Juliet Bourke on how leaders can achieve diversity of thinking

Diversity of thinking is more of a challenge for leaders and their organisations through COVID-19, says Deloitte Australia's Juliet Bourke

UNSW Business School’s Will Felps, Associate Professor in the School of Management, recently interviewed Juliet Bourke, Human Capital Partner at Deloitte, about what it takes to be an inclusive leader in challenging times.

Will Felps: In your practice at Deloitte, you work with the leadership group on issues far beyond workplace diversity and inclusion. I’m curious, what do you see as some of the challenges that leaders are facing lately?

Juliet Bourke: I think before COVID-19, we all thought that we were working at maximum capacity. And it turns out there was still a little bit more to go. So the nature of work has changed to some degree, but the pace of work has changed to a significant degree, and the way that we do at work fundamentally shifted, because obviously, it’s virtual. So we’re trying to conduct interpersonal relationships, which we have generally established on the basis of face-to-face communications, only through a digital medium. And that’s challenging for people. It’s challenging to give feedback, it’s challenging to make difficult decisions, it’s challenging to establish new relationships when it’s all virtual.

Read more: How IBM and Wandering Warriors became inclusive leaders

I think one of the ironic things about diversity, and I’m very interested in diversity of thinking as well as demographic diversity, is that diversity of thinking takes a lot of energy to focus on. It takes a lot of cognitive load. And when you are feeling overwhelmed, overworked, you’ve got less cognitive capacity to focus on diversity, and ironically, you care less about it.

So the likelihood that you will reduce your inputs into an echo chamber is heightened when you’re tired, when you’re overwhelmed, when you’re cognitively depleted. So at this very moment in time, when we need diversity of thinking to navigate out of one of the most complex problems that we have faced, where risk of going into a bubble and not caring about. it.

Will Felps: You’re a leader, how do you overcome that dynamic?

Juliet Bourke: No, no, I think I think part of it, it’s like with inclusive leadership is you have to identify what is it? You know, you have to identify what’s going on with diversity of thinking and then put in place mitigations around that. So you know, small mitigations can be you know, making sure that you connect with people a lot more horizontally, than vertically. I’ve seen a lot more vertical, like people are spending a lot more time with their teams one on one, but they’re neglecting their peers and you need to do that as well to get the diversity of thinking.

For more information read Three useful things to know about diversity and inclusive leadership or contact UNSW Business School’s Will Felps, Associate Professor in the School of Management.


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