A conversation with Skye Osunde. Leadership Development, Workplace Culture & Community Management Expert at CBS Creative & Consulting LLC.

I feel like I’m a unicorn at times because I’m able to speak different languages in the way that I can connect with people, right? So I was a solar entrepreneur. The pain points that I would have as a solo entrepreneur and growing and scaling and leading teams of contractors, I’ve done that, or working at a large global company and running an employee resource group along with doing a ton of sales and operations like tech. I can have those nuanced conversations where people feel seen and valued through our interactions.” – Skye Osunde

In this episode of Control the Room, I had the pleasure of speaking with Skye Osunde about her journey helping organizations improve team dynamics.  She shares how her experience in Higher Education, travel, and as a young manager influenced her career.  Later, Skye explains how her windy career background has helped her communicate confidently with leaders from different industries.   We also discuss simple tips for helping companies create space for authentic connection and rapport.  Listen in for thoughts on how companies can move beyond performative inclusion efforts.

Show Highlights

[1:30] How Skye Got Her Start 

[15:00] How To Examine A Good Inclusion Initiative

[20:40] What’s A Company Without Motivated People?

[28:00] Learning To Enjoy Yourself At Work

[36:00] Modeling How To Create Connection At Work

Skye’s Personal Website 

Skye on LinkedIn

About the Guest

Skye Osunde (O-SOON-DAY) is an Inclusive Leadership Expert & Team Dynamics Coach, Consultant, & Facilitator with 12+ years of professional experience in diverse industries. She has a unique wealth of knowledge for curating amazing psychologically safe communities, elevating employee experiences, inspiring change, and developing authentic leaders.

Under her business, CBS Creative & Consulting, LLC. she works with organizational leaders and entry to mid-level managers with large corporate brands such as Nike and Metlife, on how to enrich their leadership capacity while creating inclusive, impactful, authentic, and psychologically safe spaces for their teams.

Skye is currently servicing clients through team development, hybrid workplace inclusion workshops, and leadership coaching, consulting, and facilitation to empower high-performing organizational leaders and teams.

About Voltage Control

Voltage Control is a change agency that helps enterprises sustain innovation and teams work better together with custom-designed meetings and workshops, both in-person and virtual. Our master facilitators offer trusted guidance and custom coaching to companies who want to transform ineffective meetings, reignite stalled projects, and cut through assumptions. Based in Austin, Voltage Control designs and leads public and private workshops that range from small meetings to large conference-style gatherings.

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Full Transcript

Douglas: Welcome to the Control the Room podcast, a series devoted to the exploration of meeting culture and uncovering cures to the common meeting. Some meetings have tight control and others are loose. To control the room means achieving outcomes while striking a balance between imposing and removing structure, asserting and distributing power, leaning in and leaning out, all in the service of having a truly magical meeting. Thanks for listening. If you’d like to join us live for a session sometime, you can join our weekly Control the Room Facilitation Lab. It’s a free event to meet fellow facilitators and explore new techniques so you can apply the things you learn in the podcast in real time with other facilitators. Sign up today at voltagecontrol.com/facilitation-lab. If you’d like to learn more about my book, “Magical Meetings”, you can download the “Magical Meetings Quick Start Guide”, a free PDF reference with some of the most important pieces of advice from the book. Download a copy today at magicalmeetings.com. Today I’m with Skye Osunde at CBS Creative and Consulting LLC, where she’s an inclusive leadership expert and team dynamics coach, consultant, and facilitator partnering with companies like Nike and MetLife.

Welcome to the show, Skye.

Skye: Hi, Douglas. I’m so excited to be here.

Douglas: I am so excited about this conversation as well. It’s been a minute since our good friend introduced us, and so excited. Unfortunately, I wasn’t able to make it to DC, but glad we were able to still get in touch and make the show possible, and fan of your work and hoping to dig in more today.

Skye: Absolutely. I’m a fan of your work, and I know that we will have opportunities in the future to really collaborate and continue working with each other, so thank you for having me.

Douglas: Amazing. Yes. Well, as always, I’d like to get started by hearing a little bit about how you began your journey to become a inclusive leadership expert and team dynamics coach.

Skye: Yeah, so I have so many different places where I can start, but I actually think I want to focus on my undergraduate experience. So I am a graduate at the University of South Florida, go Bulls, and in that experience, I was extremely involved in many different university organizations, held many roles within student government and our campus activities, and I loved it. And it was interesting, because at the time my major was biomedical science with a minor in women’s studies and public health, and so I had a nickname growing up as Dr. Skye with the path to becoming an OB/GYN. So in my experience, having been involved so much, that after I graduated I said I wanted to take a year off because I wanted to travel and really dive into different experiences before I was locked into medical school. And one of my mentors at that time was the vice president of student affairs, and she said, “You know, there’s an admissions position open. You’d be really great for it. Why don’t you try it out?” And I haven’t looked back.

And so I went into admissions. I got a master’s in higher education, student affairs, and administration. And from there I really fell in love with just education. I fell in love with development of students and young leaders, because of my experience and how people poured into me. And so moving into the education field for about four or five years, working in different roles and different universities, I loved it. And so then from there, I transitioned with a very random connection with the CEO of a small startup and I transitioned into a travel startup. And the work there with seven of us running a multimillion dollar company that later got acquired, I learned so much, and I learned so much about the importance of team dynamics, the importance of really creating impactful work and transformational work through what we were doing that I fell in love with it.

And so once we got acquired, I then transitioned into another industry and I worked for a large global tech real estate company. And my role in that was to be a community manager, which to me was several hats where I was doing operations and development and entrepreneurship programming and events. But one of the things I really loved was I got to work with probably upwards of 300 companies, whether they were solo entrepreneurs, whether they were part of large global organizations and they just had a satellite office where I was working. I realized that I loved it. And from every experience I’ve been through, there was always a thread of development and helping people change and helping people innovate, helping people see different perspectives in the world and learn differently and really just think outside the box. And so in that last role I was in, I decided to transition at the beginning of the pandemic, which to me, I didn’t think was going to last too long, but it lasted way longer.

And so I was like, “You know what? I can do this. I’ve always wanted to have my own business,” which is where I launched CBS Creative and Consulting, where then I started to really work with small businesses, solo entrepreneurs, large organizations around leadership and development, around team dynamics, around creating inclusive spaces. And this was at the height of when there was a lot going on around police brutality and social justice and companies really figuring out, “Wow, there are a lot of things we need to change. We’re getting a lot of feedback from our internal employees, and we don’t know what to do next.” And so that was the time where I was like I feel like I can solve this need for a lot of companies, and I did just that. And so now, two years later, still running my own business, and I’ve worked with great companies like Netflix and MetLife and Meltwater and many more, and I just absolutely love what I’m doing. So my start, I would say, was probably undergrad, and I’m just excited to continue doing the work.

Douglas: I’m really curious, when you took that moment to travel, was there a critical moment or time where you’ve just had an epiphany, or was there anything that influenced this shift in trajectory?

Skye: Yeah, absolutely. For me, travel was a way for me to fully embrace different perspectives, different cultures, understand different ways people worked in different parts of the world. I think that actually was very helpful because I worked remotely, and so I was able to do the work in different parts of the world. And so while on those trips, particularly I’m of Nigerian descent, and so I remember going back to Nigeria and really connecting with my family and just having intentional, deep, meaningful conversations around legacy and around the impact that you can create just with your name, just with your mind, and just with your experiences. And so I think the traveling that I did really allowed me to just be still and to appreciate everything that I’ve been afforded, and it also gave me this spirit of how can I give back to those who poured into me? And I feel like that’s just a thread that I’ve ever done.

And even into the work today, that epiphany is how can I pour into someone else who feels overlooked, who might feel like they’re not seen, or who feels stuck and they don’t know how to create change and how to move forward in uncertain times? And so I had a lot of those moments on my trips, and I was very grateful for just the freedom and flexibility and the opportunity to even have those moments.

Douglas: So you returned back, and after some time at joined student affairs, and then a seven person startup, and then a large global organization where you serve community of 300 plus companies. It seems like you’ve seen small, you’ve seem large, you’ve seen public, you’ve seen private. How do you think those experiences have impacted the work you’re doing today?

Skye: Tremendously. I feel like I’m a unicorn at times because I’m able to speak different languages in the way that I can connect with people, right? So I was a solar entrepreneur. The pain points that I would have as a solo entrepreneur and growing and scaling and leading teams of contractors, I’ve done that, or working at a large global company and running an employee resource group along with doing a ton of sales and operations like tech. I can have those nuanced conversations where people feel seen and valued through our interactions.

And so I think, based on all of the pockets and the people that I’ve worked with and the types of things that I’ve been able to do, it allows me to connect on a very intentional and deep, meaningful level where people feel valued and seen and they feel like they’re able to actually receive the information or the tools or the resources that’s going to help them in the now, in the moments where they’re stuck, in the moments where they’re doubting are they a good manager, and the moments where they’re like, “I’m drowning and burnt out, and I don’t know who to hire next.” And so for me, I’ve been through those experiences. Especially for me, I’m very honest and I’m very direct in the way that I talk to groups and the way that I lead workshops.

I’m super authentic and I’m super vulnerable and I’ll share, “This is feedback that I was given in this moment. Here’s how I overcame that. Here’s feedback in the experience I had with managing 25 people at 20 something years old. Let me tell you how hard that was and let me tell you how I overcame it.” And so for me, I’m able to articulate, communicate, connect in such a different way that I think others may struggle with because they haven’t worked with many different group sizes, company organizations, and industries.

Douglas: That’s such a good point is that empathy is really strong, especially if empathy’s coming from a deep authentic place, then we are relating on a level that’s hard to replicate if you haven’t actually experienced it yourself.

Skye: Yes, absolutely. And empathy was the word that I was like, “What is the word?” But yes, absolutely, just tapping in and being empathetic and compassionate and patient, and sharing that things don’t change overnight, right? You’ve got this feedback, but it might take you six months to overcome that and actually create the impact that you’re looking to do, and I’m able to share that.

Douglas: That’s a great point around change not happening overnight. And I’m really curious what you’ve seen to be effective when you’re working with clients of helping them understand that we might be able to do a silver bullet kind of fix, or a quick fix, but it might not last. I’m curious if you have any stories or any go-to methods that listeners might think about.

Skye: Yeah. So I’ll use something specific, right? So I worked with the company particularly around how to create inclusive and inviting spaces for staff of color, and one of the conversations that I had to have with them was, “What’s your climate now,” right? And having a very strong thorough understanding of where your employees are today, meaning have we assessed, are we having focus groups, are we having real authentic conversations, and are we allowing people to just sometimes vent, right? Sometimes we just need to hear. Having that conversation and that connection with that individual, they hadn’t done that work, and what they had done previously was just like, “We’ll celebrate Black History Month,” or, “We’ll celebrate Latin History Month. We’ll do all of the cultural things that everyone does,” but it never went deeper than that. And that’s where sometimes I come in where I’m like, “That is a great start, but if you want to talk about retention and you want to talk about keeping that high level talent, it can’t be performative.

It can’t be something that just you decide to just, “Hey, this year we’re going to celebrate Juneteenth,” but then it’s not even a conversation about what about the rest of the time with the company,” right? Is this now embedded within our system? Is this now embedded within our culture? And so I think for me, just again, having those intentional conversations, having people really be honest with themselves about where I’m actually struggling, is this performative, is this helpful, is this actually going to be embedded within the culture in our business, right? And so are some of the things that I think are very important when we’re thinking about change “not happening overnight”. Change can happen. I can create change and do something different next week, but if there’s no transformation, there’s no impact, there’s no lasting effect, it’s wasted energy, right?

And so there has to be so much intentionality, so much thought, so much just thinking in the future of, “Okay, what’s the impact six months from today in doing this event, and is this something that we need to reassess to make sure that we keep doing?” Or, “It worked really great for today, but never again,” and being honest with ourselves to think about what that long-term impact is. So those are some of the conversations and instances where I’ve worked with an individual who was responsible for really thinking about how do we retain staff of color.

Douglas: You mentioned things being performative, and for those that are wanting to make changes and might not have a good lens on how to think about, “Hey, am I being performative or am I doing something impactful or meaningful?” Some folks might even be not aware of what performative is, and some folks might be aware, but that might be creating some friction for them, or they might be worried that I’m not doing it right so I’m not going to do anything. So I’m curious if you have any advice on how someone might get started and avoid just checking boxes maybe?

Skye: Yeah, so 100% my biggest advice that I would say is just do it, right? Just get started. Have the willingness and the courage to say, “Something doesn’t feel right. I’ve gotten feedback. I’ve noticed other companies doing this. Maybe this is something we should consider too,” right? So having just that inkling, right? And most times it comes through feedback where an employee or a colleague says, “It would be really great if we did this,” right? The other side is how are you as a leader upskilling and learning and understanding what’s going on in your industry, right? So again, seeing what other companies are doing, being on LinkedIn, reading those updates and news and articles, really staying in tune and in touch with what’s happening in today, okay? So those are the two things that I would say. Now, performative really is I am feeling societal pressure to do something just for appearances, right? And we saw a lot of companies doing that where it’s like, “Oh, well that company’s going to donate money? We’re going to donate money.” But the thing and what makes it not look performative is what are the results?

I think there was a huge conversation of, “Wow, all these companies are giving away all this money and all of these grants,” but did you actually do it? Where is your annual report? Where is the impact? Show us what you actually did and created and implemented. I think that’s super important and super critical. And one of the ways to really ensure that that happens is you make sure that you bring a very diverse team to the table, men, women, ethnicities, different experiences from different companies that can bring in thoughts, ideas, conversations that can help to innovate, right? That’s super important. It can’t just be me doing all of the work for the company, and sometimes that’s the case, but that’s why it’s really great to make connections within your industry, right? I’ve done a lot of solo work, and so when I was working for that startup, there were some things that I was doing, but I was recreating the wheel and making it special for our company.

But it was so helpful for me to reach out to other individuals, even as a solo individual at a company working on one task, to reach out to maybe a competitor or maybe someone who’s doing something similar to say, “Hey, I’d love to learn best practices. Any resources you can share, any connects you can share so I don’t make those same mistakes? Because at the end of the day, my hope is that we’re all in this together to really create lasting impact.” That’s where it’s not performative, because the effort is there to make sure that we’re doing the work and we’re continually making sure that we’re evolving from there.

Douglas: It makes me think of the changing the LinkedIn profile image for a month but not really changing any policies, or not taking any time to have deep conversations around how we’re hiring, how we’re onboarding, how we’re treating people, how we’re taking reports seriously. And so, to me, what you say and what you do has to be aligned for it to be more impactful, like you were saying.

Skye: Absolutely. And you made a comment earlier about sometimes people are just nervous, or they just don’t know, or they don’t want to make the mistake. And so for me, it’s just like, man, just have a conversation with someone who could be your partner or who can help you, if you’re nervous to step out and say, “Hey, I want to do this really great initiative, but I don’t know if I, this person, this identity, should be leading this charge.” Well, I would say I combat that, because maybe you’re in a company where it’s not as diverse, but you still feel like this information is useful and important for us to know because our clientele might be a part of this group, right? And so really just having the courage to have the conversations, to ask those questions, to say, “Hey, I noticed a bunch of other companies are doing this. We don’t even have an employee resource group. What does that conversation look like? Who can we pull in to get that started?” Courage is so important.

Change will not happen, innovation will not happen if you don’t have the one or two people who are like, “I am going to step up and take the lead and the reins on this, and I’d love help with that,” right? It’s never going to happen if someone doesn’t step up.

Douglas: Yeah. And your point earlier about just getting started, just do it. And while that first attempt might be performative, to me the thing is if you stay curious, you keep learning, to your point, and maybe the real trick is if you’re going to go do something today and you’re worried about being performative, set a reminder. Put it on the next executive meeting calendar or the next planning meeting, or whatever altitude you’re working, so that you come back and look at it and say, “What else are we going to do? What does it mean to take this a step further so it’s not just a one and done do it and okay, I changed my logo for a month and I’m good.”

Skye: Absolutely. And there’s companies that are still doing that, so it’s even on us as consumers to hold these companies accountable for what we see, and then we don’t see the follow up or the follow through. So again, I love your idea of just what next, putting that reminder, like, “How do I come back? How do I then justify this to my,” like you said, “Executive team? How does this affect the bottom line,” especially when you’re working. And this is stuff I talk to on individual when I do workshops and stuff. It’s how can I justify what’s actually needed for the business, but how do I also align it with the bottom line, because sometimes, a lot of times, our C-suites and our C level suite level individuals are so focused on the larger picture, they’re not in the weeds, they don’t understand what’s happening on the ground. And what’s happening on the ground is individuals who need certain resources, access to information.

And we’re asking for it, but oftentimes those things don’t continue because you don’t have the buy-in. And when you don’t have the buy-in, the finances might not be there, again, the interest is not there, and then the company keeps moving. But there’s no company that’s going to thrive without people, and so I’m always like, ugh, how do I make sure those leaders, managers, even on the base level to C-suite, really understand, hey, this is a need, and we have to keep serving in order to keep our teammates happy so they don’t leave so we have a business, right? You’re not going to have a business if you don’t have happy employees.

Douglas: So let’s talk a little bit about some of your favorite ways to ensure we’re keeping employees happy.

Skye: Yeah. I think one is just connection and rapport, right? Do you know me? Do what my motivations are? Do you know why I even came to this company? Do you know what brings me happiness in the work and what drains my energy? Am I burnt out? Are you helping out, right? And so I think one it’s just really having a critical, vulnerable, open understanding of your individuals on your team and your team as a whole, because if I feel like my manager doesn’t care about me, if they don’t say hi to me, they’re not just randomly checking in on me to make sure I’m good, over time I’m going to feel like my manager just wants me to deliver work and they don’t care about me as a human. And so we want to make sure that at the base level there’s rapport and human connection. I think another part of just making sure and ensuring that our employees are really happy working with us is just what value am I bringing and providing, right?

And so if I apply for a company, I’m probably enamored by, “Wow, this is a really cool logo,” or, “This is a brand I really love and admire,” and when I get in, I have high hopes and expectations that I’m still going to feel that level of pride and energy. And I’ve worked for companies like that where it was really shiny on the outside, and then you got on the inside and you’re like, “Whew, what did I sign up for?” And I’ve also worked for companies where it’s shiny and beautiful and you get in and you’re like, “Wow, I’ve met lifelong friends, and I’ve met lifelong mentors and sponsors.” And in those companies where everything has fallen into alignment because I felt like people cared about me, I felt like I had opportunities for professional development and growth, right? Whether it was tangibly there or whether I just was brought in on committees, was given opportunities to allow my voice to be heard, those things were really, really meaningful to me.

Other ways I think you can ensure employees are happy is just making sure that the work that they’re contributing aligns to the purpose and the vision of the business. Nothing is worse than working in a company or working on a team where you feel like you’re doing busy work or the work you’re doing doesn’t matter. You’re going to then employ people who are just collecting checks versus people who are invested in the growth and development of your business. So those are the things I would say. And lastly is just what is your culture, right? I want to work for fun companies. I want to work for companies while I’m learning. I want to work for companies where we’re having trendy topic conversations where something might have happened in the world and we’re comfortable enough to bring the conversation to our Zoom room or to our tables, right? So what does the culture look like? Do I feel free? Do I feel able to have conversations with anyone at any time? Can I reach out to the CEO without feeling like I need to go through 50,000 people, right?

What does that culture, what does that hierarchy, what does that just environment feel like? And oftentimes, if I got the professional development, my manager cares about me, I am able to live freely and authentically through a company, that’s where you’re going to have people where you talk to and they’re like, “Yeah, I’ve been here for 25 years. I’ve been here for 40 years. I’m not going anywhere,” or they boomerang back. They left because they thought the grass is greener, and they realized, “Whoa, actually where I was is where I wanted to be and I’m going to stay here through the duration of my career.” And we’re starting to see a lot of boomeranging, especially with the great resignation. I know a handful of people who were like, “I left because it was more money here,” or whatever their reasoning was, and they’re like, “But I went back because I really didn’t enjoy that company. I really didn’t enjoy that experience,” more so than bouncing elsewhere.

So many things people can do, but it’s really just like how do I connect with my people, how do I make sure that they feel like there’s growth opportunity, and how do we make sure that they’re in a culture where they feel included and excited to be there?

Douglas: You mentioned earlier to create inclusive and inviting cultures, and always love this word inviting or to invite people, because in our facilitation community, someone once said, “Inclusion is inviting people to the dance.” And true inviting them to dance is a whole nother level, because it’s bringing them really into the table. And so I’m just really curious about, you talked about how important it was to be able to have conversations and to be authentic and to connect and relationships, how do leaders ensure they’re building a culture? Are there tools, are there techniques that will help them start to foster those things?

Skye: Yeah. Well one, I think there needs to be mindset work in me realizing that I’m a manager of a team, whether it’s one person, whether it’s 100 people, I don’t have all the answers. I’m human. I like to laugh and have fun. I have my own hobbies, my own experiences. And I think oftentimes when people put on that I’m the manager hat, they become really stiff. They box themselves in with barriers and walls. They make it very much about the business versus the people. And I think sometimes it might be the nature of the work that they do where there’s immense pressure and there’s a lot going on, but we have a lot more control than we think in how we can manage and lead people. And so the first thing that I would say is figure out how you can enjoy the work and enjoy the people, right? As I said before, I’m pretty transparent in the way that I’ve managed, and I remember being a manager in my first role where I was managing 25 people and they were just years younger than me, but I threw on my blazers.

I wanted to look older. I wanted to command “their respect” and be seen as the authority figure, so much so that I was not an open book, right? I would not show any weakness. If they asked me a question, I internally put the pressure on myself to feel like I had to have the answer right then and there. And it was a detriment to the way I managed for the first few months. Even in one-on-ones, I could tell that people were just very much like, “Oh, here’s all the work I’ve done.” It was just work focused. And it wasn’t until I had a performance review where I got feedback and people are like, “I mean, she’s a good manager, but we don’t know anything about her. She seems so business and she’s so strict,” and all of these things. I’m like, “Man.” I’m like, “That’s not how I wanted to come off, but that’s absolutely how I’m coming off, because it’s not just one person saying that. It’s multiple people,” right?

So I think one of the ways that sometimes us as managers can get that reality check is obviously going directly to those who we manage and getting that feedback, whether it’s done formally or informally. I think I created enough of a safe space that after the performance reviews I was like, “Okay, so here are some of the themes that came up for me. What are your thoughts? Be honest with me. What are some ways that I can allow you to feel more connected to me? What are some things I can do to make your life easier as your manager,” right? And so I would ask these intentional questions, and slowly I started to peel back the layers of being the “manager and boss”. I let people know what I did on weekends. I shared my love of travel. We did this thing called show and tell, which was something you probably do in elementary school, but in that time where we’d dedicate five minutes for someone to really talk about any topic that they were passionate about.

And I remember doing mine and everyone was so excited to see what I would talk about, and I just talked about how I loved anime and I loved animated cartoons and manga and all these things. And every single person in that room, their jaw dropped. They were like, “What do you know about Dragon Ball Z and Sailor Moon?” And then we had this huge debate around the best anime movies and shows, and it went from like five minutes to like 30 minutes. And I realized, I was like, “You know what? Let loose. It’s not that deep. You are human. You’re a person too. You’ve been through these experiences that they’re going through.” And I promise you that just I let go and the entire team, it transformed, right Just the idea of letting go in my mind that I had to be this person to have all the answers, and this person to be the authority figure, and to be the end all be all for the team.

I don’t know, but I realize that so many people have that mentality where they feel like they have to be this strict stern individual who’s the expert, which you just might know a little bit more than that person in some things, right? So, yeah, to shorten that, that was really my experience where I first was like, “Wow, I’m not being my authentic self, and my team suffered from it and I suffered from it because I am such a person that’s all about connection and building rapport.” And I was blocking myself from being able to really do that in a way that was impactful and helpful to the team. And so the last six months with that group, to this day, 15, 20 years later, still talk to those individuals and they still reach out to me for feedback and they still reach out to me for job opportunities. I’ve been invited to weddings.

And I would probably not have created that personal connection with them if I hadn’t just relaxed and been okay with not having all the answers and been okay with just letting them know I’m learning how to be a manager alongside managing you, and it’s okay to do that and it’s okay to say that.

Douglas: Yeah, so powerful. And you mentioned mentorship and sponsorship in our pre-show chat, and this is making me think about reverse mentorship too, because as we get older, if we want to be able to relate to some of our younger employees, it’s going to be really powerful to connect with folks to give us a lens in what their life is like and what’s relevant for them, being aware of pop culture and maybe taking a look at TikTok every now and then.

Skye: I was just thinking that, because I had a conversation with someone and I was like, “Oh, what’d you do this weekend?” They were like, “Oh, I did a bunch of TikToks with my godson.” And I was like, “Oh my gosh, which ones? What were the reels? What did you do?” And yeah, I mean, am I actively on TikTok? I think I have a page, but I’m not on there. But just to be able to relate, because now we’re thinking about me as a manager. There might be a two year difference or there might be a 40 year difference, I don’t know. But how can I make sure that I understand what this person that I’m working with, what they value, what they do on their off time, what they enjoy? And so that reverse mentorship is absolutely important, because they might open you up to a new world of information and knowledge and just fun things.

Douglas: And I think it’s a great way to stay in that curiosity mindset, that you mentioned was important to not be performative. If we’re going to stay curious about how to do those things, and it helps us just wire our brains to always be in that learning mode.

Skye: Yes, absolutely. It takes time, right? Again, you’re not going to wake up, be born, and just be like, “I’m the best manager,” right? You’re the best manager you were today, and that goal is to get better every single day, right? That’s the learning mindset, that’s the open mindset, like when I think of Carol Dweck’s book, right? You have to be open to feedback and new adventures and new ways of learning if you’re going to grow, right? And I always say, whenever I do leadership trainings, I’m like, “Okay, you are the best version of yourself today, but your version of the way you manage and lead is going to be so different six months from now.” Something happens in the world, something happens with your team and you’re like, “Whew, got to tap into empathy. Got to tap into compassion. I got to tap into patience. I got to learn a new skillset. A new programs popped up.” And so you’re always evolving and always learning, and that’s so important when you are managing people in real life.

Douglas: Absolutely. All of this is also making me think of the psychological safety stuff that we talked about in the pre-show chat. Which relating certainly helps with psychological safety, but there’s also other things we might want to consider as leaders as far as the tone we’re setting, how we react when mistakes happen. I’m curious if you’ve got any words of wisdom or any stories to tell around that.

Skye: Absolutely. It’s all about power dynamics, right? Us as managers, as leaders, especially if you’re in an organization where there are layers, you inherently have power just by your title. You inherently have power just by your tenure, how long you’ve been there, your knowledge, your skillset. You inherently sometimes have power just by your ethnicity and who you’re connected to and the information that you have. And so you have to be so intentional about how are you wielding that power. Are you wielding that power in a way that’s going to allow for individuals to feel included and to foster a sense where they feel safe? Because if not, then you’re really hindering. And so when I think about just communities and really creating that safe psychological space, it’s how are we making sure that we’re staying connected, right? Everything I do is really based on connection. So how are we utilizing those one-on-ones and those touch points? How am I making sure that I’m learning about you on a personal level, but also professional level? Is there anything you’re struggling with, right? Is there anything I can help you with?

And I think I learned that from when I go back to my first professional career, which was working in residential life in universities. I lived in with 5,000 students plus, and the experiences, the conversations. It could be, “I’m really struggling with class,” or, “I’m really thinking of harming myself,” right? And being a leader, being a manager, being a part of an organization where you have to care about people, there’s tremendous responsibility that comes with that. I don’t think people really understand that. You have a way to make or break someone’s career journey, right? You can make or break someone’s day, you can make or break someone’s desire to still work with this company, or you can make and break someone’s life, right? And so I just look at leadership so much deeper than just having one-on-ones and having workshops. It’s really about how am I impacting someone’s life, and I really mean that, right? Sometimes I ask questions about tell me about the worst manager you’ve ever had, tell me about the best manager you’ve ever had. And we always remember those people and those individuals that created a really terrible experience for us.

And oftentimes that experience I call career trauma follows us. Whether someone says you weren’t good enough or someone says, “How did you even get this job,” or whatever the case. It follows us. And it’s not until we can harness the confidence and the courage to just say, “I’m better than that and I’m not that,” or we have those sponsors or those mentors who pour into us and say, “I see the potential. I see something in you and you are absolutely going to shine bright,” right? And so there’s so much, when I think about psychological safety, it’s at the end of the day I just want to be in an environment where I feel safe, where I feel like I can share feedback without retaliation, where I feel like if I need to cry, my manager, my leader’s going to give me a Kleenex and just let me vent, right? If I’m angry, listen to me. Why am I angry, right? Can you help calm me down?

And so that is immense responsibility on the manager and the leader side, which is why we need to make sure that those who are saying yes to being people leaders really are in it for the people and not for the accolades, because to me it’s deeper than the accolades. It’s all about the people. And in order to create that psychological safe space, the people need to feel vulnerable, and being vulnerable in front of someone who doesn’t care is the worst thing you can do, right? And so my goal is always how can I equip you, provide resources to you to really tap into empathy and compassion and really be there for people so it is a safe space so people can really flourish under your leadership?

Douglas: Amazing. And I usually ask about the future, and you summarized so much of what is possible just in that last answer so beautifully. We’re impacting people’s lives and that’s really quite profound. And so I want to end with an opportunity to leave our listeners with a final thought.

Skye: Yeah. So my final thought really is just I want to speak directly to the individuals who might be working with managers who they feel like don’t see their value. And I think you asked earlier about when was a pivotal moment for me. I think that I’ve always been an individual who has attached the company as part of my brand. So it was always Skye works here, or Skye’s at this company. And it wasn’t until I had a manager in my past that really created a space that was not safe for me to where I wanted to leave a company to where I cried. I felt like there were things happening that were not fair. And it wasn’t until I had a mentor come and say something to me and said, “You were the key to the success in this space, and I see so much potential in you,” where I then was like, “Wow, for someone else to say, “I see so much potential in you,” and I didn’t see it in myself, was a really eyeopening moment for me.”

And so I’m speaking directly to those who are working at companies or organizations where they feel like they’re floating or they don’t feel like they have that person. It is up to you to harness that for yourself, then others will see it. Because if not, you will create a space where you are unhappy and continually unhappy. And so now I’m on this wave where it’s like how can I curate my own lane? How can I curate my own space? How can I advocate for myself? And the best answer for that is find mentors. If you have a manager who’s not there for you, who else in that organization can you confide in that you can connect with that can give you the resources to where you want to do a lateral move or elsewhere, right? And really thinking through how can I make sure that at the end of the day, I’m doing everything within my own power that I can control to really create a grand experience for myself? Because not everyone’s cut out to be your manager.

Not everyone will see your value, but you have tremendous value. You are incredibly important to this organization. You are incredibly important to this world, and the impact that you have just needs to be unleashed, and it needs to be unleashed in a safe space around individuals where you feel like they see your potential. And so I’m saying that because I wish somebody would’ve said that to me a few years ago. And as I think about the future, you have to do everything you can to keep your peace, to find your joy, and to really create impact. So I’ll leave it there.

Douglas: Amazing. Thank you so much Skye, and I hope folks do take up your advice and reach out to you. We’ll have information in the show notes on how to find you. And I can’t wait to continue our conversation, so we’ll talk again soon.

Skye: Thank you so much, Douglas. This is great.

Douglas: Thanks for joining me for another episode of Control the Room. Don’t forget to subscribe to receive updates when new episodes are released. If you want to know more, head over to our blog where I post weekly articles and resources about radical inclusion, team health, and working better. Voltagecontrol.com.