Micheal Feleppa, Owner of MF Consultancy Services knows exactly how important diversity is in the workplace. This stems from his own first-hand experience of working in a predominantly male working environment such as construction. Today, Micheal runs his own training company and is at the forefront of the cultural shift towards diversity in the workplace. Read how he plans to encourage this movement over the long run below.
Tell us a little bit about you...
I’ve had over 40 years’ experience in the Builders’ Merchant sector of the construction industry and have worked at a senior level with some of the key players. I currently run my own consultancy & training business writing & delivering bespoke workshops on all aspects of the merchant industry. As someone who started as a yard labourer 40 years ago, and having worked my way through pretty much every role in the industry up to Sales Director in the most profitable region of the largest national merchant, I’m passionate about people development and strongly believe that if I can do it, anyone can! It’s a common-sense industry and you can do really well with the right guidance - all you need to bring to the party is a good attitude & work ethic!
Why is diversity important to you?
When I was a Sales Director, my biggest customer used to spend £12m per year with me and my smallest customer used to spend £1, so it’s important to understand the different perspectives of all segments in the market. Business is about winning hearts and minds at all levels, and when you have this, you can truly drive growth because a diverse workforce can capture a wider spectrum of the market.
What benefits does diversity bring?
It means we can be more creative & innovative and leverage our full potential – If you keep doing what you always did, you get what you always got! For some of the more experienced people in the industry, it’s healthy to re-question why we do things.
“If you keep doing what you always did, you get what you always got!”
What challenges do you face when you try to be more diverse?
The main resistance comes from people who have been in the industry a long time and who think that they know better. There are those who don’t realise that all jobs evolve, and that sooner or later they need to rethink what they do, or be left behind.
What can we do better as an organisation/industry to be more diverse?
We don’t need to do a knee-jerk 180-degree swing but we can be more inclusive in our working groups and also educate through training more.
How are you trying to positively influence diversity?
As a trainer, I always say to my rooms that there aren’t enough women at the top of our industry and I tell them stories of the inspirational women I’ve worked for in the past. I deliberately use exercises that put everyone (male & female) on a level playing field and then make a point of encouraging any women, telling them they have the necessary competences in an effort to build their confidence.
How do you address difficult conversations with male and female colleagues about diversity?
I’m an advocate for diversity and it’s one of my core values. When I was coming up through the ranks I was a transport manager and one of my drivers once said that when I was as good at my job as he was at his then we could have a 50/50 conversation. After getting over the initial shock, I chewed this over and realised that this guy had a point. He was an amazing driver and I was a rubbish transport manager! I tell this story a lot at my training sessions because I really believe it’s not about age, sex, race or whatever. it’s about being great at what you do.
“When I was coming up through the ranks I was a transport manager and one of my drivers once said that when I was as good at my job as he was at his then we could have a 50/50 conversation.”
The construction industry is changing. The days of toxic masculinity and misogynistic perspectives are being replaced with an inclusive work environment that fosters diversity at all levels on the command chain. If you're interested in reading more from our male supporters, read our piece on Simon Forrester, Regional Health & Safety advisor Ibstock Brick.