Big Interview: Matthew Noon

In conjunction with our Inclusive Leadership focus for 2024, we chat with Matthew Noon, Associate Director – Transportation & Safe Systems at Abley, to understand why being an inclusive leader is important in today’s workplaces, and how to foster a diverse and supportive team.

What does inclusive leadership mean to you? 

Leading is putting your team and team members first – successes belong to them; failures are mine. 

Can you share a defining moment or experience that shaped your understanding and awareness of the importance of inclusive leadership? 

There hasn’t been a single defining moment. Instead, the culmination of many small experiences has helped shift my understanding and awareness of the need for inclusive leadership and action across all areas. 

Examples of this include: 

  • respecting and acknowledging colleagues’ different religious beliefs in a wider context. For example, those who fast for Lent or Ramadan, and how ‘normal’ practices, such as working lunches, impact this; 
  • assuming that everyone feels comfortable sharing their views. We must recognise the need to provide space for individuals who may lack confidence expressing their views; 
  • acknowledging the constraints of ‘traditional’ design approaches and how these may not reflect end user requirements. Have you noticed how many designs in older public realm infrastructure suit men better than women? 

Collectively, these experiences have led to an ongoing reflection of my cultural and/or diversity awareness and intelligence. I’m committed to recognising the importance of diverse perspectives and ensuring all staff are empowered to speak in a way that meets their individual needs. 

How do you ensure that diverse perspectives are valued and heard within your team or organisation, particularly from those who feel the industry still has a long way to go to being fully inclusive for all employees?

Active engagement and listening are critical. It may not always be what people say or don’t say, but how they say it or interact.  

It’s also about recognising the many diverse, and often conflicting, perspectives that exist within a team or organisation. We must ensure, transparently and fairly, that the perspectives presented are balanced and appropriate.  Everyone has value and worth regardless of their gender, age, ethnicity, or other grouping. We must respect people as individuals.  

I’m continuing to learn and grow in my awareness. I participate in industry forums and encourage and support under-represented groups to engage and participate in them. 

How are you demonstrating inclusive leadership in supporting your people in this tough financial climate where money and work are scarce?

I am open and available to offer support, listen or assist my colleagues and team members in seeking the appropriate help and/or advice regardless of their personal or professional issues. This is irrespective of the financial climate.  

Leaders can help create a supportive and safe environment by sharing their own personal vulnerabilities and challenges. I hope that all those with whom I engage feel comfortable to share any concerns or issues with me.    

What advice do you have for emerging leaders who aspire to be more inclusive in their leadership approach? 

Don’t be afraid. Be open to new opportunities and experiences. Embrace challenges, and don’t be afraid to challenge back.  

At the end of the day, we all have individual perspectives, which deserve to be heard. But, as a leader, we must make decisions. Trust yourself to make the right calls once you have considered all perspectives. 

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