How to create an inclusive environment: 6 essential tips for every leader

For forward-thinking and dynamic organisational leaders, creating an inclusive environment is essential to ensuring every employee feels welcomed

The research tells us time and time again that creating a sense of belonging is imperative if you want to: 

  • Leverage the benefits of diversity 
  • Encourage innovation 
  • Ensure psychological safety 
  • Impact the bottom line 
  • Engage your employees 
  • Increase productivity 
  • Develop an agile workforce 
  • Grow your talent pipeline 

Yes, by focusing solely on building inclusion in the workplace and a sense of belonging, then all these important elements will also improve – across the board! 

So, in this article, I want to share 6 essential tips for every leader looking to create an inclusive workplace environment. 

Let’s begin. 

6 tips for creating an inclusive environment 

Every single one of your employees, staff, or team members matter. They have unique contributions to make every day. And as such they deserve to feel like they belong. 

However, as we all know, unfortunately this isn’t always the case within every workplace environment. Diversity and inclusion isn’t always a priority. 

But what we also know, thanks to leading researchers in the field, that an inclusive workplace shifts the needle for organisations.  

Research from BetterUp shows that 1 in 4 employees don’t feel like they belong. And this is problematic because that means that 25% of the workforce may not feel: 

  • Safe or psychologically well 
  • Engaged 
  • Innovative 
  • Collaborative 
  • Productive 
  • Agile 
  • Talented 
  • Customer focussed 

So, it is the role of inclusive leaders to help draw out the uniqueness of all their people so that they feel like they do belong and that they do matter within the bigger picture. 

But being a leader who creates an inclusive environment doesn’t come naturally to everyone. 

With this in mind, let’s jump into the 6 habits leaders can develop to cultivate a workplace that promotes inclusion. 

Habit #1: Acknowledge the uneasiness of difference 

An inclusive leader is honest about difference and intentionally build a bridge 

You own up to the uncomfortable feeling you have because you don’t understand the different person in your team or how and why they approach things in the way they do.  

You know that if you could just understand their thinking and ways of doing, then they could bring a lot more diversity to the team. 

You are determined to be clumsy, to ask, and to learn from the other person and you ask them to meet you halfway. 

Habit #2: Communicate as one team 

An inclusive environment comprises one team 

As the inclusive leader you pull the whole team together because each person counts and is part of the success story.  

You have the courage to try and create the kind of trust that is at the heart of a family by embracing the messiness, the familiarity, and the natural constructive conflict that comes from a place of care. 

Habit #3: Intentionally challenge the status quo 

Inclusiveness looks like being okay with falling, learning, and being wrong 

Although things have always been done the same way – as an inclusive leader – you know that this will no longer suffice to get the team where they need to be. 

You are willing to try new approaches and experiment and each time you and/or your team are unsuccessful, it simply means that you’re one step closer as you continue your learning journey. 

Habit #4: Get vulnerable, trust, and harness the power of the team 

The common goal within an inclusive workplace is the success of your organisation 

Your bond is driving wins for your organisation, so as the inclusive leader you go first, and you let your team know that you are human too. 

You are not trying to be perfect, and you know that you have much to learn in your quest to be inclusive. 

The key is that you’re trying hard, and you need your team’s help to succeed – and they know that together, you will all get there. 

Habit #5: Courageous curiosity 

The winning formula for inclusion is me knowing you and where you are coming from 

You may believe you are great, but you know that together the inclusive team is unbeatable. 

You want to really know who each of your team members are as a whole person. When you understand each and every person, then everyone knows how to pitch and catch in rhythm together. 

You are determined to learn about your team and what makes them tick. You are curious and courageous in your effort to get to know everyone. 

Habit #6: Fairness means ‘fair’ tailored to the individual 

The inclusive team leader gives everyone what they need to be successful, so the whole can succeed 

Within the team, you are brave to be vocal about the fact that a blanket approach and ‘one size fits all’ is unfair. 

You are willing to adapt the rules and your approach for one individual to help them be successful. 

You are vocal about why you have done this and why it doesn’t apply to everyone in the team. 

Understanding these habits is only one part of creating an inclusive environment 

These tips are all part of the wider net of creating an inclusive environment. 

As the leader you need to understand what actions arise from each of the habits, what words you need to say, what your priorities need to be, and – importantly – how you measure your actions. 

Because it’s all well and good to believe that you’re an inclusive leader because you’re aware of these habits – but how are you going to demonstrate that you have successfully embedded these habits? 

This free resource is going to help you in the first instance. It gives you 20 ways that you can be inclusive in your everyday actions. 

But it’s just the first step to building a truly inclusive environment where your employees want to show up each and every day to form part of the success story that is your organisation, or your department, or your team. 

Take the first step towards an inclusive environment, today 

As the leader who wants to impact the bottom line, I encourage you to take the first step to start intentionally changing your habits to be more inclusive. 

Our Inclusion Habits for Leaders Program has been successfully rolled out around the globe. We have helped thousands of leaders harness their inclusion skills, so they feel empowered to support their teams and create more inclusive work environments. 

Start by taking this 2-min questionnaire designed to ascertain if our program best fits your organisational goals and needs around diversity and inclusion. 

Once you submit the questionnaire, we get back to you within 24 hours with your results. 

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