Unleash the power of inclusive leadership
Harvard Business Review published a study showing that teams with inclusive leaders are 29% more likely to report collaborative behaviour, 20% more likely to report making high-quality decisions and 17% more likely to report as high performing. Furthermore, the study showed an improvement in perceptions of inclusion in the workplace can increase work attendance by almost a day a year per employee. In this blog I will share how inclusive leadership has been a part of my career as a leader and how strategies I employ are helping to #breakthebias in the workplace.
Inclusion is a verb
Diverse teams that combine people from different backgrounds, skillsets, cultural heritages, genders, and age groups are far better at innovative and adaptive thinking; factors which improve overall performance. But simply assembling a diverse team won’t have the desired effect: we need inclusive leadership to ensure that everyone feels valued and empowered to perform well collectively. For inclusive leaders, taking the time to get to know everyone in the team—their strengths and weaknesses—and constantly adjusting the expectations that are placed up on that team are crucial to achieving the best results. Part of this ongoing commitment to inclusive leadership is constantly checking in to find out how the team is functioning in the moment, but also envisioning how improvements can be made in the future.
Breaking the Bias
As part of this ongoing quest for improvement, inclusive leaders must be aware of their own biases and work towards eliminating them. Sharing personal weaknesses and demonstrating humility enables us to learn and grow, but also creates space for our team to voice their opinions, share their knowledge, and open themselves up to improve. Awareness and self-reflection about personal weaknesses, being open about the work that is going in to fix them are key traits of inclusive leadership.
When making an authentic commitment to break the bias in the workplace, we must remember to:
- Challenge the status quo
- Create accountability pacts with our team
- Admit mistakes and offer solutions
- Hold space for other voices
- Be curious about how things can be done better in the future
- Be attentive to others’ cultures and customs
- Check in and adjust expectations when necessary
- Focus on team cohesion
Developing emotional intelligence
Essential to inclusivity is emotional intelligence. A 2021 study from Catalyst suggests that empathic leaders create successful teams in the following key areas:
- Retention: people said they were unlikely to consider leaving their company when they felt their life circumstances were valued and respected.
- Engagement: 76% of people who experienced empathy from their leadership team felt engaged (against only 32% for those who did not experience empathetic leadership).
- Innovation: 61% of people who experienced empathy from their leadership team felt able to be innovative (against only 13% for these who did not experience empathetic leadership).
When we talk about workplace cultures which attract talent and produce exceptional results, at their core are emotionally intelligent leaders who demonstrate empathy and care for each individual by checking in regularly, asking questions, listening and making positive decisions based upon what they learn from their teams.
Finding common ground
In my 30 years in sales, I have worked in countless different team environments with staff from widely varied backgrounds and what I have always prioritised is open, two-way communication between myself and my team. When the team has a balanced, functional mode of communication, the diversity of the team can be harnessed and aligned to a single purpose around what the customer needs. When different skillsets are aligned to this common purpose, it is much easier to be consistent with processes, responsibilities and ultimately, communication styles: we know what our team is capable of because we know what everyone is capable of individually. Having built trust internally through inclusive leadership, and externally through consistent communication, no matter what challenges arise we all know what we can expect from one another.
Enhancing customer and employee experience
As workplaces become more diverse, the traits of inclusive leaders will become even more essential to creating effective team environments. Now more than ever, we are looking for ways to connect with our colleagues and spaces to belong.
The power of an inclusive leader is being able to get the most out of the diverse range of skills and perspectives within their team by seeing the individual: who they are and how they function within the team. Making the effort internally to create high functioning teams through an inclusive approach does ultimately deliver the best results for our clients.
Now more than ever, we are looking for ways to connect with our colleagues and spaces to belong.