Connecting with Duncan MacLachlan on Creating a World of Respect

Respect is both a noun and a verb. It is something we experience and a way we treat people (including ourselves). Entailing acknowledgement, appreciation, acceptance, and everything in between, respect is a basic human right. This week Duncan McLachlan joins from Paris to share how we can create and foster respect and makes a convincing case for adding respect as a core personal value, all fueled by his work in diversity, equity, inclusion, and belonging.  Episode notes and bio can be found at

Credits: Raechel Sherwood for Original Score Composition.

YouTube Channel: Uncover The Human







Alex: Welcome to Uncover the Human where every conversation revolves around enhancing all the connections in our lives. 

Cristina: Whether that's with our families, co-workers or even ourselves. 

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Authenticity is when you truly know yourself. You remember and connect to who you were before others told you who you should be. 

It's transparency, relatability, no frills, no makeup, just being.


Alex: Alright, welcome back to this episode of Uncover the Human. We are joined with our guests, Duncan MacLachlan today. Duncan actually gets to combine a bunch of fun things we get to do here. For one, we get to talk to him from across the ocean right now. He is currently residing in Paris and comes to us through a number of connections that we've made just on similar topics. And we love talking to people who are very passionate about their topics. And this is definitely a good one for that. 

Duncan, first of all, welcome to the podcast. 

Duncan: Thanks. Great to be here with you guys. 

Cristina: Welcome. 

Alez: We're excited to have you. You wanted to talk a little bit about respect. And there're so many really interesting facets to this. But let's start off just basic here. What is your definition of respect?

Duncan: Well, respect is interesting, because it's a noun and a verb, right? So as a noun, respect has to do with things like acknowledgement, or appreciation, or like I acknowledge you. And it's really a way of thinking and treating something or someone. And it means inherently that I can respect you even if we don't agree. That's part of it. It's also a difference to certain rights and privileges, that, from my point of view, everybody is entitled to. And the verb part of that is to hold those things as sacred, to hold those things in esteem and to honor them, and to show regard for in consideration of those. So that's the action part. That's the verb part. 

And the reason that I'm so passionate about it, and people can define it in different ways. The thing about respect is that, for me, it's a way of distilling so much of the conversations that we have both individually and in organizations about things like engagement, or the employee experience, or retention, or recruitment, or professional development, or where we work now. But what used to be called the future of work, and it's still – I mean, as we record this, I think it's going to continue to be a topic. I think that the combination of artificial intelligence and the human connection, unlocking the human, the focus that Cristina, you, and Alex, both are so passionate about, and how those things meet. 

And so I think that respect is a way of distilling or a lens through which we can look at all of these things. And I think that, fundamentally, one of my areas of expertise is diversity, equity, and inclusion and belonging. And I think that a lot of times that work, which is so vital, because it is about respect, gets complicated and gets difficult sometimes for leadership and for organizations to even understand. At some point there's a need to simplify and to distill. And I think that coming at people, and organizations, and communities, and the planet, from a place of respect, is a good place to view the world.

Alex: We talked a little bit, in a previous episode we did, working with other people who’ve done some diversity, equity and inclusion work. And a lot of the thoughts we had around were that it really becomes a mindset change that you have to do. And I really love what you've defined here with respect being like a mindset. It is the lens through which you see the world, and it's such a great distillation of one of the core pillars of being able to do something like DEI work or just having a more shared open community.

Duncan: I mean, one of the challenges also, quite frankly, is that we have these systems that we all exist in, because we all exist in an ecosystem. And that system supports some people and doesn't support other people. If we're talking about social justice, if we're talking about racism, if we're talking about homophobia, if we're talking about any number of issues that people deal with, because they're not the ones in the position of privilege. They are not the decision makers, necessarily, and they were not the system designers. 

But if we think about organizations, and in this world of uncertainty and change, and where there's so much emphasis being put on, “Okay, so how do we do this better? How do we build back better? How do we recreate our organizations so that they really are human-centered?” If we want to do that. I mean, we have to acknowledge not everybody wants to. But we think that that ought to be a goal. But to say that we need to design organization, structures, policies, actions, strategic plans, virtually everything, from a place of respect. And so if we have that, we have that mindset, mindset doesn't have to be really complicated. Mindset doesn't have to be, “Oh my God, I've got to make this big, big shift and learn all these new things.” 

I think back to some of it has to do with, frankly, the culture that we were raised in and what the norms were. And one of the things that, just a simple thing, that my mom always said to me was, and this is not the full expression of respect, but she said, “Treat people with respect. If you don't have something good to say about them, don't say it. Don't say anything.” 

So I think that there's a mindset. And I think that there's this lens through which we can look at everything. And I think that we need to be able to not just say that we're going to listen to the frontlines and listen to our customers, or our customers come first, or our people on the ground are really important. I think we actually have to design our organizations, and systems, and structures, and policies from a place of respect, which means complete inclusion.

Alex: I love what you said about it being mindsets not needing to be huge, because I could feel, internally, that was clearly an assumption that I had – Well, a mindset change doesn't have to be like. Let's go change everything about how we're thinking about everything. I think even internally, I definitely had that assumption. But I love the idea also about system building. There are people who have built the system. And there's the kind of purposeful creation of how we want to interact, and who has say in both creating that and then continuing that, which is very much how a lot of culture works out, a lot of organizational culture works. So I'm curious, from your perspective, times you've seen either well-built on respect, or cultures that are doing well with that, or something that is not built on respect, maybe just different instances either way.

Duncan: I think that the examples of culture that does not work well are many, but that's partly why we're all here, right? And we want to share the importance of putting the emphasis on human. And I like to say that, with any change, capacity building that I do with people or with organizations, that, for me, I put the emphasis on people. That people are the heart of an organization. That a team is a series of relationships. An organization is a series of teams. That when you distill it all down, it's about people, and it's about how they interact with one another, and how they connect with one another. And can they be their best? We talk about authentic selves, being able to bring your best to work, your full self to work. All of these kinds of things have this underpinning of the assumption that everybody's being respected, that everybody's being included, that everybody can be safe, to be authentic. 

Let me put that aside and come back to your question, which is about example. So I think that an example of instances where there's been a lot of respect is where companies around this whole issue of what does work look like going forward? How do we design systems that are flexible for people that allow people to make choices from a place of trust, from a place of “we value you”, and the focus is on the work that is being produced or performed, as opposed to where the work is being done. And so I think companies that have done that are companies that are going to be leading going forward. And on the other side companies that are really struggling with that.

I'm in France. I can tell you that there are traditional French global companies that have been able to circumvent what was a government directive to have folks working from home and insist that people be working in the office. And during a time when there was really high anxiety, France being a country that has a lot of privilege in terms of health care systems and access to ICUs, to all of the – It's a first-world country. I mean, there are lots of countries in the world that don't have that privilege. And even still, there were companies that were insisting on people coming into the office under those conditions. And there are a myriad of reasons for why. But a lot of that had to do with old ideas about command and control. That if I don't see people, they're not working, that I can't trust my people. And those companies are dealing with huge recruitment issues now. 

And I work with people who are struggling with making a change. There are a whole bunch of studies that are current as we make this recording that talk about the great resignation was one of the hashtags I saw. Or the turnover tsunami, and there's – I mean, we're laughing. Why are you laughing? 

Cristina: Because it's true. 

Duncan: Because it's true.

Cristina: Because there's so many surveys out there and data that shows that, I don't know, it's anywhere between, depending on who's the survey giver and when you read it, anywhere between 30% and 70% of people have responded that they will find a new job if they're forced to go back into the office five days a week, or not included in the conversation of what the return to work is, which to us, it's a big thing, especially coming from the people side of change and of consulting, all it takes is including the people. It's not about doing exactly what they want. It's just about having the respect to know that because it's their life, and it's their work, and it's their time on the planet, that you're asking them to sacrifice for your company that they should be included in the conversation.

Duncan: Yeah, exactly. I mean, that's fundamentally the core of it, isn't it? That as people are, I'm going to say a little dramatically, crying out for respect around this, that is still something that Tim Cook decides which days. So it may change by the time this is aired later, but Tuesday, Wednesday – 

Cristina: Oh, I’m sure it will.

Duncan: I don't know, Monday, Tuesday and Thursday, or whatever, whatever it was that was decreed. And, yeah, there's a Microsoft study that says 40% of people. What I see is that, in addition to that, is that it's one thing for people to say, “I'm so fed up. I feel so disrespected. I feel so not listened to that I am –” And this is the thing that I actually feel emotional about this. That after everything that people have gone through, after everything that should have been learned about the importance of respect and the importance of putting people first, that people are the heart of the organization. Treat your people well, and you take care of your employee engagement, your employee experience. You don't have a recruitment problem, because your brand is known for being a great place to work, etc., etc., etc., turnover, all of that stuff. Huge, huge cost, to recruit and train new people. 

And the reality though is that there are many, many more people who are responding to those surveys and saying, “I'm so fed up, I'm thinking about it. I'm so fed up, I'm planning it,” right? What's the percentage of people who are able to actually enact that change? And I would suggest that it's a lot less than those big numbers that we're seeing, like the 40% globally, according to Microsoft, for example, or the 60% or something from Bloomberg. There has been a bunch of them. They all have the same outcome, right? The significant number, the majority in some cases. So that's the part that hurts, to me. That's the part that really – In French we say it's like a kick to the heart, because those people – And I coach some of them, that there's all sorts of – There's so many challenges to changing. They may not be able to. They may have financial obligations. They may be stuck in some ways that prevent them from having the confidence to make that move. There's a whole range of things that could be present for people around making a change. And there's this ambivalence back and forth, and then something shiny is dangled in front of them to make them stay. That we have a huge problem, collectively, we have a huge problem, because all of these percentages of these surveys, if it’s just one, we could dismiss it. But these surveys have been replicated, and we know it from our work. And we feel it also.

Cristina: What's heartbreaking about it is the fact that, while I agree, that the people that will actually leave are much lower percentage than the people that are saying they would. However, even before the pandemic, some of the work on the surveys and on the statistics on employee engagement shows that there's passive leaving. There's being disengaged while being there. So, yes, you pay my paycheck. And I'm sitting here in the little chair that you want me to sit in so you can look at the back of my head all day long. And I'm doing nothing. I'm not productive. I'm not engaged. I don't solve problems. I don't innovate. I don't do teamwork, at least not at the level that I would like to be. So it's anywhere between I'll give 5% if that gets me by. I’ll give 50 if that gets me by. But that's the crime that I see, is that, again, it's back to this, it’s people's lives. People don't want to go to work and give 5% of what they can. Most people don't. They want to be able to give 100% or 200%. 

And so, yeah, you may have bodies, but they are bodies. You get huge lack of productivity. You get mistakes. When you look at the statistics of anywhere between 80% to 85% of people are somewhat disengaged at work, think of going into the ER for heart surgery, and you look around and 85% of the people around you are disengaged? Come on.

Alex: And then you can get that percentage that's not only disengaged, they eventually become detractors, right? It’s not just less productivity than could be. It's starting to negatively affect either other people on the team or it's starting to pull from the whole attitude. And actually I live – Duncan, you're talking about earlier change capacity in this regard. How much are people able to change? How many of that 60% are able to deliver on their hope that they would want to leave? Change capacity as a huge portion of that. And you even mentioned confidence in that portion, which brings up this other interesting aspect of respect we haven't discussed yet, which is self-respect, right? How much do you value your own time and confidence in this? So I wonder if you have just thoughts on the self-respect portion of this.

Duncan: Yeah, I do. I do. Because I think that it all starts with us. I think that it starts with our own self-awareness, our own self-care, our own self-respect. And that is like everything. I often make references to ecosystems, because I really think that nature gives us a lot of really vital ways of understanding the world. And I've also been privileged to have been exposed to indigenous cultures and ways of looking at the world which are different from the sort of White European way of looking at the world, which are very much more in alignment with the ecosystem and the environment. 

And I think that, while it starts with us, and a lot of my coaching experience over the years has been, in fact, working on that element of it. But it is in many ways influenced by the ecosystem that someone exists in. And we can talk about burnout and toxic work culture. But we can also talk about systemic racism. We can talk about trauma. We can talk about homophobia. We can talk about any number of things that people have experienced that influence how they think about themselves. 

So, a personal example of that is I identify as gay and I grew up gay in a straight world, and I experienced bullying and assault. And I learned that it wasn't safe for me to be my authentic self. And there are ways in which I learned that I wasn't okay as I was. And that at that time, it was illegal, homosexual acts were illegal, and it was a psychotic illness. So I'm dating myself a little bit. This is in the North American context, by the way. 

So that meant that I was trying to come to terms with my sexuality before 1991 when those things changed in Canada, where I was living at the time. So what can happen, what happened for me was that there are ways in which I didn't and couldn't respect myself, because I had been conditioned to believe that who I was wasn't good enough. So there were all sorts of things. There were eating disorders. There was drug abuse. And there was mental health issues that came from that. And it’s a long list. 

And so a lot of the understanding that I have of even as a white male with all the privilege that that entails, a lot of my understanding and empathy comes from working with people. And part of my background is working in the social service sector with people who are really having significant challenges, socio economic, poverty, addiction, mental health, all those sorts of things. I see the world through that lens. I see that world through that lens of being other. And the journey, my own journey, over several decades of self-respect has informed my understanding of what that struggle can be like for others. And I think that that is a really important piece, that if we're sitting in privilege, we don't necessarily get, and it's hard for us to get, because we haven't lived it. And we're part of the system that designed it – We were included. We were respected in designing the system. But everybody needs to be included in designing the system, and the policies, etc., etc. And that's my vision of the world as a place where everyone is included at the table, where everyone is equally valued, and everybody is equally respected. And that is not the reality, and it is the exception, to be frank. It's the exception. 

And so the self-respect piece – And this ties into resilience. So there's sort of this thing against a sort of backlash about resilience and people saying, “Well, enough of this. I'm tired of being told I need to be resilient. Why do kids have to be resilient? Why is it always on me?” It's the system that's oppressing me. And you don't understand that if you're not being oppressed. If you're not outside of it trying to get in. Like, “I'm here. I don't want to be,” to your point earlier, Cristina, “I love to work. That gives me meaning that gives me purpose. That gives me joy, perhaps, but certainly it gives me energy. It gives me life.” 

And so self-respect, it starts with us, and we exist in a culture, in an environment, we have our own history, our own story about ourselves. And we can change our story, by the way. We can't change our history, but we can change our story. And sometimes we really need extra support, extra – I needed it. People told me, you have something valuable to contribute. And I needed to hear that at the beginning so that I could find my voice. And we talk about all people really want is a level playing field. That's what Black Lives Matter was about. It was, “Let me in. I'm excluded right now. There's a whole series of systems that actually are designed to oppress me. I don't want special favors. I just want a level playing field so that I can be my best self.”

Alex: I like how you defined both in being included at the table and that idea of being on the outside is, for one – I mean, we talk about a lot of conversations. If we want everybody at the tables, we can have a little bit more – Everybody has their viewpoint more expressed. And I like how you said it, because it made me think of how these systems are created. You were saying that, as white men, you end up being part of – essentially, you were respected in the decision making. I liked how you put that. Like you were respected in the – and Europeans were respected in the creation of the systems that were in place. So it becomes an interesting way of thinking about how to include other voices, because it's more about respecting the other viewpoints.  You will not get there if you don't know the other viewpoints, which is why it's important, usually physically, to have those represented at the table. But in a larger context, when that system grows and other people become part of it and they weren't part of originating it, how do you make sure that allows for more people to be in there and if you can respect the viewpoints and respect what will be necessary for that person to be able to flourish, be able to actually like express and feel comfortable.

Duncan: And to make that real concrete, that means like mixing it up, like consciously mixing it up. And that means working through the tough stuff. Because anybody that says that, “Well, it's just about having people at the table. And that's the end of it.” No. That's the beginning of it. That's the beginning of it, because there's all sorts of stuff that you have to figure out, and you have to figure it out together. And the only way to get through that is respectfully. 

So just to give you a little story, I can make this very concrete. I did an international – I had the honor. I’m privileged of doing an international MBA program that was sponsored by the French government. And it was the only way I could really afford it. And so that brought together people from all over the world here in Paris. And so I thought I knew a lot about diversity inclusion, because I was doing this community health work in the City of Toronto, which is considered one of the most multiracial, multicultural cities in the world. So I arrived into this program, and it's all very – at the beginning, everybody's like, “Yeah, yeah, we're all going to work together, and we're all going to –” And that's the first week. And then very quickly, these sort of like cliques form, like the French people just want to work with the French people. And you notice that the folks from North Africa kind of get left out. There you see the colonial stuff being played out. And you can see the racial stuff being played out. 

And all the while there's this encouragement, “Well, I'm not making a judgement here. I understand the challenge because I was in one team project where I was working with someone from Iran, someone from Sri Lanka, someone from Romania.” This was one woman, three guys. So I'm trying to facilitate, because I have some experience with this. I'm trying to facilitate inclusion particularly of the woman from Sri Lanka, who was very passive and needed space and encouragement. Always had something really valuable to say, but would not speak up unless she was given conscious space to do so. And we discovered that we all had different – not just different values, but different ideas about ethics. And that was a major challenge to work through as a team to deliver a group paper that we could all feel comfortable, to put our names to, and to meet the deadlines, and all the other real world things that are imposed, because we all have deadlines. We all have stuff that has to be done, quick turnover. How do we work together? So just to say that there's this real sort of in the trenches kind of experience that we can talk about it from a distance. But in reality, the only thing that will get you through, I think, is to really have respect for each other's opinion and to seek common ground. And the common ground can't just be, “I don't care what you think. We have to meet the deadline.” It's, “I do care what you think. And we're going to make the deadline. And we're going to have,” as you were saying earlier, Cristina, “more innovation. We're going to be more creative when we can open our minds to that reality.” And we can't just sort of pour a pink paint over, or any color paint, it doesn’t matter, but pink, or rose colored glasses, or whatever over diversity, equity and inclusion and say, “That's why a lot of diversity, equity and inclusion initiatives don't work. They're a colossal failure, because they don't get to the heart of it. And they're not consistent, and they're not ongoing. And they have to be every day, all the time, everywhere in the organization.”

Alex: I really like that example of that woman from Sri Lanka, because it also ties back to your story of finding your self-respect. There is that necessity of somebody else is essentially reaching out to create the space, to create the support, to create some validation that we want your voice here. And I think, to your point about like the DE&I initiatives not working, everybody goes in with this idea of like, “Well, how do we get it right? How do we get DEI right? What do I do to make this correct?” And what if the answer is, at least at the baseline, being conscious of making the space for other people to essentially get it right for you? What if you gave the space for people to give the contributions you need, and that will be an ongoing forever process? Instead of being like, “Look, we don't feel DEI right now. But we'll flip this switch somehow that like, yeah, it was off then. It's on now.” It's a process and a journey.


Duncan: Yeah, and it's not an afterthought. It's those voices, the people that – And part of this is personality too, right? But it's also culture. I mean, if you're a woman in a culture where you are taught to be submissive, that men always speak first. Or if you're in a Chinese culture, where you need to be named before you will speak, we need to put those voices first. Not as, “Oh, well, we've gone around the room and we realized those two or three people haven't spoken. So we'll create space for them now.” We need to put those voices first, because it's the voices that go first and the people that talk loudest, again, start setting the framework for everything that follows. And it makes it harder for people to contribute. 

I remember this is my own dinner table, frankly. Not happy memories, like everybody else. And then I'm like, “I'm over here.” And there's something very powerful for men, if I can say this, to turn to a woman, for example, as I did, and say her name. And I'm curious what you think about this. Where do you think would be a good starting point for us? I mean, it doesn't take everybody. That's modeling. That's sharing privilege. That's recognizing that that's something that I can do, and that I want to do, quite frankly.


Cristina: It does take awareness that there needs to be inclusion and there isn't. And it's not just on her to speak up and get louder so that we can turn around. I mean, having been a woman in the consulting and tech industry, and very often the only woman in the room. It's like, “Yes, I can get loud all day long.” And the rooms that I've stayed in are the ones where I don't have to get loud, because there are individuals like you that actually asked for my opinion, first, or second, or at all. And then I've been in rooms where I'm on the outside and I keep knocking and trying to get into the inside, and I keep walking into the swamp of fear that just because I want to be in the inside, it doesn’t mean that I'm going to kick somebody out. “I'm not trying to kick anyone out. Because I know what it's like to be on the outside.” There's room for everybody. It's not a finite space. But there's such a big treatment that's a finite space. If I let you in, it means I'm going to get kicked out or somebody else is going to get kicked out. So you know what? Stay quiet in your corner. Let's prohibit you from talking to people. Let's exclude you from meetings. Let's put you on the outside. And then we'll call you when we need you.


Duncan: Yeah, exactly. And also, I mean, it's not even just being able to speak, and being encouraged to speak, and given the space to speak, and being listened to. You guys talk about this a lot. And it's also the follow-up that happens. So if we were doing it, Cristina, and we were having a meeting, the three of us, and I asked you, and you said, “I think this and this and this.” Then if we were doing this, the three of us would be easy with Alex and I. But, I mean, then we would have to follow-up on what you had said. Not contradict you. Not dismiss you. Not just move on with our agenda regardless.


Cristina: Not have a side conversation while I'm talking,


Duncan: No. But, I mean, it's that you set the tone for what follows. And then our role from a respectful place is to add on to that. What I like about that is – That's a great exercise by the way. What I like about that is – So you pull something from what someone has said. And you might disagree with another part of it. That doesn't matter. You focus on what you like about what they said and then you build on that. And you model that in a room, and the room will change. It might not change in one meeting. But in my experience, and the experience of people who have tried this, it changes. And it changes having leadership who are confident enough in themselves to trust that they don't have to control that.


Cristina: And that's rare, or more rare than –


Duncan: It is rare. 


Cristina: More rare than I wish it were. 


Duncan: But have you experienced that? Where you’ve have been able to lead something? 


Cristina: Yes, I have. And we've talked about it on the podcast a few times. But Alex and I had a common manager who was great at that. And he allowed me to actually grow in my career that I hadn't planned on being a career sort of as a project. And I remember whenever – because I was, again, the only woman in a room full of white men in the tech world. And I didn't speak the tech as they did, because I spoke the people side of things. I kept bringing – He was very good at including me. He was very good at giving me the space to speak and be listened to and then follow-up. And when I was still building that confidence of, “Why am I here, Joe?” I like still feel very much in the minority of people are looking at me like I don't belong. He would tell me, “It's because you have a perspective that none of us have. We need you here every time. And I need you to be speaking up. And I will make sure that you do every time.” 


Duncan: And how does that feel? 


Cristina: It changed my life, honestly. It changed the view of myself. It changed what I thought I could do in my job, in my career. I went from, “I'll just get a paycheck and whatever, something, for the rest of my life.” To like, “Oh, wait. No. I actually can contribute. My life has meaning now, because I'm not crazy, and I'm not dumb, and I actually have value.”


Duncan: So those things are all huge. And that's exactly what happens when people are valued, and respected, and included. And the thing that you spoke about earlier in terms of what breaks your heart, and what also breaks mine, is that we have so much potential, human potential, that isn't given an environment in which it can thrive. And just getting by is sometimes that's in certain situations. Sometimes that's – We've all been there. Sometimes that's all we can muster. And that is significant. But, ultimately, we want to be thriving. We want to be bringing our full selves to work. We want to be able to contribute. And that confidence, the meaning that you talked about, that's where we’re energized, right? That's life giving as opposed to life draining. 

And one of the measures of whether we're feeling respected or not is are we getting energy from this relationship, or this project, or this team, or this boss or this organization? Or are we feeling drained by it? And a lot of people – I mean, I guess people come for coaching often because they're feeling stuck, they're feeling drained, they're feeling drained. I mean, the pandemic has already been hard for people in different ways. And there's an expectation of respect. And there's an expectation of I need you to consider my purpose and meaning, because it's actually more important for me now than it was before.


Alex: That really influences the amount of change capacity you have if you have the energy to do things, and if you have been respected on that. I just loved what you said about human potential, both just about unlocking that base level of human potential, because even if you don't feel the empathy of wanting to have people have the space, just the massive potential left on the table of what can be done and what we can grow and what we can create when we have those spaces is – It's hard to fathom how much we leave on the table.


Cristina: It is. We don't even know how much potential we have.


Duncan: And we all know. I mean, whether we’re actively involved in working on, I mean, directly, I think we all have a role to play with the climate crisis, that we all know we're in trouble. We all know somewhere in the back of our mind, or in the front of our mind, that Mother Earth is dying, that the extraction model is clearly showing signs of extreme wear and tear. And with species extinction, with ecosystem extinction, with biodiversity loss, with the amount of plastic that's showing up even in fetuses, it's past time to wake up. And the only way that we're going to get there, I believe, in terms of there are solutions there already. They just need scaling. They need mobilizing. They need energy. They need financing. And we need more innovation. And we need more reinvention. And we need more – The planet is in trouble. And this is the time to really unlock the human potential so that we can solve these problems. Our very survival depends on it. I know that sounds dramatic, but I believe we're in a very dramatic place right now.


Alex: It takes your metaphor of an ecosystem. And both it's very accurate and is no longer a metaphor at that point. It is the ecosystem of the world at that point. It's not just that there's plastic in the ocean. Is that that has impacts on how much carbon is absorbed. How much – There are thousands of different other ancillary impacts of any one of these things that we like to, I think, in public discourse separate ourselves from as we focus on one portion of it. But it is super connected. And if we do want to address something much larger, we do have to access that human potential. We have to get to those wildly creative, connected solutions that have much broader scope and understanding.


Duncan: Absolutely. Absolutely. I totally agree, Alex. And I think that we're a species that is able to self-destruct. 


Cristina: We’re doing a good job at that.


Duncan: We’re doing the job. And we seem to have discovered that capability. But the good news, like everything, is that we can also direct towards saving ourselves. And the question is, “Will we?”


Cristina: That is the question. Probably through a lot of suffering still, but hopefully we'll get there. Yeah, or going to be –  


Duncan: Suffering is definitely part of the reality. There's no question. And so this sort of ties into respect, it ties into resilience capacity, which I define as resilience as the capacity to change within a system, and certainly, our ability to change. It's worth pointing out that not everything is bad. Not everything is – Not all hope is lost. Clearly, there are amazing things happening every day. We can look to the example of what happened with the development of the COVID-19 vaccine as an example of an extraordinary scientific achievement. Eight months, remarkable. Never happened before in the history of mankind. We can do it. The only way that we're going to be able to do that is to all of us really develop our capacity, I think, to reinvent. And reinvention is interesting, because reinvention takes what is already our strengths. What we already do well. This is really, really important when we live in uncertainty, because people get afraid of change, and some people want to hold on, right? “I don't want to change. Like I've had too much change already. Don't tell me I have to change more.” Or then there are other people that want to go back to some fantasy, like Back to the Future. And I understand that too, because that's rooted in fear. There's so much going on. They might not say exponential change, but that's the reality we're living in. It's overwhelming for me, I don't know how to process it. 

I wanted things to go back the way they were, or I want things to stay the same. And neither of those is an option, because what was the same when I said it a second ago is already different. So we live in exponential change. And we are not designed for it. We're trying to talk about mindset. If we want to talk about our physical bodies, and speaking specifically of the stress response. Meaning, we weren't designed to be in stress all the time. We just weren't. That was fight or fight. So we have all of this going on. And people are overwhelmed. And part of what I love about reinvention, which is something that I decided to become a certified practitioner of. And it's both personal and for organizations, mostly business, but not only. Is that with reinvention, you really focus on what do we do well? What are our core strengths? Where is our success been? What is the things that – And the same thing, personally. So if we don't know what's around that next corner, right? We can't see that yet. But what are we taking with us when we get there? Or when it comes to us, or however it works, but what are the things that we can rely on? What are our core strengths? What are our things that we can rely on? 

Well, one of the things is our values. What do we stand for? What really matters to us? It could be our family. It could be I'm committed to social justice. I'm anti-racist. That's a declaration. My mission is to help people adapt to change. So that's my joy. And that's the fundamental lens through which I look at all of my work. These things give us a way to screen, all of the noise, our values, our strengths, and those are the things we take with us as we meet the next challenge. And reinvention is a whole system's approach to anticipating change, designing change, implementing change. And I think it's a systems approach that we need for ourselves, because we are holistic ecosystems in and of ourselves. And the good news there is that, if I start my day, if I do mindfulness practice in the morning, if I do a bit of stretching in the morning – That's was part of my morning today. That's part of my morning routine. I don't do it every day, but on the days when I do it, everything else works better. I make an intervention in one of those areas, meaning physically, mentally, emotionally or spiritually, then I am creating a positive spiral of self-respect and self-care that will help me be more of who I am meant to be, which is to help other people increase their change capacity. So it doesn't really matter what we do. We all have interests and passions, but it does very much matter that we are all engaged in a process of self-awareness, and self-discovery, and self-care. 

I will say, well-being for well doing. Whatever our well doing is in the world, we need to be able to show up for other people, whether it's our kids, whether it's our friends, whether it's our family, whether it's our clients, whether it's our work, our organization, our community, whatever it is. That's a responsibility, I believe, that we all have. And the benefit of acting on that responsibility, taking that seriously. And it's hard to change habits. Like I said, it is not about perfection. It's about doing the best we can each day. And even if we don't do the best, that's okay too. That's also part of being respectful to self, is like saying, “Well –” Because doing your best can be a bit of a tyranny also. It's okay. It's okay, Duncan, if you didn't do your best today. Tomorrow's a new day, and off you go. So that's what I try and impart to everyone in terms of encouragement. And we’re all needed. This is such a critical urgent time. And we need to make the best we can in terms of making our contribution, and sometimes insisting. When we know who we are and what we're here for, then that imperative is – We have to. I don't know about you guys. But that's how I feel. I feel like it's taken me a long time, relatively. It's taken as long as it needed to take. But it's so clear now. It's so clear now that I cannot not do it.


Cristina: I wholly agree with that. I love well-being for well doing. That's a great way to look at it. Because we are part of the ecosystem, that it's not just about others. It's about us, as part of the others, as part of everything. And I know you've touched on it in many ways and in many definitions. One of the things that we'd like to ask our guests is what your definition of authenticity is.


Duncan: Authenticity is being the best version of you. Be more of who you are to ultimately be fully who you are. And that's the journey, I think, of life. I don't think that it is a fixed status. I don't think – I don't know. Maybe. Maybe you graduate at some moment and you reach complete authenticity. But I just feel like I'm a work in progress. And my goal is to be more of who I am, to bring more of who I am, to fulfill my meaning. And that is authentic.


Alex: That's a great way of putting it. I love the journey version of it. And it plugs in well to our final question for you here, which is how do people find you and what's the work you're doing? I bring that up, because I know one of the things you're doing is the Be More You initiative. 


Duncan: Yeah. So Be More You is the company that I have that provides services for coaching and consulting, as well as communications, but mostly focusing on coaching. The best way to reach me is probably through LinkedIn. There's also a website, which is called And focuses on my diversity, equity and inclusion work. Either way, it'll get to me. I love having people connect. I use LinkedIn a lot. That's where we connected. And I love connecting with people on LinkedIn. I love the whole experience of discovering other people through that particular channel. I also have a Facebook social that is more personal and is more focused on some of my spiritual practices and hobbies and interests, like how we use public space and urban design and things like that. But for this work, the best way to reach me is LinkedIn.


Alex: That's fantastic. Thank you so much for joining, Duncan. This is a super interesting conversation about respect in so many different aspects of it. Thank you so much for just putting so much thought into this and for joining us.


Duncan: You're welcome. It was my pleasure. And it's all free flow. I'm just showing up. So happy to show up and be part of your podcast and it's a great initiative. And I'm grateful and honored to be part of it. So thank you.


Alex: And thank you everybody for listening.


Cristina: Thank you, everyone. 


Duncan: Thank you, everyone. 




Cristina: Thank you for listening to Uncover the Human, a Siamo podcast. 


Alex: Special thanks to our podcast operations wizard, Jake Lara; and our score creator, Rachel Sherwood. 


Cristina: If you have enjoyed this episode, please share, review and subscribe. You can find our episodes wherever you listen to podcasts. 


Alex: We would love to hear from you with feedback, topic ideas or questions. You can reach us at podcast, or at our website,, LinkedIn, Instagram or Facebook. We Are Siamo is spelled W-E A-R-E S-I-A-M-O.


Cristina: Until next time, listen to yourself, listen to others and always uncover the human.



Duncan MacLachlanProfile Photo

Duncan MacLachlan

Chief Reinvention Officer | DEI and Resilience Expert | Change Capacity Leader

Duncan MacLachlan helps people and organizations build change capacity. For adaptation. For resilience. For reinvention.

Duncan guides people, teams and organizations to be their best through collaborative strength-based appreciative approaches that produce healthy, high performing cultures.
Duncan believes that people are the heart of every organization and every change effort. He is an expert in Diversity, Equity & Inclusion (DEI) and belonging. He promotes well being for well doing.

Duncan knows the power of mentorship and sharing knowledge across generations. He is a mentor to young people in Uganda, the Philippines and India.

He believes in contributing leadership and sharing privilege. He volunteers on advisory boards including Reinvention Canada and the African Center for Diversity and Inclusion.

Duncan is the founder of BeMoreU providing coaching, consulting and communication services. He is the co-founder of The Reinvention Collective - an international group of “change advisors for a new era” launching in 2021. His forthcoming book, “Resilience to Reinvention” will be published in 2022.