An Inside Look At The Challenges Of Managing One Of The Most Diverse Organisations In The World [Interview with Michael Collins]

Today I’m speaking with Michael Collins. Michael is the Head of Diversity & Inclusion for New York City Transit, the organisation that runs the New York Subway. He has over 30 years of experience working in US Corporations, his previous employers include American Express, CUNY and American Airlines

As the Diversity & Inclusion leader for a diverse organisation in one of the most diverse cities in the world. Michael has unique and powerful insights that are of incredible value. This is why I wanted to get him on the show.

In todays show we discuss several things including

  • The reason New York City Transit is a unique organisation
  • The elegant rule Michael introduced to promote inclusion with employee resource groups
  • Affirmative Action: What it looks like in practice and much much more

Here’s some of the wisdom that Michael shared:

If you’re leading people, you’re leading Diversity

Michael describes how leaders by virtue of their position are already leading diversity in their organisations. Michael explains leading diversity is more about recognising and responding to the diverse nature of the existing workforce rather than seeking new opportunities:

“If you’re managing people. If you’re leading people then you need to understand that you are leading diversity already. You’re either doing a good job or you’re not. But you are. You’re doing it”

Employee resource groups can directly influence the bottom line

Michael talks about how employee resource groups can provide information that is so valuable to an organisation that it can change the way the organisation works. Michael explains his experience of a particular employee resource group that provided specific consumer insights that changed work practices in an organisation:

“I’ve seen for example, the people with disabilities employee resource group give the organisation information that only that group could have given it”

Affirmative Action in practice

Michael deconstructs Affirmative Action as a programme of change and outlines the key principles involved. Michael explains how affirmative action is a process that intends to address inequalities within the marketplace in order to have a workforce that better represents the population of the people available to do that work:

“We’re going to look at what the census says is available in the marketplace to do these jobs, for example if it’s 30% women that are available to do this job and you have less than that in your organisation, then you should be taking affirmative action to get to that”


If you want a quick snapshot of what the episode is about, I’ve created some slides that you may find interesting


How can you manage potential conflict between your employees resource groups?

Show notes

Here are some selected links to for the resources and reports I discuss in the episode.

Michael Collins Linkedin

New York City Transit

American Express


American Airlines

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The Elements of Inclusion #4

Leaders must collaborate innovatively to leverage cultural expertise and drive business performance.

  • Why inclusive outcomes are driven by innovation
  • How developing a business case for diversity and inclusion specific to your organisation is a competitive advantage
  • Why novelty is at the heart of your inclusion journey

The Elements of Inclusion #3

Leaders must establish systems to ensure that everyone shares the same advantages and benefits. These processes will create incentives for inclusive behaviours.

  • How to augment your team with the tools and insights they need to prevent structural disadvantage
  • Why reinforcing generative norms ensures everyone belongs in the organisation
  • How inclusive representations can be embedded to promote an inclusive culture

The Elements of Inclusion #2

Leaders must redefine career development relationships to support inclusive performance.
  • Why traditional mentor relationships must be revised for an inclusive workplace
  • How leaders must embrace networks of developmental relationships for individual growth
  • Why established workplace norms must evolve for inclusion in the modern workplace

The Elements of Inclusion #1

Leaders must properly socialise people and socialise inclusive ideas by providing an environment for the cultural learning needed for an active role in an inclusive organisation

  • How your socialisation processes must evolve to encourage the sustainable cultivation of inclusive competencies
  • Why Leaders must consistently negotiate the line between organisational commitment and personal authenticity to promote performance
  • How developing intersectional self awareness can help leaders to leverage individual employee experiences