The Coaching Habit Podcast

The Coaching Habit Podcast

The best strategies for leading yourself and others by tapping into the wisdom of thinkers, leaders, writers and coaches.

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Desiree Adaway’s One Best Question

In this interview, Desiree Adaway, Principal at The Adaway Group, poses a provocative question that encourages us to examine how people might use their privilege and live their values.

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Full Transcript

Michael: Michael Bungay Stanier. This is The Coaching Habit Podcast. This is one of those little short episodes. We’ve got the longer episode we do with every guest. And then for each of the guests we have two shorter ones. One on their favorite question. One on their two favorite sources of wisdom. That final one, the two sources of wisdom only available to our subscribers. So if you’re not yet a subscriber, jump in and subscribe somehow. We’d love to have you of course.

So this is all about, as you know, this is all about your favorite question. And my guest today, a long-time friend, a woman who is a champion for liberty and for freedom and particularly looking at the status quo particularly around race and gender and the other forms of privilege that we have in our society. And figuring how to disrupt that to allow all voices to be heard. Her name, Desiree Adaway. Seasoned non-profit consultant and facilitator. Thought provoking, powerful speaker. Passionate about the work. I’ve known her close to ten years now and I’m lucky to have known her. So Desiree, welcome.

Desiree Adaway: Thanks for having me.

Michael: My pleasure. And as you know this is all about the favorite question. Everybody I interview kind of gets – even if they wouldn’t self-identify as a coach, and I know you see yourself as a coach but also as a consultant and a facilitator. But everybody I think has that question that they love to ask. So what is yours? What’s your favorite question?

Desiree Adaway: Are you going to be complicit or courageous?

Michael: Ooo. That’s a pretty, that’s a pretty stark choice that you’re presenting people there.

Desiree Adaway: Yeah, ’cause when we’re talking about ways that we use our own privilege in terms of either helping others, right, of being an ally, a support. Every day we get to choose. We can be complicit in the system that holds people back or we can be courageous and figure out how to use own privilege to dismantle them. So that’s my question.

Michael: I love it.

Desiree Adaway: So today were you complicit or were you courageous?

Michael: So when and how do you ask somebody that? Cause that is a pretty take your breath away sort of question. It’s jolting, it’s provocative. I’m just curious to know when you lay that on the table in front of somebody I mean is it. Yeah, that’s the question.

Desiree Adaway: It’s usually when people are saying that they saw something happen and they wanted to act but they didn’t. And we kind of talk about ways that they could have shown up differently in that situation. How do you be a better ally. And so the next time this opportunity comes your way I want you to ask yourself are you going to be courageous or complicit?

Michael: How do you help people act? Cause I’ve seen some science that says often all it takes is one person to act to get everybody to act. But the hard thing is to get that first person to take the step, to say, oh this needs to be sorted. ‘Cause once somebody else is doing it everyone else goes oh you’re right. That does need to be fixed in some way. Do you have any insights as to how you can help me and maybe the others listening do a better job at having the courage to be the first person to act?

Desiree Adaway: Well, I think it depends on what’s happening. You know it is, I think we all have our values, and how are we living our values.

Michael: Right.

Desiree Adaway: And if we’re living our values, and our values are justice and our values is caring about community. Then what does that mean? And how does that mean we show up? But the real thing is this. It’s like a muscle. So we have to practice it. We have a mutual friend, Pamela Slim.

Michael: Of course, love her.

Desiree Adaway: Who for years, right, we love her, who for years has done all kinds of martial arts. And one of the reasons that you practice so much, until it becomes rote, is so that you do it without thinking. And the same thing is with this. We have to practice. So we have to practice in all these little ways. Is we have to stop lettings things pass without saying something.

Michael: Right.

Desiree: So if I see someone and they may be. Say I’m in a store and someone says something kind of rude and racist to someone else. I don’t even have to acknowledge the person that said it. But I will go up to the person who it was said to and say “Hey I see you. You okay?”

Michael: Nice.

Desiree Adaway: Right.

Michael: Yeah.

Desiree Adaway: Just acknowledging in that moment that what’s happening is not normal. Nor acceptable behavior.

Michael: I love that. That’s great. You know it reminds me of the saying that you know we do not rise to the occasion, we fall to the level of our training.

Desiree Adaway: We do.

Michael: And that whole piece around okay so, it’s hard to act contrary to the way we behaved before. To be courageous, to step into that difficult, awkward, kind of provocative situation that might be unfolding in front of you. And just hearing you say that gives me a strategy right away. I could do that. I could do that next time I hear something like that happen.

Desiree Adaway: Well, and the other thing Michael is this. We worry so much about making mistakes. And so I have a really good friend Erica Hines who says all the time “in doing any of this work you have to be humble and ready to fumble.” We have to know that making a mistake is gonna be really a part of what we do. So maybe you don’t do it right the first time. That doesn’t mean you don’t do it the second time.

Michael: Right. So giving yourself the kind of the grace and the space to just be able to kind of stumble around and go “I’m going to get better at this.”

Desiree Adaway: Yes it was awkward. What I said was kind of crazy. People didn’t get it. But that’s okay because next time this is what I’m going to do differently and this is how it’s gonna be better.

Michael: Fantastic. That’s a great question. So that takes us back. Say the question for us one more time Desiree so people really hear it.

Desiree Adaway: So the question is are you going to be courageous or complicit?

Michael: Beautiful. For people who are going to be courageous and go I need to find out more about this woman Desiree Adaway. Where will you point them to so they can find you on the web?

Desiree Adaway: You can find me on Facebook. You can find me on Twitter @desireeadaway. Or on my website

Michael: Perfect. Desiree thank you. This is a wonderful conversation.

Desiree Adaway: Thank you Michael.

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