“Inclusivity isn’t a special initiative – it’s a way of life”

Written by Kevin Murray CCMI Monday 29 June 2020
How inclusive are you, really? Here’s a personal checklist to find out, and a set of techniques from a world-leading management thinker on how you can make inclusivity a consideration in all your decisions

Great managers know that relationships are the engines of success, and that strong relationships are forged by open and two-way communications. These kinds of inclusive leaders seek to create a sense of community and build relationships for the long term.

This is the inclusive leader’s checklist. Rate yourself on a scale of 0 – 10 on these points, where 1 is hardly ever and 10 is always:

  • Do you genuinely believe inclusivity is a good thing? Do you behave in an inclusive way every day?
  • Do you examine your unconscious biases, and seek to change them and the words you use in order to be more inclusive?
  • Do you encourage diversity and take action to promote it?
  • Do you strive to make every member of your team feel included and promote a culture of inclusivity in the team?
  • Do you include your team in the leadership of your organization, and encourage them to develop their leadership mindset and skills?
  • Do you include everyone in your vision and goal setting, and then ensure they know what to do because they understand their role and what decision-making powers they have to deliver the vision?
  • Do you include all of your key stakeholders from outside your team when you are problem-solving or trying to create new solutions and new ideas? Do you believe in the idea of co-creation as the route to the best possible solutions?

So how can you improve your performance?

The best managers embrace and actively encourage diversity and facilitate involvement in their teams by building strong relationships (there’s no point having a diverse team if you then don’t engage everyone).

In the same way, great managers seek involvement from a wide range of customers and suppliers, knowing that real diversity of thinking from inside and outside their organisations leads to more creativity and to better results. They even include their teams in the leadership of their endeavours, creating a team of leaders, not followers.

To them, being inclusive is not a “special initiative” – it’s a way of life.

Inherently, we know that inclusivity is a good thing. However, I don’t believe we always understand that inclusivity is multi-dimensional. At its most basic level, it is about including every individual who is a member of a team and giving them a sense of belonging and equality, no matter their age, ethnicity, nationality, religion or gender.

Diverse thinking

With all of the benefits that a wide range of experience, points of view and ways of thinking will bring to a team, inclusivity is about a team of very different but equal people sharing ideas and throwing down challenges because they feel safe and included and encouraged to do so.

Inclusivity is also about bringing all of your stakeholders into your decision-making process, whether it be customers, suppliers, colleagues from other parts of the business, or anyone else who contributes to your success.

Great leaders create more leaders

Inclusivity is about including people in leadership itself. Good leaders create a brilliant team of followers. Great leaders – charismatic leaders – create around them a team of leaders.

As a leader, we get things done through others, so the more we include them in our plans, our culture and our way of doing things, the more likely we are to succeed. If we are truly inclusive, our mindset will be to create a leader out of every member of our team. The more leaders you have, the better your chances of success.

Every employee needs to have a leadership mindset in order to be able to take the action necessary to quickly satisfy customers, deal with issues and make things happen without having to go up and down a complicated chain of command.

They can only do this if they’re included in thinking about strategy, goals, and long-term success - which means they need to be included in the culture and values of the organisation so that they can make appropriate decisions. They need to know why they’re doing things, why it is important, and what success looks like.

If all of those things are truly embedded, and each employee has a leadership mindset, they will be able to make decisions that are good for customers, good for the community, good for the company and ultimately good for shareholders. Leaders who keep information to themselves and don’t include everyone in their thinking will soon find themselves with problems mounting up to impossible levels.

Employees with choice buy into change

We often fall into the trap of thinking that people hate change. They may hate the word ‘change’, but they love the idea of ‘choice’. When leaders include members of their team in creating choices, there is very little need to get them to buy into what needs to be done: it’s their suggestion and all you have to do is get out of the way.

Charismatic leaders who do this shine because they’re not being held back by pride or fear. They don’t worry about whether the people they lead will develop and climb higher up the career ladder; they know that team members who can replace them enable the leaders themselves to progress higher up the chain. You can’t be promoted if you can’t be replaced.

To be truly inclusive, we have to change our mindset and ensure that we make inclusivity an active consideration in everything we do - every day. We have to watch for those unconscious biases that may inhibit how we think about people. We all have these in different ways, but to be truly inclusive, we need to understand them and prevent them from limiting our inclusivity.

Everyone is equal and everyone has strengths. No matter where they come from, how old they are, their gender, race or nationality. They use gender-inclusive language, and they avoid generalisations or stereotypes. They don’t make sweeping statements about social groups, nor do they make personal assumptions based on gender or culture, age or social group.

You are all part of a team, and charismatic leaders always use language to reflect this: “It is about us”, “We achieve this”.

To be more charismatic, good leaders take time to educate themselves about the words and phrases and perspectives that might offend. They cultivate a mindset that everyone has strengths, and everyone is equal, which means everyone should be included. Everyone has something to bring to the party.

Innovation is better with diverse teams

Inclusive leaders know that during meetings, everyone’s voices are equal and should be heard. Diversity drives better discussions, better discussions lead to better insights, and better insights lead to better decisions. Not one of us is smarter than all of us. They know that differences can be challenging but encourage members to be respectful of different views. They nurture respectful disagreement and debate. This is why inclusive leaders are always aware of who has and hasn’t spoken, and must never allow bad behaviour which marginalises or isolates anyone.

And one final thing...

Inclusivity and diversity enable teams to out-think and out-perform more homogeneous organisations – ALL THE TIME. Workplace diversity delivers a far higher degree of innovation, has a hugely positive effect on company culture, and also has the less visible but no less important benefit of being able to diversify a customer or client base. All that leads to huge increases in revenue and productivity.

Kevin Murray CCMI, is a business author and speaker with more than 45 years of leadership experience. This is an exclusive extract from his new book Charismatic Leadership: The skills you can learn to motivate high performance in others (published by Kogan Page). You can find out more about his work here.

CMI recently hosted a roundtable that covered inclusivity - why not check out the key points?

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