Three is the magic number…

This week I am going to start with a trip down memory lane. We would start school music lessons with a distribution of instruments. The kids who went first would often go for a xylophone or something else equally exciting, a glockenspiel perhaps. Gradually as the cupboard emptied the best you could hope for was a tambourine but i can certainly say that nobody wanted to be left at the very end. For if you were last or close to last the only instrument left was often a triangle, apable of a single solitary note often drowned out by the excitable kid next to you bashing a drum or set of bongos. If this opening has got you feeling particularly misty eyed and yearning to hear the sound of percussive instruments then I’d suggest having a look at this video of a wooden ball, playing Bach, on a giant xylophone in the German woods…

A very different way to play a bit of Bach

That opening preamble was a very roundabout way of talking about the magical power of triangles that would go on to feature prominently in my primary school education. From use of triangles to build strong bridges out of straws past Pythagoras’ theorem and onto fascination of the pyramids of Egypt – triangles started popping up everywhere. This continued through my early career. I would learn about the importance of a triangulation of methods when conducting research and barely a moment would pass by before someone would introduce me the latest business model which all seemed to have a fascination with basic shapes: circles, squares and yes plenty of triangles. My favourite of these three sided models is Stephen Karpman’s Drama Triangle and, with the latest challenges we are all facing in lockdown, I am sure we could all do with a little rescuing right now.

So turning my attention to the world of inclusion. I am sure you will all share my horror at the events that took place at Capitol Hill this week. Though it may feel that we are very distant from that type of riotous supremacist bahaviour I would urge you to recollect what transpired this Spring on the back of the Black Lives Matters protests on the streets of London and outside the Houses of Parliament. It is not fantasy to imagine something similar happening on our shores. And so to my triangle.

It is the start of a New Year and you may well work for an organisation that back in June was swift to post a statement either about anti-racism or potentially more broadly about inclusion. I’d encourage you to ask the question of senior management “how are we getting on?”. What progress have we made in the past six months?”. And most importantly, “how do you know if we are making progress, what measures do we use?”

Too often, I fear that our focus on delivering equity and inclusion is far too easily drawn to looking at demographics. What is the ethnicity of our workforce? What’s the gender balance of senior leadership? How many of our employees declare they have a disability? The problem with this approach is two fold:
1. it ignores the quality of experience by simply counting numbers
2. it counts numbers that take a long time to change and therefore there is no swift of understanding whether or not you are making progress

It is here where an alternative triangulated view comes in handy. What if we all challenged our organisations to look at three metrics:

  1. Yes please continue to measure and monitor the varying identity of our staff we would love to have a vibrant, cosmopolitan mix (Diversity)
  2. While you are at it can you please check the experience of all our staff and measure how far people feel able to be themselves in the workplace (Belonging)
  3. In order to get things really moving can we check the capability and confidence of our most senior leaders. They set the tone for the whole organisation so we would value knowing they had high levels of Emotional and Cultural Intelligence (Leadership)

What if we encouraged all of our organisations to take a broader approach to identifying what progress we are making and the evolving lived experience of all our people. That’s something we could start to improve immediately and would help us understand if we were making the necessary progress towards a more inclusive and diverse workplace…

I’d love to hear about what approaches your companies take to measuring themselves on this and if you don’t know please make it your aim to find out this coming week. If we really want to see change these are the questions we need to ask and the answers we need to know. It should only take a small amount of effort but it could make a big difference. #ImNotTired are you?

2 thoughts on “Three is the magic number…

  1. Thanks Tiger, one question a few of us are asking each other. How confident are our people to have meaningful conversations about race with their BAME team and colleagues? And how does this impact on belonging and wellbeing for all?


    1. I think they key is creating a safe space to enable a safe conversation. I’d recommend having a look at The Collaboratory & Green Park’s Racial Equality Week (1st-7th Feb) and the Safe Space conversation concept 👍🏽

      Liked by 1 person

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