Diversity and inclusion (or D&I) is a topic you’ve undoubtedly read about over the past couple of years. Indeed, the conversation around it has grown considerably in that time as awareness has risen. But even if D&I isn’t something you’ve actively sought to facilitate within your own company yet, don’t worry – you’re not alone.
Although more businesses have begun recognising D&I as a workplace concept, the introduction of inclusive programmes has been less than speedy as many bosses are still unclear how these should be implemented, found McKinsey. But as part of a study released last year, the consultancy firm reinforced a fact that’s come up many times: gender and ethnic diversity is directly linked to a better business performance.
Elsewhere, in addition to improved financials, PwC has noted other benefits of inclusion. They comprise a better means of recruiting staff and more internal creativity, with people from different backgrounds naturally putting forward diverse ideas and possessing unique approaches to getting things done.
Indeed, there is an increasing awareness that the value of diversity doesn’t end there. Neuro-diversity, diversity of thought and a diversity of character are hugely valuable to an organisation. Within teams it offers complementary and different ways and perspectives to approach a range of problems and opportunities.
The professional services firm surveyed leaders in charge of D&I strategies at their companies and found that an inclusive culture was more likely to be found at global businesses than regional and local counterparts. However, worldwide organisations were also considered the type of businesses with the largest diversity barriers in the place for progression. Clearly, something isn’t adding up.
Inclusion effectively means opportunities for all, whether that’s during the recruitment stage, for job progression, team-building and so on – it’s something that ensures that people are heard, valued and contributing at their best, regardless of any differences.
Seemingly the problem is that, in addition to the confusion McKinsey highlighted regarding the implementation of inclusion programmes, companies are misinterpreting both inclusivity itself and their employees.
Look at the team leaders in your organisation. How well do you really know them? Are they securing fair opportunities to develop? What sort of dialogue has there been between you regarding their performance? If your answers are “Not very”, “No” and “Very little,” a change of tact could well be in order. After all, they’re the ones leading the rest of your workers.
Only by getting to really understand your staff – who they are as people and what their strengths are, can you be inclusive. This will ensure that your people are feeling fulfilled and your organisation is getting full value from them, both individually and in terms of the contribution they’re making to their teams. You will have an organisation full of people that feel understood and playing to their strengths – a culture that’s alive and inclusive.
You can only really know your staff if they know themselves. CharacterScope has been designed to help team leaders to understand and develop themselves and their teams, allowing them to recognise their strengths and to develop the ones that will best help them succeed. It helps them build, shape and guide their teams. Indeed, it’s with this understanding that you can create a more inclusive culture. The benefits are ripe for the picking.
Picture this: Your studies are behind you, you’re now years into your career and decide to apply for a new role. When interview day finally comes around you feel like a student all over again as you’re prompted to complete a series of psychometric tests to decide your suitability for the role. This is a scenario many jobseekers – who perhaps now work for you – have found themselves in at one stage or another.
Of course, not all employers elect for psychometric testing or assessments as part of their recruitment process or even as part of general development initiatives – you may well be one of them who doesn’t. But the general idea behind these tests is that the employer and the employee, can learn a range of things about how they work that wouldn’t necessarily be revealed in a good old fashioned face-to-face interview. Needless to say, that’s a topic of much debate.
Whether your experiences of psychometrics or assessments are as part of the hiring process or even part of some one-off developmental training, in an effort to build self- awareness, there is often a feeling of confusion as to what you’re supposed to do with this information after you’ve finished. The results are filed away in a drawer or computer folder never to see the light of day again. So, what’s the purpose? After all, in terms of recruitment specifically, it’s been proven strong psychometric results won’t always translate positively to outstanding performance once someone has been employed.
How you see yourself or how others see you can lead to some hugely valuable insights and personal breakthroughs, in terms of your own performance as well with your interpersonal relationships. Making these breakthroughs stick has often been difficult in the past. They tend not to be sustained and built in to new behaviours and patterns of thinking. This is the way executives work with leadership coaches, ensuring that these realisations and valuable pieces of awareness are directly linked to structured and long-term development.
The need and demand for this sort of informed, continuous development was evidenced with a recent CV-Library study of 2,000 UK professionals. When asked what their career priorities over the next year are, the top answer at 44.6% was to learn more skills while 43.5% wanted to receive more pay.
It’s clear there’s an opportunity here. What if your organisation provided ongoing opportunities to develop new skills, but in a way that was linked directly to insights they can leverage from these assessments?
This is a movement we’re promoting with CharacterScope – the chance for your leaders and people to understand and develop themselves on an ongoing basis. We want to make this process the norm.
As a psychologist and executive coach, our founder Mark has seen first-hand the usage of psychometric tests throughout his career and knew there was a better way. The value your people can take from doing these assessments, need no longer sit locked away in a drawer.
Leadership culture is formed from the top down. Culture is effectively a self-supporting web of beliefs and behaviours. Over time these become leadership practices and eventually create an environment that attracts people who share their values. It is essential that an organisations culture aligns with their overarching business strategy: if the two are at odds, leaders at the top must recognise that change starts with them.
With a clear shared purpose, culture and values, the entire dynamics of an organisation become much more connected.
A leadership culture that drives development
Leadership development revolves around recognising and unlocking potential: identifying our natural talents, having a vision of ourselves leading, and working to turn that vision into a reality. It is rooted in the mentality that each one of us already has natural strengths of character and that becoming a good leader is driven by service in the area of those strengths.
Organisations that have a culture of leadership development use these principles to create a widespread understanding of each individuals’ value and unique contribution. This is not dependent on the time or money invested in tools: it is dependent on a culture that provides the right commitment, focus and environment.
Leadership capability needs time and space to grow and people must feel their growth is valued. They also need to be able to openly discuss and reflect on their progress and the obstacles they face and be able to experiment with new ideas. They must feel that management and their peers understand the importance of devoting time to development and have the freedom to do so.
A leadership culture that drives performance
Building a leadership culture goes beyond investing in and mentoring the next generation of high performers. Organisations that prioritise leadership development lead in attracting, retaining, and nurturing the best talent.
Top level leaders that have the self-awareness and put the time and energy into harmonising their organisational culture and their business goals create a more driven and connected organisation.
A developmental mindset empowers that talent to go beyond their comfort zone, with an awareness of their natural strengths. A culture that embeds these principles inevitably drives a company to high performance. It tends to adopt core values. It inspires employee and client engagement. It aspires to lead in its industry. It organically fosters innovation and collaboration while recognising and unlocking potential.
Imagine an organisation full of people that understand their own value, the strengths of their peers and their potential. Where every team functions at peak performance, understands the organisation’s overarching business goals and has a true sense of purpose and direction. This is the catalyst for business transformation.
Startup founders and CEOs are often seen as a different breed of leader. Across the board, they are driven by a singular focus – to ensure their business succeeds no matter what, regardless of the pressures and the pressures are not insignificant – Funding rounds, pivotal hires, building a customer base, protecting IP and realising expansion plans. Their plates are often full of high-level obstacles to navigate as well as, in the majority of cases, still being involved in the day-to-day running of the business.
For a founder CEO, one of the first consequences of growth will be to hand over key areas of management to others as the business scales. They will need to understand their own strengths and weaknesses, as well as leadership style, as they start to build out their management team. And this is the first leadership quality they need to exhibit. Growing a business quickly requires the right strategic hires at the right time; and knowing who to entrust with what. As a founder, you cannot be strategic counsel, HR lead, CMO, and everything else in between. So getting your senior hires right and trusting them implicitly is key.
Ensuring your growth targets are both manageable and realistic is crucial, both in terms of the promises you make to investors, but also how you structure your business and resources. Putting unrealistic expectations on growth, customer acquisition or revenues could stretch the business beyond repair as well as damage brand reputation. You may not be able to account for unexpected growth – which can take you by surprise – but you can prepare for more manageable expansion.
Perhaps something most frequently overlooked when growing a business is the importance of consciously building the character and culture of your business. Culture is no longer a mythical, ethereal thing, a ‘nice to have’. It has real world impact, both in terms of employees choosing where they want to work, and by investors assessing the strengths of the businesses they choose to invest in. Toxic cultures in fast growth businesses is now recognised as a legitimate and significant issue.
Ensuring that, during a fast growth period, that you don’t sacrifice your workplace culture is crucial. While businesses may grow revenues and strengthen their balance sheets, if the office culture is unhealthy, if it is not demonstrating the character that is needed, in terms of resilience, perseverance, bravery or even seeing opportunities or being influential or prudent at the right times, your growth is not sustainable.
Business leaders need to consider how they understand the character or their people and leaders and encourage good workplace culture and how to maintain it, especially in the often chaotic environment of rapid expansion. One of the greatest risks comes from the need to hire quickly.
In a rush to get people through the door, hiring managers may overlook or even disregard character flaws and blind spots that, in ordinary circumstances, would set off alarm bells. And while these hires might come with a short-term gain, they are likely to cause long term harm to the wider team. Successfully navigating these risks starts with truly understanding the character of your leadership team, and proactively setting the tone of your workplace culture.
Too often, businesses don’t consider this at the start of their journey and end up having to do a much more painful journey of retrofitting culture and transformative leadership once things have gone wrong. To find out how CharacterScope can help startups put character and culture at the forefront of their growth plans check out our product solutions.
Last week, our founder and CEO, Mark Loftus, was invited to take part in a panel discussion at Shell’s inaugural Startup Connect event for entrepreneurs. Shell’s Enterprise Development program aims to support startups through their early growth, both through providing access to its expertise and networks, but also equity free funding opportunities through its LiveWIRE and Springboard programmes.
The half day event took place in Weybridge, Surrey as part of Shell’s Energy Summit, and featured a series of panel sessions and talks addressing the issues faced by early stage, knowledge intensive entrepreneurs such as capitalising on failures, winning hearts and minds with innovation and finding funding opportunities. The audience consisted of low-carbon entrepreneurs, including alumni of the Shell LiveWIRE and Shell Springboard programmes.
Our CEO, Mark was invited to take part in a panel, titled ‘Fitness for scale – Tackling new challenges as you grow’.
The panel looked at the unique, non-financial, challenges faced by founders when scaling up a business. Whether this is developing good corporate culture, protecting your IP, building a customer base, and using successful collaborations to grow. It was a chance for many startup founders in the room to get a better understanding of what their next challenges may be as they move from start-up to scale-up.
Mark was joined on the panel by Emma Southwell Sander, who heads up Harwell’s EnergyTec cluster, Peter Finnie, European Patent Attorney from Gill Jennings & Every, and Erik Nygard, CEO and Co-Founder of Limejump.
Mark was there to offer his views on the importance of character and culture as a business goes from a few people to many in a short period of time. He discussed the psychology of the founder and how they can suffer when growing their businesses together with ways they can offset this. He also touched on the importance of character diversity across teams and businesses and that so often, by design or not, teams tend to mirror the exact characteristics of the founder.