Corporate policies, mission, hiring practices and company culture have an impact on whether an organization is diverse and inclusive. However, inclusion goes beyond what the company does and also includes how the people within the organization treat one another. You can work for the world’s best and most progressive company, but if your leadership and teammates are challenging or troubling to work with, you’re going to look to leave. For leaders who have spent years working in a largely homogeneous environment, they will need awareness and a desire for involvement in learning how the composition of employee populations has already changed and will continue to evolve.
Companies and individual leaders can work on improving their people manager’s involvement and awareness of inclusion. Many large companies are requiring their leaders to attend training. For example, American Express’s training starts with the basics such as what inclusion is and why it is important within their organization before breaking into small groups to discuss strategies to foster it in the company. Smaller organizations might not have the same training and educational offerings for leaders to teach them how to be more inclusive, but that is something that all leaders should be looking to personally develop.
While leaders probably aren’t setting out intending to exclude others, our words and actions can often have unintended consequences. If you’re looking to become an inclusive leader, you can do three things today to start yourself down the path.
The first thing that you can do is commit. Being an inclusive leader requires you to make a commitment, you need to truly value diversity and inclusion and know that it is going to take work and effort to change. This commitment needs to be more than just words on a sticky note, it means prioritizing your energy and time into increasing your own awareness and developing an inclusive environment. It means committing to inclusion being a part of your strategies, management approach, conversations and business plan.
Once you’ve made a commitment, you can further honor that commitment by truly listening to your coworkers. Actively seek perspectives that differ from your own. Don’t be afraid to be curious about other people and how they experience the world around them and how their experience is likely different from your own. When you listen to others do so without judgement and with an open mind. Seek to understand those around you and empathize and learn from their experiences.
The third thing you can do is to act collaboratively. Empower the people on your team to contribute and let your team make decisions about topics impacting their work. Put together diverse teams and workgroups and ensure that every person on that team has a voice and is treated respectfully. Actively engage members of the group who aren’t as involved and solicit their thoughts and ideas.
Becoming an inclusive leader is a journey of self discovery and action to support inclusivity. It isn’t something that happens all at once, but by making a commitment to inclusion, listening to your coworkers and fostering collaboration you can make meaningful progress towards becoming a more inclusive leader.