Have you ever just wanted to watch TV by yourself on a Saturday night? Catch up on shows you’ve fallen behind on while not being interrupted?
What if that were your only option for a Saturday night? What if your friend were hosting a party, or there was a neighborhood gathering, and you were not invited? It’s one thing to want to take some time for yourself but another to be excluded altogether.
The same is true in the workplace. As humans, we want to be included in decisions that impact us, our teams and our organizations as a whole, but often, we leave out integral people. Intentional or not, this exclusion leads to disengagement, turnover, office gossip and avoidable errors.
The good news is that inclusive teams tend to outperform non-inclusive ones, and the time and effort it takes can pay off. According to research by Cloverpop, inclusion can help organizations “make better decisions 87 percent of the time” and make decisions twice as quickly “with half of the meetings.” Plus, in a Salesforce survey, employees who agreed with the statement “I feel my voice is heard at work” are 4.6 times more likely to also say that they “feel empowered to perform their best work.”
Whether we’re an individual contributor, a leader or somewhere in between, we all have the power to develop a more inclusive mindset. But it can be difficult to have conversations with people who think, act and experience life differently than we do, and it can be even more difficult if we don’t define our goals in doing so.
The first step to developing a more inclusive mindset is to recognize the importance of bringing diverse perspectives together. Having a diverse organization or team is one thing, but it is much more powerful when people’s ideas are heard and valued. It’s moving beyond just having people from various races, ethnicities, genders and generations in one space — it’s actually giving them a seat at the table.
This type of inclusion involves calling attention to unconscious bias and acknowledging that having additional and alternatives ideas, concepts and experiences is an asset. To develop an inclusive mindset, consider whether you have the habit of leaving out a certain population. Do you tend to ask the same people for advice and rarely seek out others (intentionally or unintentionally)? Are you comfortable with how things are and don’t want to rock the boat? Gauging your current mindset is essential before moving forward.
From there, ask yourself the following questions:
What Am I Missing?
Take a step back from the project, assignment, task or situation, and reflect on its goals. There may be certain areas that, if missing, would diminish the quality of the result. If this issue is something that you have not addressed in the past, reaching out to a colleague, mentor or someone else who can put the missing pieces together is a good strategy. Ask:
- What facts, data or other material am I missing to make an informed decision?
- What else can and should be included so we make the best decision possible?
- Is what we’re doing easily accessible to everyone, or are we missing something?
- Is there something that I should be doing that I haven’t done yet?
What Can I Do Better?
Whether the organization has existed for 40 years or 40 minutes, there is always something that it can do better. It’s just a matter of acknowledging it and making an active effort to create an inclusive environment that affords others the opportunity to share their input.
- Is this project, assignment or task the best it can be, or is there something missing that can take it to the next level?
- Can I make a better effort to get to know my staff or employees working in departments that collaborate with mine?
- Can I be better at communicating my needs, my communication style and how to reach me so everyone is on the same page and doesn’t feel left out?
- Can I be better at asking others how they like to be communicated with instead of using my own preferred communication method?
Who’s Not Part of the Conversation and Should Be?
This mindset adjustment can be one of the hardest to make, as there is always a need to include the appropriate people, communicate why they’re being included and recognize that bringing more people into the equation is not always better. Reflect on the goal, and strategically invite people who can bring a diverse perspective to the conversation. Then, give these individuals the space to share their voice, knowledge and experience. To determine whom to include, ask:
- Should I be reaching out to employee resource or affinity groups for alternative perspectives?
- Who has a different viewpoint that can challenge me and push the group forward?
- Who has a fresh take on the issue?
- Who has institutional knowledge that can enhance the project?
- Should I bring in a client to hear his or her point of view?
- Is there a different team or department member I can loop in?
Developing an inclusive mindset does not happen overnight but requires continuous effort. No one is perfect, and everyone has opportunities for improvement. The important part is to do some self-reflection and make the necessary adjustments to consciously include others.