Inclusive Leadership Hopes For 2019

As with all previous New Years, over the last couple of weeks I’ve been bombarded with notes, emails and social media streams talking about what is going to be different in 2019, the 'New Year New You' mantra seems to be wearing a little thin - well, it is for me anyway!I’ve also been bombarded with predictions for the coming year, how leadership will evolve, what will companies be grappling with in a post Brexit environment (who knows what will happen) and how diversity and inclusion (DE&I) will progress.

I have to be honest and say that I have become tired and disappointed in some of the predictions I have read. Many predict the obvious such as Gender Pay Gap Reporting will be high on company agenda’s in the UK. Some push that little bit further to state that some of the conversations that have been lacking, such as ethnicity and race in the workplace will take more of a prominent stage in the diversity & inclusion debate. I have yet to see an honest prediction that states ’this can be really tough work and in an ever changing environment it will be great if we continue to have the platform to discuss these issues and progress this work throughout 2019.

Somehow for me predictions just don’t cut it! So rather than predictions for the coming year, I propose that we think more about our HOPES, what we would like to say has really happened by the end of this year. I have three HOPES for the coming year:

HOPE #1 I hope that Leaders at all levels listen to the DE&I debate and respond with their actions. A key trait of an inclusive leader is to ‘listen to understand’, unfortunately I see many people ‘listening to react’. We all come to this agenda with our own view of the world, with our own reality and our own beliefs. I hope that leaders really take the time to be curious, understand others and if others experiences don’t resonate with their own view of the world don’t dismiss or assume that it’s incorrect. I hear many people state that the time for talking is over and now is the time for action – I agree – however, I wonder if we have been having the right conversations in the first place? I have first hand experience of witnessing how having the right conversation has the power to change views and opinions and therefore, actions and outcomes. Or maybe, we’ve been having the right conversations but we just haven’t been listening?

HOPE #2 I hope that companies take a calculated risk, do something different and step out of their comfort zone. Ask different questions and work on different solutions. If I had a £1 for every time I heard leaders ask ‘what are our competitors doing in this area?’ I would be very wealthy! That’s not an inappropriate question in itself; it’s the debate after that question that really shows why we are not progressing this agenda as quickly as we could. Many then decide to do roughly the same as their competitors – not taking a calculated risk, not stretching their thinking but staying more or less within the pack. New thinking really comes from taking that stretch, being a maverick, taking actions that have never been taken before and learning from them. Think of the ideas that could be generated when thinking about really pushing the agenda in a meaningful way rather than being comfortable with very small, incremental changes.

HOPE #3 I hope that companies and the people within them are more transparent and truthful about what is really happening. I was recently invited to speak to an Executive Team of a FTSE 350 company. On the face of it, how they articulated D&I on their website sounded impressive. I was looking forward to the conversation. Talking to them was a very different experience.

For 1 hour they told me all the reasons why DE&I was not for them, how it would hinder their company and why it was ‘political correctness gone mad'. This was the absolute polar opposite to their external persona. I asked them two questions…”Why did you invite me to meet you if this is your view?’ and ‘Why is your external persona so different to the internal reality?’

I would have had much more respect for that company if they had been truthful externally, been honest about why they think DE&I is not for them and stood by their honest views rather than painting a different picture on their website. Saying one thing and doing something different not only hinders but also sets this agenda back.

So, these are the hopes I have for the coming year. My commitment to these hopes is that I’ll be working closely with my clients and colleagues to bring these hopes to life. I’ll be challenging others through my speaking engagements and articles to find out where they really are on these hopes and if they can confidently say these are embedded into all they do.

I hope by the end of 2019 that I, and others, can confidently say that our hopes became a reality.