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Tag Archives: inclusive leadership at work

Studies show the best teams are diverse teams—diverse in backgrounds, identity, thought, and more. But sometimes that diversity is squandered. If the majority always rules (or a few voices tend to dominate the conversation), those in the minority may become discouraged and withhold their thoughts and perspectives.

This happens more than you might realize. Women tend to be quieter in a room full of men, and women of color enjoy far less support than their white counterparts. And when it comes to diversity of thoughts and behaviors, introverted folks (those who lead with blue or green energy, if we’re considering this from an Insights Discovery angle) may not take the floor as often as extroverts.

This is unfortunate because innovators and creatives come from all backgrounds and have a wide range of personalities and behaviors. Some of the most brilliant minds in tech, for example, are former misfits (Bill Gates, Steve Jobs). Some of the most successful people in history were introverts (Eleanor Roosevelt, Albert Einstein).

As a leader, it’s up to you to include everyone on your team and to equally nurture talent. This is not only the right thing to do, it’s the smart thing to do. How might your team improve if everyone felt valued and engaged? What progress could you make if “all hands were on deck,” instead of just a few?

Let’s talk about a few ways that you can practice inclusive, effective leadership.

1. Actively seek feedback

As a leader, it’s a good idea to continuously gather data from and about your team. This includes feedback. Ideally, providing feedback should be as painless as possible for your team. Give them several different avenues to choose, including one-on-one meetings, anonymous surveys, or a chance to speak out during meetings. Demonstrate that you care about what your people have to say by practicing good listening skills and seriously considering making the changes they suggest.

2. Engage in conversations

If you do not regularly meet one-on-one with your people, I highly encourage you to start. A lot of thoughts, ideas, and frustrations could bubble to the surface once you’re in a private room (or virtual space). Remember: this is a two-way street. Be open and friendly, share some information about yourself, and dare to be a little vulnerable. Set the tone for a candid back-and-forth conversation.

NOTE: Make sure you keep any private information you learn to yourself. Nothing erodes trust faster than gossip.

3. Aim for understanding

It’s smart to keep in mind that not everyone shares the same views, background, and thought patterns as you (and that’s a good thing!). When you’re getting to know your team members, do your best to practice empathy and aim for understanding. If someone doesn’t feel comfortable sharing their ideas in a large-group setting, take note and see how you can accommodate them. If another person appreciates time to think over a problem before offering solutions, respect that tendency and encourage the team to not jump into a decision right away.

One way to unearth your team members’ tendencies, perspectives, and ways of thinking is to utilize a science-based assessment test. I have witnessed teams have incredible breakthroughs by using Insights® Discovery (I’m a Licensed Practitioner), but many other excellent assessments exist, such as StrengthsFinder or Enneagrams.

4. Pay attention

This should go without saying, but it’s worth emphasizing: pay attention! Notice when team members are not speaking up, or if they seem uncomfortable. Take note when one or two voices dominate the conversation. Once you see behavior patterns emerge, you can begin to take action.

5. Promote (or initiate) affiliate or networking groups

Sometimes, your team members need support that is more specialized in nature. If someone is part of a minority or underrepresented group (Women, BIPOC people, LGBTQ+ folks, neurodivergent people), they may benefit from meeting with others who share a similar background. There is power and comfort in sitting in the same room as people who are similar (at least in some ways) to you. These affiliate or networking groups can advocate for changes, swap stories, or simply provide a listening ear. If your workplace does not currently have affiliate groups, consider initiating one or two.

There are many ways you, as a leader, can practice inclusivity. It’s time to uplift those at the margins, listen to their ideas, and demonstrate that they are just as valuable as anyone else.

MARGARET SMITH IS A CAREER COACH, AUTHOR, INSIGHTS® DISCOVERY LICENSED PRACTITIONER, AND FOUNDER OF UXL. SHE HOSTS WORKSHOPS FOR PEOPLE WHO NEED CAREER OR PERSONAL GUIDANCE. 

HER NEW EBOOK IS CALLED A QUICK GUIDE TO COURAGE

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