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’.

The no-frills HRD formula for finding an executive coach in London

There are excellent executive coaches in London (or anywhere) who are less than skilled marketeers. Conversely there are unskilled exec coaches who are highly skilled marketeers (be alert for these).

If you’re an HR head looking for the highest-skilled coach how do you edit out the diamonds from the dummies – especially when time is so valuable and you perhaps haven’t the resources to go through a huge tender, assessment, contracting process?

Here’s my Quintuple-Ask formula that’s economical, timely & effective:

  • Ask your LinkedIn network: ask for recommendations of coaches they’ve had good experiences with, AND those they would recommend you steer clear of. NB. Ensure they private message the info back to you – obviously!
  • Ask the senior tier of your company: HR teams many not know all the exec coaches presently working with their senior team. I get contacted more often by company directors who’ve been recommended to call by friends or someone in their professional network. Most senior execs inform their HRD after we’ve contracted, however not all, so you might get some new names out of this exercise.
  • Ask online: googling ‘executive coach London’, ‘CEO coach UK’, ‘leadership coaching Aberdeen’ (or wherever) will deliver coaches who are invested in their overall marketing and are active in keeping their website information fresh and relevant. How are they representing themselves? Who’s their target market? What’s their experience? Are they still in business 2 years or 20 years after having started? Are they qualified as coaches? Or are they ex-corporate leaders, trainers, or mentors – all of whom have value, yet none of whom are executive coaches – just know the skills you’re buying.
  • Ask coaches by phone: when you have a top 20 list (or just 10 perhaps), it’s easily whittled down to a top 5 in a single 15 minute first conversation. With a key half dozen questions you’ll know who makes sense to meet face to face and who doesn’t.
  • Ask coaches direclty: schedule a single day where all 5 coaches will come in and rotate every 45 minutes through a selected 5 executive who’ll coach and talk with them. There’s no hiding in a face-to-face service sampling. You can choose for your execs to give number or comment feedback – or a mixture of both. The stats and opinions will indicate to you which of the coaching tribe are right for your organisation – perhaps 2 or 3. Perhaps all 5.

This selection process could be implemented in under a month – and by one person. It’s intensive, but cost and time effective. A diverse range of qualified, experienced executive coaches make all the difference to a company’s evolution.