E144: Leyla Okhai

Steps And Practices Your Business Can do To Create A Positive Workplace and Prioritise Diversity And Inclusion

leyla okhai podcast image black and white

eCom@One Listen on Spotify

Podcast Overview

Does your business promote and prioritise a positive, diverse and inclusive workplace? Now more than ever it is super important to create a supportive workplace for your employees. Happy employees are more productive, which leads to business success. 

In this episode, Leyla talks about key steps and practices to achieve a safe environment for employees where they can thrive. She shares why it is so important and breaks down ways you can prioritise diversity and inclusion within your business. 

eCom@One Presents:

Leyla Okhai 

Leyla Okahi is the CEO and director at Diverse Minds, delivering, developing and managing diversity, inclusion and equality. With over 18 years of experience Leyla works to create positive work places and create opportunities for employee growth whilst prioritising equality.

In this episode, Leyla talks about key steps and practices you can cooperate into your business to create an inclusive, diverse and positive workplace, she also explains why this is so important to her and breaks down ways you can challenge a work-life balance. Leyla also talks steps that companies can take to deal with toxic behaviours and attitudes and why all of this is so important in our world today

Tune into this episode to learn about the importance of equality and inclusion and how prioritising this in your business will be beneficial to productivity and creating a positive workplace.

Topics covered:

2:30 – How Did You Realise There Was A Need For Diverse Minds 

5:01 – What Does A Positive Workplace Mean To Leyla 

7:41 – The Key Elements Of A Positive Workplace 

16:09 – Steps Companies Can Take To Deal Toxic Behaviours And Attitudes 

19:50 – How Can Companies Create Opportunities For Employee Growth 

25:05 – Challenging A Work-Life Balance 

30:20 – Ways Businesses Can Prioritise Diversity And Inclusion 

36:05 – Practices Companies Can Use For Promoting Team Collaboration 

48:10 – Book Recommendation – The Island of Missing Trees, Elif Shafak

Richard [00:00:00]:

You. Hi, and welcome to another episode of eCom@One. Today's guest, Leyla Okhai, CEO and director of Diverse Minds. How you doing, Leyla?

Leyla [00:00:10]:

Yeah, really good. Thank you, Richard. Thanks so much for having me on the show.

Richard [00:00:13]:

No problem at all. We were just chatting before we came on, when we were not we're not too far away from each other, about an hour's drive, give or take. So it's quite rare to have somebody on in the local, fairly local. So nice to have you on, Leila.

Leyla [00:00:24]:

Yeah, brilliant to be here.

Richard [00:00:26]:

So let's get into it, shall we? So how did you realize there was a need for Diverse Minds and tell us about that.

Leyla [00:00:32]:

Yes, I didn't really so my story, and if you listen to my podcast, the Diverse Minds podcast, in fact, it was the first episode that I did, which was talking about the fact that when I worked at Imperial College in London, I started work on mental health support for staff. So we know in universities there's normally a lot of provision for students, but there's not as much for staff. So I started work on that. I trained as a mental health first aid instructor. I ran two courses in summer 2013, pilot courses. One course had eight people on it, one course had nine people on it. And then it just went from there. And other institutions would say, oh, my goodness, how have you managed to do all of this? Can you come and talk to us about it? It sort of kept happening. And then I said to my manager, she said, you can go, but the money needs to go into our departmental budget. So that's what happened. And then it kept happening. So I bought extra annual leave and then it kept happening. And I thought, this is interesting, there's clearly something in this. So I guess that is how I realized. And it was probably a journey of about two years. So I registered my company in December 2016 and then I went full time on my business in October 2017.

Richard [00:01:39]:

Wow. So getting requests to help while you're sort of doing your full time job, in effect, and then transitioned over the next couple of years and then went full time and all in on Diverse Minds.

Leyla [00:01:55]:

Yes, absolutely. So it was interesting because I took an interim job and I had a business mentor. So I did do a business accelerator that started in January 2017 for three months. And it was a really manic year for me, 2017. And we got business mentor. And he said to me, Why have you taken this job later? And I said, I don't know. And he said, but you know what? I'm not going to have a go at you because you'll jump when you're ready. So, yeah, in effect, that's what happened.

Richard [00:02:20]:

It's an interesting one, isn't it? That sort of jump, because I'll just follow your passion. I'll just do the reality of the world and the reality of everyone's life is very different, isn't it? Yes, and we've all got bills to pay, we've all got commitments to various things and it's not quite that simple as it maybe when we're 17 it might be a little bit it's a.

Leyla [00:02:40]:

Little bit easier, isn't it?

Richard [00:02:41]:

But yeah, we have that conversation quite a lot on the podcast and it's got to be right, hasn't it? There's a few things have to align, not just, right, let's just do it. Yeah, but that's brilliant. A lot of people talk about sort of positive work culture and that's something we talk about a lot on the podcast and it's a very deep thread through our business but what does it mean to you? A positive work culture?

Leyla [00:03:07]:

Yeah, positive work culture means that people can bring their best professional selves into the workspace without fear of repercussions or negativity. Now, I don't think we can always bring our quote, unquote, authentic self. For example, if you love sports, if you love and I'm thinking most sports people shout and get really involved in it, and that's great. I don't really think we should see that shouting in the workplace. I don't think people should be falling out over sports teams. So I do think you have to present a professional face. I also think a positive work culture is one where there is time, where decisions aren't constantly made and dropped and remade and dropped and created and all we're doing here, we're over here now, we're over here now because that's not good for anyone's mental well being. I also think it's about having policies, procedures and processes that are clear, simple, easy to follow and that are applied consistently, because I don't see that so that could be bereavement leave, carers leave, disability leave, which very few places have mental health leave. We don't need really intricate legalistically phrased, we might need some legal input on it, but we don't need them to be phrased in a really inaccessible way. And I think the other thing is appropriate and again, involving and interactive training for everyone at the different stages they are. So we want progression training, you want management training, want senior leadership training. I mean, there's a lot of senior leadership training, but I think that training needs to focus on how are you helping your people in an organization?

Richard [00:04:35]:

Yeah, that's great. A lot of things there, I think when maybe somebody's working for a company and they need time off, like you said, for different reasons, it can get quite the responses I've heard of I know various friends and family that work at different places and whatnot and the responses can be quite sort of what's the word? Not very nice and very law driven and very by the books punitive yeah, which taints things, doesn't it? Very easily think, well, end of the day, this X-Y-Z has happened in a family situation or whether it's there's obviously all sorts of potential situations or circumstances, but it's, you know, it's as an employee, it's actually an opportunity, I see, to do the right thing. And a lot of companies sort of really caught that up, don't they, I think, yeah, definitely. So what would you say? You touched on a few things there, but what are the key elements of a healthy and positive work culture that companies should be aiming to get to?

Leyla [00:05:48]:

You've probably seen a lot, Richard, on LinkedIn, and we're both on social media quite a lot about psychological safety and how you create psychological safety. So that's really key, that people feel that they're not going to be punished for asking questions, saying, could we do this a different way? Again, in a professional manner? And the sort of fragility that you often get around senior leadership and this hierarchy that's built, and you mustn't say this to this person and you mustn't say, put your suggestions there. So I think that's a really key part of it, and I think also discomfort. I think senior leaders have to lean into discomfort and do things that change the status quo. What do I mean by that? So I think we've seen it with Black Lives Matter. Nearly three years ago, everyone was doing listening groups, focus groups, oh, let's get on it, let's get on it. And yet we haven't seen a shift in the number of black leadership positions. We haven't seen a shift in the way black doctors and nurses are treated in the NHS. In fact, it's gotten worse. So we can't just pick things up like shopping baskets. We can use an ecommerce analogy. In ecommerce, you want people to click and buy and you want their cart to then be empty and you've got the money. But I think, actually, for the positive workplace, you want people to keep browsing and keep refining and keep going back to the table and looking at their products, because otherwise this stuff doesn't get done overnight. It's not like a sales call, you can't just close the sale. This is constant stuff. Like, if you train for a marathon, you're going to have injuries, you're going to feel sick, you're going to struggle. And what's your plan? How do you get back on it? Do you need a bit of physio? It's all those sorts of things. I think that's absolutely, for me, how you build a positive culture and realizing they're not everyone. Yes, you can have frameworks, but you do have to look at the individual in front of you. So you may have three members of staff who have visual impairments, but those visual impairments might be slightly different. Those visual impairments, people are going to want to use different assistive technology. Maybe they don't want to use assistive technology. Maybe they want to have a physical support worker, and that's cool, they should be allowed to do that. And also, people then say to me, well, that's fine, Leila, but you're telling me I shouldn't ask personal questions. But if I don't ask personal questions, how do I know what reasonable adjustments, workplace adjustments, someone needs? And I said yes, because what we can say is, what are your access requirements? We don't have to say to someone, print out all your medical records since 1974, and I need to have a look at them because I've seen that happen.

Richard [00:08:13]:


Leyla [00:08:13]:

What we need to know is, how do you like to do your job? What are your preferences? How can we support you? And it's the same. We don't have to make people bring up trauma about racism, but we can say, Wait a second. In a cultural context, what do you feel the culture of the organization is? How would you define your culture? And we do this as a team exercise. What is the organizational culture, the team culture, and individual cultures, where do they fit together? And where are the areas where there might be discrepancies and discomfort? And what can we do to shift that?

Richard [00:08:42]:

Yeah, absolutely. I think you see too often, like you mentioned, LinkedIn and on Social, it's XYZ Day today, and you see that for a day or two, and the social media managers of the world jump on these days of whatever, and then it gets forgotten. It's sort of embedding that throughout the organization on a consistent basis to have that open communication, and that creating a place where everyone wants to be. I think the reality is everyone you mentioned, three or four people that maybe have got visual challenges, impairment, et cetera, but they're all going to be very different. For those people to be able to have a feeling that they are able to speak to their manager or whoever they report to, rather than maybe I dare mention it. What would you say to the companies that are trying to foster more of an open communication and feedback sort of loop between employee, employer? Is there any sort of suggestions for them?

Leyla [00:09:59]:

I think one of the biggest barriers of why this isn't as commonplace as it could be, and I think that we love technology. We know it's great, but there is a sense of I can't get things wrong, and there is a sense of it's very strange because there's a sense of I can't get things wrong, but there's also I need spoon feeding. And I'm finding this more and more as time is going on. It's okay. When I worked at Imperial College, when I started working there, my role was to support disabled staff. Now, how could I possibly know, first of all, I'm non disabled at the moment. Then how could I possibly know every single thing about every single disability? Which a new K Equality Act is a broad definition, which is great. So it's long term impairments, it's physical, it's mental ill health, it's sensory impairments. Things like cancer and HIV AIDS from the point of diagnosis. So we've got a really broad brushstroke, which is brilliant, but you got to talk to the person and you've got to think, what do I know? Okay, there's a lot I don't know, but I also can think about empathy and if I were in this situation, what's the key thing here? And the key thing is that we have to listen and not just constantly good at put advice forward. So what happens in workplaces, particularly with managers? Yes, it's a tricky place to be. You are spinning lots of plates. You've got things that you have to do from above. You've got a team that you have to support that is I don't want to say below you, but that you're responsible for and you feel that there is a lot on your plate. But what happens is people go, oh, God, I've just got to solve this problem. What is it? Yeah, okay, well, if you just go to OC Health, you're done. And I understand that because, again, it goes back to my point about environments. We need to give people space to breathe, but we can't always solve things. So if someone's going through a bereavement, yes, of course, we can let them know what services are available internally and externally. We can't solve someone's grief. Grief is a process. It's not one day you're upset and the next day you're fine. So it's understanding that a lot of these things aren't, quote unquote, solvable, and it's a journey. And what's your role in that journey? And that role is to listen, to be supportive, to sign post, and also to know your boundaries, because you can't solve everything for everyone. It's not possible. So for me, I think that's a really important part about feedback and communication and saying, you know what? I don't know. I don't know what you're going through. I don't think there is a solution. But here are some options. Would you like to talk about options? No, I don't really want to talk about them. Okay, you don't want to talk about them today. Perhaps the best thing is for you to go home. We can pick this up when you're back in. And always having that conversation and looking at wellness action plans, looking at people's recovery models in an anticipatory way, because we're all going to go through challenges like we saw in the Pandemic.

Richard [00:12:38]:

Yeah, I think that's probably where a company like yours comes in as well, where some goes back to training and having the skills as a manager, as an owner, because end of the day, there will be some challenging circumstances or challenging things to address. And if you've not used to that doesn't mean you're bad at it. If you're doing it wrong, it's new territory for a lot of people, isn't it? And pretend you don't have certain circumstances. So obviously, training and investing in your training of your team, that's pretty vital, wouldn't you say?

Leyla [00:13:15]:

Yeah, absolutely. And I think it's also thinking about what do you then do with that training? So many organizations do training for a tick box or in reaction to something or because they think, oh, sugar. If we do go to a tribunal, one of the first questions that is asked at an employment tribunal is, what kind of training have you had? So that's fine. I don't think that it's important to remember that training isn't a panacea. Again, it's part of the process. It's part of this journey and what you do with the training. So if you have training, great, if you have a two hour session. But does that really change behavior? No, that has to be we're constantly going to talk about it. It's on the team meeting. We're going to reflect, we're going to share articles. There is so much information out there. Information is not the issue. It's the application of that information. So it's training as part of a bigger package of culture change or culture maintenance, improvement, growth, learning and development.

Richard [00:14:06]:

Yeah, brilliant. So what steps would you say that companies can take to address toxic behaviors and attitudes? Because I think you sort of touched note there. But in the moment when something happens, maybe have you got that framework that you could discuss or give some help to our listeners?

Leyla [00:14:27]:

Yeah, and this is such a key one, isn't it? Because how is it that so many organizations have incredibly toxic people? Recently, the news stories came out a few months ago was it around Christmas time? About the UN and the incredibly toxic workplace cultures and the sexual abuse that was going on. And that's one example. It's sort of happening everywhere. There was CBI. That's a recent story that came out, the big business organization. So it's very scary. And what happens is, often people in these senior leadership positions, they are, quote unquote, untouchable because they bring in money or they have gravitas. And we have this thing, don't we, in society that if you're senior and you've made it to a high level, you can't be dot, dot, dot, dot, dot. But we all have what Dr. Ibrahim X Kendi calls this dueling consciousness about lots of things. So someone can be a famous singer and they can also be very abusive. Or like you look at Harvey Weinstein, someone can be a famous movie director and going to these parties and be friends with very influential people, then they can also be an incredibly abusive person. So I think that's one thing to realize that and I think we really do have this thing in British workplace culture, it's what your word against them? And I know their frameworks. There's a legal procedure, but we also have to go, wait a second. This is very serious. We need to think about suspension. We also need to be looking at identifying what are toxic behaviors in an anticipatory way again, I love that word. And saying what? As a work community. I talked about this in a recent podcast. Richard, I hate it when people say, we want our workplace to be like a family. Now, I hate it because maybe you've got a really wonderful family, but think about families and the kind of the lack of communication, the closed doorsness, how people have these subtle roles. Some people have explicit role, implicit roles. No one sits down, really, and says, this is our positive communication policy as a family. But what you do want your workplace to be is a supportive, professional community. And I think if we have that mindset, that's really useful. And I think it's to look at, these are the things we inculcate. And I know people will say, well, we have values, missions and aims, but how are they really embedded? How are we really looking at the behavior? And we also need to have zero tolerance, really? Meaning zero tolerance not, okay, they've done it 25 times. Oh, we might have to make a big payout. We're going to get rid of someone. It's like, okay, sugar, we do need to investigate this, but someone's in harm. Let's suspend, let's look at what we can do, because it sets an example and it's really important, and I just don't think it happens enough.

Richard [00:17:09]:

No, I agree. I'm aware of a few situations like that where something clearly should have been dealt with very sharply, quickly, et cetera, and it hasn't been or wasn't. And then that just sets a tone in the business, which nobody wants to be involved with, and people leave, people are unhappy, and it just becomes something it should have been dealt with, and now it's become a bigger, broader issue, and it sort of spreads through the business, potentially. I've seen it many, many a time. Yeah. So I think what would you say? How can companies create opportunities for employee growth and development to promote a positive work environment?

Leyla [00:17:56]:

Yeah, I think one of the key things is to not be obsessed with someone's grade and their role. So, yeah, we know that we have that, and people have their roles, they have their role descriptions, and that is important. But particularly, I've seen it in higher education, there's a fixation. You can't do that because you're a level seven, and that's a level eight role, and you're just saying, oh, my goodness. So it's thinking about someone's got a role, but also, how do we want to develop them? And of course, we know, especially nowadays, this sort of pandemic transition, people are changing jobs very, very quickly, very quickly. And I've seen people staying in jobs for nine months. I think ten years ago, that would have been seen as, why are you such a job hopper? Now? It's like, okay, yeah, if that place wasn't giving you what you need, you got to move on. So we need to think about how can we develop people? If we can't develop people, how can we sponsor people to maybe go outside of an organization and then they come back in what I call the periscope effect and things like glass door, you've got your reputation, people write things. How do you want to do that? And growth and development can look very different for different people. So for many people it's that upward progression. For some people it might not be that some people, they work to live, they don't live to work. So maybe growth and development is learning new skills but they really want to be in that same job. Maybe they do want to be trained for a managerial role. They just want to go one grade above and then that's what they want to do. Or maybe it's they want to be able to arrange the social events for an organization. So you've got to look at what that progression and development means for them and not through a dry appraisal process which is important. Appraisals are important and you do need to have it documented but how can you bring it to life a bit? So I think you need people to get excited about motivation and excited about shaping and supporting people and being mentors, coaches and sponsors internally for staff.

Richard [00:19:46]:

So have an environment where it's sort of known that you are discussing with your peers, your managers, your aspirations, whether like say, whether I was thinking of all sorts of people, then when you sort of say obviously some people are completely driven by the money, some people are pretty driven by the position, other people just turn up and late. There's no right or wrong with any of that. Absolutely. And I think we actually build that into our appraisal process. It's not a dry one of those things. We have the second question every three months that we have your aspirations for the future, whether that's, well, I'd like to take a month off. Oh hello, that's an interesting one. It's not a no, it's okay, how are we going to make that work? Sort of thing. Or I'd like to be trained on this. Or our business has got a lot of different hats that we can wear a lot of different departments so you can move from one to another or try different things. We've had various people come in to do one thing and clearly they are super smart, super cultural, fit for the business. However they're maybe not quite in their flow doing the thing they came in to do. So in the sort of appraisal strokes of discussion around the future that's where there's an opportunity to go actually maybe we could try this or maybe we could try that. They're saying this is it possible to try that? And we have a very sort of open policy as long as commercially it's not going to be too challenging for us to give people opportunities in different areas and make that sort of known as well. Yeah, because I think, yeah, a lot of people can get sort of stuck in a job, can't they? And then if you're unhappy, like you say, it's not like ten years ago where you'd probably just a lot of people still sort of maybe just get on with it and put up with it. But there is a lot more opportunity out there now, isn't there, really in reality to move? I'm not suggesting you just move jobs all the time, but I think especially in my industry, it's quite a transient industry where a laptop and a WiFi connection, you can do the gig sort of thing, no challenge sort of thing. Yeah. So what are some effective strategies for promoting that work life balance and preventing sort of challenges with burnout, et cetera? Which I think has been a very hot topic this last couple of years, with everybody sort of doing work from home more so obviously a little bit less now, but when we were deep in the COVID couple of years, it was quite a challenging doing those. Before you know it, we're doing ten hour days. If you're not careful or whatever, you'll roll out of bed and you're connected to the Internet and next thing you know it's 07:00 at night or whatever. That's obviously a nightmare situation, but I know a lot of people have been sort of really stretching, what would you say, some of some sort of strategies to get that balance.

Leyla [00:22:47]:

I think one thing, and this is going to sound maybe incredibly simple or simplistic, actually not simple simplistic, but is any company or organization, big or small, being really organized and clear and having systems in place. So that could be your sales system, that could be your email system, your service level agreements, how you want to chase payments, all of it, and then focus on a word, maybe, or a quarterly plan. You don't have to overdo it, but then you're not dropping and picking up things and driving everyone insane. Because to me, I think that's the worst thing for burnout, because you're duplicating work, you're duplicating work, you're making people run around, then the work is not being used. It's incredibly disheartening to have that happen. I think also being really clear with customers and clients and service users, boundaries are really important because if that keeps happening, if you don't set boundaries and things keep going haywire, that's also really bad. You want to think about how you provide stretch opportunities for staff, but don't push them into the crisis zone within people's own remits. And think about not just think about enact systems that reduce stress and increase well being. So do you encourage people to take lunch breaks? And I know some people don't really like to eat lunch or whatever, but okay, can they take 230 minutes breaks? Encouraging people to get out in the fresh air and making sure that people do just work their hours if they choose to do more. Okay, but we don't want to encourage that culture of this constant emailing, making sure that people are scheduling emails or having a strap line that says, I'm sending this out of hours because I have caring responsibilities. I don't expect you to do that, or however they want to phrase it. I also think make sure people take their annual leave. That's really important. That's a big one that I'm hearing a lot, particularly from law firms, and also have these check ins around. So you could have quarterly away days, and maybe if you do that or biannual away days and dedicate an hour to get people to give them a wellbeing tool. I know lots of workplaces have apps. It's up to the user to use that. I think apps can be really overwhelming. But how do we build in things like the five ways to wellbeing all the time? How do we provide opportunities for people to not feel the stress, but feel the wellbeing in a way that works for them and let people attend things as well? I've seen that happen all the time. So only senior staff can go to networking meetings. No one else can go. So those things are already good for people's well being, hybrid working, flexible working. Lots of people love working at home, so don't force people to come into the workplace. I think that's horrible. I think that's one of the worst things for people's well being. So yeah, I hope that gives you a perspective of different that's a huge list, Leila.

Richard [00:25:30]:

That's a huge list. I'm ticking off thinking, yeah, but as a listener right now, there's obviously quite a lot of things like this run through there. So those boundaries, I think, is a lot of it, isn't it? Boundaries around making sure your people are not stretching those days out and next thing you know, they're there till X amount at night or they're not taking the lunch. That's something that happened in our business last week. We quite often have when we're in the office, we're in the office usually three days a week. It varies, but that's about our sort of average. Most people are in three days a week, and then probably 30%, two days a week. But we usually have lunch together. Not always, but quite often. We're in a co working space, and there's a really nice lounge, and there might be 15 or servers downstairs having lunch, but one of the guys didn't come down. And it was like and I didn't really think much of it at the time, but then an hour later, somebody said, oh, yeah, hasn't taken lunch today. And I'm like, what? Then I asked somebody, oh yeah, I didn't take lunch yesterday. I'm like, what's this about?

Leyla [00:26:30]:


Richard [00:26:31]:

So it was like, why? Why is that happening? You know, it's not. It's very, very that doesn't happen in. Our business. But obviously last week, week before, I think it was actually that did. So it's a little conversation and he's, oh, I want to get this finished. I'm like, no, well, my colleagues spoke to him, actually, not myself. He's his manager, sort of obviously making sure that he takes his lunch. And then I think that sort of sending those emails at 08:00 at night and all the slack and things like the slack. We have a meeting every three months, what we call our vision meeting, and we have a section that is about mental well being and the various things that you talk about apps. We have an app called Spill App, and we talk about that quite a lot. But we had to sort of say, look, no slack before or after working hours, because probably 18 months ago, it was getting out of hand again after I sort of hold my hand up myself. And another sort of manager, it was getting just ridiculous, to be honest. Where 06:00 at night, he's messaging me, I'm messaging him, the next thing we know, it's 09:00 at night, and then it just sort of snowballs out of control. And the next thing you've done two or three weeks and you've done an extra five days work. So we said, look, no slack out of hours. That's probably 18 months ago. And it's something we're very sort of right, the odd exception of an emergency or something, which is very rare in our business. But, yeah, hell of a list there, Leila. I think that's given a lot of ideas to people, because I think a lot of people have been thinking, oh, yeah, we need to work on that, we need to work on that. It's so easy to sort of do those extra hours and before you know it, that's when things start to people start to burn out or get a little bit disillusioned, potentially, with the organization or the role, et cetera. Great, so we'll move on, then. So how can companies prioritize diversity, equality and inclusion as a key component of a healthy and positive working culture?

Leyla [00:28:38]:

Yeah, and I think one of the problems that we see is it's very much a bolt on, so something's happened, or oh, right, gender pay gap. Oh, sugar this, right, we better do something about deni. But if we think about it, there's a famous quote by Nathan Inn, and she says, the author, she says, we don't see the world as it is, we see the world as we are. So what people think is neutral and normal, normal or standard is not going to be everyone's neutral, standard and normal. So we need to think about how do we get different viewpoints in to shape what we're doing? And I think often what happens as well in this space is people have had very bad experiences. They've either been on very boring training or they feel preached to, so they switch off. But if I say to people, okay, put your hands up. If you've ever had someone be ill in your family, put your hands up. If you've ever had someone in your family who has been diagnosed with a neurodivergent condition, put your hands up. If you've had a female member in your family who's had a tough time post giving birth, actually, then people go, oh, yeah, there is a real pushback around. Oh, we've got to cowtow to these people, and these people are telling us what to do, and I'm sick of it, and blah, blah, blah. And I think we just take a deep breath and take a step back and think about no. What this is doing is we're seeing the spectrum of lived experience, and we all have what would come under legislation, protective characteristics, because we all have an age, we all have a gender, we all do have an ethnicity, we all have a skin color. If we start thinking about that, then what we're trying to do is, again, going back to this, creating a positive workplace community where we're supporting one another. So I think it's in anything that you're doing, whether it's creating a policy, recruitment, celebrating an event, it's thinking about things like accessibility, how welcoming things are. If you haven't got people in house that are reflective of certain demographics, who could you go to, set some budget aside, get some lived experience, auditing in. Don't be afraid to have conversations and think about, oh, okay, so we're starting this ecommerce new campaign. Oh, have we tested this with screen readers? How might someone who uses certain assistive technology access this? Okay, deliveries. Okay, if that's part of it, how do we deliver to someone maybe who's in an accessible accommodation that's not very easily found? What's their customer journey? What's their experience? Or what about the phraseology when we have the little blurb descriptions? Is that as inclusive as possible internally? When you think about staff as well, everyone has a different parenthood journey. So how do we want to reflect that? How do we want to think there's a legal minimum standard, but maybe we want to enhance that. Maybe we want to say that the men in our company can have eight weeks, not eight weeks like, I don't know, three months paternity leave. And we want to be real trailblazers in that. So I think it's thinking about all of it in the whole breadth of it, and I think it's really focusing on their word. And I'm really glad you said equity, right? Because this is something we're talking about more in the space. This is not just about saying, oh, you treat everyone equally. And I had an interesting training session where a facilities team said to me, well, we couldn't really answer this question about how to put things into action because we treat everyone the same. We do this. And it was online, and it's really difficult to challenge that sometimes and I thought, yes, but how are you really doing that and are you thinking about that? And I said, okay, well in your team, how would you attract more women to apply to a facilities role? Oh yeah, but we do do that because we put it in the paper. I said, yeah, no, I see that, but you might want to look at the language like what kind of language are you using that you might not be aware of? Who might you like to talk to to get feedback on that? So it's constantly thinking, it's a constant iteration and it's remembering that certain people are nowhere near the starting line. So how can we really support them to get to that starting line and take the hurdles away as they run?

Richard [00:32:35]:

Yeah, I love it. Thank you for that. Thank you for that. So I think teamwork, I think a lot of the stuff we talked about is, you know, sort of you know, we're getting everybody sort of working together best we can, you know, which is easier said than done, but can be and sort of encouraging people to collaborate on various projects or various discussions around some of the things we've talked about. But what are some of the best practices that you could give to our listeners for sort of promoting team collaboration and building stronger relationships at work?

Leyla [00:33:14]:

Yeah, so I am going to plug something that I'm trained in that's called TetraMap and that's all about the nature of communication. It's a non psychometric tool that looks at how people have certain preferences for communication. So some people prefer to communicate going right, what's the return on investment? Let's go, go, go. Some people prefer to communicate like what are the facts? Let's look at the let's analyze some people, they just really want to build a rapport and say how do we connect? Are you going to listen to me? I'm going to listen to you. And some people love the ideas and innovation. So you have to have a blend of people for but you also have to acknowledge we normally have two preferences, we can do all styles but we will have an affinity to certain styles more than others. So it's thinking about how do I need to not change myself, but how do I need to understand that person and how do I need to get them to understand me? I think that's one really key thing. I think it's also about again, it's going back to this professional workplace community. And one of the things I think can be really useful is to create a team charter so you can have an organizational one and a team one. And I do this with my team, and we used to review it at away days. And we always had how we're going to work together as a team with bullet points, and also how we're going to work and serve our internal customers. And we had things like service level agreements, but we also had things like we meet once a month for 90 minutes and we have a team meeting, people bring cakes, whatever it is, because I think that then sets the standard. But also what it means is that everyone's had a say in it. So it's like the shared piece of agreement. It's a shared agreement, shared piece of work that people think, yeah, okay, I really like that. And you can tweak it, it doesn't have to stay the same, it's not going to be chipped away in stone. It can be changed. And I think that's super important so that people feel heard, valued, understood, and then understanding communication preferences really AIDS that.

Richard [00:34:59]:

Yeah, I love it. I think that's something that we probably need to work on as well. When we think about my own businesses, we have our away days and our sort of quarterly vision meetings and I think we go so far with that, but I think just having more open discussion around where we are as a company with the team. So we've talked a lot there sort of around creating that sort of healthy and positive working culture and the listeners will gone away with a lot of ideas and start to maybe make some change, hopefully in their organization, or to reach out to you for some potential consultancy to help them and whatnot. But okay, as a company, you're investing in your team and your company and your culture, but how can you really sort of understand whether what you're doing is working? How can you measure is there sort of specific metrics that you would sort of recommend to our listeners that they can monitor?

Leyla [00:36:03]:

This is a brilliant question and of course, being in the sector that you're in, I know you love your graphs, you love your data. And when I talked about this women in Tech SEO conference, I said, you all love a graph, right? And someone took a photo of me and put it on Twitter saying you all love a graph, right? What a quote. And so I think this is often the challenge as well, because if we go back to things like sales training or particularly technical training on a new system, you can measure it quite clearly. And I think that there are certain metrics which I will talk about, but I think this is another thing that can often put people off. They think, well, how do we really measure it? So what you might see in terms of metrics, particularly if you're a large company and you do this kind of work, you might actually see bullying and harassment claims and incidents go up before they go down because people go, sugar, I have been going through this, I really need to voice it. It might spike up before it goes down. So that's one thing to be aware of. Don't expect that it's all going to go down straight away. But things like in your staff surveys, you should be seeing potentially a higher figures or pulse surveys on job satisfaction, being proud to work in a company, you might see well, it depends on your kind of company. I think especially in your field and world, you might see people leaving but then coming back, whereas I think in other organizations you might see people staying. But I think in your world things are much more flexible and fluid. You also might see people putting themselves forward more for the more social roles. So maybe they want to be mental health first aid is they want to get involved in things more. That could be a metric. You may also see things like people wanting to be trained or sit on panels, so fair recruitment panels and setting up staff, that you might see an increase either setting up in staff networks or people being involved in staff network groups. Better relationships, I think, with HR and irrelevant trade unions, so those sorts of things, but sickness, absence and presenteeism. So you might see a productivity go up, absenteeism again. It's an interesting one, isn't it? Why are we punishing people if they need to take time off? But you might see things like coughs and colds and stomach aches go down because that can also be a proxy for mental ill health. People are much more likely to say musculoskeletal and stomach problems, which can be linked to stress. So you might see that go down and you might just see people saying things like, oh, we had brilliant one to ones, that was fantastic. And the anecdotal stuff, so often it can be the qualitative rather than the quantitative.

Richard [00:38:37]:

Yeah, that just so resonates with myself and what we try to do. For those that you mentioned surveys and pulses, for those that maybe they haven't got anything in place like that to get a pulse, a company pulse across the team. Is there sort of things you would recommend to be able to do that with? We have our own tools we use, but what would you recommend?

Leyla [00:39:04]:

I mean, look, worst case scenario, you could just create something a poll on any free poll platform, people don't have to put their names in. You could also drip feed it through line managers and then get a sense of what's going on. I mean, there are all sorts of survey tools, aren't there? There was one that someone told me about recently, and I can't remember the name of it now.

Richard [00:39:28]:

Yeah, we use a system or an app called Spill.

Leyla [00:39:33]:

Yes, you said about spill.

Richard [00:39:34]:

Yeah, and that uses the terminology pulse, the company's pulse. I wasn't sure if you're referring to that. No, as we have an all hands meeting when we have our all hands meeting, we have two a week, one on a Monday, one on a Friday before anybody can get to the zoom link. They go through a question of how are you feeling today? From a zero to a ten. It's sort of done in a very nice way. If you're a ten, there's a big sunshine there. Attend a few clouds on a seven, maybe. So you click it's, just a simple click. Yeah, oh, I'm feeling an eight today. A little bit. I'm okay, but maybe something and then there's a series of emotions. I'm feeling calm, I'm feeling relaxed, I'm feeling stressed, I'm feeling anxious. Okay, there's three or four that are more challenging ones, like, I'm feeling stressed, anxious, et cetera. So then you choose two, three, or four to four for that check in, and then you then decide whether you want to share it with the team. You don't have to share it with the team, but you can. And then when we're all on as, you can then come through to the zoom. We then get to see the overriding. Everyone gets to see the overriding, sort of how everyone's feeling, unless they chose an individual not to show that. And then what we don't see is their individual score on that dashboard, but their manager does see their score. So if they're like a six out of ten, obviously the manager can then decide whether they think it's appropriate to reach out to that individual to say, hey, I see you weren't feeling great this morning. That can then spark a conversation around if there's a certain something at work that's obviously problematic or challenging that they want some help with. But ultimately, what we end up getting is a score out of ten. On a moment, we've got this chart, and we could generally see coming into December, everyone was slowly struggling, ready for the holidays. Obviously, there's a lot of other I shouldn't just say it was that, because obviously everyone's got different things going on. And then we came back in January, and it was like, okay, everyone was ready for the break. And again, maybe not everybody had the best Christmas, but the overriding score jumped a whole point sort of thing, and then it continued to climb. And then we had a bit of a drop off a few weeks ago, and we take those stats and that data, just the whole thing. We don't talk about individuals, and then when we do our free monthly meeting, our monthly every month meeting, sorry, we take the stats from that and talk about, oh, yeah, you can see the up and down. But then I think it's sort of sharing that data is important because I think the reality is the most positive person isn't positive every flipping day.

Leyla [00:42:28]:

No, it's so true.

Richard [00:42:30]:

That's my day today. I've got a very busy day. I could do with being a lot better than I did this morning when I got up, sort of thing. And if I'm being real and sharing that I'm a seven out of ten today, everyone expects maybe as a manager, owner or whatever, that you're a ten out of ten every day. Well, that's just not reality, is it? So I think it gives a billion you're sharing a bit more the real you as well, potentially, if you want to.

Leyla [00:42:56]:

Yeah, I think that's really lovely, actually. Really lovely. And I'm part of a business accelerator and they do these great check ins. We have the meetings every other week. And she did put some clouds up and she said, right, how are you all the weather symbols? I thought that was a really good way of doing it. And just I want to pick up on one point that you said about sharing the information. So I'm working with a very, very large organization in the education sector at the moment, and I did a session on race equality allyship, and they said, we just don't feel like we can do anything. We're really upset because we've had this massive staff survey and no one's allowed to see the results, only the very top people. And I just think, what's the point? And it's all very cloak and dagger and under lock and key, and you just think, these things are very expensive, especially if you outsource them. And you do it not your quick agile surveys, but they cost up £5000 upwards. It's not cheap. So then to not share that, that means like, throwing money in the bin.

Richard [00:43:50]:

Yeah. It's crazy, isn't it? Crazy. Yeah. I mean, since we've had that system in play, like you said, the different things you said around just the conversations you hear and just the genuine feedback that I've had and we've had from having that in play and other things, it's just layering in. Like, you mentioned a dozen things. We could go back through the episode, but I think it's really made a difference in our business. It really has. I think if somebody's having a bad day or they're having a bad day is one thing, but obviously if something is a lot more, if they're dealing with a bereavement or something, obviously there's a lot of different things there. In reality, in most businesses, people, it's maybe not shared at all. You just somebody might flippantly say, our system search is not very good today. But they don't know. They really don't know what they've got.

Leyla [00:44:48]:

Going on in their life.

Richard [00:44:49]:

So having that sort of environment where they may share a bit more obviously not everyone wants to share their personal things, but creating that environment where it's a bit more of an open environment where you're willing to and then as that individual is maybe going through that a certain thing or whatever it may be. It's a place there where you want to be more. Yeah, okay.

Leyla [00:45:12]:

Thank you, Richard. That's lovely.

Richard [00:45:14]:

Yeah, thank you. So thanks for coming on the show. It's been brilliant, brilliant chatting to you. I've been really sort of hagging on every word myself, to be honest. So thank you so much for coming on. I like to finish every episode with a book recommendation. Do you have a book you'd recommend to our listeners?

Leyla [00:45:27]:

Yes. Does it have to be business book or?

Richard [00:45:29]:


Leyla [00:45:30]:

So I run a local book club, actually, so we always have some good things. And last month we read The Island of Missing Trees by Elif Shuffok. Very beautiful book. Highly recommend it, loved it. I'm a big fan of a leaf shuffle, so, yeah, that's my recommendation.

Richard [00:45:46]:

Brilliant. That's not one I've heard of. Absolutely. So, yeah, we'll link that up in the show notes. Well, thank you for coming on the show. For those that want to find out more about you, more about the work you do, what's the best way to do that and the best way to.

Leyla [00:45:58]:

Reach out to you? Thank you, Richard. So it's diversemds. Co UK on LinkedIn. I'm leila. OK, leylaokhai. And then my handle on Facebook and Twitter is at diversemines. UK. And my instagram is at Diversmindspodcast. So, yeah, hope to connect with you. Reach out to me. Love to connect with you, love to know what you're up to.

Richard [00:46:20]:

Thanks, Leila. It's been a pleasure having you on the show.

Leyla [00:46:22]:

Thanks so much, Richard. Take care. Bye.

Discover New Opportunities To Unlock Hidden Revenue Discover New Opportunities To Unlock Hidden Revenue