CEO of Guy Carpenter’s International Division, James Nash welcomed the audience and contextualised the conversation of courage in the insurance industry, pointing out that the insurance industry needs to have the courage to take action and embrace a broader culture that reflects society.
Founder of TLC Lions, Gian Power, took to the stage to share the heart-breaking story of losing his father, who was murdered on a business trip to India. It wasn’t until Gian’s return to work after this traumatic ordeal that he understood the importance of workplace support and the impact that sharing and empathy have on wellbeing. Sharing his story helped other share their story with him and he realised the impact he could have on other people’s lives by listening. “Everyone has a story they want to share” he added, “if only they have a chance to be listened to”.
He reflected on his experience in the context of courage, asking what courage really means and how it relates to the workplace. Courage, he observed, means leaders standing up for what is right and speaking up to inspire others to create a safe and inclusive working environment.
Gian welcomed the panel to the stage: the documentary maker and television presenter Reggie Yates; and journalist, presenter, and founder of counselling services Childline and Silverline, Dame Esther Rantzen DBE. Dame Esther told the story of how she came to start Childline, the confidential hotline set up for children to deal with issues of distress and concern, after being deeply moved by the stories of child neglect that she witnessed as a journalist. The most powerful outcome of the hotline, Esther noted, is how children were empowered and given confidence by being reminded that this was not their fault.
Reggie reflected on the environment in which he grew up that helped him to appreciate people of different backgrounds and the wider world outside his own. Knowing that passion would drive everything he did, his career led him to factual programming, in which he observed himself quite literally ‘coming of age’ when he started telling real stories that would have a real impact. It was through this, he noted, that he saw how important storytelling was and how it has the power to unify.
Being praised as an ‘ally’ came as a surprise to Reggie Yates, who had overly critiqued himself on the final outcome of his film about the LGBT community. It was only when the documentary aired and the support rolled in that he realised “this isn’t about me!” and saw the importance of sharing the stories of people unlike himself and giving them a chance to be heard.
The panel debated the perceived ‘burden’ put on managers when someone shares a story with them. While listening to stories is important in helping to grow and understand others, Esther reminded the audience that – just as not everyone is in the right place to share – not everyone is in the right place to listen. Workplaces should create a confidential environment in which employees can feel safe and comfortable to share and be listened to. Gian reminded the audience of the independent hotline created by Lloyd’s to report incidents of bullying and harassment.
Esther reflected on her own experiences of bullying and harassment at the workplace and reminded the audience that it is often the whistle-blower that suffers. However, creating a workplace with a warm and equal culture prevents the suffering of the whistle-blower – for the main reason that it is harder for bullies to flourish in the first place.