forcing ourselves sometimes or being forced and I don't mean forced in a negative way I mean for us like me taking extra effort like it actually takes effort to sometimes get out of the comfortable spaces that we get into and to say I am going to proactively and intentionally cross the line or go outside of my normal daily routine or make a phone call or invite a conversation in order to learn something in order to have a mutually beneficial experience with another person or a cross-group identities that allows for


us to start breaking down those biases and breaking down some of the Notions that we have about otherness that we otherwise might not have access to so it's pretty amazing to hear that you better preach that was in my soul right there right because like you were I'm like that's you know I think I deserve a fan I think I deserve a fan I deserve to know what to say is that I deserve I think I deserve I was just waiting there was so you you're the one who said it I was just like channeling your energy and being in


this space with you look that's fine we can feed that Soul too I'm here for it actually I mean like because you're talking about there were so many things right so you talk about the self-segregation that we do which is antithetical to what you just talked about the interactions is what mitigates the bias yeah and what I was thinking about is that my mind goes to this place of we self-inflate as well ah so while we self-segregate we self-inflate in a way of this is what I'm supposed to be this is what I'm


supposed to say this is what I'm supposed to do because this is what everyone around me is doing as a way not to feel isolated yes because we're socialized that anything different is ostracized or dehumanized goes back to the X-Men piece right so how do we get in to fit in so we self-inflate ourselves in a way which even the experience that or the example you shared around like I'm an ally I do these things and but I don't know anyone and no one comes to my parties right because you need to deflate right some


of the air from your balloon a little bit and think about you actually probably do know people because you don't know who you know and now you need to put a magnifying glass up internally to figure out why they have not shared with you yeah who they are yeah because you might say some things but you ain't doing the thing yeah so let's talk about got that intent and impact your intention is to be welcoming and hug people but your impact is throwing is throwing Thorns all over the place so people aren't going to want to hug you


and it's not because you're a bad person at the core it's because you maybe haven't figured out how to conflate the ways in which you're supposed to be and who you actually are and why you're choosing to be the way that you want to if you truly care and want to create a space for human dignity is honored and respect and respected and valued then let's do the work do the work because the words aren't going to get you there because at some point you might lose the words but your actions


can never be lost okay now I know why the little ladies at church when you were 12 years old said Kyle you gonna be a preacher oh my God we here for it now you just started the doors in the church are open Deanna come on I'm telling you and you know that the essence of what you just said if I was going to boil it down to one word it's humble ain't nothing wrong with being humble I mean I don't know the definition of that word but I get what you're saying I see it for others and then wrong with a little humility


and it's it's so beautiful to think about sometimes the the best path of actually showing up in the way that we want to be experienced is to just get a little bit smaller and I don't mean make our I'm not saying take away your light I'm not saying diminish I'm just saying sometimes just to create space for others you gotta like take a little bit of yourself out of it like just a little bit room right here would allow for a little bit more space and and it could be a beautiful synergistic


exchange but but sometimes that self-work isn't present and I agree with you that people think I'm doing it I'm I'm I'm including I'm inviting and and they don't understand why there's not reception on the other end and you know the and maybe that this the way you just described it is the real Essence as far as really understanding inclusion inclusion actual inclusion requires doing the work and I don't mean doing the work at you for you I mean doing my work that's where inclusion starts right


yeah I got two fans in one day a lot of that is actually I'm super super happy about that okay let me ask you one one more question about confidence so confidence to me is um so it's such a complicated word in so many ways but it's also really important for me to bring up with you because one I think you a exude confidence and B you instill confidence in other people right you you work with people on your campus you work as an educator you work with clients as part of the Deanna Jones and Associates team you are an amazing


consultant and facilitator you hold space you help people learn you help people process and apply so you help build up their confidence and you also exude confidence in ways that are really genuine and and allow for people to feel like there's an approachability the factor that's there but confidence is also when people come to me one of the things that's most often the thing that they're grappling with their people say I have I feel a tremendous sense of imposter syndrome I feel like I'm afraid


of being called out um because if I say something wrong or if I'm if I'm not um the gap between attention and impact is something that I understand but I don't guarantee I can't guarantee that I'm always going to have the intended impact how is it that that you yourself have kind of navigated through this topic of confidence and how is it that you kind of advise you know people that you know when you're working with folks who are trying to figure out this topic of confidence for themselves


how do you advise us to kind of deal with our own sense of self-confidence first of all thank you for saying all that I'm just trying to hold some of the feelings back um I it's hard because I know that there are things that I am confident about and there are things that I'm not and there are things that I'm still working through for myself that I have to remind myself like you can do this and say these things but why can't you do this and it's because they're all different right and they all show up


differently based upon the spaces that we're in the communities that we're a part of the identities that we hold and for for me it's about reinforcing the idea that you have a story to tell yeah you are an expert in your lived experience whether you continue need to research and learn more you know yourself the best and so when you maybe take that time to start looking internally to do that self-work what is it that you value what is it that you hold dear and what is it that drives you to me is the foundation of


building that confidence because if you can do that people will see it and people will then reinforce in you that which you hold dear that you are doing what you need to be doing that you are moving in that right way and we're all socialized to take um positive positive feedback and you know Kudos we're all socialized to take it differently right some of us are like yeah I love it now there's a like don't make it pray don't make public praise and there's things that are wrapped up in there as well but I think when I talk


with people and I I do genuine curiosity tell me why you thought that was great tell me why this is what's going on what's Happening for you in this moment because a lot of times we just want to be heard yeah right we want to be acknowledged or validated and that to me is where our confidence can be built too because when we enter into conversations that are hard or spaces that are difficult because we're not sure where to go and we've done something and we've tried it and we don't get feedback in that


space that tells us this was great this was wonderful or thank you for bringing this opportunity for it we start to internalize and question that imposter syndrome piece maybe I didn't do it right because this is what I I thought it went well but no one told me that it went well yeah exactly thank you for bringing this to the Forefront and so I think confidence comes from supporting others because in what they do and also supporting yourself in those places but I also think it's it's a decision at times right like I


feel like I I question things because I've gone through you know I've done some trainings and facilitations where I was like oh I think this is really good I can see the arc I can see where we're going and then at the end I was like I didn't really get feedback or I didn't see the non-verbals particularly if People's cameras are off one line I'm like are people in this with me right and so therefore I start to question and start to feel a little bit inside like okay maybe I'm not maybe this isn't


hitting the right way maybe this isn't going the way I think it is and then at the end someone might say thank you this was awesome or this really spoke to me yeah it did work right and so I think it's believing that the story you are telling in the time that you are giving in the energy that you are expending with someone believing that that is worth something yeah yeah it's believing in your self-worth I think is a part of it and ultimately maybe it's my Mutant power that I got and I've just used that I


don't know you have you definitely have an amazing mutant power that's meant to bring joy into the world and and all sorts of other things the the interesting thing that that that um that I love to focus on that you're talking about is the feedback loops and and some of those are external and some of those are internal but they have to exist and we we sometimes are so busy going forward or pursuing the next thing that we don't pause or we just miss the opportunity to give someone for example


a piece of feedback about this is what you did this is why it was amazing and helpful here's exactly what it did that was beneficial to to me to our group to our discussion to our ability to take things a bit deeper whatever it is please do more of it right but to actually know like what what it is that went that the behavior itself right the impact of the behavior and then whether or not I should do more of it less of it or change it in what ways in the future right that's to me like the recipe for


feedback and especially where somebody gets it right which we do a lot of the time it's also important if not disproportionately so to give people feedback about those things so that they can understand that thing that you did was not just something that made you feel good it was helpful and it didn't just make people feel good though it did that it also was concretely helpful because it allowed us to do X or Y or Z that helps people connect the dots between effort and outcome right which is incredibly satisfying and also then


it creates a motivation potentially for continuing to exert similar energy towards other things or that same thing going forward so it actually creates momentum in a direction that is designed desirable and then for ourselves to be able to have those same feedback loops that we have internally because most of the you know feedback that we're going to probably ingest is in in ourselves we are we talk to ourselves more than anybody else talks to us so for us to take the same pause and reflect and think about connecting those dots in


ways that allow us to have the same sort of positive effect on our Psyche on our motivation on our learning process right those feedback loops are incredibly perform and important so I really love that you talked about confidence and the you know the variety of different ways and just wanted to kind of spend time on that feedback loop because especially a lot of the people that we work with who are managers or it you know in community in in organizations or otherwise with other people we sometimes forget the


power of that feedback and it doesn't have to be big and it doesn't have to be huge praise and it doesn't always have to be massive public acknowledgment it doesn't have to happen once a year in an annual review process we can do these small things things on a regular basis in ways that help people build and maintain confidence and then over time kind of motivation and competence as well it's pretty powerful and what I love about the feedback loop that you just explained too is that even if we're not


verbally giving feedback sometimes we're non-verbally giving that feedback inadvertently in ways that we didn't think but what I but I also think the feedback loop is important in confidence because it will also let us know if we've moved from confidence to condescending uh right because sometimes confidence can come across in a way that is overtly confident to a point where it's condescending and I think that means the humbleness that we were talking about was removed from confidence because I


think there's still humility and humbleness within confidence and how we can maybe approach it differently as well it's recognizing that we have a way to do things and we can still open the door for other ways of meaning making and other people to invite more feedback or more information or other Innovative creative ideas to help shape it differently and you can be confident in not knowing something yeah yeah no tied with certain identities comes with a cost because research talks about that women and people of color


with accents that are non-european accents specifically from many communities of color I would say even talk about how credibility can be questioned if you don't know an answer when people think you're supposed to know an answer versus if you might be more of a privileged background being white identified male or from a European background with a European accent people will either just believe you right away or even if you say you don't know something they won't think less of you for not knowing it yeah which also plays


into our ability to be confident or our need to have to promote confidence that might not be genuine because we know we have to code switch or play a game in order to maintain our status as well because all of that is socialized we need to get into a liberatory Consciousness differently oh Kyle you need to give yourself a fan on that one I don't even have a fan I need to have a fan I am so like whoa that right there thank you thank you libertarian and number three I love how you would like and whatever you say people just assume is correct


because of your accent and your background and your identities even when it ain't which oftentimes is the case right oftentimes is the case it's so amazing but it's also so important for us to to hear this and I love love love that you talked about the kind of Continuum between confidence and humility and condescendence and that that they can they that humility can live inside of confidence and we have to we also have to be incredibly intentional in how we show up so that we're kind of always managing that that


that edge absolutely okay as we start winding down I'm going to ask you a tough question I'm just gonna I had a couple lined up but I'm just going to ask you one so I am a cons I'm coming to you as a consultant and it's something that you just talked about so you should probably have the answer all queued up already I'm sure you do it's about hybrid work environments right so I am the manager of a team I have been in my Organization for 10 years it's a significant size organization we have a a significant uh


uh employee base and we have been in a hybrid work environment like so many places and sometimes people are coming in and sometimes people aren't and what I want to do is really start investing in our organizational culture again and so I have been calling all team meetings right where you know dozens of people are invited to come and we all are in a shared space together and people are still opting to come in virtually and even in that virtual environment I can't regularly get people to turn their cameras on how is it that I create


nurture engage people in like building Community with each other in this hybrid work environment where virtual continues to be an option and cameras off is often also an option given the people will need different things what do I do well at first I think what's coming up for me is how do we understand the hybrid slash remote preference that people have right where are we engaging with those folks are we seeing Trends or patterns among who those folks are are they from a certain work unit are they from uh specific


um clientele or Project based type of work who are those people do I even know any of them do I have a relationship with them as a leader of the organization because if I'm really trying to build a culture you know I also have to recognize the power dynamics that I bring in as the leader people aren't going to necessarily always want to open up and talk to me but are there mid-manager folks who know who those people are and can understand get feedback from them as to why they're either not having their cameras on or


they're choosing to be remote rather than in person it could be responsibilities they could be a caregiver for an elder parent or a sibling with developmental disabilities they could be a parent and they can't find um child care because they don't have enough fiscal resources so there could be other things there rather than me just telling a story and making an assumption that they don't want to be a part of the team I think that's the first piece of soliciting the feedback the other side of that is


how do I Empower leadership and create space for other people to take Center Stage so if I have managers who might report to me as the CEO or as the person in charge how do I give them the opportunities to run all staff meetings or develop activities for the all staff meetings and what is the purpose of the all staff meeting are they abilities are they is it an ability or a time for me or the staff to share what's going on as the as leadership and say Here's what we're dealing with here's what's coming up are


people intrigued with that or is it just another business meeting and more people have to sit through it yeah right so can I designate the all staff meetings as team building activity building Innovation creation um sales techniques can it be a professional development opportunity are we doing things that are giving people an opportunity to cultivate their careers differently and we also know the flip side of that is people say well I don't really want to do any of this I'd rather just get my work done so how do


we maybe name that as a part of it how do we do one-on-ones or one on twos to learn what people are getting from those experiences or what people need from the workplace because a lot of times we get up to leadership roles and we think we might have all the answers or we think what we're doing is what's actually mattering at this moment we just came out of a pandemic now we're in an endemic because we know that it's going to continue to cycle through what got us to that point of 2020 is not going to


keep us after 2020 okay so we have to start asking different questions and soliciting different type of information and feedback from people that might feel uncomfortable or different and we also have to tell our story differently our actions have to look differently we have to ask for specific questions that are timely and purposeful and meaning making of the people we're asking it from and we have to sort of find ways to do so without centering our power dynamics in this space oof yes that's a like right at the


end and don't forget to don't and don't send to your power it's it's it's it's it you're you're describing the way that I was thinking about it was you were talking is like it's about design just just doing stuff and just saying hey we're having an all staff what does all staff invoke in your organization are people thinking that that just means like it has in the past if that is the case you get up there as the as you know as the designator kind of titular leader


and start and read off a Litany of accomplishments is that that oh okay I can sit on zoom and do that and by the way I don't need to be with camera on to listen to you give a Litany of accomplishments over the last 12 years that what is it exactly that we're aiming for how is it that we name and describe and Define the space that we want to be in how do we explain Our intention what we'd like to do is reconceptualize what this space is that we want to be in together and create more spaces for it and the the other


thing that is so powerful is you talked about enlisting a lot of other people right this is not just the named designated titular leader this is also managers and colleagues and other administrators how is it that we all get into shared and different kinds of spaces together in order to really start affecting the change we want but it starts off with if I am the leader in this situation starting on the other end rather than how do I get them to turn their cameras on or show up in person the real question is what is it that I am trying


to accomplish and why and then how is it that we who else needs to be involved and how do we design a process for getting there it's so so so helpful the way you just unpack that and allowed for it to be much more nuanced and I also think much more in the um kind of putting the onus back on the leader to figure out wait a second what is it the what is the work that I need to do in order to get to some of some different outcomes that are going to be beneficial for all of us oh I don't know I have to tell you if I


didn't already work with you on a day-to-day basis I would be so sad I am so so happy that I get to work with you I mean you are your gift in my life you're a gift in everybody's life you know this already I tell you this all the time I'm gonna say it on camera though our clients think that you are the bee's knees and you are you you you bring um in such intelligence and wisdom and you help kind of unpack and describe things in ways that don't intimidate and also allow for us to kind of take away


really amazing kind of nuggets of wisdom and practical ways of doing things but also you um kind of exemplify that that there's a whole lot of different ways in which we show up in the world right with you and all the X-Men in the background it's I I can still listen to what you're saying and and the powerful impact that it has on me um practically speaking and also enjoy the fact that I know you know that you sit sometimes and watch cartoon Tunes to be able to take all of that in and neither one of them takes away from the


other is such a beautiful space to be in so thank you so much for bringing uh yourself to this experience and sharing it with us and with me thank you for having me and being able to talk about this it's invigorating and energizing and I hope that it continues to spark for others because I think that's the piece right I can't hold this on my own it's not mine to never hold its mind to share and so how can we like maybe incubate that and others to make it more sustainable yeah absolutely we have to we have to be in


this together it's a beautiful Community opportunity okay last question last question asked everybody ask everybody if you were going to think about the the song that is your your song for today the song that is just really capturing kind of your energy your vibrancy like where you are right now what song is it um that's hard because I got three go-to's oh okay we'll take them we got time for that so one is a new one Beyonce uh break my soul you won't break my soul that's part of that confidence piece I


think for me so that one that song ever plays I'm gonna start dancing and students that I were with the other day they were like Ohio said this and they started playing the song and I had to start dancing because that's just what it is um lizzo's about damn time there's just something about the empowerment that that song brings to it and then the third one comes from my graduate school years but um what is this what is that a milkshake I'm just saying it has a message I was not expecting three of those songs


I will lose my mind you sure did say milkshake I knew something was coming I just I saw it coming I have it in my head I'm gonna have that in the middle head for the rest of the day oh I really have it in my head now okay Kyle I literally like the rest of my day I'm gonna be nothing but Milkshake the rest of the day cow thank you Kyle hold up we and we're gonna let me hold up let me let me just read the name of the so everybody can Google it right now get your Ted Talk mind body and mutants navigating


socialization to find your authentic self your amazing new Ted talk thank you so so so much for being with us today thank you for the joy you bring into the world and let's keep on keeping on absolutely thank you so much

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About the Podcast

Welcome to the CultureRoad Podcast, where cultural transformation takes center stage in every discussion. Join DeEtta Jones, a 30-year veteran in the industry and renowned transformational leadership expert, as she leads insightful conversations with experts on the cutting-edge issues of our time. From culture to inclusion, personal development, anti-oppression, and beyond, this podcast offers fresh perspectives on the hottest topics and current events shaping society and contemporary life. Listeners will gain valuable insights and engage in stimulating dialogue; to impact your reflections of self, relationships with others, and help you chart and commit to your purpose-filled path. Whether you want to expand your worldview or integrate steps toward cultural transformation into your everyday life, this podcast is essential for anyone on their journey.