There are some pretty big reasons to be a more inclusive leader, according to Jim Hemerling, who outlined his points in a TED Talk titled “5 ways to lead in an era of constant change.”
First, change is inevitable. We say it about the weather: If you don’t like it, wait 20 minutes. Change happens, whether we like it or not.
We are especially likely to resist change if it is imposed. Change being out of our control makes it even more difficult to accept. In turn, we become exhausted from the effort to avoid or stop it.
Knowing that their employees dislike change and will resist, leaders wait too long to act. As a result, some workplace change we make is made in crisis mode, which makes people hate change even more, giving us a particularly vicious circle.
The bottom line, Jim says, is that when leaders focus on anything except people, they lose.
What is inclusive leadership?
A definition of inclusive leadership is found in the Inclusive Leadership Model:
“Inclusive leadership is the practice of leadership that carefully includes the contributions of all stakeholders in the community or organization. Inclusion means being at the table at all levels of the organization, being a valued contributor and being fully responsible for your contribution to the ultimate result. Inclusive leadership creates an organizational culture that consistently produces results that benefit all of those stakeholders.
“We further define leadership as a functional practice required of all stakeholders, where individuals are fully responsible for their contribution, internally committed to assessment and growth and outwardly committed to a culture that invests in this same growth for everyone.”
What inclusive leadership is NOT
Here’s what it looks like when leadership is not inclusive:
Your organization is experiencing many changes. In the middle of the chaos, two division leaders are reassigned effective immediately. The individuals and teams are given no time for transition. Now, two teams are in crisis.
According to William Bridges, author of the book, Managing Transitions, change and transition are different things. Change is an event: the reassignments, in this case. Transition, on the other hand, is the psychological process we go through to cope with and adapt to the change. As I have shared in the past, the best way to work through transition is to focus on your personal resilience.
In this example, the company is harming themselves by giving the teams no time to absorb the change. Productivity and morale suffer for 3 to 6 months because of a too-fast move. People feel panic and are overwhelmed when change is too quick, and decisions made in panic mode are rarely optimal.
Bridges says the best changes are made in three stages:
- Going through the Neutral Zone and planning.
- New beginnings.
His research has found that a planned transition gives people the psychological time to accept the change.
How to be an inclusive leader
To be a more inclusive leader, you must have vision, create a road-map, and hold people accountable for results. Here is an example of how an inclusive leader acts in an organization where I provide Leadership Coaching and facilitate many training sessions.
When Takeda Pharmaceuticals was going through a major transition, Andy Dorner, Vice President & Head of Translational & Biomarker Research there, listened to how people were handling the transition.
“Offering support is the right thing to do for our employees,” Andy said. “A supportive environment personalized for each employee motivates and strengthens everyone to be engaged and strive to do their best for our patients.”
During this transition Takeda brought me in to offer Professional Branding classes for their employees, to help individuals better understand themselves and how they fit into the whole organization. The company also offered other classes to help everyone handle the increased stress level and be their best.
Andy values each employee’s uniqueness and wants to be sure their position is the right fit for them in their career.
As a result, Andy enjoys a high level of respect from his team. He enables his direct reports to excel by supporting continuing education, conference attendance, and networking. Most important, he keeps his office door open to hear from individual employees.
Strategies inclusive leaders use
- Listening. Ask for suggestions about best practices. Engage employees through open debate. Accept disagreements. Set the goal as figuring out how to obtain results, even if there is conflict along the way.
How well do you listen to others? Our obsession with multitasking and the constant distractions of our daily lives often make us poor listeners.
- Empowerment. Use suggestions from all levels of the company in all levels of decision making. Involve as many people as possible to find the best strategy to move forward when you can.
How often do you ask others for suggestions when making important work decisions? Being independent may seem like a strength but collaborating with others creates empowerment.
- Attribution: Give credit to the person for the suggestion.
Do you thank others involved with your projects and make sure you give credit to the specific person that made a significant impact? Sometimes in the rush of work life, we forget how important crediting others is to enhance one’s engagement and leadership.
Whether you are presently managing others or are an individual contributor or an entrepreneur, we can all use these inclusive leadership strategies to make a positive difference professionally and personally in others’ lives. Which of these three areas do you want to focus on this month? I would love to hear from you! Email me at [email protected].