Meet the Peacemakers: an Interview with Graymake’s Anne Hilb

*Originally published on Robyn Short’s personal LinkedIn*

Meet the Peacemakers is a monthly interview with an entrepreneur whose work elevates human security and human dignity. These individuals are creating a ripple effect of positive change in their communities and around the world.

Meet Anne Hilb. Anne is the founder of Graymake Consulting — a process consulting group with expertise in the fields of organizational development, as well as restorative, conflict, and identity work. Graymake supports individuals and groups in navigating the dynamic exploration of topics typically left undiscussed. As an organization development consultant, trainer and facilitator, Anne is deeply passionate about inclusion, opening space for difficult conversations, and learning more about groups and individuals. Anne believes that to know one’s self is to be most effective; that people support what they help create; and that there is nothing so practical as a good theory. She brings these beliefs to her consulting work where her goal is to always balance relationship-building and problem-solving in order to reach a concrete plan and achieve forward movement.

I know firsthand just how talented Anne is in bringing individuals into the “gray space” where ideas can be explored with vulnerability and wholeheartedness. Through her expertise in process work, she supports her clients in considering how they might determine ways to bring forth better outcomes.

Robyn: What is the mission and vision of your organization? 

Anne: The mission of Graymake is to create spaces where necessary conversations promote progress. Our vision is to be partners in the development of deeply connected people and communities.

At Graymake, we reject the notion that the world is black and white. Utilizing processes founded in organization development and restorative justice, we bring people out of their silos to explore a palette of colors, experience their own individuality and inter-connectedness, so that we may stand together in gray space.

R: What motivated you to embark upon this work? 

A: There have been many points of entry for me, honestly. I wouldn’t say there is just one motivating factor. My upbringing, my own feelings of inadequacy when challenged by my difference; reckoning this with my own privilege and longing for a true sense of belonging myself. (Of course I wouldn’t have been able to verbalize this until later).

From a young age I asked tough questions in a family where we were taught not to discuss politics or religion on the one hand, while on the other hand it couldn’t be avoided. We were always surrounded by diversity due to my parents’ work, life choices, and the fact that all three of them represented such varied identity groups.

My work in facilitation and mediation work in college introduced me to conflict transformation and active listening, to which I was immediately hooked. I knew right away that law school was no longer the next step for me because I now knew there was another way.

A few years later when I started doing this work in prisons, schools, the legal system, and community at large, I began to understand the systems that led to failures such as the school to prison pipeline, which is when I discovered organization development. Without fully understanding it, I went for my degree and learned much more about behavior change —mostly in workplaces — but in systems overall.

I began to understand how much overlap there was in the way Organization Development and Restorative work approached behavior change at the group and systems level. These frameworks both put faith in the wisdom present in the system and empowered individuals to know what they need for themselves.

My work is about empowerment and giving voice. In a disconnected world, none of this is possible and neither is positive change.

I see this mission as more a vocation than a job. I believe connection is the antidote to pain large and small. I say this not as a Pollyanna but as the daughter of three business people each in vastly different fields that benefit financially, artistically, scientifically, politically and more if the relationships of the employees are enhanced.

R: Let’s talk about peace, and why it matters. Peace is human security and the ability to live a life of dignity that is free of fear. How does your work contribute to creating a more peaceful world? 

A: At its core, my work is about belonging. When you can fully participate in a conversation and feel deeply connected to others and to a community, this is a way of belonging. Belonging is a basic need. We cannot even begin to live free of fear if our basic needs are not met which is why they come before security.

(Image Source: Belong: Find Your People, Create Community, and Live a More Connected Life by Radha Agrawal)

I also believe that we can only change what we first love. People, too, change only when they first know they are loved. We can only change organizations when we know what they are doing right. This is one of the reasons strengths-based approaches such as Appreciative Inquiry are so powerful. It is also the reason that Martin Luther King Jr. was so successful. Despite recognizing how much work lay ahead, there was never any doubt how much he loved America.

Graymake believes that EVERY human being has dignity and worth; every organization or project has something to offer. Shame is not the way to move toward change. There is a time for radical action, certainly. And, as the leader of Graymake, I feel strongly that for us at this time of deep division, that there is beauty in the gray.

In particular for me as a white person from a privileged background, this means sitting with other white people of means and extending compassion and a listening ear without the expectation of change, if I ever do hope for any change to one day be a possibility.

R: When you experience conflict in the workplace, what peace-building intervention do you employ to restore positive productivity in your workplace and in your professional relationships? 

A: Before conflict has a chance to occur, I would like to think I have done some proactive work to prevent it in the first place and build a more relational workplace. If I have, this will change the way I respond when it does. For example, I write team charters as often as possible. Even if I am working with someone on a short-term contract this allows us to explore one another’s strengths, areas of growth, preferred methods of feedback, clarify roles, goals and so forth.

Another option depending on context is to spend time getting to know team members through check-ins, ice breakers, on-boarding or team buddy systems, or monthly community-building circles.

In both of these cases, I can use information I know to have a much more productive conversation or self-mediated conversation. Self-mediation can be done one-on-one or with a manager/supervisor.

My preferred methodology for repairing harm in the workplace when conflict has occurred is to host a corporate circle to invite all relevant parties and get to the root of the problem. Folks can truly air their grievances in a way they will not in other venues and create plans for how to move forward together and prevent future issues from escalating. This humanizes everyone and debunks assumptions.

As far as my individual professional relationships, I try to remember the value of asking good, open-ended questions and be willing to take responsibility for my role in whatever happened or was perceived to have happened. If you truly care about a relationship, it is worth taking time to resolve.

Remembering the difference between a dispute and a conflict is also key. A dispute is typically rooted in facts and there can be a right and a wrong while a conflict is rooted in values and beliefs. There is no real right or wrong because everyone has their own perceptions of how they see what happened. This is why is so very important to hear more about what the thinking is behind everyone’s thoughts and feelings and move forward together, without necessarily agreeing on what exactlyit was that happened.

R: How can people learn more about your organization and stay engaged with you through social media?

A:

  • Our Newsletter! This is where all future social media activity announcements will be made and where we keep you up to date about exciting Graymake news! Subscribe here!
  • Our website
  • LinkedIn, Anne Hilb
  • LinkedIn, Graymake Consulting
  • Facebook

R: Any parting thoughts? 

A: Please reach out if you …

  • Have questions
  • Have an idea for collaboration
  • Would like to discuss bringing us in for a training, circle, speaking engagement or retreat
  • Need consulting or coaching
  •  Have any other ideas or comments!
Copy of Graymake consultation

Click here to schedule a free 30-minute consultation.

Meet the Peacemakers is published by Robyn Short. Subscribe to the Peace Matters newsletter to receive resources on how you can create peace in your workplace. Learn more at www.RobynShort.com.

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