The Ins and Outs of an Inclusive Leader and Workplace
Strong leadership has always been a huge driving force for an optimized workplace. With the impact of COVID-19, organizations have taken the time to change many aspects of their organizations, including fostering a more inclusive work culture by resetting workplace dynamics and having leaders practice and implement inclusive practices.
Why Emphasize Inclusivity?
- Over a three year period, diverse companies saw a 2.3 times higher cash flow per employee
- 43% of organizations with diverse boards saw significantly higher profits
- Racially and ethnically diverse organizations are 35% more likely to outperform other less diverse organizations
- Diverse teams are better at decision making, leading to better organization wide decisions being made 87% of them
- Diverse organizations are 70% more likely to capture new markets
The core of an inclusive workplace are individuals who can prove to be inclusive leaders and execute daily practices to create an overall diverse and functional workforce. It is important to find leaders who will practice inclusivity daily because it is not an overnight change for an organization. Organizations will have to look at their current staff to make sure everyone is adaptable to this change, discover where they excel, where they lack and begin to welcome everyone’s ideas on how to create a better business.
The Makings of An Inclusive Leader
Inclusive leaders are people who can minimize their personal biases, see diversity (nationally, socio-economic, practices, ideas) as a competitive edge for their organization, want to engage their workforce, and actively seek other perspectives. When filling the position of an inclusive leader, there are several traits that all-inclusive leaders possess that an organization should recognize:
- Visible Commitment – beyond giving time and energy to cultivating an inclusive workforce, they make diversity and inclusion a top priority, create a long-term welcoming work culture, and invest in everyone’s ideas and passions.
- Humility – while leaders are confident, they are still modest about their capabilities, can admit mistakes and hold themselves accountable and create a space for others to contribute freely.
- Courage – inclusive leaders could challenge traditional organizational practices and be able to accept help from others when it comes to their own personal limitations.
- Curiosity – demonstrating an open mindset, a passion for learning, a desire to learn different ideas, the ability to listen without judgment, and engage in respectful questioning are all indicative traits of a curious, inclusive leader.
- Fairness – leaders are aware of internal, unconscious bias and instead of hiding the problem, they face it head on. They do this by listening and valuing all contributions, speaking up against inappropriate behavior on all levels, allow people to be authentic and work to eliminate blind spots in processes to make fair decision-making.
- Collaboration – inclusive leaders empower others and help teams work more collaboratively. They pay attention to diversity of thinking, psychological safety, combat daily bias, and value less-heard perspectives as they would any other.
- Emotional and Cultural Intelligence – empathy is key to fostering inclusion and an inclusive leader will be able to see and understand different perspectives, pay attention to other’s cultures, recognize one’s own privilege, and value the experience of everyone around them.
Now that we know what makes an inclusive leader, it is time to shift practices to daily practices that build an overall inclusive workplace. While practices will change from organization to organization, there are some core practices that give inclusive leaders the opportunity to create the type of work environment they are seeking. These practices are included but not limited to:
Create A Supportive Environment
The right work environment can help a diverse and inclusive organization flourish and it starts with the leaders. All team members should feel emotionally supported by their leaders. Leaders can do this simply by actively listening to the struggles and ideas of their fellow team members. Team members who feel heard are more likely to share their ideas, feel more at ease in their work environment and are proven to thrive more when they feel valued. Leaders have all the control of the attitude of the entire team. When they show up optimistic, encouraging, and willing to engage and learn, it can lead to the entire team to feel the same way.
Diversify The Team
Inclusive leadership and diversity go hand in hand. Diversity needs to be striven for and leaders need to make sure they have a team filled with different perspectives, ideas, and backgrounds. If you find your team are all like-minded coming from similar beginnings, your organization might be lacking the diversity that it desperately needs to grow. Once an organization sees diversity in employees, it is important to invite and purposely seek their perspectives and suggestions. Varied perspectives can expand a leader’s own knowledge allowing them to avoid blind spots in their practices.
Inclusive leaders recognize the need to grow and regularly educate themselves. They can do this by listening to a different team member’s experiences, reading books, blog posts, attending seminars or even listening to podcasts. It is also important for leaders to ask for feedback, as a leader remaining humble and being able to accept feedback from their teams can only help improve them as an all-around inclusive leader.
Establish Clear Communication
Communication is important in any type of team, but it is especially important for an inclusive team. Communication processes should be put into place that adapt to team members’ preferred method of communication and how to find out and relay valuable information effectively throughout the team. It is also important that leaders have clear conversations about other’s experiences in the workplace by offering 1:1 conversations with team members regularly.
As organizations still navigate the new normal, inclusion and diversity are becoming increasingly important on employee’s lists for a functional, long-term workplace. Employees want to feel valued; their experiences want to be taken into consideration and their perspectives want to be heard more than ever. With inclusive leaders, organizations can only see growth when they welcome diversity with open minds and arms.