Reframing Unemployability: Unexpected Lessons for Leaders

I recently watched a very moving documentary called Employable Me following a jobseeker with Tourette’s and another with Autism in their quest for work. For those of you in the UK it is available here. If you can’t access BBC iPlayer, here is a good summary of the programme.

So what’s the link between this inspirational story and leadership?

Difference is Healthy

We are hard-wired to seek out those like us and often social diversity in a group is difficult – we’ve all had situations where it causes wariness, tension and a lack of trust. So why should we persist? What’s the upside? In a nutshell, diversity enhances creativity and promotes the search for novel information and perspectives, leading to improved decision making and problem solving, innovation and a healthier bottom-line. We need to apply the same thinking to our leadership teams and ensure we have the best talent at the table, not just those with whom we feel most comfortable. At the same time we can broaden our strategic perspective, and cast our nets far beyond traditional talent pools.

The Lens of Perception

Unconscious bias, in other words our implicit preferences, formed by socialisation, experiences and culture, can mean that judge those who look or behave differently to the norm as unlikely to fit in and add value to our world. When we change our optical prescription and take the time to investigate what people really have to offer, then the results can be startling. Brett, featured on Employable me, whose gifts as a 3D modeller and computer animator came into their own during a work trial at a medical equipment manufacturer is a great example of this. The leadership team in this business found what he was good at and worked around his difficulties with interpersonal communication.

Persistence Pays

The sense of determination in the two job-seekers was palpable. As leaders, the ability to hold on or to get back up after we have been knocked down is essential for us to achieve long-term success, because there will always be bumps in the road and change to negotiate. We are unlikely to influence others if we are seen to give up too easily. Persistence allows effective leaders to push through difficulties, including the opposition of others, bad luck, insufficient resources, and dead-ends.

Story Power

The stories of Paul and Brett brought the theory of diversity to life, demonstrating in very real terms what is possible. Stories carry emotion that connects us with people and drives a point deeper and deeper into our psyche.  When situations resonate and are meaningful we are more likely to act and take ownership of a situation. Hopefully more business owners will be inspired to employ differently-wired people as a result.

How far does your leadership team reflect the varied perspectives and approaches to work present in your workforce?

What could you do to limit the effects of unconscious bias and support better performance in your leadership team?

Who is role-modeling persistence in your organization?

How well are you using the power of story to communicate your business vision and values?

Find out more about the work Clare McNamara does with leaders and their teams on influence and authenticity.

© Move Ahead Global 2016

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