Your Difference is Your Greatest Strength with Nelson Derry


July 11, 2022



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Show Notes

In this week’s episode of Culture by Design, Timothy R. Clark is joined by Nelson Derry, Global Head of Culture, Diversity, Equity & Inclusion at Aesop. Nelson’s inspiring upbringing and the depth of his career experience have shaped his worldview and taught him valuable lessons. He and Tim explore his story and discuss what it really takes to intentionally change organizational culture. Hint: it involves shedding bias and harnessing divergent perspectives. 

Here are some gems from the conversation:

Your difference is your greatest strength (7:00). Nelson’s mother risks it all to give Nelson the opportunity to learn. Nelson learns how to harness his differences because of his environment.

One interaction can change a life (10:15). A complete stranger decides to support Nelson and invest in his future, completely changing the trajectory of his life and career. He sends Nelson from Nairobi, Kenya overseas to England.

The value of showing up, having courage, and being humble (15:20). Nelson explains the value of consistent interactions in environments where you are encouraged to thrive. 

Live above demographics and psychographics (18:00). According to Nelson, you’re not responsible for your first thought, but you’re responsible for your second thought and your first action. The power lies between your first thought and your first action.

When things are hard, it’s not the time to play it safe (22:00). Nelson and Tim talk about lessons learned from Jacinda Ardern, the New Zealand Prime Minister who intentionally appoints an extremely diverse cabinet in the midst of a global pandemic and terrorist attacks.

Harnessing the differences in divergent perspectives (26:30). Easy doesn’t equate to performance. Performance requires the hard work of diverse, divergent perspectives. 

Trapped in the paradigm of unwheeled luggage (27:30). Nelson talks about what it means to be a prisoner in your own paradigm. He tells the story of a 1950s entrepreneur who identifies a game changer, but the response he gets is lukewarm at best.

The compounding effects of behaviors (33:00). Nelson explains how behaviors become habits, how habits become norms, and how norms change organizational culture. 

Save a seat for those without a voice (36:25). Nelson shares his experiences navigating a world where he felt compelled to hide his differences. 

Affection for humanity is contagious (42:00). Nelson models for and teaches others how to supersede bias and prejudice and interact with others intentionally.

About Our Guest:

Nelson currently serves as the Global Head of Culture, Diversity, Equity & Inclusion at Aesop. He is responsible for driving a company-wide strategy around Aesop’s People Commitments including Diversity, Equity & Inclusion, Culture transformation, Engagement, and Well-being. 

Prior to joining Aesop, Nelson led the Global Organisational Culture Practice at North Highland serving as a trusted advisor to senior leaders and supporting them with their people transformation agendas including culture and behaviour change, communications & engagement, leadership development, and diversity & inclusion.

Previously Nelson spent a decade at Goldman Sachs in a variety of leadership roles including Head of Strategy and Change within the European asset management business as well as leading several operations teams. 

An award-winning executive he has been recognised by the Financial Times and EMPower as one of the Top 30 U.K. and US Future Leaders for contributions to workplace inclusion. 

Nelson is the author of ‘Rise of the 2020 Leader - Entering a new era of Trust, Purpose, and Inclusion’. His thought leadership and articles have been featured in publications including Manage HR Magazine. 

He is also a regular speaker and storyteller at company events and industry conferences on the topics of high-performing teams, organisational culture, leadership, and diversity & inclusion. Most recently he was invited to deliver the keynote address at the Diversity & Inclusion Workplace Summit, hosted by Business Forums International.

Nelson has been a judge at several international industry awards. Most recently he was invited to be a judge at the U.K. Employee Experience Awards for the ‘Most Innovative Employee Engagement Initiative’ category. He also judged the ‘Global HR Leader of the Year’ award at the Leadership Excellence Awards hosted by GDS.

Episode Transcript

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