May 14, 2021 | Wanny Muñoz, Diversity, Equity & Inclusion Partner

Culturally Informed Listening Tour

My grandparents started our family’s immigration journey to this country from the Dominican Republic in 1985. Over the next decade my parents would join them, and my younger brother and I would be born on US soil becoming first-generation American citizens. So much of who I am today is due to a risk my family took 36 years ago. A few lessons from my family’s experiences during that time are:

  1. You won’t accomplish anything unless you try.

  2. You must listen in order to learn.

  3. Pay attention to everything around you – there is something to learn from everyone in every situation.

  4. Fear has stopped many, but courage will push us forward.

Not one person in my family spoke English when they immigrated to this country. My brother and I learned the language in school and brought it home for everyone else to engage in. As children, we were learners and teachers. This continued throughout our lifetime – as we deepened our understanding about American culture, norms, and systems, it was our duty to pass it forward. With every new experience, our family was learning together.

My familial experiences have imprinted the importance of valuing community, relationships, and the power of teamwork. These are values that have remained at the center of everything I commit to. They have truly enabled all of my accomplishments thus far. I firmly believe that everything my family has attained and accomplished is because of the meaningful relationships we took time to build that have fostered collective trust and respect. My success in creating and sustaining brave spaces for people from all walks of life is due to the lessons I learned from our immigration journey and values passed onto me by my family.

In becoming the Diversity, Equity, & Inclusion (DEI) Partner at Hi Marley, I knew the importance of using my cultural experiences to inform my strategy and leadership at the company. The idea of a “Listening Tour” is not new to the DEI space, in fact, it’s a common strategy for leaders in an organization to get a pulse of the culture and current happenings in the first 30-90 days. Here are four reasons why “Listening Tours” work.

1. Opening up lines of communication

Being a new member in any community can be challenging and exciting. There is so much to learn, lots to do and tons of people to meet. Making the decision to begin your time at a new company by pushing aside ego and preconceived notions is essentially taking the time to truly understand what is happening around you. Intentionally setting aside the time to listen to folks that are already in the trenches day in and day out is going to organically open up lines of communications. Whether these communication channels currently exist or not, this approach is opening and strengthening lines of communication across the board. In a busy world, where we rarely have to time slow down, how sacred is intentional communication?

2. Meeting stakeholders vertically and horizontally

Aside from being the new kid on the block, a DEI role in an organization is one that carries a lot of weight and expectations. You’re essentially being seen as an expert and problem-solver. The hidden secret is that as a DEI practitioner, I rarely have all the answers – but I do offer valuable perspective and the courage to challenge the status quo. The number one personal advantage of a “Listening Tour” is the opportunity it creates to meet stakeholders from every department at all levels. The value of understanding what we do as a company from the people doing the work in priceless. These conversations provide me with insight, direct storytelling, and concrete feedback that often times is missed from onboarding trainings and meet & greets. Meeting with our C-suite executives as well as our engineers, managers, the People team, and client-facing employees truly allows for a full colorful and vibrant understanding of Hi Marley.

3. Developing meaningful connections

Conducting a “Listening Tour” is a great way to begin building new meaningful connections. Meeting with folks one-on-one for at least 30 minutes can be extremely powerful in jump-starting relationships. The key is to continue to build on those connections over time. I am a firm believer that the most powerful way to change the world is through the development and encouragement of deep meaningful relationships. The more we humanize one another, the easier it is to check our biases, practice empathy, and remain open to experiences and opinions different than our own. Studies continue to show the correlation between human relations and career satisfaction. This practice is an accessible and manageable way to get a pulse of where employees stand in terms of personal belonging and connection in the workplace.

4. Having 20/20 vision

Collecting stories, compiling themes, and accepting different point of views are some of the ways a “Listening Tour” can provide a snapshot of current attitudes, priorities, and ideas folks currently have within an organization. Taking time to understand the lay of the land on a micro level becomes an asset when setting a strategy at the macro level. This allows your approach to be informed by the voice of the people in the community. In the long run, this will help in attaining buy-in, encouraging continuous and honest feedback, and providing a sense of ownership to everyone involved because they truly feel that they were part of the process.

Early on in my career, I learned that I was a purpose-driven individual and leader. Learning this was extremely helpful for me because it helped me understand the importance of aligning my career to who I was and wanted to be. My decision in choosing Hi Marley as the next steppingstone in my career was largely because the company’s values closely aligned with the teachings of my family.

  • Max Courage – You won’t accomplish anything unless you try. Along with, fear has stopped many, but courage will push us forward.

  • Be Humble – You must listen in order to learn.

  • Ubuntu “I am because we are” – Pay attention to everything around you, there is something to learn from everyone in every situation.

Leading in today’s world takes much more than experience and excellence. It requires leaders to genuinely care and believe in their people, community, and vision. Whether it’s my family achieving “the American dream” or performing a “Listening Tour” to become a better leader, we must all have max courage, be humble, and understand we’re all connected.

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