July 11, 2023

8: Liz Davila-Sleigh – Breaking first gen stereotypes, building communities, and raising cool humans

Liz Davila-Sleigh, DEI coach and facilitator, discusses diversity, equity, and inclusion (DEI) in the workplace. Through this lens, Liz and Matt explore the fear of hurting people, the importance of empathy, and the responsibility of individuals to grow in the DEI space. They also touch on the value of other people's perspectives and the need for allies to support and help. The episode emphasizes the need for deeper understanding (of people and issues) and challenging assumptions to build more inclusive communities.

In this episode

[00:00:00] Podcast Teaser

[00:01:22] Podcast Intro

[00:05:52] Instilling values in kids vs telling them who to be

[00:10:24] Corporate work to solopreneurship: Liz’s background

[00:19:55] Community Building

[00:24:02] What is gained and lost from assimilating into a new culture

[00:26:22] Finding and listening to triggers

[00:31:29] The backstory of “Somos Culture”

[00:32:58] Acknowledging racial differences

[00:41:30] Navigating tough conversations: Are they ready?

[00:44:13] Shifting your perspective

[00:48:05] DEI education 101

[00:51:30] The power of “I’m sorry” and “Thank you”

[00:56:30] Closing remarks / where to find Liz

Links & Resources

Somos Culture Website: https://somosculture.com/

Somos Culture Instagram: https://www.instagram.com/somosculturellc/

Liz’s LinkedIn: https://shorturl.at/hAC27

More Than Words Podcast: https://morethanwordspodcast.com/

Liz’s Email: elizabeth@somosculture.com 

Matt’s Twitter: ⁠https://twitter.com/MattMHarriman⁠ 

Matt’s LinkedIn: ⁠https://www.linkedin.com/in/mattharriman/⁠ 

Matt’s book, Integrated Upstream Planning: ⁠https://amzn.to/3n9Obvl⁠ 

Episode Transcript: ⁠https://pod2.co/podcast/⁠

Pod2 website: ⁠https://pod2.co/⁠ 

Pod2 YouTube: ⁠https://www.youtube.com/@pod_2⁠


Liz Davila-Sleigh: If you're in a community where everyone looks like you, has the same socioeconomic status, and thinks the same way, it's hard to humanize someone else's experience. That's why I love the power of storytelling. At the same time, it's not up to someone who has been historically underrepresented to share their story, or for them to be that representation. The problem is that it might trigger certain emotions for them. As a facilitator and coach, the first thing I had to learn was how to understand my own biases.

Matt Harriman: We were having a deep conversation—totally immersed in it— and then my son bursts into the room and asks, "Can you open my goldfish?" And it was one of the more business-like conversations, so it wasn't as casual, but it was pretty funny…

Liz Davila-Sleigh: It's the way of the world. If you see a little person throwing Pokemon stuff or making Power Ranger noises, those are my gremlins in the back.

Matt Harriman: I love it. My gremlins wrote on my whiteboard back here. 

Liz Davila-Sleigh: I love that. 

Matt Harriman: I've got all kinds of stuff from them. Let me properly introduce this thing now. This is episode eight of the Achieve and Enjoy podcast. With me today, I have Liz Davila-Sleigh. Thank you, Liz, for coming on.

Liz Davila-Sleigh: Thanks, Matt, for having me. Usually, I'm sitting on your side and interviewing people, so this is kind of a novelty for me being interviewed.

Matt Harriman: Well, you can judge me for how poorly I do at it. This is attempt number eight for me.

Liz Davila-Sleigh: No judgment—judgment-free zone here.

Matt Harriman: Well, this is attempt number eight for me, but I have spoken to more than eight humans, so hopefully I'm not too terrible. I'd like to start with your story. You and I met through Leslie, an amazing person. She told me that I would like you, and she's not wrong about that kind of thing.

Liz Davila-Sleigh: I love Leslie, she is an incredible person. I appreciate her connecting me with you. In our earlier call, I started by saying, "I'm so glad I get to meet you, Matt because I've been hustling all your LinkedIn posts." I wanted to see what you're all about because Leslie's my friend, and I'm very protective of my friends. When she told me that she was leaping, I said, "Let me go see who this Matt guy is." And I'm like, "Oh, I think he's cool. I like him." So when I first met you, I think I was fangirling. I was like, "Oh my God, hi."

Matt Harriman: I got the auntie approval then.

Liz Davila-Sleigh: Yes, you got the auntie approval. That's right. A little bit about me: I identify as a Latina woman. I am a first-generation American now living in the UK. I'm a mom of two gremlins—boys that I'm trying to raise to be kind and the best humans that they can be. University is optional, but being kind and reading books is not—our mission in our home.

Matt Harriman: How old are your boys?

Liz Davila-Sleigh: My boys are, oh, this is gonna be heartbreaking cuz then I start thinking about how many summers are left over. My oldest one is eight, and my youngest one is five. I always think about how many summers we have left and next summer, he's gonna be nine—I'm not comfortable with that at all. I just want them to be little babies and stay like that forever, even though the baby phase was really hard, as you well know.

Matt Harriman: Yeah. The baby phase was tough. I'm okay with that one being over for us. Now that ours are little kids, it's fun.

Liz Davila-Sleigh: Yeah. They're super cool people! And being able to have these deep conversations with them is something I also enjoy. I'm a coach, facilitator, and speaker, and I help workplaces develop inclusive communities. I intentionally use the word "community" because, as we see in a community, there are so many differences, and in our communities, we want to honor all those differences. We connect through similarities, but we honor differences. So everything that I learn in this space, I try to teach my children as well.

Meaning we learn about pretty heavy topics in our house— more geared toward children. If people can grow up to hate, they can also grow up to love and show and spread kindness. I think that's why I wanted to meet you. You advocate for being in an organization, hitting your target, hitting all your deliverables, and being kind and not sucking at work.

Matt Harriman: I'm glad that you pick up on that part of the message because I know like the whole tagline of making work suck less and stuff like that, it's pretty light—kind of airy. We think about bad software and bad process and stuff, but the things that make it the worst are discrimination, fear, intimidation—things that do damage to people. We'll get into that some more, but one thing I want to note that you said is you called your kids cool people and, that's something that has fascinated me, how different they are. I have three kids and they're all different human beings. I'm realizing how little control I have over how they're going to turn out and what their personalities are like. We can influence them and help instill good values and some of those things, but the clay is there.

Liz Davila-Sleigh: They're going to make up their minds and make their path. I'm here to just be. I use a lot of my coaching techniques in my house—my husband's not as excited about that part of it because I tend to coach him a lot. Sometimes he gets me, and he's like, “Ha! The coachee got the coach. So now I'm the coach.” And I'm like, “Okay, all right.” I just try to use this approach of curiosity and non-judgment. In my line of work, I don't bring myself into spaces. I have my podcast where we talk about diversity, equity, and inclusion. We set up that podcast to provide a space where other equity and inclusion professionals could have a space and other coaches could have a space to talk because we tend not to bring ourselves within the workplace.

We are very much a neutral party, and we like to call ourselves “The guide on the side.” It's super cheesy, but it works. Likewise, I'm just here with my kids to be part of their journey and witness the things that they do and be their champion.

We have family meetings every week. We don't have family rules— I am definitely in the mindset of rules are meant to be broken. I'm a disruptor. No rules, so instead, we're going to do a mission. We bring our kids to participate in our house and to say, “Okay, this community is yours too. So yes, Mom and Dad have bought this house. We've worked very hard to provide a life for you, and at the same time, we want you to contribute to this. So you get to pick the menu; you get to pick the things that you want our family to work on and to do; and how can we be better?” Amazing things have come out of this. Every year they pick a nonprofit organization to either raise money for or volunteer their time. In the past it’s been, the Texas Children's Hospital, where we adopted a couple of families in Houston. Sure, it puts extra stress on my husband and me, as you can imagine, because we have to go with it. But we've given them this freedom, now we have to follow through with it. So here we are at Costco buying, you know, I don't know how many toys for the families we are supporting. It’s really fun. 

Matt Harriman: For sure. It's like, "Oh, damn it. I have to be the good person that I tried to convince my kids that I am, and I have to live up to it."

Liz Davila-Sleigh: Exactly. It's hard having two people with careers in a partnership. I mentioned to you in our previous call that I was in corporate America for 21 years, working in oil and gas mostly, in service to operations. My husband is also career-driven, so doing those things on top of that is kind of crazy. I decided to take the leap of faith and start my own business—an adventure.

Matt Harriman: I can imagine. Let's talk about that. So your background was primarily in oil and gas before starting your own thing?

Liz Davila-Sleigh: Yes, primarily oil and gas. About three years ago, I started to tap into other industries as well. I have some experience in tech, consulting on inclusion, coaching, education, and a few others. It was intriguing to see how different and similar oil and gas is compared to other industries. But I like to say that I grew up in oil and gas.

Matt Harriman: Yeah. I'd love to hear the story of going from accounting in oil and gas to what you're doing now. That's not a career path that many people have probably taken. What led up to that? Did you know that this was something that you cared deeply about for a long time, or did it arise randomly at some point for you? How did you get there?

Liz Davila-Sleigh: You ready? Get your popcorn because this is a good story. I was taking a certification for the Hogan Assessment, a leadership assessment on personality, behaviors, and all that stuff when I told the assessor what I did for 18 years of my career (I was an accountant). He said, "Wow. Your assessment tells me that you were never supposed to be an accountant and that was not the job for you."

Back in the very beginning, being first generation, both my parents didn't speak the language when they came here. They had to assimilate, and I use the word assimilation with no negative connotation. I had to forget about our culture and embrace American culture— very tough. When I got into university, that was an impactful point because I thought I was like everyone else, but I wasn't. I grew up in North Side Houston, where the schools and what I was used to was vastly different from the hodgepodge of people and cultures at the University of Houston. There were people from all over— different socioeconomic statuses and different cultures. All of a sudden I was not like everyone else. 

Another thing that happens with first-generation Latina daughters is there are a lot of expectations, perfectionism, and caregiving. I knew that I wanted to go to university, I just didn't know what to do. At the time, I was interning for the company that I stayed in for 21 years. My boss brought me into his office and said, "Alright, where's your college application?" After a year at university, he pulled me aside and said, "So what degree are we doing?" I said, "I don't know, something cool like communications or international business or general business." He said, "No, we're not doing that. Go take this accounting class and see how you did." I picked accounting and made an A. He said, "Okay, you're going to do accounting until you figure out what you want to do. You're good at it, so do it, and then you'll figure it out." I always blame him because that's how I got into accounting. It wasn't until three years ago that I got to tap into other industries. I started coaching and consulting—when I realized that accounting was not for me. I wanted to do something that I cared about, something that I was passionate about. Which led me to start my own business.

Matt Harriman: I wonder what his perspective was. It sounds like he was trying to establish a floor for what your outcome could be. At the very least, you'd have a reliable job until you figured out what else you wanted to do.

Liz Davila-Sleigh: Exactly. I think his whole thought was, "I'm going to help you build this foundation, and I'm going to mentor you because I see a lot of potential in you and this is what I know." He wasn't trying to push his perspective on me or change who I was in any way. He said, "I see this potential in you, and until you can figure it out for yourself, let's put a good foundation. Because ultimately, even if you end up doing something different, you could always rely on this." And so I always say that I blame him for things, but I do something different now.

Matt Harriman: Right. You're no longer in accounting as I know. But that experience wasn't wasted. Those tools, experiences, and things you learned as an accountant were just added to your toolbox, and you keep that experience with you. It's a stepping stone to your whole pyramid that you have, and it builds who you are.

Liz Davila-Sleigh: It’d been a long while since I knew that I wasn't meant to be an accountant, but I persevered anyway. It was seven or eight years ago when I realized that I'm not completely satisfied here (at work). I worked a lot too, and coming from a Latin background (I'm making an assumption here that everybody's like this), but for me, my own experience was, "I'm going to work harder than anybody else in this room. I'm going to keep my head down, and my work is going to show." But I was never satisfied. It never felt like I had something tangible or something like, "This is mine, this is my purpose, and this is my mission." I even started disrupting the organization more and more to see how far I could get with my troublemaking. And I was like, "Maybe I just need to disrupt things, and maybe that'll make me happy." I was never satisfied at the end of the day.

Three years ago, I started a journey to becoming a coach. At the time, I was being coached by someone, and a lot of my limiting beliefs came to the surface, meaning I had a lot of things in my head that were holding me back. I had a lot of things that I thought were real, but they were nowhere close to reality. The impact of those stories that I was telling myself was huge—it was keeping me stuck. It was keeping me from saying yes to things that I probably shouldn't have said yes to. I always thought that coaching was reserved for executives, not people like me. And in oil and gas, in leadership teams, I don't see a lot of people like me, right?

Matt Harriman: You're a stereotypical accountant, right?

Liz Davila-Sleigh: Exactly, I'm very much a stereotypical accountant. I started looking back at my whole history. When I was in high school, the common thread of all my stories throughout my journey was people. I was very much driven to help people; organize things for people; events for people; collaborate with people; bring people with teamwork. I even looked at all my performance reviews, and one of the biggest common threads was the team aspect of it. I was never afraid to walk into anybody's office. I didn't care who you were or what you did, or what you didn't do. I was always going to know your name and I was always going to know a detail about you that would connect us. And then I was going to honor who you were as a person.

Matt Harriman: You're a community builder.

Liz Davila-Sleigh: Yeah, I'm a community builder—that's my superpower in this world. And I said, "Okay, well, I'm good at that. I'm good at business. Again, my accounting side, I'm good at figuring out what I need from a money standpoint. Let's do it." And that's why I do what I do, building communities.

Matt Harriman: I have a dozen notes from when you were talking earlier. There's so much fascinating stuff. I want to go back to what you said about your parents coming to the country and how assimilation was really important to them. Is it fair to say they focused on embracing the American way of things, almost to the point of suppressing your heritage and original culture? And you also mentioned behaviors that you developed that protect you and work for a while, but then maybe they don't. What behaviors do you think came out of that or proved to not be useful or that you outlasted?

Liz Davila-Sleigh: Yes, assimilation and suppressing culture were a hundred percent a part of my upbringing. I think what came out of it for me is this sense of working as hard as I can. In that assessment, I came out as a workaholic—I'm not surprised. Another thing is reaching out to people, reaching back, reaching forward, reaching sideways—always making sure that everyone within your community has what they need. From the workaholic standpoint, I think that helped me so much when I didn't know what I was doing. Everything was brand new to me and I didn't have someone as an example of how it should be done.

I felt like for university, my college applications, I probably could have done better on them or I could have finished them faster or I could have finished college faster, or whatever it may be. But I had to start from the very beginning. Asking for help is something I still struggle with. I have awareness of it at the moment, but I tend to not ask for help. I would rather just carry everything on my shoulders and be like, "Yeah, I'll carry you too, and you too. And just help everybody like this Amazonian woman or something." That has both helped and hurt me. As you can imagine, you have to be willing to ask for help in every situation. You have to be willing to sit down with somebody, whether it's your boss or a colleague or a peer, and say, "I'm drowning. I need help at this moment." Even personally, our mental health cases are rising at the moment and a lot of people tend to believe that they're the only ones—that they're alone. That's where that shame and fear tend to develop and grow. Because it loves it. I think asking for help has hurt me a lot of times, but it's also helped me because it's given me that push of, "No, why not me? If they can do it, why not me?"

Matt Harriman: What's a trigger for you in a good way? What's a trigger in your mind that helps you know or recognize when you should be asking for help, but you're not? Have you noticed any?

Liz Davila-Sleigh: That's a good question. Because I'm a coach and a facilitator, when we get trained and we start learning how to be a coach and a facilitator, we start having to pay attention to our physical reactions to things. Our minds might be playing tricks on us, but our physical reactions will never lie. I started paying attention when I was uncomfortable in a situation, and I had to start learning to trust my intuition, which for a long time I suppressed. My parents were saying my instinct was X, Y, Z, and they were saying, "No, you need to be this. This is your box. This is who you need to be to be successful." So that wasn't my instinct. I started distrusting my intuition. I had to learn how to trust myself and my intuition. As soon as I was able to do that, then I could pay attention to my body. When I was in a situation where it was going to trigger me, I could feel like my shoulders were tense. I learned from someone, when you build resentment towards something or someone, it's because a need of yours wasn't being met.

Matt Harriman: Did your parents have or develop any kind of community in America?

Liz Davila-Sleigh: Absolutely, yes. Community building was an embracing of how they operated and also our culture. One of the best parts of any Latino household is you can always knock on my door and there will always be food and a room for you to stay. My husband, who's British, has had to embrace it. He asks, "Okay, how many people? What time are they coming?" But he's getting there. I think by the 20-year mark he might be okay with it.

Matt Harriman: You just need to give him a range, you know? Somewhere between 10 and 200 people will be here. Probably closer to 1 than to 200.

Liz Davila-Sleigh: I'm going to steal that, Matt. I was like, I don't know how many people to cook for. He asked, "Well, how do you know?" and I said, "You don't. You just buy a ton of food." I can't cook for three people, I have to cook for 20 or more. That's where Somos Culture came from. Somos means "we are" in Spanish, so I use it a lot. "We are brave," "We are community," "We are joy," "We are kind." These are things that people cannot take away from you. The world is just crazy at the moment. There are a lot of things happening, and it's really scary. It's so easy to sit in front of the TV and be scared for our lives and be scared for our children and to have our lives be driven by that fear. It takes a disruptor to say, "Nope, not today." You have to think about the things that people can't take away from you, like that sense of community, joy, bravery, and kindness. People cannot take those things away from you. They might be able to take everything else away, but not those things. That's why Somos was so important for me to build and make it very colorful. If you go on my website, it looks like a Latin party in there.

Matt Harriman: That's interesting. I want to get into this and help me if I'm clumsy around it. I think that, from my personal experience as a straight white guy with a lot of privilege, it was uncomfortable to acknowledge the differences in a respectful and supportive way. I've seen this discomfort in a lot of places. Some people feel that to not be racist, you should not even acknowledge racial differences. Some people would hesitate to say that a person is Black or Latino. What brought it up is when you were talking about the suppression of your parents' culture and assimilating into America and their thought process of, ignoring where we were, we are American. I don't have a specific question in there, but I wanted to bring up that topic because I feel like it's uncomfortable for a lot of people to acknowledge differences in a respectful and supportive way.

Liz Davila-Sleigh: Absolutely. Even where I sit as a Latina woman, I carry certain privileges. Even within my own culture, my skin color is lighter, so colorism is a big thing in the Latino and Black community. There's a degree of privilege that we often carry. It depends on what space you're in, and you're right, there are things that I will not experience. My two sons won't have to go into a grocery store and ask for a receipt, even if they buy a pack of gum—what many of my friends who have Black sons have to teach their sons. The power of the story is important to humanize someone else's experience. However, it's not up to someone who has been historically underrepresented to share that story. It's not their responsibility to teach others. It's the responsibility of others to learn and to ask for permission to hear someone's story. Cuz the problem is, that it might open up certain triggers for them.

For me as a facilitator and a coach,  the first thing I had to learn how to do was understand my own biases. What were my triggers? Who triggered me? How did they trigger me? We always facilitate in pairs of two because there might be someone in that group that triggers me, in which case, my co-facilitator will take the lead. All that to say, we have to be very careful and mindful and ask for permission for someone to share their story. Are you comfortable with sharing that story with me? I wanna learn more about this, it's not your responsibility to teach me, it's my responsibility to learn the things that make me curious, but can I ask for permission to learn your story and to hear your story? Does that make sense?

Matt Harriman: Can you share your definition of the word trigger in that context?

Liz Davila-Sleigh: Yeah, trigger, for me, means something that brings up a physical reaction, like little prickles or goosebumps. It kind of takes my breath away a little bit, and my eyebrow furrows. Something has been brought up from the past, or that I fear, or an experience, or something shameful. My mission is to figure out where that's coming from. How would you define trigger?

Matt Harriman: I think since you said it, I'm gonna build off it—I get to cheat here. I think it's something that elicits an emotional response that you don't fully understand, or maybe you do understand, but it's an emotional response. It brings up something that you haven't resolved in your mind. It could be trauma, fear, or all kinds of different stuff. I know that trigger is a word that is a trigger for a lot of people—it carries a lot of baggage. There are memes about people being oversensitive and stuff like that. I think it's interesting to figure out what we're talking about there.

Liz Davila-Sleigh: You bring up a good point. That's always a very interesting topic to me when people bring this up. I'm gonna use this word, which I don't like, but you know people say, “We're raising snowflakes." What I would like to challenge people in that sense is I'm raising a boy who is going to be in tune with their emotions, who doesn't adhere to the societal feminine or masculine. Pink was never for girls. Blue was never for boys. I don't wanna do everything that a man can do. It's saying that the default is men, instead, I can do anything that mommy wants to and chooses to do. I have no limitations at that point. I challenge people who use words like, "Oh, this new generation, they're overly sensitive, they're being snowflakes," and I'm like, no, I'm raising kids that are emotionally intelligent in spaces.

And it makes me think about, something you wanted to bring up, what do you do when you have people who have resistance to diversity, equity, and inclusion in the workplace of belonging in the workplace? You hear a lot of times, what's the new trendy word? Or is this the new trend that's happening? No, this has been happening for many, many, many, many, many years. As a facilitator, and as a coach, one piece of advice that I would give to people who are trying to get into this work is to understand and know when the person across from you may not be ready to have this conversation. At the end of the day it's about, what's the impact you want to have on this conversation? Sometimes the answer is, I can't help you. 

Matt Harriman: There are people that I run into that aren't ready to have even conversations about treating employees fairly or anything. If you add that layer of complexity and difficulty and discomfort of DEI, like I can imagine that increases the number of people that aren't ready to engage with that by quite a bit.

Liz Davila-Sleigh: It's about challenging assumptions. Going from a place where they're making assumptions of an uninformed place into an informed place—the shift that we try to do as facilitators.

Matt Harriman: And I think that's a huge point. Because I know in 2020 there was a lot of rhetoric around like BLM, it's a new thing? Where's all this new stuff coming from? It wasn't that it was bringing to light things that are happening—the George Floyd stuff, how many of those happened without a camera? I think that reframing it is helpful. I hope that more people realize that when we hear about something new. Something that I wasn't aware or cognizant of at all was ableism until the last couple of years. It sounds new, but it’s just another thing. Just like, 70 years ago, being Black was also like, "Oh, this new thing that we've gotta deal with now," we being white people. And the women's suffrage movement and all of that stuff—all of those things were a new thing at some point to people. That was an interesting connection that helped me realize how narrow my perspective is. You don't see the whole world from your own eyes. The value of other people's perspectives is crazy.

Liz Davila-Sleigh: Absolutely. I think the position that you're in, Matt, since you acknowledge your privilege and your place in life, one of the questions you asked me early on was, "What makes you want to be on the podcast?" And I turned it back around to you and asked, "Why would you want to have me on the podcast?" You talked about utilizing your platform and network to help people. At that point, I realized you use your power for good, despite being a cis white man with privilege. You're willing to reach back and help people—to do what matters. As a Latina woman, I understand the privileges and powers I have, and I can easily reach back to help people who need a hand. In any space you're in, think about who holds the power, how they use it, and how willing they are to learn other people's perspectives. You have to identify who has the power and be a mentor, ally, sponsor, or coach for people.

I wouldn't be where I am today if I didn't have those people in power to reach back and help me. We also connected through similarities. You have your family history of how the way you grew up. You and I connected how difficult it was for you to grow up. Then we think about what are the things that make us different, and how can we honor those differences. And then we hang out at Liz’s house.

Matt Harriman: As long as I bring a six-pack with me though, at least, right? I just want there to be more useful conversations on the topic. It seems like there are a lot of people just kind of yelling from both sides—as with everything in America. In the interactions that I've had with people, I've yet to run into a single person, in all of my work, that was intentionally discriminatory or doing it on purpose. I've heard of one, from a friend, but there are a lot of well-intentioned people that want to learn and need tangible ways to approach things and to support and help.

Maybe that’s a pointed question. If people are listening that are having trouble being comfortable or getting comfortable with approaching the conversation, an issue at work, or within their leadership team, around the DEI space, what would you tell somebody that wants to be an ally and support and help?

Liz Davila-Sleigh: When I talk to organizations, I start with, “Okay, we're not gonna solve world problems. We're not here to solve, racism around the world and prejudice around the world. We're here to solve it within our community, within our organization, and grow. It's your responsibility to grow in that space. There are so many resources available. I have a whole network—I can list you off 20 people that would be willing to share their story that are in this profession. Even Ted Talks and YouTube videos helped me work through my own biases. I purposely sought out communities that were different than me—it was uncomfortable. Some things came out on TikTok or Instagram or YouTube, that made me think, how could I be thinking this way?

I've made so many mistakes. I’ve sounded stupid. My biggest fear was hurting someone. You would think it was such a real fear that it crippled me—never going back to the good versus bad behaviors. I asked myself, how is this behavior get to my desired outcome? My desired outcome is to be more inclusive, to be equitable, and I wanna eventually help to build these inclusive communities. Is this fear helping me do that and be a good coach? Nope. It was not helping me. Therefore, I have to learn how to be comfortable with that uncomfortableness. I make mistakes and say, “I am sorry that I hurt you.” Also, a lot of the time we don't say thank you enough. So, Matt, thank you for sharing your story, and your perspective, and being very willing to listen to me. I think that “I'm sorry,” and “Thank you” are two things that are underused in business— they will get you so far.

Matt Harriman: You hear “Thank you” a lot. Almost to the point that it's meaningless in a lot of cases. If you have, “Thank you” as your default email signature, that's not a thank you. But “I'm sorry,” I don't hear that, except for in a passive-aggressive way where it's like, “I'm sorry if I didn't say this clearly for you.” What I hear in that case is, “Hey, I screwed up, I'm sorry.”

Liz Davila-Sleigh: One other thing that came up for me right now as you were saying that is also thinking about things inwardly. We tend to, as we make assumptions, based on our biases, we tend to use “they and others.” Let's go into an organization, where you have individual contributors, middle management, leaders, and upper management. Do you know what happens in those big organizations? You have everybody talking going, “Well, they don't wanna give us raises and they don't understand us. They don't have our perspective.” It's always others. It's easier to dehumanize that person and put 'em in a category and say,  “They don't understand us.” Whereas if you bring it to you and say, “I don't feel understood.” That changes the conversation so much. I do this to my husband when we fight. This may sound a little passive-aggressive, but instead of saying, you did this and you did that; and you haven't done this and you're not picking up the trash; and I hate the way you load the dishwasher, da da da. I will say, “Hey husband. I don't feel appreciated right now. I don't feel heard or understood. Can we, can we talk about it?” I'll always say, “I get it. I know you're really under a lot of pressure and you got a lot of things happening, but this is how I feel right now.” Immediately his guard goes down. His shoulders go down. Yeah. He’ll say, “I'm sorry that you felt that way.” Then we can have an open dialogue about it.

Matt Harriman: Then at the end, you hit him with the right hook about the dishwasher, right?

Liz Davila-Sleigh: You bet.

Matt Harriman: This is so interesting, and I love that you brought up the fear of hurting people. I think it's a well-intentioned thing that also holds back progression. I think people are afraid of misstepping, doing the wrong thing, saying the wrong thing, and all of that—it stops them from doing anything.

Liz Davila-Sleigh: I think what I would offer to people, if somebody told me they wanted a coach in DEI upskilling and they said, "I'm really afraid of hurting someone," I'd get away from the surface level.

Oftentimes in DEI, you talk about the checkbox—it isn't a checkbox The intention is good. Your programs are good. People care about it, but it's digging deeper instead of going wide—going deep into where this is coming from.

I would challenge that person, not challenge them, cause I don't challenge people. Instead, I would say, "Where does that come from? What would you like to see differently? If you didn't have this fear, what would happen?"

Again, these stories that we tell each other (the reason why we're so polarized at the moment) are because of fear. We're all afraid of losing something—our livelihood, what we're used to, what we're accustomed to for our children. 

Matt Harriman: This has been awesome. I wanna talk to you for like 37 more hours about all of this stuff. Thank you so much for sharing your story, and your knowledge, and putting up with my stumbling through some of these topics that I'm still sorting out my discomfort with and all this stuff.

Liz Davila-Sleigh: Yeah, no, thank you for having me and allowing me to share my story. You're in this work too and this reminded me of why I'm doing it—I do have a mission and a purpose. The new generation that the Gen Xs will lead, I'm so excited about them. There's so much hope, and that's really what we need.

Matt Harriman: They'll save us, I think. Well again, this was amazing, Liz. Thank you. If people want to reach out, where can they find you? 

Liz Davila-Sleigh: I will send you my contact information, but people can contact me at somosculture.com. I'm on LinkedIn, Instagram, or email. 

Matt Harriman: Amazing. Well, thank you so much.

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