Creating an Inclusive Culture - David McQueen


David McQueen

Lead from the Centre – Creating an Inclusive Culture

David’s keynote will focus on inclusive leadership – exploring how leaders can harness key skills to build and shape healthy cultures, whilst also creating high performing and safe workplaces. More than just buzzwords, these are themes integral to the future of work and the optimal employee experience.

Video Transcript

– So firstly I wanna say I love Chuck’s voice. All right? It’s mellifluous. Do you like that word? Okay, I’ve got another word for you. It’s unctuous. For those of you who went drinking last night, you know what I’m talking about? A real pleasure to be here, and I hope that we can have a really good conversation while we are in this space. I wanted to wear my full pink suit today, but my wife said no, so you only have to deal with this. I want you to do something for me as I start this. I want you to ask me any question about me that you want, ’cause none of you have no idea who I am. You’re looking at this good looking 54 year old black man on stage and you’re wondering who the hell is he, and he looks a bit like Idris Elba. Get over that. I’m playing it out there now. I’m just getting it out of the system now, so you don’t ask me later, but you can ask me any question about me that you want, anything, as long as it’s legal. Actually, you can ask me illegal as well. Any question you want and I’m gonna answer it. Go for it. Yes.

– [Audience Member 1] Are they custom Chucks?

– Oh you wanna use mics, okay. Are they custom Chucks? Yes, these are. Thank you for noticing. Yes, I love that. Fist bump me from here, lovely, okay. You noticed that, okay, Chuck Taylors. Yes, so these are last year. I’m a very proud LGBT ally and so whenever I can, I love to be able to shout out by my voice and by the way I look as well. So yeah, my Chuck Taylor’s Pride custom. Yes? I saw a hand was up. Yes.

– [Audience Member 2] What keeps you awake at night?

– I was gonna say my wife.

– Too early, right? Too early. What keeps me awake at night? To be honest with you, I’m a really heavy sleeper, but in terms of keeping me awake, it’s around integrity. I wanna make sure that whenever I do my stuff or whenever I’m speaking, I’m coaching, and I’m working that I do it with as much integrity as possible, and I’m an open book and I believe that you need to lead by example, so I check myself on that and I think about that. Am I being the best person I can be honestly? And, as I said, I fall asleep ’cause I’m quite happy with it, but that’s the one thing that stays with me. Okay, I’m gonna go on this side here. You’re all looking at me like, “What the hell?” Okay, all right.

– [Audience Member 3] Pet peeve?

– Say it?

– [Audience Member 3] Pet peeve?

– Oh pet beef. Okay. I don’t like people being rude. I don’t like rude people. People don’t usually do that to me ’cause I’m quite tall and got a presence, all right, but I don’t like that, and I don’t like, especially in work, I don’t like people in, I hope this happens to no one here. I don’t like people in a workplace that shout at other people. No matter who you are or where you come from, we’re all adults. I mean, we’re really children with mortgages, right, but we’re all adults, and for individuals to shout, I don’t like that. I don’t like rudeness, and I don’t like people shouting, and whoever you are, I don’t care who you are in an organization, if I see you shout at somebody, I will check you right there in the room. That’s my beef. One more? Yes?

– [Audience Member 4] What’s your morning routine?

– Morning routine, okay. I like that. This is good questions. Actually, just before I answer that, you see when I asked this, I used to do a lot of speaking in schools, and I’d go into a school, and I’d ask them, and they’re all like, first of all, they’d go, “Aren’t you too old to be wearing skinny jeans?” I’d be like, or they’ll go, “When do you lose your virginity?” And I’m like, “You’re 15. Why the hell are you asking me this?” So you guys ask me some really tame ones, so I really love that. So my morning routine is I love to get up in the morning, and my alarm goes off somewhere between quarter to six, six o’clock and I usually just meditate. I like to just really meditate. That just really gets me in the zone. Have a little glass of water. By the way, I’m not one of those, get up at 5:00 AM and do all my work, and do my, no, I don’t do that. I just get up, I meditate. I do a thing called morning pages, which is like a gratitude journal, and I just write. I just write and I just get stuff out of my mind, and then at, from seven til eight o’clock every morning, I’m part of a writing group that I set up in lockdown, and there are about seven or eight of us, and every morning we get up from seven til eight, we just write. I didn’t get to do as much this morning, but we just write and then I get up, have my shower, have some food, and then I don’t touch my emails until 9:30. Just throwing out a hint to all of you here. I do not touch my emails, but that’s my routine ’cause I want to be quite centered. So one of the reasons why I asked you that is ’cause I wanted to say to you that, whenever I’m speaking, I love to be able to demonstrate what speaking looks like, and so I’m hoping you can take some tips from this. So I’m gonna ask you a quick question. How many of you would come up here, and do what I’m doing right now? Raise your hand, right? I love you. Some of you looked at me like, “I’ll do it better than you mate,” right? How many of you, if you had to do it, you’d come up here and do this speech? Okay, how many you were, “Hell no. I’d rather swim an industrial waste. There’s no way I’m gonna go and do this.” Okay, so what’s the worst that could happen if you had to come up here and speak like I’m doing here. What’s the worst that could happen?

– [Audience Member 5] Fall off the stage.

– Fall off the, right? Can you see I’m right back, okay. You fall off the stage. That’s not the worst. What’s the worst that can happen?

– [Audience Member 6] Pass out.

– Pass out, almost, yeah. Say again. Did somebody say bore people? You said that with way too much confidence. This is this, I love this man, all right. I’m gonna let you know because he introduced me into wine tasting like a damp blanket wine. I’ll explain that later, but yeah I love that straightforwardness. Yes?

– [Audience Member 7] I fainted ones.

– You fainted once, okay. The worst that can happen is that you die. That’s the worst. Here’s the good news. If you die, you don’t have to give the speech ’cause you’re dead, but so many people are afraid of doing that, and it’s because of the stories that we put in our head around what’s gonna happen, but speaking for me is an absolute opportunity whether you are doing it on stage, whether you’re doing it on Zoom, whether you’re having a small meeting to share your story, to share your opinion, to share your view of the world, and this leads into what I’m gonna talk about today, about being inclusive and having an inclusive culture. Now I remember when I was first asked to do this, and I had the conversation with Chuck. I went and nerded away on the company social chorus. Where did it come from? I went, “Nicola, I know so much about you. Nicole, I know so much about you.” I’m pronounced your name wrongly, forgive me, but I went away and I really nerded out and just started to find out what is it that makes this company tick. And the thing for me that really, really drives me whenever I have this conversation is that being inclusive is not natural to all of us because we all come with biases. We all come with very different biases. We all see the world in a different way because of the way that we were brought up, because of the environments that we’re in, and then all of a sudden we come into this workplace, and we see this list of values. Do you all know what the values are for your company? Do you all know them? Could you repeat them off by heart? No. Okay. All right, and that’s okay, but do you know what your values are? Because for me, your values are even more important. There are organizations that can throw up values on the wall all day long, but unless it really means something to you, so for me, mine are, I like honesty, okay? If I do something wrong, call me out on it. Tell me about it. Tell me straight. I had a young intern with me on Monday who’s shadowing me for the next three weeks, and I said, “You’re 17 years old. I want you to give me some advice because I want to really get out there and put some of my stuff on YouTube and Instagram, and I want you to come and have a look at my old content and tell me what it is. Be straightforward with me.” He’s like, “Oh, okay, can I speak straightforward?” I said. He said, “You’re boring.” I said, “Wow, okay.” I said, “All right, take your time, and break me in slowly, all right.” But no, “You’re boring.” And I said, “All right, what do you mean?” He goes, “No, you are not boring, but the background is boring.” He said, “Young people, we want to have stuff in like 30 seconds.” And I’m like, “You know what? Life is gonna teach you something, but okay, continue, continue.” But then he started to break down, and he made some really good, salient points about how I could do some stuff better. My executive assistant was in the back laughing her head off, ’cause she was like, “Oh my God, he’s actually telling you that you’re crap, all right? Just get over it.” But what it was is I find that it’s really important to allow people, if you create a space to have a really honest conversation and you take the bits that you want, and leave the bits that you don’t want, but for me, honesty is important. Like I have this thing, I’m not gonna do it now, but sometimes I go and I do my work as an executive coach. I’ll be working with individuals and I’ll come in, and I’ll say some jokes, and I’ll do some stuff, and I’ll go, “Right, I want you to describe me. Just describe me if no one else saw me in the room, describe me.” And they go, “Funny.” They go, “Extrovert.” They go, “Oh my god, engaging.” And I go, “Describe me even more.” They go, “Tall,” and then I go, “Describe me.” And then somebody in the back goes, “Brown.” And I go, “Pecan brown,” but the fact is it’s I realize that sometimes people are afraid. We are afraid of certain subjects. We don’t want to talk about certain things, but if you create a space, and this is important, if you create a space for conversations to happen, if you create room where there’s good intent, where you can listen as well as speak, for me, that makes for an even more powerful inclusive culture. Last night we had dinner. We had dinner, some of us speakers and other members. We had dinner in St. James’s. Remind me the name of the venue. Yeah, that one, and it was an amazing place. Some of us drank six wines. We’ll get to that, and then we were sat around a table and there were five of us on our table yesterday, and we spoke the gamut. Well, I’m not gonna tell you what it was, ’cause you had to be there. We really got into some deep conversations yesterday, and I left there with feeling really full, not just with food, but the conversation, and the reason being is because we had an unbridled conversation when no one had to say, “No offense,” or, “I’m sorry to say it.” We just spoke from our heart because we knew that in that space it was an unspoken rule that we were speaking from a place of honesty and integrity. and we could have, and we had differences of opinion and it was beautiful, and for me, it’s important when I’m working with clients and speaking with clients to say we are adults. We can have these conversations. We just need to set the ground for it. We just need to set the ground for it. And inclusive cultures are bloody hard work. I said I wouldn’t swear. That was my one swear word, right? There’s my one word, bloody, okay? But it’s bloody hard work, but it is worth it, because when you realize that you can learn from different people’s opinions and how they see things, and how they see the world, you become a better person, and that person becomes a better person, ’cause they’ve learned from you. And here’s a simple thing. People listen more to what you do than what you say. Honestly. They do. Do a simple exercise with me. I know it’s early in the morning, but put your right hand out in front of you like this. For those of you who don’t what your right hand is, it’s this one, okay? Just to help you. So your right hand out. Do the same with your left hand as well, so your right and left hand. So yeah, you can’t have nothing in your hand. Shake it like of Polaroid, okay? All right, raise your right hand up. Okay, some of you are still confused. This is your right hand, okay? Raise your left hand up, so both hands are up. Smells wonderful. Keep them up, keep going. Form a circle with your right hand, but keep shaking your left hand. Form a circle with your right hand, but keep shaking your left hand. Keep looking at me, don’t look at anybody else. Keep shaking your left. Some of you are already tired. You need to get to the gym. Okay, now what I want you to do is keep looking at me and don’t look at anybody else, and slowly take your right hand down and put your right hand on your chin. Now how many have it on your cheek, even though I said your chin? Oh my goodness, and some of you thought you were sly. You’re looking at me like this, and I’m like, I can see you. People listen more to what you do than what you say. I clearly said in my best Queen Standard English your chin, and you’re still like, “Let me follow Dave.” All right, and the powerful thing about that is that when we are leading, we have to lead by example. So let me talk to you about what inclusive leadership looks like for me, and I’m gonna give you the metaphor of an orchestra as a way of being able to teach that this morning, and by the way, please, if at any point in time you disagree with something that I say, don’t be afraid to push back. I love that. I love the pushback. There’s nothing you can say. You can’t offend me. I did standup comedy for two years. There’s nothing you can do to offend me, alright? I will come back for you, alright? Just remember that. So my history is that, before I got into speaking, I used to be a singer, so I used to sing in church. I used to sing gospel, used to sing jazz, used to sing soul, and I love music. I also used to play a trumpet. I used to play jazz and I used to play classical as well and all the brass instruments, and I absolutely love music, so this is why I think this metaphor of an orchestra is a powerful one for me, because no matter how good you are as an instrumentalist, in an orchestra, you need everybody to be able to come together to make the song sound good. No matter how great you are you need that backup. If you are in a jazz band, you still need those accompanying individuals, and the first part of that is knowing how good you are. To be part and parcel of a really inclusive culture, you have to know how good you are, and here’s the thing I find, people are afraid to blow their own trumpet, so I’m gonna ask the question in here. How many of you in here know what you are really good at? Raise your hand if you know what you’re good at. Okay? Now for those of you who didn’t put up your hand, I’m gonna make an assumption. Either you were shy, ’cause you don’t know, or you’re like, “I’m not playing your game, Dave. Stuff you.” All right? “I’m not raising your hand.” Okay, but every single one of us knows what we’re good at. We do know, but sometimes we play it down because we don’t wanna blow our own trumpet because we confuse knowing what we are good at with bragging. I’m a great speaker, I’m a great husband, I’m a great father. I know this. And Muhammad Ali said something really important. He said, “It’s not bragging if you can back it up.” So how do I know I’m a great husband? My wifey told me. How do I know I’m a great dad? My two daughters said, “You’re a great dad,” and then asked me for money. How do I know I’m a great speaker? Because I’ve practiced this craft for 30 years, and I know that I’m still learning and I get to speak nearly every week, and I do it around the world, and it’s not to everybody’s taste, but I’m doing it to the best of my ability. I will use my whole body. I was having a fantastic conversation yesterday over a Merlot, unctuous Merlot, and I was saying that the beauty a lot of people don’t understand when you speak is that you use your whole body. Like when I was hearing Chuck, it just sounded like a euphonium. It was full and rich and bodied like, “Hi.” Like, just work with me on this one. “Hi, we are here, this is Firstup. We are so glad to have you here,” and it just resonates with your whole body. You’re like woo hoo. because he uses his whole body, and no matter the range of your voice, it’s about using who you are, whether your voice is high pitch, whether your voice is low pitch, it’s about using your whole body, your whole experience and communicating. Anyone in this room can come on this stage and deliver a speech. Why? ‘Cause you have a story. Everyone in here has a story, and it’s important to know what your story is. It’s important to know what tune you are playing on your trumpet. But here’s the thing, you can’t be good or great unless you rehearse. You can’t be. How long do you think it took me? And I’m gonna tell you all now, I’ve been speaking forever. God, I’m old, aren’t I? About 34 years, all right? I’ve got my first paid gig when I was 20 when I went out and did a youth conference and they paid me. I was like, “You paid for this? Hell yeah, I’m gonna get into this,” but I’ve been speaking for 34 years. How long do you think it took me to put together this speech for today? Have a guess anybody. Building my speech and doing my research, how long do you think it took me? A week? Okay, someone’s going, “Bloody crap, it took you a week? It aint that good, Dave.” All right, but it usually takes me about four days to pull together stuff, ’cause I wanna practice it. I wanna get a sense of the room, I wanna get a sense of all the background and I have to practice no matter how good I am, I have to practice it. I remember when I used to do standup comedy, it used to be quite painful, but you had to rehearse your content. Sometimes when you go onto stage and you’re repeating the same content seven, eight, nine, 10 times and you’re thinking, “Oh, is somebody gonna laugh at this?” Or, “Are they gonna listen?” You still had to rehearse it to the best of your ability. Singing, we had to practice, we had to do our vocal ranges, we had to do all our breathing exercises, but you have to practice. Why? Because practice makes permanent. Practice makes permanent, and when you are rehearsing, you’ve got to think about the people that you’re working with. We had a really good conversation on our table yesterday and we were talking about the shortage of diverse talent in some areas. So the, the conversation came up about in 2020 after Black Lives Matter, loads of companies went out and there were black squares on Instagram. “We’re gonna get more black people in here, and we’re gonna help them.” Woohoo. Yeah, all right mate, okay, and people put that out there with great intent. Don’t get me wrong. People put it out there with absolutely great intent, and at the time the conversation I had with a number of executives, is I said, “Look you you need to be careful about the messaging you’re putting out there. Don’t write checks with your mouth that your body can’t cash. You have to be able to deliver on this.” And part of the conversation that we had yesterday was that a lot of organizations realize a lot later on that when they started to try to fill gaps around a lack of women, a lack of minorities or global majority, whichever phrase you use around ethnicity and race and class, they often found that they couldn’t fill those spaces, ’cause they were trying to fix a 30, 40 year problem in 18 months, and that’s not how it works, and I said at the time, if you are looking for individuals to fill roles, and to be in spaces, you have to be very intentional about how you set that up as a system, and it will take a while, and it’s frustrating. You are at an advantage here for those of you working Firstup in that your co-founder is a woman, so you were in from the beginning, you were quids in, but for a lot of people struggling to find that space, how do you build a system that allows a woman to know that she can come into a space and be a CEO, or be a co-founder, or be whatever senior role, and be able to thrive in that space without some sarcastic person talking about whether or not they’re gonna get pregnant and whether or not they can come back and manage afterwards if they’re pregnant, and do we have that space, and do we have those rules? If you have a system in place, and if you are thinking about how that works for you collectively, it doesn’t become a problem because here’s the moment, the moment you do not have that as a system, you piss people off. Sorry, that was the second one. Work with me. I’m really restraining myself not to swear here, okay. Okay, let me ask a question. Do you mind if I come out with a couple of swears?

– [Audience] No.

– Is that okay?

– Yes, sorry. Always ask permission, but you piss people off, because then all of a sudden they go, “Oh, you only got that role because you were a woman. Oh, you only got that role because you were part of the LGBT+ advocacy group. Oh, you only got that role because you’re black. Oh, you only got that.” And all of a sudden you get resistance, whereas if you are building a system and you’re thinking about, “Okay, how do we go and attract that talent? How do we have a conversation with individuals that have different backgrounds to us, that have a different voice, that see the world differently, and we can be in the room and rather than it being an either or, it can be a both and?” We can see it from different points of view, and being bold enough to know that you’ve got a culture in the organization that allows you to explore those conversations and talk about it freely, and so for me, the rehearsal part in building that culture is making sure that on all levels of leadership, management, or professionalism in the organization, you feel confident enough to have a conversation, and I’ll give you a very quick framing around how I use this. It’s called the four Ls. I say always start with love, always start with love. I did a post on LinkedIn the other day around golliwogs. For those of you who don’t know what golliwogs or golli dolls are, they’re very these exaggerated caricatures of dolls, and I explained why, for me, it’s problematic, because I was called a golliwog, all right? I slapped the out shit of some people who did that, right? God, I can swear now. I’m not encouraging violence, I’m just talking about me when I was a seven year old, all right? You can just get with it, okay, and it really left it really painful for me. For some people, that was a toy of affection, and so then I started to have a conversation with people and I was saying, “Look, I understand on the one hand how for some people it would be a toy of affection, but the history behind this doll, it was a caricature and an exaggeration of black people, and in literature, in culture, and what have you, it was used to put us down, so it creates a lot of pain.” And I said to them, “I don’t mind if in your house, your pub, your what have you, that you have golliwogs in there. I’ve got no problem with that at all.” I’ll swerve your house. I ain’t coming to your house you got golly wogs. If I come and see it, I’m like, okay, I’m gone, all right, ’cause it makes me feel uncomfortable, but I’m not gonna take away the fact that you are attracted to that. I’m not gonna do that, because we all have things that we are going to differ on. So I had a conversation, somebody direct mailed me and she said, “I feel really guilty cause I’ve got.” I said, “Don’t feel guilty, let’s have the conversation.” And so she was explaining that it reminded her of her grandparents and it brought her affection, and I said, “That’s absolutely fine.” I said, “But what we hold onto in our personal lives, the moment it spills out into the public, we have to take responsibility for that.” We have to take responsibility, and so if somebody wants to do something in private, that’s fine, but when you spill into work or into a public arena, you have to think about, “How does this impact other people around me?” And I remember I shared this on the table last night, I believe everybody has rights. We all have rights, you’ve got rights, freedom of speech, right to be able to freedom to be able to express yourself. I think that’s important, but even more important than right is, what’s my responsibility? I have a right, but what’s my responsibility? I may have a strong opinion about so many things, but I have a responsibility that when I’m in front of you that I don’t cause you any harm, which is why I asked you if I do swear, can I, and I know it’s a couple of you in there praying over me, “Please Lord cover his potty mouth.” All right, but I still have that responsibility, ’cause I asked you. I don’t want to make that assumption, and part of how we work together in any organization, individuals, collectively here as suppliers and you, the main company Firstup is, how do we work together to reduce harm? How do we do our things effectively to reduce harm? And again, it really is about what’s that honesty, what’s that integrity, and how do we bring people into that space so that we work together as humans for the best result possible, and recognize sometimes we’re gonna get it wrong and it’s okay to get it wrong. There’s nothing wrong with getting stuff wrong and learning. That’s the whole part of our growth, right? We always learn how to do better. My daughters have checked me on my language, like I’m really putting this out there and I was saying it yesterday. I’m really rubbish at pronouns. I’m really rubbish. I will remember your first name because I’m more concerned that I’ll screw up on a pronoun, so I’ll be like just by your name, I’ll always remember by your name. That’s something that I struggle with and I need to build with them. My daughters were talking me three why it’s important for some people to have that. My mum and my dad, they don’t give a monkey’s. They just call anybody by whatever, and I’m like, “Okay, you are in your 70s. You don’t care, whatever.” But for me, that’s my responsibility. And so when I get to talk to other individuals, I go, “What can we do better?” And this is not about being politically correct, or trying to get stuff and looking all shiny and nice and social activism, all the rest of it, it’s just about being a nice decent human being. That’s it. How can I reduce that harm? And so we talk about rehearsal and I wanna move on to the next bit. I wanna talk about performance, because part of rehearsal is recruiting. It’s part of maintaining, it’s part of working with the people who are around us. And look, let me be honest, and I’m gonna look at you all in the room. Some of us are working with people, and in teams and some of the people in our teams, we don’t like some of the people in our teams. Some of you are not giving me eye contact at the moment, but I see some of you are laughing, right, and we work and sometimes we have to work with people because we work with them, but we don’t like everybody in the team, okay? I work with my wife, and sometimes she doesn’t like me, okay, so let’s put it out there, and it’s not because we hate that person, but sometimes we don’t like people’s ways of working. We don’t like their styles of communication, and sometimes we are petrified or terrified to challenge individuals, but if we’re gonna have a really good performance, I believe we should be bold enough or have an environment that allows us to have that honest conversation. And sometimes it may not just be one-to-one. Sometimes you need a third party. Sometimes you need someone else that can advocate and work with you on that, but that’s the best way you are gonna get a performance, ’cause there’s no way you are gonna come together as an orchestra and do a really good performance if you’re pissed off with the dude who’s playing trumpet, or the woman who’s playing in percussion and you can’t stand them, there’s no way, if you see that person do something really well, how’s that gonna make you perform really well? You’re gonna be doing it with anxiety and stress, and that doesn’t mean that we all have to hold hands together and be happy clappy and everything just wonderful, but we have to recognize that there are times we’re gonna get on really well, that there are gonna be times that we’re gonna have difference, and conflicts okay. So let me ask a question in here, how many of you don’t like conflicts at all? Sorry about that, okay, because conflicts is part of what we do. It’s part of what we have, okay? Anybody in here a football fan? Anybody a football fan? I support Liverpool. You see, right, conflict. You see that? “Boo, get off there. I thought you were good up until then, Dave.” All right. Conflict is just around that difference of opinion. It doesn’t have to go from zero to World War III. It’s just a difference that we have and we need to be happy in. Sorry, not happy, but we need to be comfortable in the fact that we will have differences of opinion. It’s how we navigate that which make for a better performance. There’s a beautiful video on TED. It’s a Ted Talk by a guy. His name is, I’m gonna look on my phone. Italy Archem, I think his name is Italy Archem. I’m just gonna double check. And by the way, you can look at your notes when you speak even if you’ve been doing it for 34 years. Okay, his name is Italy Talcum as in talcum powder, but Italy Talcum, and he does this presentation around leading an orchestra, and it’s such a powerful metaphor because he says he will lead a symphony orchestra to play a beautiful song, and he won’t speak to anybody. So imagine he’s conducting this beautiful symphony and he’s not talking, but people have learnt to be able to respond to him. They’ve respond to his body language, they respond to the way he moves, they respond to all these things, they understand that and they’re in tune with him in that moment, and that for me is what’s really key here around performance. How in tune are you with your colleagues in that moment? Again, you don’t have to be best friends, you don’t have to hold hand singing kumbaya, but in that moment, how in tuned am I? And part of that is starting to ask ourselves questions. Never be afraid to ask questions. Again, if I go back to 2020 when I had so much work and the world just changed. I remember saying to individuals, “Never be afraid to ask questions.” And my phone blew off the hook in 2020. People just started to get panicky, and my thing is around leadership, right? I do not do anti-racism. I can, but I don’t, and there are other people who do it, I do leadership, but my phone blew off the hook, and I will get calls, and I’ll jump on Zoom, and they’re like, “Dave, I’ve got this problem. We’re here. It’s Black Lives Matter. We need to do something la la.” And my first question that I asked everybody who called me, “Why did you call me?” Oh my God, the amount of people I saw blush, alright? And from every spectrum they blush and they go, “What do you mean?” I go, “Well, why’d you call me?” And they’d go, “Well, what?” I’d go, “Is it because I’m tall?” And I said in that moment, if you are feeling uncomfortable with me right there and then, how are you gonna be able to communicate with the rest of your staff? And I understand that discomfort, and I was joking and I obviously took the pressure out of people having that conversation, but I also said to individuals, “I can’t speak for all black people.” I think it’s important. I come from a Caribbean tradition. My mom’s from Barbados, my dad’s from Grenada. There are certain nuances that we have in the Caribbean. I see family over there, right? There are certain nuances that we have in the Caribbean that don’t transcend to Africa. There are certain nuances that they have in Africa or in the Caribbean that don’t transcend to North America, because when I was having some conversation with North American offices, it was very different from Europe, very different from Africa, very different around the world, and I learned a lot, I learned a hell of a lot. And I did that and I’m gonna put up my head and say I was being provocative around it, and whenever I go into organizations, I like to provoke people to think slightly differently. “How are you gonna be inclusive? What does that mean?” And so often we think about it just in terms of talent, but what about your customer service? What about the individuals who are your customers? How inclusive are you to them around the way that they will call you? Like I have a friend Spencer, and Spencer is deaf, and Spencer needed some assistance from an organization, and he emailed them, and he said, “I’m deaf, so what I’d like to do is I obviously have some support, but can you do it either by email or if we have a conversation and it’s possible to use it on Zoom, could you do it with closed captions?” They said to Spencer, I’m not gonna mention the company, “Unfortunately we don’t have the capacity to use Zoom, we can’t do it by email. You’ll have to call us on this number.” Spencer’s like, “I’m deaf, Dave, I’m deaf. How the hell did they expect me to do this on the number?” And I looked, and I remember actually going back to the company, and I raised it, and I wrote an article about it, and I realized that a lot of people, if you haven’t had that experience, you don’t know, but ask the question. Don’t be afraid to ask the question. And a big part of being able to be really good performers and when you are hired into an organization is to ask better questions. “How can we do this better?” Yes, we want to improve it. How long will it take? Yes, we are gonna have differences of opinion, but is there a space that we can come and we can have a middle ground, ’cause I get the opportunity to work with a lot of organizations around doing sponsorship programs, sponsorship to raise high performing women, sponsorship around social mobility and around ethnicity, and when I go in and I do these programs, I always challenge ’em. I go, “How is this gonna sit with the organization as a whole, ’cause have you asked people questions as to what they think about it? How is this gonna sit with the organization as a whole?” And we ask questions. You should never be afraid to ask a question, and if you work in an organization where you can’t ask a question, I’m gonna be very bold and you can challenge and slap me down verbally, ’cause don’t try it physically, ’cause I will take you out, alright? You can challenge me verbally. Why are you working in an environment where you can’t ask a question as a grown adult with a national insurance number and a mortgage and a rent and probably children or whatever, and you cannot ask another adult a question? And we set the tone, and I’ll go back to this model that I was talking about before. When it becomes difficult, we start with love, really good intent, L, right? “I’ve got no answers here. I dunno where we’re gonna go, but we’re gonna start with love. We’re gonna start with really good intent because I’m not sure about how we tackle this situation.” And whether that’s around marketing, customer service, talent, whatever it is, divisions across the business, we start with really good intent. “I don’t have the answers, but I’m willing to learn. I know at the moment I’m navigating with some organizations where it’s really difficult around, especially at the moment around gender identity. A lot of organizations are really struggling with that, and they’re refusing to hire people where that might be a problem. And I’m like, “Okay, we can do better if we ask different questions, and let’s start with love.” That means really good intent. “I have no idea what the answer is, Dave, but let me ask it.” The second one is listening, learning to listen. I’ve been married for 27 years, been with my wife now for 30 something or the other, got together when we were 19. Somebody do the maths, all right, and I will tell you this, we have fun, alright? We just have fun. Our kids are like, “You just need help, alright?” But we have fun because one of the things that we learn when we had, anybody in here thinking about getting married or what have you, I’ll tell you this, go and get premarital counseling, please go and get six at a minimum. It’s lovely getting married on Instagram and all that kind of, but trust me, go and get premarital counseling. That will really tell you whether or not you’re gonna get married or not. The first two sessions we had, we did not talk, all right? We walked out there, we didn’t talk, but one of the most important things that we learned from there is to be able to listen to each other. What are you actually saying, and men and women are very different, okay, and I’m talking here specifically for our relationship as a heterosexual couple, but it is across the board, right? You have to be able to listen, ask questions, and listen. What do you mean by that? “Dave, I don’t like the way you left your dirty clothes at the side of the bed instead of putting it in the wash basket. And why is that a problem, darling?” “I will slap you, Dave.” Okay, all right. Let’s break this down, okay? But you ask questions, and you listen, and you listen, and here’s the thing. Here’s the important thing I learned about listening. You listen to hear what the person is saying not to how you think you have to respond to what it is they’re saying. Big difference. Big difference. I trained as a counselor and one of the most painful things I learned as a counselor was sometimes I’d have somebody come in and they’d sit, and they’d have a problem, and they’d sit down there for 40 minutes, and they wouldn’t say anything. They just wanted to be in the room. I go, “Are you okay? I’m fine, thank you Dave. Is there anything you wanna talk about today? No.” And I’m a rescuer. Let me share that with you. I like to rescue people, right? That’s my default, and I have to kind of like pull that back, but I’m sitting there, but it taught me patience, and it taught me that very often we want to rush the kind of responses that we’re coming back, but we need to listen better. Don’t rush it. Don’t rush it. Better to get it right than rushed, and sit down and think about how we can listen to each other better so that we can perform better. How do we listen? Third one is the language. What language are we using? So we start with love. We’re listening, and what’s the language that we’re using? And I remember back again in 2020, ’21, people said to me, lots of friends call me up. They said, “Dave, I don’t understand this whole concept of white privilege. It’s really just this does not make sense to me. I’m working class. I’ve worked from the grassroots up. I’ve done really well for myself. I don’t understand this term.” And I sat there and I said, “Okay, let me explain privilege to you in another way and then we’ll build on that.” I’m really privileged in that my name is David McQueen. No one has any problems pronouncing my name, all right? No one has problems. Wherever I go, no one has a problem pronouncing my name, David McQueen. Okay? I’m six foot two. I have tall bias. I walk into rooms and people will see me and they will hear. I’ve got a deep voice almost as sexy as Chuck’s, all right? I’ve got a deep voice, and that resonates, okay? That helps me as a speaker, okay? Both of my parents were around with me for my whole life, so I’ve lived in this middle class family with my parents and I have had no stress. I’ve never been to prison. Well, I have been to prison, but I went to do workshops, all right, but I’ve never committed a criminal offense or what have, well, okay, I’ve never been caught. Let’s just be honest, Let’s have integrity with this as well, alright? But it’s afforded me an opportunity to be able to travel the world, and go to many spaces, and be in many places that other people don’t, and because I am a professional speaker who has learnt standup comedy impromptu. I’ve done singing. I’ve done amateur dramatics, I’ve done all this thing, I’ve learnt my craft and I’ve gone to all over the world, and I’ve learnt how I can be better, it gave me a privilege. I’m seven times more likely than a white male to be pulled over in a car for a traffic offense or by a policeman, seven times more likely. And knowing that part of my privilege is I have a technique. So I used to drive like Range Rovers and all that kind of stuff, ’cause I felt I was bougie and all the rest of it, and then I realized for any of you who got a Range Rover, it’s bloody expensive, all right, so I got cheaper one, but I remember getting pulled over, and I used to have a technique. So when they pulled me over, I’d be like, “Good afternoon, Officer.” Best Queen Standard English, all right? “Good afternoon, Officer. Before we commence, can I have your number and your name just so that I can protect you in case anything goes wrong.” A policeman be looking at me like, “What the hell? Like what?” And I say, “Okay, so could you tell me exactly why I’m being pulled over or what’s the problem? Was it speeding? Was it any other offense?” And they said, “Is this your car, sir?” And I said, “I’ll answer the question if you could just tell me exactly what the context is.” And they’ll go, “Oh, blah blah blah.” And I go, “Okay, fine, fantastic. I understand.” I go, “Yes, this is my car. I lease it through my company. Do you want my license? Do you need any details da da da?” And every now and then somebody would say, “Would you step out of the car?” And I go, “No, I won’t step out of the car, ’cause I just don’t think there’s a reason to. We can have a question here. Is there a reason that you specifically need me to step out of the car? And is there something specifically that you need to have that?” And again, as I said, I’ve never had any real issue with police in the UK, but I’ve had to learn how to adapt, and that’s part of my privilege. Part of my privilege is knowing how to adapt, because I’ve worked with a lot of young working class men across all backgrounds who, as soon as a policeman comes anywhere, “Hello.” They’re like, “What you want me for? Who are you? I’m take you down like sharp man. I don’t like you. I’ll take you out.” And I’m like, “Okay everybody just calm down. Just don’t be aggressive. Think about how you are going to decelerate rather than accelerate the situation.” That’s my privilege. I’m a heterosexual married man living out in the suburbs in a lovely four bedroom house , all right? That gives me a privilege. It allows me to be able to access and move in different spaces. So I use that as context to say to individuals, “This allows me to move into certain spaces.” But it also happens around race and it also happens around gender. I also have a gender privilege. There are many times where I sit on boards and there are many times where I have had to shut other board members down who have spoken over women. And I say, “You can’t do that.” And they go, “What do you mean?” I said, “This lady has just made a point. You’ve taken her point as your own. You’ve spoken over her. I’m sitting on this board. You are gonna shut your mouth until she finishes that point, and then we’ll come back in.” And people are looking at me like, “How the hell did we get this guy on the board?” But I’m going, I’m gonna use my privilege, because somebody else was speaking and you defaulted. You defaulted and spoke over them, and no one else is gonna speak out, so I’m gonna speak out. People don’t mess with a six two black guy who’s looking kind of aggressive in a boardroom. Let me just make it really clear. Put it out there, right? It’s part of my privilege. I’m saying it, I’m putting it out there. And so understanding the language, understanding the language, and again, when I use that in reference it to, and used it around white privilege and racial advantage, and when I talk about gender privilege, it wasn’t that it’s something that’s bad, it’s something that’s afforded to you. You have a privilege, and it’s about how can I leverage that, not only for my benefit, but for other individuals around me as well. And understanding how we use our language is important. Understanding how we communicate and the words that we can use to trigger each other or upset each other, those things are incredibly important, and we move along and we get better when we are more clear and more clean about the language that we use and not be afraid to challenge each other on that as well. And that’s critically important, and so I finish it from the last part of being this orchestra. I was thinking when I was reading the background. There’s a lady called Marion, I’ve forgotten her surname, but she was the first lady to conduct the symphony orchestra at the Proms in 2013. The first lady in 118 years of the Prom, and it made me think of you. You know I’m waving at you. You have to wave back at me as everybody knows, okay, but it made me think of you being in that space as a conductor, having that energy to bring together a vision about your organization, and here’s the thing, when you are a conductor and you’ve got the trumpets and you’ve got the percussion, and you’ve got your strings, and you’ve got all your areas in the orchestra, and you’re trying to bring them all together. You’ve got your customer services and your marketing and your comms, and your HR, and all your people. You’re trying to corral them all together, and sometimes it might just be in your team, sometimes it might be wider, but here’s the thing, when you are doing that, your back is always to the audience. Your back is always to the audience, ’cause you want to get your people in tune. And sometimes there may be a little bit of a bum note and that’s okay. Sometimes there may be a bit of a back note, a bum note, but appreciate that you’ve pulled together amazing talent. But don’t be afraid, and this is a bit I’m gonna say as well, don’t be afraid to realize that sometimes a team player has to go, ’cause they’re not fit for purpose. They’re not performing at the standard that you want. They’re not as inclusive as you want, and sometimes they may have to leave, and a lot of people are terrified of doing that. They don’t wanna make the decision. But it’s not just about that one individual. It’s about how does that orchestra, how does that whole team move together? And so when you are performing, you need to be able to ask yourself a question, and you use this formula. I’m gonna share this formula with you. It’s called the win formula. How do we win? What do we do wonderful? What do we do that was wonderful? How do we bring delight, joy to our internal customers through the people who we’re serving within the organization and our external customers and any other stakeholder? How do we do well what was wonderful? What can we celebrate? How do we blow our own trumpet? How do we improve? How do we get better? When we sit back and look, not just at our metrics, but just at the way we work together as a team, how do I get better? And we always are looking to get better, and the number, sorry, N, the third one, is notable. What was memorable? What was memorable? What was really notable? So I’m gonna show you something now. I’m gonna show you real vulnerability. Are you ready for this now? Ready? You give me feedback. What did I do well? Don’t shout at the same time. Okay, all right, go ahead.

– [Audience Member 8] Kept my attention.

– Kept your attention. Okay, one more just for me, so it makes me feel good. What did I do well, yes?

– [Audience Member 9] You made us laugh.

– Made you laugh. How can I improve? Yes?

– [Audience Member 10] Say police people, not policeman.

– Did I say policemen? When did I say that? You said policeman.

– Give the context, please.

– [Audience Member 10] Policeman.

– Oh, police.

– [Audience Member 10] Not please, man.

– And I should say?

– [Audience Member 10] Police people. Officers, Officers.

– Police officers, yeah, ’cause police people, I’ll be like, that’s weird for me. okay, police officers. I said police man. Okay.

– [Audience Member 11] Just say police.

– Okay, thank you. Okay, alright. I just missed that. Yeah, okay. I’m taking that on board. I’m taking that on board. I actually met the the Chief Fire Officer, he was like, “You know when we climb up we bring people with us.” And I said, “That’s a really good anecdote from a fireman.” He said, “Fire Officer.” So like I’m taking that on board, okay, officer. All right, and then, what was notable? What was one thing that was notable for you from this?

– [Audience Member 12] Conflict is just a difference of opinion

– Conflict is a difference of opinion. I’m gonna go over here, ’cause you guys have been quiet on me. You people. Okay. One thing.

– [Audience Member 13] Your integrity.

– Integrity, and over here.

– [Audience Member 14] Honesty.

– Honesty. I made myself vulnerable as a speaker, ’cause I wanted you all to realize that no matter how much you’ve been doing something you can always learn, and feedback is the breakfast of champions. I gave you the opportunity to, some people call it the marmite or the shit sandwich, right? You tell me what went well, you tell me what can do better in the middle, and then you tell me what was really notable, and we can learn from that. Whether we’re talking about our customers, our marketing, our leader, whatever it is, we can always learn, and being able to put ourselves in a position that we are listening and that we are learning from each other. We’re gonna go into some of these breakout groups and we’re gonna learn a hell of a lot of stuff today. I’m gonna drop into one. I’m gonna find one, I’m gonna sit here. I’ll be here. I’m not one, as I said to Chuck, “I’m not one of those speakers that comes in then just runs out with this PSA, ‘Thank you everybody’, and leave.” I’ll be here, and I love to have those conversations, but for me it’s always about learning. In your organization, how can you call on your team, or your organization as a whole so that you make beautiful music? What does it look like when you’re thinking about where you recruit people from? What does it look like when you’re thinking about who you promote, who you put into positions of leadership? What does it look like when you have to make the tough decision to let somebody go? What does it look like when you’re thinking about conflict and when you’re thinking about differences? It really is about being honest. It is about having that integrity. It’s about having that accountability and being okay that you don’t have to get it right every single time. I’m gonna say something really controversial now as well. None of you in here should leave this room with imposter syndrome ever. I’m looking at you all now. You’re not an imposter. You worked hard to get here. You’ve done what you needed to do to get here, and if you weren’t doing that, somebody would’ve kicked your out the door a long time ago. You are not an imposter. It’s not that imposter syndrome doesn’t exist. It does exist, but I’m telling you now, you are not an imposter. Think about all the things that you’ve done in order to be part of that orchestra. Think about the practice and the time you spent learning your craft and being the best person you can be. The moment you realize that you’re not gonna think of yourself in a negative way, you think about how you can add value to make it sound even better. I appreciate you. Thank you for your time. Any questions, please fire them at me. I’m ready for that. Is that okay? Do I have time for questions or are we moving on? Yep, okay.

– [Audience Member 15] Wait, wait, what’s the fourth L?

– [Audience Member 16] Yes, that’s my question.

– Oh, the fourth, oh sorry. Leverage. I was just checking if you were listening. I was so excited. Say the fourth L is the leverage. How do we leverage from love, from listening and language and use that in our culture, in the way that we communicate with each other to have braver conversations? Thank you. I get so excited I get carried away. Thank you. All, right, any quick questions? ‘Cause I know, as I said, I’m speaking at high level. I want a real honest question around just building and developing inclusive cultures. Yes?

– [Audience Member 17] You talked about asking questions, and kind of being slightly disruptive in doing that. How do you not be a nuisance, and then people take you out of the conversation because you ask too many questions.

– Okay, for me, there’s no such thing as too many questions.

– [Audience Member 17] But people would be like, ‘Just do without her ’cause she’s annoying’.

– Oh, go and smack ’em. No, no, no.

– [Audience Member 17] You know me so well.

– So for me, I think it’s a a question of creating that space, so I always say, “Who are your advocates? Who are the individuals in that room who will champion you?” Whenever you are in a workplace, I always say to everybody, “Get yourself a personal advisory board,” and that personal advisory board is a mentor, sponsor, or a coach, or somebody who champions you and who supports you, so when you are raising points, sometimes just bounce off those individuals. “If I’ve got a couple of questions, which ones do you think are relevant that I can ask right here and now?” And it might mean that you have two pointed questions, but you’ve really thought deep and hard about those two pointed questions, and you focus on that and really explore what that answer is. It’s not questions for questions sake, but what are those deep questions that I really need to ask to get an understanding on? I’ll give you a quick example. So somebody was saying to me a little while back, “Dave, I just don’t know where I can go and recruit this other talent that you’re talking about.” And I’m like, “Well, don’t just recruit from Russell Group Universities. What other universities are out there that you can explore? Or what can you do within your network that can allow people to come through by referral?” Those two questions just swung the conversation in a different direction. But it was only two points that I gave, “Go outside of Russell Group. What can you do in the referral?” By having those one or two pointed questions, you can really force somebody into a corner, not in a bad way, but really getting them to think about, “Okay, how do I articulate the answers back to this?” And very often the reason why we ask questions is because we haven’t had a complete answer. And so you would say, “The reason I’m asking is ’cause I don’t want to make an assumption, and I want to have as much data as possible to work with that.” Is that okay? All right, any more? Yes sir.

– [Audience Member 18] Honest conversations, which I couldn’t agree more about are important conversations. Why do you think so many people struggle to have honest conversations? Is part of that people struggle to have honest conversations maybe in their personal life, how are they gonna bring that into a sort of a workplace?

– Yes, 100%. So for those of you who didn’t hear him. It was basically, a lot of people struggle with honest conversations in their personal life. how do they bring that into the work life, and what’s the problem? So, let me speak from a British point of view, and if I can do that politely, and anybody tell me, I’m speaking out of turn here, let me know. Us Brits are so polite. We’re so polite, and sometimes we’re so full of with that politeness, all right? We just do not have that honest conversation. Just tell us as it is. And to your point, part of it is recognizing that some people will come from a culture where you don’t question where it is hierarchical. You don’t speak to people who are elders. You don’t speak to people who are in a position of seniority. For me, a lot of that conversation starts at a senior leadership level. They set the tone, they set the culture, they set the behaviors, and that means that when we are in this space, we have, and this is my rule of thumb, let’s argue the point and not the person, and the reason why a lot of people don’t like honest conversations is they feel they’re getting argued at as a person. If I come to you and I’m having a discussion, I wanna argue the point. I’m not gonna let go on you just because I don’t like you. I’m gonna go and I’m gonna address your point. “What do you mean we’ve missed the target, or what do you mean we can’t reach in that space? Can you explain to me the technicalities behind that?”, and focus on the point rather than the person. And so for me, the setting has got to be in, I say senior leadership, but whatever level of leadership or management there is, there has to be a space creator to go, “Look, we’re gonna have an honest conversation. This is not gonna affect your performance review, or your chances of promotion, or all the other things people have in their mind when they’re thinking, ‘If I do speak my mind, this could affect my pay, my promotion, blah.’ We’re gonna have an honest conversation, and this will not be held against you. What stays in the room, happens in the room, and when it’s done, it’s done.” It’s the practice of that that allows more people to have honest conversations, ’cause some people will go in there and they’ll just speak their mind. That’s not a problem, but you have to set the tone as a whole, as a system, whether it’s within your team or the organization as a whole, and if that’s not set, then people are still gonna continue to have honest conversations, but I’d also say as well, just to add to that, there has to be a bit of patience and grace for people who are afraid to not go out and speak, and sometimes it might mean that somebody else speaks on another person’s behalf, so we just have to think about how we navigate that. Make sense? No more. One more. Sorry. Okay. Chuck just said, “There’s one.” With that, I love that. Okay, I’ll take this last one.

– [Audience Member 19] In terms of inclusive cultures, what is the one question when you go into an organization that leaders should ask you, but they don’t.

– Ooh, do you all hear that? When I go into conversations, what’s the one question that people should ask that they don’t?

– [Audience Member 19] For an inclusive culture.

– For an inclusive culture, okay, here we go. Here’s my one question. I’m just thinking of how to word this. If building an inclusive culture was tied to my performance bonus, how would I do this better? That’s my question. Ooh, I felt good about that. Okay, thank you very much. You’ve been amazing. I’ll be around; thank you, thank you.

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