Professor Christopher Pietroni: Hello, everyone, and welcome to this episode of the Leadership Exchanged Podcast with me, your host, Christopher Pietroni. This podcast is brought to you by the University of Birmingham, where I'm Professor of Leadership Practice and Director of the Birmingham Leadership Institute. In this podcast, we ask whether we have the right kind of leadership to meet the challenges that we face or whether we need to exchange current approaches towards leadership for something new. In today's episode, I'm delighted to be joined by Mark Lomas. Mark is currently the Head of Culture at Lloyd's of London, but Mark’s led diversity and inclusion work across a whole range of sectors, including as Head of Equality, Diversity, and Inclusion at HS2. For those who don't know, HS2 is one of the largest infrastructure projects in Europe involved in building high speed rail between the South and the North of England. But Mark's also worked in the third sector. He's worked at the BBC. He's worked alongside the NHS and organisations like Arts Council England. So, his range of experience in this area is really broad and is going to make for what I'm sure is going to be really rich conversation this afternoon. Welcome, Mark. Thanks a lot for joining us.
Mark Lomas: Oh, thank you very much for having me. I'm looking forward to the conversation.
Professor Christopher Pietroni: So, you're at Lloyd's of London and it might be helpful for you just for those who don't know, say a little bit about what really about Lloyds does. But Lloyd's, of course, has a history utterly impossible to disentangle from the legacy of empire and the transatlantic trade in enslaved Africans. And that history kind of, you know, has only quite recently been considered. And I know that you've said that you think it's really important to confront our history. And I just wonder how you see that in terms of problem awareness, because there might be people in the way that you describe who say, well, look, I get that this is our history, but that's not me, and that's not part of it. So why do you think it matters to confront that sort of history, you know, as part of trying to really understand what it is that we're trying to change?
Mark Lomas: Yeah. I mean, it's incredibly important because if you can't be open and transparent about the past, you can't confront the issues of the past, then it is really hard to acknowledge the issues of today and what the what the required solutions are. Now, that doesn't that doesn't mean that doesn't mean that people are universally happy about that. You know, there's certainly sentiment that I've encountered like, you know, why are we why are we doing this? It was hundreds of years ago, that sort of thing or nothing to do with me. It's horrible. But I don't really want to know about it. It's has nothing to do with me. And that is a minority of sentiment. But it is, you know, you do run across that sentiment, you know, but it is important for a few reasons. Number one, if you're trying to build an inclusive future, an inclusive marketplace and a global marketplace, you have to start with the reality. And that's and that's hugely important because if you're hiding the reality in a world where there's lots of information available when you're trying to attract talent, they will see what you're portraying is different than the truth. And that is problematic. That immediately leads to a breakdown in trust. The second part of that is there are so many interesting sorts of lessons to be learned about how systemic a way of working and operating can be. And unpicking all of that takes a lot of takes a lot of time. It's also very important to have the context behind it because while certainly some of the activities that people are involved in were absolutely abhorrent by today's standards, they weren't actually illegal in those times. So, there is there's certainly there's certainly a need to provide the whole context and to look at things truthfully and then I think really critically allow people to respond to those findings, respond to the data that you're pulling out. Explain my own experience. You know, when I when I went into the Lloyd's building, as is part of meeting the teams, you know, I personally found it odd. Yeah, you're surrounded by all this, this history. But the history isn't quite reflective of what happened. And so we put a lot of, of work into sort of re-curating some of the displays in the Lloyd's building and again, you know, this research will result in a digital archive, a digital exhibition sorry, so that people can access the objects there, the history, the context for as long as for as long as needed.
Professor Christopher Pietroni: How have you dealt with, you know, because that's a kind of leadership task. How do we create environments in which people are willing to be more honest, really, about the degree of change and challenge that we're facing?
Mark Lomas: And that is it's a great question. And leadership plays such an important role in moving the dial that setting of the kind of the psychological safety, you know, often comes from how leaders interact with this subject. You know, even something like we need you to give us your diversity data. You need to create you know, you need to create the environment, a trusting environment for people to do that. And you can't just assume that people know why that data is important. And so, you really do need to be able to explain. You gave us this data; we introduced this policy. This is about making this organisation better for you and that you is applicable to whoever you are across this organisation. And so that's very important. The role modelling is also very important for leaders. And then on an organisational basis, I'm I, I think the kind of trepidation over kind of diversity data, probably a little less than it was primarily because people are more demanding of that data, of that transparency. And so, you can't claim to be, you know, a wonderfully inclusive, diverse employer. But they'll go onto your website, and they'll find out right there, go to your LinkedIn, they'll find out. So, you know, being able to marshal that data and publish that data again, goes towards that kind of that trust factor, which becomes incredibly important if you're trying to reach into communities that you haven't traditionally accessed. And so that is a leadership task to say that this is our style, these are our values, this is where we are, and this is, and this is kind of where we want to get to and how we want to improve. And honesty about that is incredibly important. Yeah, overpromising and not being able to deliver in this space particularly is probably the worst thing you can do because once that perception sets in that you are disingenuous, it is incredibly difficult to shift. And I think one of the one of the leadership qualities of a successful diversity professional, I think has to be the ability to create those psychologically safe spaces for people both to come and raise issues with you, to talk about their experience, and the way you respond to that is extremely important because you cannot fix everything immediately. Yeah, and that point about you can't fix everything immediately you know, goes also to the question of the systemic nature of the challenge. Right.
Professor Christopher Pietroni: So, I was struck, Mark, as you're describing it, you were saying, well, you know, being transparent and being open and being honest is actually part of what builds the trust. Particularly you're trying to reach into either as customers or presumably as potential employees, communities that might not traditionally have seen you as a partner or the institution that you would want to be part of. So those two things kind of a... but then of course, if you do reach into those communities, you bring more people into the institution. On the one hand that's great, that increases diversity. But of course, as we know historically, one of the problems has been people come into organisations and then discover that they're not able to progress because, you know, yes, we might have dealt with recruitment, but we haven't dealt with kind of promotion and internal culture. So, all of these things are deeply interconnected. And that notion of creating the culture in the market and using that quasi-regulatory kind of tools at your disposal to provide both carrot and stick, you know, I wonder how similar that is in general terms to the kind of culture within an organisation. Because I mean, your formal job title, I think at Lloyd’s is head of culture, right? Yeah. And, you know, I'm sure both of us have been involved in more, quote, culture change programmes than we would care to remember. And one thing we know about both culture change programmes is that they fail right? So, you know plenty of business school cases on that and so you know o I'm sort of curious about that part of this as well. Right. Because I think the whole the big themes of what you've been talking about and we've been exploring is, you know, there are lots of things that you need to do. The sum total of which is, one hopes, a kind of systemic shift. Right. With the whole nature of the organization is different and therefore the outcomes are different. And I'm but at the heart of culture change often, you know, we're asking people to really change the way that they see things, right? That we're doing this sort of mindset change to sort of perspective shift change. And I wonder how you how you see the process of achieving that in an area like equality and diversity. So yes, there's carrot and stick. But what in your experience is at the heart of enabling people to kind of see the world differently. So, they're making different choices when they're deciding how to how to act in any given moment. And, you know, am I going to act in a more or less inclusive way is really down to a whole set of kind of internal decisions that I'm going to make in a flash? Right. So how do how do you get that sort of culture change so that people really are behaving differently or what helps?
Mark Lomas: It is a long-term process, right? It's not something you do in six months. It's just not it's not achievable. But I'm a big believer in you change this, you change the system around people. So, a good example of that. I'm a I'm a real believer in the use of company values to help nudge and change behaviours. And now those values can't just be, you know, a picture on a wall. They need to be active; they need to be lived every day. People need to be people need to be recognised for behaving in a way that's in line with the values. And then, you know, if you are values are representative of diversity, inclusion or DNI is threaded within that and you articulate that, you then have a framework for which people understand this is this is a means by which the organisation operates. And you take that framework and then you bake it into all the things that that matter to people. You know, you bake it into the performance and pay discussion. So, it doesn't just become about what you did, but how you did it. You know, you bake it into the informal and formal recognition processes for people. So, they so they want to do that. You know, you remind people with stats and facts and little conversation starters every day when they turn on their computer or they walk past the plasma screen in the office, there are things about the values or what we're doing on diversity or sustainability or why it's important, why it's aligned with the company, why it's aligned to the company strategy, etc.. And so, over a period of time you set that expectation, you change the system around it, lots of nudge messaging and then formal and informal systems. Over time people understand this is the way we do things around here. And when we reach that point, well, this is the way we do things around here, then the culture has changed. And that from a leadership point of view, that does take bravery as well, because there will be leaders who won't want to embody the values that are important or that will help you get to the outcomes you need. And I think an HR an HRD former boss of mine used to say, look, if you're if you're not up to it, but you are up for it, then we can help you. But if you're not up for it and you're not up to it, why are you still here? And I think that's great. And sometimes you have to be brave. You can either change the people or sometimes you've got to change the people.
Professor Christopher Pietroni: Yeah. Again, the hard edge being really important. And it, it takes us to the kind of the place that I thought we might go last, actually. Mark, which is about sacrifice, right? So, you know, whilst I certainly believe it's true and there's all sorts of both, you know, empirical evidence for this, but there's also a sort of values base which says more inclusion is better, right? You know, it's better because it might be better for our business, but it's also better because, frankly, it's just better. But it seems to me that you've touched on this. There are losses along the way. Now, sometimes you know that might be well, you know, I don't see myself in this new institution. And so that might be a genuine loss in terms of loss of role or loss of job or so on. But it seems to me there are other sorts of losses as well. You know, certainly something that I've come across a lot is, you know, when even now, I think even with the greater awareness around these issues, many, as it were, people who would think of themselves as being right minded, inclusive and so on, being confronted with ways in which they have benefited from their own privilege. You know, somebody who looks like me and sounds like me and so on. Being confronted with that is really quite hard because you’re losing something. You're losing a sense of your own sort of goodness, if you like, and you can accommodate to that and see the world differently but think about being an ally and so on. But nevertheless, it is a loss. So, there are all sorts of intangibles at work here. And I I'm very struck by the, you know, Ron Heifetz, who's an academic at Harvard that I draw on a lot, you know, says people don't resist change, they resist loss. And so very often when we see resistance in organisational change or culture change, it's because people are confronted with the things that they're going to have to give up in order to be different in the future. So, I'm just curious about your experience of this, about, you know, if we think of sacrifice not just in the sort of hard end, but also some of that softer internal kind of material, and that feels like a real leadership space to me. And I don't know if we really develop our leaders to be able to understand that they have to offer some leadership to help people go through those kinds of processes.
Mark Lomas: I mean, I think it's a I think it's a great point. And my kind of experience of it, I think is rooted in the fact, you know, I've worked with worked with a number of different companies, different sectors, this and that and the other internationally. British culture has a great belief in fairness. Whether or not things are fair at all is completely different. And this sort of belief in meritocracy is also very strong. And therefore, you know, if you if you've been kind of indoctrinated to the wrong word, but that I can't think of a better one at this point, if you've been indoctrinated to say that, you know, things are fair, it's a meritocracy. You get what you deserve. All you've got to do is work hard and blah, blah, blah, blah, blah. Your belief is I got there because I'm that good. Then if certain groups of people don't get there, the inevitable conclusion is, well, I know it's not polite to say it, but they must not be as good. Right? And therefore, you get a diversity detriment whereas it's a pity model, oh, they're not quite as good. So, we're going to have to help them out. That is very different from recognising an intrinsic advantage, and it is explained, once that advantage is explained, then comes the feeling of loss, because what to the disabled person or the woman or the LGBTQ person or the black person is a levelling of the playing field feels like a loss of entitlement to possibly another group.
Professor Christopher Pietroni: One of the questions that we ask all of our podcast guests Mark is, who’s leadership inspires you and why?
Mark Lomas: Someone initially comes to mind and for all you who are Manchester United fans out there, I apologise immediately. So Jurgen Klopp, for me, the Liverpool manager, embodies a type of leadership that I think is I think is extremely effective. And why is that? He creates a vision, a common vision. This is what we're aiming at. He's able to bring people with him and by that, I mean not only his, his players, but the supporters in the stadium, the city outside it. And it's a very personal leadership brand. And by that, I mean, he is both available, accessible, but still holds a very high standard. You know, and you talked about making the line explicit. I think one of the things that I really admire about his sense of leadership is he makes a line explicit but then helps people get to the line. And I think for me, that's he's a leader that I that I admire very, very much. I think he does it is a great a great job with that.
Professor Christopher Pietroni: Mark, thank you so much for joining us. Certainly. It's an absolute pleasure to chat with you. I have to say, I think one thing that strikes me about, you know, the sort of the way that you approach these issues is that there's this really great combination I see anyway, between the sort of what I think of as an outside in and an inside out kind of I said the outside in, and it's how do we get the systems right? But the inside out is and how do we help people kind of do the inner work required to kind of accommodate themselves to the new systems as well. And again, some wonderfully tangible examples of kind of some of the ways of doing that from these diverse sectors, which I found absolutely fascinating. But all the time I can. The other thing I sense talking with you about, there's this kind of matter of fact about the sort of non-negotiable nature of this, that there's you know, it's not it's not at all aggressive or sort of, you know, shouty. It's just this is this is the line and, you know, be really clear about it and hold it and just as you were closing there your last words, I think about how we help people in our institutions to feel that level of clarity about the line, and the willingness to disagree well and to tolerate that such an important part of the work. So, thank you for sharing your experience with us. It's really much appreciated.
Mark Lomas continues to break the mould in terms of employee stereotypes and recruitment practices across a wide range of sectors at Lloyd's, the world’s leading insurance market.
In this episode, Mark delves into how he is leading change by implementing innovative programmes to help organisations deliver their set promises around Equality, Diversity and Inclusion (EDI). Some of these organisations include the NHS, BBC, HS2 and Arts Council England.
Mark discusses how he has applied his own personal experiences with industry stereotypes and the importance of confronting history to help to form more diverse and inclusive working environments.
The Leadership Exchanged podcast asks if the world's biggest and most complex problems could be solved if the right leadership approach was applied? Do we need to exchange current approaches to leadership for something new? In each episode Leadership expert Professor Christopher Pietroni discusses with guests what kind of leadership is needed if you want to make real, lasting change.
Find out more about the Leadership Exchanged podcast.