Dr. Mia Cary (she, her, hers) specializes in leadership, teamwork and inclusivity with the purpose of activating others to thrive. Her professional experience includes leadership and education roles at the American Veterinary Medical Association, the North American Veterinary Community, Boehringer Ingelheim and Novartis Animal Health. She serves as CEO and change agent for Cary Consulting and as CEO for the Pride Veterinary Medical Community.Read Articles Written by Mia Cary
Smartcuts propel us in a positive direction by creating sustainable momentum or eliminating unnecessary effort. When entrepreneur and author Shane Snow introduced the idea of smartcuts, he wanted to encourage people to think differently. Thinking differently and getting comfortable with being uncomfortable are essential elements of allyship as well as everyday leadership. Here are six smartcuts for leading as an ally.
1. Lean Into Radical Candor
Radically candid communication is valuable for leaders managing challenging conversations, including discussions about diversity, equity, inclusion and belonging. Author and impact expert Kim Scott developed the radical candor model of caring personally and challenging directly. This approach to direct, authentic communication creates a firm foundation that results in successful and sustainable communication wins.
Effective communication builds trust, strengthens relationships, helps prevent conflict and contributes to increased productivity. It also helps us understand ourselves and others better by building empathy. Radically candid communication aims to provide strategies and resources to enhance effective communication while managing potentially difficult conversations. Being radically candid and sharing the approach with your team can create a common language that makes speaking up and activating allyship easier.
2. Educate Yourself
Regardless of your role in the veterinary profession, continuous learning is critical. The incredible volume of data, ideas and options we are exposed to daily is growing exponentially. To stay abreast of the latest advances and newest research, we are constantly educating ourselves and, ideally, keeping an open, growth mindset as we consider all the things we don’t know we don’t know. Educating ourselves is an essential aspect of leading as an ally. Dr. Eddie Moore Jr.’s 21-Day Racial Equity Habit Building Challenge and Harvard’s Project Implicit self-assessments are two of the many resources available to support the ongoing journey to sharpen your allyship and leadership saw.
3. Be Proactive with Pronouns
One specific, tactical way to lead as an ally is to be proactive with your pronouns. For example, when I introduce myself at a meeting or before I begin a presentation, I typically say, “Hello! My name is Dr. Mia Cary, and my pronouns are she, her, hers.” Doing so creates space for others to share their pronouns if they wish. It is critical to remember as you create this new habit to avoid doing so only when you suspect the person you are speaking with might be transgender, nonbinary or gender nonconforming.
Proactively sharing pronouns is a great way to normalize the practice, lead as an ally and avoid making assumptions.
4. Walk Your Talk
Be intentional about creating a culture of inclusion. As TV’s Ted Lasso says, “Every change is a choice.” The series of choices we make defines our leadership journey. How are we incorporating allyship into our everyday conversations? Do we see diversity, equity, inclusion and belonging as red threads through everything we do?
Inviting team members to share their cultural traditions and holiday celebrations can be a fun way to learn more about each other. Celebrating the various multiculturally focused months and holidays is a great way to educate and open minds. These celebrations, however, should not be the only things we do to make our workplaces more inclusive. You will read more about walking our talk in the next Activating Allyship article.
5. Embrace Feedback
Creating a culture where feedback is viewed as a gift is essential to radically candid communication and an effective way to lead as an ally. If your workplace’s culture is not pro-feedback, the best way to turn the tide is to start asking for feedback yourself. Authentically and genuinely, let your colleagues know that you want their input. Tell them you realize you’re able to see things from only your perspective and that you need their insight to help fuel your growth and development.
Scott offers these five steps for soliciting radically candid feedback:
- Have a go-to question: This helps you feel prepared and eliminates a bit of the awkwardness that invariably accompanies asking for feedback. The ideal go-to question is open-ended. For example, one of my favorites is, “What’s working well, and what could be even better yet?” Many people are hesitant to give feedback, so framing the question that way helps others to share something positive first, which opens them up to sharing what you could be doing even better.
- Embrace the discomfort: Until we establish a culture that views feedback as a gift, feedback is often uncomfortable and awkward for the giver and the receiver. Remember that silence is acceptable, as are pauses to think and absorb. Provide space for others to consider their answer. If you make clear that you care about their perspectives and want to grow, they will be much more eager to share.
- Listen with the intent to understand: As the late educator Stephen Covey emphasized in his timeless classic “The 7 Habits of Highly Successful People,” we must seek first to understand, then be understood. This is not the time for a debate, and you should avoid defensiveness. Ask clarifying questions if needed but avoid criticizing the feedback.
- Reward feedback: Thanking your colleagues for their feedback and showing that you care about what was said are always appropriate. An even more powerful next step is to make a change based on the input so that the positive impact of a feedback-rich culture is obvious to all. If you disagree with the feedback, find something in the message you can agree with. If needed, you can tell the provider that you will sincerely consider the feedback to understand how you can leverage it.
- Keep a tally: At the end of your workweek, consider how many times you asked for feedback. Did you achieve the goal you set for yourself? And were you given only praise, or was constructive criticism provided? If you received only praise, evaluate your approach and go-to questions.
6. Relish Growth
When we lead as an ally, we educate ourselves and relish doing so. As Dr. Carol Dweck’s research shows, when we approach our work with a growth mindset, we enjoy collaborating, innovating, seeking feedback, sharing information and even admitting errors. We know that our mistakes are excellent opportunities to learn and grow. If we are leading as an ally and don’t occasionally make mistakes, we’re probably not stretching far enough. When we make a mistake, we apologize authentically and genuinely, learn from it, and move on.
Choose one SMART (specific, measurable, attainable, relevant, time-bound) thing to do to support yourself in leading as an ally. Perhaps it’s exploring an item from the “Resources” list by month’s end. Or possibly sharing an idea or resource with your work team by the end of next week. Pick one thing and do it, and then another, creating a positive loop that propels you on your leadership journey.
COMING IN NOVEMBER
November is National Native American Heritage Month. Connect with the Native American Veterinary Association (bit.ly/3xzLGp4) and the Multicultural Veterinary Medical Association (mcvma.org), or check out your local parks and community groups to learn about Heritage Month virtual events and activities.