“Included” is an outcome. An outcome you can choose to create…
An expression I find myself repeating with increasing frequency is “are you on your agenda or that of the person in front of you?” It’s driven by a realisation that too many people default to making assumptions or jumping to conclusions about what is going on for others. In life or at work.
To some gifted people inclusive behaviour is second nature. They’re in a minority. I think most of us have to work at it – to a larger or lesser extent. In fact being consciously less-than-fully competent is probably an honest place to reside. It can require focus and lengthy reflection to understand the realities of our societies – ‘white privilege’ being a fair example to cite.
I’ve previously attempted to highlight ways in which we can genuinely be on someone else’s side instead of behaving in our own interests, or with our own preconceived ideas: https://chelsham.co/we-still-assume/
I’ve talked before, including in that blog, about how we might slow down. And listen. Then listen again. Then keep on listening. Then try to understand. We might think before responding. We might challenge ourselves. We might try harder. We might be curious and interested.
The world in which we live has become less certain. This means that the lives of some of our colleagues may include uncertainty or anxiety. Just click on any major news website and you can easily find news that could be interference (or worse) for someone around you.
So…as a leader what exactly can you do? What will you do? How will you ensure that others feel as supported as possible? As included?
There is little more important for those seeking to unlock their full potential as a leader.
A few thoughts:
1: The uncertainty around the precise shape of Brexit is at its peak. I wrote this just after the referendum as advice to HR Directors and others… https://chelsham.co/brexit-what-an-hrd-really-can-do-right-now/ Two years on and the uncertainty is ever-increasing for some – including people in your workforce. Two years on and how many employers have taken the actions which were easily identifiable back in 2016? Crucially, what are you doing to reassure your people? Those from, and those in relationships with people from, other EU countries. Their worlds are possibly being turned upside down. Really. I know – I am married to an Italian and have friends from many EU countries. Some are genuinely fearful about what Brexit might mean for them. Again, reassurance is of critical importance right now – so far as it’s possible.
2: Aligned with this there is an increase in prejudiced behaviour and harassment in our society. That is a statement of fact. For example:
And so, as leader, how are you staying attuned to the life experiences of your teams? Which tone are you setting in your business about behaviour which will not be tolerated? How well do you know your team-members – direct reports or indirect? Do you know how they are feeling about life right now?
3: I had my eyes opened a few years ago to the number of people affected by long-term conditions in the UK workforce. It’s a large number. Those living with/beyond serious conditions and those caring for them. You probably know about the former – I hope you do and that your organisations are working hard to understand their long-term needs. You have to by law. But what about carers? Do you even know who is a carer in your company? What they are going through? The pressures they are under. Have they even realised that they are carers or do they think “I just go home and look after the person I love”? What exactly are you doing to support these amazing people?
4: Many of us are waking up the importance of thinking about intersectionality https://chelsham.co/intersectionality-inclusion/ Are you? Are you reflecting upon the path your new hire has had to tread to get to where they are? Are you trying to understand the barriers and challenges faced by someone who is in a minority group or groups? This is not straight-forward. It requires effort and consideration. So how can you fight to improve the experience of those who are not like you? People who may not have enjoyed the privileges you have. What can you do within your team or organisation to recognise difference, and that we are all different? And that this diversity brings great value to our organisations?
5: And my favourite question…how do you want it to be around you? Where does inclusion sit in that picture? Do you attach importance to it? Are you seen to attach importance to it. If not, why not? Honestly…why not? And to what extent do you create conditions where every single person feels equally as involved, as included, in the dynamics of the team you lead and has a fair crack at being personally involved in your priority initiatives/activities?
As leader you have the opportunity to set the tone. To ensure you are an inclusive business. And to take specific steps towards the outcome that everyone feels included. Equally included.
If you aren’t taking that opportunity you are undoubtedly letting your people down and are not being the best leader you can be.