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Business, Culture Edition BUILDING DIVERSITY


By: Denise Archie •  4 years ago •  

Changing the stereotypes one ‘voice’ at a time.

I have always held the belief that teams are a mirror of their leaders. The behaviours and attitudes demonstrated by the leader are often reflected in their team’s outlook. For example, in one organisation I worked with, a leader was feeling quite frustrated that their mentoring program. They had spent a considerable amount of money to design and implement the program but it was not working with his managers. My one question to him was: “What are your beliefs about mentoring? His silence was deafening. This was obviously why his mentoring program wasn’t working! If he didn’t value it, then his team were likely to follow suit.

What does this have to do with diversity and inclusivity in business coaching?

I have spent most of my 25-year career coaching and facilitating in male-dominated industries. These include IT, transport, manufacturing, engineering, mining and construction. I believe in open thinking and challenging stereotypical roles and responsibilities. Working in such male-dominated spheres, I try to create a ‘safety net’ for critical self-analysis and reflection as to corporate views of women’s roles and women’s views of their own roles. This has encouraged people to move past their self-imposed restrictions and recognise individual abilities rather than seeing the gender first.


The critical aspect of any coaching, particularly in a diverse culture, is to have an understanding of the client’s background. An early example certainly brought this point home for me. I was coaching a few people from a Vietnamese background. My natural coaching style has always been to ask lots of questions. After a few sessions with the group, I was ‘invited’ to meet with their manager regarding a complaint. It transpired that when this particular group were at school in Vietnam, their teacher never asked questions. In their culture, this was considered a sign of weakness and that the teacher did not know the answers. I had to explain that my approach was for the purpose of encouraging conversations. Once this was understood, the group was able to progress and gradually felt more comfortable with my approach.

In another instance, a lady I was coaching was having a difficult time with her manager. I asked her to identify how she viewed her manager – a friend, a confidant, or something more negative? I asked her to change her approach, beginning from a mental standpoint. When she approached the manager in future, she would imagine a positive relationship and progress from there.

Often I will ask leaders/managers: Who do you have in your team who has trained you to leave them alone? Often they do not realise that they have been conditioned to avoid approaching the employees who create drama or don’t deliver on tasks. When an employee has a negative reaction to their request – drama or non-delivery – the employee is conditioning the manager to expect difficulties. Naturally then the manager will approach someone else when they need a task completed. This process then results in some very inefficient systems in the workplace!


Addressing both the personal label a client has given themselves and the corporate viewpoint on the client, alongside overall cultural and diversity stigma in their workplace, can lead to big impacts including:

 An increase in confidence to participate fully at meetings

 Meetings that provide return on investment, start and finish on time

More applications for leadership roles in the organisation

 Improved team engagement and retention, full conversations where people waited respectfully for their turn to speak

 Submitting and winning awards for their innovative approach to solving workplace dilemmas

 A significantly improved bottom line for the company – happy and valued workers care more about their roles, and deliver better results

 The client may be invited to be included in more senior cross-functional team meetings, meeting their own career pathway fulfilment.

When organisations focus on Diversity and Inclusive Management, they set up a deliberate intention to demonstrate they value these traits for all team members in the workplace. The culture reflects the company attitudes and, as we know, teams are often a mirror of their leader. When a company is serious about managing diversity, their leadership demonstrates this in their day to day interactions which then filters down through the leaders and into the teams for a company-wide effect. The overall goal of my approach to business leaders is to create world-class results utilising and partnering with the diversity within every organisation. By harnessing the full potential of all team members through inclusivity and by celebrating and understanding diversity, the company benefits both culturally and financially.


We understand the need and potential benefits of implementing diversity management as a key business strategy. When clients develop the capability and capacity to manage diversity effectively, they unlock the potential of every individual across the whole organisation.

Diversity is a fact of life and the new reality facing businesses is to ensure they have an effective diversity strategy in place. We realise that diversity can create tension, increase complexity and slow down decision-making.

There are times when diversity will create uncomfortable environments. We can choose to ignore it or embrace it and its subsequent benefits. We are not intended to be clones of each other! It is because we do not all think the same, or approach ideas from the same background/viewpoint/perspective that our collective responses are more creative, more innovative, more impactful. Successful collective thinking happens when we employ teams which are diverse, dispersed and independent, with a capacity for managing collective meaning. From our experience, this ensures more successful outcomes and will propel the organisation forward into a more sustainable future.

Research indicates that organisations with strong inclusive cultures consistently outperform peers and achieve effective decision-making, greater innovation and more effective and successful implementation of their overall business plan.

The tangible payoff for inclusion include the following key points.

 Quality decision-making

 Breakthrough innovation

 Efficient problem-solving

 More accurate prediction

 Increased productivity

 High performance teaming

 High performing workplace cultures

My coaching approach to building cultural diversity inclusion in the workplace covers four main sections: Assessment, Vision, Learning, Metrics.

While conducting the Assessment portion of the program, we look at where we are now, our intentions and align them to determine capability and capacity. Cultural assessments are conducted to see what elements exist that will help create and implement a diversity strategy. Our research focuses on the experiences of people within the organisation and helps clarify and guide the change initiative.

In the Vision section, we work to develop a strategic approach and integrate the diversity initiative with all other existing strategic initiatives. A clear destination and assessment of culture allows us to establish the specific steps required to create a successful implementation of the diversity strategy. Influential, capable and credible people from cross-functional levels of the organisation are charged with ensuring diversity management becomes business as usual. Plans are implemented with all proposed activities, schedules, responsibilities, contingencies, budgets and guidelines that are necessary for implementing the diversity strategy.

When it comes to Learning and Development, we create scenarios that build an understanding of diversity. Our goal is to educate everyone in the skills and mindset required for effective diversity management. To be effective, it must become a demonstrated value and thereby communicated as critical to the organisation’s success. This includes thinking, purpose, activities and measured results.

Change requires ownership which can be shown by demonstrated behaviours creating congruency across all levels. These activities provide the opportunity to learn and participate in the change. Together we work to establish best practice within the organisation. We recognise effective effort and honour contributions that successfully reinforce positive behaviour.

When considering Metrics, we continually monitor progress to ensure the diversity strategy initiatives grow into sustainable components of the corporate culture. Measurable goals and outcomes are established and projects are evaluated including reviews of implementation processes and the ongoing outcomes are periodically reviewed.

By taking this approach, we see clients able to implement significant change throughout their organisations. This happens in both a corporate top-down approach and with individuals making a change to their workplace interactions. Both result in happier team members, greater innovation and a better financial outcome long-term.

This is the power of harnessing the full capabilities of a diverse workforce.

Denise Archie bio:

Denise Archie is the founder, joint owner and Global CEO of Coaching College, an international and multiple award-winning company based in Sydney. She specialises in High Performing Workplace Culture development, and the integration of leadership development with action learning workplace culture and diversity solutions.

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