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Speaker 1: Welcome to the Inclusive Growth Show with Toby Mildon, future-proofing your business by creating a diverse workplace.
Toby Mildon: Hello there, thank you ever so much for tuning into this episode of The Inclusive Growth Show. I’m Toby Mildon and, on this episode, I’m joined by Sylvana Storey. Now, I’ve known Sylvana for a long time. We met at a Diversity and Inclusion event that was being hosted by EY in London. And it was at the time when I started working in diversity and inclusion, when I was a D&I Manager for the BBC. And Sylvana was a really important mentor for me back then, because she is an expert on diversity and inclusion, and on leadership. And Sylvana and I have kept in touch. She has introduced me to lots of bars, because one thing that Sylvana and I have in common is that we like to go to fancy hotels and drink cocktails, and talk about diversity and inclusion over cocktails. And Sylvana is still a really important mentor for me today, somebody that I consider to be a peer, somebody that I can bounce ideas off and chew the fat when it comes to diversity and inclusion, so it’s a real pleasure to be able to have Sylvana on the show. So hi, Sylvana, great to see you.
Sylvana Storey: Hi Toby, thanks for the invite. And I don’t know whether to be charmed by such a wonderful introduction or aghast that everyone thinks that I’m an alcoholic now, so… [chuckle] No, but yes we’ve known each other for many, many years, and it’s really been a privilege, Toby. You even came to my wedding, right?
Toby Mildon: I did, yeah. That was a brilliant wedding. I loved it. So, that was the unofficial introduction I guess, but…
Sylvana Storey: Yes.
Toby Mildon: Can you let us know a bit more about your professional background?
Sylvana Storey: Sure, sure. So I’m a business psychologist. I’ve been practising for 28 years. And as a business psychologist, I became a part of business psychology’s change management and culture change, and that’s the area I specialized in. And part of culture change is looking across a vast array of areas, which includes leadership, employee engagement, stakeholder engagement, communications, and diversity inclusion. And in 2005, while I was working on an assignment for Transport for London, I was very much introduced to D&I at that point. I think actually TFL was way ahead of the game at that time. And then in 2007 I decided to do my doctorate in D&I and leadership. So I subsequently did my doctorate in that, looking at how global leaders facilitate and position diversity and inclusion in their organizations, and I looked cross-sector for that. I interviewed 80 C-Suite members from several organizations. And then I wrote a book on it. And since then I’ve been… I am still a culture change consultant, but a lot of my work centres on D&I as well.
Toby Mildon: Lovely. And what’s the title of your book?
Sylvana Storey:’Cause I’ve got two books now [chuckle] That book is called “The Impact of Diversity on Global Leadership Performance.”
Toby Mildon: Brilliant. Yeah, and I know you’re working on your second book currently, which will be out…
Sylvana Storey: Well, I finished it.
Toby Mildon: You finished it. And it will be out soon, I hope. So…
Sylvana Storey: Hopefully [chuckle]
Toby Mildon: Yeah, so obviously, you’ve got loads of experience of working with C-Suite executives, and that is very much your sweet spot in the work that you do with your clients. So what is the role of a chief executive in embedding diversity within their organization?
Sylvana Storey: Well, I’ll start with the role of the CEO full stop. And for me, the role of the CEO is they’re the architect of their organizations, right? Particularly, their organization’s culture. They shape it. And diversity and inclusion is a critical element of culture. So what the CEO says or does or emotes, in relation to diversity and inclusion, intrinsically weaves across the organization. So I’ll give you an example, so Satya Nadella of Microsoft says, “They have to set the tone which can then capture the soul of the collective.” So let me give you a few examples. If CEOs say they want diverse population, but then the composition of the executive team is not representative of a diverse global workforce, or if a C-suite or a high-performing member says or does something that is discriminatory, but is not held accountable. So, the right words have been said, but the corresponding actions are not being taken. Or if diversity and inclusion is positioned or facilitated or implemented solely from a platform of identity. Then if the CEO facilitates those kinds of behaviours and actions, that’s the way it will be translated across the organization.
Toby Mildon: Yeah, excellent. So when it comes to diversity and inclusion, what are you seeing chief executives not doing properly when it comes to setting that tone and creating that culture for the business?
Sylvana Storey: So I’m gonna position this in a way that… I’ve just said CEOs are the architects of the organization, but they’re part of a wider ecosystem as well. So they have boards and they also have their own teams. So that kind of ecosystem has to all bear the responsibility, let’s say. But let’s keep it to the CEO. And yeah, there’re quite a few. I’m quite harsh. I’m quite critical, because for me, I’ve been in the business, D&I business, for 15 years, and it’s moved at a snail’s pace.
Toby Mildon: Yeah.
Sylvana Storey: So the first one is they’re not shaping the culture. They’re not shaping the culture of the organization that fosters an inclusive environment for people of difference. If the CEO decides what is important in terms of their values and beliefs and behaviours, that should be coming through… It should be obvious across the culture of the organization. They’re also… The strategy, the diversity inclusion strategy, if they have one, is not aligned with the organization or the corporate strategy. The business critical objectives of the organizations doesn’t sync with the DEI objectives, so the business value and the business contribution is not captured. The third big one for me is that diversity and inclusion is not designed as a change program. Diversity is a change program; it’s not a series of data-driven, randomly deployed, bolted-on activities. It has to be integrated and aligned with the corporate strategy. Often, D&I’s housed within talent, or it’s housed within L&D, predominantly HR, sometimes CFR. But all of those areas have different focuses, so they really need to understand what their DEI voice is. And they’re capturing… As in, for example, talent, is it getting people through the door? Or in L&D, is it buying a training program? Or… What is your focus?
Toby Mildon: Mmm. Absolutely.
Sylvana Storey: But it should be a change program, and it’s a culture change program. That’s the bottom line. You’re changing behaviours, you’re changing mindsets. You’re not just changing… Moving people from pillar to post. It’s about humanity and it’s about dignity. So it’s a culture.
Toby Mildon: Absolutely. I’m glad you said that, ’cause the second chapter in my book is all about culture and how senior leaders need to be walking the talk and setting the tone for the organization, rather than taking tactical box ticking exercises that look good and they might raise the profile of the organization, but they don’t really have any kind of impact on the diversity of the workforce or the inclusivity of the workforce.
Sylvana Storey: I agree, and that’s my fourth point, which is the little-demonstrated commitment. I call it demonstrated commitment to D&I. And it feels as if it’s become an exercise in virtue signalling. They’re not involved in the shaping, the promotion, the facilitation. Look, a CEO is a busy role. I’m not expecting them to get down into… At the ground level, on the front line and waving the banner for D&I, but I certainly expect them to have a deep understanding of what is happening, how the organization is facilitating, how they’re choosing to position it, and who they’re holding accountable to it.
Toby Mildon: Yeah, ’cause… Big organizations usually have a diversity inclusion role, head of D&I or a D&I manager. Some of the more medium-sized businesses that I work with, the HR director will take that responsibility. So, where there is somebody in the business, like a D&I leader or a HR director who is taking responsibility, what should CEOs be insisting that those people do to create a clear pathway for diversity and equality and inclusion within their organizations?
Sylvana Storey: Well, I guess the first thing is they should be really making sure that the strategies align, as I said, right? So if your strategy is focused on inclusion, what are we doing from a behavioural point of view, to make our culture more inclusive from a behavioural point of view? So what is D&I going to do to that and what is the organization as a whole going to do, and where do the two meet? So I think there has to be clear understanding. I’m being very critical now, but what I’ve seen is most organizations want a quick fix, and at a minimal cost. So they might pay millions of pounds for McKinsey or for Deloitte, or so forth, to come in and do some kind of IT analysis, let’s say, but they don’t wanna pay the same for D&I. And so they’re quite happy to bring an unconscious… Do an unconscious bias training course. Training doesn’t change behaviour, and inclusion is behaviour. Inclusion, I really want people to understand this, inclusion equals behaviour. You can only be inclusive if you behave inclusive. It means you make me feel valued, you make me feel I contribute, I belong. Inclusion is how you treat me, how I feel treated.
Toby Mildon: Yeah, so if inclusion is behaviour, repeated behaviour is your culture.
Sylvana Storey: Yes, absolutely. I mean, there are lots of different things that they need to focus on, but also this whole thing around culture fit. Culture fit is a dichotomy. If I fit, then I’m just like you and those around me. It exacerbates homophyly.
Toby Mildon: Yeah. Yeah this is something I talk about when I talk about unconscious bias with my clients. I say, “Look out for terms like culture fit, because effectively what that means is that you’re searching for somebody just like you that, in a recruitment setting, you’re hiring in your own image.” So instead of culture fit, maybe we should be talking about values fit.
Sylvana Storey: Yeah, yeah.
Toby Mildon: Because a lot of organizations talk about value. They have a list of values. Quite a lot of them… One of their values might be something like, we value diversity and inclusion, yet, their behaviours are just not congruent with those values. And sometimes I get my clients just to go back to their values and see if they’re being congruent or not.
Sylvana Storey: Yeah, that’s a very… That’s what I normally get called in on to begin with actually, Toby, is the issue of strategy and values. And are lots of values out there, but no one lives them, no one even knows what they are. [chuckle]
Toby Mildon: I know, it’s amazing how many workshops I’ve done and I get people to say, “Okay, so how does diversity and inclusion empower your mission, your vision, and the values of your business?” And it’s amazing how many people can’t tell me what the mission, vision and values is of the business.
Sylvana Storey: Yeah. I’m laughing, but it’s not funny. [chuckle] Oh dear. Anyway. [chuckle]
Toby Mildon: I mean the amount of money that companies spend on developing their vision and mission and values, and then it just seems to kind of land on…
Sylvana Storey: I remember being… I was called in for something completely different actually, I said to the CEO, “Actually we need to go right back to basics, so we need to look at your vision and your values.” “Well, Sylvana, we know all of that.” I said, “Oh, you know, just… What’s the word I’m looking for? Just allow me to go with this, right?” So he said, “Okay.” So I said, “But before I go there, can you tell me what the values are?” And he just looked at me.
Toby Mildon: Yeah.
Sylvana Storey: Okay, okay. [chuckle] I get your point. [chuckle]
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Toby Mildon: What three things would you like to see chief execs start doing to create the inclusive cultures and diverse workforces?
Sylvana Storey: Well, look, the three actions or behaviours I’d like to see are really easy. One is commitment, one is responsibility and one is accountability. But overall, I’d like them to take a holistic approach to their D&I strategy. So I’d like them to look at it… Yes, look at it from structural diversity issues. Do root analysis on your structures, on your systems, on your processes. If you’re hiring for a D&I role and the person has not worked in a multinational across, in a global remit, for 10 years [chuckle], you have to have some flexibility in the criteria you’re actually looking for.
Toby Mildon: Yeah.
Sylvana Storey: I mean that everyone fits into this perfect criteria that you have, or if you go to the same head-hunters who search the same places, the same people who go to same universities, and on and on and on it goes. So you really need to do a real analysis on your structures and on your processes, even on your capability, and so forth. Cognitively, you need to understand how organizations have personalities, right? Like people, organizations have personalities. And how does the organization reason, how do we categorize, how do we process information, how do we collaborate, how do we make decisions, how do we solve problems? All these are what we call cognitive activities, which lead to cognitive biases and errors. How is our brain processing the change? How is our brain processing all these challenges that we face? And then look at the behaviours, and behaviour runs right through every organizational facet, so from culture to conflict, to politics, to interpersonal skills, to emotional skills, to dialogue, to influence, to negotiation, that is all behavioural work. So you need to look at where, in any one of these areas, how is your… What is important to your organization? Where does it meet your organizational strategy? Which [17:38] ____ is and then how do we work on it together?
Toby Mildon: Yeah, and I really like what you’re saying about doing that root cause analysis type approach, because so many organizations treat diversity and inclusion like a box-ticking exercise. So they’ll say, “Well, unconscious bias is really popular right now, so let’s get in the trainer. Let’s put a bunch of people through that unconscious bias training, and we’ve ticked that box.” The thing is, like you say, it has no impact on the organization whatsoever. What you should be looking at is where does bias exist within our processes; so, when we’re recruiting, where is the bias within that process? How is bias, and our blind spots, screening people out and preventing people from getting through the process? That has a much bigger impact. As a psychologist, what behaviour would you like to see chief execs role-modelling in order to create that inclusive culture for their business?
Sylvana Storey: Oh gosh. The first, my number one, my number one is do what you say you will do. I don’t know if I have to be a psychologist to say that, but I certainly know what the output is or the outcome is if you don’t do that. So lack of trust, lack of credibility, and on it goes, so do what you say you will do. More importantly, role-model. I cannot emphasize that… And role-model responsible behaviours. Display a deep level of understanding. Be wary of what you’re paying attention to, and what you’re not just paying attention to but attending to. And you are you practising deep listening? Are you asking better questions? Are you being curious? Just role-model behaviours that… The way that you would like to be treated.
Toby Mildon: Yeah, yeah.
Sylvana Storey: Practise sense-making; join up the rational with irrational. Go out on a tangent and disrupt for a while, see what happens, and bring it back into your organization. Disrupt the organization. Lead and communicate with empathy and emotion, and it goes back to behaviour. If I stand up in a stage or… Sorry, not me. If a CEO stands up on a stage, I don’t think they appreciate how much they give off without even speaking. In psychology we call it emotional contagion. So it’s… You’re giving off a vibrational level of emotion that people can see. So you might be saying something, but your face is saying another story. [chuckle] Being very wary of the emotional contagion that you were giving off. Be comfortable with the uncomfortable, that goes without saying, and create what we call psychologically safe environments. That’s a real bandied term around at the moment. But honestly, if you’re unable to create a space where people don’t feel that they can speak up or speak truth to power without being reprimanded or losing their jobs, then you have a problem.
Toby Mildon: Yeah, yeah. I really like your point around the being comfortable with the uncomfortable. I refer to that as vulnerability, because some of the best managers that I’ve worked with have been the ones that have said to me, “Look, I haven’t spent a lot of time with somebody in a wheelchair.” And obviously the person listening to this show might not know that I’m in a wheelchair, but I am. So they say, “I haven’t spent a lot of time with somebody in a wheelchair. I’m afraid of saying or doing the wrong thing or using the wrong terminology. Just tell me about being disabled and what do you need to do a good job in the company as well.” And those have been the best managers I’ve worked for, worked with, because they’ve been willing to go into that uncomfortable space and talk about a difficult topic and be quite open-minded as well.
Sylvana Storey: Right. And for me, it would be race, ’cause I’m a woman of colour. So for me it would be race. [chuckle] When we go out together, people often look and they’re like, “Ooh… ” Like, Toby is very independent and just when he’s charging in his wheelchair, and people are like, “Ooh”… You can see them look at you. But yeah.
Toby Mildon: We’re not allowed to be boisterous in the five star hotels that we go to.
Sylvana Storey: No. [laughter] But also, look, the CEO also has to be courageous. He has to hold all to account. Sometimes you have, let’s say in the finance industry, you have what we call star performers ’cause they bring in a lot of money for the banks. And if they’re acting, say, like in a discriminatory manner, leaders might turn a blind eye because they bring in so much money for the business. Sometimes that CEO just has to say, “Okay, yes, you bring in money. But no, this action is not great. We don’t accept this action here, this kind of behaviour. So out you go, regardless of how much money you bring.” Sometimes… That’s what I call courage.
Toby Mildon: ‘Cause I’ve worked for organizations that have fired their star players because, yes, they brought in money for the business but their behaviours weren’t congruent with creating that culture of inclusion that we wanted in the organization.
Sylvana Storey: Yeah. So, those are the main behaviours. Do what you say you’ll do, role-model, practise sensemaking, have empathy and emotion, and be comfortable with the uncomfortable.
Toby Mildon: Yeah. They’re really good. So this is the Inclusive Growth Show, and I’m just interested to know what inclusive growth means to you.
Sylvana Storey: So, yeah, inclusive… I’ll take us back right to beginning of our conversation where I said the key areas of the organization, such as strategy, structure, culture, leadership, are consistently and continuously stretched and appraised so that growth as a key activity becomes part of the culture.
Toby Mildon: Excellent.
Sylvana Storey: It’s also about dismantling bureaucracy so that leadership is redistributed, and there’s some agility in the system. The courage to interrogate, interrogate systems, policies, processes for bias, injustice, unfairness, inequities. And it’s seeking out untapped talent, inviting mavericks into the fold. So it’s just to challenge you, and so inviting challenge. They don’t have to be… Maverick, people think “Maverick… Oh, bad word.” No, maverick’s good. Maverick challenges you, to just stretch you a little bit. Inclusive growth is about education. Educate, educate, educate, educate yourself and enable others to educate themselves. And again, I can’t stress this enough, it’s about humanity and it’s about dignity.
Toby Mildon: Yeah.
Sylvana Storey: We’ve lost. We’ve lost it. We’ve lost humanity in our organizations. Diversity is not an IT system. It’s not an AI initiative. It’s about people. And it’s about doing the right thing.
Toby Mildon: Yeah, absolutely. I love all of those points. We’re definitely on the same page. I particularly like your point around educating ourselves, because I’ve read this great article about anti-racism in organizations and the article was saying that we have to take responsibility for educating ourselves when it comes to topics like racism, for example. Because so many chief execs have had a bit of a knee-jerk reaction to Black Lives Matter, and when George Floyd was murdered in the States, and then they lean on their black employees to start coming up with solutions to fix the workplace. But not every person of colour is an expert on racism. And actually the… We shouldn’t be leaning on employees with a particular characteristic to fix the workplace. I mean, I’ve been the only disabled person in an office, and then people come up to me and go, “How do we make this place accessible?” And I’m like, “Ask some other bloke in a wheelchair.” I’m not the only… You know, I’m not an expert on wheelchair accessibility.
Sylvana Storey: And that’s true. Just as an aside here, Toby, that the majority of the statements that organizations came out with for black… In response to Black Lives Matter movement, post George Floyd, were actually written by white people.
Toby Mildon: Yeah.
Sylvana Storey: Right. [chuckle] So look, you get an expert in. Get an expert who has lived experience in.
Toby Mildon: Yeah.
Sylvana Storey: Pay for it.
Toby Mildon: Yeah. Brilliant. Well, Sylvana thank you for joining me on today’s episode. I love talking to you, as always, and… Well, we are recording this episode during the Coronavirus, which means that our trips to bars for cocktails has fallen of the agenda. Hopefully we’ll get back to that soon. Thank you for joining me on this episode. I loved talking to you.
Sylvana Storey: Thanks for inviting me, Toby.
Toby Mildon: You’re very welcome. And if somebody wants to get in touch with you, how is the best way of getting in contact?
Sylvana Storey: Just through LinkedIn. Just drop me a line and say that you heard me on Toby’s podcast, Inclusive Growth, and at least I’ll know where your query stems from and then we can take it from there.
Toby Mildon: Brilliant. Well, thanks, Sylvana, and thank you for listening to this episode of the Inclusive Growth Show. I hope you enjoyed my conversation with Sylvana today. And I look forward to seeing you on the next episode, which will be coming up shortly. Until then, take care.
Speaker 1: Thank you for listening to the Inclusive Growth Show. For further information and resources from Toby and his team, head on over to our Website at mildon.co.uk.

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