What we can learn from the recent Google memo

Editor’s note: This opinion column was written in response to the memo authored by James Damore, a Google engineer who was fired after criticizing “Google’s Ideological Echo Chamber.”

Language is powerful. Words can be misleading and degrading, and can lead to someone else feeling attacked – that is not okay in most people’s minds.

Sundar Pichai, CEO of Google, called parts of the memo written by James Damore, former Google engineer, as “offensive and not okay.” The company made the decision to fire Damore days after the memo was released.

How would your company respond to this situation? Does it have a policy that supports diversity, gender equality and the evolution of achievement?

Let’s talk about mindfulness

Mindfulness requires being aware of the present moment and accepting things as they are without judgment. Professional coaching uses this technique to bring attention to detail so that thoughts, feelings and sensations can be clear and focused, without judgment. To be mindful is to be in the flow or “in the zone.”

Sports psychologists have developed programs that practice mindfulness to increase coaches’ and athletes’ mental readiness for the game. Business coaches guide management to improve professional performance and leadership for the welfare of all employees.

A coach works with anyone to draw out existing skills and guides them to an advanced level of achievement.

Solving problems

Problems can be resolved by individuals changing their mindset without reaction. Unfortunately, some biases run deep about male and female capabilities, talent, education, race, religion, experience and generational prejudices.

When management in a company comes together to resolve differences and figure out baseless claims or accusations in many areas (including diversity and gender equality) the policy works best when it is flexible to cover it all. Company leaders need to ask themselves: Are we mindful of improving the transparency in our company or are we using conscious oversight in what we are doing?

Complicated human issues

We are all human, and it’s natural to have problems where policy leaves out or poorly supports individual and family responsibilities (i.e. maternity and paternity leave, childcare and parental care, along with mental and physical well being). But if daily life is not nurtured, than professional work suffers too. We experience discourse and division when people become only a resource and the “human” side is left out.

In addition, we have been practicing the language of “politically correct” for some time now; we need a trusted environment to discuss biases and life issues without the same rhetoric of the past.

Damore’s Google manifesto and firing brought the topic of gender equality and characteristic opinion back to the mainstream.

A female employee at Google named Lauren responded to the memo by saying:

“I think he (Damore) could have been smarter in the way he shared his opinions and beliefs. I will debate anything respectfully with anyone, but in this case he chose to do it in a way that wasn’t respectful. And I think that’s why we’ve ended up where we are.”

There are a lot of men and women who are satisfied with their roles and with company policies. However, there are still instances where both sexes must tip-toe around those who are biased and around issues that are not fair. This can feel disempowering.

If we open our minds and hearts to a more accurate view of our current problems at work, then we can actually resolve them.

My perspective as a coach

In a one-to one professional coaching setting, what we say and what we believe are explored without judgment. We can change without fear, doubts or denial and become more confident, self-reliant and truly trust who we are as we evolve to a higher state of actualization. This work enhances the personality and substantiates potential.

In my encounters over many years coaching individuals in various levels of management, there have been noticeable differences in participants’ ability to:

  • Trust
  • Live leadership skills
  • Develop mindfulness
  • Re-assess talent capabilities
  • Increase energy
  • Communicate with words of authenticity
  • Improve efficiency

It takes sophisticated company leadership to commit to building a more realistic environment for all employees, but the outcome produces success for the business in ways that are beyond expectation.

Ghaile Windeck, M.A., is an international coaching specialist at Advantage Learning Solutions LLC in Vancouver. She can be reached at 503.754.4151 or g.windeck@gmail.com.

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