Inclusive leadership: Make your organisation work for everyone

Charlotte Sweeney
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Role-modelling “what good looks like” in day-to-day behaviour is critical. (Source: Getty)

As we grapple with the challenges of Brexit and the implications of the new President-Elect in the US, creating more diverse and inclusive workplaces is even more important than ever.

Many companies articulate the importance of widening the talent pool and creating workplaces that work for everyone, but the required change is not always realised.

There are numerous reasons why diversity and inclusion (D&I) programmes don’t deliver on expectations, from failing to create a clear vision, to declaring victory too soon or taking the foot off the pedal far too quickly.

One consistent reason is that the changes made are not anchored into the corporate culture and are consistently seen as individual initiatives. There is rarely a conversation about D&I that goes by without the word “initiatives” being used far too often.

The following five steps will set you on the path to success:

what does good look like?

Focus on what creating a more diverse and inclusive company will give you that you don’t already have. How will it enable you to attract and retain the best people? How will it help you deliver your business targets and goals? How will it set you up for success in the future and an ever changing world? Being able to make these links to business – and individual – success will ensure even the most sceptical of employees see this as a business imperative and not a “nice to have”.

Create a clear plan

Delivering change won’t happen overnight: you need to create a concise plan.

Focus on the high level projects required to deliver “what good looks like”. For example, create and implement flexible ways of working. Once implemented, demonstrate a clear understanding of why those high level projects are important – what difference will they make?

Ask yourself why you’re doing it: what are the short-term wins that will maintain colleague interest and continue momentum?

Talk to colleagues

Any well thought through plan requires great communication to create engagement internally and raise awareness of your commitments externally. Identify how you will engage employees at all levels as to why this is so important. Discuss what the benefits will be to them, and define the part they play. Talk to colleagues and listen to their views – feeling that you have a part to play and thinking about the actions you can deliver in everyday work is critical for success.

What change?

As Gandhi famously stated, “you must be the change you want to see in the world”. Role-modelling “what good looks like” in day-to-day behaviour is critical.

For example, if part of your plan is to create a more collaborative workplace where thoughts and perspectives are gained from a wider group, then make sure you demonstrate so in your day-to-day activities.

Encourage and mandate your colleagues and senior leaders to do the same. When others see “what good looks like”, they are more likely to mirror your behaviours.

Challenge the status quo

Many people are happy to commit to creating a different culture within the workplace and fall at the first hurdle. Others push against any change that will impact them. This is a classic example of permitting barriers and roadblocks to hinder or stop progress – ask questions, find out why processes should be done in a certain way and challenge colleagues to think differently.

Charlotte Sweeney is co-author of Inclusive Leadership (Pearson)

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