Bringing Humanity to the Workplace
Updated: May 12
In this episode of the Impostor Syndrome Files, we talk about the human experience at work. Regardless of our roles, tenures, backgrounds, etc., at the end of the day, all any organization is a collection of humans – humans with very complex emotions, experiences and insecurities. For much of history, the expectation has been that we essentially check our humanity at the door when we enter the workplace. But what if that’s not only a flawed design that hurts humans but also one that hurts businesses? Afterall, your ability to achieve business results depends entirely on the well-being of your people. My guest this week, Brian McComak, founder of Hummingbird Humanity, shares his vision to bring human-centered cultures to the workplace.
About My Guest
Brian McComak is the CEO & Founder of Hummingbird Humanity. He is a consultant, speaker, author, and facilitator with over 25 years of experience in DEI, HR, culture, change management, internal communications, and employee experience. He is an openly gay man and a person with a disability who shares his lived experiences in service of fostering workplaces where humans thrive.
Before starting Hummingbird Humanity, he was the Global Head of Inclusion for Tapestry – the home of Coach, Kate Spade & Stuart Weitzman – where he developed and launched the company’s DEI strategy. He put Tapestry ‘on the map’ as a great place for inclusion, earning recognition from the Human Rights Campaign’s Corporate Equality Index, Women in the Workplace, and Forbes’ Best Places to Work for Diversity.
Brian has also held leadership roles at leading global companies including The Walt Disney Company, L’Oreal, and Christie’s Auction House. His internal experience spans a diverse variety of industries including fashion/retail, hospitality, auction, entertainment/media and he has consulted with organizations in technology, financial services, media, and non-profit.
Brian is a recurring contributor to SHRM content and a frequent podcast guest where he shares his expertise for creating human-centered workplace cultures. Recent appearances include Dr. Rosie Ward’s Show Up as a Leader and Culture Crush with Kindra Maples. He also hosts a monthly DEI episode on Nikki Lewallen’s Gut+Science podcast.
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Kim Meninger Welcome, Brian, it is so nice to finally meet you. As I mentioned to you before I hit record, I’ve been following your work for some time and really impressed and grateful for the work you do. So I’m so happy to have this conversation with you today. And before we jump in, I’d love to invite you to introduce yourself.
Brian McComak Sure, well, first of all, Kim, thank you so much for the invitation. And it’s I have to say, it’s still surreal to me that there are people like you who follow me and to pay attention to the things I say, you know, I know that, you know, your, your podcast is called the impostor syndrome was part of the title. And, and I think that’s true for me of, you know, I grew up in this corporate world where I never really felt like I fit. So the fact that there are now I’ve reached this point where I’ve been told I’m a thought leader, that’s for others to decide. But you know, that means I’m challenging the status quo. And that’s super powerful. So, but again, thank you, I really appreciate it. So a little bit about me, I spent the last year my first career was in movie theater operations. And so I have a frontline operations background that I felt was foundational, I think, for my professional journey. And then I’ve spent the last almost 25 years in various HR roles, specialist roles and employee relations and talent acquisition, which we called recruitment back then. And more recently, diversity, equity and inclusion. I’ve been an HR generalist, head of HR, and DEI practitioner. So all of that though, together, what I, what I believe is that my core expertise is as a change agent or a change maker. And that’s whether it’s through the lens of DEI or company culture or employee experience. That’s, that’s what I do and what I’m passionate about. And, and, really, and I will talk about this, I’ve brought all of those experiences together, both but actually I should share a little bit about me personally. But I brought all this together, in, in my vision for human-centered workplace cultures. On the personal side, I am a gay man and I’m a person with a disability. And I have a dog named Bosco who’s the Chief Happiness Officer of Hummingbird Humanity. Because he made appearances, Hummingbird launched May of 2020, so as as we, you know, our personal lives intersected with our professional lives, that Bosco showed up on Zoom screens and made people smile. So he has earned the title of Chief Happiness Officer. A little bit about me.
Kim Meninger Oh, I love that. I hope Bosco makes an appearance today. And, and I really want to dig a little bit more deeply into the Hummingbird Humanity part of your career because you mentioned kind of bringing it all together. And I’m curious, was there a triggering event? Was this something that you had been thinking about for a long time? I know it coincided with the pandemic, which is interesting timing. I’m curious how it all came together.
Brian McComak Yeah. So there, I think there will, you know, those people who have known me, for the last, you know, 20, 30 years in my life, they, if they were here, they would say Brian has always known he was going to be a consultant. And I used to talk about it. By the way, I had no idea what it meant to be a consultant, I have a better idea now, of course. And so one of the guiding principles for me, as I was navigating my career journey in corporate spaces, is I always challenged myself to try new things, whether that was, you know, a different role, or part of HR or a company at a different size, or a different ownership model or in a different industry. Because I really wanted a collection of diverse experiences for this part of my career. It’s serving me in ways that I never could have imagined. But, but so there, so that part of this puzzle, I think, was somewhat planned and intentional. Although I you know, it’s how it’s played out is certainly I would say, I would give the credit to the universe for helping to help every, you know, everything that’s happening for me and Hummingbird in the team materialize. There was a catalyst moment, though, for me, which was at the Walt Disney Company. I just, I didn’t find myself fitting in the culture there, which was hard because I have such admiration for the Walt Disney Company and the products that they put out in the world and their commitment to quality and to experience and, and I just didn’t really felt feel like I fit there. And my boss one day said to me, Brian, you’re a great HR person. I really think you’re a diversity person and she opened the door for me to be on the corporate diversity council for the Walt Disney Company, which, which led to me becoming the head of the Global Head of Inclusion at Tapestry, which is the home of Coach, Kate Spade, Stuart Weitzman, and, and you know, and to Hummingbird today. And, you know, I think, what, what buki who was my boss at Disney was tapping into is I was trying to figure out how to intersect who I was as a person, as a human, with who I was as a professional in the workplace. And my, my experience there just was this, you know, highlighted this tension that I was working through. So, you know, that’s I think that was the catalyst moment. And then the, the second big catalyst moment was when I was at Tapestry, and I was incredibly proud of the work that I got to do. I was the first head of inclusion there and still am humbled and surprised that they said, Brian, would you do this? But it was so incredibly rewarding and, and I learned a lot in that job. When I realized though, over the last six years of my career, which was partly at Disney, and partly at Tapestry was, I had this other message that was wanting to come out. And, you know, when you work for incredible brands, like Disney, or Coach, or Kate Spade, you are a representative of those brands and those messages. And it was time for me, I think, to spread my wings, let’s make a hummingbird reference. And, and, and start to share this, this message of what human-centered workplace cultures can look like. So that’s that, and that’s what you know, that’s what happened. And we can talk about the pandemic, if you’d like, but how that sort of the, the comedy of errors that got to the launch of Hummingbird. But, but that was, that was why I really just wanted to step out and to use my voice, to, to create workplaces where all humans can thrive.
Kim Meninger Are you comfortable sharing a little bit more, and you don’t have to get into a lot of detail? But I think you brought up a really important point that I think is true for so many who listened to this podcast in particular, is that, that struggle to integrate those two sides of ourselves. Like you said, that personal and that professional in that sense that I don’t know if I belong here. And I think for many of us, the automatic response is there must be something wrong with me, as opposed to maybe there’s something about this culture that isn’t right for me. And I’m curious if you could talk a little bit more, more about how you sorted through that.
Brian McComak Yeah, sure. And, and actually, if I’m, if I’m being fully vulnerable, and honest, I didn’t do it well. I really fumbled through it at Disney and, and I am grateful for the grace that was extended to me because it was, I was far from not, perfect is not the goal, but I was much further from perfect than I would want to be and how I was navigating what fitting in to what it means to be an executive at Disney, what that looks like, I you know, looking back, I wish that I had risen, risen to the occasion in different ways. And wish that I had done some of my own personal work that I’ve done since then, that would have allowed me to get out of my own way. So you know, I think, so I think that’s one thing I would just offer is, it’s okay to be human. And it’s okay to, like, get it wrong, and it’s okay to be uncomfortable. And I truly believe that, in those. And this is true for me, certainly in this, this scenario here is that when you are navigating discomfort, there’s also change happening. And as long as you can be committed to doing your best to learn on that journey and take whatever those experiences are giving you then the you’ll, you’ll find, I think some, some peace and some perspective, which I have certainly, you know, since then, working with my therapist, and, and, you know, and working in 12 step spaces on just understanding who I am as a human and what works for me and what doesn’t work for me. You know, I think if I could go back and do it differently. I do think I could have risen to the occasion in a, in ways that would have made it an easier path for everyone. But I’m so grateful for what I learned from like, as a professional tool Disney company, I worked with incredible professionals, incredible humans and, and that job has been a catalyst for my career and open doors that um, that I never imagined that my journey. So, you know, it’s I found gratitude and I found peace and that, hey, I’m human. And it was a, it was a challenging period for me to learn and grow. What’s interesting for me though, is I didn’t learn this lesson quickly. The next job that I took was as the chief HR officer for School of Rock, and three months into School of Rock, I knew that this was not a place for me. But I knew it in my bones, it was super clear. And I let the overriding principle that I had been taught as a professional and as an I used as a recruiter, if you, if people change jobs too quickly, they’re not a good candidate. So I’m like, I have to stick it out. That was one of the worst decisions I could have made in my career. I should have just said, it’s not, this isn’t for the right thing for me. It was a that was a difficult experience that that doesn’t necessarily need this story doesn’t need to be told, but, but I wish I could go back and tell the Brian at that time, it’s okay to say this, isn’t it, and walk away and figure out what is the right thing for me and do some of my own work. You know, and so now I get to, I don’t know if I would be here, though, if I had not gone through those moments. Because now I get to do work that I love, I get to architect a, an environment and a culture and an experience at Hummingbird. That is, is what I’ve always really wanted to experience in my career. And, and there are certainly workplaces that I think I really felt like I fit and had my family and my community at work and but now I get to do that every day. And I get to wake up and say I’m looking forward to going to work. So that I think came out of those moments that were really challenging.
Kim Meninger I so appreciate the vulnerability and the complexity of your response to that question, because it isn’t an easy thing to process or to describe. And I like that you’re honest about your assessment of how you did it. Because I think that I mean, we, we all struggle with this to some extent. And you’re absolutely right, I would agree with you completely, that in the moment, it doesn’t feel like a gift. It can feel really painful. But in retrospect, you’re able to put those pieces together in a way that allows you to see how it all gets you to the moment that you’re in now. And I think that’s a really powerful part of the journey. And so I’m curious now that you are in this position where you launched your own business, you’re you enjoy doing the work that you do, what’s the vision? What what’s the, what’s the problem that you’re trying to solve? Because I mentioned that I really connected with you and the human-centered nature of what you do. And I’m curious if you could describe that in more detail.
Brian McCormack Yeah, of course, of course. And before I do, I wanted to offer something that as I was listening to you reflect on my, my answers, or my answer, the there’s a principle that I learned in 12-step that I have really tried to embrace in my life, and that’s part of what’s helped me in looking back is, you know, to reflect on what was my role in the situation? And what, what could I have done differently? What was within my control? You know, the way that, that I’ve, I’ve heard it mentioned many times is, how am I keeping my side of the street clean? What is what’s my responsibility? And that has been, I think, key for me too because oftentimes, we could focus on what others did to us. And that energy, you know, it’s okay to be human and have uncomfortable emotions, and anger and sadness and all of those things. But when we are focused on those other humans in the equation, we’re not actually I think, what really learning and so when the learning comes from looking at what, what role we played, and that’s been really helpful in that healing journey and that processing and why it can be vulnerable about it because pape, there are things in my side of the street that they weren’t clean in the way they could have been and, and that’s okay. Because we get to, we get to learn on our journey.
Kim Meninger Wow. And I want to pause right there for a moment before you go into the next part of what I was asking you because I think that what you said is so important and I want to echo what you said too, but it’s okay to feel the feelings, right? We’re human, and we’re going to respond to other people’s actions. But I also think that part of doing the work as you’re describing it, and taking responsibility, kind of looking at ourselves in the mirror, so to speak, is empowering. Because it’s hard to do. It’s very hard, it’s easier to be a victim, it’s easier to point the finger at other people and say that the world is against me and everything, everybody’s doing it wrong. It’s much harder to take personal responsibility. But if we don’t take personal responsibility, we lose, we give our power away. And I think that what you’re describing really allows us to think about what’s within our control. And that is a time in history where so little feels like it’s I think that’s an important part of the process.
Brian McComak Oh, absolutely. Absolutely. And, and actually, I think it’s a, it’s a really interesting segue into your, your, your question about the, the vision, you know, I would, I’ll start with this piece of the puzzle, which is something that I think more and more people are beginning to understand. And I’m Kim, I’m sure you’ve read articles on this, and seeing this as the, the traits and skills and ways that leaders show up. And were taught to show up, they some of those rules don’t apply anymore. And today, you know, the being empathetic and being vulnerable, just to name two of the components of what I believe is, is critical for leaders today, those were things that I was taught earlier in my career were not strengths, they were weaknesses. So you know, the conversation we just had is part of the reason I leaned into that vulnerability. One is, it’s because it’s the human I want to be, it’s also because I want to model for other leaders, what it can look like to be vulnerable. And, and I know that I can, you know, I hear from the team that I get to lead that they really appreciate my vulnerability, and it allows them to trust me and to, to know if I say something, it’s, it’s authentic, it’s real. And, and if I get something wrong, they know that I’m going to own it and apologize for it. So you know that, that so I tried to, I’m trying to model that behavior as part of this journey. And it’s gonna take a, I think, a lot of work for leaders today to really evolve those skills and to figure out how to lead with vulnerability and empathy and emotional intelligence. And actually, I was on a call just before this around the introduction of spiritual intelligence models into our workplace cultures, and how important that’s going to be as we continue to navigate this new reality. You know, so so, you know, that’s, you know, that’s a taking that you’re taking from that moving into the vision. What, when I read a poster, the back in college, I read a book called The Customer Comes Second by Hal Rosenbluth and that I haven’t read it since college. So it’s been like 25 years. But the, the message stuck with me, the core message was, if you do right by your people, they’re going to do right by your customers or clients. And do, by the way, doing right by your people doesn’t mean that they get everything they want. Or, you know, one of the conversations I have with leaders, it doesn’t mean that we’re going to have a just a smattering of emotions every day, all day, we get to be humans at work, but we still got to do our jobs. Right. But I you know, it’s creating workplace cultures. So that, that book has been a guiding force for me and as in my career as a manager, as a leader, as an HR professional. And I’ve been trying to reimagine, what does creating workplace cultures where humans thrive look like? And so I call them human-centered workplace cultures. And they embody diversity, equity and inclusion as part of that holistic well-being, transparent communication, human-centered leadership, which we were just talking about, and social impact. So you know, they’re, they’re, it’s a way to really ignite and honor the heart and soul of our companies and organizations, which are the humans that make those organizations tick. And I think it’s something that’s really been missing. And I think it’s part of the reason why diversity, equity and inclusion work has become so important in our workplaces. Part of the reason why is because systemic oppression is real and we need to, we need to tear down those, those systems so we can build better ones. But it’s also because the heart and soul has gotten lost in the equation. And so this, this human-centered workplace culture proposition that I want to bring to the conversation is as a, as a way that I think we can really embrace and ignite and honor the humans that work in our companies. And by the way, our companies will benefit and, you know, there’s, there’s a return on investment, as we like to say, in our corporate spaces, that that will come so that, you know, that’s the vision is, is to create workplaces where humans thrive and to bring to be a catalyst for those conversations, I really tried to acknowledge that I don’t have all the answers. So I have a framework that I have in mind. And I have some beliefs and some whys that are the guiding, the guiding forces behind this and my inspirations as a human, and I’m also a person. And I know that I don’t know all the things. And so I really tried to bring this conversation as a, as an invitation to reflect and to think about, okay, well, what does it look like for the humans in your workplace to thrive? Because it might look different than the workplace I work in at Hummingbird, for example.
Kim Meninger I love that vision. And I am fully on board with, with everything that you’re saying. And I also want to ask you a little bit about some of the resistance of because when you talked about being taught a different model of leadership years ago, there’s the cognitive response to what we’re talking about here. And the the data based argument for why this is the right thing to do not just for humans, but for the business as well, like you said, right, and we see this statistics, and there’s no question that humans do better in the kinds of environments that you’re describing. However, the current power structure is full of people who have been, who aren’t just operating from a cognitive place, but have almost a visceral attachment to another way of doing leadership, right? Because, and let’s just spell it out here. Because I don’t I don’t want to talk in abstract too much. But let’s just say the average white man who has thrived under the old ways of, of doing business, and maybe I wouldn’t even say thrive as a human right, necessarily, but thrive as a business leader, shall we say, may have a lot of trouble with making this transition to some of the things that you’re talking about because he hasn’t been socialized or hasn’t been led to believe that he will be accepted if he behaves in that way. And so there’s a clinging to a different way of doing things that might make it really hard for, for this person to make the kind of transition that we’re talking about. And so I wonder, how do we break through some of that? Do we, do we try really hard to change people’s minds? Do we kind of hope that over time, the, the general mood will change? Or like how do you think about challenging the status quo?
Brian McComak Well, your guess is as good as mine. Let’s start there. Yeah. Well, and actually, I say that in jest, and it’s also something that, you know, that I’ve said, a version of this statement, for the decade that I’ve been doing DEI work is how do we get white guys to be part of the conversation? And, and I, I am not far from alone and making that statement or some version of that statement. So you know, there’s a, there’s a perception that is based in a reality that those, those men do not feel like they are part of this, this work. And you said something that I think is really important that I am just seeing emerge in, in just very quiet voices that I hope will get louder is that the systems work for those men from a professional perspective, but not necessarily from a human perspective. And I’ll have to introduce you to my friend, Sean, Sean Harvey. He is, he’s one of the handful of people that is doing men’s work. And he is he’s writing a book called Warrior Compassion. And it’s really it’s about the concept compassionate masculinity and, and he’s actively working to create spaces to help those men to heal. And to tap into those aspects of, you know, the things that we tell little boys, you know that, you know, don’t boys don’t cry, as one of many, you know, many things that get told to young men, that those, those things aren’t helpful for those, those men and, and over the course of time they take all of that hurt and become leaders. And that hurts comes out in ways that doesn’t look like bad. But we know that it’s not, it’s not helpful for them or others. So, you know, I think it’s, I think it’s a really interesting question to see the for me about how do we help those in those men and help all of the all of the leaders? I mean, the, the reality is, doesn’t matter which group identity group you’re belong to, if you are in Gen X, or certainly a Boomer generation, you grew up with a set of rules for what leading and managing looks like. And so everyone has to unlearn those rules. And, you know, and it’s easier to default to what we know, I mean, something that I’m seeing happen in corporate spaces is the decision-makers. So the last two years, almost everyone worked remotely or virtually, if you if they could, and we’re seeing leaders say, No, we have to go back to the workplace. And I’m like, Well, why that actually, you know, that virtual, remote hybrid, whatever, you know, version of the equation you want to want to reference, it works better for so many of the humans. And so why are you requiring people to go back, but it’s what worked for those, those individuals who are the decision-makers, that’s how they grew up. And I think it’s a, by the way, I think it’s completely okay, if they want to go back to the workplace, they should totally go back to the workplace, but don’t make everyone else go. And you know, there is resistance to much of this conversation when I, when I work with leadership teams and C-level teams. Part of the way, though, that we do that at Hummingbird, though, the how we approach that work is something that I I believe, is that let’s use DI work as for the example here, that DI work has largely focused on how the perfectly the men in those rooms are perpetuators of harm. Those men don’t, don’t want to perpetuate harm, they’re not aware that they’re perpetuating harm. And, and I’m not saying that we should not acknowledge that reality, but starting there is part of what moved them out of the conversation because we use shame and blame. And we’re like, you’re, you’re the cause of all of the hurt of all these humans. And that’s I’m not saying that’s not true because I think that it is, but they didn’t know it. And so we try to approach it from a different perspective, which is, let’s just start to understand each other as humans, let’s bring this humanity conversation to the workplace. And what we try to do is to ignite shared humanity through conversation and, and storytelling. And that builds a bridge of trust, which then opens the door to understanding how, how corporate systems or the world treats us differently. So we want to get there, but we want to get there from a different path. And so that’s one of the ways we’re trying to at Hummingbird, to approach the conversation from a different lens. And then Amy Lynn Durham, who I mentioned a few minutes ago, who I’ve talked with earlier, and she is working in the spiritual intelligence space. And so that’s, you know, another intervention, which is helping, helping leaders to tap into something beyond emotional intelligence, which is this spiritual intelligence and what is it? I wrote this down? How, where they can make wise and compassionate decisions even under stress.
Kim Meninger Wow, I, I love what you’re talking about, too, in terms of expanding the conversation, because you’re absolutely right. I believe that an unfortunate side effect of some of this work has been to create an us versus them dynamic that has made it more difficult for white men in particular, to be part of the conversation and to feel invested in the change that we’re talking about. And so this idea of really appealing to the common denominator among all of us, which is our shared humanity, the fact that, you know, maybe men can’t understand what it’s like to be a woman, but they know their own pain and their own feeling of not belonging in certain kinds of situations. And if we can all be part of that conversation in some way, it makes us all feel a sort of stake in the outcome. Right, and that there isn’t a loss of moving in this direction. And so, you know, I think that there are going to be different levels of resistance, obviously. But I wonder for people who are working in organizations where maybe the resistance is a little bit stronger, maybe there are, it’s going to, it’s going to take more time to get to the vision that you’re describing. Is there any benefit to grassroots efforts? Is there any possibility of changing the system from either the bottom up or the middle across? Or, you know, does it have to be at the top?
Brian McComak It’s a really interesting question. And I’ll acknowledge, I’m not sure that I have a powerful, insightful answer to the question I, what, what my intuition is telling me though, is that there is value in any healthy activity that is in the direction of change and evolution. And the healthy activity is part of that, that I, you know, something that I’ve been exploring recently is the, I call it the activist language that is important for external change-making organizations that are highlighting the impacts of systemic oppression, or, you know, the impacts on the environment or any number of social issues that we need to be aware of, if you try to bring that language and some of that, with those approaches that are sometimes more provocative and more, more challenging into corporate environments, what I find is that they often don’t work they that’s where we get sort of stuck. And, you know, I’m a, I’m an organizational change expert, that’s what I do. And how do I, you know, taking humans on a change journey, that activist language and this so important, as a catalyst to the change conversation that can happen internally. So, you know, I think that’s, that’s where this healthy question comes a reference comes in, for me is finding the right ways to, and right is a really challenging word as well, but finding ways that are allowing people to be part of the conversation to, to invite other voices and, and welcome different perspectives in that dialogue. So another one of the principles we use in our programs of Hummingbird is you don’t have to agree with all the stuff we’re going to share with you. It’s okay, if you have a different point of view. It’s okay, if your religious beliefs or cultural beliefs are in conflict with what we expect you to do in the corporate spaces. We’d still expect you to show up in corporate spaces and acknowledge and honor the things that we’re going to ask you to do here, but you don’t have to agree with them. That’s okay. And so that’s the that’s what I mean by that healthy activity is, is you know, whether it’s grassroots or top down, or your you know, we all we I say we all maybe others don’t, but we the one of the conversations in recent years is how we forget to talk to middle managers and help them grow and learn in these programs. So if that’s what you’re focused on, great, as I think it’s as long as you’re trying to do it in a way that’s healthy and in the direction of, of positive change.
Kim Meninger I think that’s a great point, to making that distinction between activist-based activity and corporate-based change because there’s a place for both, but the, the activist piece like you’re describing is not likely to fit as well and is likely to fuel that us versus them more resentment based kind of response. And so, I do think that that’s a really good point too, as everybody thinks about their, their own role in driving some of this change forward is how can you do that in a way that’s going to be best received by the environment that you are a part of, and I wonder too, just going back to this idea of what we talked about before, of being more self-empowered and looking at your own responsibility and your own role, and everything that you do is, is there anything that you would recommend to the average person listening to think about or to do either reflection wise or action wise, to help be part of the more collective future that we’re talking about here?
Brian McComak Yeah, you know, the Well, the first thing that I want to say and acknowledge is that there might be listeners who want to say, Brian, but we need that those, we need to be shouting from the rooftop rooftops that change has to happen. And so I, what I fully understand and acknowledge and respect is, the messages that I’m sharing about how we can drive organizational change, mean that we’re going to go slower than so many of us would like. And for so many humans, and so many marginalized groups, the change is long overdue, it should have been done so long ago. And so I’m saying it’s going to take longer. And what I believe in my, in my soul, though, is that what I’m proposing is how we will make the change happen. Because what we know is that there are there are real barriers that exist. And I’m trying to offer ways to remove those barriers to how we can get to the better place, you know, the, the better workplace cultures that we’d like to see. But I just want to acknowledge for those humans out there who are like, but he’s like not hearing the shouting from the rooftop voices of what it feels like to be a black woman in corporate America. And I hear that, and I wish that I had a better answer. And I’ll continue to think about it right? I think what I would just offer then is the other side of that is, it’s okay to feel that way. One of the things that I like to say is an acknowledges Nobody said this to me, when I first walked into my first day at Red Lobster, and my first HR job, we don’t have to tell them how many years ago it was. And that I had to what I call it is take off my coat of emotions, but I knew I was supposed to. It was just this unwritten rule that nobody had to say. And so what I would say is, it’s okay to be a human who has emotions, who has reactions who might not like the latest decision or might not like what Brian just said, That’s okay. There’s nothing wrong with that. Going back to this, what we talked about earlier about keeping my side of the street clean, what’s what I think is the thing to remember there is as intellectual beings, we can acknowledge our emotions, process them, allow them to be present, and then move through us. And we can intellectually choose to not let those emotions be sometimes it’s important to let our emotions guide how we act. But sometimes we have to choose to not lean into what those emotions are telling us to do or say. So that’s, I think that’s the, the combination of what’s I think it’s important for people out there that are listening to this and who want to first just acknowledge that sometimes change happens slower than it needs to, there are things that don’t, don’t feel good. There are cultures that are going to take longer, workplace cultures that are gonna take longer to get there, you have to choose whether that’s the place you want to be, if it’s not the right place for you, which we also talked about earlier. So you know, I think it’s a big part of it is that self-responsibility. There’s a, there’s a activity, though I’ll offer as well. I don’t know if this activity was based on the Serenity Prayer, but I say the Serenity Prayer a lot. So I’ve and I’ve decided this activity was based on that, that the Serenity Prayer, it’s, and it’s actually in our, if you go to the Hummingbirdhumanity.com website and click on the Resources tab, you can find a mental health in the workplace guide. And this activity you’ll find in that guide. And it’s the basics of this activity are you write down the things that you’re trying to solve right now. And then you bucket them into, it’s within my control, it’s within my influence, or it’s outside of my control and influence. And what often emerges is the, the things that you’re trying to solve that are causing the most stress and the most angst and the most discomfort are those things that are outside of your control and influence. And you have to let those go. And you want to focus your energy on the things you can control and the things that are within your influence. And that might be, be part of grassroots change, as you mentioned earlier, it could be any number of other things. So that’s a, I think, a really helpful activity that can help us process those emotions in a, in a structured way, and, and make choices about how we’re spending our time and energy.
Kim Meninger And I want to go back to something you said to me before we even hit the record button too because I think you use said this quickly. But I think the, the ultimate form of sort of taking control in an environment that feels outside of your control, is to make the decision not to stay there anymore. And when you were asking me about who listens to this podcast, and I would say, you know, people who want to, to continue to advance and thrive but may not feel like they belong, or maybe part of an environment that’s not working for them. And you said, can I tell them to leave? And we laughed about it? And absolutely, I think that that should feel like a choice for everybody listening is that you don’t need to stay. And you mentioned this very personally, Brian, at the beginning to a feeling that pressure of oh, well, I don’t want to look like I’ve left within a year, I don’t want to, you know, I would there may be any number of stories we tell ourselves about why we stay in an environment, that’s not right for us. And it’s really important to remember that if it feels more painful than it needs to be, if it feels harder than it should, that, that’s always an option as well. And then hopefully, if enough people do that, businesses will get the message even more quickly, that this, this kind of a culture just doesn’t work. We can force change from a different angle.
Brian McComak Well, yes, I mean, I will. And then you know, the, I’ll build on that and say, when I feel overwhelmed, or feel like I’ve had a moment where I’m losing a bit of hope. I remember that I’m not the only one doing this work, there are 1000s, hundreds of 1000s of people around the globe, who are actively working to make the world a better place, and to make workplaces better. So I try to, I try to remember that in those in those moments. And, yeah, I mean, it’s, you know, you have to do what’s best for you. Like that’s, you know, putting your another phrase that actually, I’ll have another vulnerable moment here. Something that’s been really interesting for me as the, the CEO of Hummingbird, where I am part of, of course, I have a team now, and I’m not part of every detail of every day, that, that’s not possible. And it’s not how I want to lead. But this business is built around the vision that, that I’ve crafted within the collection with other humans, and that my role plays. And, and my presence is key to this, this organization. I’m not great at self-care. And so that’s something that I’m working on is how do I do better at putting my oxygen mask on first, so I can show up for the people in my organization and our clients and the people that like you, Kim, who follow me. And so that’s something that I’m working on. So I think, you know, as you’re, as you’re navigating this journey of life, life and work intersects, they’re not separate realities. And, you know, it’s okay to have feelings and emotions, it’s okay to, to leave someplace that doesn’t work for you. It’s, it’s okay to say, look back and say, I could have done that better. And I’m going to, I’m going to pick myself up and I’m going to move forward. And I’m going to try again. And it’s also, by the way, someone said this to me the other day, my friend Jackie, who’s a videographer that we work with, she said, you know, we were talking about Hummingbird, and I, you know, some of the growth and she’s like you, Brian, you know, this is really awesome, right? Like, sit in that moment and allow yourself to celebrate and, and embody the joy of something you’ve created. So you know, I think that’s important as well as you can celebrate your successes. It’s okay to be proud you don’t be prideful, necessarily, but you can be proud of a success. Absolutely celebrate, celebrate those moments, small, big everything in between.
Kim Meninger Such great advice, Brian and I really, truly believe that I could stay here and talk to you for hours because there’s just so much to what we’re talking about. And I so respect and appreciate your willingness to say that you don’t have all the answers. I certainly don’t either. We’re on a hopeful trajectory right now. And I’m hoping that as time goes by you and I will have even more to say about this and I’ll probably reach back out to you to continue the conversation in the future. In the meantime, where can people find you if they want to learn more about you and stay connected to your work?
Brian McComak You Yeah, absolutely, yes. And first of all, yes, of course, I’m, I look forward to that future conversation. And actually, you know, I would honor that the conversation we just had, I’m not sure that I had all that stuff in my head a year ago. You know, that’s it’s, this is an ongoing learning and exploration and, you know, curiosity of what does it look like to to create workplace cultures where humans thrive? What does you know? It’s a, it’s an ongoing conversation. So thank you for being part of that conversation. And if you’re listening and you want to, to join the Hummingbird community, as we like to say, you can follow me on LinkedIn. Brian McComak at MC-C-O-M-A-K. It’s a very strange spelling of that name. So I always spell it out loud Brian with an I. You can follow Hummingbird Humanity on LinkedIn or Instagram and we mentioned Bosco earlier. One of the wonderful things on our Instagram channel is Bosco has Bosco’s biscuits, which are there for what for the first year, year and a half ago Bosco supposed to get this word DEI tips. And now they are tips for grownups who are helping little humans in their lives to be inclusive individuals. So you can follow Bosco biscuits on our Instagram channel as well. And then on the Hummingbirdhumanity.com website. You can also sign up for our weekly newsletter, where we share a variety of content that’s related to the conversation we’re having today.
Kim Meninger Well, thank you so much, Brian. It’s been such a pleasure to have this conversation with you and looking forward to more discussion in the future.
Brian McComak Absolutely. Thanks so much, Kim.