In our daily interactions, we tend to focus on what makes us different from others. Those differences could be as obvious as race and gender identities or as subtle as demeanors and appearances. We have also extended these same biases to our organizations such as being more critical of employees of diverse backgrounds, hiring people who look like us, or rewarding employees who think and behave like us. In order to develop more inclusive workplaces, we must be ready to shift our focus from our differences to our similarities.
When I found this topic, “We All Are More Similar Than We Think” as one of the topics for the SHRM Diversity and Inclusion Conference (#SHRMDiv), the first thought that came to my mind was, “this has to be someone who has lived across cultures!” Whether or not this was true, I was eager to find out and so, I reached out to him.
The second of my three-part series of “Speaker Spotlight Interviews” was with Mr. Ricardo Palomares. Ricardo is an international keynote speaker, author, and explorer. He immigrated to the United States from Mexico City after graduating from photography school with the singular focus of building a career that would allow him to explore the world. Later he earned a Film degree at the University of Texas at Austin, then he went on to create documentary work in Mexico and China, and make the famous pilgrimage Camino de Santiago in Spain. His most recent project, Pedal South, entailed leading a team on a two-year expedition cycling from Alaska to Argentina. The purpose was to create a documentary that would give a perspective of the people and landscape of the Americas today.
Ricardo has learned that empathy, compassion, and vulnerability are the new ways to lead effectively. During our conversation, he shared his stories about how he overcame adversities with such authenticity and depth that I encourage attendees to check him out.
Please tell me a little about yourself, your career, and how you got here:
How I got here is really interesting because my goal for the longest time was to travel and explore the world. I became a photographer with the hopes of working for the National Geographic. After photography school in Mexico, I immigrated to the United States and became a professional photographer for fashion, food, weddings, products, and other events. I also gained experience in graphic and web design. At this point, I realized that I wanted to tell stories in a different way. So, I went to film school to become a filmmaker and cinematographer for different movies. One notable thing I did was that I rode my bicycle from Alaska to Argentina with the goal of making a documentary on the Americas. I came back from this expedition about two years ago after successfully leading my team through extreme conditions. I realized that there was a lot that I could share with leaders about how to motivate people to achieve massive goals.
At the SHRM D&I conference, you will be speaking about the topic “We All Are More Similar Than We Think”. What experiences led you to this realization?
This came mainly from my travels. I have been all over the world and I have met people from different cultures, beliefs, economic, or political backgrounds. These people have shaped my perspective. After traveling and really getting to know people, I realized that I could see myself in many of them even though we looked outwardly different. I have learned that we all have the same needs— community, security, love, and to care for others—I could relate to each of these. In a practical sense, I had to ask myself how I could apply this experience to the workplace. If I could see myself in these people that seemed completely different from me, this would also be the case if I applied it on a daily basis within teams in organizations.
How can organizations make the move towards creating inclusive workplace cultures?
Within teams in organization, it is common to find people with different experiences or backgrounds working towards a common team goal. We need to understand that each person brings value to the table. It is also essential for employees to have the safe space to express their thoughts or feelings without being judged—this is very powerful in showing care. An inclusive workplace culture is one that embraces diverse ideas or opinions and has members feeling valued and cared for. In addition, it is important to learn to shift our focus. As a leader, I always thought I needed to have all the answers and make the most impact. However, I have learned that if we are able to shift our focus from a self-centered approach to one that allows us all to be part of the solution, we can accomplish more in our organizations. In other words, learning that it is not about us but about how our work will impact others, is useful in creating inclusive cultures.
What should a conference attendee expect to learn at your session?
During my session, attendees will learn about embracing perspectives and creating environments where those perspectives can be shared. I want them to understand that the more perspectives we embrace, the more power we bring to the table. I will facilitate brainstorming conversations in a way that allows everyone to feel heard and move forward together.
Is this your first time presenting at a SHRM Conference? What do you look forward to experiencing at this conference?
This will be my third time presenting at a SHRM Conference. Not too long ago, I was the keynote speaker at the Ohio SHRM conference and I was also one of the concurrent session speakers at the New York State SHRM conference. However, this will be my first time at #SHRMDiv and I am excited about listening to the keynote speakers and hearing people’s perspectives on ways to improve the workforce.
On a lighter note, what do enjoy doing during your spare time?
I enjoy working out, meditating, journaling, watching movies, editing my documentaries, and playing dodgeball.
Ricardo will present We All Are More Similar Than We Think on October 24 from 9:45am - 11:00am in Rooms 212-214. You can connect with Ricardo on LinkedIn or Twitter @RicardoPalom. To watch him speak or learn more about his book, Chronicles Of A Journey: Embracing Pain On My Path To Self-Discovery, you can visit his website.