5 everyday acts of inclusion
Whether you're embarking on your inclusion journey or a seasoned traveller, here are some actions to put extra pep in your step.
1. Get everyone involved
There will be multiple communication styles on your team: some people will share their thoughts during a meeting, others might mull things over then socialise their views later. And even amongst those who share on the spot, for instance, people will prefer to do this in different ways.
Since your objective is tapping into the entire group’s thinking, you need structures that enable everyone to participate effectively. For instance:
In virtual meetings, encourage colleagues to use emojis and IMs as well as speaking aloud, as they prefer. Use breakout rooms to provide a more intimate forum when needed.
For in-person settings, put up a suggestions jar where people can anonymously submit ideas. Strike up informal conversations with colleagues around the coffee machine to hear their views.
Bottom line: get creative. The more ways in which you enable your team to participate, the richer and more diverse the insights you all gain.
2. Get curious
Ask questions to fully understand your colleagues’ points of view. “That’s an interesting suggestion. What makes you think customers will go for it?” could provide valuable intel to progress the group’s thinking – and flag hitherto uncovered considerations. It also lets that person know you value their individual contribution, and signals to others that their views will be treated with the same respect and consideration.
3. Sidestep familiarity bias
Need a report? Ask Jen. A blog post? Taylor’s your guy. It’s natural to have go-to people, but consistently only looking to them means missing out on what others can offer.
In one company I know, bosses routinely choose the same people for assignments. ‘Non-favourites’ are no less qualified or capable, just overlooked. As a result, many switch departments or leave the company fearing career stagnation. So not only do bosses lose worthy resources and constantly find themselves locked in lengthy and expensive recruitment cycles, they miss out on tapping into the diversity of thought that will help their business thrive.
4. Switch it up
When planning group activities, don’t always choose the same option. Consider all team members’ interests, abilities and cultural realities. Even if most like playing tennis, how will those who don’t feel when you announce the third annual team-building tennis activity? Similarly, does the restaurant you pick cater to all team members’ dietary requirements so everyone can have a satisfying meal?
At best, doing the same thing time and again risks making that activity boring. At worst, it can be an act of exclusion.
5. Be a champion
According to research, courage is one of the six traits of inclusive leaders. Saying you are inclusive is not enough: you must be ready to challenge non-inclusive behaviour. Remarking that you don’t find a sexist joke funny, for instance, or flagging a barrier to full group participation and working to get it resolved.
Courage also means being humble, admitting that you don’t have all the answers when it comes to inclusion. Invite others to be part of the solution by brainstorming with colleagues around how you can make team events more inclusive. Also, ask trusted advisors for suggestions on how you can be more inclusive.