The Author of “Use Your Difference to Make a Difference” on the Art of Diplomacy

On this episode of Break the Bias, Ashish Kaushal, founder of Consciously Unbiased, has an unplugged conversation with Tayo Rockson, CEO of UYD Management and author of Use Your Difference to Make a Difference. Tayo shares his idea of the art of diplomacy by highlighting the need for improving our cross-cultural competency and self-awareness in our professional/personal lives so that there is a greater sense of inclusion, belonging, and acceptance.

Their conversation covers:

  • Ways to connect with people who may be different from yourself
  • How to identify our biases, triggers and values
  • How to name our five core values
  • The importance of living an intentional life, and much more.

Listen to the full conversation here, and read on for some important highlights.

ASHISH: Can you tell us a little bit about your story and what it was like growing up black in four continents?

TAYO: “My dad was a diplomat so that is why we moved around quite a bit. I’m from Nigeria and the first nine years of my life were spent in and out of two military dictatorships. I lived in Sweden, Vietnam, Burkina Faso, United States, and of course Nigeria. That is five countries and four continents. Depending on which country I was in, I was received in a different way. I remember being in Vietnam and people did not know what to do about me and my family. We used to get followed in an ironic, funny way.”

ASHISH: What is the art of diplomacy exactly? What are some steps for putting that into action?

Related: Top DEI Conversations In 2023 That Leaders Should Have

TAYO: “The art of diplomacy is learning to collect and gather information, being an active listener, and being an active part of a community. We can mirror the art of diplomacy in our lives. I don’t think many of us truly see each other, understand each other and know each other for who we really are. If you don’t know what makes someone smile, laugh, or brings them joy or anger, how do you know how to connect?

You could collect and gather information by reading, asking questions, or simply by observing. As you observe, you start to listen to yourself and listen to how you’re interacting with others and then start to ask questions, specifically open-ended questions. You get a multitude of different responses and those responses invite collaborations and opportunities; but also they tap into your curiosity muscles and then you start to learn.

Being an active part of your community is taking everything that you’ve learned and translating that to your environment. If you don’t factor activity into your art of diplomacy, you’re going to be participating in a lot of racist systems because the systems that exist now mostly favor people that are already privileged. So, if you’re not participating in an environment, you’re not going to be able to actively dismantle it.”

ASHISH: How can we use diplomacy to combat the growing hate and fear that we are experiencing in the world today?

TAYO: “We live in a nuanced world, governed by binary systems. Many people feel that you attack their whole selves if you disagree with them, but there is nuance. There are things that are black and white, and there are also things that are not black and white. People need to understand that two things can be right as well as two things can be wrong at the same time. For example, American values means something different to many people. Somebody could say American values are about immigration while somebody else could say it is about nationalism. In order to have a dialogue, you need to expand to a bigger picture because of how diverse the world is.”

Related: A Leadership Coach On Why It’s Okay To Let Go of Being Productive Right Now

ASHISH: What do you think it means to be anti-racist?

TAYO: “Anti-racism steps away from individualism and moves toward the idea of actively dismantling systems of oppression. Being racist or antiracist doesn’t necessarily mean that you are a bad or good person. You could be a good person and still participate in a bad system and still be part of the problem. You may have friends from different backgrounds, but in your school, did you check to see if the curriculum reflects actual history or applies critical thinking? If the answer is no, you are not being an anti-racist. Anti-racism is the idea of consistently investigating the systems and seeing how you can make sure that there’s access for all groups of people. There has to be a level of cultural humility and personal accountability because we are all going to make mistakes and we are all flawed, but how you react is the most important thing.”

ASHISH: How can leaders improve their cross-cultural competency for building more inclusive workplaces?

TAYO: The framework I use in my book is called educate, don’t perpetuate, instead communicate. Education of the self and education of environments, learning how to collect and guide information, and then being an active listener and part of the community.

What I mean by don’t perpetuate is, as a company, how can you actively and continuously create an environment where you are aware of privileges, the power dynamics that exist with those privileges, and the multiple identities that you have? You need to understand what potential insider and outsider dynamics there are; insiders feel like they are part of a group and outsiders feel like they have to acquiesce to fit in.

Communicate is the third part of the framework which has to do with learning how to open dialogue, because chances are you are not always going to agree with everyone you come across.”

ASHISH: What is one micro-progression that you can do to help build belonging in the workplace?

TAYO: “People should experiment with being a minority in a different environment, at least every month. If you are an engineer, spend some time with the marketing team. If you are Jewish, spend some time in a mosque. Find differences where you can embed yourself as a minority and expose yourself to something that you have not already educated yourself on. That habit is going to expose you to what works, what is okay, and what is not okay.”


Holly Corbett

As the Director of Content at Consciously Unbiased, Holly Corbett is fueling inclusion through storytelling to build a passionate community and creating experiences inside organizations to transform workplace culture.
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