“People want to be rewarded for performance not presenteeism” Lisa Ironside, Founder and Managing Director, Bagamoyo Consulting

After twenty years improving working environments for employees, Lisa Ironside had an epiphany. Jaded by the corporate world and aware that her wellbeing was being undermined by employment pressures, she is now driving work-place change through her own consultancy and in her role as Equity Diversity and Inclusion (EDI) Ambassador for IoD Aberdeen & Grampian, Scotland.

Growing up I always felt a bit different, and I vividly recall the difficulties I experienced at a new school when we moved just 24 miles away. This feeling of being an outsider has been formative in the way I lead my life and perhaps this is why I enjoy advocating for people. I would like to see more bravery in leadership. The world could do with being a bit better and business has a part to play.

After a French and Politics degree at Strathclyde University, I took a post-grad in Information Analysis and then found myself with a successful career in HR and learning development. We spend the majority of our lives at work surrounded by people and I feel strongly that employers need to create a working environment where people want to come to work and stay.

People want to be rewarded for performance not presenteeism. The pandemic provided opportunities for people to connect with colleagues in a new way but some of that humanity is being eroded; organisations have gone into reverse, forcing people back to the office and the walls come back up. George Floyd’s murder led to a doubling down on diversity and inclusion. Colleagues were in pain and when they couldn’t get comfort from the government and community leaders, they turned to their employers.

Over time I became disillusioned working in senior positions for large corporates and during the pandemic I was under so much pressure that I put my health on hold. I genuinely cared about the employees I was advocating for, but to be met with reluctant stakeholders blocking any meaningful change, was disheartening. When I got made redundant and found myself seriously ill, it caused me to reflect that sometimes you put all your effort into work and stop taking care for yourself. I realised that I wanted more time to do things which give me joy.

I joined the IoD when I set up Bagamoyo Consulting two years ago. I support individuals and businesses to put inclusion at the heart of their strategy and help others enact the meaningful change I had been hoping to make in the corporate world. Working for myself also means I have the flexibility I craved and the time for the things that matter to me.

At first I wasn’t sure IoD membership was for me, based on an impression I had from visiting Pall Mall a few years ago. However, I liked what Sarah Downs (IoD Chair Aberdeen) was doing and I thought I could bring something different. My role as IoD EDI Ambassador for the Aberdeen and Grampian Region is rewarding and a way of giving something back to my community. I am pleased to see a greater mix in the membership now and increasingly diverse audiences at our events.

Although I am not a huge fan of networking events, IoD membership means I am always up to date with policy and it gives me endless opportunities to meet people from a wide variety of sectors. I always encourage business leaders to listen to their staff and think carefully about their policies and approach; inclusion can be a magic thread which runs through it all.

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