It’s been almost a year since NEWTEC became the first UK organisation to embark on the National Centre for Diversity’s Masters in Diversity leadership programme, so we thought it would be a fantastic opportunity to catch up with Pat Edwards, CEO of NEWTEC, and find out about his experience of the journey so far:

Firstly let me introduce myself, my name is Pat Edwards and I have been the Chief Executive for Newham Training and Education Centre (NEWTEC) for nearly 13 years. NEWTEC is a specialist organisation offering exceptional vocational training opportunities and high quality registered day care nursery facilities in Stratford and East London.

After an extremely successful evening at the NCFD Grand Awards 2017, at which NEWTEC won the Small to Medium Sized Company of the Year Award and I won the Chief Executive of the Year Award, we made the decision to engage with the NCFD on the Masters in Diversity (MiD) leadership programme, in order to transform the leadership within our organisation.

To prepare for the Masters in Diversity programme, the participating leadership team members undertook a series of neuro-science based psychometric self-assessments, including the NCFD’s ‘Inclusion IQ assessment’, to provide a snapshot of our leadership strengths and development needs. Based on the very concerning outcomes of my own assessment results, I decided to pro-actively engage with the suggested core text book. I also decided to arrange a coaching session with my assigned MiD performance coach sooner rather than later; to unpack and action plan my identified areas for development. I must admit that at this stage, the outcomes of the assessments allowed me to really re-think and clarify my purpose. I felt rather uncomfortable with the results and I entered the first Masterclass feeling that maybe I am not as effective as I had been led to believe.

The first MiD Masterclass, ‘Outperforming Your Competitors’ was very insightful. It covered benchmarked data and information against our identified competitors – we came out favourably, which admittedly was very pleasing to hear. The Masterclass also covered making the business case for diversity and ‘2D diversity’. I became curious about ‘2D diversity’ and how it can unlock innovation and drive market growth for NEWTEC.

From this we collectively made the decision that we needed to use the diversity data and information in our standard Human Resources reporting. It was clear from this Masterclass that, yes, we should celebrate our strengths, but, we need to do much more around disabilities; the LGBT agenda and the tension surrounding religious beliefs.

2 months later we attended our second MiD Masterclass on ‘Neuro-Equality,’ where we looked at the inner workings of the human brain and covered areas such as the Lymbic system and the Amygdala Hijack. We were introduced to the concepts of: Belonging; Inclusion; Self; Fairness; Autonomy; Certainty; Transcendence; and Safety. (BISFACTS). I then had another coaching session in which we attempted to relate and align my new-found understanding of Neuro-Equality with current issues and developments at NEWTEC.
My performance coach also introduced me to a book: Be Obsessed or be Average, by Grant Cardone. The result of these two interventions increased my awareness of my purpose as a manager; obsessions; stand; and personal core values. I certainly learnt how significant the analysis of BISFACTS had on organisational performance.

Our third Masterclass on ‘Culture vs Strategy’ was challenging and we tussled with what came first by using the old Drucker saying ‘Culture eats Strategy for Breakfast’ to drive the conversation. We also discussed the importance of Fairness; Respect; Equality; Diversity; Inclusion; and Engagement (FREDIE) on organisational culture.

During this period members of the NCFD team attended and observed one of our senior leadership team meetings and a board meeting, to assess both the Board culture and the culture of the senior leadership team within NEWTEC. It was determined by the observers that there was an open, transparent and serious fun culture at NEWTEC, certainly, at senior leadership level. The managers also produced an innovative ‘NEWTEC culture tree’, which is now displayed in the reception areas. In addition, they produced a ‘New Year welcome back’ card and this was issued to all staff and external stakeholders. A very nice touch.

In our fourth Masterclass we focussed on the ‘Characteristics of Good and World Class Leadership’ and re-visited our ‘Inclusion IQ assessment’ outcomes to fuel the debate. We also looked at different leadership styles and the benefits and implications of each. Interestingly, the preferred leadership style was agreed without too much misalignment. Anyway, I carried out a re-assessment of my Inclusion IQ and was pleasantly surprised as the results were much improved, although I now need to focus on areas where I have slipped back, e.g. Self-management. I now know the value of an effective performance coach and their ability to hold you to account and to also make sure you stay committed to your agreed goals and targets. I wish I had met my performance coach 30 years ago!

Our most recent Masterclass on ‘Diversifying Your Workforce’ was fascinating. It covered diversity at various levels; the barriers to diversity in the workplace and comparison with our competitors. We clearly identified and confirmed that disability; the LBGT agenda and religion were areas for development at NEWTEC.

So, it was agreed to re-visit our Disability Confident kite mark application, engage with Stonewall to yield expert opinions, and I committed myself to reading the Koran to gain a much better understanding on Islamic viewpoints. This Masterclass certainly increased my confidence levels to be able to openly discuss extremely sensitive issues with much greater tact and diplomacy.

We are now approaching the end of our the Masters in Diversity journey, with one more Masterclass to go. The learning points are stacking up. I have learnt that: maybe I am not as effective as I was led to believe.
I need to do much more around disabilities; the LGBT agenda and understanding the tension with religion. How significant BISFACTS has on organisational performance. Knowing that the integration of culture and strategy formulation is essential.

The programme has bolstered my confidence levels to be able to discuss extremely sensitive issues, without upsetting the very people you need to understand, in order to run a successful organisation.
The learning outcomes our leaders have been able to apply are already having a significant impact, with our Senior Leadership Team/ Board winning the SLT/ Board of the Year Award and NEWTEC winning the Charity of the Year Award at the NCFD Grand Awards 2018.

All that remains to be said is What a programme.