Generations in Focus: Perspectives on Leadership and Inclusion with Denley & Tajé McIntosh

Generations in Focus: Perspectives on Leadership and Inclusion with Denley & Tajé McIntosh

by Chris Tompkins | February 8, 2024

The Shaping Our World Season 4 premiere features Denley and Tajé McIntosh — parents, advocates, and co-founders of RenewIQ Consulting. Denley, who is also the CEO, is an award-winning expert on workplace equity and inclusion who has transformed the culture of companies across the public, private, and non-profit sectors. Tajé is a consultant who believes that executive leaders should have care, character, and consistency at the core of everything they do, so the workplace is just as much about belonging as it is about performance. Together they offer insights into what young people are dealing with today — both professionally and personally.

Information overload

In speaking of what they see as the main issues facing kids these days, Tajé explains that she thinks that “it’s the mass amount of information they’re dealing with that’s everywhere … even in their pockets.” And while she sees that it can be detrimental because they don’t have the life experience to parse it out, the positive side of its effect on the younger generations is “that they’re asking questions … They’re holding people accountable.”

Denley explains that owing to the same information overload, he has observed a dystopian shift in the attitudes of young people, especially after COVID, that has left them feeling hopeless.

“There’s so much war, there’s so much animosity,” he explains. “So there’s a lack of seeing that the world can be a better place.”

On a positive note, like Tajé, Denley cites the fact that, as a result, kids are out there engaging their environment, engaging the world in terms of justice, and letting their voices be heard.

Inclusion and diversity as it pertains to youth

Both Denley and Tajé have witnessed a generational attitude shift when it comes to young people’s experience of diversity through the lens of their daughters. Tajé has come to realize that while her kids have a diverse bunch of friends and can appreciate their differences, they don’t want to focus on them.

“Their friends are their friends,” she explains. “It doesn’t really matter what colour they are. That’s irrelevant … I love that.”

But Tajé goes on to explain that the downside of their attitude and what hurts her as a parent is when things happen in the world that are racially driven.

“I don’t want to see them go through that because they want to have that positive outlook,” she says.

Denley’s experience is similar, noting that when he talks about something from a cultural or racial perspective, his daughters accuse him of making things too complicated.

You can’t plant a seed in bad soil

When asked how they work to bring diversity and inclusion to the workplace, Denley explains that, for instance, they build leadership skills that focus on culture rather than on the execution of a project. He classifies the latter as micro-leadership, whereas building culture is at a macro level.

“It’s the how of life,” he says. “How do you do life? How do you do life in your workplace?”

Using soil as a metaphor for workplace culture, Denley says: “I understand enough about botany to say that if you plant something in bad soil, it doesn’t matter what seed you put in there, it’s going to eventually die in that toxic culture.”

He explains that the leadership they want to create is not so much about the plant itself, as it is about the soil, the most important question being: “What soil are you creating?”

Denley urges parents to ask themselves the same thing when it comes to the soil we are planting our kids in at home.

To hear more of what Denley and Tajé have to say about diversity and leadership as it applies to a new generation, listen to the entire episode at the top of this post!

Visit our website to discover a variety of other guests that we’ve had on the show. Shaping Our World episodes are also available wherever you get podcasts.


[00:00:11.880] – Speaker 2
Well, hey, I’m Chris Tompkins, and welcome to the Shaping Our World podcast. My goal is to invite you into a conversation that will leave you more confident in understanding and inspiring the young people in your life. Each episode, we talk with leading experts and offer relevant resources to dive deeper into the world of our youth today. The guests on our show today are Denley and Tajé Mcintosh. As a co-founder and the CEO of RenewIQ Consulting, Denley is known as an organizational change agent who brings over 15 years of experience into the space of people development and inclusive workplace. This includes over 10 years of experience of building workplace communities in the public, private, and non-for-profit sectors. His executive work and leadership have him to be named the winner of the 2020 Championing Equity in the Public Sector Globally by Apolitical, and the 2021 Amethyst Award for high public service excellence from the Ontario Government. Denley’s experience in delivering executive coaching, strategic planning, culture change workshops, and listening sessions has positively impacted companies, governments, nonprofits, and schools in diversity, inclusion, equity, and belonging spaces. He even hosts his own podcast called The Coach’s Corner.

[00:01:35.070] – Speaker 2
Through this and all his work, he brings a unique leadership voice towards addressing some of the most challenging leadership and life questions of today. Tajé McIntosh is a consultant and co-founder of RenewIQ Consulting. She believes care, character, and consistency should permeate everything executives and leaders do. This includes the systems organizations build or maintain as it reflects the senior leaders who drive them and forms the culture of the workplace. She harnesses the power of business transformation to put into effect culture leaders who are truly looking for where the organizational outcome is both a place of high performance and strong belonging. She works with leaders to realize and balance both outcomes. Over her 20-plus year career, she’s developed and demonstrated the unique skill of integrative thinking and practices that blend people, processes, and technology together. As a business transformation and change professional, she has worked in a variety of capabilities and industries from the corporate and not-for-profit sectors. How I know them is together as a couple, they have worked with Muskoka Woods as consultants for us on diversity, inclusion, equity, and belonging spaces. They even have spoken and delivered workshops to our seasonal staff on micro-aggression and allyship.

[00:02:58.110] – Speaker 2
They’re a part of our community at Muskoka Woods, so I know them well, and I know they’re going to have a lot to offer to the conversation about young people and the world that they live in today. Without further ado, let’s take a listen to the interview with them. Welcome to both of you.

[00:03:18.570] – Speaker 1
Hey, Chris. It’s good to be on with you. I look forward to this conversation. Nice to be here.

[00:03:24.580] – Speaker 2
So let’s get going. Our podcast is called Shaping Our World. And so we always ask our guests, what shaped their world when they were growing up? So maybe we’ll start with you, Tajé. What were some of the biggest influences for you? And then Denley, you can pick up after she shares it.

[00:03:39.990] – Speaker 3
I would have to say music. I was definitely a quiet, pretty introverted kid, and music was my go-to. You’d always see me walking around with my Walkman meeting myself, maybe. But yeah, headphones in. So that was my thing.

[00:03:57.960] – Speaker 2
So listening to, playing, were Are you in the band, choir? All of the above.

[00:04:03.440] – Speaker 3
Yeah, listening to music, writing music in bands, playing pianos in choirs. It was my go-to. It was my place to find creative outlet, but it was also a healing place, helped me think, helped me to think further than where I was. And it was all genres. So yeah, that definitely was my thing.

[00:04:26.300] – Speaker 2
Nice. Denley, what about you? What were big influences on you growing up?

[00:04:30.120] – Speaker 1
Yeah. I think about, for me, having Jamaican parents that is a big influence. Jamaican culture, very proud culture. Obviously, when you hear the songs of One Love and Bob Marley, I know sometimes it stereotypes the Jamaican culture, but it just shows the pride that the Jamaican culture has for its people. So that’s one thing. I also think it’s my neighborhood. I grew up in a high-priority neighborhood before I I moved out into the suburb, but that never left me. I think when you live in poverty, it’s a great teacher, but you only want to take that grade once, as I always say. And so that also shaped my world, not necessarily also the poverty, but the people there Because when you learn to be with people from all different walks of life, a lot of immigrants in that neighborhood from all over the world, it was a wonderful experience to really understand multiculturalism and understand that we’re in it together. And of course, we share a common love for sports. Before I was introduced to my beloved Bills, loved it, and that helped me with the idea of competing and leadership and working together. And I would say those are really the key things in terms of shaping my world.

[00:05:47.660] – Speaker 2
Both of you have nailed some of the really big things that shape us: music, culture, sports, ethnicity, where we grow up. And I’m sure a lot of that is impacted in shaping what you’re doing today. Before we get into your work, what shapes your world today? What do you do in your free time?

[00:06:05.740] – Speaker 1
I think I’m a pretty boring guy. I like to read books. A little bit of kidding there, but the books I read or help shape me, because I don’t read just one genre. Books are, you have stuff on literature, novels, technical in terms of business, theology, philosophy, sociology. So you name the book, I read that. I think that helped shape me to really appreciate that how complex our world really is. I think another thing that shapes us is our children in terms of being there and being engaged with them, because at some level where both participants, whether it be being on the board of our school or coaching our children’s teams, like football team. A lot of those things, I think, shape me today. And of course, the work that we do with diversity inclusion, that shapes you because of the fact that you try to imbibe it and live it yourself. And as you go out to meet clients, you want to know that you are walking the talk, right? And so those are key components in that. And of course, a little of our faith that believing that the best in people are also part of that process as well.

[00:07:17.450] – Speaker 1
I don’t know what your side has.

[00:07:19.360] – Speaker 3
You touched on a couple of ones that I’d probably share. You read more books. I tend to listen to more books lately just to find that I’m multitasking, doing different things and moving around. I’m finding taking in information like audiobooks is helpful. So definitely that. Just learning and also being a parent and trying to figure out how to be present and figure yourself out, but also looking in the future at the same time to think about the things that we do today, how it affects them and the choices that… And helping them make better choices. So definitely being present and future at at the same time. Those are things that definitely, at a day to day, shape me and help to really solidify how we go about the world.

[00:08:10.100] – Speaker 2
We, in the intro, go through your bio, which has all the technical stuff and work that you’re doing. So we’ve unpacked that a little bit. But help us understand vocationally how you spend your time and then maybe specifically how that is involved, specifically in shaping the world of .teens and young people.

[00:08:30.550] – Speaker 1
Ah, vocationally. I find that’s probably one of the hardest questions to answer because I find myself that I do many things. And so if you ask me vocationally, so what vacation specifically you’re asking for? I podcast, I speak, I facilitate, I coach. So a lot of those things to your prior question does shape my world. In terms of my vocation, it really depends on the need of, I guess, my client so much. So if I have a client that says, I need one on one, then I’m a coach. It’s an executive client, then I’m an executive coach because it’s now melding not just life coaching, but it’s also business. If someone says, I need you to motivate my kids, then like our friend here who’s interviewing us, then I’m a motivational speaker, inspirational. So I think the common denominator for me vocationally is communication. Just being able to… I’m a communicator. I make the complex the simple, the simple, meaningful, and the meaningful profound. And so those are the things that for me, I try to do whatever I do when it comes to comms, because I do write as well. And so I put that all under the whole communication umbrella, at least for me, vocationally.

[00:09:45.860] – Speaker 3
Yeah, that’s a tough act to follow then. It’s funny. We do have a lot of parallels and synergies in that sense. As a consultant, I work a lot in an operations and process management and change management. So at the forefront of everything I do is people. So it is about not just the communication, but really understanding people. And I’m finding the older I get, it really is just going back to the basics of values and understanding people and where they’re at. Because after that, having that common denominator and just figuring out, at the heart of it, we’re human beings. After that, things start become a little bit more simple. It’s a pretty crazy, complex world we live in right now. And I think just being able to sit down with people, understand who they are, why they are, what makes them tick. That’s why I really enjoy conversations like this. That’s at the heart of what I do as a consultant, as a mom, as a volunteer in community, when I’m working with families, it is a lot about how we do this life together because we really can’t do it all alone. And so we’re going back to that premise of it takes a village.

[00:11:05.560] – Speaker 3
It really does. So that’s really where my heart is in every aspect of my life.

[00:11:10.420] – Speaker 2
Yeah, that’s great. So in your work, through your speaking engagements. So for instance, Muskoka Woods does work with you every year you come and you speak to our staff, hundreds of high school and college students, through things like that. And even your role as parents, you’ve got a front row seat to what’s happening with Gen Z and Generation Alpha, basically the kids and teens and young people that are in our world today. From your perspective, what are some of the key issues that you see young people dealing with? And if people journey with this podcast, we don’t often focus on all the negatives. We love to talk about, even from an issue standpoint, some of the good things we see in young people. So if you were describing what young people journey, some highlights of what it means to be a kid today, and maybe what are some of the challenges or tensions? What are the issues that are in the world of young people today?

[00:12:08.760] – Speaker 1
I’ll let you go first, Dan. Sure.

[00:12:10.580] – Speaker 3
I think, really, it’s the mass amount of information that they’re dealing with, and it’s everywhere. It’s in their pockets. Social media is a thing. I feel like for them, the thing is there’s a lot going on, and they are taking all of it in. I feel like back when we were teens, there was stuff happening, and you can sit down with your family and watch something on TV, and then it was contained, but it’s everywhere. And what I think is great about these younger generations is that they’re asking questions. That’s not just enough to say, Do what I say, not what I do. They’re holding people accountable. So yes, I feel like they’re exposed to so much more information, and some of it I’m not sure that they’re ready to parse because they don’t have the life experience to filter that through. But I will say the fact that they are willing to ask questions and dig a little bit deeper because they’ve got so much information is a good thing.

[00:13:16.140] – Speaker 2
It’s great. We’re going to talk a bit about how that connects to some of the topics like inclusion and diversity when we come a little later. But from your perspective, Denley, what are you seeing as well in young people?

[00:13:28.650] – Speaker 1
I I echo what Tata just said in terms of this ability to question. Now, just taking maybe the contrarian viewpoint, not so much of what she said, but the challenge for what I see with them is understanding what is the role of a parent if we have a culture that says that children have a level of authority in terms of determining who they are and their self-existence in that. And so you have this interesting tension at one level where you’re saying that children should be able to freely express and freely do and be who they are. And yet they’re in the context of a family that The parents says, You need to abide by certain rules. We are a family of culture. We have things that we want to do together collectively that seems maybe to overshadows. And because they’re young, as Saj pointed out, they can’t necessarily process and see the nuance. So it’s either one stream or the other. So you have a culture that says, The child should be this. The parents said, The child should be that. And that’s where you have some of the things that’s playing out in the public about what’s the role of parents in terms of children, because the idea of children rights, right?

[00:14:48.130] – Speaker 1
Whether it’s not about agreeing and disagreeing, it’s just to say this is children now seeing themselves that they are in a part group, a demographic. Some say they’re a marginalized group, so they need a voice at the table. So how does a child process these adult concepts? I think that’s one thing that I’ve observed. The other thing that I’ve seen after COVID is this idea of dystopia. There’s a dystopic viewpoint of life. And I mean in the sense that because they’re inundated with what they have on their phones and what they see on television, what they see in culture, there’s a sense that many are living for today and not really looking at the future the future so much because it seems like, what’s the point? There’s so much war, there’s so much animosity. And so there’s a lack of seeing that the world can be a better place. So I find there’s a level of dystopia there that you have to remind our young people that there is hope. And of course, if people think there’s no hope, there’s despair. And if people think there’s despair, that leads to all other insecurities of where they fit in the world.

[00:15:54.890] – Speaker 1
And of course, the challenges of those who die by suicide because of the outlook of life. But I think on a positive element, it’s the fact that the children out there are engaging their environment, engaging the world in terms of justice, in terms of letting their voice be heard. So I think those elements of the activism and seeing that how can we speak up for the little person, I think that’s a really positive thing.

[00:16:23.270] – Speaker 2
Oh, man, that’s great. There’s so much I wanted to dive in on all that stuff with you. As you’re talking about the dystopian perspective. Just recently, I’ve had conversations with many young people, and far more than I’ve ever heard in the past. And I think there’s some latest research on this is our young people are so concerned about their economic future right now, and particularly North America. But where we are recording from today in Canada, everybody’s like, I will never be able to afford a house now. And it’s this pressure We’re in teenagers of thinking about that. And I’ve had some conversations. I said, yeah, that’s true. These things are there. But it’s also what the media and everyone is talking about as well, right? So they have access to all this information. They’re paying attention to what’s going on in the world, and it starts to shape how they think about their future. And I think, yeah, I think that that’s really interesting with what we’re talking about. And Denny, at the end on the positive there, and I think, Tajé, you were talking about earlier as well of this generation of young people being interested in what’s going on in their world, a bit more activism, paying attention to things that maybe we didn’t.

[00:17:42.290] – Speaker 2
And before we dive into all this, because where you spend a lot of your time is around inclusion and diversity. And I just love for you guys to unpack for us a snapshot of where young people are at today. We know that our world in North America, again, in our world in Canada, is becoming more diverse than it was in previous generations. And particularly in the last number of years, there is more attention and spotlight and conversation than maybe in the past. Where do young people fit in all of that? Are they leaders in it? Are they care about it? Because the school system in which many of them live and work, this conversation is happening more frequently. So from your perspective, help us unpack what it’s like for teenagers today when it comes to living out diversity and inclusion in their contexts.

[00:18:35.450] – Speaker 1
Yeah, I would say that’s an interesting question because our children don’t like to talk about… Well, our elders or our daughters. Sometimes when I will talk about things from a cultural racial, it’s like, Why do you always want to go there, Daddy? So it’s overkill for them if we talk about it. And so they don’t want to see that life has these dimensions intentions. They want to keep it quite simple. Not to say that they don’t have diverse friends, but to see that certain things that may happen to them, maybe due to certain viewpoints that come from either a gender point of view, a cultural, ethnic point of view, racial point of view. All those things, you’re making things too complicated, Daddy. I think they appreciate it, but don’t necessarily want to get into the science of it as such, at least with our children.

[00:19:34.340] – Speaker 3
They don’t seem to want to necessarily focus on it. Their friends are their friends. It doesn’t really care what color they are. That’s irrelevant. So So that I love. I love that. I love that they have friends from all different cultures and nationalities and talk about all the types of food and different activities and stuff. I absolutely love that for them. It’s just that when things happen in the world and then it becomes very apparent that it was racially driven, I think that’s what hurts as apparent. It’s like, I wish we were past that. I don’t want to see them go through that because they want to have that positive outlook. Everyone’s the same. And that’s not necessarily true. But I think the important thing is, is really for parents to… When you see parents having diverse friends and not asking questions about, Okay, what about this kid? What about that? It’s got to be normal. We have to make it a safe place for them to talk about things that don’t quite sit right with them. We can’t shut that down. Having those conversations be a normal, regular conversation means then someone’s not coming home from school saying, Oh, well, this happened, and they don’t know really how to manage it.

[00:21:06.180] – Speaker 3
It’s really about having open dialog with kids and being able to make it normal. It’s normal that we’re different, but we can appreciate our differences as well. We’re not saying that we don’t recognize the differences. We do, but let’s appreciate them, but we don’t want to focus on them. I think that’s where kids are seeing things.

[00:21:33.770] – Speaker 1
Yeah. And just to add that it doesn’t have to also be a racial piece. We have the neurodiversity that’s a growing discourse, I should say. When we were growing up, when we saw people who were what we would probably not know at that time that we’re autistic, we had a moral judgment on that, on and we would, in some sense, ostracize them, where today we have a better appreciation. So I think when children see someone who’s different from them, from, let’s say, a standpoint of ability, standpoint of neurodiversity, is to help them in that term, diversity, not to put them a moral weight behind it. Because I think the challenge when people say, well, I don’t see differences. Everyone’s equal. I think that’s going in the wrong direction, too, because You’re saying that I’m going to now treat you identical to everybody else because you’re all the same. That’s not true. What you don’t want to do is to treat someone as if it’s your Out of a spirit of maternalism or paternalism, you’re looking down on them. You need me to get through this world. That spirit of that attitude, that pride, we want to try to help our students to steer away from that to say, this is an experience of meeting someone that you haven’t known.

[00:23:03.510] – Speaker 1
What can you learn from them? So a posture of being a student, then, per se, to trying to be a teacher to everybody you come to. So it’s that appreciation of diversity that the world is teaching us something. How do we best respond? Yes, the world is not always fair, but you can be fair.

[00:23:24.120] – Speaker 2
I think it’s listening to you speak about this. I think it is really interesting because my daughter, where we grow up, her school community and her friend network is far more diverse than mine was growing up. And again, that could be where we live. It could also just be, generally speaking, those changes. And there’s a huge advantage for her living in that because this is the sea she swims in, right? So when you start to have these conversations, she’s like, What are you talking about, right? And so there is a much more natural relational and life perspective that’s developed because of that for her. But then also because she’s in it, sometimes you’re not actually evaluating it as well, right? And thinking about how that does impact your life in a positive way, but also maybe where racism might show up. Because it’s easier for someone like me who didn’t grow up with it as a diverse group. I actually had a lot of friends, particularly Black friends, And so but because it wasn’t the norm everywhere, we’re more likely to think about it, have conversations and want to dissect it. And not everybody, but a lot of us try to work through this and ask, what does it mean?

[00:24:42.650] – Speaker 2
Where kids are like, what do you mean, dad? To your point, why are we talking about this? Yeah, of course. All my friends are… There’s different nationalities and across the board in their friend group and the band and the sports teams and everything that they play in. So there’s some benefit to that, but there also can be some things that maybe aren’t drawn to the surface because that’s just what they’re used to. So it is an interesting perspective. You spend a lot of your time helping businesses create workplaces where inclusion and diversity are prioritized. And you’ve spoken about anti-racism and inclusion within schools and different contexts like that. What are some of the outcomes of changing the culture to become become more inclusive, whether it’s at work or schools? Why do companies hire you, for instance? Is it connected to productivity? Is it connected to effectiveness? When people bring you on to their team, what are they hoping to gain from the work that you’re doing in helping the workplace, particularly to be full of inclusion and stamp out some racism and different things that may be prevalent in that space?

[00:26:01.270] – Speaker 1
Again, that’s a good question. I think the motives vary. I like to liken the work that we do. You remember this show, Scandal with Kerry Washington? Yes.

[00:26:12.870] – Speaker 2

[00:26:13.580] – Speaker 1
And she was brought in because there was a crisis, and she had to manage that.

[00:26:17.740] – Speaker 3
The gladiators.

[00:26:19.880] – Speaker 1
When this work really started to take off post George Floyd’s murder, it was crisis management. We don’t want to scandal the break. Help us. And we’re brought in. And it wasn’t so much of a goodwill. They saw this brewing. They saw there may be stuff happening in their organization, and they have no control. They didn’t want stuff to hit the fan. So you had that crisis management. Now, things have tapered out. So there are now the next wave of people who feel that they don’t know what to do. They’re like a deer caught in headlights. They’re very much helpless. They hear the cries. They just don’t have the skills to deal with it. So you have that next set of folks that we get brought into it to help alleviate that stress there. And then there’s another set of people who they see the value in it. Like yourself, Chris, they grew up in that. It’s not so much that they feel helpless, but they want a team. I know that I can’t do this on my own. I’m not equipped. Just bring people in who can do the job better than I am, but I’m willing to help implement.

[00:27:30.200] – Speaker 1
I’m ready to roll up my sleeves like you did with Muskoka Woods, which we are really appreciative of. So I think there are the different segment of clients that have that… This is where we begin this journey, either by a crisis or helplessness, or let’s roll up her sleeve. I just need good people to help execute. Those are three. Is there any other client group?

[00:27:52.680] – Speaker 3
Yeah, I’d say there was one group, and to be quite honest, we didn’t do a lot of work with this group, the group that was just looking to check a box. Okay, let’s just… We have to do this because it’s the thing. And that was not something that we were really interested in doing. We wanted to see real change. We wanted to see heart postures changed. We wanted to start a conversation that people would be able to walk away with and think differently and immediately take action. It’s not about playing games and shaming and all of that. It’s really about understanding as I said earlier, understanding people. Those are conversations that we were really interested in having. Whether it’s… Is it productivity? Is it corporate culture? It is all of that. People need to understand that the place where they’re spending the most amount of hours, they are understood there, and that there’s a place and sense of belonging, and that when something does happen, that they can bring it also and themselves to work. Those are some of the conversations that we’ve had, and I think the most impactful ones have been ones where people have their heart.

[00:29:19.020] – Speaker 3
We can actually see within the conversation, like heart posture is actually changing and thinking, you know what? It’s a different perspective. I haven’t thought of it that way. And that was really positive to see. I think those are the changes that actually change traject, not just checking the boxes, let’s just talk about it because we have to. It’s really wanting it to make a difference to who you are and how you see the world.

[00:29:46.490] – Speaker 1
I can just add that I know sometimes it’s easier for us to talk about we’re here to do diversity, inclusion, equity, belonging, but I think our work is not so much that. I think our work is developing leaders that they can help develop their leaders in an organization to have good culture. We’re all about cultural transformation. Correct. We’re helping build leadership skills that focus on culture. And that’s different than building leadership skills to execute, per se, a strategy or execute on a project. I find those to be micro-level leadership skills. Then you move to a meso-level leadership skills. But When you’re talking about culture, it’s at a macro level because it’s the how of life. How do you do life? How do you do life in your workplace? That is a harder way to lead because there’s a way that we have to interact with each other. And culture, to use a metaphor, is seen as a soil. Culture is about soil. It’s about horticulture. It’s about what you plant in there. If you have bad soil, and by no means I’m an expert in because Taj was calling me out and saying, I’m not Werner.

[00:31:03.810] – Speaker 1
But I understand enough about botany to say that if you plant something in bad soil, it doesn’t matter what seed you put in there, what plant in there, it’s going to eventually die in that toxic culture. So the leaders that we want to develop is not about so much about the plant itself. What culture, what soil are you creating? And this is actually transferable to home, too. What culture, soil that you’re creating to plant your children, that they can grow and flourish flourish? What’s the how you do life at home and in the workplace? So when we find with senior leaders, we help them translate that just not only beyond the workplace, but into the home life as well.

[00:31:43.080] – Speaker 2
And again, correct me if I’m wrong, I think it’s accurate and fair to say that workplaces, really anything, benefits from having people in there that view the world slightly differently and have different perspectives. And I think, you guys can correct me if I’m wrong, that’s one of the beauties of diversity. Whatever diversity looks like is you’re bringing people with different histories and perspectives and values. Yes, it’s really important to be aligned in a lot of that stuff. But I think if you only surround yourself with people that look and think the way that you do, you’re only going to have a certain specific outcome. And as we serve a much more diverse world, and as businesses, as we serve a very diverse environment, world, we want to have an enriched perspective when we come to things. I think that’s probably fair to say would be a great outcome from becoming more diverse and inclusive in the workplace. Is that fair to say?

[00:32:51.570] – Speaker 3
A hundred %. We’ve moved away from businesses being really local to global, almost overnight. I don’t think it serves anyone well if everybody looks the same and thinks the same across the board, because that’s not the world we live in. It could be maybe the neighborhood you live in or the city you live in, but really, if we don’t think globally, it’s not where we are and things change so quickly, it’s never all going to stay that way. It’s really important to have different perspectives around the table, different life experiences. People see things differently people interpret things differently. I think those are conversations that need to be had. I think from a business perspective, it makes a better product or service because you’re understanding more of your customers.

[00:33:41.840] – Speaker 1
I just add that one of the things we find as an outcome, sometimes people cry in our workshops as an outcome, not because we shame them, is that they come to the realization that they could have done better and that they to do better. We’ve seen that numerous times people come to us on their side and say, I didn’t know people thought this way, felt this way. I didn’t know that this is really the crux of the issue. Because people come in with all their preconceived notion, right? So the outcome is really people use the term unlearning. I mean, we don’t want to throw those things around, but we see people literally go in with one view of the world and come in and say, there are definitely the other ways to see the universe around you. And that’s one of the things.

[00:34:35.550] – Speaker 2
Yeah, that’s great. And it’s a great segue to the next piece because you talked about adults, other people saying, I wish I had done better. We could have done better. Do you think because of the way kids have grown up, younger generations, as they move into leadership roles, will we implicitly be doing better with inclusion and diversity because of who these young kids the world they’ve grown up with? Have you observed any changes or just how young people live out that may strengthen them as leaders or set them apart from previous generations? Is it going to get better over time just because of the type of kids that will be growing into leadership?

[00:35:16.830] – Speaker 3
That is the hope. That is definitely the hope. I think, yes, but there’s also the life happens and perspectives change because of situations. So I probably say, overarchingly, yes, I think we’ll be in a better spot, but doesn’t mean the work stops.

[00:35:40.890] – Speaker 2

[00:35:41.760] – Speaker 1
Yeah. I am cautiously optimistic, maybe a little more pessimistic on that piece. And you say, Denny, you’re in the field of where you should be more optimistic. Not necessarily, because we don’t understand enough about our humanity, the psychology of how we see the world subconsciously. On the surface, children are very open to some of these things of having a better world. But guess what? You move into a workplace culture and it shifts, and you’re not even aware that it shift. You take on the culture around you, and all of a sudden, that you had this bright and area of optimism, and you come out jaded, and it’s like, Where did that happen? They didn’t even know when they became jaded. They didn’t know they became the very thing they didn’t want to be. And so I would say that without intentionality, we are doomed to replicate. And I think most people are not self-reflective enough, or many people are not self-reflective enough to avoid that. And that’s, I think, one of the challenges.

[00:36:47.010] – Speaker 3
And that’s why I think it’s a constant conversation. The work doesn’t stop. And the word intentionality is that’s it. We have to be intentional to make growth a priority. And whatever area it is. But this is one of the things that the world is going to continue to be more diverse. So intentionally learn, right? It’s not something that is going to be an afterthought. If it becomes an afterthought, we’ll be in the exact same spot.

[00:37:14.050] – Speaker 1
I’ll have one quick illustration because it’s always humorous. I always think about an old boss who said that young people usually begin socialist in university and then become capitalist when they get their first paycheck. Oh, my gosh, look all this taxes. This is what I’m paying for? And it’s funny on the surface, but the profoundity is that the taxes help change the world around you, right? Take care of the poor, take care of those marginalized. But we fall into that trap of, oh, my gosh, all this work that I’ve done and you’re taking my money away. So that’s what I’m saying. Those young people, if you’re not attentional, you just become part of the broader culture eventually.

[00:37:58.070] – Speaker 2
Yeah. And I think I think if we’re being honest, you talk about the subtle psychology and what goes below the surface. I think if we’re honest, sometimes spending time with people in that diverse context can be hard work, right? Absolutely. To listen and to figure out and to understand. And it’s easier to be around people that think and look and act like we do, right? And so as human beings, we naturally default to easier, comfortable work over time. And it takes a bit to sustain the effort and to really overcome some of those hurdles. And that’s maybe one of the hopes is that for kids who live in this world, it is easier for them over time. And maybe some of the other things we just talked about, they may jump some of those walls better than we have in the past. So, yeah, I get the cautiousness to it, but I think there is some hope that it can look different. Down the road, and it takes work on adults part and maybe some awareness and intentionality, like you said, with the next generation. Can I ask you, can you talk about some of the things that you find frequently talking about, encouraging business leaders in, the techniques you use as consultants, how might they translate into family life?

[00:39:25.910] – Speaker 2
As parents now, give us your best advice on some of the things that you would use in your work around diversity and inclusion.

[00:39:37.350] – Speaker 3
Ask questions. I think that is key, especially parenting It’s you’re parenting a teen. You’re not telling, you’re asking. And continuing to probe with… I use something called the five whys, when we’re trying to get to root cause of something. And it’s really just, you ask a question Why do you believe that? I believe that because that’s why. And just why, and just try to foster that critical thinking. So just in the workplace, when we’re trying to solve a problem, we’re trying to get down to, Well, what’s really the cause of the problem instead of solving the symptom? At home, when one of the kids comes with a problem, is it a problem or is it a symptom that you’re giving me? We’re asking those five whys again. Oftentimes, they will get to the answer before I have to tell them. What I love about that is that I’m teaching them how to ask questions, how to think critically, how to take information and put pieces together to say, Okay, well, if this means this, then that means this. Now when you come back to me, I say, Okay, what did you learn? What pieces do you have to solve the problem?

[00:40:50.330] – Speaker 3
I think when you watch your kids grow up, when they’re younger, you always start with the ask you a question and you answer it. But as When they get older, I think we have to switch to when they ask a question, you ask them a question. Then it becomes more… It’s a better conversation. They learn how to find information. Sometimes, oftentimes, our 12-year-old son, he will come and he’ll just quickly I guess, things like… Basic general stuff. It frustrates me. I’m like, You spend hours researching the stats on your football team or some video game, but this one thing, you can’t Google that. I was always like, Try to dig for the answer. In one sense, information is at our fingertips and it’s so easy, but I think what happens is when information is so easy, we forget to think critically about what that information now means. So data is points of information, but that data coming together now means something. Those are things that I use in work all the time, but I’m bringing home, and I’m finding I’m having much better conversations with my kids because of that.

[00:42:04.530] – Speaker 1
Yeah, I would concur with that. I will add the piece of, so what are some of the big Things in the workplace, things in the workplace? Things related to mindfulness, things related to anti-bullying, things related to being able to show grace. These things that should be translated home. Let me talk about bullying because you said, what does that have to do with parenting? I find sometimes we parent out of our position, out of authority, and we don’t know that we actually end up bullying our children because I’m the parent here. You need to listen to me. We all fall in that trap. Would we act that way at work? Would we tell her, I’m the boss here. You need to listen to me. No, we get rid of by HR, quick, fast, in a hurry. So I What I think is that it’s trying to not hold to the position, I am a parent. You need to listen to me, to really see the parenting in terms of etymology of nourishing, coaching our children. And so taking that coaching posture of how do I coach my children in this moment. So I think that’s one of the pieces.

[00:43:18.520] – Speaker 1
The other piece is mindfulness. I think that sometimes in the workplace, we do all the time. But with our children, we don’t teach them how to slow down and listen to their thoughts and keep things quiet. We always want to have noise in the background, and helping them to process their thoughts and think in quiet is an indispensable skills, because right now there are many adults who don’t know how to do it. Right now they’re seeing therapists because they don’t know how to deal with their own thoughts. So quiet down the bully. And I think the other piece I would just add, finally, is that for us is to see our children, they’re bringing a valuable life experience. It doesn’t matter what age, if it’s five or 15, that whatever they share with us, it’s still a valid life experience that we can probably learn from and take on a role as a student, and not always think we have to be the teacher.

[00:44:13.330] – Speaker 3
Yeah, 100 %. Learning from everyone. And that’s something that I talk to my kids about all the time. You’ve got a friend, and we have this conversation about why is that person your friend? What are the values that you see in them? And what do they teach you? What are you learning from them? What are you teaching them? What habits and information are you sharing? So it is about children. Children are little people. They’re little adults. Even to our youngest, sometimes he’s seven, he’s almost seven. Sometimes I look at him, I’m like, You know a lot more than I think you do. It’s good to see that, but I think we need to give kids the respect that they’re little people and they’re processing. They may not be processing everything, the volumes and with the life experience that we have, but they are processing at their level, and that is very valid. They need to be validated in that. The other thing I wanted to touch on is that you said wellness. Something that I wasn’t allowed to do when I was a kid was be home sick unless you’re really, really sick. You got to be really sick to stay home.

[00:45:38.900] – Speaker 3
Otherwise, you’re well enough to go. There’s been times with the kids where it’s been like they’ve had a lot of sports activity, a lot of extracurricul activity, and it’s been a heavy week, and they get to the end of it, and they just are really run down. I’m like, Do you need a mental health day? And they’re like, What do you mean? I can stay home enough. I’m like, Yeah, I think Sometimes you’re more productive when you rest than you go when you try to push through and then you’re not paying attention at school. So we allow it, and it’s not something they take advantage of at all, to be honest. I thought they would, but they really don’t. But I think just like we do as adults, we need a time out. They do, too.

[00:46:19.000] – Speaker 2
Yeah. Those are all really, really insightful and helpful things. So much to unpack there. We’re coming near the end of our conversation, and I wanted to I’m going to switch gears here because I’d love to finish on this note. And maybe one of you can take one of these questions each. So now I’m thinking about as a parent, because you spend your world, we’ve talked about in inclusion and diversity. Let’s just use me as an example. I’m a parent. I know my daughter lives in a different world than I did. So question one is, what can I do to better help my daughter navigate the world she lives in? So that’s number one. And then what can I do for myself as a parent to navigate and participate and to fully embrace diversity and inclusion, whether that’s in my friend group, my workplace. So either of you can pick one of those and go with it.

[00:47:17.270] – Speaker 1
I think any parent, and I’m a person of faith, I believe that one of the things that the person of faith is to immerse yourself in the world of your child. I like to use the word incarnate yourself, which Which is a fancy term to say, get into the space of your children. Get permission from them, of course, but you really want to enter into a world because I find that you can’t understand them from afar. You can’t understand them from a different planet. You really have to live and breathe their world. And that’s how you build a trust. And that’s how you really build the ability to connect in ways that you wouldn’t otherwise have.

[00:47:53.100] – Speaker 2
How can we model this stuff?

[00:47:55.250] – Speaker 3
Keyword right there, model. Kids are not listening, they’re watching. They’re watching everything we do. When my kids were smaller and they’d see me, I’d help people, random people at the grocery store, and my daughter would be like, mommy, do you know that person? I’m like, no. Well, why are you helping them? Because it’s the right thing to do. And now we see them doing it. Model the behavior you’re expecting to see. If you’re saying you should have more diverse friends, do you have more diverse friends? What can you do? How do you bond to broaden your circle, whether it’s through work or through other extracurricular activities that you do? Model that behavior. I think also being vulnerable, and I’m learning the value of that just as a parent in saying, I don’t know. I don’t know the answer. This scares me as well. And being willing to have these conversations with your children at their age appropriately about some of your own concerns and things that maybe you can do together. They are full of amazing ideas and thoughts and perspectives. I think a lot of times as adults and parents, if we just stopped and listened and paused for a minute and did some of the things that they thought were really great ideas, we might actually be much happier people.

[00:49:13.770] – Speaker 3
I would say Definitely be vulnerable, share your concerns in your heart, and they will do the same, and then you’ll get to know them a little bit better as well. But do it together. It’s not about adults do one thing, kids do one thing. In some instances, yes, that is true on a daily basis, obviously. But as a community, as a family, that’s a community in itself. How are you doing this together? Kids don’t raise themselves. I think sometimes we forget. When my kids are acting up, sometimes I’m like, Who raised you? Obviously, it was me. We did this.

[00:49:56.190] – Speaker 2
You learned that at home. I forgot.

[00:49:58.410] – Speaker 3
Exactly. So they don’t raise themselves. So we have to be the change we want to see. Yeah.

[00:50:07.300] – Speaker 1
Just to blend our two answers together, especially in this moment where there’s so much conflict in the world, don’t pretend that your children don’t have an opinion on the matter. Absolutely. Don’t pretend they’re neutral on the matter. And the faster we be brave and have the courageous conversation to hear where they see a certain matter, the less likely we don’t find out that they’re on some group that is dangerous, that is continuing to fan the flames on conflict. Because we were too afraid, too scared. We’d bury our heads in the sand like an ostrace, hoping that they don’t have any perception or perspective of the world. So, yeah, get into the world.

[00:50:57.540] – Speaker 3
They’ve got the world literally in their pocket. And if we don’t give them the answer, they’re going to go find it. So it’s good to have those conversations so that we can figure out where people are at. And if something needs to change, then we can change it.

[00:51:10.150] – Speaker 2
That’s great. And just tying that all back to one of the things you said earlier, Tajé, the best disposition around it is to ask a lot of questions and to be curious. And like you said, no, they have opinions about these things. They’re hearing it. And we’ve talked about conflict. When we’re recording, right in the middle of what’s happening in Gaza and Israel. And they see it. I’ve had to shut off Twitter because you see it everywhere. And they see it. They know about it. And so for us to be curious about what do they think about these things? What are their perspectives and how it’s shaping them? Back to the whole talk about this podcast. They are being shaped by, yes, how we parent them, but also the world in which they live in, which is now far bigger because of technology than it ever has been in the past. And I think asking questions, taking interest, being curious, being curious about their friends and how diverse they are and what they know about different races and ethnic groups and how that shapes their approach to life. I think we can learn a lot from our kids and better understand them as they navigate the world they live in.

[00:52:27.580] – Speaker 2
Maybe just a final question for you both briefly. Again, we’ve talked about a lot of stuff, but diversity inclusion is the sea. You swim in a lot and you’re experts on that. Any resources or different things the parents can go to to find out more about anti-racism, diversity, inclusion, maybe business people. They can obviously go to RenewIQ is where you work, and if they’re looking for people to help them. But any other things that are really helpful for parents or other adults to enrich themselves in these topics?

[00:53:06.240] – Speaker 1
In terms of parenting, you know what’s funny? I don’t know any books on parenting, to tell you the truth, on that area, specifically, which shows that there is a need for it. So here’s what I’ll suggest to people, and it seems a little bit more out of the norm, but I like to read things like people like Nelson Mandela, because I find sometimes you got to get all echo chamber and read people like Mother Teresa or Nelson Mandela who had this bent and viewpoint of embracing different people with different backgrounds with all the noise of our current culture. So I would just encourage people like them or it would be Dr. King, things that are a little bit far removed from your culture but really spoke on this matter. So you don’t see there’s a bias towards one particular political viewpoint, but they’re speaking on the matter that is still relevant for us today. Yeah.

[00:54:00.640] – Speaker 2
Biographies are a great way to do some of that. Yeah. Yeah. Tajé, anything you want to add?

[00:54:07.810] – Speaker 3
No. There’s so many resources that I can’t really focus on one right now. But sometimes you got to go back to go forward. Yeah. And you’re right, getting out of the echo chamber. There’s a lot that is some resources sound good, and then you start digging in and you’re like, oh, no. So, yeah, I’d say go back to go forward.

[00:54:28.150] – Speaker 2
Well, I appreciate both of you And the work you’re doing and what you’re doing, you’ve got fantastic kids. You’re doing something right there. And so it’s great to talk to you today and as we do, do work with you on the side. So really appreciate you. Thank you for taking the time with us and giving us so many insightful things to process and think through and chew on as our day goes on. So thanks so much.Thank you.Thank you.Thank you.Thank you. Thanks so much.

[00:54:53.270] – Speaker 3
Thank you.

[00:54:54.250] – Speaker 1
Thank you. Thank you. Thank you.

About the Author

Chris Tompkins is the CEO of Muskoka Woods. He holds a degree in Kinesiology from the University of Guelph, a teacher’s college degree from the University of Toronto and a Master’s degree in Youth Development from Clemson University. His experience leading in local community, school, church and camp settings has spanned over 20 years. His current role and expertise generates a demand for him to speak with teens and consult with youth leaders. Chris hosts the Muskoka Woods podcast, Shaping Our World where he speaks with youth development experts. He is an avid sports fan who enjoys an afternoon with a big cup of coffee and a good book. Chris resides in Stouffville, Ontario with his wife and daughter.
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