Shanté S Gordon of The Norfus Firm On 5 Steps We Must Take To Truly Create An Inclusive…

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Shanté S Gordon of The Norfus Firm On 5 Steps We Must Take To Truly Create An Inclusive, Representative, and Equitable Society

Foster Open Communication and Seek Feedback: Create an environment where open and honest communication is encouraged. Psychological safety starts with trust, and employees should feel comfortable sharing ideas, concerns, and feedback without fear of retribution. Be willing to adapt and make necessary changes based on their input.

As a part of my series about “How To Develop Mindfulness And Serenity During Stressful Or Uncertain Times”, I had the pleasure of interviewing Shanté S. Gordon.

Shanté S. Gordon is a Head of DEI Strategy and Wellness Facilitator at The Norfus Firm who takes a unique approach to DEI informed by her work as a Trauma-Sensitive Wellness Facilitator and Yoga Teacher. With experience working for companies like Universal Music Group and SoulCycle, Shanté merges her professional background with her highly developed understanding of energy and empathy dynamics to help businesses develop mindful DEI strategies that align with their values and corporate culture. Shanté is a co-host of the “What’s the DEIL?” podcast.

Thank you so much for doing this with us! Our readers would love to “get to know you” a bit better. Can you share with us the backstory about what brought you to your specific career path?

Thanks so much for the opportunity to connect with your readers. Let’s see, where do I start? OK, first, I work as a Diversity, Equity, and Inclusion (DEI) Strategist, Executive Coach, Trauma-Sensitive Wellness Facilitator and Yoga Teacher (RYT-500).

Regarding my background, I am a first-generation Jamaican-American, born and raised in the county of Dade (now known as Miami-Dade). I was a relatively quiet and sensitive child with a great learning capacity. Meaning, I was a big nerd, lol! Growing up, I was very much into school and the arts, particularly music and dance. I was raised in a single-parent household but had the great benefit of having immediate family nearby. My aunt moved from Jamaica to help my mother, and although she was there to care for the house, she was my primary caregiver and integral to my solid upbringing.

I was put on the gifted and talented track early on. I showed great musical talent when asked to audition for and eventually enroll in, the local elementary arts magnet school. This unique magnet school education continued through my freshman year of high school, after which our family moved to Houston, TX. Mom was in survival mode then, so there wasn’t a lot of effort put into finding an arts school in Houston for me to attend. I went to the local high school for my last two years (yes, you read that right…I skipped my sophomore year). Although I still participated in band, the music curriculum wasn’t as intense as the schools in Florida, so I lost my way musically those last two years. During this time, I questioned whether or not I had the ability to pursue music past high school. I didn’t know what I wanted to do in college, but I chose schools in or near cities with major symphony orchestras (I preferred orchestral music to band music at the time) just in case I decided to explore music as an option.

I got into and attended Northwestern University in Evanston, IL, as a biology pre-med major (I told you I was a nerd, lol). Again, I had no clue what I wanted to major in, so after two years of flailing around; my mother told me to go after something that would get me a good job (typical immigrant parent response) and suggested majoring in business. Northwestern didn’t have an undergraduate business program, so it was either majoring in Economics or transferring to the engineering school and pursuing a degree in Industrial Engineering and Management Sciences. I chose the latter, so I was transferring in as many people were transferring out of the School of Engineering. That should have been my sign, but it wasn’t because I’m a Taurus and extremely stubborn, and when I make a choice, that’s the choice (often to my dismay). All jokes aside, I made the transfer because Northwestern is expensive, and I had too many math and science credits that I didn’t want to waste.

Funny enough, it took one summer internship at Northrup Grumman, the global aerospace, defense, and security company outside Chicago, to realize that I could not be an engineer. It just wasn’t me! Fast forward to graduating from Northwestern with my engineering degree (again…stubborn) and starting my career at a supply chain company in Morton Grove, IL.

Working for a supply chain company allowed me to develop professional skills quickly as I was asked to participate in a managerial rotational program early on that exposed me to all the operational functions of the business. The last role in the rotation was working as a warehouse manager for one of the facilities in Niles, IL. That role opened my eyes to many workplace issues around gender, race, socio-economic class, and privilege that have formed the foundation for my current work as a DEI Strategist. It only took a few years of that program to realize, yet again, that I wasn’t meant to do this type of work, so I eventually left.

My heart was calling me to get back to more creative endeavors, so I worked with many artists, musicians, dancers, and actors in the underground art scene in Chicago. I was also enrolled in a dance scholarship program at one of the largest dance centers in Chicago, so I was consumed with art. I loved being in creative spaces so much that I returned to grad school and got my Master’s in Arts Management from Columbia College Chicago. My focus was on music, ultimately leading me to intern at Jive Records in New York. I loved the energy of NYC and was determined to make a way. I crashed on my sister’s couch in her tiny one-bedroom apartment in East Harlem that she shared with her boyfriend, so as you can imagine, I was highly motivated to make something happen! At the time, I was also interviewing for jobs in Chicago and was offered a full-time position with the Chicago Symphony that I eventually turned down to temp at the record label. Hey, the temp job was a step up from the unpaid internship, so I considered it a win. Through hustling and networking, I made the contacts I needed to secure a coordinator role at Island Def Jam Music Group (IDJMG). I ended up staying and growing at IDJMG for seven years. While in New York, I pursued my interests in music and modeling and had a lot of fun, but New York started to take its toll. Plus, my aunt, who raised me, was getting up there in age, and I wanted to spend as much time with her as possible.

I moved back to South Florida in March of 2012, which allowed me about 1–½ years with my aunt before she passed. For the first three years in South Florida, I worked as General Manager for an Independent Record Label, overseeing their apparel division. After over ten years in music, at this point, I was over it. While in New York, I was introduced to SoulCycle, the indoor cycling company, and became utterly obsessed. There wasn’t a location in Florida, but they had done pop-ups on Miami Beach during the high season in previous years, so I just knew it was only a matter of time before they opened a location. I’d occasionally stalk their website to see which locations were opening soon, and every time, I’d be disappointed when Miami wasn’t on the list. However, as fate would have it, I checked their website around Thanksgiving of 2014, and low and behold, they were opening a location in Coral Gables, FL, in 2015. This is it! I told myself I would work for SoulCycle, and I didn’t care if it meant starting at the front desk.

I joined the team at SoulCycle in March of 2015, three months after they opened. I loved the company and worked there until February 2019, growing from front desk staff to Field Marketing Manager. During my time there, I helped them establish three studios in the market and oversaw the promotion of their Palm Beach pop-up. In 2019, the company went through a re-org and let go of the entire field marketing team. After leaving Soul, I did a few independent marketing projects before pursuing yoga teacher training and stepping fully into the wellness space.

Between June 2019 and April 2022, I taught yoga at various studios in Miami-Dade and Broward County and coached for [Solidcore], a DC-based fitness boutique offering pilates-inspired reformer workouts. The pandemic hit, and like most people, work stopped from March until July 2020, and I didn’t know what I was going to do. Unfortunately, George Floyd was murdered on May 25, 2020, which, among many things, forced a reckoning with American businesses. My friend Natalie, who left her corporate position as Chief Diversity Officer for a major fast food brand in February of 2019, was doing independent investigations (she’s an employment lawyer) during this time. The aforementioned reckoning brought a renewed commitment to DEI, and her phone was ringing off the hook with associates and old colleagues looking for a consultant to help their companies figure out their DEI strategies. She and I had partnered on a few diversity and inclusion trainings for local non-profits, so when she started getting the phone calls, she called me, and we’ve been rocking ever since at The Norfus Firm, PLLC.

Over the last four years, I have expanded my knowledge and grown professionally in the DEI space. Additionally, I have had the great opportunity to coach senior and C-suite executives, which has led me to pursue my Certified Professional Coach certification. To top things off, I use my background in yoga and mindfulness to help provide my clients with well-rounded, people-centered solutions.

Whether helping to build inclusive workplace cultures, offering coaching sessions that lead to personal and professional growth, or helping people reconnect to themselves through yoga and movement, my approach highlights the value of applying empathy and emotional intelligence to daily life. My journey up to this point exemplifies how self-awareness, intentionality, and committed action bring about positive change and success.

Can you share the most interesting story that happened to you since you started your career?

Gosh, the most interesting thing? I’m not sure I can pick just one! I’ve lived many different lives, and my career path is quite non-traditional. If I were to limit my answer to this most current iteration of my career, moving from yoga student to yoga teacher (although I’m always a student) would be the most interesting. That transformation literally changed the trajectory of my life. I wouldn’t be where I am today had I not listened to that little voice that told me to try a class at a new studio that my friend and founder of The Norfus Firm, Natalie Norfus, encouraged me to take.

That day in June of 2019 was hectic for me, and I was going to cancel my class, but something said, “No, go,” and I’m so glad I listened! It was the best yoga studio I’d been to since I left New York in 2012. Shout out to 305 Yoga! It was a studio for everyday people, and they were teaching all aspects of yoga, not just asana or the physical aspect. The day I went was one week before they started a new yoga teacher training cohort. I always knew I would one day be a teacher, and it was just a matter of time before I began that journey. Well, the time had come. Everything in me said sign up, so I did, and the rest is history. The level of personal and spiritual growth I experienced over the last four years has catapulted me into other areas I couldn’t imagine. I am eternally grateful for the path laid out before me.

What advice would you give to other leaders about how to create a fantastic work culture?

This is an excellent question because it’s become evident that the pandemic has shifted how people show up for work, requiring leaders to seriously consider the environment they are creating. Creating a fantastic work culture fosters employee engagement, satisfaction, and productivity, but this doesn’t happen by chance. It takes a lot of intentionality and forethought to create a winning workplace culture.

Here’s some advice for leaders looking to cultivate a positive and thriving work culture:

Define and Communicate Core Values: Clearly define the core values and principles that guide your organization. Make sure every member of the team understands and embodies these values.

Lead by Example: Set the tone for the culture you want by demonstrating the values and behaviors you expect from your team. Your actions speak louder than words.

Champion Diversity, Equity, and Inclusion: Encourage diversity in all aspects of your organization, including hiring practices and decision-making. Work to remove barriers so that everyone has the opportunity to grow. Foster a culture of inclusivity where everyone feels valued and respected.

Prioritize Employee Well-Being: Show genuine concern for the well-being of your employees. This includes physical, mental, and emotional health. Support work-life balance, offer mental health resources, and encourage breaks. No one is asking you to solve all their problems, but you can create an environment that encourages employees to seek care when needed.

Promote Flexibility: Recognize that people have different work styles and preferences. Offer flexibility in work arrangements when possible, such as remote work or flexible hours.

Foster Open Communication and Seek Feedback: Create an environment where open and honest communication is encouraged. Psychological safety starts with trust, and employees should feel comfortable sharing ideas, concerns, and feedback without fear of retribution. Be willing to adapt and make necessary changes based on their input.

Empower and Trust Your Team: Delegate responsibilities and trust your employees to make decisions within their roles. Empower them to take ownership of their work and contribute to the organization’s success. Provide feedback often so employees are clear on expectations and can make appropriate decisions.

Encourage Collaboration: Foster a collaborative work environment where team members can work together, share ideas, and leverage each other’s strengths to achieve common goals. Model this in how you engage with other leaders in your organization.

Recognize and Reward Contributions: Acknowledge and appreciate the efforts and achievements of your team members. Celebrate achievements and milestones, no matter how small. Recognition and rewards can boost morale and motivation.

Invest in Professional Development and Provide a Clear Path for Advancement: Support continuous learning and growth by providing training and skill development opportunities. Offer a clear career path for employees, with opportunities for advancement and professional development within the organization. Invest in your employees’ career development and gain additional knowledge in areas of opportunity for yourself.

Learn from Failures: View failures as opportunities for learning and growth rather than setbacks. Encourage a mindset of continuous improvement and resilience. Teach your team to view challenges as opportunities for growth and development.

Maintain Transparency: Keep your team informed about the organization’s goals, challenges, and progress in appropriate ways. Transparency builds trust and a sense of shared purpose.

Remember that creating a fantastic work culture is an ongoing effort that requires consistent commitment and effort. You can create a workplace where employees thrive and contribute their best by fostering an environment where employees feel valued, supported, and empowered.

Is there a particular book that made a significant impact on you? Can you share a story or explain why it resonated with you so much?

I’d have to say “The Four Agreements” by Don Miguel Ruiz has impacted me the most because of its simplicity and transformational wisdom. It’s a really short read regarding the number of pages, and I find myself going back to it often because, as simple as the concepts are, practicing them takes real work.

As the title suggests, four main agreements exist to live a more fulfilled, authentic, and empowered life. They are (1) Be Impeccable with Your Word, (2) Don’t Take Anything Personally, (3) Don’t Make Assumptions, and (4) Always Do Your Best. Simple right? Sure, in theory, but putting these agreements into practice can be quite challenging because we come face-to-face with ourselves in ways that can be challenging to navigate.

The principles themselves are easy enough to remember, and I find that whenever I’m having a challenging experience with someone, it’s generally because I’ve run afoul of one of the agreements. For instance, I’m taking something personally when it has absolutely nothing to do with me, or maybe I really want to achieve something, but my actions aren’t matching my intentions, so I’m not honoring my word. My favorite is when I concoct a whole story about something or someone based purely on assumptions and *shockingly* get it all wrong.

Coming back to the agreements allows me to see myself in relation to others, which allows me to make better choices. It has this magical way of inspiring me to examine my beliefs and behaviors and make positive changes that lead to a life of less stress.

Ok, thank you for all that. Now let’s move to the main focus of our interview. From your experience or research, how would you define and describe the state of being mindful?

To me, being mindful is a state of conscious awareness and active presence that fosters self-awareness, empathy, and emotional intelligence. It involves a deliberate and non-judgmental focus on the current moment, encompassing one’s thoughts, emotions, bodily sensations, and immediate surroundings while freeing oneself from the distractions of past or future concerns.

This might be intuitive to you, but it will be instructive to spell this out. Can you share with our readers a few of the physical, mental, and emotional benefits of becoming mindful?

Certainly! Mindfulness can bring about many physical, mental, and emotional benefits. I will list out a few by dimension:

Physical Benefits:

Stress Reduction: Mindfulness practices, such as meditation and deep breathing, activate the body’s parasympathetic or relaxation response, which can help reduce stress levels. This, in turn, may lower blood pressure and decrease the risk of stress-related illnesses.

Improved Sleep: Mindfulness can promote better sleep by calming the mind and reducing the mental chatter that often keeps people awake at night. It can also help alleviate insomnia symptoms.

Pain Management: Mindfulness-based techniques effectively manage chronic pain conditions by changing how the brain perceives and responds to pain signals.

Enhanced Immune Function: Some research suggests that regular mindfulness can boost the immune system, making the body more resilient to illness and infection.

Mental Benefits:

Increased Focus and Concentration: Mindfulness exercises train the mind to stay present and resist distraction. This improved focus can enhance productivity and cognitive performance.

Stress Resilience: Mindfulness equips individuals with tools to cope with stress more effectively. It can reduce the impact of stressors and improve resilience, preventing the adverse effects of chronic stress.

Emotional Regulation: Mindfulness helps individuals become more aware of their emotions and develop healthier ways to respond to them. It can reduce impulsivity and enhance emotional intelligence.

Enhanced Memory: Mindfulness practices have been linked to improved working memory and cognitive flexibility, which can benefit various aspects of daily life.

Emotional Benefits:

Reduced Anxiety: Mindfulness can alleviate symptoms of anxiety disorders by promoting a sense of calm and teaching individuals to manage anxious thoughts and sensations.

Better Mood: Regular mindfulness practice is associated with improved mood and a reduced risk of depression. It encourages a positive outlook on life and a greater sense of well-being.

Increased Empathy: Mindfulness fosters empathy and compassion by encouraging individuals to be present with the emotions and experiences of themselves and others. This can lead to more satisfying and harmonious relationships.

Enhanced Self-Acceptance: Mindfulness encourages self-acceptance and self-compassion. It teaches individuals to embrace themselves as they are, which can lead to greater self-esteem and self-worth.

Greater Resilience: Mindfulness can enhance emotional resilience, helping individuals bounce back from setbacks and adversity more easily.

Improved Relationships: By promoting empathy, active listening, and non-judgmental communication, mindfulness can lead to more meaningful and harmonious relationships with others.

These benefits of mindfulness are often interrelated, and they can profoundly impact an individual’s overall well-being and quality of life. Developing a mindfulness practice, even in small ways, can positively change physical health, mental clarity, and emotional resilience.

Ok. Here is the main question of our discussion. The past 5 years have been filled with upheaval and political uncertainty. Many people have become anxious from the dramatic jolts of the news cycle. From your experience or research, what are five steps that each of us can take to develop mindfulness during such uncertain times? Can you please share a story or example for each.

It’s important to acknowledge that it is very common and, in fact, normal for people to experience anxiety from the constant barrage of information they receive, especially if they find themselves caught up in the ups and downs of the news cycle. Pulling yourself out of your stress response in these moments takes a lot of intentionality, which is where mindfulness comes in. Mindfulness involves slowing down, staying in the present moment, and applying conscious awareness to one’s self, environment, or experience without judgment. In this case, it’s getting present to, and becoming curious about, the sensations you feel whenever you consume highly charged information without judging yourself, realizing that taking in all of this information is impacting you in a way that doesn’t serve you, and then actively doing something about it.

For instance, I don’t watch much television and tend to seek information from online news sources that require me to read instead of watch something because I know I’m very sensitive to visuals.

So what can you do if you find yourself in the throes of anxiety-filled woe due to the challenging times we live in? Here are five ways in which you can develop mindfulness during uncertain times:

Start with the Breath: Take time each morning to begin your day with a few minutes of focused breathing and pay attention to the sensation of your breath as it enters and leaves your body. It’s also a good idea to pause throughout the day to breathe deeply and reset as well. For me, closing my eyes and taking one huge breath, like a 4-count inhale and slightly longer exhale, while actively dropping my shoulders does a lot to calm me and keep me grounded in the moment.

Live Mindfully: Finding time to slow down, pay attention, suspend judgment, and fully engage in whatever experience is happening in the present moment can help to keep anxiety at bay. This will be challenging at first because it’s very easy to succumb to the effects of life but doing the work to disrupt the automatic responses and behaviors and bringing yourself back to the present will eventually pay off in ways that impact your well-being. Doing this multiple times a day will help to maintain peace and tranquility.

Practice Meditation: Many people think mindfulness and meditation are the same. They are similar, but the distinction lies in the application. Mindfulness is a mental state and quality of awareness that you can apply at any moment in your daily life. At the same time, meditation is a structured practice that aims to cultivate a specific mental state (like a calm mind) or outcome (like relaxation).

Most clients working to manage their anxiety find that mindfulness meditation works well for them and often use it as a gateway to other forms of meditation. Mindfulness meditation is a practice that focuses explicitly on cultivating mindfulness. There are many ways to practice this form of meditation, from complete stillness to moving meditations. The point is to slow yourself down enough to take everything in — surroundings, sights, sounds, and sensations. How you do it is really up to you. Extending these moments to 1 minute, 5 minutes, 10 minutes, and beyond will help to ease some anxiety. If doing this for yourself is challenging, try using a guided mindfulness app or other online resource to help, especially if you are new to the practice.

Practice Gratitude: I once had a yoga teacher tell me that she noticed that when she felt overwhelmed or unsure or generally not feeling good emotionally, it usually occurred when she found herself out of her gratitude practice. She said that this practice did wonders in helping her shift her focus toward the positive aspects of life, even during times of uncertainty.

I encourage you to take a moment each day to reflect on what you are grateful for and maybe write down three things you’re thankful for, even if they seem minor. Doing this regularly helps to keep things in perspective.

Stay connected to your body: In times of stress, overwhelm, and anxiety, I tend to dissociate. Meaning I leave my body. This is a coping mechanism I’ve adopted to help me create distance between myself and stressful experiences. I don’t enjoy this state, so I work hard to engage in physical practices that help me get back into my body and move through my stress response more productively.

It’s essential to pay attention to physical sensations in your body. Stress often manifests as tension, so notice any tightness or discomfort. Engage in mindful movement practices like yoga, tai chi, or running. These activities can help you connect with your body and reduce stress.

Limit Media Consumption and Information Overload: While staying informed is important, excessive exposure to news and social media can contribute to anxiety and uncertainty. Set boundaries on your media consumption. Designate specific times to check for updates and avoid constant exposure to negative information.

Remember that developing mindfulness is an ongoing journey, and it’s okay to have moments of distraction or restlessness. Be kind to yourself and gently bring your focus back to the present whenever your mind wanders. Over time, consistent practice can help you build resilience and a greater sense of calm during uncertain times.

From your experience or research, what are five steps that each of us can take to effectively offer support to those around us who are feeling anxious? Can you explain?

I always start with shared language, so first of all, what is anxiety? According to the American Psychological Society, anxiety is an “emotion characterized by feelings of tension, worried thoughts, and physical changes like increased blood pressure.” The response is generally future-oriented and long-acting and is often associated with broad threats as opposed to present, identifiable, and specific threats.

Here are five things you can do if someone you care about is working through feelings of anxiety.

Listen Actively: Sometimes, all someone needs is a listening ear. Encourage them to share their feelings and thoughts without interruption or judgment. Let them express themselves at their own pace. Avoid giving immediate advice unless they specifically ask for it. Often, people find relief in simply being heard.

Be Empathetic: Try to put yourself in their shoes and understand what they’re going through. Show empathy by acknowledging their feelings and letting them know you care. Phrases like “That makes total sense” or “This must be really tough for you” convey your support and understanding.

Offer Reassurance: Anxiety often involves irrational fears or excessive worries. Offer reassurance by highlighting their strengths and coping abilities. Remind them of past situations where they successfully managed their anxiety. Reassure them that what they’re feeling will pass and that they are not alone in their struggle.

Suggest Professional Help: If their anxiety is severe or persistent, encourage them to seek professional assistance. Offer to help them find a therapist, counselor, or mental health specialist. Normalize the idea of seeking professional help by explaining that it’s a common and effective way to manage anxiety.

Encourage Self-Care: Encourage self-care practices that can help alleviate anxiety. Suggest activities like deep breathing exercises, meditation, physical activity, or journaling. Offer to do these activities together or provide resources to help them get started. Additionally, remind them of the importance of maintaining a balanced lifestyle, including a healthy diet and adequate sleep.

Offering support to someone with anxiety can be emotionally challenging, so taking care of yourself is important. Maintain boundaries and seek support from friends or professionals if you need it. Each person’s experience with anxiety is unique, so be flexible and adapt your approach based on the individual’s preferences and needs.

What are the best resources you would suggest for someone to learn how to be more mindful and serene in their everyday life?

Being mindful is such an important factor in stress management, so it would benefit us all to find opportunities to practice mindfulness. Mindfulness involves slowing down, staying in the present moment, and applying conscious awareness to one’s self, environment, or experience without judgment.

Books like “The Miracle of Mindfulness” by Thich Nhat Hanh, mindfulness apps like Insight Timer or the Calm app, online courses, podcasts, retreats, and/or mindful movement classes like yoga are all resources that can help someone learn how to bring more mindfulness and serenity into their day.

Can you please give us your favorite “Life Lesson Quote”? Do you have a story about how that was relevant in your life?

My favorite “Life Lesson Quote” would have to be something my aunt would say to me often when I was a child. “Shanté, you mus learn fi live good wid people” (said in her Jamaican accent).

This quote has stayed with me to this day, and I’m often reminded of it when my patience is tested.

To “live good with people” means to maintain positive and harmonious relationships with others. It involves treating people with kindness, respect, and consideration and often entails being understanding, cooperative, and empathetic. “Living good” with people means fostering a sense of community and contributing to a more pleasant and mutually supportive social environment.

This quote governs how I approach life. It reminds me that my interactions with others are a significant part of what makes life meaningful and fulfilling and that nurturing positive connections is the key to a well-lived life.

You are a person of great influence. If you could start a movement that would bring the most amount of good to the most amount of people, what would that be? You never know what your idea can trigger. 🙂

A person of great influence, huh? Well, thank you!

Let’s see. If I could start a movement that would bring the most good to the most people, I’d start a slow-flow movement. This movement would aim to create a balanced and harmonious lifestyle that promotes physical, emotional, and spiritual well-being. It would encourage people to slow down, be present, and prioritize self-care in this fast-paced modern world.

What is the best way our readers can follow you online?

You can find me on LinkedIn (, Instagram (@shantesgordon), and at

This was very meaningful, thank you so much. We wish you only continued success on your great work!

Shanté S Gordon of The Norfus Firm On 5 Steps We Must Take To Truly Create An Inclusive… was originally published in Authority Magazine on Medium, where people are continuing the conversation by highlighting and responding to this story.