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Inclusion means more than one thing

If Diversity is being invited to the party, then Inclusion is being asked to dance at the party. The problem of today is that not everyone gets the same chance of being asked.
Diversity and Inclusion

To me, inclusion is so much more than one thing. It’s everything from truly understanding each other and moving beyond tolerance to embracing the rich dimensions of diversity contained within us all. It’s the term we use to describe organizational practices in which underrepresented groups are actively welcomed and accepted. It’s about correcting the long-standing issues we have in terms inequities like ageism, racial, and gender inequality. It’s the right thing to do, and it’s how we unlock the power of diversity to improve not only our business results, innovation but also our own happiness and well being. Simply put, in a commercial sense and what’s top of mind right now, inclusion is effective leadership.

In my career, I’ve heard the word inclusion many times. Regardless of my views on the topic, inclusion is a hard concept to think about, let alone to talk and act upon. Leaders tend to ask “what can I do to become more inclusive?” or even point out that the very word inclusion implies that there is exclusion. Mahatma Gandhi was believed to have said, “No culture can live if it attempts to be exclusive”. Regrettably, it’s not easy to spot one’s exclusive behaviors rather than inclusive behaviors. Furthermore in general, I believe we all tend to think of ourselves as being fairer than we actually are.

Instead, what if we could change just a couple of things in our leadership style based on research? What if we tried to add it seamlessly into our day to day? Maybe we could retrain ourselves without always having to remember it ourselves.

Breaking it down and learning from others. Research shows that people want to feel included, heard and valued, and they will go over and above if the vital need of belonging is met. So, we have the business case.

Another set of research provides four clear themes of what inclusive leaders do differently:

  1. Objectivity: They use clear, consistent criteria to make decisions, and communicate those criteria to their teams
  2. Belonging: Create cultures where employees feel like they belong and are valued
  3. Voice: Ensure that all employees feel like they have a voice
  4. Growth: Create opportunities for all employees to grow.

As a side note, they also found that while these practices foster a more inclusive culture for everyone, they’re especially impactful for employees from underrepresented groups.

So, if we took these four themes, implemented them into our own work, our teams and our processes – how could we add one personal or team thing, a nudge if you may, to increase our inclusive behaviors?

To get you started, here is one suggestion sourced from several different leaders:

  1. Objectivity:
    Use a matrix with clear and consistent criteria’s to review candidates or employees ahead of their performance review. Seeing all at the same time, against the same criteria, will provide a better picture of where we may fall into unconscious bias.
  2. Belonging:
    Schedule regular coffees or lunches with your team on a weekly or biweekly basis where you have time not only to discuss work topics.
  3. Voice:
    In meetings, track who holds the floor by adding your speaking guidelines to the agenda or even by assigning a specific “referee” for each meeting
  4. Growth:
    Add a reminder to your calendar to share with your team your own mistakes/failures and what you learned from them.

If behavior is contagious, what will you do today to act for more inclusion?

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