The Happy Employee Podcast

Embracing diversity

July 18, 2020 Start Within, Richard Etienne, Abbey O’Hara Season 1 Episode 10
The Happy Employee Podcast
Embracing diversity
Chapters
The Happy Employee Podcast
Embracing diversity
Jul 18, 2020 Season 1 Episode 10
Start Within, Richard Etienne, Abbey O’Hara

Abbey shares a fascinating discussion with Richard Etienne. Richard is Deputy Head of Internal Communications for the Department for International Trade and heads the organisation's BAME network as co-chair. He is also a Masterclass Tutor for The Guardian, delivering his acclaimed introvert workshops.

During the podcast, Richard shares his insight on working within 10 Downing Street, his personal experiences with discrimination and how we can better embrace diversity in the workplace.

startwithin.co.uk


Show Notes Transcript

Abbey shares a fascinating discussion with Richard Etienne. Richard is Deputy Head of Internal Communications for the Department for International Trade and heads the organisation's BAME network as co-chair. He is also a Masterclass Tutor for The Guardian, delivering his acclaimed introvert workshops.

During the podcast, Richard shares his insight on working within 10 Downing Street, his personal experiences with discrimination and how we can better embrace diversity in the workplace.

startwithin.co.uk


Abbey O'Hara 
Hi, Richard. Hello, thank you so much for joining me today. I've been really looking forward to talking to you. And just so the listeners are aware, I thought it'd be good to explain that we actually met at an event and during lockdown, so a virtual event, and you spoke on that event, even though you weren't the billed speaker, you just did a short piece that was off the cuff. And it inspired me the most out of the whole event and your pieces what I took away from the event. And since then I've been following you on LinkedIn. And I think you have some really interesting and inspiring things to say. And you're doing some really great work in the internal comms industry. But also, working on introvert workshops as well, which we'll talk a little bit about later on. And but but today, we're talking about embracing diversity, and in particular how organisations can embrace that in the workplace. And I think that when when we talk about diversity, people often think straight to race or gender. But again, what I find interesting about your story is that you actually apply that to personality types too. And, but yeah, before before I talk to you about yourself what why don't you start By introducing you, 
 
Richard Etienne 
thank you Abbey and really appreciate that introduction. So yeah, I'm Richard Etienne. I would admit I'm a dreamer tend to some of some really life altering experiences throughout my career, which obviously I'm happy to expand a bit later. But yeah, for now, I'll say yes, as you said, I'm deputy head of internal comms Department for International Trade. The focus there is leadership, communications, and associate What that means is I consult all of the senior civil servants within that department on best practice regarding internal comms, and I'm also the BAME network co chair and have been in that position or posts since November 2019. And I'm also as you said, a guardian masterclass tutor on all things introvert in there and I'm also a guardian masterclass tutor on all things introversion 
 
Abbey O'Hara 
Yeah. So you said that your job as deputy head of IC, and you had, like you said that a diverse, interesting career. So how did you find yourself in internal communication? 
 
Richard Etienne 
It's interesting. It all actually started back, way back when I started working at myspace. And I managed a music blog, video interviewing superstars like Beyonce and akon and other stars at the time, even back then. So I was I was a videographer. And I, yeah, while they had a journalist interviewing them, but the great thing is, I get to do all of the pre prep bit, you know, microphone. 
 
Abbey O'Hara 
So you touched Beyonce. 
 
Richard Etienne 
I'm about to put it like that. Yeah. But yeah, what what that did was it's confidence that led me into roles that took me to Buckingham Palace for example, where I was there for what seemed like every other week to film members of the royal family for Commonwealth summit back in 2018. To then becoming Theresa Mays personal videographer for all of their 2019 up until 2018 and 2019 till she stepped down. And one thing I I really enjoy about communications is that you get to spark global conversations and with all manner of, you know, diverse people, diverse thinking, personalities and so forth. What really attracted me to I see was the fact that I was going to be communicating with what essentially will become a work family. So, and having to consider all of the different different individuals, characters, whether we know wherever they're from, and it really enhanced my communication because it made me think about certain things like accessibility, diversity, and tone of voice and sharing other people's stories because a company is nothing without its people. So to promote the people is the best thing that you can do within ice. So that's why I joined the international trade department last year and I'm what now just over a year in that role, and I can't imagine being anywhere else. Right. 
 
Abbey O'Hara 
So you mentioned there a minute ago about, you've worked with Theresa May as well. So you will have videographer Is that right? And during the campaign while she was in Downing Street? 
 
Richard Etienne 
Yeah, it was it was it was great. You know, I had just come off the back of the Commonwealth summit, which I mentioned earlier. You know, having met the Queen three times and you know, flown to really great places, and then to 
 
get into a role, like, the videographer to the Prime Minister. I didn't even know it existed before I joined that state to be fair. 
 
one thing that was really incredible is the fact that I would get one on one time with every single week and we would travel to you know, Argentina for the G 20. We're in New York for the UN assembly. We're in Brussels every other week. And I got to tell the other side of the story that you know, the Brexit story, because that's what we saw in the press at the time. And you know, she had the quote unquote, may bot persona. But what I was able to do was work with her to bring out her personality help her to appear and feel more relaxed in front of the camera. And, you know, it got to a point where she started dancing, right, so it must have worked. I was just about to say, were you were you aware you're not responsible for the famous other entrance? I was not responsible for that. I like to think that her comfort in front of the camera during our time together, allows you to just feel free to do that. And you know, have fun 
 
Abbey O'Hara 
Mission accomplished really after that point? Yeah. Yeah. Because like, like you say back in internal comms. It's more than just a communication. It's telling a story, isn't it? And it's getting to know the people behind the job. And in Theresa Mays case, without getting too political she's, she may be the best at politics or a great leader, but it was that that personality and that that personal approach that she was often critiqued for. So yeah, internal comms within the organisation as well. It's all about that personal approach, isn't it? 
 
Richard Etienne 
I agree completely. In fact, you know, within international trade department, the most commented, liked shared content on our intranet pages are the ones about people and personal stories from countries around the world where our people are, you know, we are basically And regions in all of the continents and everyone has different experiences, talents, and they want to share them with with our individuals back in what we call HQ back in London. And so yeah, it's it's something that I always champion, and as head of leadership communications within the department, I try my best to get the senior leaders to show more of that personal side and essentially tap into the why behind what they do. Yeah. Yeah. And so, you've worked in a lot of official environments. So the government and the Cabinet Office and at Downing Street, and a lot of those environments of what you might assume is all white males, especially tourists and possibly even middle class stereotypes. 
 
Abbey O'Hara 
So I just wondered how did you crack that industry? What? What did you do to stand out? 
 
Richard Etienne 
I had to be the very best or the Steve Martin once said, be so good, that they can't deny you. And so I let my work speak for me. And that ultimately led me to becoming very trusted among senior officials. The Downing Street director of comms would only let me film The Prime Minister for all of the big moments, you know, and that it still had its moments of almost what I would call a code slap of reality because there were countless times where I would travel with the Prime Minister removing our bubble together, you know, and security despite I'm standing next to the Prime Minister security in other countries Pull me out. I asked you to search me and why am I here? And have I got the right? Pass or whatever? I'm like, are you? Are you? Are you serious? Like, I'm literally walking next to my principal? And, yeah, you're asking me for for security checks like, I'm the only black person here. Can you see what's wrong with this? Yeah. And that was a regular occurrence. So it just, it goes to show no matter where you are, what level of status you have, within any industry, racism will always prevail. And it's just it's it's heartbreaking. Yeah. It's really heartbreaking to hear that and 
 
Abbey O'Hara 
yeah, it's so poignant right now with with Black Lives Matter, obviously has recently come to life, and I think it's really important that we can continue talking about these things. And it's not just one of these phases that's happened off the back of something. I think it's something that we need to ensure is embedded into the culture in our organisations, which I guess is what what you're doing now with being the bay network care for your organisation? 
 
Richard Etienne 
Yeah, exactly. And, you know, we, as a network have two clear aims there. The first is to create a sense of community, within the department to allow Bame colleagues to thrive. And the second aim is to challenge the structures within the department that prevent them colleagues to thrive and succeed. So, you know, I have used my experience my career history, as the basis of I've used my experience and career history as the basis of my leadership style. And I, at some level would like to be an inspiration as well to, to the to the members of the network to show them like, if you can do this, you can do this and I am with you and please let me know how I can help you how my coach can help you because we all have different lived experiences and I'm not naive to think that, you know, my experiences normal. I some would say I'm quite lucky, quite fortunate. And while that may be the case, it doesn't stop me from wanting to ensure that my bank colleagues within the department are able to fulfil their full potential in whatever way possible. 
 
 
 
Abbey O'Hara 
And so so what what is your bame network doing then in the in the workplace to empower that bame community? 
 
Richard Etienne 
Okay, the thing about the network, especially as a coach here and you know, part of the committee put together is it gives us a seat at the top table. So we get to sit with our executive committee members, Pamela secretary, and we're able to present to them recommendations for them to action in order to help us to fulfil our aims and objectives. And these aren't recommendations we've just plucked out to the sky. You know, especially during lockdown. We've hosted a lot of virtual drop ins to allow members to talk about issues that affect them, whether it's recent COVID currently COVID-19 pandemic and, you know, the Public Health England stats that come out to show you know, for black people, black or brown people with HIV are four times more likely to contract the virus than white people and, you know, so that means a lot of our colleagues have had bereavements. Yeah. There's, there's, there's that stress that's on our colleagues, then there's the anxiety of returning to the office. And, you know, how can we the network influence the policy and that the organisation puts together to influence that. And, obviously, as you alluded to earlier, the Black Lives Matter. Movement, recent protests, off the back of George Floyd and many other tragedies that's happened recently. So it's, it's allowing us as I said, to get that seat at the table. Present recommendations. And I see a spiral change. 
 
Abbey O'Hara 
And I assume everyone can get involved in that. And you don't have to be in the bane community to be involved with that group. I mean, everyone can make a difference. Right. Exactly. And, you know, we recently set up an allies group for our white colleagues to join. And actually there are more members in that group than in our entire Bay network. showing us the Yeah, that we are all in this together. And, yeah, nothing, nothing changes unless something changes. I can't remember who crude quote that is. But that is something that I always, that always sticks with me. And it's good to see that the conversation is still continuing where, in recent times, the press would have moved on conversation moved on, and it would have been yesterday's headline. Yeah, yeah. Right. And so sticking with them 
 
 
Abbey O'Hara 
It all relates to employee well being as well. And I personally think that supporting employee well being isn't isn't just about providing that mental health support. I think it's also about that acceptance and that inclusion, which you're doing so much work on right now. And especially with the bay network, but statistics show that the bane community actually have a higher chance of suffering from from mental health issues. So whether that's because they face different societal challenges that affect their mental health or facing racism or discrimination that you've mentioned earlier. I mean, what do you think about this? 
 
Richard Etienne 
Yeah, I think I think just You're right. It's inevitable considering the various trauma we go through every day, you know, social economics, injustice at the hands of law enforcement progresses in the workplace. COVID-19 as we, as we mentioned earlier, is exposed, even even further the imbalance in our society. And, you know, we actually haven't even discussed that the legacy of slavery right? If you think about it, this this is a business so corrupt, that living British citizens have been helping to pay back the country's debt to, you know, slave plantation owners up until 2015. We only finished paying the debt in 2015. It's a trade a trade so entrenched in our history, that many of us still carry the names of our owners and our surnames, like I can trace it back based on my son, you know, who owned my wife's family like, how insane is that? So of course, it's going to affect us as a people profoundly and and If it pleases me so much to see that my white colleagues are really pushing to support us as a community because we need our white peers to become part of the solution in black and brown people we were tired, you know, we're so tired to have to carry the task of trying to end an injustice that we didn't create. So yeah. Stronger Together that that is that is the line that and the tone that I want. 
 
Abbey O'Hara 
Oh, yeah. Stronger Together i think i think you're absolutely right. And and those things that you're saying about slavery, it's still shocking for me that, that this black, we were lacking in education about it, a lot of this that I hadn't even heard about or had no idea about until the whole Black Lives Matter movement and have no idea of the history of some of the statues and different things that we have as part of our history. So I think it's really important movement and it's really teaching us so much right now. 
 
Richard Etienne 
Exactly. Yeah. 
 
Abbey O'Hara 
So the last part then I wanted to talk a little bit about your introvert workshops. You said that you were a guardian, masterclass, introvert workshop, cheater. And go before we explain that, what is an introvert? 
 
 
Richard Etienne 
So, introversion is all about energy. In fact, I was talking about introversion and extraversion, the line I give in my classes is the difference between the two is how a person gains and drains energy. Like that is simply it if if you as an individual, find that people drain you drain your energy if you're spending long periods of time with other individuals that you feel you need to get away and recharge, you're probably an introvert. And then the opposite you know if during this knocked down if you've been living alone, for example, and you've really struggled because you need people around you in order to help to give you energy, then you're likely to be an extrovert. 
 
Abbey O'Hara 
Yeah, it's really complicated, isn't it? I've never thought about it before until I was reading about some of the stuff that you do and, and I think my friends would think that I'm quite an extrovert, so I'm quite outgoing with my friendship group. But then, if it comes to work, or something, I need to speak up and maybe show myself off a little bit. I'm actually quite shy and reserved and it's, it's more complex than just being an introvert or an extra, isn't it? It totally depends on the situation. Exactly. 
 
Richard Etienne 
So psychologists Carl Jung who came up with the term introversion extroversion, he said, There is no such thing as a pure introvert or an extrovert and such such a person would be found in a lunatic asylum. So, if you think about it, and what most of us are more ambivert, so kind of in the middle of the scale, where we slide up and down, the introvert and extrovert scale in so it's not again. Those of us who probably ambiverts which sits right in the centre, and as you, as you said earlier, it knows it's situational. So we will slide up or down the scale. You know, you may be more introverted when it comes to public speaking but more extroverted when it comes to socialising. That's completely fine. It's completely normal. You know, I'm a parent, I stepped into my extraversion when I need to entertain my child. I'm more introverted when my mother has given me a dressing down it's it's just life is simple. 
 
Abbey O'Hara 
So, um, so do you identify as an introvert 
 
 
Richard Etienne 
would say I'm an introvert and it's purely because of how I recharge. I, I am very sociable, but for very short bursts of time. You know, when I say let's go for one, I literally mean it has to go for one day, because after a while, I just, I can't explain it, I just start to feel my energy depleting and if it's a one to one situation, possibly like in a park or in a garden, I'm okay. But it's that group situation that I just I seem to struggle with after a period of time. And it's interesting because I knew I was a bit different from when I was in school, and You know, after school, I'm having my dinner and you know, the boys and girls would knock on my front door, my dad would go to the door. And then I got Mr. Etienne, Mr. Etienne, can Richard come out to play. And from from like adjacent out of your view from the, from the children. I'm signalling like no. Because the whole thing is I spent six hours with you. Why do you want to spend more time? I'm done. And I always thought there was something wrong with me. And then I was like, in my adult life, I read a book by Susan Cain called quiet and it spoke to me so profoundly. And that's when I realised, oh, I'm not shy. I'm not weird. And I'm an introvert. Because, yeah, there were elements where I would just be really confident. And there were others were not so and yeah, students Susan Cain seriously changed, changed the way I see myself. Yeah, I've just written that down. I definitely want to have a read of that. And yes it 
 
Abbey O'Hara 
Do you think that this has had any sort of negative impact then on your life or your career being introverted? 
 
Richard Etienne 
No, I can accurately say it's been positive because it was at that moment, after reading that book that I started to step into some of the roles that I've had recently. And just and and all I can say is finding one's identity is so liberating, is allowed me to reach my full potential and inspire other introverts to one of these, what I call their quiet power. 
 
Abbey O'Hara 
Yeah, I think that's beautiful. I mean, for me, introversion is always got that kind of negative connotation just because If Well, I think about me as a child. And if I was shy, it's always like, don't be shy, don't be shy, come on, step forward. And you It's just that that societal thing, isn't it that you've got to be loud and put yourself out there. So to say that actually, to look to look at your CV and everything that you've achieved, and that you're actually saying that no, this, this has had a positive impact, and I've got that quiet power. I think that's really inspiring and will be really interesting for a lot of people to hear. 
 
Richard Etienne 
Yeah, it's an extrovert wow, you know, is made by extroverts, for extroverts. And it does start in schools, as you alluded to it because if you if you're the one that raises your hand in class, you know, you're celebrated for being an active participant or you know, if you if you have, if you're able to stand in front of a crowd, a class or you know, the whole school assembly, these individuals are celebrated if you're the person who engages in group play, again celebrated as someone with so much good social skills, but the person over there that has, you know, engages in solitary play or likes to read a book. There's something wrong with him, you know, it's and it's just, it's not, it's not helpful because these things stay with you as you grow older. And that's why, you know, introverts only make up something like 3% of the top execs in the fortune 500 but you know, footsie 100 companies, so it's, it's until we change extroverts, we won't change the world. And I don't mean that in a radical way. But it's about helping extroverts to see introverts sometimes I don't even feel like they see them. They'll see us about Yeah, getting us all in the room together and saying, look, yeah, we all see each other here. We all have talents. We all have contributions to share. let's engage. Yeah, and that was going to be one of them. Questions actually, like what can employers do to address not only the visit visible differences of diversity like we've talked about such as race but then there's also gender and sexuality that there's so many things out there that that people are doing for but how can we address the diversity within us such as being an introvert or an extrovert it's harder to determine isn't it? It is it is a diverse diversity of thought or characters so crucial, entertaining a well rounded view of any situation. So if you think about, you know, men men always make decisions in tech, road safety AI and look at the negative impacts of that, you know, we have mobile phones are so huge and heavy. Even from my hand, I have this iPhone I, I sometimes have to hold it with two hands to reach the top of the screen. Wait, and then, you know, we've been Artificial Intelligence or smart tech, you know, there was this video I saw, I think it was a soap dispenser or hand dryer or something like that. And you know, it, it only recognised white skin. But it was just like, Oh my gosh, yeah. And then also road safety. So, you know, there are was the crash test dummies. Yeah, the road safety, the crash test dummies are always based on an average was a what five to 10 male. And so, you know, women have suffered injuries from airbags, because of the impact of velocity. You know, like, if there's not diversity of thought, in places where safety, you know, and and tech and finance and communications, all of the elements that keep us alive and connected, especially in In this Western civilization, it's it's only going to cause a divide. And, you know, the underrepresented groups will always always lose out. Yeah. And that's really scary to hear as a five foot one woman. 
 
Abbey O'Hara 
And actually, I hadn't even thought about that about the phone size thing that we've said. But I've actually got like a lump on my little finger. A little. sounds horrible, like a little callous thing where, because I struggled to reach detect so much, but it's one of those things, isn't it that you don't think about and you just put up with because it's the way it is? You Yeah, nothing changes until something changes. We're going to change the water the Well, yeah, we are. We are. So but yeah, you can provide in these infinite introvert workshops that have been big sellouts and are featured in The Guardian. So we've talked a lot about introversion. But if you want to just tell us a little bit more about those workshops and why you think that's so important. 
 
Richard Etienne 
Yeah, so if you think about many people find themselves overlooked in the workplace or they become overwhelmed by job interviews and all they feel that those who make the most noise become the most successful. So his workshops, they're intended to help introverts to thrive really stepped into that quiet power that I mentioned earlier, that thrive not survive. And in this world that's designed by and for extroverts, and also the workshops that I do. I welcome extroverts to join because there's a piece especially for managing mixed personalities. You know, introverts make up almost 50% of the world population. So there's a good chance that the your your team will have introverts within it. So my workshops helped to engage with extroverts, and empower introverts and my website Richard Etienne Koto, UK I always have the latest dates of when you can join the sellout really quickly. Now we're in isn't locked down or do a online version, which is great because you know you don't have to travel into London anymore to to attend. So it's really it's really great. And yeah my next class is in August so yeah Richard Etienne.co.uk is the place to find out what to do. Yeah. And it's interesting that you say that they're sending out more in lockdown. And I think it might not just be that we've got more time on our hands but also 
 
Abbey O'Hara 
like you say, it first struggle with that but speaking up and getting out there and we're not physically there in the office anymore to to wave our hands and get noticed. It's more been at home. It's how can we get noticed? How can we be heard? 
 
Richard Etienne 
Yeah, exactly. And especially in the meeting context, And what I tried to do in these classes is show the benefits of this new remote working world. So if you think about meetings now, yeah, the table that the physical table has been removed. So there isn't this hierarchical layout Well, the loud and important people perceivably important people sit in the centre and debate wow, you know, the extroverts on the wings. There's no there there are a few people, you know, speaking over, and, and you don't need to physically Raise your hands. I mean, a lot of these great apps nowadays is zoom in teams, you know, you can click the raise hand function, you can tap on that you can chat in the text Im section, so you can still have your voice heard about having to come back the awkwardness or sometimes even fear of having to speak over or cut into someone. Someone's monologue a little Tip, though, that I found quite helpful, is if you do want to speak and someone is rambling on, interject by using their name, rather than doing the customary. Oh, sorry, sorry, sorry, sorry. Yeah. When you apologise multiple times to interject, it just doesn't work that actually you have set yourself up to say something that people will really take on board. But there's something about saying someone's name that just stops them dead in their tracks, and I've tried it a few times. It does work. 
 
Abbey O'Hara 
A good little tip, I'll be sure to use it. Do you think of 
 
Abbey O'Hara 
So, thank you, Richard, so much for your time today. I think everyone can take something away from that whether you're a manager or employee or people that are struggling with their own diversity or mental health. I mean everything that you've said about being an introvert and worrying about the way you are And if you're different, I think it's been really inspiring and comforting to hear your story. And such a successful person as you are for the likes of Beyonce to Theresa May and the royal family. I think it I think a lot of people would take a lot away from today. Thank you so much. Thank you, Abby. Thank you for having me in. All of our staff within listeners, thank you for tuning in. Yeah, thanks. So if we do want to continue learning more about you and following your journey, it was Richard Etienne coda UK. Exactly. Yeah, that's the website. I have a blog on there. Lots of free downloads. You can download my introvert Survival Guide ebook for free. So we always brilliant Well, thanks again, Richard. And have a great week. 
 
Richard Etienne 
Thank you 
 
 
Transcribed by https://otter.ai