By Natasha Calder.


Did you hear? Surely you have?

Earlier this month, comms pros from across the country gathered in Manchester to unleash their inner rebel thanks to Advita Patel’s drive to create a community of strong practitioners unafraid to challenge the status quo.

After launching her business, Comms Rebel, in 2020, Advita has gone from strength to strength, using the freedom of working for yourself to her own advantage by launching innovative initiatives all aimed at supporting the comms community to thrive.

In the last two years, we’ve seen the birth of podcast, Calm Edged Rebels, hosted with fellow practitioners Jenni Field and Trudy Lewis, as well as A Leader Like Me, a professional network launched in response to the lack of diverse panels Advita had seen across the industry. Advita setup the network in partnership with her career mentor, Priya Bates, with the aim to instil confidence and provide opportunities to employed people from underrepresented groups.

Most recently, Advita held her first ‘Inner Rebel’ conference in her hometown of Manchester, which proved to be a truly unconventional, inspirational and uplifting experience for all.

How does she do it? Maybe she’s born with it, maybe she’s Advita!

From workplace culture to innovation, equality to behavioural science – it was a day packed with insight and different perspectives with Advita leading by example by offering a really diverse and engaging panel of speakers.

Here are my top 6 takeaways from the event:

We need to move from a fixed mindset of ‘know it alls’ to a growth mindset of ‘learn it alls’

Matthew Syed, author of Rebel Ideas, (the book that inspired the Inner Rebel conference) kicked off the day by talking us through the power of diverse thinking.

I found his explanation around 'fixed' and 'growth' mindsets quite fascinating. He suggested that a fixed mindset leads to complacency and can supress fearlessness, whereas a growth mindset, in which we have a hunger to find out what people want and need, is central to innovation.

Sometimes it takes someone with different knowledge to identify the blind spots

Matthew also explained that often, we think about diversity from a demographic perspective i.e. a person’s background, race, age or gender but actually, we should consider cognitive diversity too. This relates to a person’s thinking, insights and perspectives. Although the two work in tandem to a degree, discounting a wide range of knowledge by having the same people at the decision-making table can lead organisations in the wrong direction. Matthew says that those with growth mindsets gravitate to people who think differently to us and if we don’t embrace this, we could be flanked by organisations working better than us.

What is progressive for one organisation won’t be progressive for another

On the topic of retaining and attracting staff, a panel discussion talked about how we need to redefine what workplaces are being used for. Are they places for deep work and thought or are they places for flexibility and collaboration?

There can be pressure on organisations to mark every single awareness day or to operate in a certain way because others around them are making changes, but we need to take a step back and think about what will be successful in practice for our own places of work and the colleagues within it.

Organisational values need to be clear and we should empower job seekers to make an informed choice about which roles and organisations they apply to, ensuring they align with their own personal values.

Have you asked what exclusion feels like?

Nichole McGill-Higgins, campaigner and motivational speaker on race equality and inclusion talked about belonging and how truly understanding what exclusion feels like will help an organisation to instigate inclusion authentically. She also explored the difference between equality and equity with the analogy: "equality is giving everyone a pair of shoes but equity is giving them a pair of shoes that fit". Put simply, it’s all well and good for an organisation to have a list of equal policies, but are they fair?

Thinking about this is the first step to instigating belonging and inclusivity in the workplace.

We’re all leaders. Your role is important no matter what it is because you’re unique.

Nichole went on to explore how we can improve leadership and be more self-aware by thinking about things that we can stop doing, continue doing and start doing. Periodically taking a step back to consider these things will help us to self-check any biases and demonstrate an authentic leadership style. Sam Akinluyi, founding partner of PSalt and MD of Innocent Drinks, expanded on this point by suggesting that leadership is presumptuous. He said: “I’m in a leadership position but leadership is a choice.”

Saying no doesn’t have to be awkward

We’ve all been there. Someone somewhere asks for a piece of work. It has either got an unrealistic time frame attached or it’s not going to have any impact. How do we push back? Lottie Bazley, internal comms manager at Staffbase, encourages us to think about five key questions: why does the audience care? What do they need to know? What’s in it for them? How it is relevant? How is it timely?

Ask these questions to your stakeholders too as focusing their attention on the specifics can sometimes help them realise that not everything needs a sprinkling of comms glitter…..

Identifying 6 takeaways for this write up was incredibly hard as there were so many insightful speakers throwing golden nuggets of advice all over the place. I caught as many as I can, so I’d be happy to chat with anyone who wants to explore the event further and wasn’t able to attend.

Feel free to DM me on Twitter @natashacalder92


Image by PeopleImages on iStock