Today HULT Business School Alumni Day earmarked their celebrations with a powerful theme - the year of resilience. I was asked to speak about Diversity and Inclusion and the call out included a whole host of things - what is my personal D&I journey moving from India to UK, how do I support the IoD - often seen as traditional while male dominated environment, new emerging concepts on how D&I and more. A lot of what I had to say was from my learnings till date - many of which are live concepts and practises at and with the IoD. Here are excerpts on the conversation and some Qs that came my way.
The Year of Resilience
Two years ago I wrote a book which was around nine levers to master the art and science in an unpredictable era - I did not and nor did many envision 2020 and the chaos that impacted us with the pandemic. It has disrupted lives, businesses, families, our ways of working and so much more. The fact remains it has not gone away - we are within the realms of denial and acceptance getting ready for continued disruption underlined with an unknown future. As if this was not enough, there have been other block buster events and changes taking place which is adding to the need for all of us to be more resilient. Let me pull out a few to make the point and put it to perspective - the #BlackLiveMatter movement has had a ripple effect around the world arousing communities to rethink how to progress on an age old deeply embedded challenge; the climate crisis has raised its head with fires, storms, droughts and warning spikes that suggests we are doing too little too late; the civil unrest learning through very social fabric of countries; the shift in economic power; changing business models; digital acceleration and you begin to notice that these are no longer isolated. As if in a perfect storm all of them are feeding off each other, acting as a catalyst to each other and resulting in chronic unpredictability, unrest and disruption.
Benefits of D&I leaders, teams and businesses
Since I moved to UK in 2005 to lead on the Global Diversity campaign for AVIVA I have been a student, practitioner and consultant on this topic. Whilst there has been some progress on the D&I landscape it has not changed dramatically and therein lies the opportunity. Why? Because D&I as a concept has the power to create leaders, teams and communities that are resilient. Look at the accompanying slide and it will be clear - all of these you might have heard of before, discussed it before, even worked on D&I strategies and initiatives that espoused these benefits. But for a moment I invite you to pause, re-read the benefits and you will begin to see the picture that I am seeing - embedding D&I can directly (not indirectly) embed resilience. The question is what is the shortest way for us to re-galvanise, re-focus, re-energise our D&I efforts so we can experience these benefits. Let me begin with the leader.
The resilient ‘entrepreneur’
When I worked with as a global business HR partner from Aviva in the late 2000s our Talent agenda raised the volume on how the employee is as responsible for their development as the employer. Staying with that thread and the world we live in - every person is a leader - not just the ones who have titles. It is the first fact that I establish in by book. In the year of resilience organisations whether they are SMEs or large corporations needs to think in this manner. D&I needs to showcase the fact that organisations will be so much more powerful if we engage/ empower/ develop/respect every person as a leader. Second, the leader from this year onwards will need to develop the mindset and skills of an entrepreneur - not the 80% who fail but the 20% who come out as winners despite the odds and challenges. I have been a Corporate executive for 23 years before I became an entrepreneur. The foundation of working in a large organisation and doing an MBA is unbeatable, being an entrepreneur is a workshop of resilience. And frankly if I were to go back and do one thing differently a an HR practitioner specialising in leadership development - it would be developing the entrepreneurial abilities in leaders and if I was still as an HR practitioner, I would empower and train every young leader and high potential with these insights and skills. In fact that is one of the reasons I started work on this topic last year and co-founded the Amplenary Academy.
I share the slides of my next 5 points and end it with questions we discussed.
Embed D&I in the organisation fabric: If you have not already done so, follow the wheel of diversity to embed D&I. It encapsulates what you should do with employee processes, organisation culture, leadership behaviours, communication channels, customer facing practices, supplier checks, product design and governance models. There are many kits available - what I invite you to do is go deep and understand the nuances of D&I - the car story shows we might think we have got it but D&I is multi layered and requires us to embed focusing on depth not width. So whilst we might start with establishing the business case for D&I to make it something that makes your business resilient you need depth of each initiative.
Develop mental resilience in your employees and leadership pipeline: Applied neuroscience is the latest that gives us insights on how we can develop mental resilience. In fact this is the number 1 topic that will empower leaders to be more aware of their unconscious bias and also know how to adapt and how to recognise, accept and develop new perspectives. Because when we do we develop new perspectives which is critical to coming out a winner in today’s challenging circumstance.
Nurture and empower a diverse community: Being the acting chair to IoD’s largest branch has been a journey which started off by being an IoD member, a committee member, the membership officer, vice chair and now acting chair. Whether it has been growing the Committee membership, or launching new special interest groups, or collaborating with IoD leaders, or creating a space to welcome diverse views - all of this has been done to nurture a diverse community. What it does then is it creates to bedrock for developing creative solutions - something we agree is needed in the year of resilience. It creative capacity to withstand any shock and come out stronger.
Play to Strengths - yours and your teams: I experienced this concept 15 years ago and since then in has been my guiding light to develop my own career and to maximise the potential of those I work with and also to be a strong advocate in organisations adopting this concept to embed D&I.Lets face it, if human brain is conditioned to spot differences then lets focus on individual natural abilities and our own and sharpen them. That is the formula for a person to thrive. It is also the principle that makes sports champions winners.
Lead with values and purpose: Research has shown at times of uncertainty and deep pain the human spirit is nourished and strengthened when it focuses on living one’s values and purpose. It helps us persevere. Whilst this has remained one of the most undermined topic in the realm of talent and leadership development I am delighted to note many are beginning to ask and answer these questions which has to be centrefold in the subject of respecting and supporting each individual - the hallmark of D&I - in the bargain you develop resilience to persevere.
The questions were in-depth and a pleasure to deep dive into and review.
Our organisation gets the diversity agenda but not the inclusion agenda, what next?
What are the new trends coming up on DNI beyond age, ethnicity, gender?
How do we get the attention of senior leaders on D&I?
What do we do when a leader is putting on a front but is actually a bully?
How do we develop a business case?
I welcome those of you interested to know more about the 'how to be a resilient entrepreneurs' to join us for a free webinar being hosted by Amplenary on Sept 29 - you will need to register here.
For those of who who would like to attend IoD events please log in here. I look forward to seeing how IoD Central London can support you and your business. You can also contact me at firstname.lastname@example.org
Amplenary is a unique, 6-week online programme for ambitious professionals and entrepreneurs. Blending together areas of neuroscience, executive coaching, and personal branding for the very first time, this is a turbo-charged self-development programme unlike any other. Good news we are launching our Virtual Academy this Autumn. Sign up for our free webinars to see if this might be for you!