Building an Inclusive Workplace by Embedding Inclusion Habits

You may be thinking, “We are already a very inclusive workplace!” or “We really are inclusive leaders”, or even, “We don’t need inclusion habits!”.

That’s what I hear from most of the leaders I work with.

Why are we so insistent that we already have an inclusive workplace?

Here is my take on why we think we are already an inclusive leader within our inclusive workplace:

  • We have all done unconscious bias training – so we must be cured!
  • If I say I am not inclusive – that’s like saying I’m a bad person and I’m not!
  • I have been nodding loudly to all this diversity and inclusion stuff – that’s enough isn’t it?
  • I can give you an example of ‘Mary’ who is in my team – I have done amazing things for her (!)
  • I try, but you know, the pipeline isn’t there!

And finally:

  • Many leaders feel they are supposed to be inclusive. Senior leaders have issued edicts: ‘we are inclusive! You will be inclusive from now!’

Many leaders hide the fact that they really don’t know what this means in practice.

They are up for it, they understand the why, but they are stuck in their default habits. They are nervous to say ‘I don’t know what to do’ because they are supposed to know. They stumble through with what they think being inclusive means, but alas, little progress is made.

I have worked with over 10,000 leaders from all over the world in the last decade and a half – from the dragline to the boardroom. I know that leaders want to be inclusive and to run an inclusive workplace. But I also know that the majority don’t know how, so it’s not your fault.

So you don’t have an inclusive workplace? What now?

You are not a bad person or a bad leader. You haven’t been given the skills. Because being an inclusive leader is the counter opposite in many instances to the way we have been trained, its also the counter opposite to our instinctive human reactions to difference, which are hard wired.

Let’s face it, managing someone who is different to you is hard. It’s much easier to manage people who are bit more like you – especially when you are time poor, have business deadlines and some big expectations to meet.

It’s only human to find managing difference hard

Building this new habit of acknowledging the uneasiness of difference takes courage.

It’s human nature to have a degree of distrust towards someone who is different. Why? Because there is more unknown:

  • How will this person perform?
  • Will she let me down?
  • Will he get the result I’m after within the time frame

Our mind battles the risk of taking a chance on ‘difference’ – and where the stakes are high, we are more likely to opt for the less risky option – the ‘known quantity’.

Changing this habit to be more inclusive is hard because its hardwired. It’s all about building your inclusive leadership toolkit, because it’s okay to have your training wheels on!

That’s why so many organisations focus on the ‘diversity’ part of the equation and skip – or gloss over inclusion. By ‘gloss over’ I mean the quick workshop or the mention of it in a leadership course – you need to take a habit shift behavioural change approach or you may as well do nothing!

If you're ready to take the next step, I invite you to take this questionnaire to determine if our programs are a good fit for your organisational needs: Inclusion questionnaire

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