The best communities are those where people feel safe enough to be themselves.
As leaders in your business, it's your job to create those spaces for your team and yourself.
I know from experience how easy it is to sit quietly and play it safe in the workplace and on social media. But I realized that playing it safe can cause you to lock away your true voice and your values–the things that make you uniquely you.
In this solo episode, I’m an open book! I’m sharing my story of being forced to find my truth in moments of discomfort, so you can evaluate your values in moments of peace and decide if it’s time for you to find your voice and live your values out loud in your business.
In this episode of the podcast, I talk about:
- Not rocking the boat
- Avoiding the hard conversations
- Why what you don’t say matters
- Why your company needs a diversity policy
- The social media mirror
- Creating safe places at work
- Showcasing your belief system online
- Baby steps to becoming more accessible
- How Brené Brown helped me become a vulnerable leader
This Episode Was Made Possible By:
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Savvy Social Retreat
You're officially invited to my very first in-person retreat happening in Niagara-on-the-Lake, Ontario, Canada, from November 3rd through 5th 2023.
This all-inclusive retreat is designed for established business owners who really need to get away from the hustle and bustle of everyday life and are ready to work on the big picture topics and carve out enough space to make important decisions in our business.
- “I just wanted to kind of hide and avoid it. And I didn't wanna rock the boat. But what I realized very quickly is that because of my skin color, people were making assumptions about me and my perspective on the world.” – Andréa Jones
- “It was a really tough situation to be in, and one that I do not wanna be in again. So I made a commitment at that moment to really study what I was calling political topics, decide my perspective, and embed that into my company.” – Andréa Jones
- “I've studied, and I know all the answers, and I'm still not gonna tell 'em to you cuz I don't wanna do that. I don't wanna be the token. But that being said, there is this opportunity for me to encourage my team and my community to think on these things for themselves.” – Andréa Jones
- “In our team meetings…We talk about the topic of pronouns. We talk about the topic of holidays. We talk about the topic of mental health. We talk about all sorts of topics from a place of vulnerability and understanding. Not from a place of, you know, Andréa's gonna tell us how to do it, and this is how it's gonna be done. There's an open conversation.” – Andréa Jones
- “As a business owner, you are a leader. So whether you're the only person in your company or whether you have a hundred team members, you're a leader. Whether you have just got your first client and it's your first year in business, or you've been in business for 20 years, you are a leader.” – Andréa Jones
- “She [Brené Brown] changed the way that I think about myself as I show up in the world. I consider myself very emotional, and that's not usually seen as a positive, especially in leadership positions. In my mind, from my days in corporate America, a leader was assertive, kind of frowny, and almost a little aggressive. And that's just not my personality type.” – Andréa Jones
- “My intention is to create more brave spaces, not the kind of space where I'm trying to make sure everyone's protected. That's a lot to hold as a facilitator to make sure everyone is feeling safe. But if I can create a space where people feel brave, then it's allowing that space to feel vulnerable.” – Andréa Jones
Watch the Episode Below:
Andréa Jones (00:00):
How do we create safe spaces for our social media communities? The kind of virtual community space where people feel encouraged to leave comments, especially if they disagree with us, or the kind of space where our community members feel empowered to message us if we say something that's hurtful, even if it's unintentional. Well, today I wanna dive into that conversation. It's a tough one, but I'm excited to peel back the curtain and show you what we've done in our business this year. Let's get into it.
Welcome to The Savvy Social Podcast, the show that blends stories and strategies to help businesses create engaged and profitable online communities using the unique power of social media. And now, your host, Andréa Jones.
Andréa Jones (01:02):
So this conversation started for me in 2020 with the Black Lives Matter movement. When that culminated with the marches, it was during the peak of the pandemic, kind of when our lockdowns, we were realizing that it wasn't, you know, just gonna be two weeks to crush the curb. And I distinctly remember the thought that I've been having for a while, which is, I'm not political. I don't get in the mix of the politicalness, I don't post political topics on social media. If you've ever thought that way or if you think that way, now send me a dm. I cannot be alone in this. I just wanted to kind of hide and avoid it. And I didn't wanna rock the boat. But what I realized very quickly is that because of my skin color, people were making assumptions about me and my perspective on the world.
I didn't have to say one goddamn thing. Okay? And I think that sometimes as business owners especially, or thought leaders, experts in our space, we really feel like there are certain topics that don't pertain to us. This is how I felt. I did not want to post a black square. I did. People were asking me questions that I didn't feel qualified to answer. What's your thoughts on Black Lives Matter? And I was like, why are you asking me? I don't know. I don't, I don't wanna talk about this. And I was avoiding it because it was a very tough conversation. I had to have a heart to heart with myself. And I ended up ultimately having a heart to heart with some of my dearest community members in the Savvy Social School. We did a bunch of research internally with our team. We had to kind of craft perspectives because of our clients.
And it was a really tough situation to be, and one that I do not wanna be in again. So I made a commitment at that moment to really study the what I was calling political topics, decide my perspective, and embed that into my company. So I wanna talk about that journey over the past two plus years. I guess it's going on three years now cause we're in 2023 at the time of releasing this. And I wanna have this conversation because my perspective has shifted on this. And I'm hoping that I can help you answer some questions for yourself. I don't intend for this to be a copy exactly what Andrea is doing type of episode. I really wanna ask the questions, the hard questions that will help you consider how this shows up in your life in your business. Because not saying something is saying something.
And you can absolutely make that decision. And I still make that decision to this day. There are a lot of things I don't speak on, I don't feel comfortable speaking on. I don't talk about it on social media because that's my decision and I'm making that decision from an informed place. And I'm not making that decision because I don't know, and I haven't thought about it. Okay? So in 2020, black Lives Matter happens, and I was approached by several, many publishers because I'm assuming they scrolled through their Instagram feed and went, oh look, a black one, <laugh>. And they decided to reach out to me, having never spoken with me before. And at first I felt horrified. Y'all, I do not want to be the token. I am not the token, the one, the only black person in the room. I do not like that feeling.
I don't wanna be singled out because of my skin color. And I turn down opportunities to be featured in publications because of that. I personally don't feel comfortable with that. Now, I did talk to my, my dad about this at the time and he said, Andrea, you wanna look at this as you're at bat. So your chance, your chance at the plate, this is coming from his history and his experience, his lived experience. And for some opportunities, I did take my at bat, my moment at the Plate, one that I really enjoy for instance, was I was featured by a number of publications that I had been working with for years. Places like Teachable and Convert Kit coupling you know, services that I have been using for a while. I was even featured in Hello seven with Rachel Rogers.
Like people who are my clients, people who I have been working with. And they wanted to take that moment to uplift the people they had already been working with. Yes, sure. I will say yes to that. I know the people that I work with and I enjoy them. The other publications that I had never talked to anyone before. I, I don't, they, they were pitching me things that I don't feel comfortable talking with. I had to turn those opportunities down. And I've taken a lot of time to think about this. And I think the biggest thing for me personally is I just didn't feel comfortable talking about those issues. I come from a upper middle class family. I feel like I have a lot of privilege in that space and I feel like I lack a lot of the knowledge that they're looking for, for someone to contribute to that.
And then I decided to get to work because y'all, I do not wanna be in this position again. I wanna be able to say no from a place of confidence and not from a place of this. I'd feel uncomfortable. So now I can say no and be like, no, I don't wanna do that <laugh> because I've thought about it and I've studied and I know all the answers and I'm still not gonna tell 'em to you cuz I don't wanna do that. I don't wanna be the token. But that being said, there is this opportunity for me to encourage my team and my community to think on these things for themselves. And so we did not have a diversity policy within our company. And I wanna start by saying, if you do not have this within your company, even if it's a company of one, if you do not have this firmly within your company, it's gonna be really hard to put it on social media.
Social media is a mirror. Social media can only reflect what's currently happening in your company. And if you try to use social media as a megaphone, if you try to use social media as a filter and you want it, everything to look way better than it actually is in your company, you're 10 xing the amount of work that you have to put into that facade. Okay? So if you want social media to feel easeful, feel joyful, be simple, use it as a mirror, simply reflect what's happening in your company as I'm doing now in this podcast episode. So the first thing that we did is I started researching for diversity training for my team. And I spent about a year listening, reading, researching on my own. And then that was in 2021. And then in 2022, I hired the amazing crystal duna of the inside view to do a diversity, equity and inclusion certification training for my team.
And y'all, that was not cheap <laugh>. We have about 15 people on the team, and I wanted them all to have the tools and equipment to be able to navigate this world around them. We have clients who are d e I experts. We have clients who wanna be mindful of the, the delicacy of a lot of these topics. And I wanted to give my tool, my team, the tools they needed to be able to have these powerful yet important conversations. And I knew that I couldn't be the center of that in the meantime. So between 2020 and 2022 about once a month in our team meetings, we would talk about certain topics. We talk about the topic of pronouns, we talk about the topic of holidays, we talk about the topic of mental health. We talk about all sorts of topics from a place of vulnerability and understanding, and not from a place of, you know, Andrea's gonna tell us how to do it and this is how it's gonna be done.
There's an open conversation. And I think that requires a very high level of trust. And it's the reason why I started having this conversation with my team before telling the tens of thousands of people that listen to this podcast. Because for me it was really important to have that embedded in my business. First, I understand my personal perspective before sharing it with the world. So an example of this in practicality is one of the things we used to do for our clients is on Martin Luther King Day, m l k day, which I think is like the second Monday of every January every year second or third Monday, something like that. We used to post happy MLK Day for our clients, happy MLK Day. What I've realized recently is saying Happy MLK Day, there's a bit of a dissonance because it's not a happy situation.
It kind of diminishes the respect that needs to go along with acknowledging the work of one of our most important leaders and someone who changed, changed history, right? So it's not necessarily happy m l k day. There's complexity to acknowledging that holiday. And the only way to acknowledge that complexity is to understand it and to study it. And so my team and I took the time to understand that. And now we don't say happy m l k day. And if you have said happy m l k day in the past, that's okay. Today's a new day. We can start today or you can continue saying it and make it a decision that you have to make. I think sometimes we don't even recognize some of our implicit biases when it comes to these safe spaces and creating a space where people don't feel othered.
And I had this challenge with a former employee who actually didn't last very long in our company for numerous reasons. But one of the challenges we had was their implicit bias. So I'll give an example. They were writing copy for a client and in the post they used thumbs up emojis and thumbs down emojis, don't know what I'm talking about, right? Thumbs up, thumbs down emojis. The up emojis were in the white skin tone and the thumbs down emojis were in the darker skin tone. And I had to explain to them why that was unacceptable. And I wanted to share that example because that's one example of something where you may not even recognize something that you're doing that can unintentionally have adverse implications. Okay? We don't wanna imply that white skin is good and black skin is bad, okay? We don't want to imply that either use all the same color or pick a different emoji, use an arrow.
I don't, it doesn't matter. <Laugh> use a yellow, the yellow ones and don't even use, you know, any of the other ones, right? Use the, the, the OG skin color. It's things like that that can make it very challenging to do this work because it feels like when I say that, don't use light colored skin for thumbs up and dark colored skin for thumbs down. It can feel like an attack, right? We, we can feel that like, ooh, feels like the air is being sucked out of the room, especially if you are the one making that error. It's a very vulnerable place for someone to say, Hey, I don't like that implication. Can we think about using something differently? I wanna pause here to share that. As a business owner, you are a leader. So whether you're the only person in your company or whether you have a a hundred team members, you're a leader.
Whether you have just got your first client and it's your first year in business, or you've been in business for 20 years, you are a leader. When you're creating content to post online, you are leading people and showcasing your belief system, you're sharing your perspective on the world, you're sharing your ideology, you're sharing your approach, and you're signaling to those people what it's like to work with you. Hence my emphasis on social media being a mirror. If there are certain topics that don't relate to your business and don't come up as you're working with your clients, you don't have to post them. But if there's some topics that do, you may wanna consider it. And as a leader, you've gotta make that decision. And this is something I talked about with my savvy social school community at nauseum in 2020 especially. But we have sessions all the time about this.
In fact, we have one coming up in March about social justice issues and how to consider addressing them on social media. This is not a rule book. Again, I don't have all of the answers, but these are questions that you may consider for yourselves. All right? I wanna talk about accessibility as well. This is something that I recently saw a post on social media about, and here's why. Posting on social media about the topics that are important to you is crucial because you are making a statement about something and your people, your community members, your clients, your customers, they're interpreting that in some sort of way. So I saw someone else share this post on social media where this coach said, I will not be providing PDFs, I will not be sharing my slides. I don't wanna share any transcripts because I don't want to mother you should anyone else see this post floating around a couple weeks ago.
They said, I don't want to mother you, I want you to show up and take notes, and I don't wanna assist you in any way in doing that. If you can't do that, that's on you. And this post is being shared wild widely by the coaches that I follow because it is anti accessibility. You know, people learn in a number of different ways. Not everyone can just sit down and listen and take notes. And this is something that I have learned over the years. I used to say in my courses that I present my topics in a certain way, and it's like that in my marketing. And it's, again, it's reflected in my business. People have asked for transcripts. It's never been a part of our business because in my mind I figured if they needed a transcript, they can go learn from someone else who teaches in that style.
Maybe a more written style. And I'm sharing this because I've learned to be more accessible in the way that I communicate. All of our podcasts going forward now have transcripts. And I had to learn this the hard way, y'all, I didn't learn it the easy way. I heard this over the years and I thought, that's number one, expensive. Number two, I think it's on an accurate representation of what my products are. Like. I don't have any transcripts there. And number three, I just didn't wanna do it. I'm gonna be honest with y'all. I didn't see the value of it until I had a kid. <Laugh>,
Oh my goodness, I had my beautiful baby girl, Ellie and I did not have time to listen to podcasts. My friend, lady Lamar sent me a podcast episode that said, oh, you should listen to this episode. I did not have time to listen to it. I skimmed the transcript while rocking little Baby Ellie to sleep. And it was in that moment that I went, ah, this isn't laziness. This is giving my audience an alternative way to consume the content. And I really, really wish that I hadn't had to, to experience it before recognizing it as a valid need. And so I wanna share that with you all here today because it's absolutely valid. Now, all of our podcast episodes have transcripts from here going forward. And our, all of our content in our membership program have transcripts. Anything we produce has transcripts. And this is our one baby step forward way that we're gonna try to be more accessible in our, in our business, in our company.
And it's a reflection of what's happening both internally, we start with the transcripts in the school and then externally with our podcast as well. I'll also say I've really enjoyed podcast listening now, especially Ellie's just a little bit older now. So if we go for walks or if I'm like doing dishes, if she's eating and I'm kind of multitasking having a podcast on, I'm not gonna sit down and watch a training video right now. But there are a few courses that I've bought specifically Lizzy Goddard's programs. She, they all have private podcasts, and I would've never gone through that material had it not been for the private podcast. So we're adding private podcasts to many of our offers so that people can learn on the go and in their own space in their own way. Is this more work? Yes. Is it worth it?
A hundred thousand percent. So we're gonna take a quick break and I'm gonna come back and talk a little bit about some of the other changes that we've made specifically Brene Brown's approach to the word safe space. I'm using that word now because it's what we use, but she uses a different word I'm gonna use when we come back.
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And if that's you, this retreat is designed to help support you. So come join me November 3rd through fifth in Niagara on the Lake Ontario, Canada. This Hallmark Pictures town is perfect for hosting this retreat. It is all inclusive. Your room is included, all your food is included. We are gonna have some amazing conversations, some facilitators, and it's just one of those places where you gotta be in the room. So check it out at savvysocialretreat.com. I'll see you there. [Podcast Ad break]
And we're back. So I'm a huge fan of Brene Brown. I read Daring Greatly I wanna say like four or five years ago, and then I read Dare to Lead shortly after that. And whenever I'm on a podcast and someone says, what's a book you wanna recommend? It's usually one of those two. She changed the way that I think about myself as I show up in the world.
Specifically, I, I consider myself very emotional and that's not usually seen as a positive, especially in leadership positions in my mind from cor my days in corporate America, a leader was assertive, kind of frowny and almost a little aggressive. And that's just not my personality type. I'm a little bubbly, I think, I don't know, I don't sound mean <laugh>. And so I, and I have a nervous laugh, as you heard. So I find that I, I found it challenging to show up as a leader specifically, and as a creator, that just being the skills that I was born with, that's just how I am. And Brene Brown talks a lot about vulnerability and how that actually is an asset and how that actually can help propel people forward. And she has done a ton of research on this, and most recently she's been talking a lot about the use of the word safe space and how a safe space is very hard to cultivate.
And if you think about it, it is, you know, you don't control anyone in that space. And if we think about this from a social media lens if you try to create a safe space on social media, what can you do? If you create a post, someone can leave a comment, you can remove that comment, you can block that person, but then someone else can still leave a comment. You can't remove and block everyone. And then if you do, is that necessarily safe? Because now your audience is questioning if they can actually speak up because you will just remove and block people if they speak up, right? So while you're attempting to create a safe space, you may actually unintentionally be creating an unsafe space if people don't feel like they can actually contribute to the conversation unless they agree with you, right? So Brene Brown talks a lot about instead of creating a safe space, trying to cultivate brave spaces.
So brave spaces, there's six pillars to Brave Spaces. And it's really about recognizing the humanness in all of this and how some people will feel safe. Some people may feel threatened, but we can still show up and have those hard and powerful conversations. And so, my intention, y'all know my word of the Earth community, my intention is to create more brave spaces, not the kind of space where I'm trying to make sure everyone's protected. That's a lot to hold as a facilitator to make sure everyone is feeling safe. But if I can create a space where people feel brave, then it's allowing that space to feel vulnerable. So there are six pillars to Brave Spaces. I'm gonna put a link to the resource that I'm looking at in the show notes. So the first pillar is vulnerability for a brave space. The second pillar is perspective taking.
So Brene Brown talks a lot about how you can't really put yourself in someone else's shoes, and you can't really get rid of your own lived experience. So as much as we try to say, oh, put yourself in their shoes, you never will be. You can't ignore your past and your history, but what you can do is be open to someone else's perspective, even if you don't understand it, just to be curious about it. So that's a second pillar. The third pillar is leaning into fear. There are some things that we do that make us nervous to say and being okay with that is okay. The fourth pillar is critical thinking. So carefully examining your own beliefs, your own actions. So an example for mine is me saying I don't wanna be political on social media, but I'm not being political.
I'm just being a human <laugh>. And my audience is filled with other humans who also are human in this wild world that we live in. So, you know, when we think about that critical thinking, it took years of me sitting with the fact that I'm not being political. When I talk about these topics, especially as they relate to my audience, I'm simply showing up as a human. The fifth pillar is to examine your intentions behind something or the intentions of others. So for me, I don't feel comfortable being the token black person. And for me, that's in examining my own boundary and thinking critically, asking myself some questions. Who is this serving? Who is this benefiting? Why? What is the reason for this? So in examining all of those creates a brave space. And then the last pillar is mindfulness. So moving forward with intentionality.
And this is where I think it's super important on social media as we're thinking about creating these brave spaces to be intentional about what that means for our audience. So I'll share a few more examples about how we do this in our business, but I also still wanna emphasize that this starts from our company values. So we have a document internally within our company online, Drea Inc. Values. And the value that we added this year that speaks specifically to this is the spirit of collaboration. So the spirit of collaboration. So in our company, we have this written down, we talk about it in our team meetings, and the spirit of collaboration means we show up with a commitment to share our ideas and opinions while respecting the ideas and opinions of others. Our mutual respect for our clients, team members and community means that we advocate for ensuring all voices are heard and respected.
We celebrate wins, we challenge perspectives, and we follow the principles of radical candor by caring personally while challenging directly. That radical candor perspective comes from a book called Radical Candor by Kim Scott, where Kim talks a lot about showing up, respecting the individual, and still challenging their perspective. And so we have this value embedded in our company first, then it can trickle out on social media, in our marketing, in the way we interact with our clients. We had to make this decision internally, and this came from that d e i training we did with Crystal earlier, last year, later last year. That is our company value. And here's how it shows up. We, we talked about pronouns in our company and we all agreed that having our pronouns clearly in our Zoom calls, in our Slack channel, in our email signature, will help everyone feel comfortable and included and welcomed.
Okay? and we we chose to do that as a team. And this comes from the spirit of collaboration, that new value that we added to our company values. Okay? I switched in my marketing from saying, Hey guys, to saying, Hey friends, because I wanted to be inclusive. When I talk about the collective, I say Y'all now, I say folks, I mostly say friends, and I like it. It feels fun. And it took a lot of practice for me to get here. It was, it didn't come naturally to me. But I really love saying it now and I feel like I am being very welcoming in my community. I also changed from saying that's crazy. I still say that's crazy all the time. And someone called me out on it. I actually wish I could remember when this happened, but someone called me out on it and explained to me why that word was triggering to them why that word seemed harmful to them and, and potentially other people in my community.
And so I sat with it for a while. I thought about it and I said, you know what? I don't wanna use that word anymore. And so now I say, that's wild. And I actually got this from my favorite drag queen Bob. The drag queen always says, that's wild. And so I started using it that word instead of the crazy word. And it feels unique now when I say it. And I even noticed people in my circle saying it, like some of my closest people in my circle are now saying, that's wild. Instead of, that's crazy. So I feel like I'm having an impact <laugh> unintentionally. I don't think they know why I started using different words, but that's the ripple effect of making some of these changes. And so even when I'm working with my copywriter and my, my design team and we're working on stuff for social media, we don't use that word, or we try not to use that word in our marketing, and if a client uses that word, we educate them.
Hey, this may be a little bit ableist. We may wanna think of a different word instead, or just wanna educate you. You can still continue to use that word as long as you kind of, you know understand a different perspective saying those things are hard and necessary. As we wrap up, I want to leave you with a few thoughts because I shared a lot about what I'm doing in my company, but I started off this conversation with saying that I'm not perfect and that this is a long journey. 2020 is when I started making these changes and it's 2023 now. So perspective, right? You will never be perfect, so take it one step at a time, but I really do encourage you to decide not deciding is a decision, even if it's unintentionally. And so be willing to be brave with yourself as a leader.
Remember, business owners are leaders. Be brave with yourself and show up with making that decision. Or don't decide to post or not, but make it a decision and then live with the consequences of that decision. I had a former client who during some of the movements, I think it was the Me Too movement they posted about and then the Black Lives Matter, they did not. And their community got very upset by that decision, but that client actually thought about it and that's what they decided. And they stuck with that decision and then they documented the evolution over time. And I'm not saying that that's the right thing or the wrong thing I personally don't agree with it. However, I do respect the fact that they made that decision. And this is the challenge of brave spaces. Do you think there's a little bit of a danger with cancel culture?
Cuz it doesn't allow for evolution? You know, my audience could have canceled me for saying, that's crazy. My audience could cancel me for saying, Hey guys, in every video. But instead, all of you listening allowed me to go through this journey, allowed me to examine my thoughts and change. And I hope that I can extend that same courtesy to everyone else especially for such minor infractions in my mind. Because there is a sliding scale to all of this work, one step at a time. And I please, I beg of you, don't wait for a huge event to happen. I know in this case, for me, I waited Black Lives Matter happen and it made me examine all of my diversity, equity, inclusion, and accessibility concepts with myself, my team, my clients, and with you all here listening to this podcast, I don't want you to wait for another big event to happen before you decide what your values are.
I encourage you to be proactive, think about them, write them down for yourself and your business, and start to layer them into your business. My client, Kara Lowentheil does this amazingly with her social media. She is a feminist life coach and she lives her values. Okay? These aren't things that she just posts on social media, <laugh>, you know, she has a long history with living her values and she's very clear about what she stands for, what she stands against, and this, she doesn't wait for, you know, Pride Month or Black History Month to like share that one post about, you know, just to check off the box, right? Her marketing is reflective of her values and her company values. So I challenge you to do the same.
And in that vein, next week, I'm super excited to have Deanna Singh come on the podcast. She is a former client who is doing some amazing work in this space. So we're gonna continue this conversation next week. I'll see you then. Bye for now.