As we will continue to face global challenges the need for increased critical thinking and problem solving are essential. Having diverse teams will allow us to see many different points of view and challenge old ways of thinking. The key is to have a functioning diverse team where people are included and fully engaged so all voices are heard.
While we are not where we want to be there is hope! Many structural changes need to take place to increase diversity and inclusion within organizations. It is also important to know that those of us on all levels of the organization have the power to make a difference. Here are some ideas that you could implement into your every day to help include and engage team members in your organization.
Keep people connected to the purpose – why we are here and what is really important? Select people based on the diverse characteristics needed to help move that purpose forward. In other words, select people who aren’t like you but will help you reach the goal. Appreciate those for what they do contribute and help best utilize their tasks based on their personality, energy and technical strengths. Keep the purpose alive through mission statements, visual reminders, kicking off meetings with a mission moment and continually setting intention & reinforcement around what is most important for the greater good.
Remove the boxes we naturally put people into through our brain’s need to categorize the good from the bad. Get to know people in a way that is deeper than the superficial level. Learn about what you have in common, discover their talents, what they are inspired to contribute and what they really want to do in their career/life. When we just see people on the surface we categorize them in a way that doesn’t allow for them to do more or to be more.
Challenge Your Assumptions
Don’t assume you know what is right for a team member. Often, we assume someone doesn’t want to be on a project because they have children or because that they have too much on their plate or because they weren’t successful in the past. Ask them! Make it safe for them to say no by building a relationship where it is clear you have good intentions. Let them know you are going to over-include them so that they are in more control of their own growth opportunities and overall contribution.
Create an Inclusive Environment
Encourage all voices to speak up in meetings. If someone hasn’t contributed in a while ask them what they think. If you notice a team member isn’t being heard give them the opportunity to tell the group more by saying something like “Sara, that sounds like an interesting idea, can you tell us more about that…”. Ensure that the boss speaks last allowing the space and openness for others to safely share different thoughts. Make time and space for open dialog. Many meetings are just information being delivered to others not a conversation that could lead to a higher work product. To increase the dialog, incorporate powerful questions into your meeting structure such as: ‘What’s Working?’ and ‘What What’s Not Working?’ Or ‘On a scale of 1-10 how are we doing?’ And ‘What would take it a few notches higher?’ Or ‘If we were successful what would we be doing differently?’ Or ‘What is most important here?’ Give everyone a chance to write down several answers then allow each person to share their thoughts.
Lead to Action
Make changes in the way you hire people or select people for projects, check in on your code of conduct, consider how your meetings are run or could run differently and figure out how to best onboard all members of the team no matter what their gender or background. One area that really resonates for our clients is to mentor others and be mentored. Help others see a path they could take and then advocate for them. Watch who people respond to positively and work to understand what they are doing to be heard. Ask for help from advocates including introductions, brainstorming ideas, support in a meeting or gaining useful insights. If a colleague is doing something that will prevent them from getting promoted have the honest conversation to let them know. Help them see what they need to see while staying curious about what you can do to decrease barriers and assumptions. And lastly, if you see a team member within any level of the organization doing great work help others recognize it too. Help them be seen for the good they contribute by writing awards for colleagues, telling their supervisors, mentioning successes in meetings or letting the person know what you appreciate in their work.
Addressing the area of diversity and inclusion isn’t easy and just bringing people to the table isn’t enough. Yet if each of us works to increase our inclusion of others we can make a difference in moving the dial. I look forward to hearing what you are doing and the impact it is having on the whole!