Shereen Daniels

Six months ago, I remember reading on LinkedIn, about a chap who decided to write a blog post every day for 100 days.

I think it was on entrepreneurship, or something like that, and I remember thinking:

Rhaatid a blog post, a day?  This man is wired differently! (That’s a compliment by the way).

At that time, all my creative expression was through the written word. In fact you have a couple of days and scrolled through my LinkedIn activity, you will see a few of my articles still sitting on my profile.

I thought I could write pretty quickly. But writing a blog post every two weeks, was kind of hard work. So I couldn’t get my head around somebody being able to write a blog post a day.

Not exactly an issue of time…

We all have opportunities to apply consistency and discipline.

I was just never one of those people.

Fair enough in my case, I could never apply it to my never-ending diet.  Nor my proclamations that the lockdown meant I was going to exercise at home, at least four times a week.  And I have even fewer excuses than others, I have a gym in my house (well the basement) and it’s right next to my office.

Suffice to say the commitment I made to myself, and wrote down, never quite turned into action.

As I live in leggings these days – the ultimate work from home attire – I have no idea how that’s been working for me, but I suspect I know the answer. 

Running a HR consultancy, I’m interested in different topics, some professional, some not.  But definitely not enough to write about it day in and day out for 100 days.  And I was busy.  A mum of two, trying to get my fledgling consultancy off the ground.  Attending the endless ‘discovery calls’, networking Zoom events.  I literally felt like I had no time to breathe.

However, my lack of commitment had nothing to do with time. 

Being honest? I just didn’t care enough.

Oh what a difference a murder, a weaponised act of racism and the UKs feigning of ignorance about systemic racism makes

And then when we fast forward to the first of October, when I’m sharing my thoughts and over 120 days, I’ve recorded 100 videos.

That’s mad.

I never set out to record any videos on anti-racism.

When I recorded the first video on the 31st of May, speaking out and sharing my hurt and frustration, not only with what happened with George Floyd, not only in response to the video of Amy Cooper.

When I recorded the first video on the 31st of May, speaking out and sharing my hurt and frustration, not only with what happened with George Floyd, not only in response to the video of Amy Cooper, it was out of sheer rage and frustration.

My home country, the UK, wanted to claim that it’s one of the most tolerant countries in the world.

Citing the multiculturalism, the number of people from different nationalities who live and work here. Naming the Black footballers, the musicians, the film stars, the actors…you get the point.

And so when everything was going on in the US, within the UK we were sipping our tea and exclaiming our shock and outrage about when was happening across the Atlantic.

When I recorded the first video on the 31st of May, speaking out and sharing my hurt and frustration, not only with what happened with George Floyd, not only in response to the video of Amy Cooper.

But remember, I’m here in the UK.

My country that wants to claim it’s one of the most tolerant countries in the world.

Citing the multiculturalism, the number of people from different nationalities who live and work here. Naming the Black footballers, the musicians, the film stars, the actors…you get the point.

And so when everything was going on in the US, within the UK we were sipping our tea and exclaiming our shock and outrage about when was happening across the Atlantic.

“Oh thank goodness. I mean it’s terrible of course but luckily we don’t have the same issues of racism.”

Anon

“But Shereen, you’ve never experienced racism?  I mean clearly you can’t have because look at where you are.”

People who should bloody know better

It started with a few terse LinkedIn posts

Before the video came the captions. 

Veiled cussing, if I’m honest.  Because I still didn’t want to be seen as the angry Black person venting on online.

Short captions closed off with a hashtag.

One, then two then a few a day.

But as the month of May unwound, it didn’t make me feel any better.

I just felt like a pressure cooker.  Ready to blow at any point.

So on Sunday the 31st of May, I sat in my bedroom on a stool, with my tripod and my phone.

I pressed record and just starting talking.

That was my Day 1 video.

via HR rewired TV

And for 100 days I’ve been talking ever sense.

Was it just about the fact I cared enough?

Yes and no.

In writing this, I am reflecting on the reasons I have made the career decisions which brought me here.

Why I’ve gone after certain opportunities and ignored others.

And why I was able to commit, without a second thought, to talking about one subject only in a way I could never commit to anything else in my life.  Bar my children of course.

Listen, a 7 day juicing diet was nearly the end of me, so 100 days is a big deal!

Everyone can be a leader

I’ve never thought of myself as a leader.  Not in the way I view leadership now, I mean.

I’ve never thought of myself as a leader. Not in the way I view leadership now, I mean.

I am a ‘take-charge’ kind of person. Very task focused, future orientated, resourceful and tenacious. Great traditional leadership traits, you might say?

Well before anyone gets too excited, I’m also impatient, bored with routine and repetition, I don’t trust easily, can’t stand small talk and too much interaction with people tires me out. And I should also mention I’m not very good with detail. 

Keep it simple. Keep it focused. Keep it moving.

But my competitive spirit is alive and kicking, and whilst in part it’s the way I’m wired, I recognise it was fuelled from a young age by the need to prove people wrong. 

Not exactly a unique story right?

I can pinpoint exactly the moment I decided to channel my competitive spirit in this way.

It’s a story for another day, yet I will tell you it didn’t come from representing my county for triple jump, long jump and the 4 x 100m relay. Neither was it for acting as Captain for netball and hockey team. Yep as a teenager, I was that one.

What I will say is when you are driven to prove people wrong, acceptance and validation from external sources become your ultimate North star. Or at least it did with me.

Through my professional career, I learnt what leadership meant. In the traditional context.

Oversee a team, head up a department, hold budget responsibility and be accountable for the execution of a HR strategy.

Challenge but not to much.

Remember who pays the bills.

I’ve never thought of myself as a leader.  Not in the way I view leadership now, I mean.

I am a ‘take-charge’ kind of person.  Very task focused, future orientated, resourceful and tenacious.  Great traditional leadership traits, you might say?

Well, I’m also impatient, bored with routine and repetition, I don’t trust easily, can’t stand small talk and too much interaction with people tires me out.

But my competitive spirit is alive and kicking, fuelled by the need to prove people wrong. 

I know I’m not alone in this.

I can pinpoint exactly the moment I decided to channel my competitive spirit. It’s a story for another day, yet I will tell you it didn’t come from representing my county for triple jump, long jump and the 4 x 100m relay. Neither was it for acting as Captain for netball and hockey team. Yep as a teenager, I was that one.

When you are driven to prove people wrong, acceptance and validation from external sources become your ultimate North star.  Or at least it did with me.

Through my professional career, I learnt what leadership meant in the traditional context.

Oversee a team, head up a department, hold budget responsibility and be accountable for the execution of a HR strategy.

That all sounds very grown up doesn’t it?

However, I never knew what true leadership meant until I started speaking my truth as we so often say.

Consistently talking about the same subject, over and over again.  Against knowing many not only avoiding engaging with me, unfollowed me (at best) and stalked, trolled and insulted me (at worst).  All online, of course, but it didn’t make it any less real or upsetting.

It’s easy to lead when you’re popular and work alongside people who share your beliefs, perspectives, and values. It’s comfortable when you are handed authority by way of your job title and where you sit in the hierarchy according to your employment contract.

It’s easy to lead when you’re popular and work alongside people who share your beliefs, perspectives, and values.

It’s comfortable when you are handed authority by way of your job title and where you sit in the hierarchy according to your employment contract.

It’s so much harder when you’re on your own. In every sense of the word.

Leadership is about moral courage. To put your head above the parapet, to say what no one else is saying because they are happy to accept the status quo.

My network wasn’t my net-worth

It’s so much harder when you’re on your own.  In every sense of the word.

Leadership is about moral courage.  To put your head above the parapet, knowing not everyone will agree with you.

I knew many people, in the business sense.

Was part of formal and informal networks.

Yet in this journey of 120 days, I had to form new relationships, new informal networks because many of the people whom I knew felt uncomfortable with my messages. 

They didn’t want to be seen publicly engaging with me and my content. Less it be seen as political. Less they be viewed unfavourably by their peers.

They were waiting for the phase to pass so things could get back to normal.

However, they were sympathetic, at the beginning.

When the hashtag was trending and the black square was a thing.

But they quickly wanted to go back to normal life.  And this Black stuff, was well, too much and equally not that important.  In the grand scheme of things.  I mean come on, don’t people of all different races die everyday?

On one hand, you are probably thinking, well good riddance.  You are better off without them.

But it’s not about that.

Remember when you have a point to prove, you seek validation from others.  And in my case white people, were the ultimate (in a professional sense) seal of approval.

I didn’t feel like the Black business community were paying me too much attention.  Not really.

So when I talk about feeling alone at times, this is literally what I mean.

Seemingly overnight, I became the Black woman who wouldn’t shut up.

The Black woman who talked incessantly about the barriers Black people face in the workplace.

The same one woman who was calling out the performative bullshit by companies and leaders.

Who is challenging everyone to do better and be better.

The Black woman who emphasised in bold, underline and italics one word again and again.

Black.

Shereen Daniels

A voice to empower

I really want to continue to use my voice to empower others.

I want to inspire Black people to no longer feel like they should passively accept the deeply unfair society we find ourselves living and working within.

I want to inspire white people to move from apathy and feigned ignorance into meaningful and deliberate action.

And for anyone else who isn’t Black or white, they’re not off the hook.  I too want them to do something too.  Because head down, this isn’t my battle is not it either.

But then who I am to tell people what to do?

I can’t.

But what I can do is continue to talk. Lord knows I’ve proven I can do that.

To facilitate those difficult conversations and turn them into transformative ones and hope my actions speak louder than my words ever will.

I was today-years-old when I have finally put to rest the need to be someone I’m not.

To not censor who I am, and whitewash my culture to fit the majority.

I was today-years-old when I can say and mean it, that we all can affect change.  No one ever starts by creating the wave, the ripple has to come first.

You have the opportunity to start from where you stand and have your day one moment like I had mine.

I remember thinking when I recorded that first video; I do not want people to unsee me.

Because I have felt invisible for most of my life.

Not anymore.

Not anymore.

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