I was getting ready for a business trip to a client organization in Wisconsin, and I felt out of flow for the journey. I wasn’t sure if I thought I wasn’t prepared or if it was something else. I’m usually very prepared for work overall, but I could feel this strong sense of dread and what I could expect on the trip. I had only met the gentleman I would be working with once in person, and there always seemed to be a strain when talking to him; the relationship was out of flow. My other consideration was that I had never been to this organization before, it was my first time, and I wasn’t sure if they would accept me. I thought to myself, wow, how many times have I had this consideration in my career and whether I would be accepted or not. As a woman of color swimming in a sea of Caucasian people, it is often a consideration and seems to be more for me within the last year. Everywhere I turn, there is the validation of not belonging; I want to belong.
What also got me worked up was the question that my colleague asked me before the trip, and that was, “Tracy, how do you want to show up for this engagement?” I wasn’t concerned with how I would show up because people usually take to me and speak to me, I get to know them, and they get to know me. But his question made me think that he had considerations about me, and that gave me pause as to whether I wanted to work the engagement with him and with the client. Am I getting more of the same of not being accepted, not belonging? I became so worked up preparing for the trip that it took me out of a peaceful flow. I was struggling against a current that I’m not even sure exists. I had no idea what my colleague meant, and I let it take over my thoughts, and my actions and conversations became strained. When I noticed that I was not in flow, I chose to be in flow and give it to God. Let Him handle it. Because every time I am out of flow and swimming against the current, I’m blocking my blessings. The only flow I have control over is my own. So, I asked God to give me the words and actions I needed to address the issue.
I addressed the question with my colleague when we met in Wisconsin, and I stated my intention to provide value as his colleague and provide value for the client. Then, I asked him if he felt that we were related enough to be a solid team for the engagement. He hesitated and responded yes; however, I know that we are not related enough, and it showed in how he treated me at the client site and how the client group (who know him very well) treated me in the three days that we were there. I was in a room with seventeen Caucasian people who barked orders at me, wouldn’t use my name, and my colleague thought it was ok. I became ‘step and fetch’ instead of Tracy, a seasoned professional who has held many roles in leading teams and organizations to success. I was out of flow; I didn’t have a seat at the table except taking notes and taking orders. A 30-year career, and this is what I have been reduced to. How would I create peace for myself and be in flow?
I recognized that to be in flow; I had to come to terms with the role that I am in and whether it spoke to my passion and gifts from God. It didn’t take long for me to figure out that the last year has been a struggle to fit in at work. We’re told that we can be fully expressed, but that is meant for the Caucasian people, not for people like me. For the two people of color in the organization, if we express ourselves, there is offense, and we are made to be wrong, or something is wrong with us, so our jobs are threatened. For us, it’s like plates in a fault line out of sync, scraping against each other, an earthquake constantly disrupting our way of being. With disruption, however, comes learning and growth, so I made a decision.
I decided that I have a duty to hold myself accountable for the world in which I live. If I don’t speak up, if I don’t call out the bad behavior that I experience regularly and see shared by others, I am contributing to the status quo. I have an obligation to lead by example and use my voice, which has been silent the last year. Using my voice as I always have to call out injustice means that I am in flow, using God’s gifts as an advocate and diversity, equity, and inclusion leader. I’m creating my seat at the table. Will you join me?
Tracy D. Holloman, CPC,PCC, Executive Coach
I am an advocate for people! I have been advocating for people all of my life, whether personally, professionally or in line at the grocery store! All people deserve to be treated with dignity and respect and everyone has a God given right to go after their dreams. My dream has always been to serve those who can’t always help themselves. I have served in non-profit and for profit organizations in human resources, advocating for people from diverse backgrounds and experiences. My role has been to develop new organizational cultures and to develop leaders to lead effectively. I bring to light what may have been hidden and I work with people to help them discover where they can support a new way of being in this journey called life. I partner with people to help them discover their gifts, talents and abilities, or help them to see what they hadn’t seen before, helping them to craft a plan and promise to themselves so that they live fulfilling lives and careers.
Diversity, equity, inclusion and belonging have been a part of my work as well. Diversity is in every aspect of life and has no boundaries. All people have something to contribute to this life, regardless of age, race, color, gender, ethnic and socio-economic backgrounds, etc.
My greatest accomplishment as a coach was helping a young man to see possibility as he wrestled with where he was in career and where he really wanted to be; he loved children and wanted to become a pediatrician. We partnered to carefully craft a plan for his life journey. He eventually became a pediatrician in his native country and now he serves those in need. His journey caused me to see where I can help people live the lives and careers that they truly want and my work, is just getting started!