In a nutshell, being an inclusive leader is one of the most powerful things you can do for your team - supporting and making all your employees feel valued for the talents and perspectives they bring. Inclusivity is a group effort – everyone has to pitch in to ensure that a work culture is empowering and one in which everyone can reach their potential – but as a leader, you have a unique role to play in setting the pace and tone.
How do you know if you’re an inclusive manager though? Check in with our quiz and find out how inclusive your mindset is, the areas where you might need to do some work – and perhaps start some interesting conversations around diversity and inclusion with members of your team.
1. When a team member asks you for some advice on how best to tackle an important upcoming presentation, your response is:
a) “This is how I would do it.”
b) “Here are some approaches that have worked in the past – there’s no one way to do this, but it might be worth evaluating these and then seeing what you might like to add in?
c) To ask them what ideas they have for presenting the content, and discuss their suggestions and ways in which they could create a powerful presentation.
2. A team member wants to work from home one day a week. Do you:
a) Explain that you can’t give special treatment to one member of the team and decline the request, with outward regret.
b) Agree to a trial period of the new arrangement, but find yourself checking in more and monitoring their output closely on the day that they are working at home.
c) Arrange a meeting with them to understand why they want the flexibility and consider options for making this arrangement work for both of you. You also use this opportunity to consider how you could redesign the work of your team overall, to make it more productive and flexible.
3. Your team is tackling a new long-term project with multiple deadlines, stakeholders and many moving parts. To ensure it all runs smoothly do you:
a) Get busy planning and directing your team – corralling them with a hard timeline of deliverables and making sure you check in with them twice a week to keep an eye on progress.
b) Discuss the list of deliverables with your team and get their input in creating a realistic and effective project timeline. Let them take ownership of their own elements of the project, and check in with them regularly for updates.
c) Empower them to create a timeline for the project with SMART (specific, measurable, achievable, relevant and resourced) goals in it and to keep you engaged with the process through weekly progress reports.
4. A team member appears to be struggling to keep up with their work commitments. You know that they are also dealing with the demands of a young family and elderly parents outside the office. Do you…
a) Schedule a performance review to discuss the ways that they can improve their performance.
b) Scale back their responsibilities without telling them and discount them from opportunities that come up in order to avoid adding to their stress.
c) Discuss the situation with them to find out what sort of support they might need at work in order to be effective, such as flexible working or an extended deadline.
5. A team member comes to you with an innovative idea for a piece of work. Although you think it could work well, there’s also a risk that it may fail – and you may be criticized for allowing her to move forward with it. Do you:
a) Tell her that while you appreciate the idea and her proactivity, you don’t want to risk it given that she can’t guarantee it will yield the results you want.
b) Allow her to go ahead with it, but keep a close eye on her – and let her know that if the risks start to outweigh the benefits you may have to pull the plug.
c) Give her the green light – and allow her to take it forward confidently. You also work with her to mitigate possible negatives with regular updates, and creating a compelling ‘why’ for proceeding with the work in case of pushback.
6. Your team has delivered a great result on a recent project, something that is noticed by other colleagues. When they mention it, you reply:
b) “Yes it went really well – my team responded well to this project and I’m pleased with what was achieved”
c) ”My team worked really hard on this – I am so proud of them for getting such a great result” – and then and namedrop a few individuals who made significant contributions to the success.
You are largely operating from your own agenda, rather than a point of empowering your own team. To be a successful inclusive leader means changing your behaviour to ensure you are not being exclusive – and by default, creating a culture of exclusivity that will disempower team members. Learning to admit mistakes, giving credit to others, standing up for what is right – even when it is awkward or uncomfortable - and appreciating different points of view and experiences when considering team member contributions are crucial. Growing as inclusive leader means paying attention to and being aware of your assumptions and biases, and making a real effort to develop an inclusive mindset - it does not just ‘happen’, you need to work on it. The EverywomanNetwork is a great place to get ideas on how to start developing inclusive leadership to get the most out of your team and its talent.
You’re on the right track, but within your leadership you are still working with some blind spots that you might want to look at. You may be displaying exclusive behaviour, even when you think you are doing the right thing - such as removing responsibilities unilaterally from a struggling employee. Being aware of bias (including ‘benevolence bias’), assumptions and others’ perspectives on a daily basis will pay dividends in enhancing your inclusive leadership. Having the confidence to encourage your team members to solve problems themselves, come up with new ideas and develop their skills will enable them to grow and excel. Use the everywomanNetwork resources on inclusion and diversity resources to expand your thinking on diversity and develop your own inclusive mindset further.
Congratulations! You are displaying the six traits of an inclusive leader (i) - cognisance, curiosity, cultural intelligence, commitment and collaboration - and really working toward creating an inclusive work culture in which everyone can flourish. Your inclusive leadership means that your team are able to be more innovative and collaborative as well as feeling free to express themselves fully. Diversity and Inclusion are a living work in progress, so although you’re making real strides here, don’t rest on your laurels. Keeping up-to-date on the latest thinking and exploring inclusion and diversity resources on the EverywomanNetwork, will ensure you stay ahead of the curve and responsive to everyone in your team.
MORE READING ON THE EVERYWOMAN NETWORK
If you have five minutes: Five Things Inclusive Leaders Do Every Day (article)
If you have half an hour: Inclusive Leadership: new or nuanced? (webinar)
For a longer read: Diverse and Inclusive Leadership: a guide to getting started (workbook)
- The Six Traits of Inclusive Leadership (Deloitte University Press)