Everybody deserves to belong

It’s always tough to take sides, but it’s impossible to stay totally neutral. It’s vital to feel empathetic, for all concerned.

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Having just stepped off stage having pushed our audience of marketing and sales professionals hard on the power of inclusive leadership, they were generous with both their applause and appreciation. There was a noticeable buzz and goodwill in the room. They not just understood but felt that they were eager to participate and make a tangible difference.

The opportunity would come far sooner than they would have thought. Up stepped their new Group HR director. She had been with them only five weeks, but she had observed and felt so much since joining. She was about to share just how proud and privileged she was to be part of this ever-so-welcoming group.

She then shared some recent family photos. One of her sons had the same blond hair and blue eyes, and her other son had the black hair and black eyes of his Indian father, her husband. She shared with a slight choke in her voice, just how poignant and powerful my talk on inclusion had been for her.

As she paused to compose herself, the auditorium felt what she felt and we all became one, as we basked in their collective beauty.

That same feeling can happen in sports. We hear so many wish that sporting events and politics didn’t mix, but at Wimbledon they have become a dynamite and heady cocktail.

On Tuesday, the Ukrainian star, Elina Svitolina, delivered a stunning blow to the world number 1, Iga Swiatek, in a three-set thriller on Wimbledon’s prestigious Centre Court. A palpable sense of awe and tradition filled the air as the watchful crowd witnessed every rally.

But the contrasting aftermath of her win against Swiatek compared to her previous one over Victoria Azarenka, a Belarusian player, revealed the fine balance of politics and emotions that have engulfed Wimbledon.

As Svitolina beat Swiatek, both players went on to warmly embrace each other at the net, surrounded by appreciative applause. Swiatek, in a subsequent press conference, expressed her desire for the Ukrainian to go on and win the tournament — an immense show of solidarity.

In contrast, Azarenka found herself subjected to boos from the crowd as she left the court defeated. Aware of Svitolina’s decision not to shake hands with players from Russia or Belarus, she respectfully refrained from engaging in the customary handshake. She was left shocked by the crowd’s reaction.

In this moment, a delicate balance of empathy for both players is surely essential. The turmoil of the times is undeniable. Putin’s invasion has endangered countless lives. We have an opportunity to acknowledge the pain and suffering experienced by every person who has become a victim of the war.

It’s always tough to take sides, but it’s impossible to stay totally neutral. It’s vital to feel empathetic, for all concerned.

What occurred on Centre Court and Court 1 will encourage and feed many differing opinions. It’s not always about being right, or wrong; it might be best to show empathy to those caught up in a difficult situation. Some of the Belarussian and Russian players may not agree with the war but are not able to voice their views.

Let’s appreciate the complexities of the situation and show compassion for all of those at Wimbledon.

Thought of the week:

There are no innocent bystanders anymore.

Top tips for becoming an A player:

·       The power of the optimists will overcome the negativity of the cynics

·       Difference does not make you superior or inferior

·       Together, nothing’s impossible

·       Embrace those different to you

·       Everybody deserves your help

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