Leading for Renewal with Andy Salmon, British Triathlon

Inclusive Employers are key partners in the delivery of Sport England's Leading for Renewal programme, which began in earnest in 2021. This landmark inclusion programme is designed to truly embed inclusion into the sport and physical activity sector and does this by targeting 3 different tiers of the workforce. They are Inclusive Leaders, Inclusion Enablers and Inclusion Influencers. Below, Andy Salmon, CEO of British Triathlon, shares his experience of participating in the Inclusive Leaders programme, highlighting the positive impact it has had for him personally and the organisation.

When you participate as an Inclusive Leader in the Leading for Renewal programme you will gain an in-depth understanding of what inclusion means for you and your organisation. You will understand the importance of authentically role modelling inclusion and how important this is for driving your inclusion agenda.

You will have access to experiences, events, resources and a dedicated account manager that will give you confidence and knowledge to shape your I&D strategy.

Read on to find out how Andy Salmon’s experience of being an Inclusive Leader has impacted his relationship with inclusion.

Understanding inclusion in British Triathlon

On a global level, Triathlon has a very proud history of gender equality – equal opportunity, equal prize money etc. But perhaps we have been a victim of this success and ignored the many other ways in which we are not yet a truly inclusive sport. In Britain, Triathlon is a growing sport but with significant additional growth potential.

This is one of the reasons that inclusion is important for us. We want anyone to feel that swim, bike, run is something they can do, irrespective of their background. The harsh reality though is that several groups in our society are underrepresented in sport and physical activity and Triathlon is no exception. Our ambitions can only be achieved if we learn more about why this is the case and set about taking positive action.

Safe spaces for learning about inclusion

We believe educating ourselves about inclusion is at the heart of future success. We recognised there is so much we don’t know and so Leading for Renewal (LFR) came along at just the right time. One of the things that appealed to me was that the programme wasn’t just for the CEO or for the Inclusion Manager, it was for a group of us right across British Triathlon.

As a result, we have the Chair of the Board, Non-Exec’s, CEO, and colleagues from across the team involved. Of course, at the outset, I was a little sceptical about the impact we might see – we’ve all been here before, right? But this programme has been different. It’s hard to put my finger on why but I think, as ever, it’s about the people involved. Michelle Daltry was our designated contact, and she has made a meaningful connection with all of us.

I know my colleagues feel the same, but Michelle created this sense of safety in making mistakes, something I know several CEOs were concerned about. We all wanted to speak up but lacked confidence and were afraid of putting our foot in it. I’ve been involved in sessions with other CEO’s and then sessions with our team – both are hugely valuable but it’s the team sessions where the magic has happened.

My favourite is when we all seemed to gather our thoughts around the concept of Active Bystanders. It was so powerful. We quickly established that when it came to calling someone out for inappropriate language or behaviour, there was no hierarchy or rank – we are all equal – but crucially that calling someone out in this way was a wholly positive and educational process – it was not an admonishment. We actually use this concept elsewhere in the organisation now.

Another favourite moment for me is when we did a staff survey and asked a range of questions about inclusion. Often, a team might think that something like inclusion is someone else’s job, but we found that most saw it as their own responsibility and that they were empowered to take action – 99% said inclusion, diversity and equality was part of their job.

By creating this sense of need – the need to do better – and the sense of safety to try different ways to make a difference, the team have really kicked on. In recent weeks, we have embraced the need to make sense of guidance on transgender in sport, we have created a Black Triathletes Network and made a documentary to highlight the current position in regard to ethnic diversity and challenge ourselves and the existing Triathlon community to do better. I’m super-proud that these ideas haven’t come from me or the Board but from within the team. This tells me they care and believe in what we are trying to do.

We know there aren’t any silver bullets and there will be bumps in the road. We have received some pretty painful criticism for some of the initiatives mentioned above and that hurt but doing what’s right is seldom easy.

What we’re doing differently thanks to Leading for Renewal

Action for disability inclusion

One passion of mine is disability sport. We don’t hear and read enough about it. My motivation is, sadly, mostly negative in its origin as I have seen and witnessed so much discrimination (much of it from unconscious bias I‘m sure).

I’m super proud that we have just announced a 3-year commitment to a World Triathlon Para Series event in Swansea, starting in August 2022. This will be a stand-alone event and provides an opportunity for many sports to engage in a Para sport festival. I’m also hopeful that we will host an international Paratriathlon conference around the event where we can engage decision makers from all over the world to match our commitment to gender equality with a similar commitment to paratriathlon.

Getting comfortable with the uncomfortable

I see the next steps being for me to continue to challenge myself individually to speak up on inclusion and get outside of my comfort zone. I’m much more comfortable doing this now but I am still aware that my unconscious bias means I’ll get it wrong occasionally. Then, that growing confidence will spread through the organisation and our focus on education and awareness will, I hope, stimulate others to make the changes we need.

Take part in Leading for Renewal 2022

If you are reading this and debating whether to get involved in the next edition of the programme, my advice is simple – you can’t afford not to! Finally, if you are curious about this swim, bike, run thing called Triathlon, then visit our website or get in touch. We’d love to hear from you, whatever your background.

Thank you, Andy, for sharing your experience of LFR with us. Applications for LFR 2022 will open in February 2022, in the meantime you can get in touch with our Inclusive Sport team to register your interest.