With Kysha, we discuss the importance of lived experiences and inclusive leadership. We also get some valuable insights into how to break through to leadership roles, and some of the barriers we face that come from our environment. And from within, tune in to this dei episode. Here’s a clip now.
“The three things that I think have been most important to my success. And I think these things tend to change across the point of time that you are in your career, at least it has for me, but currently, perseverance has been quite important. Network has been incredibly important. And I don’t just mean that in a professional sense. I also mean it in a personal sense, as well. And then the third thing for me has been authenticity. And that’s something that probably has become a stronger part of what I’ve needed as I’ve gotten more senior.”
Kysha Gibson is an experienced management consultant specialising in telecommunications, media and technology sectors. She has over 20 years of experience across both senior management, consultancy and line management roles. She has provided executive stewardship to the C suite for several global companies. Kysha graduated from the Wharton School and holds an MBA. Her success at delivering results for her clients is based on a combination of personal resilience, commitment to learning and her ability to bring others on a journey towards shared goals. Kysha takes pride in her extensive travel and believes that her cultural awareness and curiosity allows her to build successful teams with diversity and equity at the core. In her spare time, you can find her exploring lesser known countries or immersed in the work of contemporary authors.
Kysha keeps a pretty open profile on instagram, connect with her here
For more professional engagement, you can also connect with her on LinkedIn
Kysha, welcome to the show.
Kysha Gibson 2:47
Thank you, Kathy,
Katherine Ann Byam 2:48
Who is Kysha Gibson really?
Kysha Gibson 2:47
Right. Well, you gave a really good introduction about, I guess, my professional life, but if I start from the very beginning, I consider myself to be Trinidadian. So I grew up in Trinidad and Tobago, I’ve lived in several different countries, probably about seven different countries. And I’m currently living in the United Kingdom. I’m married to David and I have a stepdaughter, Emma and two Bengal kittens that are quite naughty. So that’s me on the personal side, on the professional side, pretty much in line with what you said, I’ve spent the last 20 odd years in a combination of telecoms and consulting and industry roles. And I tend to specialise in transformation so business transformations, front office transformations, marketing, sales, customer care, types of gnarly problems that our clients have are the ones that I tend to try to solve,
Katherine Ann Byam 3:46
You’ve achieved a feat that’s rare for minorities, and I know all of the words that I’m seeing here are going to trigger some sort of a response. But as a consulting partner at Accenture, what three things do you think contributed to your success,
Kysha Gibson 3:59
The three things that I think have been most important to my success, and I think these things tend to change across the point of time that you are in your career, at least it has for me, but currently, perseverance has been quite important from the get go. They’re not giving up or not taking no for an answer or trying a different way in which to get to a certain outcome. Network has been incredibly important. And I don’t just mean that in a professional sense. I also mean, it’s in a personal sense as well. So when I think of network, I think of the people that I work with, at my level, more senior than I am and Junior, so the team that supports me, but I also think about my network outside of work. So not not only my family, but people that I can rely on to brainstorm with share ideas with them to give me a certain level of support. And then the third thing for me has been authenticity and that’s something that probably has become a stronger part of What I’ve needed as I’ve gotten more senior, where I’ve just felt comfortable in my own skin and able to express myself in my own way, and still feel as though I was being successful. So those are probably the three words that come to mind.
Katherine Ann Byam 5:17
I think a lot of these points are going to come out in the following questions I’m going to drill into them. We work together on your career transition recently, and you once said to me early on at your, at your start in Accenture, that DEI is your job? What did you mean by that? And how are you living that?
Kysha Gibson 5:35
DEI has always been my job now have probably been a bit more deliberate in it. So what I mean by that is, if I think about my day to day job, which is a combination of working with clients in my industry, which is a telecoms industry, as well as working with my teams in order to deliver on those client promises, as well as just being a leader, as part of the comms and media practice, within Accenture, all of those things have DEI at its core, so my clients tend to be quite diverse, whether it’s on the outside or how they think about things or how they interact. Similarly, my team which have been sponsoring recruitment within the team, that team that I’ve sponsored in, looks and feels and sounds different, as well, so quite diverse, as well as in the way in which that’d be authentic leadership and the way in which I do things, I’m not necessarily trying to sound or behave exactly like any of the other Accenture partners, I’m trying to deliver on our company promise that our clients by being me and my being successful in my own skin. So that’s what I mean by DEI, we call it I&D. So we call it inclusion and diversity. But if there’s ever a proposal or wherever a document, whoever a team that I put together that doesn’t have an element of ind as part of it, then I’m doing something wrong. What I’ve found is that I’ve been able to do it probably naturally, I think, people who are a little bit different than to gravitate towards me more than other people. So it’s deliberate, but it also comes as part of being who I am.
Katherine Ann Byam 7:22
Yeah, that’s interesting. And I’d like to get into that a bit more in in a BBC report. In February of this year, it revealed that something like 40% of the UK FTSE 100, board roles are now held by women, the majority of which are thought to be non Executive Director roles. What are your thoughts on why it remains difficult for women to rise to executive board roles within companies?
Kysha Gibson 7:48
I don’t think it’s just difficult to rise to executive board rules within companies, I think that that definitely is difficult. The other thing that I think is even, well just as important to look at is the people who are in those executive board roles, what’s their span of power span of control? So by that, I mean, you’re I haven’t looked at the research, but my guess is that having non exec females on boards, when you compare those individuals with those that run large chunks of of those companies, their span of influence will be a lot less than the individual that runs the bulk of the organisation, if that makes sense. And therefore just looking at the numbers and seeing okay, there’s 50% of this board that is female, I’d look at what proportion of the ones who are on that board that are diverse, have a real impact on the team. So how many people are reporting into them, the policies what’s, what are they in control of what’s their actual job, the responsibilities etc. And I think that’s a better metric to look at, rather than just sheer numbers.
Kysha Gibson 9:04
And to your question on, why is it so difficult? I think it’s difficult for a number of reasons, I think we naturally gravitate to people that look and sound like the people that we have seen take on leadership roles. So not necessarily the people that look and sound like us, but the people that we assume should be in those positions. And that’s something that I think has been prevalent for quite a long time and it will take a long time to unwind. The second reason is that there is clearly a difference between how people of different genders see themselves ready for leadership roles. And some of that needs to be not just unpacked, but almost I think in those situations, we need to be showing a different sort of support structure around the individuals that think they need to be of a certain level of readiness before they get into Have into those leadership roles. And then thirdly, there’s a bit of unpacking, not necessarily unpacking, but demystifying what it means to be in those roles. And at those levels, because I have had several conversations with junior people in the past couple of weeks of various organisations. And there’s a sense by some of them that they don’t want it, but I don’t really know if they know what they’re saying no to.
So there’s a perception of, of how much joy you’d get in such a leadership position of how much work life balance, you might or might not get in such a leadership position of how much pressure there might be. And, and just demystifying that a bit and making it a bit more appealing for a wider range of people I think is a third, thing that we need to look at, I mean, the list is long. So these are just the top three that I can think of. But there are other things that we can do in terms of encouraging people from encouraging females and people of minority groups, from the very start of their careers to be aspiring to leadership positions. Currently, what I’ve been seeing is people are aspiring to get into a company of a certain brand, or aspiring to get to the next level. I’ve not had a conversation recently where the individuals are aspiring to get straight to the top. And I think I think some of that is is lacking.
Katherine Ann Byam 11:38
Let’s unpack this a bit. So you talked about demystifying what it is to be at the heads of these types of organisations, some prominent organisations, you know, being on a FTSE board? Can you can you tell me how we can demystify that? What what do you think people get wrong in their assertions? And how can we write it?
Kysha Gibson 12:01
I don’t know if it’s what people get wrong vs what people get right. And it just seems to be, it’s almost like a parallel universe. I’ll give an example. That’s not corporate, I could not tell you what it would feel like to be a royal, for example, right? Like I couldn’t tell you what it would feel like to get up every day and live in a in a palace or castle or wherever Royals live. Because it’s just something that I, you know, I have no insight into. So I think it’s there is something similar in the corporate world where people had such a senior level, the gap seems quite big, to the ones that are entering. Now, what can we do differently? I think at the senior levels, you can probably maybe open up, whether it’s on social media or via blogs, that sort of personal side that you can share with others, perhaps I don’t know, I think at the more junior levels, it’s already starting to put a career plan in place or have the conversation around what it would take like to get to the top. Or maybe it’s somewhere in the middle.
Katherine Ann Byam 13:11
It’s difficult, right? I think it’s quite challenging to see yourself go through those levels without thinking about the sacrifice, right. And, you know, I listened to Diary of a CEO with, Steven Bartlett. And he talks about all the sacrifices that he made at 19 years old to build his social media company and get it to a point of a 300 million valuation or something like this. But he talks a lot about sacrificing his personal life sacrificing relationships. And now now that he’s gotten to this point, and he’s achieved, what he’s achieved, he’s kind of walking back some of those things he sacrificed. So he’s like, No, you know, my relationships were important. My friends were important. You know, giving, giving my friends that time and space to to be who they are, was really important, even his business partner. And I think about how we mould and shape when we when we talk about mentoring, how do we mould and shape when we know our journey was quite different to what we’d like people to go through. So I think I think these are quite challenging things. Right. I often think I’m not sure that me at 40 Plus, should be a mentor for somebody or 25 Because my journey was quite different. I don’t know how you feel about that.
Unknown Speaker 14:25
Yeah, I think that’s right. I think it’s it’s not necessarily sharing the journey because journeys are different. I think it is. It perhaps it is sharing the art of the possible once you get to a certain level. Yeah. Some people tend to go into their own businesses because they want to be their own person. They want to run things in their own way. They want to feel powerful in their own right, which has a lot of merit. And I think, as an individual people, you know, people get that they get they get what it means to run your own. Business, the sacrifices etc. But it’s almost the sacrifice is worth it because it is your own thing. In the business world, and I’m not sure we’ve we’ve been able to articulate what it means to get to the top. But if you can imagine yourself, the head of a 700,000 person, organisation or the head of a FTSE 100 company, I think the imagination needs to go beyond that, because it’s not just being the head of that particular institution. It’s what that means, what that means in terms of the types of people you can employ. What that means in terms of the types of policies that you can, that you can launch, or you can you can initiate, what that means in terms of the types of impact you can have on certain industries that you that you want to shake up.
Kysha Gibson 15:52
That’s the bit that is it, maybe it’s lost in the story, because that’s the reason why, back to your question about I&D or D and I, that’s the reason why there should be more people at the top of these organisations who are more diverse, because of the impact of being in those positions. And because of the domino effect. So maybe that’s the bit that needs to be unpacked. Because, you know, even in running your own business as a hairdresser, there are loads of sacrifices to make, right? You are time, Paul, you’re investing all your cash, you have to figure out how to balance family and work. So those sacrifices are the same, regardless of what the way in which you making your income. And the impact that you can make tends to be different. Whether you want the type of impact you want to make depends on the individual. But I think in the corporate environment at that board level, at that Exec level, whether you’re an NED or a salaried director of an organisation, the impact and the power to make real change is what I would love to see motivate more people to get to that level. And for us to start talking about it from, you know, from junior grade, so whether someone comes up within the same organisation, or they move to a different organisation, just already planting the seed of how aspirational can or should be, I think would be a really good way to sort of bridge that gap between those that think they don’t want it and those that do.
Katherine Ann Byam 17:42
And what a segue, but it’s related to this whole point of DEI so this is a stick show progress for women in general. So when we look at these statistics in the UK, in particular, but there isn’t much statistical reporting on bipoc women in senior leadership positions in general. And partly this is probably because of the demographics of the country. But what are your tips for becoming an ally to minority groups within major companies,
Kysha Gibson 18:07
the easiest way to make sure that minority groups are seen and heard is by seeing and hearing and I know that sounds quite simple, but if I take practical examples, and every organisation you have various committees or various cross functional teams doing some form of activity, whether it’s community activity or corporate activity, culture, cultural activity, etc. If you want minority groups to be seen and heard, then having for allies taking a step aside, and making sure that someone who is of that group is playing a leading role is really one simple way of doing that. And it does sound easier than than it is because I have seen many organisations where that’s not the case, you tend to have the minority group, individuals doing the supporting role, you know, you get them as part of the committee, get them to help organise events, etc. But when it comes to that, keynote speaker, or even corralling in the meeting, that rule gets taken up by someone else. So simple. I guess the simple rule is Allyship means being okay to take a sidestep and let somebody else who wouldn’t have been given the mic to hold the mic.
Katherine Ann Byam 19:32
That’s a powerful statement. You mentioned your love for travel and exploring culture. What insights has this given you in becoming the inclusive leader that you are today?
Kysha Gibson 19:42
I do love travel. So I’ve been to 115 countries and counting and I’ve just booked my next holiday so that will be on the uptick soon. And the thing I’ve learned about travelling is that there is there is always something to learn about a different culture even with countries In countries where I didn’t think the culture would be so different from my own, if you spend a time observing there is there’s always a difference differences even where there are loads of similarities. And those differences are what make the individual countries and cultures quite unique and quite interesting and in great places to visit. And I think that is quite relatable to individuals as well. But if you look hard enough, every person that you meet is a minority. If you spend enough time with any individual, you’d understand what his or her USP is, that makes them so different from everybody else, that thing that they really love doing that thing that that is their passion combined with what they look like, what they sound like, where they live, their upbringing, that makes that individual, also a minority in his or her own right. And, and that’s what I’ve brought into this, I’ve brought that in from visiting other countries, but also into my teams as well. So even if I look within my team, and someone is a white male, for example, it doesn’t mean that I disregard what that person is. So I think the more time you spend with an individual, the more you can realise just how unique that person is. And that person is a minority of sorts as well.
Katherine Ann Byam 21:30
Typically, when something is important, we like to name it, we give it a dedicated role on our boards, and we champion it into being where should DEI sit in an organisation in your view,
Kysha Gibson 21:41
If DEI is important, it should set throughout the organisation. And for that to happen. I think it’s most impactful when DEI metrics are part of people’s performance metrics and performance metrics tend to be cascaded down sp tp answer your question. Each individual in an organisation should have seasoned targets around DEI. That’s my own personal view. And those targets should start from CEO right away, right away down to the most junior of levels.
Katherine Ann Byam 22:20
Yeah, it’s a bit like sustainability. It needs to be entwined in all the decisions that you make, it’s not something that can sit on, can sit on a shelf, and then come off when you need it. What will you see you’re still working on as a professional and and as a leader?
Kysha Gibson 22:36
As a leader, the thing that I’m quite passionate about and still trying to figure out is how do I motivate more people who are in the minority, to really strive to get to the top? And I’ve not figured out how to do that just yet. I think it’s important for as many minority people as possible to be part of that decision making body or that decision making level.
Katherine Ann Byam 23:04
Yeah, totally agree. Kysha thank you so much for joining us today. How can my listeners get in touch with you or follow you, which is your preferred social media, drug of choice.
Kysha Gibson 23:17
I am wide open on Instagram, where I share both personal and professional because everything is all intertwined into one, at least in my mind. And obviously LinkedIn is where I spend most of my professional time. So either of those would work for me.
Katherine Ann Byam 23:34
Wonderful. Thank you so much for being on the show.
Kysha Gibson 23:37
Thanks for having me.
Katherine Ann Byam 23:43
This episode was brought to you today by the Courageous Career Club, have you picked up your own copy of: ‘Do What Matters; The Purpose Driven Career Transition Guidebook?’ To find out how you can get your copy, as well as resources that go alongside it, visit my website, www Katherine Ann byam.com or engage with me on the socials. I’m looking forward to hearing from you.