5 Steps to Being an All-Inclusive Leader

Inclusion is the art of being welcomed. As inclusion strategist Verna Myers puts it, inclusion is when we get asked to dance—even if you’re a bad dancer, you would at least like to be asked from time to time. Sounds simple doesn’t it? Then why do we hear of so many cases where a sense of belonging comes as a challenge in the workplace.

An easy example of this is the number of women excluded from the C-suite. A 2017 McKinsey & Company study of women in the workplace found that while more companies are openly committing to gender equality, progress remains slow. Only one in five C-suite leaders is a woman, and inclusion among female minorities is even lower: Fewer than one in 30 C-suite executives is a woman of color.

No matter our gender, race, ethnicity or any other differentiator, we all want to belong, feel included and be treated fairly in the work we do. It feels good and we perform better when we have a stake in whatever it is we are passionate about.

Exclusionary challenges continue to happen in the workplace, and it takes conscious effort to put an end to it. As leaders, it’s our job to ensure the people around us are included. Here are five ways leaders can incorporate inclusion into a normal way of being for their teams and within their organizations.

1. Be intentional about incorporating different perspectives.

Leaders must be courageous enough to intentionally invite and include different perspectives to the company, department, team, conversation, etc. It is not enough to have diversity in place. We must go the extra mile and do the work to ensure our respective leadership teams are being inclusionary. One example is to engage, measure and report progress on inclusion as a whole. Human resources departments must play a dual role, and potential, new and existing employees must feel like they are inclusion advocates as well.

2. Educate yourself and your team.

Leaders must continually educate themselves and their teams on the best practices around inclusion. Education can come from a myriad of places. Leverage think tanks—i.e. diverse resource groups, employees as a whole, customers, and training facilities focused on diversity and inclusion education. Diversity Best Practices created an Inclusion Index that measures employee authenticity at work. The 2018 Diversity Best Practices Index touts companies like Accenture, General Motors, Verizon and Bank of America as those leading the way for inclusion.

3. Establish a safe space.

Leaders have an opportunity to create an environment that is trusted. When the space is safe and open to feedback, there’s an opportunity to call out less than inclusionary behaviors. Of course, there must be an understanding that shining a light on behaviors that need tweaking may need some time to integrate into the workplace. There must be training to highlight handling of when said behavior is called out, as well as how to effectively call attention to unwelcomed behaviors.

4. Undergo an inclusion audit.

A great opportunity for checking where your organization stands with inclusion is to participate in an inclusion audit. The idea, similar to the concept of mystery shopping, would be to have an objective party visit and evaluate inclusion up close. This would allow insights into the necessity for changes and celebration for favorable actions.

5. Be inclusive in all areas of your life.

From an individual standpoint, there is an opportunity to be inclusive in all situations. Recognize that rigor is required in interactions with people with whom you don’t normally engage. Networking is a great opportunity to build your capability for inclusion. If you are in a situation where others are being less than inclusive, you have the opportunity to lead by example by embracing someone who demonstrates that they are not feeling welcomed.

By doing the aforementioned, leaders have an opportunity to create greater impact and results, not to mention the benefits of feeling good about doing the right thing. We all have an opportunity to stop and check ourselves to make sure we are leading all-inclusively.

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Simone Morris is CEO of Simone Morris Enterprises LLC, a certified minority and women-owned business enterprise. She is an award-winning diversity and inclusion leader, and a consultant and speaker committed to diversifying the workplace and training women and emerging leaders to take true leadership positions in all aspects of their lives.

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