Dylan Alcott shares his advice
From natural disasters to the global pandemic, the last two years have been extremely challenging for individuals and businesses. The rollercoaster ride has prompted us all to ask some big questions. What can we do to become more resilient? How can we prepare for the unexpected? What’s the secret to overcoming adversity?
There’s no better person to ask questions like these than Dylan Alcott, the 2022 Australian of the Year. Never one to let his disability get in the way of what he wants to achieve, Dylan is an inspirational force for good – and he’s got some great insights to share on building resilience.
The path to the top
Dylan works incredibly hard in pursuit of his passions. On the tennis court, he ascended to the pinnacle in 2021, joining only a handful of players who have ever won four majors and the Paralympics in the same year.
Winning the Golden Slam was a tough slog. Dylan spent almost six months overseas, away from his loved ones. His secret to getting to the top? “The way I did it might sound ‘woo woo’, but I really just practiced gratitude every single day. When I was having a bad day, missing my family or going through another hotel quarantine, I’d say to myself, ‘You get to go overseas and do your job. No-one else can.’ People were losing loved ones during Covid, while I was getting to do what I loved,” he said.
These days, his primary passion isn’t tennis. Rather, he’s focused on mainstreaming disability and inspiring people to achieve their dreams. He’s advocating for more support for the immunocompromised; recently helping to secure free Rapid Antigen Tests for Victorians with a disability, and working hard to increase the number of people with disabilities in employment. And he’s doing an incredible job here, too.
But his path to success hasn’t always been easy. When he was younger, he used to get bullied about his disability, and he didn’t feel like he could tell anyone. After months of shutting himself away, he finally shared his burden and got the help he needed. From there, he’s never looked back.
Building a resilient mindset
Asking for help is key to building resilience. “We all face adversity. When there’s so much uncertainty, it’s important to ask for help. People often don’t realise that the best way to be resilient is to ask for help,” said Dylan.
As he explained, a big misconception in business today is that leaders aren’t allowed to ask for help or talk about their problems. Stoicism is rife at the C-level. Yet, according to Dylan, this makes leaders unrelatable. To relate to their people, leaders need to show their vulnerabilities.
Dylan shared a personal story to illustrate this point. “As soon as I started talking about my disability to my friends, they felt comfortable talking about it, too. This normalised it all – and the prouder I was of who I was, the more that everyone else could get on board with my journey,” he said.
To build a resilient business, be honest, open and make help available for every person, at every level. And importantly, diversity is key. “Your organisation should be a snapshot of our community,” he said.
Becoming a more accessible business.
According to Dylan, of the 4+ million people in Australia with some form of disability, only half are in the workforce – and this figure hasn’t risen for decades. Through his business, Get Skilled Access (GSA), he’s working hard to change this.
At Get Skilled Access, all 50 of its consultants have a disability. Providing audits or Inclusion Action Plans, recruitment advice, training and culture review tools for businesses, GSA aims to improve accessibility and inclusion for all. Its team of consultants share their lived experience with businesses and government, to help them understand the benefits of employing people with disabilities. Benefits like higher retention rates, less absenteeism and, in Dylan’s words, “We’re bloody good workers.”
Research into disability inclusion also found it can benefit an organisation’s bottom line, too. Companies led by executives who are focused on disability engagement are growing sales (2.9x) and profits (4.1x) faster than their peers.1
Dylan’s advice to businesses striving to be more accessible? “Be inquisitive, ask questions, and lift expectations. Leave your unconscious bias at the door,” he said. In job interviews, for example, he suggests asking people with disabilities what they’re good at, and what their needs are in terms of accessibility. But he also recommends showing respect and getting to know them first before asking these types of questions.
Seizing control of what you can
Dylan’s a great believer in focusing on the things that matter and has some great life lessons to share. One that we can all seize upon is this: “When you’re under pressure, you sink back to your habits. If you’ve done the work, then you’ll come up trumps when you need it most. The process takes care of the result,” he said.
In other words, “Worry about what you can control, not anything else.”