Simple starters for leaders in building an inclusive culture

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AUTHOR
Mairi Doyle

In our last blog, ‘How to build an inclusive culture’ we looked at the role of behaviours, systems, and symbols in building an inclusive culture and the importance of leaders driving change from the top. 

In this article, we’re going to pick out some quick wins to build momentum, look at what challenges might get in the way, and how to overcome them, so leaders can create an inclusive culture and your business realises the many business benefits of inclusion sooner. 

Behaviours

  1. Openly admit when you don’t know the answer to something and ask others for help.
  2. Invite your leadership team to share their top three personal values and to explain why they mean so much to them.
  3. Regularly share your own strengths and weaknesses, and how you might be feeling.

Systems

  1. Recruitment and Onboarding. Have a process to ensure that your candidate shortlists are diverse.
  2. Talent Management. Reverse mentoring can be a great opportunity for leaders to learn from more junior colleagues, and people from a range of different backgrounds.
  3. Reward and Recognition. If you don’t know enough about what the person you are reviewing does, has delivered, and how, challenge yourself to find out as much as you possibly can.

Symbols

  1. Review your diary. Consider who you spend time with and who you do not, and adjust accordingly.
  2. Decision making. What items do you always cover in meetings, and what typically drops off?
  3. Consider the symbols of recognition – e.g. invitations to sporting events, and adapt them to be more inclusive.
  4. Ask your teams if you inadvertently use language that causes some people to be uncomfortable – e.g. saying ‘Guys’ when the audience is mixed – and make a conscious effort to be more inclusive in the words you use.  
  5. Ways of Working. How much time do you spend face-to-face with your people, or is communication mainly via email/remote?

Challenges and how to overcome them
The biggest challenges to building an inclusive culture are maintaining focus and attention on it. Changing behaviours takes time, it doesn’t happen overnight. But small, simple changes to habits repeated day after day soon add up into big results, particularly when they are multiplied across your organization. And many of the shifts we are talking about can happen quickly, simply by raising people’s awareness of their behaviour and the impact it’s having.

Next steps

  • Focus on a few elements that will make the biggest difference – for example, changing one behaviour, or system, or symbol.
  • Have mechanisms in place to give and receive feedback.
  • Hold each other accountable – via regular check-ins. 


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