The discussion about the reality of diversity and inclusion in Agencyland continues. Quite right too – you can’t reverse decades of attitudes and behaviours with a swanky campaign slogan or a knee jerk policy. More than anyone, our industry should know that. D&I needs to be an agenda point on every board meeting, every time, along with mental health and wellness, at least in my view.

It is also my view that having a policy isn’t the complete answer – a policy is a way of enforcing behaviour, not changing it, and while I applaud the organisations that have implemented such pledges, I do think intelligent and transparent conversation can be the only way forward – albeit not that easy in times of enforced isolation, and in firms with hundreds or thousands of colleagues.

We held a session a little while ago, just to assess where we all are when it comes to D&I. It was (as all Realia meetings tend to be) honest and frank. It was also evident that we all felt the same way. That this isn’t a box-ticking exercise, or something we use to create facile communication about how great we are. It matters to us as a group that we see beyond age, colour, sexual orientation or any other discriminator – that we see the person, their aptitude and their attitude, their desire to better themselves, better the team and better the output for clients.

But for me, there is another very important level to inclusivity and that’s the inclusiveness of thought and emotional intelligence. At the heartbeat of every agency must be creativity and frankly, I really don’t care where that creative thought comes from, what’s important is that we embrace it and deliver it brilliantly. Our ability to recognise the value of other people’s contributions, creative ideas, work ethic, approaches to problem-solving, that, to me at least, is true inclusivity – one that when harnessed, delivers incredibly powerful outcomes that all stakeholders and wider society can squarely stand behind.

We are embarking on some work right now to better understand the EQ of our team so we can understand our respective strengths and weaknesses. What is important in all of this is that there is no right or wrong, preferred or advantageous, brain styles. We celebrate and understand our profiles individually – and our overall team style – and then use this to our advantage to maximise our capabilities, to succeed and grow, to make optimal decisions, relate better to people around us, and be more inclusive of others’ styles.

The term ‘diversity and inclusion’ manifests itself in many ways, and I suspect for many this is a new dawn fraught with potential banana skins. I do know that for some individuals and organisations it is going to take a while to get there, like any new learning it takes a while to embed, and inevitably mistakes will be made. But I’ve always believed that it is better to try and fail than fail to try.

Like so much of our world wrapped up complexity, the answer is beautifully simple. Perhaps we should look to rename ‘D&I policies’ to The Golden Rule? After all, don’t we all wholly subscribe to the principle of treating others as you want to be treated?

And perhaps the first step is reworking the agenda? Of course, we need to include finance, operations, people, clients etc, but let’s get AOB (All Our Benefit!) higher up the list. D&I, EQ, mental health, sustainability… big-ticket items that benefit all stakeholders and include everyone in our future success.


PW – Feburary 2021