Thu 16 Apr 2020
As Director of Membership and Stakeholder Engagement at NHS Resolution, Ian Adams supported the development of the organisation’s first equality, diversity and inclusion strategy and raises awareness of LGBT+ issues and inclusion as a regular contributor to both internal newsletters and internal and external events.
Outside of NHS Resolution, Ian is the LGBT+ lead member at Westminster City Council, the sponsor of the council’s LGBT+ employee network, and partnered with Stonewall Housing to improve services for homeless LGBT+ persons in Westminster.
Ian has also contributed to several Dods D&I events. In anticipation of our upcoming 'Pride in Diversity: Supporting LGBT Colleagues in the Workplace' event on 17th September in Central London, he kindly answered some of our most pressing questions pertaining to LGBT role models, inclusivity, and resilience in times of difficulty.
What do you consider to be the most important aspect of an LGBT role model's role?
I think the most important aspect of an LGBT+ role model is to be accessible to other people, whether they are LGBT+ themselves, or existing or potential straight allies wanting to know more about how to support members of the LGBT+ community. I think it’s essential to understand that each LGBT+ person will have their own experiences to draw upon and it’s important as an LGBT+ role model not to make assumptions about how visible other people wish to be. In being accessible to all, I think it’s also important to be sensitive to people’s individual needs – some people may want specific advice affecting their professional career, while others may be more discreet in seeking help and support coming to terms with who they are as an individual.
What do you consider to be the greatest challenge to LGBT inclusivity in the workplace today?
I think it’s important to view LGBT+ inclusivity in the workplace in the wider context of diversity and inclusion. In particular, looking at LGBT+ issues through an intersectional lens can help you to understand more fully about particular challenges facing LGBT+ people in their workplace. You shouldn’t take a ‘one size fits all’ approach; for example, the challenges around LGBT+ workplace inclusivity may be impacted by the position held by an individual worker or the workplace culture of a particular employer. We know that, even today, many LGBT+ people still face discrimination in the workplace so probably the biggest challenge overall remains keeping vigilant and calling out discrimination wherever it happens. That, of course, relies on having the right support in place to enable LGBT+ people to do this without fear of further prejudice.
Have you any advice for managers who are seeking to create an LGBT positive culture within their organisation?
I would start by trying to ask staff with lived LGBT+ experiences for their examples of what makes for a positive and inclusive workplace culture. Again, be mindful that individuals will have their own direct experiences to bring into this, so try not to make assumptions without engaging with a range of LGBT+ people. Alongside this, it’s worthwhile engaging with other employees to understand their views on creating an LGBT+ positive culture within their organisation. Gay or straight, no one has a monopoly on good ideas!
You have studied and written about resilience in the past -- what advice would you give for fostering resilience as a leader and as an individual in these uncertain times?
In March 2019, I had an article on resilience published in The Journal of Psychological Therapies. I think resilience at a personal level has two aspects – the ability to ‘bounce back’ in the face of adversity and the ability to ‘cope’ while being outside of your so-called comfort zone. I think a lot of resilience can be traced back to our formative experiences growing up – both in terms of the love and support we receive from our families and friends, and direct experience of withstanding uncomfortable or shocking situations. I think what’s remarkable about these uncertain times is how relatively quickly many people have adapted to major changes to their lifestyle – not least coping with lockdown and working remotely, away from their work colleagues. There’s no magic formula for becoming more resilient, other than being conscious of how we each cope with unexpected changes in our lives and in what ways we get better at coping with shocks over time. Probably the most important resource to have in these uncertain times, whether as a leader or otherwise, is a good support network, of close friends and family, and possibly work colleagues, whom we can call upon to share our anxieties, responses and experiences. Leaders in particular should not be expected to ‘have all the answers’ – it’s OK to be honest about your vulnerabilities and sharing them is, I think, the mark of a truly resilient person.
What advice would you offer to leaders during these times of social isolation and uncertainty?
During these uncertain times, we all have to try that much harder to keep in touch with those around us, not only to manage our own social isolation but also to support other people in managing theirs. As most people in the UK are currently working remotely, staff will really value having visible and active leaders in their organisations. This could be achieved through planning more staff communications or by making yourself as a leader more available to individual staff members through greater use of social and digital media. The challenge is remaining authentic as a leader over these channels.
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