Chris was delighted to give the University of Worcester’s annual Fellows Lecture this year, on February 1st 2018. In responding to the speech Professor Sarah Greer said that Chris had shown how “one person with a passion can actually change the world.” The lecture, titled ‘Inclusion for Innovation’, started with Chris’s personal experiences; highlighting that he understood the meaning of inclusion before he had ever heard the word. Chris’s determination to stay at school and keep swimming after he lost his sight meant that he learned in a fundamental way what was required for him to achieve anything at all. His personal and professional achievements continue to illustrate again and again Chris’s main point that inclusion has nothing to do with doing the right thing but is all about empowering individuals and enabling creativity and innovation.
Chris was welcomed on stage by Lord Faulkner of Worcester who described Chris as a “thoughtful, eloquent, witty and profound” speaker. In November 2016, the University of Worcester awarded Chris an honorary degree in recognition of his outstanding achievements and distinguished contribution to the causes if diversity and inclusion. Given his local connections and the University’s commitment to diversity and inclusion Chris was delighted to accept the honour and in this capacity return to the University to give the annual lecture.
Chris took part in a session on aspects of trust in sport in major HR conference; Changeboard’s Future Talent 2017. Chris spoke on the importance of trusting different people, urging that it’s time to take an inclusive approach for innovation and that companies need to become diverse or die. Chris argued that flat structures and leadership teams that lead by example, by “delivering on a promise”, are creating the right environment for trust to flourish. He recalled moments from his own life when he had to trust in others, including his guide dog Lottie and stressed that trust is about relationships and being prepared to be vulnerable. As Chris says, “It’s not easy but it is essential.” Other speakers in the session were Dame Katherine Grainger and Sir Clive Woodward who spoke about trusting yourself and teamship and collaboration. There was positive feedback during the session and Dr Alan Watkins, chairing the discussion, drew out these lessons on trust from the world of sport and explored how they would apply to corporate leaders and organisations. The future of talent is important because the world is increasingly complex. The only way out is up. By upgrading our human operating systems.
The ‘Future Talent’ conference, organised by Changeboard, was designed to inspire and empower senior HR and talent professionals. Over 700 people came to listen to an incredible speaker line up including Ruby Wax and Alain de Botton. Chris was delighted to be invited to take part and the title of Chris’s talk was “Smash the silos: Real inclusion counts”. He spoke powerfully about the way in which flat structures can allow all the people in an organisation to make their voices heard. Drawing on his experiences as part of the Olympic bid team and then as Director at London 2012 Paralympics leading 70,000 Gamesmakers he underlined that “smashing silos, promoting the purpose and unleashing your people” really is a recipe for success. Chris has a passion for sharing his experiences in leadership, performance management, setting a vision for a team that leads to meaningful improvement and the demonstrable benefits of promoting diversity and inclusion in the workplace. “Not because it’s a nice thing to do but because it improves your organisation.” In advance of the conference, Chris shared further lessons, about the importance of stepping outside your comfort zone to do things a little differently. Chris was stunned to be voted best speaker and described it as an “absolute honour”.