Be curious – about leadership, diversity and inclusion

How can we help leaders to work more inclusively and to develop more diverse workplaces? That was the question Jo from Animate and Oonagh from Down to Earth explored on a snowy day in February. What were the three things they identified? Read on to find out…

In our work we aspire to be better than the sum of our parts. We talk about how important it is to have different perspectives, and how we have to fight the temptation just to employ people ‘like us’.

The best teams are the ones where people with radically different views can – in a spirit of true collaboration – constructively challenge and build on one another’s ideas. We believe this, and also know how hard it is to make it real in our teams and in our own lives.

We all know that when people can bring more of who they are to their work, they are more satisfied and more fulfilled. Their organisations are also more innovative, more flexible and ultimately more productive. Are you curious about what might be possible in your organisation?

Our discussion started with the gender pay gap and where we saw that in our work, across all sectors. Will our daughters be more confident in their abilities and more willing to put themselves forward than we, our sisters and our mothers have been?

We also spoke about how energising we find all the bright, young people we know. How hard will it be for them to get their voices heard in the organisations they join?

Oonagh spoke about her experience in organisations traditionally dominated by middle class white men. Many of these are embracing younger men and women from a far wider range of backgrounds: BAME, LGBT+, and other cultures of origin. They’re doing this not just because it is the right thing to do, but because they won’t survive unless they do it.

Jo told of a friend who was lectured by her male boss on how well he listened to women. She talked of a female dominated organisation in which a man in a senior leadership role was effectively silenced by the strength of the female dominated relational culture.

We began to wonder how we, in our work with leaders in organisations, can help co-create environments that encourage, engage and value difference in all its forms. How can we help encourage people to come, give their best, and stay? How can we create a vibrancy and engagement that becomes the pulse of an organisation?

We got quite excited at the possibilities.  We also realised from our conversation that we see diversity and inclusion as an organisational culture challenge and as such a leadership challenge.

However, conversations about changing organisational culture can feel overwhelming and difficult. It can be hard to know where to begin.

So, what might leaders find valuable who want to work more inclusively, and who want to create more diverse workplaces?

We came down to three things:

  1. 1. An enhanced personal capability to explore unconscious bias. In what ways do I exclude some people and privilege others? When we recognise that we are part of something ourselves we can start to make different choices
  2. 2. An ability to get genuine feedback. We need to start the kind of conversations that prompt people around leaders and their organisations to help leaders “see ourselves as others see us.”
  3. 3. The skills that encourage honesty and contribution. Leaders need skills in running meetings in ways which encourage people to be honest about what they think. They need to listen to others, surfacing the assumptions which are often never spoken about.

It sounds simple, but lots of organisations are getting stuck because none of the above is happening.  So maybe simple – but not necessarily easy – is the best place to start.

We started putting together a leadership programme to promote inclusion and diversity – and then we stopped ourselves. Because, if we are practising what we preach, we should be doing that together with the people who want it.

Still curious? Then get in touch…

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The Big Idea … the Office is dead – or is it?

See our latest contribution to the Herald’s Business Magazine Big Idea discussion ….

The Big Idea … the Office is dead – or is it?                                     

As consultants, my partners and I are used to seeing teams clocking in for the 9-5 at the organisations we visit. We however, work virtually. We have no office; no firm base to be located and locatable in, no daily routine of coffee and chat with colleagues.

Do I miss it? No. My role means I meet a kaleidoscope of people, both those I’m working with and those who I see whilst I travel between offices and coffee shops. I feel part of what’s happening in my community, and around the UK and overseas, through my travel with work.

Being based at home means I see the local community coming and going; I know my postie and DPD delivery man. My children can pop their heads round the door on their return from school, before they delve into homework and social media. Do I get distracted by the TV and washing that needs doing? No; I’m working.

Best of all is being able to work, to really dive into and immerse myself in a project, with no interruptions. It can be incredibly efficient, which works for me and my clients. I can respond quickly, rather than someone waiting for me to be out of a routine meeting. A half-day monthly meeting with my partners is all that’s scheduled in my diary; the rest can wrap around clients’ needs.

We sometimes choose to pair up and have ‘desk days’ together: to reflect, think and write, and to pay attention to the emergent. We share a cloud computing system and the ‘bubble’ that tells you who else is working evokes a strong sense of connection and appreciation, especially at odd hours.

But recently I’ve had a fascinating glimpse back into office life. Spending two days a week, for an extended period, in a large office has highlighted some of its attractions.

I’ve realised that, when I’m in an office, I choose to walk over to people and ask them questions. I don’t email or call them, as many do, even though it’s a large open plan spread over two floors. Why? Because face to face allows so much more communication; misunderstandings can be rectified immediately, frowning or smiling noted and responded to. I’m part of a clan, a community of interest. We share snippets of our private lives, get to understand each other’s fascinations and frustrations.

Why does this matter? Because it means our work can be more productive together. I understand why someone may be withdrawn, if a family member is unwell. I can walk over to the next person in the process if my original contact doesn’t deal with that issue. I don’t have to email, or call, or make a calendar appointment, to speak to someone about something urgent.

Given this, should we focus on sustaining the daily 9-5 office life? No, I don’t think so. I wouldn’t choose it; it’s still not as efficient for me, and it’s not as diverse a life as I’m used to. Does the big office have a role in Scottish business? Yes. At least until we can teleport at will…

Read more here …  the end of office working?

Animate in the news(papers) – Are school leavers ill equipped for a life of work?

The second of our blogs for the Herald Business magazine came out in June. In it, Animate partner Jo reflected on whether our education system prepares young people for work:

It is incontrovertible that the future of work will be shaped by increasing digitalisation, artificial intelligence and robotics. There will be little need for employees to undertake repetitive work and the evolution of intelligent networked machines will increasingly impact on the service sector. These prospects are both exciting and terrifying – will they lead to more leisure time or to mass unemployment and migration?

Finland is renowned for achieving high levels of literacy and numeracy by investing in teachers (many have Masters Degrees), prioritising early childhood care, and giving schools autonomy. The curriculum additionally puts an emphasis on the arts, and outdoor activities – and has minimal homework and tests. They are changing their approach because they recognise the world is changing and they need to better equip children with the competences needed.

So where does this leave us in Scotland? The Curriculum for Excellence encourages more collaborative and project based approaches to learning but we still have a culture of training young people to pass exams. The Scottish Government has recognised attainment is slipping and that there is a widening gap between those who achieve and those who don’t. It has committed itself to delivering excellence and equity by closing the attainment gap between children living in the most and least deprived areas. There is much to be hopeful about.

The Pupil Equity Fund (PEF) is a recent innovation which the Scottish Government allocates to schools with children in P1 to S3 most affected by the poverty-related attainment gap. It gives headteachers the autonomy to respond to local needs. For the most deprived children this is a lifeline.

One of our Animate team is on the board of With Kids, a charity which provides play therapy to children aged eight to 11 and support to families in Glasgow, West Lothian and Edinburgh. With Kids has been approached by schools newly in receipt of PEF in the east end and north of Glasgow. To give these resources directly to headteachers is a bold step, and one which hopefully signifies a new level of trust in the profession’s capacity to innovate and provide the conditions that support learning and increased attainment.

You can read the full article from Herald Business magazine here

Does it matter? Decision making by people with learning disabilities

Animate partners Richard and Ian have completed research, with People First (Scotland), on the views and experiences of people who have a learning disability on decision making.

The research sought to answer the question ‘can supported decision-making for people with learning disabilities offer a practical, safe and realistic alternative to substitute decision-making?‘ Interviews with 128 people were performed by researchers who, themselves, also had a learning disability, whilst a review of relevant literature and stakeholder interviews examined the international and Scottish contexts.

The research was made possible by the Disability Research on Independent Living and Learning (DRILL) programme, which is funded by the Big Lottery.

You can download the full report here: ‘Does it matter: Decision-making by people with learning disabilities

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Merging – or integrating – health and social care

A recent Localis report ‘Rebooting Health and Social Care Integration: An agenda for more person centred care’ includes the following insight from a former Department of Health adviser:

“If you’re flying to Singapore, but have to change airlines en route, at no point does anyone suggest the airlines merge. We put the passenger in charge and the airlines build it around them.”

The report’s author acknowledges what is clearly true: ‘a patient, service user (or passenger) doesn’t care how it all works, as long it works.’

Similarly, when people expect newcomers to ‘integrate’ into a community they join, they don’t expect them to somehow combine with existing community members. Instead, they use integration to refer to people following common norms or systems.

These analogies raise an important question for health and social care integration in Scotland. Is the best approach to ‘merge’ NHS and local authority functions, or to ensure they operate in such a way that users see a seamless service?

Above all, our focus should be on ensuring health and social care integration gives the person receiving care or treatment greater independence and control.

You can read the Localis report ‘Rebooting Health and Social Care Integration: An agenda for more person centred care’ here.

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