Invite Everyone to Dance

Bridgette Wilder, CHRO, California Institute of the Arts

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Bridgette is the Chief Human Resources Officer at the California Institute of the Arts She has worked in both the private and public sectors - she also has experience working with union, non-union, and service contract (SCA) employees.

She earned an MBA from Averett University, a BA in Human Resources from Birmingham-Southern College, a BS in Workforce Education from Southern Illinois University, and AAS in Computer Science from Jefferson State Community College. She is a graduate of the Furman University/ Riley Institute Diversity Leadership Academy and a recipient of the Coretta Scott King Humanitarian Award.

Bridgette Wilder joins us today to share her journey of growing up as a black southerner in the 70s. Although Bridgette faced racism, she refused to live her life as a victim, choosing instead to be kinder than necessary.  Bridgette loves to find the good in people and help them reach their potential. Bridgette explains how a company can make sure everyone is “invited to dance”.

Talking Points:

{02:22} Growing up in the South as a Black Child

{07:55} Seeing what is inside people and bringing out the best in them

{09:00} Leading with kindness

{11:20} Biggest issue from Bridgette’s Childhood

{17:44} Starting a career in HR

{21:10} How to talk to people when they are disrespectful

{34:10} How to create an environment where everybody gets to dance

Welcome to the Talent Empowerment podcast where we share the stories of glorious humans so you can lift up your organizations, teams, and community! I am your host Tom Finn and, on the show, today we have, a CHRO from the California institute of the arts and a proud lady of the south! Her name is Bridgette Wilder. Bridgette, I am thrilled to have you on the show, Welcome!

I'm very excited to be here, and as you said, I'm a proud Southerner, and I'm excited to be with you today.

Fantastic, well, we are so excited to have you on the show, and if you haven't had a chance to get introduced to Bridget, let me take a moment and tell you about her background. Brigette is the Chief Human Resources Officer at the California Institute of the Arts She has worked in both the private and public sectors - she also has experience working with union, non-union, and service contract (SCA) employees.

If you like degrees – she’s got them… She earned an MBA from Averett University, a BA in Human Resources from Birmingham-Southern College, a BS in Workforce Education from Southern Illinois University, and AAS in Computer Science from Jefferson State Community College. She is a graduate of the Furman University/ Riley Institute Diversity Leadership Academy and a recipient of the Coretta Scott King Humanitarian Award.

So, you are related to Coretta Scott King are you not?

I am, and that is my cousin, and the award that you mentioned is given to family members. You're nominated by a family member, and I was one of three. They recognize you for your humanitarian efforts, so I was very proud to receive that award from Coretta's oldest child. The children are the ones who reviewed the nominations. And that's how you're selected. So, I come from a legacy of people who have embraced diversity, equity, and inclusion long before this was a term.

Before it was ever a thing. And as Coretta Scott King, is she in the sphere of influence of the great Martin Luther King?

That was, indeed, her husband.

Oh, that is fantastic. And so, as we start to think about sort of unpacking that a little bit, you must… You're from the South. You grew up there, so tell us about growing up in the South in a time that was not 2020.

Right, yeah, I grew up in Birmingham, AL, in the 70s. So, it was a time when you were judged based on how you looked rather than who you were as a person. And so, you dealt with things in terms of not knowing what you were about to engage in because when you went to different places, they didn't necessarily want to accept you.

That led me to want to go to work that helped others recognize that it's not necessary to embrace where you're from but to focus on where you want to go and don't judge people. I could talk about a whole race of people, just about how a person has treated you because I experienced that.

I even experienced that growing up, as I had epilepsy as a kid. And having epilepsy is not something that's visible until it happens, and then you see how people truly are and how they feel about you because some people literally thought they could catch epilepsy from me. And so that taught me about human nature, about how people can evaluate you based upon an initial impression. And one thing happens that changes how they perceive you.

And that's much like diversity and inclusion. People will judge you based on the optics or their biases about whom they think you are versus getting to know you as an individual.

Yeah, I agree, and there's a lot to unpack there, Bridget, so let's go back to the epilepsy thing. For those who don't know, epilepsy is basically a grand mal seizure. Your brain kind of shuts down. Consider how, in the modern world, we reboot our computers. Your brain basically reboots, and you kind of start over again when you wake up. The only reason I know Bridget is because I had a grand mal seizure when I was about 25 years old.

I was on a train going to a Cal-Berkeley-USC football game in Northern California. And I was on the train, and I woke up with paramedics over me on the side of the train track, where nice folks had lifted me off so that I could get medical attention. I never figured out what it was, but I have also been there, and it's a real challenge and something that many folks deal with. And thank you for sharing that is something you have experienced as well.

Yeah, and that's the good thing about it. You are aware that I began having seizures at the age of three. They didn't know why I stopped having them at 12, and they still don't know why.

But that taught me to manage my image among people once I saw that they treated me differently, I tried so hard to be normal like other people so that they wouldn't think of me differently. That's why I believe it's why I went back to college and continued to learn because I wanted to be like everyone else. But at some point, I had that Aha moment, and I'm like, "Hey, I'm pretty cruel as I am, and if they don't like me because of some perceived disability, then they don't." They don't need to be in my world at all.

And so, I just decided, "Hey, be you," and that's been the best decision. But it took a lot of work. of self-esteem a "Hey," a lot of people are saying to me I got you, I believe in you, and those were people who looked different from me as well as people who looked similar to me, so it's helped me not to be biased by my own upbringing and my own experiences but focus more on the positive experiences and the positive people who have my back to this day, and I have theirs.

Yeah, what a beautiful way to look at the world, and the Talent Empowerment Podcast is all about people overcoming challenges, empowering themselves first, and then really finding that voice inside of them to lift others up. And I think what I'm hearing is, "Wow, what an upbringing." being faced with a medical condition that existed at that time in history was just not something that was well observed or understood. And if your hard drive is resetting every now and then, I imagine it was a difficult time for you, and what I think I'm hearing is my goodness. I found out right away who really cared about me and who loved me as a person right out of the gate.

And you know the good thing too, I had parents who believed in me. And I had friends who believed in me because they told my parents she was in first grade when I went to school are not capable of learning. I'd taken too many pills. You know my parents said to give her more, she would be better. But it was actually making me worse. And then they underdosed me, so they had to pull me out of school for a year.

They put me back in school when I was seven. I found a fabulous teacher who said, "Hey, Miss Wilder. I believe in your kid; she's smart, and I'm going to help her.” And now, 4 degrees later, I've demonstrated that. I was smart, but I Also, embrace the fact that there have always been people who said, "Hey, even if you don't believe in yourself right now, I do," and so that's always been my mission as I've gotten older, I'd like to find things and people that they don't see in themselves. And help them get onto that track to say, "Hey, she believes in me. Maybe I need to believe in myself.” I want to be that resource if they are open to doing it.

Do you think that's what makes you different? that you're able to see inside other people and bring out the best in them.

Yeah, I do, you know, because of my own life experiences of being treated differently for something that was out of my control. Whether it be my race or my disability, that helped me have such empathy for people because of the life experiences that I've had.

And so, whenever I can see a way to help someone, even if it's just saying “hello”, I will do that for them. You know, I can't tell you the number of employees that I've come across, and I just say hello to them, and they take a look back. They say you spoke to me. Nobody speaks to me. Nobody ever asked me how my day was and then never saw me again and remember my name, acted, and have a conversation. With me, it's those little things in life that will move needles and change worlds for people if only we took the time to do it.

So, you're leading with kindness and with empathy in all of your interactions. Do you ever feel like the world has sort of tilted into this race of sort of anger and putting other people down to lift yourself up Do you ever feel like we're sort of lost in a little bit of a weird space in history right now?

I do, and the pandemic really escalated that because we got so used to being away from one another, even though it's virtual and through Zoom, we lost kindness. We lost just being collegial and respectful to one another because it made it easier for us to say exactly what you feel. And I'm not saying you shouldn't say what you feel, but you should always wonder: What kind of impact am I going to have on that person's life? Are they going to really get the message of what I'm trying to say, or am I going to debilitate them to the point where they can't function because they don't see that there is light at the end of the tunnel?

And so, one of the things that I try to do as an HR leader is to get leaders and employees to recognize their individual actions and create a collective result. So, do you want it to be positive, or do you want it to be negative?

And that's so important. I even started a "kindness is necessary" project at one of my jobs. I was working at a call center where you're hollered at all the time, so in turn, you tend to model that behavior, but we committed. We got the employees to commit for a full month, to be kinder then necessary. And then they would nominate people and just put sticky notes to say, "You were kind to me today," and talk about what that was. People began to appreciate and reflect on such simple things. Hey, it's easy to be nice.

It feels good to be nice, it feels good when somebody says, "Hey, Bridget, I appreciate it when you did." XYZ for me. And when it gets there, it starts the movement.

We need to get you acquainted with Herb “Flight Time” Lang, who is a former Harlem Globetrotter, who has an initiative called "#KindnessisFree," and you know we got to get you two together and see what? You can do both. Come up with something, because it sounds like you're on the same path, just on different tracks. That makes me happy.

What was the biggest issue you faced as an adolescent before you sort of moved on from that space in your life, as you think about your journey from sort of this, from this gal in the South growing up?

You know, growing up in the South, you deal a lot with colorism. Not only are you being judged for being a person of color, but then you get into the light and the dark. And my family is biracial. My father is biracial. So, half of my siblings have my complexion, and the other half is very light.

The darker ones were always the cute ones, and the lighter ones were always the pretty ones, right? And so that sounds like a simple example, but it gets you thinking, "I'm less than." because I'm darker than someone. Not only am I less than others because they perceive me as being of another race, but within my own culture, sometimes I'm less than others because I'm dark. Right.

And on top of that, I got a disability. So, dealing with those things and getting the proper therapy helped me recognize those differences. It didn't make me better, it didn't make me worse, but I needed to embrace the things that made me unique.  And there was something in it that I had to value before other people could value me.

And I had a father who instilled in me the importance of knowing and living my values regardless of the reward or consent and sometimes in life, I admit it has gotten me in trouble as I've drawn a line and said, "Hey, that's against my values." That's going to put me in a situation where it's going to be difficult at first for me. I'm willing to do that because I've got to live with me.

And get to that point again, open so many doors for me to get to the point of self-love where I know this is my line and I'll find people in my tribe who have the same line, and we can go through those challenges together, and help each other, which has been beneficial. It's heartening to be always hopeful and have faith that, no matter what my circumstances are, things will get better and that I'm not alone.

And I mentioned to you before, my father, that I keep this picture on my desk to remind me, and he reminds me of something that I should keep to myself. But he also reminds me when I'm at a crossroads. He says to me "Hey, move! You need to live your values”. And I just made that hard decision because I knew the end was near. I got her to live with me because I want my son to be able to say, my mom did some hard things and had some hard things happen to her, but she stayed true to who she was, and that's the kind of person I want to be.

Beautifully said, and I believe the message is for everyone out there. You may not have had the same upbringing as Bridget. You may not have had the same challenges, but you probably had different challenges while staying true to your value system. Staying true to who you are is so critically important. and I think we realize that as we get older. Right, we realize It's OK to say no to certain environments, people, and situations. It's OK to walk away and say, "You know what? That's not part of my value system anymore” and it may change in tandem with us as we change.

Yeah, if you're still the same person that you were a year ago, five years ago, or 10 years ago. You require this Self-examination. You know, because it's not saying you have to change everything about yourself, but some of the things we grew up believing. They don't serve us anymore.

My best friend is 5 feet 11 inches tall, blonde, and has blue eyes. And we would have gone if I had judged her based on some of the life experiences we shared when I was growing up in the country. Being in the presence of the KKK and then having them refer to my daddy as a boy? And me having to say “yes, sir”. so that we could get through the process. If I judged her based on that, she wouldn't be my best friend since I was 18 years old. You know, and she's had family members who didn't appreciate her being friends with me.

She is my sister. Our children are six months apart. Both our children my son is Dred Scott, her child is Deanna, and they know each other as cousins, right? And when people meet me they Said, "Hey, I thought you were." She's going to introduce me to your sister. This is my sister.

We don't let how we were raised or the values that people tell us about race or whom we should influence who we are. You know, our relationship and friendship have an impact because we discovered them, and I hope that people remember that even if they don't remember anything else I said, remember this, people are going to come into your life that doesn’t look like you, will be the best blessing. And then they'll be people who look like you but haven't had different life experiences and they're going to be a blessing to you. Just be open to that because life is so much about it when you do.

I'm not sure where to go with the conversation with your best friend. Because it just makes me feel so emotional as I listen to you say, "My goodness, this is exactly what the world should be." This is where we should be in every city in the United States, with every family, with every friend, with every part of our community. This is the tip of the future, which are these relationships among all of us, no matter what the color of our skin is, or where we grew up, or what language was our native language. That's what our parents told us in the past. All of that is just irrelevant at the end of the day; it's really about building meaningful friendships and meaningful relationships where we can lift each other up no matter where we are in the universe and certainly in this country.

Well, thank you for sharing your story. I absolutely love that. I'm going to jump right into some work components because you've done so much heavy lifting in your personal life, but my goodness, the number of accolades and kudos that you've received along your journey as a human resources leader and a leader of men and women is amazing. So, tell me how you begin your career in human resources.

Well, I fell into HR like a lot of people. I used to be a software specialist, i.e., I had a computer science degree, and my boss came to me one day and said, "Bridget, you've got to train people in the bank how to use your loan software," and I was like, "No. I don't engage with non-technical people; that's why I'm a programmer”, and she says, "Well, you're going to have to,"

So, I'm such a techie. I went back to college at night and majored in HR with a minor in psychology so I could learn how to relate to non-technical people. But what I discovered was that computer science and human resources were very similar, because just as I write a program to get to an end result and it has individual steps, I need to have a plan when I'm getting ready to recruit or when I'm trying to solve an important relationship problem. I had to be able to listen, but I also had to be able to write down those steps. to get to the end result, and so from there, I got into HR. I've worked in human resources for over 25 years. I’m going to age myself by saying 25 years.

I think that gives you enough cred, right?

Yeah

Five years plus gives you enough St. credentials and budgets.

Yeah, yeah, you know.

But what I found too is that coming from a computer science background has allowed me to be very neutral when I'm dealing with things, because when you're in HR, you're dealing with people. You're dealing with human beings, so sometimes they're not the nicest. So, when people say, "Well, I want to go into HR because I like people," I say, "do something else because it's not about whether you like people. It's about whether you want to help people solve problems”, right?

But sometimes people speak to me. I have to say, am I a human being? I have to step back from that and say, "Hey, I get that you're upset, but my goal is to help you find a solution. So, unless we can level out and calm down, we're going to reschedule this conversation”, right? And when they calm down, they're not… I listen to what they say but also to what they don't say to come up with a viable solution.

I call myself a people detector. Because I have to pay attention to all those things about what they said and how they said it, what are they feeling at the time so that I can come up with a solution that I can present to them that they'll be open to.

Sometimes I have to have hard conversations with people and say, "Hey, I get that you're upset. But you created the problem, so let's talk about what we can do to resolve the problem.” You've got to be able to have those crucial conversations, and sometimes people don't like what you have to say. But if you are honest and consistent, and they see that you're doing that not only with them but with other people they trust you, all right.

I had a client, and I had a manager. When I worked at the Citadel, he referred to me as the Gestapo. He didn’t like me because I was telling him no, you can't do that, right? When he had a problem, he came to me; he wasn't saying, "Bridget, you're a bad person," he just didn't like being told no.

That was the worst-case scenario for him, right? He came to me because he knew I was going, to be honest. Was going to listen. I was not going to judge him by what he said. I was not listening, so I could help find a solution and tell him the reality of what was possible.

Do you ever get a little upset with people when they approach me in a manner that is difficult or angry, or when they're coming at me in a way that is potentially disrespectful? Do you ever take that on inside your being and become resentful?

I don't get resentful.

My main thing is to remember that it's about them, not me. Hurt people hurt people, right? And when I see that they're in that space, that's when I have to have the conversation. “You're being disrespectful right now. And although I'm here to help, we're not going to have the conversation at this time. I'm going to contact you. We're going to reschedule. And once you're leveled out, we're going to be able to solve this issue. And now we're going to end the conversation” and I stand up, I show them the door, and we go from there, right? Because it doesn't help if you allow people to believe you don't have a boundary. No matter how much you try to help them, if they believe you have no boundaries, they will never reach that point going to be respectful.

And so, even though I'm in HR, I'm an employee too. I'm a person too, so I'm here to help, but I can only help you if you're willing to help yourself. And also, be respectful to me and allow me to help you.

Yeah, it comes back to your core values again and understanding what your core values are and what you will accept and, certainly of equal importance, what you won't accept from other people. And then, of course, knowing your worth is another one; having that confidence and knowing your worth and saying, "No, no, it's OK." I recognize your up to that. That's OK, I'm not going to. This isn't on me. I'm going to help you excuse yourself in a really professional way.

Yeah, and then sometimes it's not even your words that show it; it's your actions.

I will give you an example. I worked as a recruiter for a private staffing firm, and a lot of my clients never saw me. They just assumed I was Caucasian because I was in the South and most of the people were 99% of the people that work at the company, and I had a client say to me not to send him a ******* for his temporary assignment. Right? And that's what I'm saying to myself, he clearly does not know that. I'm a black woman. So, he said, "I can just imagine that you're probably a brunette with brown eyes, about 5-7. I want somebody that looks like you; just don't send me a *******.

So, I go tell my boss, who's the director of the staffing firm, and she tells me to send him what he wants. All right, so I said to myself, "OK, I see that there's no diversity equity inclusion in here," so I sent him someone, but I sent him someone who looked like Vanessa Williams. She's a black, beautiful, professional girl, and he fell in love with her the moment she arrived.

But the other thing that I did was start looking for another job. I saw whom I was working for, and it did not align with my values. I didn't leave upset. I found another job. Thank them for the experience, and I kept it moving.

That is to say, sometimes you have to recognize where you are in your environment. And some people don't want to be educated. Some people don't want to embrace diversity. They feel like, "Hey, I hired you. I've got my one black person, and you're female. I'm, I'm, I'm. Good right?” When you notice that in your surroundings. There’s no point in getting angry about it; you just have to decide at that point where you're going to do so in order for me to align my core values with your actions and success. Hopefully one day we'll move that person to see, "Hey, I probably need to rethink what I'm thinking and how I'm acting, but I believe in her," because clearly, she could have been that bias of an angry black woman who walked off the job. Right, I did my job. I dispatched someone I knew could do the job regardless of her skin color. They loved her, but then I moved on because I knew I could not stay with this organization.

I'm listening to the story, and you are so calm and collected. My insides are on fire. I'm furious as I listen to this conversation because of the depth and breadth of bias, racism, and sexism. And the problem with this entire story is that it has so many issues behind it. I can't believe how calm, cool, and comfortable you are, just relax while we have this conversation. I would be absolutely furious at Do you believe you've just dealt with this? for so long that means you've become numb to it or can recognize it. And you are gentle and smart about it.

You never become non-white, either. But my childhood was spent boring in that environment, where people didn't like me because of the visuals. Even when we travel, my father is referred to as "boy," as I previously stated, Car trips, I would go out of state having to think about where we are going to stop. Is it close to the freeway, or should I send my father and sister, who have a very light complexion, in to get the snacks because they'll think they're white? And we stayed in the car, right? It was a matter of survival.

And then I went into job interviews where everybody loved me, I'm talking to the top person. Apparently, they didn't tell the person that I was black. They asked me one question. When I was interviewing for an HR position, they inquired about my accounting background. I told him that I had a minor in accounting. I even designed a payroll system using Cobalt and CICS for my computer science degree. The interview was over in five minutes. By the time I got down on the elevator, they called my service and said she was overqualified. But when she saw me, she literally turned red, so I knew, "Hey, this is over."

But you can't get angry. Otherwise, you get stuck in victim mode. You just continue to follow your dreams and your goals. Look for the people who get who you are and see the worth in what you bring to the table, and keep it moving, because anger eats you up faster than foolishness and hatred for you. But they don't even know you right now.

And so, I just always focus on what I've been taught and prepared me for this; every bad thing that has happened to me in life has prepared me for the unexpected things that I don't like that I have to deal with, you know.

When my son goes out, I have to say to him, "Son, don't put a hoodie on your head." It's not a fashion statement; it's a life statement. I shouldn't have to say that in 2022, however, that is the reality. But I also don't want him to be angry and think, "Hey, this isn't fair." It's not fair, but what will you do about it? How are you going to live your life to be a model that maybe somebody is looking for so that they can say, "Hey, this person doesn't meet that bias or stereotype?" Maybe I need to think differently. And each person's actions are going to create a collective result that will hopefully change the world. But this was a step-by-step process.

I told you about my family—Coretta, Martin, and my other family members—and that you know about Walt and his marches to bring about rights. No, we're not fully there yet, but I've had opportunities because of that. So, hopefully, my actions will provide other people with opportunities that were not available to me earlier in life, and they will pass them on.

That's the only way we're going to be able to make change happen.

So, what do you say to people that they look like me, if you don't know, I'm in my forties; a middle-aged white dude in Southern California, what do you say? You know, sort of… This divide is in the market that we see, and this divide is in our cultures today. How do we do it? How do we bridge the gap? How do we go forward in a way that's better than the way we've done it in the past,

I think the first thing for any of us to do is to think about and recognize our own biases. Because we all have them and think about when we exercise those biases, we're not moving the needle in the positive direction or the negative direction, especially when it comes to working.

And I hear people say I don't see color. And I'll say, what's your favorite color? And they always have one, and that's just to let them know that's a bias. It doesn't necessarily mean that it's bad, but if you use that bias and say, "Well, my favorite color is blue, and if your favorite color is not blue, then I don’t like you.” That's when it becomes bad.

So, we have to be honest and recognize what it is about ourselves that we have negative stereotypes or biases about. And when we recognize that before we decide, make sure that that is not influencing the outcome of that decision.

Don't make it so difficult. Think about it in terms of being a human being. Do you want to be treated And, when you think about it, it's a human issue? Vs… well, she's black. I need to make sure she feels welcome and include her. You don't have to do anything extra; just give me the same opportunity that you give everybody else.

And if you're going to have an opportunity for somebody to be mentored, I should be given the same opportunity, but not because I'm black. But because I brought something to the table simply by being in the room, you know most of the time when I go somewhere, I have to go above and beyond the requirements just to get in the door, right? So don't consider me an equal opportunity employee because you needed someone who was both black and female. Think of me as a person. Hey, she brings something to the table that can help me save money, make money, or bring employees together. Let me utilize that. Because this is business, this shouldn't be personal, right?

And from a personal perspective, open up your window to allow people to look different from you to be in your environment. From a learning perspective and from an engaging perspective, they all bring something different to the table. I think that's the beginning of all of that.

Yeah, I think you've just laid out a playbook for all of us to think a little differently about the way we approach each other. And I love the way you said, "Don't give me some sort of advantage because I'm a female and happen to be black. Give me the same opportunity as everybody else, and you know what I'll go win the day.

Ultimately, I go in it to win it, and I consider every company I work for as my client, even though I'm an employee. I’m a consultant; I'm their business partner. What can I do to bring value to the organization and specifically the people so that they feel welcome, feel like they belong, and feel like they are included?

It's great when you do diversity hiring, but if your culture does not have an education and welcoming that diversity hire? You'll have a revolving door. And the same thing applies even when you have people who all look alike but are diverse; they need to be open to other aspects of diversity so that people feel like they belong.

You know, if I give the analogy of you inviting me to a party, did you invite me to the party because of the visual for the optics to say, "Hey, I included her, but did you ask me to dance?" Did you ask me to be engaged in a conversation where I feel like I belong? Or are you just saying, "Hey, she's here; I included her"? That's quite different, isn't it? Do I feel like I belong there? Because if I don't, I'll do whatever it takes to contribute, such as the things I brought to the table. I'll be looking as well. I’m also going somewhere else where I feel like I belong.

How do we go from being inclusive, which is a good step in the right direction Where are we inviting that piece of belonging? Everybody wants to dance, right? It's not just Bridget and Tom; it's everyone from every walk of life, every ethnicity, every language, every culture, and every blended family. Right, everybody with disabilities and learning issues and you know, we've all got these things right, whatever they are and however, we label them, how do we do that? How do we create an environment where everybody gets to dance?

Well, it starts with getting those differences together and co-creating and collaborating on those solutions. Because, even if we all looked the same, we all have unique life experiences that shape who we are.

So that's why it's important to invite those different components of the diversity of thought, diversity of culture, etc. together and co-create a variety of solutions to ensure that you are recognizing those differences exist because they're contributing to the solution and also recognizing it's not an overnight process. You've got to prioritize. What is it about belongingness that you want to focus on first? Do that, then add to it because it's not overnight and we have such differences.

Even what we talked about previously—neurodiversity. That's a lovely phrase, they've come up with ways to talk about ADHD, autism, and all of those things. But the reality is that people think differently because of their life experiences and things that have happened to them. So, because of neurodiversity, it’s not possible for any of us to know all the solutions. We have to co-collaborate, and when I work with employees, I tell them, "Hey, this isn't a wine and cheese," and they look at me; when you talk about issues and problems, I tell them, "I want to know what the issues and problems are, but don't come in here. "Whine and don't offer me any solutions. Where are we going? You're willing to do that if you're willing to offer it. Are you willing to help me implement it? Are you willing to say, "Hey, I'm committed; I'm all in, Bridget?” When you take this to senior leadership, this is what we want to do. I'm not going to say, oh, that's great you're going to do it now HR. No, this is co-collaboration and co-creation, and they buy wine and cheese and say Hey, y'all, go make this happen, Bridget. Go make this happen. What are we going to do to make this happen? That is the beginning of moving the needle and restoring a sense of belonging because everybody has contributed to the solution.

Yeah, I love how this all comes together to create a melting pot of people. I'm visualizing sort of a room with everybody coming in and participating and giving their opinions and their thoughts and approaching it with kindness and empathy and trying to understand the various languages and backgrounds of neurodiversity, as you mentioned, are beautifully described of those with learning challenges, how do we all come together and figure out how to make a beautiful company?

How do you provide an exceptional product or service? How do we do that with all of these buyers in the room, right, who are representing the groups that they ultimately represent, and then create something that's really special?

The best companies have people like you that led these efforts to figure this out, and I Love where you are. Going with this because it's all about that. Who you are and where you are going. It's all about creating your own set of core values, overcoming obstacles, and knowing that, my goodness, we all face them.

Yeah, yeah, we're all there.

All of us, and then being able to take all of that and really reduce or turn down the volume on anger while increasing the volume on kindness. It is what I've heard today, and when we do that and get in the room together, we learn from each other. No matter our background or what we look like, What we sound like—all of that can come together to create a beautiful harmony, and create the world in which we want to live. What did I do? I get close to this one.

You did, and I did at the time. I have one other story I want to share with you. My son has ADHD. And when he was three, I got divorced, and he was very angry with me. I had to end up getting him a psychologist for him to talk about his anger, and the psychologist wanted me to come into the room with him. And he told me, "Mommy, I'm angry. You didn't talk to me about this, and my dad is not here with me”. He said, "I know you love." Me but you. I should have heard you and listened to me, and I broke down. I cried, and I said, "I'm so sorry." He said, "Mommy, I forgive you." I love you. And I know you love me. That taught me about leadership—not only was it about being a mom, but it taught me about leadership.

Sometimes we think we know all the answers and are doing all the right things that we think need to be done to help the bigger picture. But then we make decisions. that people don't understand. And we never explain why. So just like I did, from that point forward, help him understand why. He doesn't always feel like it, but as long as I'm having the conversation about my why and listening to his input, He's good with it, and the same thing goes for employees and whoever else you're trying to help. Don't think you have all the answers, and even though you have good motives and good intentions, be willing to explain the why.

And assist people in moving forward by accepting what must happen. Don't leave people in the dark. That's where we're going to be able to make changes in our lives. When we're willing, each person is willing to do that.

Well, your son is very lucky to have a mother like you, who is a leader in the community but also thoughtful and kind in the way she approaches everything that comes into your life. And I am eternally grateful for the time we spent together and the time we spent together. I learn more every time I speak with you.

And I know that the folks listening out there are going to take this one home with them. And they should really think through how they can make a bigger impact in their communities with their friends, their families, and their loved ones. And of course, all of this can come back to business by helping us do a better job as leaders in our companies.  Bridgette, thank you so much for coming to the show today. I can't thank you enough. How can these listeners find you? How can they track you down and get to you? in touch with you?

Well, they can get in touch with me by going on LinkedIn. I'm also on Twitter. I'm on Instagram, and I also have my own personal website called Wilder HR management and EEO consulting So check me out on any of those social media platforms.

Yeah, and if you're driving, just a public service announcement, please. Don't write that down. We will put it in there. We will kindly put it in the show notes for you and make sure you have access to all of Bridget's links. You can get in contact with her, as well as this has been an absolutely dynamic conversation, I believe, full of information, history, and love. All of this comes from the right place, and we're just working so hard to make it a better world. And I know you are as well, Bridget. So thank you for all of your contributions and the love you share.

And Tom, thank you for having such a platform. You know, empowerment is so key in life, and for people like you that have had this concept and brought it to fruition to have others be able to find this information is invaluable, so thank you.

Well, thank you so much, Bridget. And thank you, my friends for joining the Talent Empowerment podcast and I hope this conversation lifted you up so you can lift up your teams and organizations.  Let’s get back to people and culture together.  We’ll see you on the next episode!

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