The last 2 years have put immense pressure on leaders due to the rapid and diverse changes in our workplace realities. Social isolation, childcare issues, virtual meeting fatigue, blurred work-life boundaries, technological barriers and constant uncertainty are just some of the challenges we’ve had to face. On the other hand, we’re also finding that these major disruptions have provided great learning opportunities to create more diverse and fairer workplaces. Most workplaces nowadays have great procedures in place to protect staff’s physical safety, since the pandemic it has become clearer than ever that organisations need to focus just as much on psychosocial risk factors if staying ahead of the game.
We know from research that diversity can cause major friction in teams when not managed well, but likewise the most outstanding performance is usually delivered by truly diverse and well lead teams. Evidence is mounting that in a progressively global marketplace we need to progress from making everyone ‘fit in’ with company culture to an ‘enhance culture’ approach via genuine diversity, equity and inclusion approaches. Managers are well placed to influence and lead on this positive change.
There are some signature traits that inclusive leaders nurture. These include courage, genuine curiosity about difference, awareness and competence around unconscious bias and cultural influences, visible commitment, effective collaboration, and most of all empathy. Interestingly, inclusive leadership isn’t defined through given traits, but a trainable skillset. Effective inclusion is increasingly recognised as an essential leadership capability. Managers can not only embrace individual differences but recognise them as invaluable opportunities to create psychologically safer working environments and ultimately better performance.
So how can managers create a safer environment where different perspectives, ideas and approaches are cherished and people feel truly valued, validated, and treated fairly? There are some easy to implement tools and team activities to bolster leadership competence.
These are insightful activities that managers can first experience themselves to increase their own awareness and competence. They can then implement them into team meetings, enhance their team building days and other events. These exercises are centred around perspective taking, challenging biases, active listening, discovering blind spots and privilege blindness, power relations, speaking up proactively, identifying barriers, stereotypes and amplifying underrepresented voices. These activities are suitable in face-to-face meetings and can also be used via collaborative, virtual tools. They can really help to keep a remote workforce connected and engaged, increasing people’s sense of belonging and feeling that difference is highly valued by their organisation. We know that there is also a substantial overlap between inclusion, mental health and performance. We teach managers and team members how to use mental health barometers effectively for wellbeing conversations. These form a great basis for more open dialogues that can reveal otherwise hidden barriers and support more inclusive practices.
Of course, inclusive leadership is rather a dynamic process that requires proactive effort, so it’s often difficult to know where to start. If you want to help your managers leading with truly inclusive leadership, feel free to get in touch to find out more. We offer one off workshops, whole behaviour change programmes and bespoke courses.