Have you ever asked yourself why Diversity and Inclusion always appear together? Why isn’t Diversity in itself enough? Surely it should be sufficient to work alongside people of different backgrounds and experiences?
Diversity, unfortunately, is only half the story.
Benefiting from diversity of thought means more than having a diverse group of people. I worked in an office where we counted over 50 different nationalities, but in the workplace, most assimilated into a corporate culture that discouraged us from being ourselves.
That’s why we need Inclusion. An inclusive culture is an environment in which every individual feels welcomed and valued. In this environment the advantages of diversity can be fully harnessed; we can attract and retain future talent and develop a distinguished and sustainable competitive edge.
How do we create an inclusive environment? Here, I often quote Ghandi: Be the change you want to see. Try to role model inclusive behaviours that invite others to open up and be themselves without fear of judgment, retribution or career sacrifices.
There are nine inclusive behaviours that we can adopt. Here are three of them:
Empathy is described as the ability to understand another’s feelings. This is a key attribute of inclusion because understanding a person’s motivation allows you to adapt your behaviour and judgment accordingly.
Empathy is about asking yourself “If the roles were reversed, how would I feel? What would I do?” Imagine being the only vegetarian in a group of friends going out to dinner. How would you feel if everyone wanted to go out for steak? Would you feel encouraged to go along? Now think about that colleague of yours who doesn’t consume alcohol when you’re all preparing to go out to the pub. How do they feel? Are they likely to feel invited and included?
Understanding how others feel allows you to step into the shoes of your colleague, your boss or your client to understand the world from their perspective and tailor your responses, demands and services accordingly.
- Listening Skills
Listening is different from hearing what’s being said; it’s about listening with purpose to understand what the other person is saying.
How often do we jump in with our thoughts – and sometimes words – while someone is speaking to us? How common is it to interrupt and try to finish the speaker’s sentence? How frequently are we simply waiting our turn to speak instead of actually listening?
Listening without interruptions allows people to grow and develop. It allows the speaker to open up and to start building a trusting bond with the listener. It allows you to better understand the speaker– to show respect and acknowledgment of their perspective.
- Bias and Self-Awareness
Bias is our brain’s ability to make split-second decisions about people and matters based on our own filters and experiences. Our brain filters information all the time to help us make decisions. It assumes that all similar situations are the same. We judge based on those initial assumptions. When we’re in the hospital, we think the whole world is sick.
But what if those assumptions are wrong? When we’ve been bitten by a dog, we assume that all dogs will bite us.
What if they get in the way of making good decisions? When we encounter a timid person, we think they’re not cut out for leadership.
To avoid making poor decisions, we need to become aware of our assumptions, prejudices and judgements. We need to check them and test them: are we making a reasoned judgment or is it based on a potentially wrong assumption? That is where self-awareness comes in.
Self-awareness is the ability to have a clear perception of our own personality - our strengths, weaknesses, thoughts, beliefs, motivation, and emotions. It also allows us to become aware of our own assumptions and to challenge and test them. Self-awareness allows us to take charge of our emotions and thoughts and change them; it allows us to be more aware of our innate biases, be more inclined to question our actions, our thoughts and our feelings. In other words, the more self-aware we are, the less biased we can become, creating an environment that values our differences.
If you want to create a culture that benefits from the diverse contribution of each individual around you, start by grasping these three inclusive behaviours.