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The media storm surrounding Saatchi and Saatchi has begun to die down, and the brand are rallying around doing damage limitation after the well-publicised comments from Kevin Roberts, who resigned from his position as Executive Chairman as a result of the backlash, stepping down this month from a role he had held for over twenty years.

As a business mentor who had been at the helm of Saatchi and Saatchi for decades, Roberts was in a position in which inclusion and diversity are issues that have become more and more relevant; while twenty years ago it might have been ok to present one face to the clients and to carry on with the ‘old boys’ club’ mentality behind closed doors, the personal views of your business’s leaders are under more scrutiny, and more important to the ethos of your brand, than ever before.

The truth is that there is no ‘behind closed doors’ any more – there’s no safe place for the hidden bigotry of business leaders to form bonding moments over a whisky and cigar like Mad Men moguls. In a world in which we are never disconnected, never anonymous, and never alone thanks to the social media revolution, it isn’t enough for the face of your business to walk the walk and talk the talk in public if they aren’t also thinking the thoughts in the safety of their own office.

And these blunders, as Kevin Roberts and the public response to his innate sexism voiced at the wrong time, in the wrong place has so effectively demonstrated –  have an instant negative impact on business; nobody wants to be seen to associate with the pariah.

Brands like PepsiCo and HP – global rulers of their industries – have publicly distanced themselves from Saatchi and Saatchi; Brad Jakeman, president of the global beverage group, tweeted to his thousands of followers that he was “proud to say that I am NOT a client of Saatchi” and asked that his contacts who were Saatchi clients took note and stepped away from the controversial statement Roberts had made as head of the brand. Antonio Lucio, global chief of marketing for HP, applauded him, tweeting in response that it is “time for a generational shift” in attitudes to inclusion and diversity.

The reputation of your own brand can be annihilated in moments thanks to the instant reach of social media, and how you are perceived has a huge impact on the success of your business in a global market – and if your business leaders don’t embody the moral stance of your brand it can – and will – lose you clients, and potentially sabotage the survival of your business.

Issues that were once known as ‘soft skills’ – the human touch that comes with business leadership skills, and an innate understanding of inclusion and the importance of diversity in the workplace – are vital when you’re developing your brand and the people who will take the helm and lead your workforce.

In order to effectively represent diversity and inclusion you can’t simply parrot the right phrases and buzzwords – you have to be diverse and inclusive. If you want to reach a diverse market you have to include people in the framework who embody and represent that diversity, who can instinctively communicate with the target audience from within, rather than sticking to a formula that worked decades ago that sees a diverse market as ‘other’.

Whether that means including women to connect with a female audience, millennials to communicate with the next generation of customers, or a diverse, multicultural team to open your services to a global market, the only way to truly present your brand as diverse and inclusive is to live and breathe it.

Kevin Roberts has shown the dangers of keeping someone in a leadership role who thinks it’s safe to laugh at these ‘soft skills’ and dismiss the importance of inclusion. In a world in which everyone is connected and we all have a voice, and a global audience to hear what we have to say; outdated views about the place of women in the workforce can’t be hidden, and blunders that might once never have been heard outside of the boardroom quickly hit the screens of the world’s media. So is it safe to let your business be led by these dinosaurs of a forgotten world?

When big brands publicly distance themselves from world leading brands thanks to the voice of one member of their leadership team, the answer is no. Unless you want to lose your own clients, who will be equally unwilling to be connected to people who don’t represent their own views and share them publicly and privately, your own business leaders need to have a strong grasp of these soft skills – and lead inclusively, encouraging the same throughout the business, from the uppermost tier right to the bottom level.

If you want guidance on how to walk the walk, talk the talk, and think those thoughts at every level, ASK have a range of bespoke leadership learning programmes that can help your business leaders to embody these soft skills, with inclusion and diversity playing a role in every level of your business, not only helping you to ensure that your workforce is supported and successful, but that your target market bond with your brand in the ways that truly matter in a modern business world.[/fusion_text][button link=”https://calendly.com/consulting-team-ask” color=”default” size=”xlarge” stretch=”” type=”flat” shape=”square” target=”_self” title=”” gradient_colors=”#009abf|#009abf” gradient_hover_colors=”|” accent_color=”” accent_hover_color=”” bevel_color=”” border_width=”” icon=”” icon_position=”left” icon_divider=”no” modal=”meeting” animation_type=”0″ animation_direction=”left” animation_speed=”1″ animation_offset=”” alignment=”center” class=”” id=””]Book a conversation about inclusive leadership[/button][modal name=”meeting” title=”Book a Conversation” size=”large” background=”” border_color=”” show_footer=”yes” class=”” id=””]


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