Creating environments where all employees feel engaged and motivated requires a top-down approach. To understand how organisations can improve inclusivity in their culture and leadership, which ultimately improves productivity and profitability, we spoke with leadership and inclusion coach, Sharon Amesu.
Sharon is a multi-award-winning motivational speaker, executive coach, and leadership enthusiast. Having spent 16 years as a Criminal Barrister, she now works with business leaders and leadership teams to lead inclusively and with courage.
Sharon, what are the key reasons organisations seek your support?
Leaders are increasingly realising that, for them to attract and retain the best talent, they need to create the best environment and facilitate a healthy corporate culture. A business will come to me when they want to ensure their culture reflects their values and supports them to achieve their objectives.
It’s a well-known fact that organisations with more inclusive cultures are financially stronger and more successful. Research from The CBI found that higher levels of employees feeling like they belong can lead to a 56% increase in job performance and a 75% decrease in sick days. But businesses also know that for meaningful change to happen, it needs to come from the top.
Do you see common challenges across the organisations you’re working with?
Most organisations and leaders want to operate differently, want to change, want to lead effectively, however I often see a lack of intent when it comes to fulfilling these goals. This often falls to an issue of prioritisation.
Whatever we prioritise gets done. Lots of organisations only prioritise sales, marketing, and finance as primary objectives, and as a result, they are rarely left incomplete. However, the same cannot always be said for objectives such as developing an individual’s soft skills and enhancing a corporate culture to make it more inclusive. These become secondary objectives and often the work within it is left incomplete.
What are the steps companies can take to build an inclusive culture?
The first step is acknowledging that there’s work to be done. No organisation or leader is perfect, so it’s about identifying what are the areas that need improving and acting on them.
Then, start by simply asking employees how they feel through surveys and feedback. Ask your people to score your organisation against questions such as ‘to what extent are there opportunities for you to grow at this organisation?’, ‘is your line manager managing you well?’, ‘do you feel part of a team?’. These are all questions about how people are experiencing the organisation and its leadership.
Once you have these results, you can begin to dig even deeper into the results people gave. Were any of their scores related to their gender, their age, their race or their background? By unpicking the results, you can begin to see where cultural works needs to be done and implement necessary change. So, for instance, if employees don’t feel supported by their line managers, managerial training and development can be provided to improve on that.
Six months later, do the same exercise again and monitor the progress.
How do you approach individuals and teams differently?
Leaders will come to me when they feel overwhelmed, or when they want to fulfil their aspirations professionally, but they don’t have the support around them to achieve it. They can use me as someone to hold them accountable for that self-progression.
When I work with teams, my focus turns to the whole group dynamic. By having confidential one-to-one conversations, I can get under the skin of the business to determine what the real challenges are when it comes to their overall culture and uncover any hidden or underlying issues.
Having an external party like me come into an organisation can encourage openness and honesty – people are much more willing to share their honest views with someone unbiased and who sits outside of their organisation.
Finally, what do you believe are the key traits for good leadership?
I believe leaders today need to be courageous. Aristotle said: “Courage is the mother of all virtues because without it, you cannot consistently perform the others.” It is important leaders feel courageous enough to hold difficult conversations, lead with integrity, lead with candour and lead into the unknown. These are all underpinned through courage, and it is this quality that assures team members that they will be alright – no matter what.
To find out how Sharon can help your organisation become more inclusive, visit www.sharonamesu.co.uk
If you would like to know more about how we work with our portfolio business on their people and culture strategies, get in touch.