David Allen

What great leaders do to unlock the potential in their people

When David Marquet took charge of a nuclear submarine that he was unfamiliar with and it came with a crew that was highly demoralised, he had to think quickly. How could he improve engagement and also ensure the submarine was run safely, effectively and efficiently?

The answer was not to try and have all the answers. Marquet had the foresight to know that it was his crew that already had the answers he needed. By tapping into the collective knowledge of his people and empowering them to make more decisions he both improved engagement and took the submarine from ‘worst to first’, achieving the highest retention and operational standings in the Navy.

In today’s business landscape companies need to fully capitalise on their resources to give them a competitive advantage. Leadership demands that executives and their Organisations capture the potential of their people through the right diversity and inclusion formula.

With diversity of people comes diversity of thoughts, ideas and knowledge. But much like a bank vault full of gold, this wealth of knowledge is no good to anyone if you do not have the code to open the vault door and tap into these rich resources.

In the realms of diversity & inclusion, Inclusive Leadership could be thought of as the code that accesses the vault. Much like David Marquet with his submarine, an inclusive leader knows how to foster an environment where everyone engages and contributes to their full intellectual capacity and everyone is a leader in their own right, as opposed to the increasingly outdated command and control approach to leadership.

So if Inclusive Leadership is a critical key to success in any Organisation, what are the characteristics of an inclusive leader?

In a research study into Inclusive Leadership conducted by the Employers Network for Equality & Inclusion (enei), the report highlights 15 competencies that characterise an inclusive leader. These are:

  • Individualised Consideration – showing individual interest and offering one-to-one support for people
  • Idealised Influence – providing an appealing vision that inspires others
  • Inspirational Motivation – encouraging others to develop ideas and to be challenging
  • Intellectual Stimulation – encouraging creative thinking
  • Unqualified Acceptance – showing acceptance of everyone without bias
  • Empathy – being able to appreciate the perspective of others and endeavouring to understand how others feel
  • Listening – truly listening to the opinions of others
  • Persuasion – having an influence on people’s actions without force or coercion
  • Confidence Building – providing positive feedback to boost people’s self-efficacy
  • Growth – providing opportunities for all employees to realise potential, make autonomous and unique contributions and progress with the organisation
  • Foresight – being able to consider the views of others about possible outcomes
  • Conceptualisation – being able to focus on how employees contribute to long-term objectives
  • Awareness – having self-awareness of how preconceived views can influence behaviour towards others
  • Stewardship – showing a commitment to leading by serving others

If you are looking to become a more inclusive leader then a good starting point is to take note of the above competencies and recognise what you are good at and what you could improve upon. Self-awareness is the starting point of any change!

Here are a few more tips on simple daily actions you can take to bring out the best in your people:

Tip 1 – Shift perspectives

When you next hold a meeting with a direct report, begin the meeting as you normally would and get their input, however, to get them thinking differently swap seats with them and get them to now think about things as if they were in your position. This is a great way to get them thinking like a leader and makes them feel more valued. It also gives you the opportunity to see things from their point of view.

Tip 2 – Build relationships

Doing social things like taking the team out for lunch or having a brainstorming session outside in the park can often seem like a luxury in today’s time poor environment, however, research shows that a small increase in the quality of team relationships has a significant impact on productivity. So time invested in getting to know your team outside the office is time well spent.

Tip 3 – Look for the positives

People respond positively to praise! A simple “Well done” or “Thank you” makes people feel more valued and increases their confidence in making decisions for themselves. And if a team member is ‘off track’ on something, approach it in a positive, solution focused manner by offering advise and asking them questions around what they think they could do differently rather than highlighting any negatives.

Tip 4 – Be present

You can have a powerful presence when you are powerfully present. When we are having a conversation but busy thinking about what we are going to say next or getting distracted by our phone when someone else is talking we might not pick up on vital information and we can easily make the other person feel disengaged. The key to having engaging conversations is to practice active listening and focus 100% on the other person.

Tip 5 – Put your trust in your people

If you have a challenging piece of work that needs doing, take a risk by giving it to a team member that would normally be overlooked when considering who to delegate it to. Without giving people the opportunity to push themselves it is very difficult to find out what they are capable of.

To find out more about Inclusive Leadership and how you can make positive changes in your organisation, take a look at our Workplace solutions or if you would like to experience an innovative and powerful way to explore Inclusive Leadership, please visit our Events page and register to attend one of our complimentary workshops being run across the country.

How to improve hiring decisions by mastering your mind 1

Did you know that if you go for a job interview on a rainy day then your chances of getting the job are at least 10% lower than if it’s a sunny day!

This was the findings of a research study done by the University of Toronto looking at Unconscious Biases in recruitment.

Another research study by the University of Sheffield found that in the UK, if you have an easily recognisable English name on the top of your CV you are twice as likely to be invited for an interview than if you have an Asian or African name. This finding came as the result of putting different names at the top of exactly the same CV and applying for over 3000 jobs.

Best Intentions

For most of us involved in recruiting and hiring, we go into the screening and interviewing process with the best intentions. We want the best person for the job and we are trying to be objective in our decisions. We certainly aren’t consciously thinking, “It’s raining outside so I don’t think I like this person”.

But behind the scenes of our conscious thinking, there are unconscious processes taking place so rapidly that we don’t even know about it. Unconsciously we can make a judgement about someone in less than a fifth of a second, which is faster than our eyes are even able to process their face.

Blinded by the Bias

Here are a few examples of different biases that might take place in a recruitment setting:

Affinity Bias – If the candidate went to the same school as us or grew up in the same town as us then we are likely to have a preference towards them.

Similarity Bias – If the candidate has a similar personality or dress sense then it is likely we will have a preference to them over someone better qualified but different to us. After all, we like people like us.

Beauty Bias – Looks count. If we think someone is attractive, it will play a part in our decision making. Equally, size matters. Did you know that 36% of US CEO’s are over 6’2” tall but only 4% of the US population are over 6’2” tall. For some reason being a tall man can significantly help in climbing the career ladder.

Halo or Horns effect – We can allow the judgement of one significant event override all other information. For example, if someone won an award for overachieving at a reputable company a few Years ago then we might ignore the fact that they were let go from their last job for not achieving their targets. This could also work the other way around where someone being let go from a job could override the fact that they had previously won an award.

Confirmation Bias – As mentioned earlier, we unconsciously make a judgement in as little as a fifth of a second so when our conscious, rational thinking kicks in after about half a second, we look for evidence to confirm our initial judgement because we don’t like to change our minds.

So if our own minds are tricking us and potentially preventing us from hiring the best person for the job, which could impact productivity and profitability, what can we do about it?

Overcoming Bias

There are two main areas that we can look at to minimise the impact of Unconscious Biases in recruitment. Firstly, we can set up our recruitment processes so they take some of these Biases out of play. Let’s call these External. Secondly, we can turn the torch inwards and build our self-awareness in order to shift our attitudes and behaviours in certain situations. We can call these Internal. Let’s take a look at the specifics of each in a little more detail:


Take names off CVs before screening. If we know that a name can significantly impact our initial judgements, then having name blind CVs, will enable us to focus on the important information rather than the name.
Use video or phone interviewing to screen candidates at the early stages and ask all candidates the same questions to even out the playing field.

Use technology to allow data driven analytics to factor into the process rather than just human opinion.
Make sure candidates receive thorough feedback. The process of providing feedback to both successful and unsuccessful candidates will clarify reasons for making certain decisions.


The starting point of challenging biases at play is firstly having an awareness of what they are and how they are showing up. When we start noticing things like our automatic reaction to seeing a candidate is wearing the same tie as us, then we can consciously shift to a more balanced appraisal.

In his book Everyday Bias, Howard J Ross outlines the P.A.U.S.E. model as a way of noticing our biases and shifting our thinking. Here is an overview of the model:

P – Pay Attention to what’s happening beneath the judgement (Event vs Interpretation)

A – Acknowledge or identify your reaction / interpretation / judgements

U – Understand other possible reactions / interpretations / judgements

S – Search for the most constructive / empowering or productive way to deal with the situation

E – Execute your action plan (Act consistently with what makes the most sense)

Next Steps

To find out more about Unconscious Bias and specifically how you can make positive changes in your organisation, take a look at our products page. And if you want to experience an innovative and powerful way to explore Unconscious Bias  and best practice around recruitment & selection, please visit our Events page and register to attend one of our complimentary workshops being run across the country.