We often hear of companies that talk the diversity and inclusion talk, but fail to walk the walk. Workplace change won’t happen if the people at the top are not "inclusionist” leaders who create cultures where people love to do their best work and customers love to do business.
Inclusionist leaders share these 10 behaviors:
1. Inclusionists get to know employees every day. They don’t wait for a crisis to ask employees their names, how they are doing, or solicit ideas to improve the organization.
2. Inclusionists are not afraid to learn from hourly employees. These leaders are too secure to feel threatened by other smart people, no matter where they are in the org chart. They don’t "dumb down” or condescend. They raise people to higher levels. They focus on building employees’ strengths.
A client once asked me to coach one of his managers who constantly yelled at and belittled her employees. Productivity was suffering and people were leaving. Unfortunately, this woman was beyond coaching. Antonia was sure she needed to "set her employees straight.” My client had no choice but to let her go so that the team could flourish under a new manager who listened.
3. Inclusionists educate others. They educate vendors, contractors and others about the company’s culture and inclusionist behavior.
A security guard at the San Francisco Contemporary Jewish Museum told two women they couldn’t hold hands in the museum. When the executive director was informed, she apologized to the women, relieved the security guard and took full responsibility. The security company was educated about the inclusive values of the museum and told that anyone who does not share those values will not be in any official capacity at the museum.
4. Inclusionists treat people as individuals. They don’t use clichés like, "I treat everybody the same.” If I treated everyone the same, then everyone would get the same pay, rewards and feedback. If I treated everyone the same, I wouldn’t know how to seek and leverage the diverse talents, skills and experience of people in my workplace.
5. Inclusionists cast a wide net when hiring. They train recruiters and others involved in the hiring process to look at more than just communication style assessments. Inclusionists look at the whole person and know that talent exists beyond where someone falls on a quadrant.
6. Inclusionists appreciate different styles of leadership. I’ve worked in more than one company where talented women who were continuously bypassed for promotion left to join competitors. When I asked the CEO of a client organization why he never promoted key women, he said, "Those women just weren’t strategic enough, I need to find better ones.” It took him a while to understand that everyone does not need to be his thinking clone and that there are different ways to be strategic and increase profit.
7. Inclusionists engage new employees. They create processes that teach new employees the stated rules and policies — and the unwritten rules and paths to success. Employees can only accelerate their growth and success when they know the culture of the organization.
8. Inclusionists LBO (Look Behind the Obvious). They recognize, develop and promote employees who may not fit the traditional mold. Inclusionist leaders spend time to uncover "hidden genius” and look beyond the obvious candidates from the best schools with 4.0 grade point averages. (That formula would exclude Steve Jobs.)
9. Inclusionists take responsibility. They hold themselves and their managers accountable for employees’ ability to articulate the organization’s mission, values and culture. They also hold themselves and their managers accountable for employee behavior.
10. Inclusionists follow through. They keep their promises and model inclusive behavior. They don’t talk about life/work balance and then get angry if someone doesn’t work 12 hours a day. People trust them to do what they say.
Above all, an inclusionist leader always asks "What if I’m wrong?” and "What if the other person is right?”
Views expressed in blogs, posts and user comments are those of the authors and do not necessarily reflect the opinions of the Network of Executive Women or its Officers, Board members and corporate partners.