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  • Kim Meninger

Breaking Down Gender Barriers in the Workplace

Updated: May 12, 2023

Breaking Down Gender Barriers in the Workplace

In this episode of the Impostor Syndrome Files, we talk about the power of bringing professionals of all genders together so that we can better understand and support each other. My guest, Jake Fishbein, and I share our journey of leading conversations about the gender experience in the workplace and discuss how surprised we were to learn that our experiences are far more similar than different. We also talk about the importance of psychological safety to these discussions and how we can all take ownership of creating a better workplace.

About My Guest:

Jacob “Coach Jake” Fishbein is an Executive & Personal Coach who specializes in helping people and teams make and navigate their most pressing choices. He’s passionate about helping men and women make proactive decisions and pushing their endeavors forward in purposeful and powerful ways. For him, coaching is all about learning – learning about yourself, your choices, your results, and how you can choose differently to create something new for you and the people and communities you impact.

Coach Jake received his professional coaching certification from the Institute for Professional Excellence in Coaching (iPEC), is a PCC accredited coach through the International Coaching Federation (ICF), and is an ACE Certified Coach (Accelerating Coach Excellence) after training with David Peterson (Former Director of Executive Coaching & Leadership at Google) and David Goldsmith (pioneer of the coaching industry).

Before becoming a full-time coach, Coach Jake was a publicist for Jonathan Marder + Company, the general manager for Footnote Records, and the co-founder and COO of Experience Vinyl. He graduated magna cum laude from Kenyon College with a B.A. in History, and two track & field school records.


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Kim Meninger Hey Jake, welcome back. I’m very excited that you are returning as a guest on this podcast. And obviously, you and I have had many conversations in between. And so looking forward to really thinking more deeply about some of the work that you and I have been doing together. And so just to refresh the memories of the people who are listening to the podcast, would you mind introducing yourself again, and just telling us a little bit more about you?

Jake Fishbein Absolutely. Well, first, it’s great to be back. Our first conversation on the podcast was phenomenal, and always great to connect with you and collaborate with you and excited to be back here, again, talking about some of the work that we’ve been doing. So for those of you who may have forgotten or new or haven’t listened to the original episode that I was on, my name is Jake Fishbein. I’m an executive and a personal coach based out of New York City. I help people and organizations make and navigate their most important choices. And I work predominantly with mid-level managers, small business owners, and I run men’s groups to help men connect more deeply with themselves, build more meaningful relationships, I always talk about our group called The Arena Men’s Group. So it’s really about being in the arena, in all aspects of life, and trusting yourself and being more vulnerable. A big part of the work that I do is about helping men lean into vulnerability, be more honest, ask for support. And it’s part of what brought Kim and I together.

Kim Meninger That’s exactly right. And I remember being so excited when Sophie, who was the one who told me about you and thinking, Oh, my gosh, I have to know this person. And I gotta be honest, I probably said this to you, too. But I’ll say it to everybody. I was so worried that I over-enthusiastically reached out to you. I’m like, oh, no, I’m gonna scare him away. But I was just so excited by what you’re doing. And I thought, we have to know each other, we have to have an opportunity to work together. Because just as you’ve described your men’s group, that’s very much in alignment with the group, with the work that I’ve been doing with women’s groups as well. And I think both you and I agreed, when we were talking about it, that it’s wonderful to have these safe and welcoming spaces that are gender-specific. But so much of what we do is not gender-specific. And so it’s really important that we’re talking to each other. And certainly there, at least in my experience, hasn’t been enough opportunity for that for, for us to have very intentional conversations about the gender experience in the workplace.

Jake Fishbein Absolutely. It’s something I’ve noticed, too, that there are a lot of women’s groups out there, a lot of men’s groups out there and not as much opportunity for intentional conversation between men and women or the genders. And you know, we always say this when we run our programs, that we talk in gendered terms. But that’s just for convenience sake. This really isn’t a binary conversation, it’s anyone’s experience, and you’ll hear us talk about men and women a lot. But that’s just because it’s easier to do that than to talk about the whole spectrum. But this really isn’t about men and women. It’s about everybody inside this conversation of identity and experience. So it, but just to go back to, to what you were saying. There’s something I’ve noticed, especially working with men’s groups, is so much of the work we do in in our group is encouraging men to share with each other, which doesn’t really happen. Men don’t always share vulnerably with each other. But in the background, I always think the real purpose is for these men to take what they’re learning in the group and bring it to their world, to their other relationships, to the other people in their life. And I think that’s where an opportunity to have a more intentional conversation, and bring men and women together in dialogue, matters so much, because I’ve gotten to lead train programs that are coed, but they’re not talking about gender. And they’re not talking about the, you know, how men and women are in relationship with one another. And you know, what gets in the way or what creates or doesn’t create psychological safety? And to have those conversations intentionally makes such a difference, versus just having them it’d be in the background. I think they’re always in the background, whether we’re talking about it or not.

Kim Meninger You’re absolutely right. And I’m really glad that you mentioned the, the no- binary nature of the conversation that we’re having and why we talk about it in terms of men and women. Because I think when we’re talking about men and women, we’re not talking about men and women, we’re talking about male and female stereotypes, which lock all of us into expectations that we don’t necessarily, or we’re not necessarily motivated to want to live up to. And we feel like we’re boxed in, in a way, to these expectations. And that because of unconscious bias, we’re often evaluating each other based on those stereotypes as well. And so I think what we’re fundamentally trying to do is to transcend those stereotypes so that every one of us, no matter how we identify gender-wise, can feel like we could bring our authentic selves to the workplace and do our best work.

Jake Fishbein Yeah, absolutely. What I hear inside of that, which I’m connecting with, and I don’t think we’ve talked about this specifically, but I think it’s in the background is to, to remove those stereotypes and our expectations of what it means to be a man or woman in the workplace, and really just engage with each other as humans, as individuals, that every single person in the workplace is an individual with their own stories and their own hang-ups and their own areas of expertise. And when we engage with someone with who they are, versus what our expectation of who they are, we engage with ourselves as who we are, versus how we think other people are expecting us to behave, we actually can do some really phenomenal work and deal with what’s present in the room versus what’s present in our heads.

Kim Meninger And one of the things I really love about our conversations is that it’s so easy for, for us to fall into those brain shortcuts and to just make assumptions about what other people are thinking, you know, across a variety of different identity dimensions. It’s just part of how our brains are wired to work. And so it really does need to become a conscious effort to move past that to recognize the individuality. And I think that that’s hard to do when we’re not connecting at this level. And so if there isn’t a space for us to have the deeper conversations that you and I have been having with these groups to say, this is what I want people to know about me, or this is how I feel safe, or how I feel unsafe, that we don’t really have access to what makes that person a real individual. And so breaking down those barriers, is, I think, an important part of giving us the freedom to engage in this way.

Jake Fishbein Hugely. And it makes me think about expectations, which you’ve mentioned a couple times. And I know with a lot of my clients, right now, both men and women, that expectations are always in the way, especially when they’re working with their manager. They don’t want to set boundaries, they don’t want to give their managers feedback, because of these cultural expectations, either, you know, societally in our culture or inside their businesses, or like, well, that’s not done. And meanwhile, it’s getting in the way of them being self-expressed, it’s getting in the way of them being better at their jobs, it’s getting in the way of their managers being better at their jobs because they’re working with the perceived expectations, versus the ones that are actually present. And that is what has been so wonderful about the conversations we’ve been leading, which is it gives an opportunity for someone to actually say, Hey, this is my experience in the workplace. This is what I want you to know about how I’m showing up or this is what makes me feel safe or unsafe in the workplace. And just pulling back the veil on what we’re expecting, or, or what we’re projecting into what’s actually present for each individual and a group of people. What are those common themes that a group can see in themselves?

Kim Meninger Yeah, and it’s, it’s interesting because I think about sort of the paradox of these expectations. Because on the one hand, as we’re talking about, they can lock us in to behaviors or assumptions that aren’t working for us. But they also provide a sense of familiarity and predictability that we crave, especially in, you know, very uncertain times. And so when we talk about those expectations, it’s really hard to be the person that does something different from the way things have been done before. And so, you know, I often say to people that the workplace is like middle school all over again, right? We’re all looking to each other for social cues on what’s acceptable behavior, and we’re all trying to be cool, and we’re all trying to not rock the boat. And so we do tell ourselves stories that well, that’s not possible in my workplace. We don’t have those conversations in my workplace. Maybe you don’t today, but that doesn’t mean it’s not possible. It just means it takes somebody with courage to be the first one to do it.

Jake Fishbein Yeah, and it means having a growth mindset around it. And I think about Carol Dweck’s work and how the definition of a fixed mindset is saying, Well, that can’t be done. This is the way that we are, we’re not going to change. And so much of leadership, so much of growth, is having that growth mindset of saying well, it’s not done yet. I have a friend and I always think about him when I think about this because he used to say you know I don’t speak French yet. I don’t speak Spanish yet. This was years ago before I even knew what growth mindset was. And I always think about that because it was so looking forward to who knows if he will one day, but left open the possibility and I think that is the opportunity inside of businesses that want to shift and become more effective and build more employee retention and engagement, which is what are the conversations you don’t believe you can have? And why not have them? Which leads me I know, we’ve been talking a lot about the conversation we’ve been having, what, what, what for our, our listeners, what are the conversations that we’ve been facilitating and leading because we’ve been kind of vague about it?

Kim Meninger You’re right. You’re absolutely right, we’ve been alluding to this mysterious conversation. And, you know, I kind of start at the beginning, because I think you and I both recognized that there was an opportunity for us to have these conversations together, as opposed to in these separate gender-specific groups. And so what we started with was this very public forum where it was this open invitation to anybody who wanted to better understand the experience of men and women in the workplace, and how we could understand each other and how we could better show up for one another. And we had such great success with that that we decided, okay, we’re going to bring this to organizations. And the way that we structured it, which I really appreciate, and know we’ve gotten some great feedback on is, we’ve rooted the first conversation in psychological safety, recognizing that it takes a lot of safety to have a conversation like this, especially for people who have never had this conversation and are very afraid of what the possibilities are, what the potential consequences of that might look like. And so what we were able to do was to really kind of bring psychological safety to a psychological safety conversation that allowed us to open up in all of these really powerful ways. And I think that the fact that we model that too, by sharing ourselves, what makes us feel safe, and what makes us feel unsafe in the workplace, really gave permission to the people who are in the room, so to speak, to be able to not just feel safe to share it, but connect with it in the first place. And, and I think that really, I mean, I think it was nothing short of magical, the responses that we got from people once we were able to create those conditions because it allowed people to say, oh, my gosh, I know what you’re talking about. And I’ve lived this. And so to be able to draw that distinction between this is what psychological safety is and this is what it is not. And from there, what does that tell me about what I need in my work environment in order to do my best work? And what does that tell me about my personal responsibility to create that environment for the people around me?

Jake Fishbein Yeah, it was such… I mean, every time we run that, that workshop has been such an amazing experience. Because I know for me being steeped in this work, I take a lot of these experiences for granted, which is I talk about psychological safety a lot. And I have the experience of, of having it and creating it and having beautiful conversations with people. And it’s easy for me to forget that the way that the experiences that I’m in aren’t always the experience that everybody else has. And that’s not a right or wrong or good or bad thing. It’s just, you know, I take it for granted that I do have deep conversations about psychological safety with just people in my life. And to create that experience, especially for contained group. We’ve done this for several organizations, for these people who work together to suddenly be talking about well, what makes me feel safe, what makes me feel unsafe, to have an opportunity to share that one-on-one. We like to put a man and a woman together in a room. So they both get to share. And then too we do a crowdsourcing activity, where everybody puts up what they’re noticing in the themes, and something that I always see is everyone walks away seeing, wow, we’re more alike than we think. And that our experiences, even the men in the, in the workplace, like, their experiences aren’t so different from the women. That safety, like the things that make men feel unsafe aren’t that different from the things that make women feel unsafe? I mean, there are differences, of course. But the, the overwhelming experience has been that we have so much more in common than we think. And we all benefit from feeling psychological safety. And it’s just felt phenomenal to see that. And to see some of the feedback we’ve gotten, especially from women saying how powerful it was to be heard by a man when sharing about what the, what makes them feel safe or unsafe, or the experience of seeing men share what makes them feel unsafe in the workplace, psychologically unsafe, really, just so powerful. And it gives me a lot of hope that we can actually shift the way that men and women relate at work and outside of work, which I think is at the core. I know from how I approach and think about why we’re having these conversations. So which is about shifting how we relate to one another, and relating outside of those gender stereotypes, and more with the human being in front of us to really see and understand them, to hear them, that person, versus through a veneer of expectation and stereotype. And, you know, even the I know, as a man, the uncertainty of how am I supposed to show up? You know, who am I supposed to be? How am I supposed to be both respectful and kind, but also, other ways as well? And I think having this conversation I know for myself has given me a lot of insight into, you know, what people need. We don’t know what, what, like, I don’t know what someone needs in order to feel safe until they say it. And that’s powerful, I think, to be in the workplace and actually say, This is what makes me feel safe.

Kim Meninger Exactly. And I think just to build on what you’re saying, that was definitely one of my greatest takeaways as we were going through all of these conversations was just how much more similar we are than we are different. And I think that is really eye-opening for a lot of people who haven’t had these conversations, like you said, and I know having talked with a lot of women, and I’m obviously generalizing here, but I think sometimes it’s easy to assume that men have this really easy experience at work that, you know, there’s no triggers, they’re, they’re, they’re in the power seat, and that we as women have all the challenges that we don’t understand, you know, men don’t understand how difficult it is to be a woman in the workplace. And I think it’s really eye-opening to recognize that so many of the same fears and so many of the same challenges that women experience, are experienced by men as well. And so, you know, we, we talked in our last conversation about allyship, and I know that allyship is often tied to power. And so it seems kind of funny sometimes to think about women showing up as allies for men. But I think it really does come back to this idea, like you said, about us all being individuals. And while you know, I may identify as a woman, in one sense, I’m going to identify as a lot of other different things just as men do. And I think if we really understand that humans need to feel safe, that humans need to feel supported, that we can show up for each other no matter who we are, and that that’s going to create a much more inclusive environment for everyone. Because one thing you and I have talked about, too, is that sometimes I think the unintended consequence of some of the diversity and inclusion work that’s being done today is making men feel left out of the conversation, white men in particular, and they don’t necessarily feel welcome, or, or that there’s a, there is a space, a natural space for them to have some of these deeper conversations that we’re having, rightfully so, in all of these subgroups. But where do they fit in? And so I think that’s really what we were trying to think about in this conversation, too, is, we all need this, this is not, this is a human thing. This is not a gender thing.

Jake Fishbein Absolutely, I think that is such an important point and is, you know, across our society these days, something that we need to keep in mind that inclusivity and belonging is everybody. It’s the whole spectrum. It’s not just people who have been excluded. Because in a way, everyone has been excluded in some fashion on an individual level. And obviously, white men have been more included for, for a long time. And yet, I always think that doesn’t invalidate their experiences. It actually makes them an important part of the changing dynamic, which is, and I know I said this, I think on our last conversation, that I often like to think of it as a stage, you know, we’re all more powerful if we share the stage together. It’s not about putting, it’s not about okay, white men had been on the stage for however long they are, now it’s time for them to sit in the audience. Like no, it’s time for all of us to be on the stage together. Everyone who’s been excluded, everyone who’s been included that we get to move forward together, versus excluding anybody, for whatever reason, that we’re more powerful when we’re all aligned. There’s a great reframe of inclusivity and belonging, which I can’t remember the name of the company that talks about this but they talk about it. And they say it’s called Superpowers and Symphony, which I really appreciate because they said, by definition, we talk about inclusivity and belonging, we’re actually making it a separate conversation, because inclusivity by virtue is talking about things having not been inclusive. And the whole idea of this relating to it as superpowers and symphony is that every single person has a superpower. And every single person has uniqueness to bring to a situation, regardless of their background or their gender, or their socio-economic status or their experience that everyone has, had brings a superpower to the table. And that the symphony is about using all of those superpowers to create something meaningful, something impactful. And I really enjoy that perspective. Because it gives value to every single unique individual in that you’re bringing some superpower to the table, how do we create a symphony? How do we create music with all of our superpowers versus, you know, counting? It’s not quite counting, counting people, but like, well, we have x number of people who fit these demographics. You know, we need to be inclusive and make sure it’s all representative. And yes, 100%? And can we relate to it? Like we’re all sharing the stage. And it’s, you know, I think it’s one of those things where we’re swinging on this pendulum back and forth, it was so exclusive for so long. And now we’re swinging in the other direction in a very powerful way, which we need to do. And it’s how do we find this middle ground where all voices are listened to? And given the opportunity to be heard and spoken?

Kim Meninger You’re absolutely right. And I think it’s such an important point to emphasize because we aren’t saying that any one group should move out of the way. But how do we create space for all of us? And I think that message while it’s being shared is, it’s probably not being shared as actively or as loudly as it should. And I think, not to get into politics. But I think it’s contributing to a lot of the political unrest in our country right now. Because I think that the way we’ve been approaching this conversation for so long is, you know, you’ve been, you white men have been excluding the rest of us. And now it’s our time. And I think that just naturally creates this us versus them mentality. And when we don’t give space for vulnerability all around, it’s very easy, again, for those of us who are in different groups to make assumptions about other groups, and to also not feel like we’re in this shared journey. And I think one of the things that has been really powerful about the conversations that you and I have been having is that it puts everyone in the same shared experience. And like you said, we’ve all been excluded individually, for any number of reasons. Maybe I was bullied as a child, maybe I felt left out, you know, of a particular peer group, or maybe I come from a different socio-economic background so I’m always feeling insecure about my place in this environment. There’s any number of ways in which we all feel different. And so to paint with a broad brush really does take away all of the uniqueness, and all of the ways in which, if we did understand that about each other, we could collectively come together and say, Okay, there’s a better way to do this for everybody, everybody, right? can benefit from this.

Jake Fishbein which is, I think, why we decided to start this conversation with psychological safety, which is, we can’t get to that point until people feel safe, that we can’t get to the point where I mean, I’ve always said, you know, the vision I have for our work is to get to the point where men and women in the, in the business world can have the conversations that aren’t being had, can have the conversations about harassment in the workplace, can have the conversations about, you know, pay equality and, and women being paid at the same level as men, and to have those conversations without them turning into bloodbaths. But actually, where everybody’s listening and hearing each other, and really hearing the concerns of everybody at the table, versus being committed to being right about their perspective. And as I really do believe we all want the same thing. In the end, we’re all on the same team. And that is this lack of psychological safety, that contributes to the, you know, the, the us versus them mentality, that I always say in our, in our workshops, psychological safety doesn’t mean not having hard conversations, it doesn’t mean not being uncomfortable. It means feeling safe enough and trusting the other person or people enough to be uncomfortable. And I think that’s part of what we’re missing is that trust that, okay, we can be uncomfortable together, we can disagree, we can be in conflict. And we can trust each other enough to actually stay in that space and trust that we’re actually going to come out on the other side, having created something new and more powerful, because of our differing perspectives or different experiences. And until we’re willing to do that, like it’s really hard to build safety in the workplace, really hard to move past those expectations of the stereotypes, because we’re dealing with our commitment to our own perspective, versus the openness to learn and really hear what someone else is saying that may actually be upsetting to us. But by creating that psychological safety I think we can create an opportunity to hear something upsetting, and be with it, and see where we have mutual purpose together to resolve it and move forward versus alienate it and make it wrong, and just not want to actually put, put ourselves, put myself in a position to hear it in the first place.

Kim Meninger Absolutely. And I’m glad you said that, because I was actually going to ask you to say what you always say in these workshops too which it really This, to me, is a reminder that psychological safety doesn’t just come from other people, it comes from ourselves and the responsibility that we each have, personally, to ensure that we’re showing up in a way that creates psychological safety for other people. And one of the things that you always say is that, you know, I don’t want to you can, you can say it better than I can, but essentially, you know, I don’t want to listen because I want to be right. And I think that’s such an important part of this conversation is huge.

Jake Fishbein It’s, again, not to get political, because that is actually not political. It’s, um, you know, I think we live in a society and I will speak for myself, because I think that’s easier to do. There are plenty times I am committed to being right about my perspective. I will use baseball because it’s not political. Like I’m committed to being right. I’m a big Red Sox fan, even though I’m in New York City. And I’m committed being right that the general manager or president of baseball operations for the Red Sox, like he’s done a terrible job. Like, I don’t know what he’s thinking. And I’m, I’m committed to that perspective. And if I were in a room with him, I’d probably be holding on and looking for all the evidence that, you know, he’s dumb, or just is like, you know, trying to cut costs and isn’t going all in. And the fact is, if I’m committed to being right about that, I’m not going to hear anything that he says. And I don’t know that I’m right. It’s the experience I’ve had as a fan. But it doesn’t mean that I know what’s going on behind the closed doors, it doesn’t mean that I know why they’re making the choices they’re making. There are reasons for that, that I don’t know. And if I’m committed to being right about it, there can never be safety and a conversation I could have with this person. Because I wouldn’t ever be open to being wrong. And I think to create psychological safety, from, from each of us, it requires our willingness to be wrong. And a willingness to listen to listen, not listen to prove that someone else is incorrect. And I don’t see a willingness in so much of our society to be wrong. And I think even in the workplace, you know, a lot of people I work with, I use a silly example. But a lot of times people will be like, I work with a lot of senior managers. And they’ll talk about I went back and forth with this person on Slack for an hour to resolve something. And I always say, you know, what else could you have done? And they, you know, what, don’t ever bring up the one I think is obvious. I say, well, could you have called this person? And they say, Oh, we don’t do that. And it’s like, it’s there’s so committed to we, we don’t call people, there’s like a phone call, we’ll, we’ll save you an hour of work. But there’s no commitment, I don’t think there’s psychological safety in the workplace for them to feel safe calling someone. And for the most part, these are all men who I’m talking to. These are men who are unwilling to pick up the phone and call somebody for a variety of reasons. And I find it fascinating. And I think it’s just commitment to like, this is the way we do it. What if you’re, what if you’re open to being wrong about that, open to being wrong that a phone call isn’t going to derail your day? Isn’t going to upset them? And it’s actually going to save you both a ton of time.

Kim Meninger Yeah, oh, it’s so powerful. Because I think such an important thing for all of us to think about is when our commitment to being right is overriding the opportunity to connect with and learn from other people. And I, I am guilty of this too. I mean, I am very, very passionate about the things I believe in. And I believe it’s very easy for me to become self-righteous about that. But I do think I also try to challenge myself. What’s another way of thinking about this, right? Like, what’s another interpretation of this? But because we’re so busy, and we’re all in our brains are so tasked with so many other things, it’s not necessarily going to be the first thing we think about. So it’s an opportunity, when we find ourselves bumping up against these things in the workplace to really ask ourselves, How is this getting in my way? Is there another way that I could show up here?

Jake Fishbein Yeah, which is what I appreciate so much about the workshop that we run. Because the core exercise we say it’s an interview, it’s not a conversation. And so it’s really about listening to the other person sharing, not about contributing, not about saying what could you do, but really just listening and then reflecting back something that you appreciate about what they shared. I think it does what you’re talking about, which is it puts people in a position to be open to really hear somebody versus get in their own heads about, you know how right or valid that experience is. I always say that whatever someone’s experiencing is 100% valid, because they’re experiencing it. It doesn’t mean it’s true. But it meaning true isn’t factually true. But their experience is valid, their experience is their experience. And as individuals and as leaders, we get to honor someone’s experience, and validate their experience and how it makes them feel. That may open up a conversation about what is that experience real? Or is it you know, created in our mind, since I know, I create experiences that aren’t real all of the time. And then I you know, wake up a week later and be like, what was I doing? I’m making up that silly story. But it felt so real in the moment, and part of psychological safety, creating that, is honoring someone’s experience and listening to it, versus saying, Well, you’re wrong, that’s not really happening.

Kim Meninger And I think that’s a really good example of why we expanded the conversation to be more than just one conversation too, because we recognize that that powerful conversation that comes from talking about psychological safety is really step one. And that if we want more transformative, more deeper lasting change, we need to have an ongoing conversation. And so one of the things we did when we introduced the second phase of this conversation is to give men and women a chance to say, what do I want you, as a woman, what do I want you men to know about my experience in the workplace and vice versa, to try to give space to, to reinterpret things that we may have already been assuming, or the stories we tell ourselves and I was just looking back at our, at our whiteboards. And what really jumped out at me was that one of the themes that came up of women wanting men to understand was, sometimes when I’m quiet in meetings, it’s because I feel intimidated. And it’s not because I don’t have something to say. And then I looked at the board where the men spoke up, and they said, you know, men want to be validated too. And I think it all comes from the same place of we as humans want to feel seen. We want to feel respected, we want to feel supported. And just when we can have that kind of conversation, that’s probably never going to happen. I can’t imagine in a meeting that a woman’s gonna say, I’ve got things to share, but I’m feeling a little intimidated right now. Right? But because we were able to create that space, it gave everybody in that room the chance to say okay, maybe the way I’m seeing this isn’t real, like you say it’s not rooted in fact, it’s my own assumptions or perceptions of this. And now that I know this, then I have an opportunity to rethink the way we structure meetings, or the way we give feedback, or whatever the case may be that gets at the root of what they were saying.

Jake Fishbein Yeah, it’s so powerful that that interruption, that’s what I think. I think of it as is interruption of the way that we think about things because our brains are predictive. And they’re constantly trying to predict why someone’s doing this, why is someone doing that, and it’s based on, you know, keeps us safe. Because in the, when we were living in caves, we had to be predictive, we had to be able to look out for the bear that might be in the cave, or the people down the road that were going to come and steal our food or, you know, what’s the sky look like? Is it going to wash away our village? And we live in a society in a world now where we’re we don’t have to be predictive about so many things anymore, but our brains still work the same way. And so, you know, when I see someone quiet in a meeting, oftentimes my prediction as a, as a facilitator, and our coach is how they’re really bored. They’re not engaged. They must really not like this. And there’s so many times that after I’ve facilitated something, it’s that person who comes up and says, Wow, I got so much value from this conversation. I was working with a client a couple of weeks ago, who in all of our sessions, he seems really tired. He like seems a little disconnected. He’s present. He’s doing the work, but like, I like something was off. And we had some time left in our session. And I asked, so we’ve been working together for a couple months, like how’s this going for you? And he raved for the next 20 minutes about all the value he’s getting. And I knew like my prediction based on what I was experiencing was the complete opposite of what he ended up saying. And I think about that, as you talk about, you know, what women say they’re wanting, what their experience is in the workplace, and what men are saying their experience is in the workplace. Because so many of us in the workplace, within all areas of our life, are predicting what someone else is feeling or doing based on our own lens, and based on stereotypes and based on expectations. And to have that, just that knowledge of, if a woman’s quiet in a meeting, maybe she feels intimidated. Or, you know, if a man is, is getting really loud and trying to convince people of his point. Maybe he just wants to feel heard. That it allows us to bring so much more compassion and understanding, and maybe the opportunity to ask, Hey, Kim, what do you think, inside of a meeting? Or, you know, say, hey, timeout, like, Fred, like, take a breather? What is it, you really want to say? Because people are always reacting. I mean, those are, those are the reactions like the silence or the, you know, the, the getting loud as a reaction. So like, calling that timeout with the knowledge, oh, like maybe this is coming from a different place, suddenly allows us to create so much more opportunity in the workplace, but in, in our individual relationships as well.

Kim Meninger And I’m so glad you brought up the point about our just natural built-in survival tactics, right, because I think about that a lot too, that so much of what we see in the workplace is people’s fight or flight response, or just their, their own self-preservation strategies, especially when psychological safety is low. And all we think about when we don’t feel safe is our own self-preservation. We’re not thinking about being compassionate to the people around us, we’re not trying to understand a different way of thinking about something. And so I think it’s really important. Now that this information is available to people who have this conversation. What it does is it allows for greater empathy and compassion. But what it also does is, it allows me to not make the story about me. And I think that’s so important to our confidence and to our sense of self-trust, because, as you know, I talk so much about impostor syndrome. And I really do believe that the lower the psychological safety, the higher the levels of impostor syndrome within an organization, because we are interpreting other people’s self-preservation behaviors, as a reflection on our competence, or on how we are showing up when in actuality, like you said, let’s use Fred as an example, like I was trying to be heard, in an in a conversation with Fred, where I’m already doubting myself and feeling like, I don’t know if I am good enough to be in the room with Fred and I don’t have anything of value to share. And now Fred is being really vocal and really committed to his idea, my reaction is probably going to be well, Fred is the more important person in this conversation, I am adding no value. And that’s just going to reinforce my self-doubt, as opposed to my ability to say, You know what, Fred has a point. And he needs to be heard. And this is about Fred right now. And I have something of value to share. And we can both coexist in this environment. And we both bring our own baggage to this experience.

Jake Fishbein I think that I appreciate so much of what you just said, but it is literally that last point. Like we’re all, we all bring all of our baggage with us. And it’s why you know, people talk about this work-life balance, and I do believe balancing and boundaries are important. But I don’t believe in work-life balance, because there’s really no separation between your work and your life. It’s all your life. Like you’re bringing yourself to all of it. And the baggage you have in your personal life comes with you to work you bring it slogged on your back. And it’s so interesting, so many places seem to just not want to look at that. And it’s like, well, we’re at work, we’re working, it’s like great, you’re still you, you’re still going to react to the same things, you’re still going to feel deficient in the areas that you feel deficient in. And like everybody carries some version of a story. I’m not good enough, and I don’t belong. And we’re constantly looking for that validation that I am good enough, and I do belong. And at the same time, the evidence to the contrary. And so that I think drives so much of the behavior in the workplace. And when an organization creates psychological safety, when people feel heard and seen and respected by their peers, and by their managers and by leadership creates an opportunity for someone to speak up in a meeting and say, Hey, I am sorry, I have been silent because I feel intimidated right now. And it’s my belief, my experience that that creates better working environments, that creates happier employees, that creates more efficient work. Ultimately it creates better businesses. When we’re looking at the health of a business as an indie as an art like as a living organism. And it’s made up of people and if people feel safe, they’re going to stick around they’re going to do better work versus environments that are built on them like not have not having safety, where it’s uber-competitive where it will drive results. But it can never be sustainable. And I know so much of the work that I do is looking at sustainability, which is part of you know why we’ve expanded our series to include not just a workshop on psychological safety, and a workshop on, on experiences in the workplace. But a third one on what do you do now? Now that we’ve talked about psychological safety in our experiences, how do you as an organization implement changes to how your culture is or how you work both organizationally as individuals, so you can create more psychologically safe environments, where your people, be they men, women, non-binary, where your people can talk and be more self-expressed? And ask for support? And, and have these conversations on an ongoing basis? Not just for one 90-minute workshop, led by Kim and Jake.

Kim Meninger Exactly. And, you know, gosh, I just love everything about what you just said. And I was thinking about a couple of things. Number one is, you’re so right, that we’re all looking at other people for validation. But we’re, if we’re in an environment where people are in self-preservation mode, they aren’t the people that are going to give us, they’re not capable of giving us the validation that we need. And so our frame of reference is way off. And so really, it becomes an opportunity to think about how can I show up from a place of greater empathy and be the change that I want to see, right, it takes a lot of strength and courage, but it’s a possibility. And if it’s not, and if it feels consistently, like, I cannot get what I need here, that is not about you, it means maybe I need to think about a different environment where I can be treated with greater respect and compassion. And this is just not the right place for me.

Jake Fishbein Yeah, I think that’s, that’s actually huge. It’s taking, not taking full responsibility, I think you can take responsibility for your experience. And part of that responsibility, saying, you know, I’ve chosen to be in an environment that’s not right for me. But it’s not taking on the actions of the environment as your, as your responsibility, that you may choose to be there, but they’re not a reflection of you. And I think I talked about this last time, but I just love this model, which is that when you want to change your experience, you have three options. You change the situation, you change how you’re showing up or you leave. And it’s just so simple and so powerful. Because if you’re not happy in your workplace, if you don’t feel psychologically safe, if you try to change how you’re showing up to create more psychological safety and it gets thrown back in your face, maybe the best thing to do is leave and go somewhere where you’re going to feel safe. You know, I have a lot of, one or two clients who talk about where they work, they just love where they work. And they worked at places before that didn’t have psychological safety or weren’t committed to the growth of their employees, as people move companies and they’re just so happy where they are. Because they feel invested in, they feel listened to, they feel supported, they feel like they have a work-life balance, and they don’t want to leave, which is so different from I know my own experience of working certain places, and not feeling valued. And make this distinction. I didn’t feel valued, I was valued, but I didn’t feel valued. And I wanted to get out of there as fast as I could. Because the experience of being there wasn’t the one I was looking for. Even if I was valued for the work that I was doing. And I was respected. It didn’t I didn’t have that experience. And it just makes such a big difference.

Kim Meninger You’re so right. And I think you know, at the end of the day, my bias is always towards self-empowerment, that we have a lot to do collectively to change the system and bring about the kinds of transformation that we’re talking about. But we also can only control what we can control to your model, right? And so we, we have to decide individually, what works for us, what doesn’t and feel empowered to make the right choice and, and my hope is that at this moment in history, where more organizations are feeling pressured to focus on humanity at work, that we will start to see more of these shifts, that there will be more conversation and that there will be more connection. But there’s gonna be a journey and every organization is going to be in a different stage of that journey. And so only you can decide what works for me and do I want to be a pioneer at this company. Is just getting started in addressing these things, or do I want to go someplace established, and already has a lot of this figured out?

Jake Fishbein Yeah, it’s so interesting. My brother recently graduated business school. And he’s, he’s working for a large consulting firm and ESG, environment, social governance, which frankly, I know nothing about, like, I know, it’s a big thing that I didn’t think about it. And he’s saying that one of the things he’s been reading about is organizations relating to their employees as human investment, as like employee investment, and that they’re, versus them being an expense, looking at them as an investment. And it’s such a different approach to human capital, which is looking at your employee force, not as a, you know, drain on the budget. But actually, it’s like investing in a stock market, you’re investing in these people. And that’s such an empowering way to look at it, which is you’re choosing to, your people are not disposable. They’re actually integral to your organization. I, oh, and I always think, I think products are great, and infrastructure is great. And you know, tech is great. But at the end of the day, what builds businesses and build successful businesses are people in relationships. And like, that’s where to invest your money is in your people and in the relationships. And if you have people who want to be there, people who want to work with each other people who are committed to having challenging conversations, and creating safety and not letting things go under the bridge, or pushed under the rug, you’re going to build a successful company, because you’ve invested in people and relationships. And that’s what makes everything move. In my experience, and my you know, the way that I look at things,

Kim Meninger Well, and it’s funny because I, you and I are in complete agreement on this. And it just brings me back to what you were saying earlier on about how we live and breathe this stuff. So it feels so obvious to us. There are a lot of people who still haven’t figured this out yet. Right. So I think that, you know, hopefully, we can, we can support groups as they are on this journey. And you know, and to that point, I really want to, I really want to explicitly invite anybody who would like to consider bringing this conversation into your organization to reach out to us because this is our life’s work. I mean, this comes from a very deep place I know of meaning and purpose. And so we would love to have the conversation with anybody who’s thinking, gosh, we could really use something like this in our business.

Jake Fishbein Yeah, I’ll just echo that. We’ve, you know, we’ve gotten feedback from all the organizations we’ve worked with. And time and time again, the feedback is, we wish we had this conversation more often. Like I’ve never had this type of conversation before. I feel so much closer with the people that I work with. I’m like looking at the way I’m showing up in a new way. And I always say that the trainings are great. And it’s, it’s follow up that matters. But I think having this conversation whether you have it once or two or three times, is going to make a difference in your workplace. Because some people have never thought about this before. And all it takes is one time for someone to shift their perspective, even if it’s one person that will make a big difference.

Kim Meninger Absolutely. And I could have this conversation with you all day, Jake. I know we keep going. But

Jake Fishbein I know it’s an hour has gone by very quickly.

Kim Meninger I know. And so we will absolutely link to more information in the show notes. But I also want you to share how people can find you and your work and especially the men’s group that you offer, and just where people can find you if they want to connect with you.

Jake Fishbein Absolutely. So two, two easy places, and That’s for the men’s group. You can reach me at We will, we are planning on doing a public-facing retreat weekend for men sometime in 2023. I don’t know when it’s going to be. But it’ll be an opportunity to spend two days in the New York metropolitan area exploring, you know, how can you be a man in the arena and build more meaningful, connected relationships in all areas of your life. So stay tuned for that. If you’re interested, feel free to get in touch. And it’s as always, Kim, it’s such a pleasure to spend time with you. I do feel like we could talk all day. For those of you don’t know, Kim and I’ve never met in person which is wild and one day it will happen. But it’s just always such a pleasure and so easy to talk and collaborate and create with you. So thank you for having me as a guest once again on your incredible podcast.

Kim Meninger Well, thank you again, Jake. And I’m sure that you’ll be back again and we’ll continue to cover future so thank you.

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