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Inclusive Leadership: Your Route to Business Success in a Post-Brexit World

We did it, UK! We’re finally on the other side of Brexit... at least phase one. Regardless of which side of the Brexit debate you fell on, organisations around the country can take solace in knowing the direction of travel. Instead of the frustration that comes with being in a perpetual state of limbo, you now have increased clarity about what the future holds. This clarity is necessary to assess the impact that this historic change will have on your business, develop an effective strategy to move forward, and take actions that will best set your business up for success in a post-Brexit world.

So... What do we know?

An exceptional team can turn any challenge (even Brexit) into an opportunity. An ineffective team crumbles at the smallest sign of change.

The UK is no longer a member of the European Union. And Boris Johnson is very clear - his government has no plans to align with current EU rules. Depending on the industry you work in you may be affected by anything from the cost of trading your products to changes in your customer mix. Regardless of what your biggest area of tension is, your ability to create and implement a successful strategy comes down to one thing - an effective workforce. An exceptional team can turn any challenge (even Brexit) into an opportunity. An ineffective team crumbles at the smallest sign of change. This is where freedom of movement comes in. For years, the UK has benefitted from the ease of accessing diverse talent across the Channel and throughout Europe. Going forward, this is expected to change significantly. We’ve already seen early signs of this, pre-Brexit. Large corporations have moved staff out of London. EU net migration has fallen to its lowest levels since 2003. And at the same time, over the past six years, there has been a steady rise in net migration figures from outside the EU.

While we cannot be 100% certain of the outcome of the next 11-months of negotiations (at least not without an accurate crystal ball or a time-travelling machine), what we can be pretty sure of is that the composition, nature, and working dynamics of your workforce will be affected.

Success starts (and ends) with your People

Your people are your biggest business asset! Customer behaviour, government policies, competitors change. But with the right team, you can weather any storm. The UK's exit from the EU is changing how businesses attract, engage, and retain the best talent. To compete in this new world, you must diversify your source of people talent to reflect a more global strategy and/or disperse core functions across more locations.

While Brexit puts some short-term strain on international businesses by accelerating the need for the UK to look more globally for talent, this change is hardly a surprise for businesses that have had their finger on the pulse. Globalisation, digitalisation, and climate-change-driven cases for less travel has been encouraging this shift for years. All Brexit has done is to accelerate the rate of change with a targeted shake-up between the UK and its closest neighbours, resulting in increased complexities and challenges associated with how UK businesses go about attracting, engaging, and retaining talent going forward.

Inclusive Leadership: Your competitive advantage to a more global, diverse, and dispersed workforce

As with any challenge in life (and business), Brexit offers an opportunity for some to differentiate themselves. Those who embrace this change and evolve in a way that enables them to attract, engage, and retain the best talent in this more globally diverse and disperse market will create and capture business value while increasing people satisfaction throughout their business. Businesses that fail to adapt, or do so reluctantly and without the right global People Strategy, will be left behind. Issues, such as a lack of vision alignment, inefficient decision-making, and uncooperative teams, that could be ignored in more homogenous, co-located teams will be heightened in this new more complex world.

Inclusive Leadership is the answer. It is a culture that promotes innovation, excellence, and growth by recognising that competitive advantage comes from tapping into the talents, passions, and values of your biggest assets - your people. Instead of defaulting to the status quo, i.e. what feels comfortable and familiar, a culture of Inclusive Leadership embraces change and seeks to capitalise on that change using all of its resources!

Inclusive Leaders are the key to delivering value through a culture of Inclusive Leadership

Never has a section header made so much sense, right? :). Inclusive Leaders are your change agents. They improve results within teams by brining to life Aristotle's quote "The whole is greater than the sum of its parts." and injecting it with a shot of global diversity.

They are people-oriented leaders who inspire and motivate others by fostering inclusion. Their superpower is in transforming a group of disconnected individuals into an efficient and effective single unit that maximises their diverse thoughts, strengths, and experiences to create value for your business. They know how to bring out the best in people, both individually and collectively, to the benefit of all.

With Inclusive Leaders at the helm, you will not only improve the performance and success of your business, but you will also create an environment that is resilient, agile, and receptive to change. One that is ready for Brexit Phase 2 and whatever other challenges (or should I say "opportunities") that come your way.

Characteristics of Inclusive Leaders

Inclusive Leaders:

  • are visionaries with big (realistic) ideas that they are motivated to deliver

  • recognise that they don’t have all the answers. and they have the confidence in themselves and their leadership skills to admit this

  • recognise that there is no monopoly on excellence. Contrarily, they know that innovation, value, and growth often come from unexpected places and it is in their interest to use the diversity of their businesses, departments, and individual people to stay ahead of the game

  • are skilled at leading & managing people with different skillsets, background and experiences to themselves. A quiet person in their extroverted team? A creative designer, amongst corporate suits, with radical ideas? A new colleague who grew up on the other side of the world to them? Instead of defaulting to conformity, they tap into these differences to innovate and create value

  • are able to connect with and build trust with people. Both locally and remotely.

  • trust their teams and empower them to be greater than they realise they are

  • are great communicators and effective decision-makers, able to take all the diverse ideas they cultivate and distil it down to a single focus with a clear plan forward

  • bring people, at all levels, along. People follow these leaders, not because they have to, but because they want to

Adopting Behaviours of an Inclusive Leader

Here are some practical things you can start doing to become a more Inclusive Leader:

  • Have a clear vision (with goals) and share it with your colleagues. Then share it again... and again... and again to keep everyone onboard

  • Sponsor, coach, and mentor junior colleagues who are different from you across more than one category, e.g. socio-economic, gender, culture, race, ability, skill.

  • Face-up to your conscious and unconscious biases. We all have them. Harvard's Implicit Association Test is a great place to start

  • Prioritise regular one-on-one time with members of your team to get to know them. Understand their strengths, passions, and value and set them up for success by keeping them motivated, engaged and challenged

  • Empower your team members in meetings. Have them come to each meeting prepared with their own agenda and ready to provide solutions to critical problems

  • Ensure all participants are introduced at the beginning of a meeting (especially meetings with clients or senior colleagues). Aim for everyone to have a speaking part. And let them speak. If they don’t, why are they in the meeting?

  • Ask questions to the unexpected person. Talking about finance? Ask the marketing person for their thoughts. Or ask your team member who never speaks up. Remember, innovation, by its nature, often comes from unexpected places.

  • Ask questions, especially when your initial reaction to a suggestion is to dismiss it. Respond with curiosity, instead of reacting with disinterest.

  • Admit when you don't have the answers. Don't be afraid to problem-solve with your team - that's what they are there for. Something like "I'm not sure. I have a few ideas, but I'd love to hear your thoughts first".

Want to learn how you can future-proof your business, department, or team by developing Inclusive Leaders? Let’s chat! E-mail me at or book time in my calendar.

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