Expert: Humility Is Key to DEI Success
Adrienne Lawrence of Jennifer Brown Consulting Says Humility and Curiosity Allow Leaders to Avoid 'Stepping in It'
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Devin: What is your superpower?
Adrienne: One of my superpowers is being able to have difficult conversations with people, being able to talk about issues and appreciate people’s discomfort and help them see them from a different vantage point so I can reach them. Unfortunately, our society is set up with a lot of issues in a taboo arena that [make] people automatically feel uncomfortable. Being able to disarm them and connect with them such that they are ready to grow and that they feel that they can confront and tackle these issues that come across their plate—it’s really rewarding. So I would say that that’s my superpower.
Adrienne Lawrence, author and consultant for Jennifer Lawrence Consulting, works to empower companies and thought leaders to adopt workplace diversity, equity and inclusion efforts and helps them avoid trending on social media.
“I specialize in keeping people from trending on Twitter because they stepped in it,” she says, adding a key for success in this area: “Be humble and recognize that, ‘hey, I’m not going to have all the answers and I am going to step in it.’”
1. Adrienne Lawrence is a VP and consultant at Jennifer Brown Consulting.
2. She helps workplaces become more inclusive, and individuals become more inclusive within their work.
3. She works in anti-racism to help organizations understand diversity’s uniqueness and value.
4. One of the fundamental principles for creating a more inclusive workplace is being humble and hungry for information.
5. She is the author of Staying in the Game: The Playbook for Beating Workplace Sexual Harassment.
6. Her book offers guidance on navigating workplace sexual harassment.
7. Sexual harassment in the workplace is not just a women’s issue; men can also be impacted.
8. She offers tools and strategies for individuals to navigate and combat workplace harassment.
9. Lawrence emphasizes the importance of having difficult conversations to break down barriers and improve communication.
10. She provides information on her consulting firm, Jennifer Brown Consulting, and how individuals can learn more about her and her work.
Adrienne says we should all be aware that “There may have been things that occurred historically that our parents’ generation, grandparents or even hundreds of years before had created that situation. And the legacy lives on today. I’m not responsible for that, but I am responsible for this relationship.”
Given the essential nature of interpersonal relationships in the workplace, she says that understanding “you’re not going to have all the answers, you’re not going to see the landmines—but that’s okay. When you step in it, there is an opportunity there to mend that relationship, to grow and to exercise greater self-awareness.”
Too often, she says, people think of diversity too simply as being exclusively about race. She sees DEI as a broad umbrella covering a range of “isms,” including sexism, homophobia and transphobia. She sees sobriety status, religion and neurotype as also needing representation. “It’s all of the little things about each one of us that makes us unique.”
She sees The Walking Dead as a model for valuing diversity. Every member of the core cast had a unique skill that, combined with the others, allowed the group to fend off the zombies successfully.
Earlier in her career, Adrienne took an on-air position with ESPN. After surviving sexual harassment there, she wrote Staying in the Game: The Playbook for Beating Workplace Sexual Harassment. “The book is the first of its kind guide, largely for employees to help people understand and navigate this form of bullying,” she says.
Adrienne uses her superpower, her ability to have difficult conversations with people, to help her in her work.
How to Develop the Ability to Have Difficult Conversations As a Superpower
“One of the things I do is executive coaching and mediation,” Adrienne says. “Sometimes you might have people who are great at what they do, but when they come together, they clash, which is often the case when you have type A personalities, people who are go-getters.”
She offers guidance for resolving conflicts and having difficult conversations.
To ease conflict, it’s essential to remove yourself from the equation. Centering yourself and worrying about how others perceive you can hinder progress. Instead, focus on the goal and recognize that other people’s responses are not necessarily about you. By de-centering yourself, you can approach the situation with more power and effectiveness. Ask yourself, “What is my focus here?” and consider different dynamics to reach your goal. This mindset will allow you to do your best work.
By following Adrienne’s example and advice, you can develop the ability to have difficult conversations that enable you to resolve conflicts and grow as a human being, enabling you to do more good in the world.
Adrienne Lawrence (she/her):
Vice President, Jennifer Brown Consulting
About Jennifer Brown Consulting: Workplace Inclusion
Twitter Handle: @jbcinclusion
Company Facebook Page:
Other URL: www.adriennejlawrence.com
Biographical Information: As an impactful workplace equity educator and devoted inclusion advocate, Adrienne Lawrence does more than just talk. The former big law litigator-turned-VP and Consultant for JBC is passionate about reaching professionals through informative, thought-provoking conversation.
In addition to delivering memorable keynote speeches, Adrienne crafts effective and forward-thinking diversity, equity, and inclusion (DEI) programs and strategic plans that serve her clients’ needs in the now and equip them to succeed well into the future. Leveraging her range of knowledge, she also thoughtfully coaches executives, conducts informative workplace assessments and offers a DEI experience that is truly unmatched. Adrienne has had the honor of working with an array of organizations—from NASA to Toyota to the American Red Cross.
After becoming the first on-air personality to sue ESPN for gender discrimination, Adrienne wrote a first-of-its-kind business book in 2020 titled Staying in the Game: The Playbook for Beating Workplace Sexual Harassment, which won several awards and was heralded as a must-read for every woman in the workplace (Penguin Random House, 2020). When not speaking on workplace inclusion, Adrienne shares her insight as an award-winning legal analyst and commentator. Her voice has been heard on platforms like NPR, and her words featured in outlets like Harvard Business Review and The Washington Post, among others.
Adrienne holds an M.A. from the University of Southern California, a J.D. from The George Washington University Law School, an M.A. from CUNY-John Jay College, and a B.S. from Cal State Sacramento.
Twitter Handle: @adriennelaw
Instagram Handle: @adriennelawrence