Leadership & Learning Letters

Written by Deanna Rolffs, Senior Design Partner
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2021 Recap: Your Favorite Leadership and Learning Letters

Posted by Deanna Rolffs on Jan 19, 2022 6:00:00 AM

Greetings friends,

I did a scary thing, launching Leadership and Learning Letters in 2021.

If you would have asked me a few years ago, if I’d someday write a blog, I’d have scoffed and quickly said “not a chance!"

I was petrified to write.

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Topics: leadership, learning, growth, voice, writing, creative, writers community, design thinking, women, thrive, writer

Learning is Courageous

Posted by Deanna Rolffs on Dec 8, 2021 6:00:00 AM

When you learn, what does it feel like? Peaceful? Difficult? Joyful? Painful?

Learning feels like flying to me. Jumping off a cliff face to soar through the sky would take courage, even if you were born to fly.

Learning also takes courage.

Growing up, I was convinced that I wasn’t smart: memorization is not my gift. Our school system valued rote learning, which meant learning = memorizing.

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Topics: leadership, learning

Helping Isn’t About the Helper

Posted by Deanna Rolffs on Nov 24, 2021 6:00:00 AM

My high school church youth group traveled to the Mississippi Delta for a service project hanging drywall, painting, cleaning and leading a church school program for local kids. We were a group of all white folks from the middle of Iowa, many of us interacting with Black people for the first time. As we drove wide-eyed past dozens of tiny dirt floor homes with shiny new cars out front, I was thoroughly confused, without the cultural intelligence and racial equity awareness that were never raised nor discussed. I filled in the blanks with questions and assumptions, not understanding the current implications of hundreds of years of chattel slavery, lynching, lack of well-paying jobs, segregated education, predatory lending, and generational poverty.

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Topics: process consulting, listening, helping, help

The Magic of Listening

Posted by Deanna Rolffs on Nov 10, 2021 6:00:00 AM

True confession: I can jump too quickly to solutions. Sound familiar? Business moves fast. Nonprofits quickly pivot based on new challenges. Leaders solve problems. We’re told decisiveness is strength. 

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Topics: process consulting, listening, humble inquiry, helping, learning, courage, inquiry, humble, Edgar H. Schein

One of the good ones?

Posted by Deanna Rolffs on Oct 27, 2021 6:00:00 AM

Yes, I want to be one of the good ones. You too?

Yes, I’m referring to wanting to be a good white person. You know, the one that knows that racism is real, that isn’t fragile about being called white, wants to take risks and stick their neck out, work to become a co-conspirator, fall back and support when needed, etc. While the intention can be true, this mindset can get us into trouble.

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Topics: process consulting, leadership development, leadership, learning, anti-oppression

Let's talk about whiteness - Part 5: The violence of white supremacy. Do you see it?

Posted by Deanna Rolffs on Oct 6, 2021 6:00:00 AM

When I was a young child, some adults played the “stop hitting yourself” game with me. They grabbed my hand, hit me with my own hand, and said over and over again “Stop hitting yourself. Why are you hitting yourself? Stop it.”

Yes, they thought it was hilarious. Me, not so much. It taught me that they thought my helplessness was funny, that I didn’t get to decide what happened to my own body. They didn’t have awareness of the harm they caused, but that doesn’t absolve them of it.

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Topics: power, anti-oppression, oppression, systems, systemic oppression

Let's talk about whiteness - Part 4: What is White Consciousness?

Posted by Deanna Rolffs on Sep 22, 2021 6:00:00 AM

What keeps us from understanding our whiteness? Let’s look at a few examples of how the lack of white consciousness exacerbates racism.

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Topics: power, anti-oppression, oppression, systems, systemic oppression

Let's talk about whiteness - Part 3: What exactly is oppression?

Posted by Deanna Rolffs on Aug 25, 2021 6:00:00 AM

How do you define your purpose in this world? The reason you walk this earth? The thing that gets you out of bed in the morning and is the fire in your belly?

The way I describe my purpose has changed quite a lot since my twenties, when I was a social worker supporting women experiencing homelessness. Then, I would say “I want to help people.” Over the years it’s morphed significantly. Now I say something like:

“I want to use my power for good instead of evil. I work at the intersection of leadership development, organizational theory and anti-oppression. I want to be a force for justice.”

Or perhaps

“I want to work with brave leaders, working for justice to build bridges and break apart inequitable mindsets, relationships, organizations and systems.”

I’m learning, growing, and changing. Instead of getting the perfect description, I'm embracing what I'm learning as my why develops.

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Topics: power, anti-oppression, oppression, systems, systemic oppression

Let's talk about whiteness - Part 2: You always talk about race; do you hate white people?

Posted by Deanna Rolffs on Aug 11, 2021 6:00:00 AM

“Your survival has never depended on your knowledge of white culture. In fact, it’s required your ignorance.”
Ijeoma Oluo

What is whiteness? If you are white, what do you think or feel about your whiteness? If someone generalizes about white people, how do you typically react?

I noticed years ago that my friends of color knew patterns of whiteness better than I did: what it looks like, what it sounds like, how to interact with it and how to survive in spit of it. Particularly enlightening are the ways People of Color have taught about how whiteness uses power, interacts in-group and out-group (with People of Color), and how whitness dictates how we react when we don't know something. Most illuminating has been my increased learning about the ways we aren’t fluent in or cognizant of whiteness. The patterns of whiteness are predictable and known to People of Color.

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Topics: leadership development, whiteness, anti-racism, anti-white supremacy, diversity, equity, inclusion, anti-oppression, Miseducation, definitions, race, racism, white privilege

Let's talk about whiteness - Part 1: Who are you, white person, to work for racial equity?

Posted by Deanna Rolffs on Jul 28, 2021 6:00:00 AM

Recently a white woman asked me: "Who are you to do anti-racism work? You are white."

Good Question.

Just as my husband is a feminist but isn’t a woman, I'm a white person committed to racial equity. I’m glad my husband speaks up, demonstrates that he doesn't know all of the things about gender oppression, and is willing to take risks. He knows that women are experts in their own lives. He's willing to disrupt misogyny with other men, and believes we are all free when women are liberated.

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Topics: leadership development, anti-racism, anti-white supremacy, diversity, equity, inclusion, anti-oppression, Miseducation, definitions

Deanna Rolffs
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Grab a beverage and pull up a chair; let's learn together. Here we grapple with leadership challenges and work to be better humans in this brave, connected, and vulnerable space. If you want to be on your growth edge, you are welcome here!

 

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