Flower power – diverse workplaces are more profitable long term

In nearly 15 years of working as an executive coach in London, Scotland and around the UK, it’s clearer than ever to me that when employees are accepted equally for their usual and unusual traits, you’ll get a healthier, more productive and successful work culture.

In 1800 the world population was just under 1 billion (stay with me on this!). It took over 120 years for that number of people to double to 2 billion in the 1920s. And in the subsequent 100 years, the earth’s population has more than tripled. Presently our fragile planet is supporting nearly 7.3 billion souls. So … what do these statistics have to do with workplace productivity?

With an increase in population comes and increase in diversity – intercultural & interfaith relationships; nuclear, extended and blended families; longer life spans where people to do more, see more, think more, consume more and change more; greater access to travel, education and information, all of which are mind and idea expanding.

As quickly as the population grows, alongside grows the demand for the essentials required for each person’s physical, mental, emotional and spiritual needs to be met. Change is happening faster than ever because as a species we require solutions to feed, clothe, house, educate, inform, support, entertain and inspire an ever-expanding marketplace.

Why do companies need to embrace the diversity of it’s employees? It comes back to increased population because demand for, well everything, is increasing which in turn drives global change and change, which in turn requires quickly-evolving new ideas and solutions.

It is no longer possible as a company director to fix on a ‘right way to be within this company’ and to expect thereafter to have employees be routine and formulaic in the delivery of a brand’s product or service; nor would it be reasonable to expect to be in business in 10 years time with this being the leading mindset.

Healthy, forward-focussed companies have a process where the creative and intellectual differences within their workforce are harnessed and encouraged. It’s a tough process to manage initially – especially for leaders who are wedded to full control – however the pay-backs for getting this culture right are priceless.

Some practical ways to encouraging diversity and difference include:

  • Having highly-astute, people-orientated leaders present at board level educating on diversity and inclusion from the top down on an ongoing basis
  • Creating a bi-annual CPD requirement specifically for senior directors to be updated on re-framing a team’s differences (and similarities) as being an asset
  • Designing a process where new ideas from all tiers of a company, on products, services and processes can be aired and put to the senior team for consideration and action
  • Encouraging personalisation of a work space (within reason)
  • Educating all team members on advanced communication – non-judgemental, inquisitive, respectful, possibility-orientated language
  • Encouraging hires that as a manager you know will stir things up a little (requires a leader to commit to ongoing development and constant reviewing of assumptions themselves)
  • Stay aware where assumptions may be being made around the big 7: gender, age, race, religion, sexual orientation, disability and culture; and also stay aware of subtle assumptions around: body shape, dress sense, tattoos, where a person was educated, accent, car-type, capability and desire to progress.

It takes effort and awareness to spot your own assumptions. As an executive coach in the UK, this is one of the varied number of conversations I have with C-levels and senior directors in many business sectors. Remember, what our planet and its people now require to thrive is such a fast-changing formula, never be ashamed to raise your hand to say ‘here’s where my experience and knowledge remains priceless; and here’s where I could do with a new perspective’.

Setting up in business – 3 essential character traits from an executive coach

Since being a teenager I’d imagined I would own my own company at some point in my life. I’d come from an entrepreneurial family – but still at 30 years old had no idea how I was going to make the move from my comfortable London corporate job into the grit and fast-tracked hustle of entrepreneurial life.

Ultimately the decision was made for me (as often happens when we hold a vision that we’re not taking sufficient action to realise!). In a challenging 12-month period in the second year of the new millenium, I left my marriage (an empowered choice), bought a new home (an inspiring space), had my first child (an eternal blessing), took a short maternity leave (14 weeks) and returned to my Commercial Director role … where 3 months later I was made redundant (with a healthy pay off – a lovely silver lining!).

As a single mother it made sense to invest in the flexibility of running my own business. It took a full 6 weeks of conversations and meditations to work out what product or service would most inspire me. There were no executive coaching schools in the UK in 2002 so I did a post graduate degree out of the US – that was a juggle!

I took on my first executive contracts while I was still studying and within 5 years had clients from some of the biggest media companies in the world – directors, editors, publishers, actors, authors – what a delight. The next 5 years I expanded to coach leaders in finance, medicine and new energy – CEOs, MDs, marketeers and financiers. From there I began to work with business owners of small and medium sized companies who themselves had made their own leaps into entrepreneurship and were conscious to keep aware and ahead of their game – thus their seeking out an executive coach in London.

There are people who will be driven at some point to go into business on their own. There are others who enjoy the cultures and routines found in most salaried jobs. If you think you’re one of the former, here are the top 3 character traits that got me beyond decade one:

  •  A healthy relationship to risk: there are points when you ask, borrow or say ‘yes’ for something way beyond what you think you can deliver. Growing pains are an essential part of expansion. The wisdom lies in defining healthy risk: too cautious or too gung ho and you may not make it through to your crucial year-3 tipping point (where it often gets easier – extra confidence and experience perhaps)
  • A strong support network: this could be family (although they’re often not the best people to help you stretch beyond your comfort zones) or could equally be other business owners who’re a few (or many) steps ahead. I’ve found that mentors, business coaches and mastermind groups have all enriched my journey to date – and I continue to invest in an executive coach for my own ongoing best performance.
  • A philosophical mindset: there’s just no way you can foresee the challenges or the opportunities that show up month to month. What helps though is to define and hold a clear vision of where you’re heading. What difference is your product or service going to make to each person who encounters it? And then, what difference is delivering that service seamlessly year after year going to make to your quality of life and your ability to give back?

As an executive coach in London and now increasingly in Scotland, I see people every day who’re choosing to make extraordinary changes to their life – personally and professionally. If you want the same … consider the leap!

Executive coaching in the UK: happiness + satisfaction = profits

I’ve noticed recently that certain UK business cultures are more open to investing in their people’s ‘soft’ skills; the mental and emotional skills that enrich a corporate environment. They include the ability to effectively communicate, openly negotiate, embrace change, respect diversity and have active and versatile team dynamics.

The 2 company types most likely to encourage maximum release of potential in their teams are:

  • small businesses (50 people or less) with fast decision making abilities, ambitions expansion plans and the founder still at the helm; and
  • super-large corporates (1000 +) with products and services in demand in most countries on the planet.

Executive coaching makes sense for leaders in these 2 categories because:

  • it provides a confidential space to talk through the possibilities and to test how convinced an MD might be about the next 12 months of growth – and when they’re convinced, they’re convincing (streamlining buy-in from group heads and inspiring collaborative action taking)
  • the more aware their leaders are the more likely they’ll make a smart decision first time round – saving time and money
  • directors who are coached are generally more satisfied with work and life; and a business that invests in its talent is more likely to retain it
  • coaching creates clarity which in turn creates confidence – and confident people inspire others to question the status quo and to push the boundaries beyond those of the competition
  • it encourages leaders to question their assumptions and limiting beliefs and replace them with innovative thinking
  • a regular conversation about what’s going well and what could be going better means that issues aren’t left unattended long enough to gather momentum
  • there’s never a moment where a leader knows it all. Lifelong learning, with an aware and conscious coach, will expand knowledge, enrich communication skills and contribute to bringing out the best in colleagues and clients alike

You may notice that not one of these points directly has a dollar sign directly against it. And that’s because there’s an emerging new era for what defines corporate success. People come first. The money flows afterwards.

Executive coaching contributes to happy employees, who in turn do extraordinary work every day to satisfy clients and customers.

The knock on reward from happiness and satisfaction is repeat business and multiple customer recommendations. There’s genuinely no more effective a marketing strategy. From that starting point, you can (in the simplest terms) leave the financial bottom line to take care of itself.