Katie Mapondera

Empower World Alumnus, Consultant, Coach and Trainer

Jeanine: Welcome everybody wherever you may be based in the world today. Welcome to Empower Worlds Coaching and leadership podcast. And I'm here today with Marie Quigley my fantastic business partner who is in the U.K. right now it's looking beautiful and sunny where you are.

Marie: It's a stunning day as it's been a stunning few day, the weather and temperature has been surprisingly un-British. Let's say that.

Jeanine: That's wonderful to hear and I wish I was there experiencing it as I was supposed to be. And because of the pandemic I'm in Australia and I have to say we have been experiencing down south of Melbourne an amazing winter. So, we’ve had another beautiful weekend and today started off really lovely it's turned a bit cloudy now. So. So it's evening for me and morning for you. And we've got a very special guest with us today and I'm going to introduce Katie very shortly and this podcast is this is the second of a what we hope will be a series of podcast interviews that Marie and I have chosen to do with Black Lives Matters coming into focus and racial tensions really across the world. We wanted to create a new type of dialogue and bring in a new type of dialogue into our podcasts as we know that we work with such an amazing group of leaders and individuals and groups that bring so much wisdom to the conversations that we are privileged to be part of. So today we have a very special guest and we have

Katie Mapondera. I hope I said that correctly Katie and welcome. I'm going to hand over to you very shortly to introduce yourself to our listeners and very briefly Katie joined our coach training, was it last year you'll be able to confirm or earlier this year? And again, Katie brought in so much richness into not only the coaching space that we've known her in and also in this space. So, we had a beautiful conversation last week about the sorts of things that you'd like to introduce. So, I'm really excited about this conversation today. So welcome Katie over to you to introduce yourself and then we’ll start to dive in.

Katie Mapondera: Right. Thank you, Jeanine for the warm welcome and yes, I’ll start by just indeed saying I am a proud Empower World alumnus completed the program in the beginning of this year 2020. I am also a consultant coach and trainer I do a lot of freelance consulting and I'm also an entrepreneur. I have a startup that I've been running in Qatar for the last two years. So, thank you. Thank you for that introduction.

Marie: It’s lovely to have you here. Katie you've made such a beautiful impact on the program that you were in, the group that you were in and it's really exciting to have you as part of our conversation.

Katie Mapondera: Pleased to be here. Thank you for inviting me to have this conversation with you.

Jeanine: Yeah. Thank you again Katie for saying yes and as I mentioned earlier, we had this what I felt was an amazing conversation last week about the sorts of things that you wanted to introduce. And for me it really felt so good to hear that desire to create a way forward where we can navigate the way forward so that we can start to unify versus being pulled apart and I loved what you were saying and what you wanted to share. So maybe I could ask you first of all Katie what is the important message that you would like to bring to this conversation today?

Katie Mapondera: Well I think and first I'm really grateful and humbled that you invited me to contribute my individual voice to this discourse, to this dialogue. And I'm very mindful that it is my individual voice. I think part of the challenge I've seen my other black peers experience is the sense of a monolithic group of black people who are homogeneous. So, I'm really grateful for this opportunity to help move the dialogue forward in having us recognize that you know each of us just as you know, each racial group is comprised of individuals and so I hope that that's one element I can bring. And at the same time what’s been very valuable as well is recognizing our commonality. There’re so many different layers of that commonality. on the one hand is the commonality I feel with other black people in terms of feeling the weight of being the representative whenever I'm the minority in any space I feel that I am black representative who has to ensure that I am destroying any negative stereotypes that I have encountered which are sometimes that black people are not quite as professional, that black people are not quite as sophisticated. But there's also the layer of commonality of the soul. We're all souls that are learning and we are all souls that have limitations in our perspective. We have limitations in how our biology can hijack us and prevent us from doing acting in the highest interest of all of us as people. And so, you know I think there's also an opportunity for us to look honestly at how those two things come together our different levels and layers of commonality and difference. But also, you know an opportunity to grow some more maturity on how we deal with how our biology is impacting this conversation on race. and hopefully move to a place of maturity and if I may Jeanine before I turn it back over to you, I'd like to share the definition of maturity that I am I'm talking about. I really love how Stephen Covey describes maturity. He says that maturity is quote “the balance between courage and consideration. If a person can express his feelings and convictions with courage balanced with consideration for the feelings and convictions of another person, he is mature. Particularly if the issue is very important to both parties”. And I felt that was so relevant in this conversation about race because you know as a person who, I'm living in Qatar which is quite a diverse place I am Zimbabwean American, I have black American friends, I have African friends, I have all kinds of different black friends and all kinds of white friends and every ethnic group in between. And you know as we talk about this racial tension, I have noticed a pattern where my white friends will confide, some of them have confided they feel a little uncomfortable, I feel nervous and anxious. I'm not quite sure. I'm worried that I might say the wrong thing if I don't say something, it will seem like I'm not really standing up. and I've had my black friends feel and I'm honored that they feel they have a safe space to express their anger. We’re finally in a time where the festering wound has been opened and this is the time and space where people can speak out about the hurt and anger. So, I'm going to stop there. I mean there's as you can see there's a lot to talk about. But if there was any one message, I would hope we can get to in this conversation is just an invitation for all of us to lean in the direction of maturity. So that we can be considerate to each other as we and courageous as we grapple with this race issue.

Jeanine: Fantastic Katie. I wasn't sure whether Marie was going to come in there. You know I really loved what you were saying there and I hear how you step into, you can step into the shoes of others and appreciate the diverse perspectives and the desire of certainly some people that want to make things better but don't know how, that don't have the awareness of how and that potentially then creates misperceptions or misunderstandings or perhaps judgment comes about. And I know that you shared with me last week you wanted to say more about the neuroscience of that perhaps that type of conversation. Is this something that you'd like to see you nodding.

Katie Mapondera: Sure, absolutely. So yeah, I mean what brought that question of neuroscience up for me was that a black friend of mine had shared her frustration and her anger. There was an individual, a white individual, who was really I believe you know, really trying to add a positive voice to the discourse on race and had posted a number of images that maybe for people with a more nuanced understanding would find those images problematic. And that individual, my friend, lambasted at that individual for posting problematic images and I think I think my friend expressed some, On the one hand I think she expressed some important truths. I mean this is a nuanced conversation and I think that we, all of us as human beings, are being invited to take a nuanced look at things. at the same time, my concern was about how that lambasting impacted, you know, the white person's continued effort to understand and to grow. I don't know what happened but it got me thinking about what role I want to play in these conversations. I mean so I really want to emphasize the fact that I think on the one hand, I think it's important for look for the emotions of this history to be expressed authentically. I think it's important for the details and the problems and the problematic ideas to be addressed. And at the same time, I think maturity calls upon us to realize we are all humans engaging with other humans in the conversation. And what neuroscience tells us is that when we are confronted with triggers that cause us to enter fight or flight reactions, we shut down and our capacity for empathy and for thoughtfulness and creativity is not available to us. And so, you know as we dialogue with people who will have flawed efforts in trying to build the understanding, from my part, I intend to approach those conversations with compassion because the way I see it is that we need to think strategically. I think as human beings we're dealing with a situation where there’s poison in the water for all of us if I may use that metaphor and I'm very interested in as many people progressing in this conversation as possible and to the extent that I can, I'm going to demonstrate my courage by having the conversations and being honest with things that may be uncomfortable for the person I'm talking with. And at the same time really be sensitive to how they are processing that you know. I want to be clear that I don't think it's… not everybody is equipped to do this and not everybody wants to but I want you know if there’s any other soul listening to this that was thinking about responding the way I am to know they're not alone in that. I do think there can be a little bit of pressure for black people to be very careful not to coddle white people as they grapple with these issues and I think that it's OK for us to have a spectrum of responses that are authentic to who we are. So, my nature you know, it takes a lot for me to get to a point where I lambast somebody. So that's just not really going to be my default response anyway. But I also, I want us to think strategically as well. What do we want for humanity, what is our vision for how this is going to go? So, I get the argument there is an argument or a case being made that look white supremacy is not something that black people created and therefore there's a sense that it's really white people who are written in the strongest position to dismantle it because that was created to benefit them. It's a system they're able to uphold. I see this point. And at the same time, I think that all of us have a role to play and have a potentially very powerful role to play in how we bring what we can to the discourse.

Marie: Wow so beautifully and eloquently said Katie and was spiked my curiosity is how, because we talked before, we switched on the recording the three of us talked about this was, we are creating a place for people to stumble. a conversation for people to stumble and that poison in the water has piqued my curiosity about how we do that together. How, when we're in the water and there's poison there and we know how poison seeps into the water and sometimes we can't even see it. So how do we have a discourse with each other within another soul without allowing the poison of our biases, our past experiences influence so that we stop hearing what other people are saying? So, our amygdala goes into fight or flight. How do we stop doing that?

Katie Mapondera: Mm hmm. Well you know there's a really wonderful thing Brene Brown said I'm not going to quote her exactly but if I understood her message accurately, she talked about being able to say to ourselves when we're having challenging conversations to be able to say to ourselves “let me take the message maybe let me, if I can separate the message from the delivery and really take what's constructive here what can I take?”. And so, I think that if we can come to the conversation with that intention as much as possible, it's not always easy and you won’t always succeed. But if we can at least put that in the back of our head as an intention. Let me let me take the message here, let me take anything that's constructive here and I'll use that and I'll leave the rest. And I think that's one part of it at least.

Marie: And how powerful that is. And if we can take any kind of feedback or discourse in that way with that openness to say what is meant for me to hear in this? Then there can be so much learning from that.

Katie Mapondera: Absolutely.

Marie: So. So we say, don’t we Jeanine. You know sometimes the message is wrapped up pretty poorly. Sometimes it's screwed up in a brown paper bag and it doesn't feel nice as we receive it. And yet inside is such a piece of… is such a gift that could change our lives if only we unwrap it and take it on board for our learning.

Katie Mapondera: Absolutely. Yes. Now actually I know I'm full of quotes today but they just so many great thinkers around this issue I really liked. Maya Angelou is often quoted as saying “when you know better you do better”. And I really think that part of our ability to know better is to do that kind of reflection that you're talking about Marie and is to allow ourselves to really you know look at the message and take from it what we can and integrate what we can and live from that space.

Jeanine: And of course, that goes for all of us to hear the message and the, that's what I'm hearing, and the positive intention. And again, you know, you really beautifully shared some powerful things that we can do to continue to support having a conversation and navigate these poisonous waters to find water that's safe to play in and to have a conversation in. So, and I'm curious as well, Katie what do you believe needs to happen to create that safe police to just you know to navigate through and into to be able to have these, obviously they're not going to be, if they're good they're going to be powerful conversations, they're not going to be comfortable. They're not going to be easy. So, it really is about setting up that safe place. I'm just curious what else comes up for you?

Katie Mapondera: Also, one thing that I am I'm seeing and that I've enjoyed just having you know I mean all kinds of friends reach out to me and try and just lean into this and really try and grapple with it. So, you know I have one friend where she and I are together listening to ‘White Supremacy and Me’ by Layla Saad and although we're both black people, we felt it was important just to ourselves understand because there is one dimension to race relations where you know oftentimes, I know I have had certain experiences where I felt alone in those experiences. And so, it's been valuable to hear it articulated. I mean have words put to what I was experiencing by someone who doesn't even know me, it makes me feel a sense that I'm connected and I'm not alone. And at the same time, I think also it's helped me to be a better support to peers of other races who are looking to understand this in a nuanced way. I I've been grateful that I do have a Caucasian friend who said look I feel comfortable with you and I trust you and I want to deal with this. And I see you as someone I can have these kinds of conversations with. I love that. I really love that. And so, I think that that's at least part of it. And I think you know, I'm glad that I can be someone who you know, a person feels safe to be vulnerable with as she makes mistakes. I mean I am a gentle person but I am quite direct. And so I'm glad that I, as a person who's doing this work, to make sure that I can also articulate very directly and explicitly to this person in a way that is loving and can support her in growing the way that she genuinely wants to grow in the conversation and I'm glad I can provide a space for her to do that. I recognize that's no, you know, person's obligation or responsibility. But I have to admit I think it's helpful. I think it's helpful. I think part of the core of this issue is about how we relate to each other as people. And so, if there's something about just relating to people about it that feels like going back to the basics. let's relate to each other about this let's go deep. Let's be direct let's speak honestly and let's debate. I mean if you know I mean provided that we set the right context for it to help people really challenge their thoughts and plant seeds with each other I think that's one thing that I've seen work in my own life I'm sure there's an infinite number of ways but this is what I'm seeing and I feel like it's working.       

Jeanine: It’s really like a coaching conversation isn't it. Yes. Yeah.

Marie: You took the words right out of my mouth Janine what's coming up for me. And we know you know our podcast is aimed at coaches and people who coach and one of them one of the key factors when we're having any vulnerable conversation is to have a clear understanding of how we can be with each other as we are going through these difficult conversations. So, we talk about it in Empower Power training is our ways of working. And I do believe that if we are going to have tough conversations like this then it's going to touch on nerves from all perspectives that can be triggered as you said. So, including an understanding how we can move through the conversation and what happens to us when we get triggered so that we each understand the responses that could happen. But how we can support each other to say “OK I see that but I see this is triggering. How can we continue this in a clear way to stop us getting hijacked or walking away or lambasting or freaking out whatever you want to call it?”. So, when you're when you're having a conversation with for example that girl, that woman you talked about, Katie how do you begin? How do you how did you set up your ways of working or what was the beginning part? I think that’s interesting for our listeners to think about.

Katie Mapondera: Yes, well full transparency in this particular friendship I can't claim we did this intentionally but it just kind of happened this way. We have had a friendship where we, you know, we just agreed to disagree. We understand that we may not always see things the same way but we love each other anyway. So, I think having that mutual understanding, I mean perhaps people where it happened organically that way. I think it's appropriate to have that conversation and say look you know I want you to know that even when we see things differently, I value you and I don't want our differences on this subject, if we find there are differences, to impact the friendship. I mean from my side this is my commitment to you as a friend. I mean if those things are true certainly. But I think there's an opportunity for people to just have the conversation about you know, we may we may see things differently here and this is what I'd like it to mean or not mean for our friendship. So that I guess that is how it has happened in those cases. And I mentioned one friend and as you were talking, I was also remembering oh yeah this another friend who had a different dynamic come up where I mean that person just kind of pulled me up and was like “hey you know this is, I'd like to talk to you about this”. And I giggle as I say that because I know that that's also, you know something that's popular in the discourse on race relations right now that you know a lot of black people are saying “please don't call your black friends and ask them to be your sounding board on this” necessarily. And so, I think it is important to have that consideration and recognition that maybe your black friends don't want to have this conversation with you and you know. So, I think it's important to be aware of what is the relationship that you have with the person. So, I think maybe the biggest thing that I would offer is you know being mindful of those people with whom you have a relationship where you could reach out in that way. If that is the case you know having that conversation with them explicitly just to set a tone so that there is a safe space.

Jeanine: Beautiful and by doing that again we’re I guess we're supporting I believe, not guess, we're supporting that fight or flight response. The amygdala response where we're quelling with that conversation that type of conversation where we're letting that amygdala response know that it's safe to have these, again, challenging conversations where perhaps messages will be conveyed that will feel again uncomfortable and that could really trigger someone. But at the same time, they can potentially stop pause and recognize. Yeah. I'm going into my own thing and that actually I'm here to have a powerful enriching conversation. Which is going to be at times perhaps tough to swallow.

Marie: Yeah. Wow.

Jeanine: So, Katie I'm curious if there are any other perspectives that you would like to share with our listeners today. Or tonight or this morning wherever, again, wherever you are listening to this. Knowing that you bring so much wisdom and again a beautiful voice to this very difficult, at times, conversation.

Katie Mapondera: Wow. Well I guess I just want to maybe express my gratitude again to be I know I'm just one individual perspective. And at the same time, I want to hopefully you know call out to those people who are resonating with what I have to say and invite them to maybe integrate what makes sense to them in what I'm sharing. I mean I recognize that this is a very complex situation that we are dealing with in trying to move forward with race relations. I really see it as you know it was a festering wound the toxic relationship between the races is a remnant of a colonial history, of a history of slavery. And this is not just in the United States or you know, it's something that's a global phenomenon. When you consider you know the history of Africa the history of many places in Asia the fact that we are still contending with color-ism issues which are wrapped up in this. It is sort of a festering wound that has been opened. And in order for it to heal, yes it's yucky and it's unpleasant, but it needs to be aired out and I understand a desire to be like “well this is not really anything to do with me” or yeah a desire to sort of lean away from the conversation. I think we I think we all have to lean in and do our part to help this heal. And I think there are many different components to that healing. One component is an expression of anger. That's a necessary component of the airing out. I think there's also an important place for everything in the spectrum from anger to deep compassion. And I think you know people can to the extent that people can learn as much as they can in the direction of positivity and a positive vision. I think you know this is what will move us all forward and have us all benefit and have our descendants benefit you know is the extent to which we can hold a positive vision for how this could be and do our best to contribute to that. Thank you for giving me that opportunity to maybe just restate my hopes for this conversation.

Marie: Thank you, Katie. And if you could point us to some resources that we could begin to educate ourselves in preparation for discussions, for stumbling, for uncovering, for getting curious. Where would you advise us to go?

Katie Mapondera: Well I have to again you know mention Layla Saad’s book White Supremacy and Me. I know, she wrote it with a particular audience in mind but I think that all different ethnic groups can benefit from listening to it. It’s really written as a work book. Maybe to support white people in their self-reflection. But I, as a black person, have found a lot of value in it. I would also point to Brine Brown's Daring Greatly Daring to Lead, which deal with the question of vulnerability because I think this is a conversation that invites people in all different walks and all different stakeholders to this kind of conversation to be vulnerable and I think she offers some really powerful ideas for how we can adopt a mindset that creates the trust that's needed to have this kind of conversation. I'm also just a big fan of. There are some wonderful fictional works that can help maybe sensitize all of us to what this whole thing is about and why it matters so much. There's a wonderful book by Toni Morrison called Beloved. And finally, I'd point to Stephen Covey’s Seven Habits of Highly Effective People. I think it just provides a larger framework for us to think about ourselves as people and how we contribute effectively to our collective experience.

Marie: Thank you. Some fantastic resources but I know both Jeanine and I'm speaking on Janine's behalf but I know we both respect all of those authors that you've mentioned and who have powerful messages for us all to think about.

Jeanine: Absolutely.

Marie: So, it is with regret. I'm saying its time to wrap up this conversation today. Katie with heartfelt gratitude from Jeanine and myself and on behalf of all listeners for your gentle, loving, open-hearted approach to having tough conversations about something that really matters. that we must have. that we absolutely must have. Thank you for sharing your vulnerability and also your courage in your ability to not just share this message with the world but to have one conversation at a time with people in your life that really want to understand what it's like for you in this process. If you could leave our listeners with anything a question or thought what would you say to them, Katie?

Katie Mapondera: I would want to invite our listeners to consider the question of what they want their impact and legacy to be knowing that all of us have things we can do with regard to this issue. What do they want the impact and legacy to be as far as race relations go?

Marie: Great reflect great for reflection. So, it is time to close off. Thank you, Katie. Thank you, Jeanine. It's been lovely to be with you both and have this conversation. Thank you, listeners we know, that you will get some great reflection time if you listen to what Katie has to share today. We look forward to seeing you next time and bringing another wonderful guest to have some reflections on conversations that matter.

Jeanine: Very grateful to you Katie.

Katie Mapondera: Thank you thank you for the opportunity. Thank you both.


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