I’ve had the honor to be a part of some really great life-changing projects, events, and situations in my career. When asked about my proudest moments as a leader the stories typically go down a road of inclusion and helping break barriers for others to succeed in new ways. I simply love helping others meet and exceed their own personal and professional expectations.
Being inclusive not only accelerates your career, it also enhances your business and elevates others in the process. Today, we’ll dive into a couple of different ways to think about inclusion, how to care for it, and some of the common traits that are found in these types of leaders.
Inclusive leaders think about diversity in terms of demographics
The initial place that many people go to when they think about diversity is demographics. This can be a great starting point for a larger journey for you, your team, and your organization.
From a forward-facing perspective, your team should mirror the customers and community that you are serving. Reflect on those two groups. Does your team look similar or do you have some work to do? I once had a leader that recognized the gap on their team but didn’t know how to fill it. They weren’t getting a diverse group of people coming in on their application process. My advice to them was to connect with that community of people and meet them where they are instead of expecting them just to show up at your door. Mix up your recruiting efforts; how you publicize an opening and change your approach.
From an inward-facing perspective, look at the make-up of the team or organization. are there more women at the bottom of the chain and more men at the top? At what point does the dynamic flip? Run the same exercise from a cultural perspective. It can be an extremely eye-opening exercise that brings some strong data points as you begin to tell the story of the journey that needs to be taken.
Inclusive leaders think about diversity in terms of inclusiveness
An inclusive leader knows that being fully inclusive is more than a photo-op, or just getting the right mix of people on board. It’s the power of diversity of thought that really pushes productivity, creativity, and retention rates forward. Companies that rate high in diversity of thought also lower their risk of loss by 30% (Deloitte Study 2018).
In order to foster, nurture, and grow an environment of inclusiveness, focus on these four things:
- Fairness and Respect: People need to know that they will be respected in their work and that their opinion matters. They also don’t want to see signs of favoritism in projects or teams. People want to feel like they have an equal chance to be wildly successful in their roles.
- Feeling like they are valued and belong: Associates won’t stick around long if they don’t feel like they can be their true authentic self. It’s not good for them or for your team if they feel like they have to put on a face or hide who they are. They desire to showcase their unique self and feel a part of the larger team.
- Safety: In order for your people to be their most innovative, vulnerable, and open they need to feel safe. They desire a sense that what they share will not be used against them, impact them in a negative way, and are supported to openly share.
- Empowered to grow: Once they feel safe, and respected and they know that they are valued, helping them gain a true sense of empowerment and then supporting that empowerment into real action is the next step on the journey.
Combining the sightline to demographics with the power of the diversity of thought makes for a compelling team that will be highly effective and one that others will want to be a part of.
Traits of an inclusive leader
All great inclusive leaders share some common traits among them. Here are some areas to think about as you work to become more inclusive.
- Curiosity: Curiosity in a leader is a great all-around trait to have because it ensures that they stay relevant as times change and have a personal and professional growth mindset. Curiosity leads an inclusive leader to seek out different ideas and experiences from others.
- Cultural Intelligence: This is an understanding that your worldview is not the same as others and the ability to seek other perspectives for a larger understanding. I recently saw this in action at a local government meeting where one group dismissed another’s concerns. They felt that since the subject at hand wasn’t offensive to them, then by default it shouldn’t be offensive to anyone else. It was an obvious show of a lack of cultural intelligence.
- Collaboration: This leader is aware of gaps in representation and is proactive to help fill those holes in meetings and projects. Are the right people at the table?
- Commitment: Being an inclusive leader often requires a culture change, and that is something that takes time. These leaders are committed to a long-term vision, instead of seeing it as a check-the-box project that you move away from.
- Courage: Along with commitment comes courage. It will take courage to step in a call out a situation, the current landscape, or have a difficult conversation with a co-worker.
- Self-Awareness: We all have biases. Have the self-awareness to know what some of those are or where you have a tendency to let your guard down or go on auto-pilot is important to lower those blind spots.
Self-evaluation time! On a scale of 1-5, how would you rank yourself in each one? (Some categories may be difficult to self-evaluate) Ask a close partner or advisor about how they would rank you in each category to get a good understanding of opportunities for your own personal growth.
No matter where you are in your career or organization, you can become an inclusive leader and have a lasting impact on others.
Make a better tomorrow.