I have much work to do but I’m not done yet.

I was at Prosper Forum chatting with a food industry CEO. He and I talked about the work of inclusion and how it is a bumpy road, with some successes and at times more setbacks than wins.

We realized both of us went to college in Louisiana. He shared how he met his husband in college. I added that during my time as a college student it was a challenge for students who had made an LGBTQ lifestyle choice. I reflected on the mindset of the campus at that time, the language, thinking and actions weren’t the friendliest plus we were in the deep American south.

The next morning, I presented “The RIGHT Kind of Uncomfortable” ™ a set of discussions designed to help executives go deep; deep into where they need help to become better leaders in today’s Inclusion 2.0 environment.

Humbly, I’d say the session went very well, with deep connections between executives combined with authenticity and vulnerability clearly on display. I suppose I’ll leave to attendees to agree with me or not (here’s hoping).

Later in the conference, he asked if we could continue our conversation. He was an active participant at “The RIGHT Kind of Uncomfortable” ™. I anticipated he had feedback on next steps.

He told me something I said during our initial conversation that rubbed him the wrong way. He repeated my words back to me – ‘lifestyle choice’ – and as soon as I heard the words I understood (perhaps when you read those same words a moment ago, it caused you pause as well).

My job as a professional, as a person is to help folks have deeper connections with one another. Deeper connections between leaders and teams result in more Trust, less ‘fear of Conflict’, higher rates of productivity…and yes profits. And here I was a pro with years in the inclusivity space and I’d screwed up. I used language that created a speed bump, hiccup, or brick wall between me and another person.

There are those that I’ve shared this story with that have said…’Doc, you should take it easy on yourself’ or ‘You can’t be perfect every time, you are going to make mistakes.’

My response…the standard ought to be perfection and there is nothing wrong and everything right to holding oneself to a standard you may never be able to reach.

They were right…but so am I.

Which brings me to one of the consistent challenges in the inclusion space…

Intention vs Actions.

Leaders have higher and a more visible responsibility to ensure their intentions, actions are aligned. No, it is not fair to demand perfection from every colleague nor is it ok to demand a C-Suite leader be perfect either.

It is ok to ask.

It is ok ‘poke them with a stick…in Love’ and ask them to be better. With that in mind that I thank Alex Eagle, CEO of FreebirdsWorldBurrito for showing me Love and holding me accountable to ensure my words and intentions align.

I hope you have someone doing the same for you.