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Q&A with David Rigby

Updated: Oct 3, 2023

Exclusive Trusted Magazine Q&A with David Rigby, Director @Smart Coaching & Training Ltd

How could you describe your career path in few words ?

I run which places experts in roles I used to do. I got there by having a general direction and constantly reskilling.  Skills are more important than knowledge, soft skills more important than hard skills. With a degree in Mathematics, I travelled from computer programmer through the path to IT and change consultant for what is now PWC. 

I discovered Neuro Linguistic Programming in 1995 and concluded people were more interesting than IT and changed less frequently. Becoming independent in 1996, I worked in 22 countries and developed my interculturality skills – having these won’t get you a job but it means you can better do international work.  Tiring of long consulting assignments in different countries I focused on Soft Skills training particularly Leadership, Diversity, Communication in the Middle East, I overcame my historic fear of talking in public and improved my training skills by writing for Al Arabiya News, presenting on British Radio and attending training in Public Speaking, Stand Up Comedy and Clowning.  Since 2019, based in Spain I manage opportunities for my 20 associates in four continents speaking 12 languages and continue to improve my Professional Speaking Skills and market Cognitive Diversity.

How do you think Diversity and Inclusion has transformed companies in the past two years?

It is a recognised fact that Diverse companies are much more successful than non-diverse companies. But what is a Diverse company? It is one where the staff are Included.  There are many different diversities- for example: age, sex, class, education, sexuality, gender, race, religion and nationality.  An organisation may tick the Diversity box by having a token Woman on the board. But if that woman only works on ‘women’s issues or soft issues (which can include HR), and not equally on everything, then they are not included.  And that is not the diversity which will bring the benefits.   Boards and teams which include gen z and baby boomers, men and women, neuro diverse people, different races and sexualities stand some chance of being diverse provided individuals have equal roles, and they are in a psychologically safe environment where they are free to speak up, get listened to and what they say is acted on without the risk of being fired. 

The most successful teams and boards have one major characteristic – the individuals think differently.  Some are more logical others more emotional.  Some are more outgoing (speak first, think after), some like lots of process and rules and cannot function without.  Some make decisions quickly and cannot understand why others won't keep up.  Some make purchases on the facts others on how it makes them feel.

A team/board which is has all these kinds of people is what is known as Cognitively Diverse, and this is a truly diverse team.

Many management teams still consist of only the “pale, male and stale” and this can be OK as long as it is cognitively diverse. So can a board of only young women be cognitively diverse.   A person who recruits from all the ‘diverse’ categories but still recruits people who think exactly like him/her will not have a successfully diverse team and typically reacts badly when their assumptions and thoughts are challenged.

What successful cases of Diversity and Inclusion have you had the opportunity to observe ?

I run Smart Coaching & Training Ltd with 20 associates. They are located in four continents and speak 12 languages.  Their ages range over 40 years, they were raised in many different countries. They have many different religions, different sexualities and genders.   They must have the experience to be an associate, so they tend to be educated – some more formally than other. They tend to have travelled and worked internationally and they have to be able to overcome their differences and work together across international locations.   While there is one spectrum we are not diverse in – the line from boring to interesting – they are all interesting.  Still my greatest fear is that as I recruited them, they think exactly like me and are not diverse at all.

What are the continuing challenges of the Diversity and Inclusion environment?

While the contributions of women, LGBT+ and certain races has improved immensely in some countries and some types of organisation, there is still a long way to go.  Worldview diversity – where for some people not losing face and keeping hierarchy is important, where for other people the importance of maintaining the illusion of family unity and tradition over the rights of individuals to be who they are, will continue to slow progress.

Equally making undue allowances for fear of offending some groups or individuals will slow progress.    What is culturally normal in one country may be culturally not normal in another – approach to religion, challenging the boss, etc.  A company culture which consists of ‘we do things this way here’ will most likely hinder inclusion – look at the way it treats vegans in staff restaurants for example.

Nevertheless, however a diverse a team or board is within the ‘standard’ diversity unless you have individuals who think and behave differently in teams and boards, i.e. are cognitively diverse, little progress will be made.

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