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Being an Inclusive leader

March 8th brings a lot of talk around Diversity and Inclusion.

Diversity across gender, race, culture, nation, language and every aspect that we are different in, is the diversity I believe in, not just gender.

I love this quote on Diversity & Inclusion -

"Diversity is having a seat at the table, inclusion is having a voice and belonging is having that voice be heard"

~Liz and Mollie

Organizations with above-average gender diversity and levels of employee engagement outperform companies with below-average diversity and engagement by 46% to 58% says FastCompany's research.

Mckinsey research says that companies with highly diverse executive teams are 33% more likely to outperform their peers on profitability.

While Diversity can be statistically monitored to some extent, inclusion and belonging are harder to achieve. If inclusion does not happen there is no leverage of benefits from diversity for the organisation and the individual.

An organisation is as inclusive as its leaders. I do find, that in principal, many leaders agree on an equalitarian workplace where everyone has equal opportunities and are treated at par. But what I find them challenged with, is how to show it in action?

Fundamentally Inclusion and Belonging work on 2 pillars - 'Respect' and 'Being valued'.

Actions that demonstrate these two aspects will lead to the workplace being more inclusive.

What strengths do we need to cultivate to be a leader who is inclusive?

  1. Individualisation: For those of you who have read/ taken the Gallup Strengths finder, this term would be familiar - this quality means 'to be intrigued with the unique qualities of each person and being able to figure out how different people can work together productively'. Couple of deep seated skills help you shine with your individualisation - the power of listening and the power of observation. Together they form a super-power to notice preferences of people, that is said and un-said. Something interesting happens when you start to be genuinely interested in people and their growth. They bring the best versions of themselves to the table:-)

  2. Holding differing ideas: "The test of a first-rate intelligence is the ability to hold two opposed ideas in mind at the same time and still retain the ability to function." said F. Scott Fitzgerald. Diversity brings in ideas from people who may not think like you do. If you run on a "similarity" meta program, you are likely to ignore ideas that don’t match yours. So these ideas get lost and the person bringing these up stays quiet the next time. If, for example we dis-associate ideas from the person who gave it in the first place, and just consider them as ideas, then the best idea emerges. The ability to hold opposing multiple view-points and then choosing the best option (may not be proposed by just one person) is a great ability. People feel heard and respected when this happens.

  3. Appreciation - A small thank you and words of appreciation for a job well done, help create the feeling of being valued. Care needs to be taken on the timing and the right intent.

  4. Being non-judgemental: Most people come to work with a mask (not for health reasons). This is because of the fear of being judged for who they are. Not judging people when they are authentic gives confidence to people about who they are. From that confidence emerges their value.

  5. Giving - If you offer flexibility with time, role or additional learning opportunities to the minority, do it with positive intent (for their growth, work life balance, special needs) and as a gesture of good will, such that the person receiving it does not feel bad about receiving it. This maintains respect in the ‘giving’ and 'receiving'.

  6. Letting go of assumptions: Sometimes we assume a lot of things about people based on halo effect (one aspect). Someone looking for flexible timing may not always take his/her job lighter. When the team needs them, they will be there. They may care equally for growing in their career. So, when in doubt, always ask.

How do you show value and respect to people around you?

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