choice Magazine

Beyond the Page ~ Gail Barker: Reaching for Belonging

August 11, 2021 Garry Schleifer
choice Magazine
Beyond the Page ~ Gail Barker: Reaching for Belonging
Show Notes Transcript

Gail has been coaching
leaders and aspiring leaders since 2003. Her work is built on the
premise paths of ease exist even in the midst of challenge. In
addition to her coaching work with individuals and within
organizations, Gail is a faculty member with CTI (CoActive
Training Institute). Her book, What Matters Now: Lessons on
Living with Ease can be found on

In our call, we discuss her article,  Reaching for Belonging...Coaching beyond diversity, equity & inclusion.

Watch the full interview on Youtube by clicking here.

Visit Gail's website at

Speaker 1 (00:03):

I am Gary Schleifer. And this is the meet the author series brought to you by choice the magazine and professional coaching, the ultimate resource for professional coaches in this wonderful, amazing arena, professional coaching. And we are more than just a magazine choices, a community for people who use coaching in their work or personal lives. We've been building our strong, passionate following in the coaching industry for almost 20 years. Yes, 20 years is our next year. Sorry. Next year is our 20th anniversary. So there you go. In today's episode, I talk with coach educator and author Gail, Jacob Barker, about her article in the most recent issue of choice from inclusion to belonging, the June issue. If you haven't received it in the mail, you should by now. I it's, her article is entitled reaching for belonging. So a little bit about Gail. She's a BA a PCC and a CPCC, a bachelor of arts professional certified coach with ICF and a certified professional coactive coach with the coaches training Institute that we chaining and go active. What did I say?

Speaker 2 (01:16):

You say coaches, which it used to be, which

Speaker 1 (01:18):

I used to be. See, everything changes. Even the international coaching Federation now used to be coach. She's been coaching and aspiring leaders since 2003. Her work is built on a premise of paths of ease exists, even in the midst of challenge. In addition to her coach coaching work with individuals and within an organization, I've just come to realize reading her bio, that she's also on the faculty. And we're going to talk a little bit about that, of the co-active training Institute, CTI and her book. What matters now, lessons on living with ease. So she walks her talk can be found on Gayle. Welcome. Welcome. Thanks so much for joining me today.

Speaker 2 (01:59):

Thank you so much for having me. I'm really excited to sit and chat with you for that. Yeah, me

Speaker 1 (02:04):

Too. And, okay, so a little bit of you just lived down the road, which I didn't know until we got ready for this interview.

Speaker 2 (02:12):

Yeah. Technically speaking, right? Hello, connec Southwestern, Ontario. Yeah, exactly.

Speaker 1 (02:17):

I'm in Toronto and you're in KW

Speaker 2 (02:20):

Bathroom, which is London. Yeah. London, Ontario. Not to not cross the plant. Exactly,

Speaker 1 (02:28):

Exactly. Before we get into the article, which is amazing, by the way, just wanted to ask you your, so you're on the faculty for CTI and you just got on before. COVID what was that like?

Speaker 2 (02:42):

So the short answer is spectacular, right? And unexpected in the sense that the pandemic was not anything that anyone planned for. And so yeah, I'm a fairly new addition to the CTI faculty at the end of 2019. And then just as I was getting ready to start leading the pandemic hit. And so they co CTI pivoted to online as everybody else in the world did. And it's been a slick pivot. It's opened up opportunities for lots of people both as participants and as leaders. And it's a joy, it's a joy to be able to leave courses from the comfort of my home, interact with a global represented representation of coaches. It's, it's magical.

Speaker 1 (03:32):

Okay. Wow. How global are we talking? Gail?

Speaker 2 (03:36):

We're talking global, like the entire globe, the only requirement to be able to participate in a CTI coaching course, really you to have online is that you need to have access to internet. And if you've got that and you can make the time zones work for you then you can join. And we, you know, the one course I keep referencing is we did a course 20% 20 participants, or so with one of them being on a boat in Fiji. So while leaders are here and I have had the privilege to lead with folks in north America, as well as Europe, as well as the middle east, like when we're in person that doesn't happen so much because we stick to geographic locations travel and that sort of thing. But now that we're online, if you can make it work, it's it's beautiful. Yeah. Wow. No,

Speaker 1 (04:29):

That's really good to hear. I, you know, obviously I get a chance to talk to people that have had to pivot and do things online that they didn't normally before. So it's really great to hear that it's, as you put it magical, so that's really good. And I did CTI I did my first course in Denver in 2001 January, excuse me. And then I finished, I did it there because I was away for the first of five courses that I wanted to take in sequence that started in Toronto. So I did Denver, excuse me. And then I did the rest in Toronto.

Speaker 2 (05:07):

Yeah. Beautiful. When you and I were right around the same time. Cause I did my first first course in 2001 and did the other four in 2002. So we're like right around the same time in terms of our training. And

Speaker 1 (05:19):

Did you go right into the certification as well?

Speaker 2 (05:22):

I did not. I did. I was one of those who chose to take my time. So, like I say, first course in 2001 rest of the curriculum, 2002 certification, 2004. And then, you know, I just danced around doing it when it felt right. I'm a big believer that when, when it's meant to happen, it will happen. And that doesn't mean that I just sit back and do nothing, but there is a way that I feel into what I'm being called to and whenever I'm being called to it, it, it happens. Whereas if I try to force it, it it's a little trickier

Speaker 1 (05:57):

True that, you know what that's funny. So here it is, I knew it was coming. It was kind of like me and my mom's carrot cake. It was like, I've had this sheet, it was yellowing. And I finally put it in my favorite little recipe book and it just called to me to do it. And so I, I just patiently gathered the ingredients and talk to my mom, like I do every day on zoom because, you know, that's sort of a way to connect with the world and, you know, she feels useful and I, you know, I get to make a cake, so waiting to be, I used so calling to, well, that's great. So let's get into your article. So I have to ask, so, you know, you talk about ease and that sort of thing. How did, how did you get called to write this article? What was it that said? Cause you ended up being the lead article. Like you really covered all the bases, which is what we look for in a writer and to get in the feature, to answer as many as the questions that we pose to the writer that the readers can expect to read. So,

Speaker 2 (06:59):

Right. So, so here's the thing. And that's a big question. And there's a few, few pieces to it. I have until recently I would not have considered myself somebody who does diversity equity and inclusion work. And then of course the events of the world have been escalating, right? And, and the murder of George Floyd and Briana Taylor and all of this sort of these sorts of experiences. And so I found myself last year in the wake of all of that using my voice to, to take a stand and to express what I believe is important in this realm. And as I got to thinking about it, what I realized is that I have been doing this work all my life by virtue of the skin that I live in. I wasn't conscious about it. I didn't always articulate my opinions strongly and the older I get, the more comfortable I get with saying what needs to be said and taking really strong stance.

Speaker 2 (08:07):

And so the, the the article, if I'm going to be really honest, the way I came to write the article was a fellow coach knew that this was the topic for this month and said to me, Gail, you need to write an article. And so I did and I knew that the general topic was around belonging. And and I, as I sat with it and thought, you know, what's the link between diversity, equity, inclusion and belonging for me, what came up is that belonging is the thing we're actually striving to create, right? We're not striving simply to acknowledge diversity, which is about representation. We're not striving simply to create equity, which is about access. And we're not striving simply for inclusion, which is the space in which we create room for all the voices. What we're actually moving towards as a society, as a collective is this experience of belonging.

Speaker 2 (09:10):

And the challenge with that of course, is that it's intangible. There are no metrics for belonging. What it requires is for us to be in complete and total dialogue with one another always time. And that's what makes it hard. So I felt like I wanted to voice that opinion. And I think as coaches, you know, regardless of what we claim as our niche or areas of focus, when it comes right down to it, we're agents of change and we're all seeking this common change of making the world a better place regardless of how we come at it. And so that, that's where it all sort of came together and dovetailed for me. Yeah.

Speaker 1 (09:51):

Wow, wow. A life, a life lifetime of work. I for for those, listen, I just want to paraphrase what you said in the article, just to, to remind us what diversity equity inclusion means. So what you wrote here is at its simplest interpretation. Diversity is about representation, a system that has true diversity has individuals within its ranks that represent a variety of faces of the human condition. I love the way you said that equity is about access. An equitable organization is what the one that embraces equity moves beyond mere representation and ensures that all individuals are able to access all parts of the system again, well said. Now, when an organization takes the next step and moves toward creating an inclusive space, there's an concerted effort to ensure practices do more than pay lip service to diversity and equity. That's like really well said. And I just want to ask, you said that it belonging is, is intangible. Is it measurable or like, cause you know, when you said that right away, I thought of employee satisfaction surveys. That, is that a way to like measure belonging?

Speaker 2 (11:09):

I think it's a way to gauge it if you're asking the right questions. Right. So it's like, it can't just be, Hey, do you feel like you belong here? It's like, I'm asking folks first, whether they feel like they belong, but then deeper it's like, what gives you that sense? How do you know that you belong here? Right. And really constantly being, as I say, in dialogue around it, because it can shift, it can shift as the events of the world and the organizations shift that sense of belonging can shift. And one of the ways, and so that diversity equity inclusion piece, which is where our focus has typically been, if we actually engage in those meaningfully, we can get to belonging. Belonging. Is that, that experience of feeling safe feeling brave and feeling like there's room there's room for difference there's room for similarity, there's room for commonality there's room for all of it. And it's like, you know, we can disagree with one another and still feel like we belong in the space that there's room for us. That's. And so your question of is it, is that measurable? It's like it can be gauged and the only way it can be gauged is by being in dialogue, if there isn't like a metric where you can go, in my opinion, there is not a metric yet of going, like we have a 50% sense of belonging in our organization, you know? Okay.

Speaker 1 (12:40):

Yeah. I can get that. I can get that. And you know, it sounds to me like it, you know, I'm thinking of Albert Einstein equals MC squared. It's like D plus E plus I equals B, but you can't really see B, but you could see parts of DEI and B and how you put it together as a, you know, like we say, in our column kaleidoscope yes. At two, but I was on a special ICF special committee for social justice and coaching education last year. And they just put forward what the coaching education family unit is going to accept as social justice and coaching education. And what I found is that what I heard was that racism is going to take at least seven generations of continuous conversation about racism and anti-racism, and I was just blown away by that. And I what we decided for choice is that we started a column in March called kaleidoscope. And by the way, you're invited to contribute to that column, anytime you like Ms. DDI. And because we believe that the conversation needs to continue regardless of the theme of the issue.

Speaker 2 (14:02):

Yeah. Yeah. Well, here's the thing I love where you're pointing. Cause I actually think in some ways that's the opportunity and the stumbling block all rolled in one, because as human beings, what we really value or at least what we really like is like tangible, immediate solutions, right? It's like, here's a problem. We do this and now we've got it solved and we can move on and issues like those of racism and the topics related to it are not so easily resolvable. We are talking about generations of embedded, systemic themes that have to be addressed and covered and dismantled, right? This is the current move. And so what I've actually come to use as a metaphor for the, for this work is and I am not a sports person in case that isn't obvious I'm not a sports person. And yet the metaphor is a sports one.

Speaker 2 (14:56):

It's a football one. It's like our job right now at this moment in history is not to go for the touchdown. Our job is to move the ball up the field. And so that the next generation can move it further up the field and keep going until eventually we will get the touchdown and we will get it as humanity. We will not get it at this moment as individuals. And that's a hard thing to wrap our heads around because then it can sort of feel like, well, why bother? And what I know is that we have to bother so that those coming after us have something to build on and move from. Yeah, it took me the minute I realized that, oh, I will not see the fruits of my labors in this lifetime. Once I can accept that. Now I can start doing the work meaningfully and just understand that that's how it's going to be.

Speaker 1 (15:52):

Yeah, I get it too. I only realized in the conversation about diversity equity inclusion a couple of years ago at an Acto, it's a association of coach training organizations that I was a white man of privilege and it was kind of like, I'm a what and how, and then it, then, you know, it was only upon reflecting on that, that I look at how I walk through the world now. And I wonder how people from other countries who've been oppressed by white people look at me cause I'm, I'm six foot, two I'm as white as they come. Right. Short of the blue eyes. Right. Hazel. But it's like, oh, are they, you know, are Indian people looking at me? Like they were when they were oppressed by the British, especially the older generation and you know, our, you know, our south African people of color looking at me like the people that oppressed them in their country or in the issues. Right. So it's like, and I'm not saying that they do, but now it's kinda like, I start just, you know, be aware of how I walk through the world and who I'm walking with, which I thought I was always aware of, but it's an ongoing, ongoing, you know,

Speaker 2 (17:01):

And, and we all have those I like to call them points of privilege, right. Those cause, so here I am a woman of color living in Canada. Right. And I, and I just identified at the beginning, I've spent my life living in this skin and unconsciously doing what I need to do to feel safe within, within a world that has historically valued white over color and male over female. And, you know, so I found my way through all of that. I do not feel like I'm hard done by, and I rec I'm recognizing, so where are the points of privilege? Like I'm also you know, financially I'm well off. So, so there's a point of privilege for me. I don't, I, you know, I don't, I don't live in poverty and yet I am a of color and that, so it's about knowing how they all come together. I think, I think some folks have more points of privilege than others. And so then the question I love to hold is how do we use our privilege? So it's one thing to become aware of it. And then how do you use it effectively? Right? It's like, how do we work together to create whatever it is that's longing to be created. Yeah. yeah, it's all of that that comes down and these are not easy conversations. They're not easy. Well,

Speaker 1 (18:22):

We have time, I have another one, but I'm gonna belonging. We explored how that relates to diversity equity inclusion. Is there anything else that you'd like to say about that?

Speaker 2 (18:35):

No, I feel, I feel like for me, what I would, what I would love to underscore as the point is that it's not enough to go, oh, look, we have people of color. We have people of various abilities. We have people of different genders. We've got representation. It's not enough to stop there. You have to go to, okay, because often in organizations, the representation is there, but it's skewed. It's like, there's representation at frontline level. As you go higher up, it's not up here. So now we've got to spread that diversity out. There's an equity now. Right. And then the inclusion is yeah, I feel like I can say what I need to say, and then I'll be heard. And that there's space for me at the table. I don't get shut down when I bring my opinion. That's the inclusion piece. And the more those three come together, the more you get that sense of. Yeah. I feel like I belong here. I'm valued here. That's what I would say as the underscore of that.

Speaker 1 (19:28):

Yeah. Wow. Really great points, really great points. You mentioned that coaches are agents of change. Why else is this arena of DEI a necessary one for us coaches to explore? Mm,

Speaker 2 (19:42):

Because I think if we're not willing to stand in the exploration of it, we get caught up in our blind spots. And as coaches, even if we have niches or declared areas of specialty, there's a way we need to be aware and mindful of like who's coming to us for our services, whatever those might be. And what are the the gateways that are stopping others from accessing? I know for me, I can't speak for everyone else. You know, I don't want to be a voice of the coaching industry, but it's like, I want to be sure that my services are available to all, even if all don't want to work with me. Right. So what are the gates that are stopping people and how do I open those gates? You know, who do I, who do I subconsciously say I won't work with and what would it take for me to work with them? You know? Or do I at least have people I can refer them to that sort of thing. It's like, if we are going to create meaningful change in the world, we have to at least explore DEI so that we can understand how to effectively navigate those waters as coaches. You know,

Speaker 1 (20:54):

You brought initially point, I remember way back when I first started coaching and I was like accepting payment and I found it odd that coaches would limit the ways that people could pay, but sometimes people can only pay certain ways based on, you know, yeah. Different amount of factors. Right. Not very inclusive. And so I just, I just, and I do the same thing with contacting me. Okay. It's like so many people are afraid to put their phone number on and afraid my signature is in every email. It says, here's my number. Here's my time zone. Here's my Skype address. You know what it's like, it's up to you. If you don't take the steps to reach me, I think I've done everything possible to let you know, I'm, I'm open and available for conversations. Yeah. Flip side of that is I've really done it a lot with writers.

Speaker 1 (21:47):

And I now, because it was brought up to me by the board of directors that this might be a systemic problem for me, because when we looked at an issue of choice last year, let's say January. And I looked at my board of directors and they were all white and mostly women. And then I looked at the contributors and they were all white. Mostly. I mean, sometimes remember you or people from looking at them, right. Yeah. And I, I was assist checkmark, went off in my head. Unfortunately it was a box checking check mark, but it, but it started the ball rolling. And I said to the board we're not representative, let's do something about it. And without diminishing the quality of the people that came on board, they're totally qualified people that are on now on the editorial board. And it, you know, from, from overseas male, female gay, that's me.

Speaker 1 (22:40):

I represent that the gay porn and you know, and then the contributors was the same thing. But so my point to that was my board said, are you being open to people who are not experienced writers, right? Like not even saying that there are people of color or anything just saying, you know, people that are, that just need to talk to you first. Cause I was always leaving up to do the stuff on the website, submit your article. Now I say, still look at the guidelines, which are real easy on the website and then feel free to schedule a call with me. Right. And that's been awesome. I've been talking to people from around the world. I believe the quality of choice magazine is going up because of the amount of contributors and articles we get to choose from. And I want to just say, thank you to you and all of the writers who contribute, you know been some amazing articles that people have really read. Yeah.

Speaker 2 (23:41):

I love where you're pointing because so often in organizations, small, whatever, there can be this sense of, I'm happy to work with whoever we just don't get the applicants or the submission or the whatever. And the question I love to hold around that is, well, why, why not? Why are diverse groups not putting themselves in the mix because rest assured there's something that's stopping them. So what is that something? And just standing in curiosity, again, not self judgment, not self-deprecating standing in curiosity about what is the thing that's getting in the way. And you might have to ask some questions and look at some folks and get their input to realize, oh, we only put a request for submission in these arenas. So those folks wouldn't see it, you know, whatever it might be and that's, but again, you got to ask the question from curiosity rather than trying to defend your practices up until now. It's like, let's expand it and go from

Speaker 1 (24:40):

There, be open to it. You know, now that I am aware of who I am and how I'm walking in the world. And then I, I look, I sometimes I have asked this of people regularly and I am I being too blunt or too direct in my approach. And in the end they just say, not really because you only spoke to what you saw. Right. So when I saw the board of directors, wasn't representative, I said, we need to make a change. When I saw the contributors, what do I need to do to make it more diverse, inclusive, fair for people to get an article in. Right? Yeah. And and you know, two dynamic changes w w anything else you want coaches to know or do around DEI to prepare them to work with their clients or themselves?

Speaker 2 (25:32):

Yeah. Great question. I, you know, what's important for me, there can be this thing within DEI particularly folks who haven't done DEI work before, where they start to, they shy away a little bit, right? Who am I to do this work? Who am I to have the conversation? How could I possibly work with someone who fits this profile, whatever it is. And what I would say to all coaches is a game we're trained to be in dialogue, right? We're trained to ask questions. So it might be time to start asking some additional questions, you know, particularly when we start working with new clients it may be worth simply asking from curiosity, you know, what do you want me to know client about your identity? Right? What would help us be in true rich dialogue so that we don't need to go down rabbit holes?

Speaker 2 (26:23):

We don't need to go, or I don't make assumptions about who you are or how you want to show up, or what's important to you. I think lots of coaches have act asked pieces of those questions. And I think there's value in like, just generally, you know, I think there's a little bit of reluctance to ask that question, cause it's like, oh my God, can I ask that question? And what I know is, of course you can ask it from sensitivity and know that your client will tell you what they want you to know. Right. So, yes, I would like you to know that I am a person of color. I would like you to know that for me, religion is important. I would like you to know that for me issues related to nonbinary identity are important. Right. And when I know that as a coach, now I can show up in service of my client more fully, rather than simply assuming that their pronouns or this or this or whatever it might be. Right. I think the questions like that are important, we need to expand the conversation with our clients as well as out there.

Speaker 1 (27:25):

And yeah, yeah. You know what thank you for saying that because a few of the other articles and that issue, they clearly say, and it's part of the onboarding process, you know I think one of the ones that I remember was how do you feel your organization is supporting or hindering you from advancement as a person of color? You know? And, and I'm going to go back to the other one because I've heard coaches, they get worried about asking questions. They forget you coaches don't need to know the answer. So, you know, we don't need to be worried about the answer to religion. We just need to know it's important to them, whether it's important to us or not is not important. No, we're the little eight agenda. They're the big gay agenda to go back to school. Right? So it's like ask the questions and it's totally in service of the client would be the same as any other onboarding question.

Speaker 1 (28:22):

Tell me about your history with your business. What are your goals? You know, it's like being a service and don't be afraid that if you forgot to ask a question to go back and start asking the questions again, it's like, if I have a client that I'm working with, who happens to be a person of color and I didn't ask those questions and I just read this issue of choice, I'm going to go back to them and said, you know what? I think we might've overstepped. Do you mind if we talk a little bit about diversity? Yeah.

Speaker 2 (28:50):

Right. Absolutely. And the thing is you don't have to know the answer. And I love the, ask the question in service of your client, not to limit how you show up. Right. There's a distinction. You're not asking the question because you're going to use it to determine whether or not the person becomes a client. You're asking the question so that you can be of better service to them. That's the distinction. And a, and it's an important one that I think matters. Yeah. Very

Speaker 1 (29:16):

Much, very much. So coaches, don't be afraid to ask the questions. You don't need to know the answers. You're not the expert in their lives. They

Speaker 2 (29:24):

Are. Right. All those things, all those things in so much more exactly.

Speaker 1 (29:30):

What else would you like our audience to take from this article in this conversation? Perhaps something you didn't get to write in the article, something you thought about after.

Speaker 2 (29:38):

Gosh, there's so I guess the, I would ask coaches to remember is like, this is a big topic. This is a big topic. And so it's going to require your ongoing focus. In some ways it can be a soft focus. It doesn't have to be like a laser focus all the time, a soft focus that develops your understanding. And just as our clients are committed to growth and change, it's why they're seeking coaching. We as coaches need to also be committed to growth and change. And as we grow and change, it's going to facilitate the dialogue that we have both with each other, as colleagues with our clients. And just with the world in general, in other words, bottom line, who you started out as, as a coach, may not be who you are now, and certainly will not be who you are 15 years from now. And that's okay. So let yourself grow. Let yourself make mistakes all in service of being a better coach for a world that is in fact changing.

Speaker 1 (30:37):

Yeah, exactly. Well, well said, Bravo, love it. What a great closing. I'm going to close there.

Speaker 2 (30:44):

Okay. And I'm going to say, thank

Speaker 1 (30:46):

You so much for joining us for this. Meet the author episode. What's the best way for people to reach you.

Speaker 2 (30:53):

So my website is stellar, So S T E L L E R C And there's contact information there. You can always send me an email Yeah. Any of those would work. Yeah. Pick up the phone or pick up the phone. People hesitated that I couldn't possibly.

Speaker 1 (31:18):

Yeah, you could. You'd be surprised how few calls we actually get. We're lonely call us, right. That's it. For this episode of the meet the author series please sign up to our email to find previous episodes or subscribe to your favorite podcast app so that you don't miss any very informative episodes. I know for sure. We're with apple podcasts and also Spotify. I, if you're interested in getting a free digital issue of choice magazine, head over to choice dot dash, again, and click the sign up now button I'm Gary Schleifer, enjoy the journey to mastery.