In this exclusive issue, Derek revealed what diversity and inclusion means to him and the metaphor he uses to explain equality. Also reflecting on his proudest professional achievement, do not miss this official Q&A with one of sports most inspiring figures.
What does diversity and inclusion mean to you and why are they important?
“It’s majorly important. Having competed in sport, worked in the corporate world and being somebody coming from the [Black] community, this is something that I have my own experience in.
“To answer the question as a whole, what it means to me is, if organisations are open, honest and fair about diversity, actually, it can be a plus for their organisation, it can actually be an asset to their organisation.
“Now, that’s quite a big, bold, sweeping statement to make. But if we just break it down a little bit. First of all, when people talk about diversity, they think of the obvious things. They think of somebody’s ethnicity, where they were born, what sex they are, male or female, if they’ve got any disabilities – they think of the obvious.
“Actually, there are four types of diversity, and that is only one type of diversity; that’s what we refer to as ‘internal diversity’. So, internal diversity is basically the things that we are born into that we cannot change, they are us and that’s what everybody looks at.
“But there are three other types of diversities. We have ‘external diversity’, which are things that actually we do change; the way we dress, our beliefs, things that over time, can change. These are things that we choose to do.
“We then move on to ‘organisational diversity’, which really looks at where you are and where you stand within your organisation, like your level or your position.
“And then we have a fourth diversity which is actually called ‘world diversity’. So these are the things again, that you have some control over, like your intelligence. We all choose to a degree how intelligent we are, and we choose how much we want to learn and be educated. Our political beliefs, we have a choice over that, our morals, how we are prepared to behave within the workplace.
“All these things need to be taken into consideration when we talk about diversity and inclusion. It’s not just the obvious, and the advantages give companies and organisations a much bigger pool of experience to call upon, because people come from all different walks of life with different morals, with different beliefs, with different thoughts.
“Actually, to have all that on the table when making decisions and coming up with ideas and coming up with plans will take your company from where it is to where you want to be.”
How would you describe diversity and inclusion?
“I’m going to tell a story about my dad, and you will like this one because it involves food!
“My dad once told me to treat everybody like a sausage. He says, ‘when you’re older, just treat everybody like a sausage’. You might think, ‘what the hell is he talking about?’ I don’t mean pick a fork up and jab it in them to make sure they’re all cooked!
“To explain it, my dad was in the meat trade for many, many years and he sold meat processing equipment. And like every industry, there were exhibitions. There was one that went on for a week, and one of the events that used to take place was the final of the Britain’s Best Sausage Competition.
“Butchers would make up these weird and wonderful flavoured sausages. There would be a panel of judges and they all walk around in their white coats on, wearing little white butcher’s hat and holding clipboards. Every sausage already had 100/100, they were all marked as perfect sausages. And then, the judges would go around a knock off marks accordingly.
“So, if the shape wasn’t correct, if it wasn’t soft and juicy enough, it was too salty, too spicy, not salty enough or whatever, they would knock marks off. And it was the [person] with the least amount of marks knocked off who deemed the winner.
“My dad always used to say, ‘treat people like a sausage’. In other words, give them 100/100. Give them the benefit of the doubt and let them determine how far down the sausage scale they go.
“I think if everybody took that attitude, diversity and inclusion wouldn’t even be a topic that we would need to talk about, because you would be judged on your own actions and behaviours rather than how you look, how you dress and what disabilities you may have, what sexuality you are – all those sorts of things.
“For me, I would always say to people, treat people like a sausage!”
You are described as an expert on reaching peak performance – what advice could you give to others looking to do the same?
“Peak performance is all about performing when it really matters – certainly in sport. The two ingredients you need to be at your peak; you need to be physically in shape and be at your best mentally.
“You need to work on both of those at the same time. Interestingly enough, an hour before an Olympic final, it doesn’t come down to your physical ability because [though] you’re a talented person so are all the other seven people. It isn’t going to come down just to your talent alone.
“An hour before a race, you can’t say, ‘you know what? I’m going to nip to the gym and do an extra training session’, because it’s going to make no difference to you performing any better. If anything, you’ll perform worse because you’re going to be fatigued and tired. So physically, an hour before the race, there’s nothing you can do. But mentally, there’s a hell of a lot you can do.
“I used to do a lot of visualisations, visualising myself running the Olympic final, in beautiful weather, in the wind, in the howling rain, in thunder and lightning. With different athletes, with them going off super quick and me going off slow. And I would do this over and over and over.
“Every time I visualised one of those races, I won. I visualise myself winning in all sorts of different scenarios. You start to believe that you can and will win that race – you’ve run so many scenarios in your head that you have run the scenario that is actually going to happen.”
What has been the highlight of your career so far?
“If we step away from sport, I’ve had a couple of a few different businesses before. Myself and my business partner set up a company making and manufacturing gym and fitness equipment many years ago.
“We started from scratch, became very successful in a two and a half year period, and then went from the height of success to going bankrupt and the company going bankrupt and me going bankrupt personally for a lot of money.
“And that’s something I’m proud of, because when I went bankrupt and lost everything, I had no idea what was around the corner for me. But the one thing that I always believed was that I would be successful in life.
“I had no idea what it was going to be, and as it turns out, 25 years later, here I am as an international speaker, bestselling author and award winning speaker!
“So at that time, I had no idea that was going to be the case – I’m pretty proud of that.”
If you could give yourself one piece of advice at the start of your career, what would it be?
“If I was talking to a younger me in the world sport, I would say ‘be patient’. You know, as a young athlete, I was always eager and keen, and I wanted everything straight away.
“I wanted to be the best, and always train hard like, ‘now, now, let’s do more, let’s do more, let’s do more’. More isn’t always better. Even when I got injured, I would come back too soon and aggravate the injury, and then further down the line, I’d get injured again.
“So, as an athlete, my advice to myself would be to be a lot more patient. I think as a businessman, it would be ‘listen, see and take advice more’. Take advice because your ego can get in the way.
“An ego is a massive thing, and sometimes, you can’t see around the thing. Well, you know what? You’re going to kick that ego to the curb and ask for help, ask for advice and take it if you’re able to rub shoulders with people who have done what you want to do.
“Boy, do it and listen to them, take their advice!
“I guess it depends on which young Derek I was talking to, but that would be the advice I would give myself!”
Derek Redmond is a powerful Black History Month speaker, contact our team to enquire about booking him for your corporate event, webinar or conference this October.