So you want to create a more diverse and inclusive workplace that’s both good for business and good for your people?! Then there are some fundamental challenges that you’ll need to overcome. There are some mindsets that you’ll likely need to shift.

In the first episode of this three-part video series, I share the initial challenge that many businesses face when trying to create a more powerfully diverse and productively inclusive organisation.

We’re asking plenty of questions about the problems in our workplaces, but we’re not asking enough of the RIGHT questions about the solutions.

Click to see my YouTube video

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…that’ll be solved by changing the demographics of your organisation.

In fact, it isn’t a problem at all.

It’s the most powerful and important leadership opportunity of the 21st century.

It’s a chance for you, as a leader, to tap into the rich variety of knowledge, experiences and perspectives of your people to create a thriving business AND a more fulfilling workplace.

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The evidence is clear – there’s value in diversity.

Research pretty clearly shows that businesses with greater overall diversity are more innovative and have higher profitability when compared with the averages. But to tap into the ideas and perspectives of people with diverse physical characteristics and backgrounds, you have to build trust. That means tapping into our tribal nature and making your workplace a modern tribe.

But here’s the thing about ‘trust’…

making your diverse workplace into a tribe

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  • How do you get more value from your diversity and inclusion initiatives?
  • How do you ensure that your diversity activities don’t alienate employees when you want to make them feel more included?
  • How do you turn your organisation’s investment in greater demographic diversity into the innovation and revenue returns that the research says we should be getting?

These are questions that I’m asked by clients and event participants when I talk about valuing diversity.

In this short video, I answer the next question that often comes once we start discussing it…where do I start?

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Random acts of gratitude - Ben Waites

A couple of weeks back, my friend Mykel Dixon issued an invitation…well, it wasn’t so much an invitation as a dare. A dare to extend random acts of gratitude to people that bring light and beauty into the world.

Not the usual suspects. No agenda. No tit-for-tat reciprocity. Just do it because it’s the RIGHT thing to do.

Right because it’s appreciation they deserve. Right because it’s good for your soul. Right because it’s what the world could desperately use more of.

I thought long and hard on who I could appreciate and knew that it had to be Ben Waites.

Who’s Ben? Check it out…I dare you!

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Silence is the path to our best possible future

Recently, I was rehearsing the closing of my DIVERSIFY keynote and – for the first time in a long time – I connected to the meaning of the words that makes it one of my favourite songs of all time. I re-affirmed – for myself – that valuing diversity means creating the space for everyone to have a voice but not remaining silent when there are those that try to take that voice away.

Rather than trying to hit the right notes (that are clearly at the edge of my vocal range!) I engaged with the powerful emotions that make this version of the song* so poignant in the world in which we all find ourselves…and that our children might inherit.

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Time to stop flapping about and survey your situation

As just about everyone is saying, these are indeed unprecedented times. The speed and pervasiveness of the change created by the global pandemic compares to nothing else that the world has seen. It has called for rapid, decisive action to ensure the potential health crisis didn’t spin out of control. But as the urgency around the measures necessary to stop the spread of the virus begin to subside, it’s now time to shift our response to focus on the collateral impacts – the ‘long tail’. It’s now time to move from reaction to adaptation.

Time to stop flapping about and survey your situation

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In my work with business and team leaders, the question of ‘culture’ invariably comes up…

“Jeff, it sounds like what you’re really talking about is creating a specific culture.”

To that I often respond that culture isn’t something that a leader creates – culture belongs to your people. Your role as a leader is to be a gardener. You shape the environment where a certain type of culture might grow.

A member of my Akimbo community, Mary Ellen Bratu, recently shared a watercolour she’d painted and the gardening story that inspired it.

Reprinted by permission of Mary Ellen Bratu


Mary Ellen’s story inspired me to expand on this idea of ‘cultural gardening’.

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In an improvisation workshop I was taking, the instructor explained that “good improv is like walking backwards into the future. You’re constantly on the lookout for the things around you – the things that you and your fellow improvisors have created – that you can pick up and place behind you to see where they might take you.” That imagery really resonated with me and is helping to make me a better improvisor.

It also struck me how similar it is to the way many businesses approach strategy. This approach is all very useful thinking for improv but can be extremely dangerous for business strategy. Because improvising your strategy is the surest way to trip over the things that you don’t see and fall on your arse.

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You know what I love most about engaging the diversity of thought, expertise and experience in your organisation?

It not only makes your business nimbler and more adaptive, but it also creates a bridge that meaningfully connects a business to its people.

And it’s not just any bridge because valuing that diversity creates a ‘two-way bridge’.

A bridge that connects strategic intent with operational action and activity, but also uses operational insights to inform strategic thought. It’s a bridge that builds shared purpose where your people’s daily work is an expression of your business purpose and your people are motivated by the knowledge that they’re making a meaningful contribution to that purpose.

And it’s a bridge that links performance benefits for the company with the psychological benefits that create a fully engaged workplace. Read more