Inclusive leadership is a style of management whereby all team members are treated fairly, equitably and respectfully, and where they feel valued as their true selves.
Indeed, discerning employees are increasingly demanding inclusive leaders. As a result of movements, such as Black Lives Matter and #MeToo, many employees are suffering from “statement fatigue” – that is, a growing level of disinterest and even outright anger towards companies who publicly preach social justice, but take little action to address issues in their own back yard.
Whole Foods, Pinterest and Adidas are examples of big names who have received complaints from current and former employees for making sweeping corporate statements that veiled an internal lack of inclusivity.
Why is inclusion so important?
Inclusive company cultures allow employees to say “I belong here”, “I feel valued” and “I can be my true self”. When someone feels like they belong, they want to engage, to contribute and perform at their best for themselves and their leaders; the impact of which is enhanced creativity, idea sharing, problem solving, performance, productivity and loyalty.
While you could pour all your efforts into creating teams of people from a rich mix of backgrounds and experiences, if you don’t create an inclusive workplace, you won’t be able to utilise or retain the value of that diversity and teams will simply disintegrate.
Who is responsible for inclusion?
Everyone is responsible for championing inclusivity in their day-to-day lives, but leaders play an especially key role in the workplace. According to Harvard Business Review, what leaders say and do makes up to a 70% difference as to whether an individual feels included or not.
How do I become an inclusive leader?
The CIPD defines an inclusive leader as someone who is aware of their own biases and actively seeks out and considers different viewpoints to help make informed decisions. Based on this definition, here are our top five tips on how to become an inclusivity role model:
- Commit to diversity
Make an authentic commitment to building diverse teams through investing in inclusive recruitment training and practices. If people see colleagues and leaders in their workplace who reflect their own cultures or characteristics, then they immediately start to feel like they belong and that their voice will be valued. However, levels of representation are not just important for the office floor, they need to be extended all the way up to the C-Suite for an organisation to say it truly has an inclusive workplace culture.
- Challenge bias
Dismantling bias is an important step in ensuring the fair progression and promotion of marginalised groups within your organisation. But you can only do this by rooting out your own personal blind spots first and checking your privileges to see what influence they have over your own thoughts, feelings and actions.
- Be attentive
Understanding privilege will also help you be in tune with the needs – professionally and personally – of your team members. For example, while in the UK the vast majority of workplaces will wind down at Christmas, the same cannot be said for other religious holidays. Perhaps you could discuss with your Muslim colleagues if they would like to take some time away from work at Eid? Would new parents in your office like the option of flexible working hours? Can your organisation find a way to celebrate Pride to show the value you place on colleagues from the LGBTQ community? These somewhat small and inexpensive measures can mean a lot to someone’s sense of belonging.
- Demonstrate curiosity
If you’re not sure how best to help someone feel included, make an effort to get to know and understand them. Show that you have an open mind by actively listening to your team members – whether through 1-2-1s or group meetings – and empathising when they speak up about the issues they care about. These “people skills” are essential for showing your colleagues that you value their thoughts and, in turn, they will feel heard.
- Promote psychological safety
Psychologically safe workplaces allow team members to make mistakes, take risks, share their opinions and speak up without the risk of embarrassment or punishment. These workplaces tend to be more innovative, motivated and, most importantly, inclusive because they are born from team members feeling like they are understood, that they can be their true selves and are trusted by their leaders. As well as getting to know your team members, you can help spread the psychological safety net by offering something of yourself – be it sharing some of your vulnerabilities or admitting your own mistakes.
At Tell Jane, we can equip leaders with the skills to be inclusivity role models through understanding the benefits of diversity, dismantling bias, ensuring psychological safety and cultivating a culture of belonging. Email me directly at firstname.lastname@example.org to find out how we can support you.