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5 Ways to Become a More Inclusive Leader
Being inclusive requires concrete, deliberate actions from leaders. To reap the benefits of inclusivity, be empathetic, and develop better listening skills. Learn how you can help people succeed and play to their strengths. Ask questions, act on feedback, and create an environment in which your reports feel safe to express their opinions.
An organizational culture of inclusion increases productivity, improves employee engagement, and reduces talent turnover. Creating such a culture and turning the behaviors it entails into habits is not as simple as turning on a switch. Many leaders start with good intentions and talk the talk but fail to implement the leadership behaviors that lead to inclusion.
A culture of inclusion is a boon for organizations in many ways.
How can you give everyone a genuine voice at the company meeting? How can you position your organization to benefit from the diverse experiences, skills, and life stories your employees bring to the table? Here are five tips to help you adopt leadership behaviors that promote inclusiveness.
1. Be Empathic and Learn to Listen
To give someone a genuine say in company matters requires a conscious effort. Allowing someone to express an opinion is not sufficient. If you only let someone talk as a token gesture, your inclusivity efforts won’t amount to more than an exercise in futility. Adopt a two-step approach to encouraging your reports to voice their opinions.
- Create an environment where everyone feels safe to speak up. Don’t let a select few take control and dominate your meetings. Some people may be shy to take center stage. Yet, that does not mean their thoughts and ideas are less valuable.
- Show willingness to act on the perspectives and opinions your reports express. If you can’t act on someone’s idea, explain why that’s the case.
2. Allow People to Play to Their Strengths
Diversity is a strength because it allows people to contribute to the best of their abilities, and a diverse team brings a diverse set of strengths to the table. Leadership coaching aims to identify strengths in leaders and ways to put these strengths to use. Adopt a similar approach with your employees.
- Let them play to their strengths to facilitate engagement and satisfaction. Allow them to share their experiences and strengths.
- Talk to them. Find out what they need to deliver the best possible performance. Act on their feedback.
3. Ask Questions, Engage in Conversation
In my leadership coaching books and blog posts, I have always insisted on the importance of learning how to provide and receive feedback.
Intelligent leaders are always eager to learn about how others experience their workplace and the organization. Engaging in a one-on-one conversation with employees can yield several benefits.
- It allows leaders to gain an alternative view of the organization. This way, they may spot inefficiencies or gain exposure to alternative ways of promoting inclusivity.
- Asking humble and genuine questions builds rapport. An honest, empathic conversation that reflects situational awareness is a great way to gain allies of different levels of your organization.
4. Seek Alternative Perspectives
Empathy is about placing yourself in the shoes of others. By seeking out the perspectives of people who are not like you, you can experience situations through their eyes/minds, even if only vicariously.
Alternative perspectives broaden your horizons.
Executive coaching has always stressed the importance of proactively seeking out different perspectives. In addition to allowing you to understand people’s takes on various issues, a different perspective also exposes you to creative and new ways of solving problems.
5. Establish the Team Ground Rules Around Respect and Mutual Support
Set the rules of team interaction and communicate them to all members often and clearly. These rules form the basis of your team/organizational values. They define how you work together, what’s acceptable within the team, and what is not.
Executive coaching experts push for such rules as they understand that there can be no cohesive team culture without them. The core values your rules should reflect are respect and mutual support.
As a leader, you should provide a positive example for your team, demonstrating respect and support toward employees on all organizational levels.
Being inclusive is not just a state of mind or a pompous goal. It takes deliberate action on the part of all team members. It involves certain behaviors. And it falls to the leader to make sure that such behaviors become habits.
To learn more about business coaching and intelligent leadership, pick up my books.