It’s easy to declare that you want your organisation to be more inclusive, but the reality of putting that into practice is often harder than expected. For many, simply knowing where to start can be a challenge.
Former soldier Ian Rand is Barclays' business banking CEO and chair of its diversity and inclusion council. His efforts to make the bank more inclusive earned him a place as one of Management Today’s Agents of Change 2018, but it didn’t come easy.
When I first moved to banking, I quickly realised that whilst I may have regarded myself as a good leader, I fundamentally didn't have the right tools to deal with some of the situations I found myself in.
Within a few months of landing at JP Morgan a colleague came in and asked for my support in coming out at work. I didn't know what he meant. Why would I? I certainly didn't know what I was supposed to do.
The same thing happened when it came gender. I had been a leader for twelve years, but had never had a conversation with a women who was telling me the wonderful news that she was about to have a baby - so I learnt to have those conversations because I had to learn.
I realised that around me there were a lot of white, middle-aged, straight managers who were also on that journey but were scared to talk about it; but I wasn't.
One of the great things the military does teach you is if you don't know what to do, ask.
So I found myself having very open conversations. The women I was working with were incredibly helpful at taking me on that journey.
The thing that has had the biggest impact on my leadership style has been having really strong women around me, whom I have both given licence to, but have been willing to come to me after a meeting and say ‘that maybe could have been said differently’.
That has helped me make that journey and it is a message that needs to get out. I’ve also learned to appreciate quietly spoken people way more - because you don't get a lot of them in the army - and that probably took me a couple of years to recognise the power of a quietly spoken word.
I may not still always get that right, but it is something you become much more consciously aware of knowing that that is a change you constantly have to keep making.
Leadership is hard and we don't often admit that and say it enough. You can go on all the formal coaching courses and watch all the YouTube videos you like, but the best thing to have is someone come up to you and say 'that was good but that could be better'.
Don’t expect to have all of the answers -- Being the CEO does not make you an authority on everything. Make use of others’ insights and experiences.
Don’t be afraid to have ‘awkward’ conversations -- Having a difficult conversation - and learning from it - is far better than not having it all.
Appreciate quietly spoken people -- Those with the loudest voices don’t always have the best ideas.
FOR MORE INFORMATION
For the full interview with Ian Rand, detailing his approach to leadership and the future of business banking, read this profile. This article explores why Britain needs to rethink its approach to inclusion, and this piece provides practical tips on how to manage diverse teams.
Is there a particular challenge or business topic you'd like us to explore? Email me at Stephen.Jones@haymarket.com
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