Facebook's Steve Hatch on why leaders need to be vulnerable

Leaders must be open, show their vulnerability and remove the stigma attached to conditions such as dyslexia, Hatch says.

Image credit: Bronac McNeill
Image credit: Bronac McNeill

Steve Hatch, vice-president of northern Europe at Facebook, has called on business leaders to be more open and vulnerable about their own experiences to drive greater understanding of all forms of diversity.

In a wide-ranging and open conversation with Ali Hanan, founder and chief executive of Creative Equals, Hatch shared his own experience of how being dyslexic has affected both his work and his approach to diversity. (Hatch is the executive sponsor of the "differently able" group at Facebook, which includes people with invisible and visible disabilities.)

He was speaking at the #DiverseMinds conference, created by The Hobbs Consultancy and Creative Equals, at Havas’ Kings Cross office today.

Bring your authentic self to work

According to Hatch, the key challenge for businesses is to remove stigma so people feel they are able to be their "authentic selves" in the workplace and beyond.

Bringing your "whole self" to work is more than a soundbite. "That ability [to be your authentic self] is an expectation in the workplace now. We never want to assume that people are just one way," he said.

Hatch described these shifting expectations and how the growing conversation about bringing your whole self to work has encouraged him to be more open.

Overcome stigma

"The difficulty for me was not dyslexia, it was the stigma attached to that," Hatch explained. The experience shaped how he feels about being in some way "other" in the workplace and has given him a personal focus on taking that stigma away.

Hatch, who works with Made By Dylsexia to challenge the stigma surrounding the condition, believes the importance of diverse teams and cognitive diversity is rising up the business agenda. He explained: "The world is changing so quickly. There is a lot of work to do – but it does require more effort, more leadership and more openness."

It is a shift that he believes lies in the ability for people across businesses to be able to be authentic and vulnerable. "It is about asking what is your experience and how can I reflect that in how I interact with you in life and business?" he said.

Dyslexia in the workplace

Hatch said his dyslexia became much more real in the workplace than it had in education. He shared that he once received an urgent call from the HR department after writing a reference for a former colleague. Instead of writing "I think [former colleague] will thrive in your organisation", he had written "I think [former colleague] will thieve in your organisation".

Growing up, Hatch found writing difficult and rather than admitting that he was struggling or didn’t know how to do something, he wouldn’t do the work. He dropped out of college and got a job in advertising. Hatch added that he was very grateful to the industry because it is a great place to work.

According to Hatch, Facebook has a very neurodiverse background and "we see it as a competitive strength". The social media giant’s approach to neurodiversity comes from "the very top of the funnel".

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