What are the barriers to doing this?
Inclusion, a practice of ensuring that people in organizations feel they belong and are heard, takes time and a significant amount of individual investment. The fast-paced environments we serve in today and the speed with which leaders need to make decisions present road blocks to proper inclusion. Insecure leaders that dread being challenged will also avoid seeking others’ input. Sometimes leaders simply don’t include others they serve because of their own preconceived ideas about the value of others’ opinions. They may think that their own ideas are more valid because they are the “boss” or their bias that a colleague can’t possibly understand the situation enough to give input keeps the leader from including others who may have different views.
Why is it important to do anyway?
There is not, and never has been, any one individual or group of people that have a lock on brilliance. In today’s business environment, leaders need as many different ideas and/or suggestions for improvement and innovation as they can possibly get to make the best decisions. It is imperative for leaders to maintain a “pulse” of the needs of their customers and workforce, both of which are made of different ages, genders, races, ethnicities, orientation, socio-economic statuses, job titles, etc. Trustworthy leaders are comfortable connecting with others regardless of differences and harnessing the ideas they bring.
How can you do it?
- Challenge your belief in the value of others. Like any behavior change, leaders have to first take a hard look at their beliefs. If a leader honestly believes that a person with a lower positional hierarchy than themselves is not as smart as they are, then that same leader will most likely think that the employee can’t possibly have a good idea and therefore will act on that thought by not involving that individual in decision making. What this may communicate to the employee is that their leader does not value them. It is important to know and understand the “why” behind your beliefs so that you can successfully change your behaviors.
- Acknowledge that you don’t have all of the answers. When a leader acknowledges that they make mistakes and may not have all of the right answers, it is an invitation for others to help in generating ideas. This acknowledgement of vulnerability, if communicated with humility, is a wide-open door for inclusion.
- Be willing to look for ideas outside of your own group. True inclusion requires a leader to move outside of their comfort zone. Even if we think we know what different groups within our organization may contribute, if their opinions are important to make the best decision, leaders should seek them out, even if it is uncomfortable.
What are some additional ways you can demonstrate to those you serve that you value their contributions to your organization?
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