As a Latina and former head of HR, diversity, inclusion, and belonging (DIB) are extremely important to me. In fact, one of the reasons I became a leadership coach is because I realized that coaching allows me the unique opportunity to encourage change where we need it the most - at the top level.
Given that it's PRIDE month and the recent designation of Juneteenth as a federal holiday, I would like to talk about how you can become a more inclusive leader in today's blog post.
Let me start by saying that there is a lot of work to do in dismantling systemic racism and bias. There is no question about that. However, for the first time, there is more awareness and appreciation for DIB's value to the business. Gone are the days of extensive justification for DIB programs or talent.
The world is undoubtedly changing, and the leaders of today and tomorrow will need to be inclusive in the following four ways if they want to remain relevant in this increasingly ever-changing environment.
#1 Cultivate Awareness:
Whether we like it or not, we all have our own lenses (biases) about how we see the world. Cultivating self-awareness to identify personal blind spots within ourselves and society is the first step towards becoming a more inclusive leader. For this, you can seek other people's input and feedback. Ask for an anonymous 360 survey or ask a trusted friend to be honest with you. Another very effective way is to take a couple of assessments, such as the Implicit Association Test, which helps identify biases, or the ELI assessment that helps identify what lens you are looking at the world through and your default attitude.
#2 Demonstrate Curiosity:
Second to awareness is curiosity. Show up with a deep interest in how others see the world. Seek to understand first by listening without judgment. Inclusive leaders are curious in their interactions; they deploy empathy, appreciate where others are coming from and what they might be experiencing.
If you want to improve in this area, pause before offering up an opinion, asking open-ended questions, and acknowledging and validating other people's perspectives. This way, you are communicating that you genuinely care about what other voices have to say.
#3 Foster a safe environment:
Inclusive leaders model psychological safety and seek input and feedback directly from people whose voices may differ. They allow for diverse thinking by guiding interactions to create opportunities for people to relate with each other.
Here are a couple of ideas on how you can model more psychological safety:
Invite participation. In your next meeting, ask who's the voice in the room we do not hear from? Allow room for "inclusion bits" by intentionally allowing those who are naturally shy to have their voices heard. Openly asking people for their input and personalizing how to interact with different personalities shows that everyone's perspective is valuable.
Destigmatize failure. Instead, focus on fostering a growth mindset. When something goes wrong, encourage the team to focus on the lessons learned, encourage brainstorming of solutions or next steps instead of blaming. In that way, people can feel like they can communicate potential issues and most likely feel like they can bring their authentic selves to work.
#4 Show Courageous Commitment:
Inclusive leaders show courageous commitment to diversity, inclusion, and belonging. They are committed to being allies and hold others accountable when needed. This is extremely important because there is nothing more disheartening than a leader that only pays lip service to DIBs. An inclusive leader will not tolerate being a bystander and sanction any violations decisively.
So there you have it. When leaders practice these four behaviors in tandem, the work environment changes towards a more inclusive experience for everyone, making them inclusive leaders.
One last comment, you must start with self-awareness and have the humility to understand that sometimes we all need help. Same as we need mirrors or software in our cars to uncover your potential blind spots, a certified coach like myself can help you to do this and keep you accountable as you continue your path forward. For this reason, and if you are ready to commit to your personal growth and inclusion, I would like to invite you to book a call with me today. Let me guide you in your journey to authentic, inclusive leadership.