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  • Writer's pictureAndy Goram

What Is The Future Of Inclusive Leadership?

Two white men discussing the future of inclusive leadership on a podcast
Daniele Fiandaca from Token Man (left) and Podcast Host, Andy Goram (right) discuss Inclusive Leadership

Are you like me and on occasions find it uncomfortable to discuss diversity and inclusion in the workplace, for fear of unintentionally saying the wrong thing? It's a common feeling, and it's completely okay. Embracing the discomfort and actively seeking to unlearn and relearn are key steps to becoming a more inclusive leader.

In the latest episode of the Sticky From The Inside Podcast, we delved into the realm of inclusive leadership in the workplace. I had the pleasure of speaking with Daniele Fiandaca from Token Man, an organization focused on enhancing understanding and promoting inclusivity in the workplace. Together, we explored the essence of inclusive leadership and what it really takes to create a more inclusive and supportive work environment.

You can listen to the full episode on the player below, or read the following full transcript of our conversation.

Podcast Introduction

00:00:10 - Andy Goram

Hello and welcome to Sticky from the Inside, the employee engagement podcast that looks at how to build stickier, competition-smashing, consistently successful organisations from the inside out. I'm your host, Andy Goram, and I'm on a mission to help more businesses turn the lights on behind the eyes of their employees, light the fires within them, and create tons more success for everyone. This podcast is for all those who believe that's something worth going after and would like a little help and guidance in achieving that. Each episode, we dive into the topics that can help create what I call stickier businesses. The sort of businesses where people thrive and love to work, and where more customers stay with you and recommend you to others because they love what you do and why you do it.

So if you want to take the tricky out of being sticky, listen on.

The Context For Inclusive Leadership

00:01:10 - Andy Goram

Okay, today's journey takes us into the realm of inclusive leadership, a topic that just like Many we've covered on the podcast, I approach as a middle aged, privileged male with both enthusiasm but a touch of awkwardness.

Now, in a world where inclusivity in the workplace certainly feels like it's being talked about more and is potentially more critical than ever, we still find ourselves having to face into some hard truths. Now, one such truth is, well, to me at least, a frankly alarming statistic. And that stat was 53% of UK males think that gender equality has gone too far. Now, this sentiment not only highlights the challenges we face, but also underscores, I think, the importance of today's discussion.

I think we're incredibly fortunate to have Daniele Fiandaca from Token Man with us today. And Token Man is an organization focused on enhancing understanding and promoting inclusivity in the workplace. So who better to help us explore the essence of inclusive leadership? What does it really take to be an inclusive leader in today's rapidly evolving workplace? How can leaders create environments that not only acknowledge diversity, but celebrate and integrate it into the very fabric of their organization?

But I know we'll also tackle some other tough questions, too. In what ways are we as leaders falling short? And what can we do to improve that? And amongst all of that, what does the future of something like allyship look like? How can we, especially those of us who come from positions of privilege, whether you're conscious of that or not, can become better allies in this ongoing journey towards true inclusivity?

And look, before we get stuck into today's episode, I just want to say that as I navigate these conversations, I do so fully aware that I'm still learning and growing myself. And, you know, what? I think that's okay because the path to understanding isn't always straight or easy, but I do believe it's a path worth taking. So please bear with me.

Anyway, enough of that. Let's begin this conversation and hopefully by the end of it we'll all have gained a deeper understanding of what it means to lead inclusively in today's world.

 Welcome to the show, Danielle.


00:03:44 - Daniele Fiandaca

Thank you so much. And Andy, it's just worth saying, I really appreciate you talking about learning and growing, but I've been in this space for ten years and I'm still learning and growing. And actually, funnily enough, I know leaders that the more conscious they've got, the less confidence they have. So actually, as you start to really understand what you don't know, actually you have less confidence in what you do know.


00:04:06 - Andy Goram

Isn't that interesting? Listen, my friend Token Man and what you've been doing, what you continue to do, before we get into the meat and bones of today's conversation, just do us a favour, my friend. Give us a bit of a decent background about you, where you've come from and where Token Man is playing right now.


00:04:29 - Daniele Fiandaca

I was born in Edgware Hospital in 1972. I'm joking. My background is I'm actually a qualified chartered accountant. Not many people know that and I don't really talk about it. I moved into advertising, about four and a half years into my career and I think we talked about it, there was two moments in my that completely changed my life, which is a volcano. An Icelandic volcano. We won't talk about that today. But one was a dinner that I organized when I was in advertising?

So I organized a dinner over ten years ago for twelve women because I used to run a club for creative directors around the world. So we had 450 members at the height of that club. We had about 26% female members within that and that was overrepresented of the industry. The industry famously, ten years ago only had 13% of female creative directors. And it has improved, but not markedly, not enough. There's still a lot of work that needs to be done there. So I organized this dinner to recruit more women because I really felt it. We did events every six months in different cities around the world and I felt it. They were very bantery, very laddish, and I could see how difficult it would be for a woman who didn't necessarily fit within that framework. So I organized a dinner for ten women, turned up and something happened to me that hadn't happened to me before in my career, which is I lost my confidence.

And for any of my friends that know me well, they'll say that's not possible. But it really did happen. And as we sat down for dinner, and it wasn't a surprise that there was twelve women, because I’d organized it, but what was a surprise was that loss of confidence. When I sat down for dinner, conversations happening around me seemed to push me further out. And then when I got up to introduce the dinner, my co-host, who was a woman, cut me off. And these are all things that I'd heard women talking about experiencing, either at board level or in senior leadership teams. And it wasn't that I didn't believe them, it was partly I had no idea of the extent of the impact. But secondly, whatever they were saying, I didn't think I was a person contributing to it. I thought I was a good person.

And it's really interesting, I had Susie Levy, who's written a brilliant book called… I've got on my desk, “Mind the inclusion gap”, and she actually says what people mistake often they think inclusiveness equals niceness. If you're nice, that makes you inclusive. That's just not true. The minute you think that's the case, you're already lost and you're not going to be inclusive. And so coming away from that experience, I was horrified. And I'm a hacker. I've written three books, co-written three books, co-edited three books. My latest one is “Creative superpowers”. I haven't actually written anything in the I,E and D space yet, but actually I use a lot of those superpowers. So they're Hacker, Teacher, Maker and Thief. And I curated the Hacker section. So I'm a Hacker. I like solving problems. And what was clear to me at that point was that not only were men not being brought into inclusion, diversity and the gender equity discussion, but often they weren't welcome in that conversation. And what we know from history is that no minority in history has ever affected change without the support of the majority.

So I'm a hacker, and I just thought there had to be a better way of doing this. So I co founded Token Man ten years ago, just under ten years ago, with three women, and it very much was, and it still is, an initiative to engage men with inclusion, equity and diversity, and ultimately help them, support them, and inspire them to become better allies and agents of change. And keep this story really short, six years ago I woke up one morning, I had no income. The next month because I just... Token Man was taking out so much of my time, so I had to pivot my career. I started a culture change business with Nadia Powell called Utopia. We were very lucky, we won inclusive companies consultants of the year within two years. Congratulations. Thank you. And then a year and a half ago, I left utopia to start token Man consulting. So token Man, it was an obvious step for me to actually take the work I was doing at a token Man level and actually do work where actually, I think I wear two hats. Fundamentally, token Man is me creating change for free. I do that 50% of my time and then token Man consulting is creating change, but I get paid for it. Yes, and that's the ecosystem I'm trying to build. Don't get me wrong, in this environment, it's not the easiest thing to do simply because we know that the market hasn't woken up, the DEI industry hasn't woken up to the need to engage men.

When I say it, it sounds ridiculous and to a certain extent it is ridiculous. But I understand where it's come from because a lot of the work that's been done to date, which has been fantastic work, has been about supporting those people who have been excluded. What we now need to do is really start flipping that to actually going, okay, how do we get those that have been included to really understand this problem and create systemic change so that those people that have stopped, actually stop being excluded? That's the most important thing. We want to create truly inclusive cultures. And what's interesting for me, which comes onto this topic, and then I'll get you to ask the question, what's interesting to me is I've worked with nearly 50 businesses on building their diversity, equity and inclusion strategy. Not a single business has not had inclusive leadership as one of their pillars. So inclusive leadership, if I was going to say what's the most important thing for actually creating an inclusive, equitable and diverse business is to have inclusive leaders across that business.

The Importance Of Inclusive Leadership

00:10:44 - Andy Goram

Yeah. Which sounds like a ridiculously obvious statement to your point, right? But we have a phrase that I bore people to death with on this podcast, that common sense is very often not common practice.


00:10:56 - Daniele Fiandaca

I love you said that one of my mentors, I did say to one of my mentors, Patrick Collister, I sat down with him about six years ago and I said to him one day, I think I'm going to get found out now that old impostor syndrome, because I believe everything I do is common sense. And he said, “Danielle, the one thing I've learned in my life is that common sense isn't very common.”


00:11:15 - Andy Goram

It's so true. I have said at the intro of this conversation, that I often feel awkward talking about topics such as this. We've tackled DEI on a number of occasions on the podcast from different perspectives, which is why I think today is fascinating, because we're looking at yet another different perspective. But I'm sort of right in thinking that whilst you've got token Man, the agenda is inclusivity. So the work you do, it's not exclusively about men. It's got to transcend everybody in the organization, right?


00:11:49 - Daniele Fiandaca

100%. So I do my work. If I take my Token Man consulting work, it's split into two. So the senior inclusive leadership work I do is with everyone. So it tends to be… most of my programs tend to be for a senior Management team. So that is working for everyone, which is why. And I've made the mistake. I've made the mistake. When I first started, I tried to do something on my own. It didn't work. It was the first time the program didn't finish because it just didn't connect in the way it should have. I learned from that mistake even before I started, before that happened, to be honest, in the sense that every program since I have been partnered with a woman on every single inclusive leadership program I deliver, irrespective of the makeup of the team. So I think having those different perspectives and obviously any other diversity intersections, I can bring into it even better. So sometimes we will bring in a combination of teams. When we look at the panels we bring into that space, we will make sure that different diversity characteristics are represented.

And then half my work is with men. And so that is recognizing that actually having that kind of brave space for men to talk openly, to make mistakes. So I said, I've written three books, but I've also contributed quite heavily to another book, in that it was kind of taken from my…. It wasn't even my idea. I mean, I don't have. There's no such thing as an original idea. One of my best friends, Mark Earls, wrote the book copy, copy, copy. But it was something that I heard. I am very good at curating. So it was a question I heard at an event, which was, what was the best piece of advice you were ever given? And so we ended up putting together a book. I did it with Louisa St. Pierre. And my best piece of advice I'd ever been given was,

it's better to be interesting and wrong than right and boring.

The challenge you have, as I've come into this space, I've understood I need to temper that advice, because sometimes being wrong can be harmful to people in the room. But also what we have created is we've created an environment where I would say, I think it's probably the biggest barrier to men going on the journey that I think they need to go on to become better allies and agents of change, which is many men are scared to say anything, I reckon.


00:14:16 - Andy Goram

And I think we'll get into that in this conversation today. I want to try and quote you from a previous conversation we had, so hold me to account if I get it wrong. I'm known for absolutely gnawsing up quotes, but I think you said to me,

If men are excluded from the equity conversation, how can we expect real change?”

Because I think that sums up the sort of conversation we're looking to have today. Firstly, have I quoted you correctly?

Men's Involvement in the Equity Conversation

00:14:45 - Daniele Fiandaca

I quite like it. Where that leads to so that people can understand is what's happened is inclusion, equity and diversity. And again, it's probably worth me just. And I said it before, I don't ever really say it, but I did say diversity first. I don't usually say that anymore. Okay. And so even my language, everything I do, I try and be mindful and thoughtful of. And there's no doubt that's part of inclusive leadership. And the reason I do that is because I know personally from my own experience, but we also know from science, that if you say two or three words to someone, they only really hear the first word. So if I say diverse, inclusive and equitable, and I'm a white straight man, and all I'm hearing is diverse, and I'm immediately thinking, well, that's not for me. So I've lost them. If I'm saying inclusive, I'm still included within that. So for me, that's really important.

But I think what's happened is if we look at inclusion, equity and diversity is most of the messages, and again, men are intersectional, right? If you're a black, disabled man, you know what exclusion is, you feel it every day. You'll be getting microaggressions, white, someone from a lower social, economic, demographic, and white, you'll understand what exclusion is. I'm talking a lot of the work that I do, let's be really honest. So I'm doing senior leadership work a lot of the time are people that look like me and had experience, which are white, straight men. And so what they hear from the head of inclusion, diversity, what they'll hear is

Men. It's your jobs to be allies.”

Right now, I can't tell you how Many men I know are struggling with life, full stop. And if you're sitting there and you had no point of ever showing me that inclusion, equity and diversity actually helps you. It's no surprise that you think actually it's the enemy and it's now discriminating against you.

So what we have to do, and that's why I talked about that kind of, that equity bit, is what we have to do, is recognize that everyone needs support. Everyone needs support. You cannot pour from an empty cup. Everyone needs support. But the reason we break equity in it is to recognize that actually some people need far more support than others.

But right now, what's happening is men aren't being given. In most organisations, many men who are the white, straight and therefore don't come within the intersections that are being given action support, they're not being supported. And so what we have to do is the frameworks I work with clients is very much a third support, a third inspire and a third recruit. So if you've got a third of the people that are ready to be recruited, you're in a good place. Generally, our data, that third is about right. Actually, we've done quite a lot of research. And actually, funny enough, if we look at that question, how Many of your men are true allies in the workplace? It tends to come out at 40%. So that 40% is actually recurrent. It keeps on coming back, which is about that 3rd 40%. You're ready to recruit, but the others either aren't even ready to think about this because they're struggling so much and they need help or they're sitting in that camp of going, do you know what? I know I need to lean in, but I'm scared. I don't know what to do. I don't have the skills. I hate being uncomfortable. There's no way I'm going to be vulnerable. And I'm talking about some of the things now that you need to be inclusive, please tell me what to do. And obviously you can't tell people what to do because otherwise they're not going to understand. It's not going to be authentic. And also allyship is challenging because how I'm an ally to every single person will be different.


00:18:43 - Andy Goram

Yeah, well, look, there's two main themes in there that let's separate them and have a chat about them. I was absolutely shocked when you shared that stat with me originally, that the 52% of UK males feel that it's all gone a bit too far. And then for me, the sort of sub fact that you ended up sharing with me. So we started to get into conversation about different generations. And I think you sort of said, “Yeah, but the number goes to 52%, Andy, for Gen Z's”.


00:19:17 - Daniele Fiandaca

That's men and women. And non-binary. Sorry. Let me be really clear, because a lot of that percentage would be non-binary.

The Essential Skills For Inclusive Leadership

00:19:22 - Andy Goram

Which really threw me, I'll be honest. But with that context and thinking about, you've got to be inside the circle to have a conversation to help make change. Right. You've mentioned, started to talk about, I guess, skills that are involved with inclusive leadership, the skills that you think are required. Let's talk about those. So from your perspective, what are those skills that we all need to build, develop, be more conscious of?


00:19:52 - Daniele Fiandaca

The first one, which I don't actually, I don't think it's listed as an inclusive leadership skill, but I think it's the one that I would put first, which is listening. Listening to those around you. I trained to become a coach a year and a half ago, and it's probably the best thing I have done. I was always accused of not listening. Always my whole leadership… Listen, let's be clear. I'm not coming to this from having everyone telling me what an inclusive leader I was. I wasn't. It's the mistakes that I made that actually I can bring to others. I think it's really important. It's the journey I've been to that I can bring to others. And actually, generally people would say, you did listen, but we only worked it out six months later when you put something in. But what I came to realize actually, is that often I wasn't listening or I made them feel cut off because my brain was moving. My brain does move very fast, and let's be really clear, it moves very fast. And so I was jumping and I was trying to get ahead to something, whereas I've just started to and I've started to practice and it's amazing. Especially I used to work run utopia. We had much younger people in our business. And actually, I've just written a post on LinkedIn about it, about the need for us to listen to that younger generation. We have to listen to Gen Z because they are so connected and they have so much to bring us. But in staying quiet, those things that, those ideas I was having, my head actually started to come out from themselves. So all of a sudden, we're in a much better position for actually change to actually be delivered. And I think the thing, the quote that I use quite a lot, and the question I ask leaders is,

Are you listening to work out what to say next? Or are you listening to understand?”


00:21:43 - Andy Goram

Yeah, I mean, I had my own journey of listening. We had Oscar Trimboli on this podcast who wrote the book “How to listen”. He is a fabulous Man. He's got a quest, a ridiculous quest of trying to get 100 million deep listeners around the world. And he talks a lot about these sorts of things. I will do him a disservice in the time that we have today to try and get anywhere close to what Oscar talks about. But when you listen to him and you read his book, I mean, we're scratching at the surface, Many of us, of our ability to properly listen and what that enables us to do as a result, for sure.


00:22:23 - Daniele Fiandaca

That's definitely a podcast I'm going to be listening to the next week or so.


00:22:28 - Andy Goram

He's incredible. He shares three numbers that will live me forever. 125, 400, 900. And for me, when you understand what those three numbers mean, you see listening in a way you'll never see it again. I love the idea of listening, but what else? What other skills?


The Challenge of Empathy

00:22:42 - Daniele Fiandaca

I would say the three that we focus on, and I do talk about listening, but we integrate it into what we're doing. So the three key skills, and let me know which ones you want me to go into detail, are cultural intelligence, empathy. And the one that people struggle with the most is vulnerability.


00:23:01 - Andy Goram

And when you say they struggle with it, Danielle, is that struggle with the act of vulnerability, struggle with understanding what that actually means. What is it? What is it that they're struggling with?


00:23:15 - Daniele Fiandaca

So it depends. A lot of my work is not gendered, right? It makes no difference. Culture, intelligence isn't gendered at all. It doesn't really make any difference. As you go into empathy, I think there is a difference. And again, there are men that are far more empathetic than many women. But actually, generalizations exist for a reason. Generally, men tend to struggle with empathy more than women. And actually, in the training that I do, the kind of, and again, just generally where women tend to come away from it, is really better understand the difference between empathy and sympathy. So a lot of them have practiced, realize that actually, in some of their conversations, they've actually used some of the words that sit under sympathy that aren't actually that helpful, as opposed to what empathy looks like.

A lot of men, and I definitely fix it. I said this earlier, I'm a hacker. I help fix problems. So I only ever went to people to ask for support if I needed to fix a problem. So I assumed when they were coming to me that they wanted me to fix it for them. What you realize is that people are very different. And often when they're coming to you, all they actually need is empathy. So they need someone just to give them that support, understand that you're there, feeling it with them and just saying, it must be very hard right now. And actually, they're not even in the mindset to listen to any advice you're going to give them. But certainly often they haven't asked for that advice. That was my key, learning and stop trying to fix. And actually, even if I have issues, there'll be certain times where it's just not the right thing to say anything, right, to help try and fix. But then you might go, okay, I'll come back in two weeks and just say, have you still got that issue? I might have some ways that you might think about. Are you happy for me to share them? So even asking that permission to do it? But I think empathy is one that people do…

The Power of Vulnerability

Vulnerability just comes back to the patriarchy and the work that I do, which is fundamentally, I initially came into this world ten years ago saying exactly what everyone else was saying. I was saying, come and be better allies. And it was only through my own experiences, through my own experiences of losing my brother. Understanding that my wife. I'm not going to read it now, but my wife wrote a piece in this wonderful book here, which I'm just showing you, but she wrote a piece just before we got married, and it talked about the time she felt close to me was when my brother died, because actually, she saw a vulnerability in me that she'd never seen before. And I reread that about six years ago, and I started… It just hit me like a ton of bricks simply because it just made me think about, why was it we'd been together for ten years before we got married? Why did it take my brother dying, for her to see vulnerability in me? And I can tell you if anyone ever said to me what the three most vulnerable things you've ever done, I would definitely say, speaking at my brother's memorial, doing my Best Man speech when he'd already passed, and then the third most vulnerable was doing my brother's best Man speech when he had a brain tumor and I know everything he was going through. And at that point, I thought he was going to survive it, but he didn't. He passed away four years later. But those three things were. The minute I can tell you now, having done my brother's speech and knowing how I felt about losing my brother, asking my wife to marry me wasn't the most vulnerable thing, but it wasn't long. I would say it probably took me about 15 minutes to dread getting married.


00:27:03 - Andy Goram



00:27:04 - Daniele Fiandaca

Because I knew that speech was coming.


00:27:06 - Andy Goram


00:27:07 - Daniele Fiandaca

I mean, it really sat with me for a long time.


00:27:08 - Andy Goram

But it still sits with you now.


00:27:10 - Daniele Fiandaca

Yeah, it does for me. And I didn't do it here. I didn't show that vulnerability here, but I've now done that... I've told the story and read it out in front of stages of 300 people. And what I do know is that whereas people think vulnerability is a weakness, often, and that's what comes in in leadership, people think admitting you're wrong is a weakness and people will judge you for it, and often they do in the workplace, let's be really clear. But I know, having done what I've done, no one judges me for it. My Best Man's speech, I literally cried for ten minutes and I couldn't speak for ten minutes. And actually, and again, this ties in with allyship, what actually helped me through it. And keep in mind, I'd memorized my brother, my speech, my Best Man's speech. I knew it off by heart, but I took the notes with me because I've been there before, right. It took one of my Best Men to come and just put his hand on my shoulder for me to get that confidence, to get that kind of energy to finish and get all the way through where vulnerability really, because sometimes I use. And actually, again, I'm going to be vulnerable. Now, we're working with a client at the moment and we made a mistake. We went too vulnerable too quickly.


00:28:35 - Andy Goram



00:28:37 - Daniele Fiandaca

And that stopped the learning from some of the participants in terms of they just couldn't see, one, it just became too much for them. But secondly, they couldn't see, because it was related to my brother's losing my brother, they couldn't see how that related to the workplace. But what was really interesting, and again, this is the first time I did this and I can tell you now, I was shaking when I did this. And it just shows how I stood up on our second module and I opened it up by saying,

I'm sorry, we got elements of the past module wrong. Thanks for your feedback. This is what we're doing for the next participants and this is what we've done for you.”

I've never really done that before and I came away and listen, only they can say what they appreciated it. The good news is we got across the board, we got fantastic feedback scores for the second module. But for me, the reason we also did that was because they said, “What does vulnerability look like in the workplace?” And sometimes vulnerability is just saying you got it wrong.


00:29:45 - Andy Goram

Yeah, I do think it is audience specific. So I would consider myself reasonably comfortable with vulnerability, maybe in the degree of oversharing at times, right. But you learn your lessons. I do think it's audience specific because I think at sometimes those moments can be where you get the strongest connection and reaction, where someone relates and appreciates. And actually, I always say in this podcast, I am not a social scientist. I am a social scientist enthusiast. I love the whole idea of it. And I have this belief that unless we're psychos, pretty much humans are wired for connection, we are scanning out for connection. And I think vulnerability when it comes to leadership is one of those, to use the word from your book. I do believe it to be a bit of a superpower, because I think if you're one of those leaders that professes to have everything sorted, all the solutions, and you stand up and go, I've got it all covered, come with me, you're largely not going to drag people with you because we're all smelling the fact that you don't need help. So we're going to go and look for the person who really needs our help. And I think that's the switch for vulnerability when it comes to leaders. If you show that you're looking for help, that you need help. And to your point about conflating the idea of vulnerability with something else, it's not about sharing everything.


00:31:26 - Daniele Fiandaca

No, 100%.


00:31:29 - Andy Goram

It's about opening up to stuff that's going to be helpful in that situation. And I think that vulnerability is a huge thing about driving real connection with people to come help with a cause, et cetera.

The Impact Of Patriarchy On Men

00:31:40 - Daniele Fiandaca

But I'm going to just pick up your opening up and just go back to how I probably started my conversation, which is talking about gender differences. So going back to reading that and why, that really woke me up to the damage that patriarchy does on men. So Robert Webb talked about his book how to be a boy, how not to be a remember, I think it was how not to be a boy. But he said when boys hear to stop showing those feelings enough times, they start hearing stop feeling those feelings. So if you look at the best book, I think around this space is “The will to change” by Bell Hooks. Wonderful woman. I wish I'd read her book before we sadly lost her a couple of years ago. But she talked about how men have become disconnected with their feelings. And so a lot of this vulnerability bit, if you're not able to express your feelings. You don't even know what those feelings are. You can't even name them. How are you able to be vulnerable and show those feelings?

So actually, if you look at the work that I do with men, and this comes from actually an insight, it's partly an insight my wife kept on saying to me, because she actually works at Utopia, my old business, but she did a lot of work within mental health, she's now the Head of People. But she kept on saying to her, I need to show you the feelings, will, because she'd say, how am I doing? And she knew I was kind of struggling, but I was fine, I'm fine, I'm okay. Even I knew that when someone says I'm okay, you can never stop it. At that point, you need to say, how are you really feeling? Tends to mask something else. But now most of the exercises, and actually I run something called brave spaces, which are free. So I do a lot of free stuff. So if anyone listening to this, you're a man and you want to find opportunities to talk about stuff and become more comfortable, uncomfortable, please do go to the type in Token Man Brave Spaces and you will find they'll come up on Eventbrite straight away. They're all free. I open those up by actually sharing the feelings, will, and getting men to name how they're feeling, first and foremost. And we know from psychology that even naming a feeling can reduce its impact by 30%. And so I get them to name their feeling, but then I then put them in pairs and I get them to actually sit with each other and actually explain to each other for four minutes each on why they're feeling that. And the person listening has to listen actively and be empathetic and not try to fix in any way. And the feedback I get every time is it just blows people away.


00:34:27 - Andy Goram

I'm fascinated by that stuff, that 30% thing. My wife's an Holistic Therapist, amongst many great things that she does with clients, is EMDR. And that's all about calling out, naming feelings and being, gaining control of those feelings and reducing them from the ten, whatever that you're feeling today to something else. I'm a massive advocate of that sort of stuff because I've seen, well, if I'm honest, I've felt the benefit of those sort of practices. Trying to properly understand what it is you're feeling, how it affects you, and then taking some element of control of that is a hugely empowering thing. Hugely empowering.

The Notion Of Allyship

You've mentioned this word a few times and I want us to dig into it. Allyship, right? Because there's loads of terms flying around in the world at the moment, but allyship. I'm interested in a couple of pieces, really, and one again, I read a post of yours recently, your Hard As Nails post, which I loved, hugely positive, backed up the conversation that we had, but also came with a real watch out at the end when it talked about a performative allyship, which for me was a completely new phrase. I hadn't really thought about that. But when you're thinking about allyship going forward, what does it mean to you? How do you see it evolving? Or how does it need to evolve to really become a force for good in this landscape that we've started to discuss today?


00:36:02 - Daniele Fiandaca

Okay, so a few things. So firstly, hopefully everyone knows what is seen as allyships. The definition, fundamentally on the dictionary is helping people different to you that come from historically marginalized groups. So do look it up. Equality-versus-equity-baseball. Just showing.

An image of three people stood on boxes watching a game of baseball behind a fence, the box heights illustrating difference between equality and equity
The DIfference Between Equality and Equity. Source: Interaction Institure For Social Change

And I use the height as an analogy for privilege and actually the boxes for support. Okay, so allyship is giving those boxes to others and understanding that they need support. What has happened is there's been a bit of a backlash. So the second thing to say is, listen, we make mistakes, we slip up, but I try not to call myself an ally. I try to do my best to be a better ally, but only others can call me an ally. And I need to check my LinkedIn. But I do see people writing ally on their LinkedIn. I'm like, “okay, no”, hopefully. I put that I was one of top 50 gender equality champions in the UK two years ago. That for me is much more important because someone's telling me that what I'm doing is making a difference. And actually that comes into what I think is.

And again, my definition of allyship is, and I used to, and it's changed. I'm going to talk about it's changed and I'm hoping to change it even further. So how it's changed in my head. So going back to, I used to sit on a board, you can work out what the board is if you want to go deeply on my LinkedIn. But I used to sit on a board and I used to watch as the only woman on that board got talked over time and time again. So I used to say, I'm going to change her name for when that guide finished, I said, “Jane, you were saying”. Which is just a way of just bringing her back in. I used to think, that's allyship. That's not allyship. That's just being a good leader.

00:37:57 – Andy Goram

That’s just being polite.

00:37:59 Daniele Fiandaca

Yeah, totally. And so I think we need to get that out of the way and understand that that's just politeness. So allyship is making sure that, and I don't get it always right, but he's making sure that someone in your team who's trans is knowing that if something significant has happened in the news, which unfortunately does happen quite often in terms of trans here in the UK, is you'd know that they're probably suffering and knowing to go and give them that support and that person will go, “Okay, you're being a great ally.”  But although you can start saying that that's being a good human being.

I don't think… that's definitely not performative. So performative is putting a black square on to commemorate the murder of George Floyd or to support Black Lives Matter. That's performative because if you're not doing anything to change the system or support black people, you're being performative. Where I like to posit allyship is if you're not making change, you're not an ally. And that's to become quite confusing because I have this kind of model which is allies, then agents of change. I think agents of change are people that are dedicated to actually just doing something big and actually making that really different. I like to consider myself an agent of change because I've done quite a few things that have been quite significant. The key one being Token Man. Right. It’s there as a platform to create systemic change fundamentally, and that's an agent of change. I think an ally is someone that understands the system is broken and is actually always working to work out how they can fix it.

So supporting those people, but also working out how they can fix that system.

Will you also ask where I want it to go? And I've been thinking about this a lot recently, because I'm hearing men go, I'm not an ally because I don't do these big things, or I think it needs to be really big. But also it tends to be that they only put people that are targeted with, are you being a better ally? Tends to be the white, straight men. And so what I would like to do is actually start to redefine allyship as being a better ally to everyone. Because I think men could do a lot of, I think we will massively help create change if men become better allies to other men. If women become better allies to those men who are struggling. Let's be really clear those men are struggling. And let's be really clear of that equity piece.

So it's recognizing that actually we're not going to put all, I'm not saying men need all the support right now and their houses are burning, then that isn't what I'm saying. What I'm saying is everyone needs support and you need to understand who you need to give that support to. And sometimes a woman might be in a really privileged position and actually she might have someone in her life, actually who's a man, and it might be a wife who's really struggling right now, it might be their mental health and actually allyship will be supporting them.

There's a reason if we look at, and I'm a feminist, I'm a feminist, but feminism's criticism in the past has been that actually feminism often was white feminism. And so that's why the term intersectionality came in, to really understand that actually, if you have those intersections, your barriers to being included increase significantly. And so understanding those intersections are really important. But right now, and I haven't got all the terminology right, and ultimately, let's be really clear, the reason I want to change it to allies for everyone is fundamentally because I want to get more men to become allies. That is my end game. My end game is always to create a more inclusive, equitable, accessible and diverse workplaces which will lead to better societies. Right? I have no doubt that workplaces have a view to those societies. So sometimes when people see me just supporting men, that's still my end goal, because I know how that's going to get us on that journey and people on different parts of that journey.

Involving Men In The Conversation

00:42:01 - Andy Goram

As you were speaking there, I'm thinking back to that 53% stat. Is that what you're talking about there, is the solution to getting under the skin of why the 53% feel, think like they do. And is that an education thing? Is that a bias thing? Whatever that is, we need to move on from there and find some decent solutions going forward.


00:42:27 - Daniele Fiandaca

And listen, if I'm honest, I'm making an educated guess here. I don't have that data, right? I would love to know that 53% exactly what it is. I would love if there was a magic bullet. But I do know people and I do know feelings, and I can understand why from their perspective, they might be feeling as they're feeling. And so I have to find different ways to get them involved. And I talked about brave spaces. I have one next week. We have twelve spaces. I've got six people signed up. I'm not even scratching the surface, right? For me, I have this real challenge right now, which is even my LinkedIn. You just need to look at my LinkedIn likes. They're mainly women. My job as Token Man is really to engage with men, and it's really challenging. It's a really tough. I wish someone had the answers because then we could all copy them and actually start to move on.


00:43:25 - Andy Goram

Well, if I can metaphorically put my hand on your shoulder to give you a reassuring kind of pat or a grip. I think the thing about all that LinkedIn stuff is particularly, is that I'm always staggered in the relationship or uncorrelated or correlated. I can't even remember what I'm trying to think about in my brain link between likes and reactions that you get and who's actually watching and reading. Because the number of times I get people contact me out the blue and start talking about stuff that they've seen me do on LinkedIn and they have never reacted, commented or anything interesting. There's loads of watchers. There's loads of watchers. So don't you worry about the likes and everything else you carry on doing what you're doing.


00:44:12 - Daniele Fiandaca

Actually just pick up because you started, coming back to the performative so people can't see this. But do look at the post.


00:44:19 - Andy Goram

We'll take a picture.


00:44:20 - Daniele Fiandaca

Yeah, I painted my nails because of a friend who came up with an idea, which we're starting to work on. He's starting to get real legs, actually. An idea to get men to use the opportunity to get more men to paint their nails, to think about masculinity and the changing nature of that, to think about mental health. Actually having nails is a relaxing time to really think, but also to talk about gender fluidity. So it has a number of things. And what I was saying in that post is I'm not just doing this as I'm painting my nails. That makes me an ally. I'm doing it for the conversations and what will happen off the back of it. And so I'm hoping to take whatever campaign will do will be about saying, okay, what does it do for you? How do you feel as a result of doing it? And actually what the conversations you're opening up as a result of doing it. And I've had some wonderful conversations, not least, and probably my favourite thing that I didn't think I would get is I'm now able. I had a conversation with both my niece and one of my godchildren who not only could I talk about nails in a way that I never taught them before, but I now know I have an activity to do with them next time, which we can go and do together, and that's just priceless.

Inclusive Leadership Advice

00:45:32 - Andy Goram

Brilliant. Well, sign me up for that campaign, my friend. I'm right there with you. Sometimes it can feel like doing the right thing can end up making you look like you're doing the wrong thing for some reason. It's a confusing world out there. But I feel like in the brief time that we've had to chat, that I feel a bit calmer about stuff, and I feel like I have a different perspective to take on board or some nice kinship in some areas as well, which is fantastic. I have this bit in the show, though, Danielle, where I'm asking you to summarize some key bits of advice, my friend. I call it sticky notes. I'm looking for three pieces of advice that my guests can take away that could fit on three little post it notes that in this case, kind of summarize. If someone wants to become a more inclusive leader, what are the three bits of advice you would give them?


00:46:28 - Daniele Fiandaca

And I'll tell you, I love this brief because I do do quite a few podcasts, and I always find it quite difficult how to share them on something like LinkedIn because I do have the same conversations time and time again. People say, don't you need different conversations? No, because you're actually different audiences. But I will take a photo of these three postit notes, and that will be my post that I will share this with. Brilliant. So I've got three postits, and they are written on postit notes. I made sure. So spend more time with people different to you. Listen and learn than unlearn. And relearn is the first one.


00:47:04 - Andy Goram



00:47:05 - Daniele Fiandaca

And I think that different to you, there's ways that you can do that. So reverse mentoring is one way we do in the workplace. I've just volunteered, and I saw the person that set it up and he said, I am in, but I've just volunteered to be a mentor at a youth club. That's the first time I'm doing that. But also, there are so many conferences, so disability conferences, neurodiversity conferences, the black experience conferences. Go to one of those conferences and feel like what it's like maybe in the out group. The second one we've already talked about, but I just wanted to bring it back in, which is build your culture intelligence, embrace empathy, and be more vulnerable.


00:47:40 - Andy Goram



00:47:41 - Daniele Fiandaca

And the third one is find ways to become more comfortable with being uncomfortable. That means having these conversations. It means coming to our brave spaces, and it means creating your own brave spaces within your own life and within your own workforce.

Closing Thoughts

00:47:59 - Andy Goram

Fantastic. I have thoroughly enjoyed this conversation with you, Daniele. You've dropped a load of books as well to stick in the show notes. If people want to find out a bit more about you, get in touch. What's the best way to get in touch and find you?


00:48:13 - Daniele Fiandaca

LinkedIn. LinkedIn and or go to the website and actually sign up to the newsletter. At the moment I have it on my plan to redesign, but LinkedIn I think I'm actually on and I'm going to give them a shout out because I think it's so good. I went to the do lectures microblogs course two weeks ago. I think that's why I've got quite a lot of energy this year because I'm on 100 day challenge. So 100 days a LinkedIn post every day. So I'm actually posting and sharing quite a lot in terms of what I'm thinking. I think it's kind of time for me to share some of that stuff and sometimes get it wrong. I mean, that's the other thing. Sometimes I get it wrong.


00:48:53 - Andy Goram

You just got to show up, mate. Just keep showing up. Listen, I've really enjoyed meeting you. I've really enjoyed listening to you. I hope that's not our final conversation ever. Thank you so much for coming. Really appreciate it and good luck with the message, my friend.


00:49:07 - Daniele Fiandaca

Thank you. Have a great evening.

Podcast Close

00:49:08 - Andy Goram

Okay, take care. Okay, everyone, that was Daniele Fiandaca. If you'd like to find out a bit more about him or any of the topics that we've talked about today, please go ahead and check out the show notes.

So that concludes today's episode. I hope you've enjoyed it, found it interesting, and heard something maybe that will help you become a stickier, more successful business from the inside going forward. If you have, please like comment and subscribe. It really helps.

I'm Andy Goram and you've been listening to the sticky from the Inside podcast. Until next time, thanks for listening.

Andy Goram is the owner of Bizjuicer, an employee engagement and workplace culture consultancy that's on a mission to help people have more fulfilling work lives. He's also the host of the Sticky From The Inside Podcast, which talks to experts on these topics from around the world. 

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