The final Defence Academy Masterclass of 2015 rounded off one of the most successful years for the day-long sessions with a lively discussion on inclusivity.
Speakers for the day were Dr Gillian Shapiro, who specialises in organisational development and change projects focused on inclusion and diversity; Caroline Waters OBE, the deputy chair of the Equalities and Human Rights Commission; and Mark McLane, head of global diversity and inclusion for Barclays Plc who spoke about the impact of his work at Barclays and the positive impact it has on business.
His message was simple: the fundamental principle of an inclusive environment is one of respect. A common mistake in leaders he pointed out was that they try to fix problems based on their experiences, rather than accepting that as a man they won’t understand what it is like to be a woman in a male environment, just as a woman won’t understand what it is to be a gay man.
“Accept that what the person is saying is the truth, and do something about it. Don’t try to fix them instead – they aren't broken. Likewise, recognise that what the boss does gets copied.”
Mark also spoke passionately about not being afraid to champion something you believe in because you feel that as a leader you shouldn't be seen to favour one cause over another: “At Barclays I don’t need all leaders to do everything. I need all leaders to do something.” Importantly though, leaders need to use words people understand because as soon as you spin, or words that don’t translate then “it’s over.”
This concept built on Caroline Water’s presentation that trust is the foundation which everything else is built on –and that spin is easily seen through and undermines trust. Equally, great leaders recognise they don’t need to know everything, they just need to trust (rather than second guess or micromanage) the expertise of their team. “We are all accountable for what we do and don’t do as leaders, and that requires trust,” said Caroline. “Therefore trust is the most inclusive of qualities as it transcends all differences.”
Masterclasses return in 2016 on 12 February. Look out for more details in the new year.