2 Questions to ask while creating an inclusive workforce  - Andrew Tallents [Interview]

About Andrew Tallents

Andrew Tallents is the founder and managing partner at the Tallents partnership. He has a wide range of experience of 20 years, in leading a team of consultants who’ve delivered a broad range of tailored human capital solutions to multiple industry sectors around the globe. We are extremely happy and honored to have him on our interview series today. 

2 Questions to ask while creating an inclusive workforce  - Andrew Tallents [Interview]

Sumitha Mariyam

Welcome to another episode of the peopleHum interview series. I am your host Sumitha Mariyam and let’s begin with a quick introduction of peopleHum. peopleHum is an end-to-end, one-view, integrated human capital management automation platform, the winner of the 2019 global Codie Award for HCM that is specifically built for crafted employee experiences and the future of work. We run the peopleHum blog and video channel which receives upwards of 200,000 visitors a year and publish around 2 interviews with well-known names globally, every month. 

Sumitha

Welcome Andrew, We are so happy to have you here with us. 

Andrew

It’s nice to be here. Thanks for the invite. 

Sumitha

Our pleasure!

Let’s start with a little bit about your journey so far. What brought you to Tallent’s partnership?

Andrew

Sure, I was born in Manchester in the UK about 50 years ago, and I was born into a council estate of a hardworking family. My father worked very hard. I was the first generation to go to university, so I was very blessed to do that and did well at university. Then I went into the utility industry for a few years and then fell into recruitment, about 20 years ago. 

And 20 years ago recruitment as people remember, was very competitive and very solutions-driven, at that point. And I spent 20 years or so working as an executive, recruiting board directors to companies from quite a young age. What I learned during those 20 years is that every leader is a human being. And every leader, because they’re human beings, is held back by certain self-limiting beliefs and fears and other things that get in the way of them being great leaders. 

“Every leader, because they’re human beings, is held back by certain self-limiting beliefs and fears and other things that get in the way of them being great leaders.”

So about three years ago, I became more interested in leadership from a coaching perspective, and I had my first coaching session with my coach and I just found it opened up a whole new world for me in terms of self-awareness and understanding myself more. And that’s when I set up my own business, really with a view to helping leaders that I worked with in the past and new leaders to actually help them understand themselves better and to be able to fulfill their potential. 

So currently, I work with leaders who tend to be either already in roles or newly appointed to roles. And I really like working with leaders who want to learn about themselves, want to make a difference in the world, but most importantly want to learn the importance of self-leadership and self-coaching, which we’ll come to talk about later. My clients tend to work on their teams, their organizations, and hopefully, create coaching cultures for the businesses they work for. 

Sumitha

Yeah, that’s wonderful! I mean what you’re doing for leaders is amazing, helping them find out what they have to do and finding themselves. That’s Amazing. 

So you know, according to you, how can leaders ensure that they have an inclusive and engaged team? 

Andrew

It’s very interesting because I have worked with leaders for so long now, particularly CEOs. When I meet a CEO for the first time, they tend to open up by saying, ‘My team isn’t strong enough. My stakeholders don’t understand me. I really need some more different kinds of high-quality people to work with.’ What I do is really slow the whole conversation down and ask them to actually look at themselves first. So what is it that their doing that’s causing that dysfunctionality of the team? Why are the teams not engaged? Why did the team not feel part of the organization? 

So what I do is get them to understand first who they are as a leader, which is really difficult. We don’t tend to slow down enough to really understand, sometimes we’re afraid to understand who we are as a leader. And more importantly, ask them what their own purpose in life is. Not what the purpose of the organization is, but what their own purpose is. So that they understand why they’re doing what they are doing and get them to really slow down. 

Once they understand that we can and then move on a little bit to who their team are because again, a lot of leaders don’t really understand who their team are. So understanding their team members individually, what their challenges are, what their outside of work is like, and really understanding what engages them individually and more importantly, also, what their individual purposes are in life. 

And then once they’ve got that, they can then start to work with the team with my support or somebody else’s support to really try and create a common team purpose. So bringing all these different purposes together and a common team purpose, why we’re here and then from that, they can set some really clear stretch goals for the team, which motivate and engage the team to work towards their purpose. 

I think at that point it’s important that each of the team members agree with their roles in that team because they all have different strengths. But more importantly, whatever the role of the leader is both technically and from a leadership perspective, it’s at that point that the leader really needs to be consistent in their leadership style and authenticity, and that’s what creates an engaged team, and inclusive team because they see a consistent state leadership. Once leaders do that, it’s far easier for the leader to hold team members to account in terms of their own roles because they start to feel that the leaders actually do what they say they’re doing, there’s a bit more pressure on me now to step up, so actually, work the cause and purposes of our team. 

So being clear and consistent, encouraging the team to hold each other to account, once the trust builds as well. And actually this is all very easy to say. But it can only work if the CEO and the actual stakeholders of that organization help to create an environment of psychological safety where you can challenge each other safely, knowing there’s no retribution for that, building trust, and then confidence in the wider team. So I think that step by step process can enable teams to become more engaged and inclusive. 

Sumitha

Yeah that’s a wonderful answer.

Does the role of human resources need to undergo a change in the organization? Where do you think CEOs need to give their HR’s more leverage and leeway?

Andrew

It’s a really good question. I think it’s fair to say that unless you’ve been very lucky as a human resources leader, usually you are the person that has to try and force the CEO to actually think about people as opposed to strategy and numbers. And therefore it is more of a subservient type of relationship with the CEO. You always have to try and push. So I think the role of HR doesn’t need to change, but the CEO needs to enable that to happen and recognize the importance of that. 

I truly believe, by working with leaders, I’ve worked out that the future of the organization going forward, because of millennials and younger generations, is that we all need to collaborate more effectively and we need to work differently. Maybe we’ve been doing in the past about individual career prospects, individual career goals that we have to actually help each other to serve our customers and to serve our stakeholders. 

So to do this, I think employees need to raise their own self-awareness of who they are, how they impact the trust in their relationships. And I also think that CEOs and HR leaders need to enable the individual employees to do that and we need to move the culture from training our employees to coaching those employees to be the best possible versions of themselves and we can only do that by self-learning, self-developing, self leading their own development.

“We need to move the culture from training our employees to coaching them to be the best possible versions of themselves and we can only do that by self-learning, self-developing, self leading their own development.”

And if employees can self-coach and develop coaching leadership style, then collaboration will improve because you become more aware of how you impact other people, how you impact relationships, and how you can collaborate and work together to improve the goals you are working towards. 

So I think the CEO and the HR leaders need to work more closely together to create the space for employees and create a culture where people feel it’s safe to learn and to take some time out and reflect. And the HR leaders need to focus on providing that strategic vision in creating the coaching culture, with the CEO leading by example. 

So in similar situations, the HR leader has three roles. 

  1. One to become more proactive, with a CEO allowing them to become more proactive in creating culture. 
  2. Secondly, they need to create the vision for the coaching culture itself and get the CEO to buy into that. 
  3. And thirdly, they need to hold the CEO to account in living as a role model, that kind of culture that they’re creating, because that’s not easy for the CEO to do that. 

So there’s a supporting mentoring and coaching role that the HR leader can play in relationship with the CEO. So again, easy to say, very difficult to achieve. 

Sumitha

Yeah, so we probably covered, you know, most parts of my next question for you. But

Can you tell us a little bit more about self leadership and self coaching. And why are they relevant? 

Andrew

Yeah, is it better if I bring that to life with an example. 

Sumitha

Yes, yes.

Andrew

So I was working with a CEO recently who had been newly promoted into the role of CEO from an operations director role, and in that role in the first 6 months, they were starting to blame the board for certain decisions that have been made. They didn’t have a strong enough team and her relationship with the chair was not as it should have been. And yet she was acting as a victim and acting in terms of blaming other people. 

So what self-leadership is all about is taking personal responsibility for what it is that you can control.

“Self-leadership is all about taking personal responsibility for what it is that you can control.”

I can’t control what do you feel about me, I can’t control what other people do. All I can do is influence them. The only person I can control is me and some of the way I react to things and the things that I do. 

So the first step of self-leadership is really exploring yourself and who you are and understanding what you can change. Once you start doing that, you can then start to work with other people to help get that coaching that you need to work out your own self-awareness and purpose. 

And then explore your goals in life, both your personal goals and your goals of the organization. Once you understand who you are, you can then look at the gap between where you are today and who you need to be in the future to achieve your goals. And that’s where self-leadership and self-coaching really help. Because you are working on yourself to actually understand your skills, understand your strengths, understand those weak areas. 

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Now with this individual, it was the fact that she lacked a bit of confidence in terms of her ability to work with people who are more senior than her, and therefore she worked on building that confidence and building relationships. She didn’t wait for them to build relationships. So that’s what we worked on over a 12 month period. And after that period she was able to self coach a style in terms of self-leadership. And she didn’t need me anymore in terms of reminding her of the kind of thing she needed to work on. That means she can only help the team in that way and encourage them to self-lead and self-coach. 

Sumitha

Yeah, so that that makes a lot of sense. I mean,  that that really helped us understand the concept. So, 

Do you believe that organizations need to revamp their performance review processes to eliminate biases and increase accuracy?

Andrew

I do, I think, again, when we’re moving from a culture in most organizations of performance management in a negative sense and the sense of identifying who’s not performing and offering that carrot and stick to try and incentivize people to behave in a different way. So where we are encouraging people again, probably in a thriving coaching culture, to understand the task in hand, and for them to work out themselves,  how they actually manage themselves to work towards that task. 

And therefore the actual performance management, performance review is all about helping them to understand how they bridge that gap. So if you think about at the moment a lot of CEOs and senior leaders tend to review performance on either a monthly or an annual basis. They’ll have a sit-down, conversation with their employees on what they will do and actually give them feedback on how they’ve been performing. 

Well, what it doesn’t do is actually catching the moment how they’re performing it, just a series of intervals. So for me again, a really good performance review process, enable that self-leadership to take place by understanding where the person is now, where they want to get to in their career, what are the goals that are being set by the organization and get them to own their own person developments and use both feedback and Marshall Goldsmith’s concept of feed-forward to actually, in the moment, enable that rich learning to take place.

So actually moving from an interval type of performance review to actually an instantaneous, in the moment’s performance review so that people can learn instantly. That creates clear accountability. And it also means that you can measure and improve it very easily and that leads to higher emotional intelligence in people. 

“So actually moving from an interval type of performance review to actually an instantaneous, in the moment’s performance review so that people can learn instantly. That creates clear accountability.”

I think you can also introduce gamification as well. So I’ve come across this in some organizations where if you could introduce gamification elements of actually setting targets of people where they identified a career goal or a way to improve themselves that they own and actually having some sort of competition and help each other. 

And then finally, what I would say is that some kind of buddy system can work quite well in performance reviews. Learning from other people about how they overcome certain challenges. And finally, I think it’s about supporting the employees to help themselves in any performance review process. It’s all about them owning it, and you providing that support and no technology can enable this. 

Sumitha

Wow, that’s a beautifully structured answer. I love it! and, you know..

Resiliency is the new mantra during these trying times. How would you advise organizations to build more resiliency in their cultures?

Andrew

It’s a very good question, and a lot of organizations are looking at this now. It links back a little bit to what we were saying before, and Google has done some studies on this. You know, we actually can, as an organization, firstly create that culture of psychological safety, which means that if I think I can see something, but I don’t think is right for the organization or you’re behaving a certain way that I don’t think is appropriate, I need to feel safe to be able to call that out and to challenge you on it.So I think that’s the first thing that you need to be able to do.

I think the second thing, and this is very hard for organizations to do. It’s for the CEO and the HR leader to create an environment where each employee is not disrespected. They are creating space and time for themselves to reflect on what they’ve just done, reflect on how the impact and what they’re doing and build that self-awareness again, as opposed to moving from meeting to meeting to meeting, particularly in this remote environment we’re in now of constant zoom meetings, enable people to have space and time to reflect and again that enables them to build resilience. 

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I think the next thing is about well being. If we understand more about self-awareness and what we need to feel good and to feel that we are healthy in mind and body and that’s important. And it’s also important that we ensure that employees have personal development plans to link through the performance review and understand their role, their purpose, and how they’re held to account around that, and that’s very very important. 

And then finally, I think incentivizing employees to develop that self-leadership discipline and take personal responsibility for the tasks they have to do and the relationships they need to create. All of this builds resilience in individuals. And it’s only the HR lead and the CEO, that can actually create this kind of environment, and they need to demonstrate resilience themselves. And what I find the disconnect is that HR leadership is trying to create this kind of culture, but the CEO is not available to anybody because they don’t create space and time for themselves because they’re running from meeting to meeting and they are not displaying resilience. And that’s the disconnect. So I think that’s the best way that HR leaders can support CEOs. 

Sumitha

Yeah, I think there is this clash between the HRs thinking about, you know, some well being and the other organizational management thinking and as an economist thinking about wealth creation. So I think it collides and causes some trouble right there. 

So it was a wonderful answer, Andrew. And you don’t just to kind of wrap up the interview process if you have any last soundbites that you would like leave our audience with

Andrew

I think it’s just to summarize what we’ve been talking about, I think what COVID has done, it’s changed the world for good in the way that we work together, in the way we look at each other, in the way we review performance. So for me, it’s all about recognizing that we all need to collaborate more effectively now than we’ve ever done before, both in our organizations, but to create a sustainable world for all of us. 

I think we need to understand who we are, and so we can understand others better as well. We need to demonstrate self-leadership so that we fulfill our own potential and then we can help others fulfill their own potential because we understand them more effectively. We need more time and space for ourselves, for reflection, building self-awareness, and resilience. 

And more importantly, CEOs and HR leaders need to work hard to create the culture we talked about, to enable employees to lead themselves and others more effectively. CEOs and HR leaders need to lead by example, and more importantly, all of us, including the CEO and HR leader, need to be prepared to show that vulnerability and courage to ask for help when we need it because we can’t do it on our own. 

“CEO and HR leader, need to be prepared to show that vulnerability and courage to ask for help when we need it because we can’t do it on our own.” 

Sumitha

Yeah, that’s wonderful! Yes, thank you so much for that answer. And thanks for those positivity in the last answer.And thank you so much for being with us in these trying times and giving your time and energy to the audience, we are really grateful for your time and it’s been a totally enriching experience for me personally and Im sure its going to be the same for our audience, also. And have a healthy and safe time ahead of you, Ill keep in touch with you and stay safe.

Andrew

Thank you for the opportunity! Keep safe. Bye Bye

Sumitha 

Bye