Creating value together

Spark value

What has diversity meant to you in building business, career and community?

How do you navigate (or wish for) flexibility around your work and all the other important things in life?

How do you best make magic with collaboration?

With all the disruption across our marketplaces, workforces and communities, and our expectations of forever innovating and influencing, I recommend making time for reflection. Regularly touching base again with your values, refreshing perspectives and evaluating measures of success. It all helps us open up ideas, connections and opportunities for growth. 

For me right now, such reflections inform my own business strategies and personal priorities.  As a purpose-driven entrepreneur living in regional Australia with a young family, I am mindful to make purposeful choices from the outset.  

I am grateful for strong and empowering leaders championing change, to be respectfully listening to elders and elevated upon the shoulders of our proverbial giants. And nowadays of course are also endless buzzwords, listicles and trends to watch, though I confess these can too easily become overwhelming or another way to procrastifaff. Having recently wrapped up an intensive course in consulting as part of my MBA, I’m looking outwards and within to address the importance of diversity, flexibility and collaboration. 

Diversity creates value

We know diversity - across gender, ethnic and/or cultural backgrounds, sexual orientation, ability, religion, age and caring responsibilities - is good for business. A 2018 report affirms correlation between diversity and financial returns, arguing the benefits of attracting and retaining talent attraction, customer and employee satisfaction, and improved decision making in today’s globalised markets. It all makes sense, but we are yet to see much diversity in practice in Australian companies. Here we have women in executive roles at 21% and board representation at 30%, and our cultural diversity is yet to be reflected in senior leadership

More broadly, diversity is invaluable for our society. In Australia, research has shown many benefits to cultural diversity including resilience and mutual understanding, education, research and innovation, tourism and hospitality, as well as boosting international business. However, such benefits are mired by unconscious bias and discrimination, as outlined so powerfully by Mariam Veiszadeh. 

  NZ PM    Jacinda Arden    and family at the UN, September 2018.

NZ PM Jacinda Arden and family at the UN, September 2018.

Particularly in our current climate, I believe in the importance of business, political and community leaders – and this includes you and I – advancing change. It is heartening to see New Zealand’s Prime Minister Jacinda Arden bring her new baby to address the issue of equality at the UN, with support from her partner, but sadly we are yet to see such diverse and progressive leadership welcomed here.  

I don’t pretend there are simple solutions, or ignore my own privilege and responsibilities. As part of undoing dominant narratives and systemic violence, there are much bigger conversations sparking change across global media (here’s a great local example, thanks to Gamilaroi man and IndigenousX founder Luke Pearson and NITV editor Sophie Verass), and I own up to my own work and accountability towards change on an individual level. Let us consciously foreground diverse voices, listen to alternate perspectives with empathy and respect, and learn lessons that may be uncomfortable.

It’s time to support each other across diversity and together make the most of new opportunities. Social, market and workplace norms are shifting, and the online world offers vast and intimate spaces to speak up and forge powerful connections with each other. 

Flexibility and the important things in life

Flexibility

Flexible work is increasingly desirable for most. 96% of US white collar professionals want their work to be flexible, and they especially seek location-based and ad-hoc flexibility to meet life’s demands. Flexibility has demonstrated benefits for well-being and and the bottom line. While women have long sought flexible working hours, traditionally to accommodate raising children, more men demand flexibility too with the rise of dual-income families. There is also a “generational convergence” of Millenials and Baby Boomers desiring flexibility, which may well help transitioning into phased retirement or for caregiving responsibilities. 

We know too that maturing Millennials have increasing impact on workplaces and industries. Now the largest population in the workforce and holding 20% of leadership roles, 87% of Millennials believe in measuring business success beyond financial performance. Rather, work-life balance and values are important, with 71% concerned about the interference of work demands on their personal lives. Beyond the age brackets, it is inspiring to trace wider trends around wellness, social responsibility and entrepreneurialism that impact business today, such as this recent account of paradigm shift with rising social enterprise

Yes corresponding trends in automation and the gig economy certainly pose challenges, and many of us suspect the notion of ‘work-life balance’ is a mirage. In this context I believe there is much to be gained with flexible approaches to work, and that success means different things to different people at different times. Let us prioritise our health and quality of life, community and caregiving, personal development and purposeful legacy, as well as socioeconomic success. This has been foundational for my current business and strategic services I offer. 
 

Collaboration and creating value

Firstly, I acknowledge the obvious. Just one woman, cisgender and Australian of Anglo-Celtic background, grateful for education in excellent multicultural schools, middle-class suburbia and familial goodness - yes hi that’s me. 

Our powers combined

So I believe wholeheartedly that respectful consultation, connection and collaboration are foundational for advancing diversity. I know firsthand as a solopreneur that collaborative problem-solving is invaluable. And in business, I am all about creating value - for you, me and our collective future. 

Leveraging collaboration is increasingly important for agility and success in business. We all have better access to information, and new online analysis and innovation is relentless. Clients are better informed and want more for their investment, and many harness internal consultants to manage projects. However, there are too often blindspots around tacit knowledge management, how things get done across business boundaries, and the value co-created.  

I am excited to be part of a collaborative, conscious and creative wave transforming business. 

From where I stand...

I founded Enabling Enterprise to support creative and purpose-driven entrepreneurs with strategy and storytelling services. Currently I am reinventing this value proposition, and building resources for organisational consulting to complement the entrepreneurial and community services. 

I am also mindful of opportunities and challenges of running a business, in regional Australia, as a woman and with a young child. Many will relate to the highs and lows of juggling parenting and business, life purpose and business vision, feelings of isolation and community connectedness, and attaining financial as well as lifestyle goals. Others will relate to the desire to define success beyond financial metrics. Such things are not new, but I relish the value being co-created with growing expectations that business leaders make positive impact, externally within society and internally with our teams. 

These are some of the personal and contextual reasons that I emphasise the importance of diversity, flexibility and collaboration. I also draw on my professional background working with Indigenous leaders and communities, and in community and cultural settings, where mutual respect and benefit are essential foundations. Collaboration across cultures, disciplines and organisational silos has long been key to my work. While I have worked extensively with government and non-profit programs, systems and governance, more recently I have cultivated agile entrepreneurial skills and mindsets, and forged hybrid bespoke models within my business. I relish creative, connective and holistic approaches to strategy and marketing in business, which I continue to hone working with entrepreneurs, cultural producers, and small teams. 

Flying

I know this is a competitive and rapidly evolving space, and a ripe time to be striking up new relationships and collaborative ideas. Co-working in Byron Bay, I am part of a buzzing entrepreneurial, purpose-driven and wellness-oriented community. I am superexcited about new workshops, partnerships and ideas emerging. And personally speaking, right now I’m thrilled/terrified/expanding with ch-ch-changes as we are now moving to a new home, on acreage just a little further south on a beautiful part of Bundjalung Country overlooking our much-loved Pacific Ocean. 

This next chapter is only beginning, and I will be glad to share updates and opportunities here. I’d love to hear your views, to share discussion and ideas for joining forces! 

Kathryn Gray