How To Build A Culture Based On Inclusivity – Forbes

Posted: October 20, 2019 at 9:15 am


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Let's be candid: When we talk about "inclusivity," I've seen many people roll their eyes. They see another list, another policy or another process they have to add to what they consider to be an already full to-do list.

But this is not what inclusivity is about. Inclusivity is a representation of our behaviors, morals, ethics, personal standards and acceptance. It's our awareness of others, empathetic leadership and personal accountability. It is also a removal of cognitive bias and dissonance to an open mind. To put it simply, it's a willingness to accept.

I've coached many businesses on how to be more inclusive, ranging from large corporations struggling with programs to integrate women into a male workforce to small businesses striving to embrace inclusivity in all they do. Through this experience, I've seen that organizations tend to offer solutions that can actually perpetuate the problem they're trying to solve.

For example, if you appoint a director or make someone else responsible for engagement, I believe you're giving the board the authority to abdicate responsibility. Engagement is collective and owned by all, not one or a few. Similarly, inclusivity is behavioral and comes from a strong open culture, not an individual's responsibility by job title. When inclusivity and diversity are only owned by one person, they can become "exclusive" and fail.

Inclusivity isn't a job. It's a culture.

Inclusivity is how we should be, not only at work but also in all we do. In business, we know it can benefit the bottom line, engagement and more. If you are a leader and you consider the action of inclusivity to be unimportant, you're preventing your organization from progressing toward an open future.

Your role is to be inclusive and encourage it through your behavior, responses, actions and language. You can ensure inclusivity is achieved through consistent recognition, competence, skill, support, ideas, individuality and collaboration not isolated incidents.

Inclusivity should also be woven into the fabric of your company, including the culture, behavior, values and the very DNA that started the business. Assess how everyone behaves by looking at what influences their decisions, if they're receiving support, the challenges, failures and successes they've seen and more. Review these factors openly and honestly, and remember that equality also sits within inclusivity.

If your business is struggling to be inclusive and diverse, then your culture needs fixing. Inclusivity isn't a policy or procedure it's how you are. Inclusivity is a powerful message. Never assume inclusivity exists or has been achieved.

Below are five ways to help you make inclusivity part of your culture with responsibility for all:

1. Model inclusive behavior.

At my company, rule No. 1 is to model inclusive behavior as a leader. This takes skill, time and practice. It is a personal choice and commitment. It means you have to be self-aware, accept critique, be open, be candid and address noninclusive behavior first, both within yourself and among your team.

To model this, reflect on the values you present, and use the language you want from others. Your overall actions as a leader must directly correlate to the inclusive and noninclusive behaviors you desire.

2. Have a story.

Understand and have a clear story of your business, what it stands for, how it is and what it is. Repeat this story. Speak this story. Love and live this story. Behave according to this story. From my perspective, consistency in a clear story helps create a culture of inclusivity. Diversity, by default, is about a consistent approach to seeing a wider unbiased view. Your story has to reflect this.

3. Allow your people to act.

Empowering your team can easily become a statement or just something you consider "nice to have." But this empowerment needs to be part of your culture. Encourage your employees to make decisions. Doing so creates a culture that's open, honest and without fear. These are the building blocks of an inclusive company.

4. Remove obstacles.

Becoming more inclusive doesn't always mean you have to create separate plans and new communication methods. Sometimes, you simply need to remove any obstacles that are in the way.

Removing barriers can help the culture drive itself to a more inclusive environment. An obstacle might be someones limited belief, unbalanced bias, narrow perspective, commentary that undermines others, etc. To manage and remove these obstacles, act immediately. See it. Hear it. Be aware of it. And deal with it as soon as possible. Removing obstacles creates room for new, more inclusive beliefs, a huge cultural shift for many businesses.

5. Live it; love it; do it.

I used to have a mantra in my corporate roles, which I've since brought to my current company: "Live it; love it; do it." To me, this mantra reminds my team they are encouraged to feel a part of, contribute to, impact and influence the business. The mantra is about taking action. It also speaks to the heart, which I believe is integral to creating a sense of belonging. As a leader, your heart must be in your efforts to making your organization more inclusive. Following a mantra like mine can help.

In conclusion, avoid making inclusivity a role or checklist. When you create a culture based on inclusivity, it will never be exclusive.

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How To Build A Culture Based On Inclusivity - Forbes

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October 20th, 2019 at 9:15 am