In the U.S., February is traditionally reserved for two things: Black History Month, and Valentine’s Day.
To non-Americans, this might seem a strange juxtaposition. At burkeMICHAEL+, it’s an opportunity.
The pandemic gave us many challenges. It also presented certain catalysts for change. Nearly two years after the words “Corona Virus” hit our televisions and smart screens, we are not the same. We are changed, overwhelmingly for the better.
Seismic events will do that.
In June 2020, when the nation seemed on fire; when we hunkered down at home and watched the nightly news in increasing horror, everything we knew was called into question. It was scary, and we could have hid our eyes from the new realities assaulting our society.
We could have shrunk back. Some of us did, for a time. But to do that would avoid the truth, and there were many truths to be learned during this time.
I realized, as a a business owner, that I have a responsibility beyond our showroom. I’ve always known that, but haven’t always put that knowledge into practice. I decided instead to be brave and vulnerable (thank you, Brene Brown), to ride the wave of change, and it has made us stronger, healthier and more whole, as individuals and as a team.
Two big things came out of this time for burkeMICHAEL+. The first is that teams in general, and my team specifically, are benefitting from our newfound commitment to flexible time in the office. The agency to choose a day or two to work from home has been a game changer to everyone in our showroom. To me, allowing this flexibility is an act of love (#ValentinesDay). This was easy.
The next, and bigger thing, was my duty to further build the culture of burkeMICHAEL+ through an awareness of our role in the challenges this nation faces around racism. I drove our comfortably insulated, all-white group into deep conversations about how to welcome Black and BIPOC communities into our business practices (#blacklivesstillmatter). With every quarterly Diversity, Equity and Inclusion training, we learn new things, but ultimately, we are reminded how much more learning we have to do. This too is an act of love. And far from easy.
So at burkeMICHAEL+, February is a month to create space for love. We do it through superficial acts, like our recent Valentine’s Day cookie decorating party, but we’re doing it through deeper acts too- this month, we’re watching the Oscar-winning film Minari, to learn through a fictionalized lens about the struggles of an immigrant family (we’re all immigrants here, after all).
February is also the month where we are reminded again and again, that talking about our commitment to Diversity, Equity and Inclusion is critical. Our DEI statement appears in every project bid response we submit. Our partners always have a reaction to this page, overwhelmingly a resounding, “Yes. We are aligned. We believe this, too.” Such a small gesture, including this page, but it speaks volumes to industries and organizations who are doing this work too, and those that need to hear it.
February is also the time I put my money where my mouth is. burkeMICHAEL+ donates to Black and BIPOC causes yearlong, and uses MLK Day as a day of service and reflection. Neither of those was in play before 2020, much to my personal chagrin. Again, learning.
So this month, and every month, my leader-to-leader advice is this: Find opportunities to commit acts of love in your business. Keep your people close. Tell them you appreciate them. Give time, space, and resources to communities who need love, too. Gestures big and small create change, fast and slow. We understand we can either be part of the conversation, or fall behind. We choose to drive change, to be culturally aware, and leave the dinosaurs to their antique thinking. Maybe they’ll catch on and catch up, and maybe our example will inspire that.
It’s my responsibility, and one I’m so proud to lead.
My very best,
Mary Frances Hogan President + Ringmaster burkeMICHAEL+