“Male, Pale & Stale”: The Diversity Challenge

Chances are your company will be led by a group of middle aged men with 30 + years of experience. The vast majority of established companies tend to be. Most won’t use or understand digital tools and they will struggle to understand why and how social media can used to grow their brand, sales and networks. They will be quite set in their ways, used to thinking and doing things in a certain way and change, new innovative ways of operating and motivating others will seem very inconvenient. Lets just say they won’t embrace change!

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Don’t for a minute think that I am not advocating the importance of experience (it is very valuable) but if this is all you have chances are you are being or are about to be taken out by an up and coming company that embraces diversity of thinking.

I work with a diverse range of established companies across many industry’s and it staggers me the amount of linear “group think” that needs to be disrupted. That age old culture killing quote “Thats the way we have always done it” which extrapolated out leads to “we get the same results….over and over again” is alive and well.

Working with diverse Boards, reading the latest leadership research, attending Singularity University, Institute of Director training and teaching young leaders at both the University of Florida & Canterbury, I know that the inclusion of young smart people of various genders, ethnicity and backgrounds will lead to better ideas, execution and outcomes. So what can you do to rid yourself of the “Male, Pale & Stale” brigade? A few ideas;

  • Disrupt your own business as usual in a good way by including younger people in key projects and planning sessions. Challenge thinking, have robust conversations and debate.
  • Bring externals into your team to change dynamics and conversations. Clients, consultants, students, people from outside the industry. This will lead to different outcomes.
  • Find talented young people who can reverse mentor by teaching older, experienced leaders their way of thinking and why they might think the way they do. Get them to share the tools they use and why they believe what they believe.
  • Ensure your next hires bring new ways of thinking and working to the organisation. Recruit for it, have a robust process to ensure you don’t bring on yet another clone who believes what you believe is the only approach.
  • Make ongoing education around change, technology and leadership a major part of the culture of your organisation and senior leadership team. Build on the formal education of the 1990s with ongoing learning, skills training and frameworks.
  • Get closer to your clients. If they are increasingly diverse and changing then you also need to be as a company and team to adapt and succeed in the future.
  • Be wary of the new data driven, technology savvy start up. They can really hurt you and will be a common & increasing threat over the next few years. A sobering message delivered by Singularity University was “Your biggest competitor in 2025 will be a start up company in 2024.”

Stay nimble. Ensure you lead your organisation to change adapt and pivot to ensure it thrives in the future.