Category: Leadership Skills

Make Team Members Feel Heard — 5 Ways to Let Them Set Their Terms

Louise J. Santiago shares 5 ways a team leader can help make team members feel heard by helping them create team social agreements.“He acted like he heard me but really he completely ignored me.” My client was very frustrated when she recounted a recent experience at a meeting. Theoretically, everyone was on the same page, with each person doing their part to make team members feel heard, yet the reality was one strong-willed person was dominating.

My client was initially excited about this meeting. She was thrilled to be invited to work with this team that had been chosen to collaborate on a plan to increase their organization’s commitment to equity. But she went on to relate, “My ideas were met with, ‘Oh, that’s great, and we can also do this.’ And then he went on to outline the complete opposite of what I was trying to say. It was like I wasn’t even there! I don’t know if I want to be on this team anymore.”

Sadly, this meeting on equity was anything but equitable! It was yet another meeting that got derailed by someone who wants to promote their one way of doing things. I could totally relate, I think we all can. No one likes to be ignored, discounted, misunderstood, or forced to act against their will. Yet, it happens all the time. 

As a team leader or team member, could your leadership inadvertently be causing your team to feel this way? How can you make each team member feel heard and valued within the structure of your organization? Better yet, how can you really hear, and recognize, each member of your team?

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Why Communities of Practice Are Essential to Equity Work

“Diversity is being invited to the dance. Inclusion is being asked to Dance. Equity is allowing you to choose the Music.”― Cynthia Olmedo

Equity — just how important is it to you, to your team, to your organization? In previous posts, I’ve been sharing the deep, introspective work that is required for leaders who want to be guardians of equity. However, it can be frustrating when not everyone shares your sense of urgency on equity.

I had the opportunity to consult with an equity team recently who felt challenged by their sense of urgency. This group of volunteers agreed to take a look at equity issues within their organization and, from this bird’s eye view, make some recommendations. One of their first tasks was to help guide the hiring process of an equity officer. But then they found themselves doing a delicate dance. They needed to balance their own growing passionate perspective for equity while still supporting the new equity director, who would be taking a slower, more corporate approach to change. 

This group didn’t want their passion for equity to burn out so they asked me to come in and consult about how they might continue their work. I shared with them the concept of a Community of Practice and showed them what it could accomplish. They loved the idea, as it gave them permission to continue supporting one another as they worked on their passion while maintaining their distinct role and lens advancing the larger work of the organization.

There is also something incredibly powerful to be gained by doing equity work within a Community of Practice. In Communities of Practice, there are three essential elements: community, domain, and practice. Let’s examine how an intentional adherence to each of these three elements is essential to making lasting change in our equity work.

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Women Are Ready — But how can we support each other as we move forward?

“Do not follow where the path may lead. Go instead where there is no path and leave a trail.” — Muriel Strode 

Despite the pandemic, I recently had the fantastic opportunity to attend a virtual event sponsored by Conferences for Women and provide the attendees with pro bono coaching. If you know me at all, you know I love talking to women who are passionate about leadership. I got my wish as I met some amazing women dedicated to their companies, their careers, and their growth. 

My big takeaway from this conference: WOMEN ARE READY.


Women are ready to create a new model in the workplace. The traditional hierarchical model of work doesn’t appeal to many women today. Thankfully, more and more workplace systems acknowledge and support the growth of women in the organization. Some women are even fortunate enough to have women’s networks within their company where they can brainstorm and openly discuss the pros and cons of different workplace systems. If that’s not the case for you, keep reading to discover how you can find or create that kind of support.

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Transitioning Out of Fear and into Hope with Collaborative Learning

This has been a year of fear and no wonder with an unprecedented pandemic, insurrection at the Capital, growing tribalism, global warming, economic instability. But instead of getting sucked into and trapped by our fears, “remember, you don’t fear people whose story you know. 

That’s the next stanza of Margaret Wheatley’s poem, “Turning to One Another.” (To read the entire poem take a look at a previous blog.) I’ve been reflecting on this poem over the last few weeks and it finishes on a much-needed positive note.

Remember, you don’t fear people whose story you know.

Real listening always brings people closer together.

Trust that meaningful conversations can change your world. 

Rely on human goodness. Stay together.

We are stronger together, even with or maybe even especially because of our different opinions, backgrounds, and stories. We each have goodness within us and meaningful conversations with each other can reveal the goodness, the common purpose, and the stories behind what we care about.

In order to leave fear truly behind and find new solutions to our unprecedented challenges, we need to have an entirely new approach to listening and learning.

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Are You a Leader Who’s Brave Enough to Start a Conversation That Matters?

Unfortunately, many people shy away from conversations that matter. In the current political and social climate, it might feel too overwhelming to even try! However, if you want to be an influential leader that inspires your community, these kinds of conversations cannot and should not be avoided. This isn’t talking, tweeting, or shouting, this is conversing, and it comes from a place of vulnerability.

This subject came up for me recently when I read, Margaret Wheatley’s poem, “Turning to One Another.” (To read the entire poem take a look at my last blog, Appreciating the Power of a Collaborative Community — Now more than ever!)

The second stanza of the poem stimulated some thought-provoking questions…


Be brave enough to start a conversation that matters. 

Talk to people you know.

Talk to people you don’t know.

Talk to people you never talk to.


Be intrigued by the differences you hear. 

Expect to be surprised.

Treasure curiosity more than certainty.


So here are the questions that come to mind…

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Louise J Santiago, PhD
Executive Coach and Organizational Consultant

Where Leadership is Intentional Work

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