INCLUSIVE LEADERSHIP REQUIRES us to release old ways of thinking, act with humility, and open ourselves to new perspectives. These seven essential skills for inclusive leaders aren’t often taught in college classrooms or corporate training spaces. But they are vital to managing teams – and ourselves – through turbulence and into prosperity.
1. Understand Why Inclusive Leadership Matters
Have you ever wondered why so many companies focus on diversity and inclusion? You may be surprised to know that inclusive leaders can positively impact every aspect of company performance. From sales and marketing to supply chain, from operational efficiency to talent retention, inclusive organizations enjoy a sustainable competitive advantage. Learn how inclusive leadership drives bottom-line benefits and promotes a thriving organization. What would inclusive leadership allow you or your organization to do or become? Tie the work to your mission. Set measurable targets, and review progress regularly. That’s how you keep your focus.
2. Respond Productively to Change
Your industry is changing more rapidly than ever before, bringing a barrage of discussions about disruption, agility, and resilience. Professionals who adapt quickly can seize new opportunities and manage their careers. Organizational change management focuses on “pushing” change outward. But leaders at every level need a foundation in consuming change responsibly. Learn techniques for identifying and overcoming fear, resistance, and uncertainty. Create action plans that put you in the driver’s seat.
3. Build a Robust and Inclusive Professional Network
Is your professional network as diverse as the workforce and community around you? If not, you could be missing important opportunities for your career and your company. We all face challenges in making meaningful connections. Inclusive leaders understand the impacts of these missed connections, then work to recognize and overcome them. Remove the artificial barriers that may be keeping you from your next mentor, star hire, or big customer. Remember, we go far when we go together.
4. Focus on Strengths
No matter where you are in your career, you have the power to be a superstar. The key to your success lies in doing what you do best. For many of us, though, we take our gifts for granted and struggle to see what makes us uniquely talented. Take the time to recognize and celebrate how you (and others) can truly thrive! (As a Gallup-Certified Strengths Coach, I can’t speak highly enough about the Gallup CliftonStrengths assessment.)
Once you’ve discovered your own strengths, you’re ready to continue the journey. Apply your talents in the real world. Just remember, your strengths are stronger and your weaknesses weaker than you realize. You need help. You are also precisely the help someone else needs. That’s why you’ll want to harness the collective power of your team. On strengths-based teams, everyone is valued for their strengths, while also recognizing that we need one another to realize individual and team excellence.
5. Give and Receive Feedback Effectively
Many people shy away from giving constructive feedback because they fear conflict. And while many are quick to praise for a job well done, few do so in a meaningful way. Evidence also shows that managers give the most (and the most useful) feedback to employees who are most similar to themselves. That won’t do! Everyone deserves a chance to improve performance.
Use a consistent structure for giving feedback. Track the flow of feedback into, through, and beyond your team. Practice strategies for accepting both compliments and criticisms gracefully. In time, you’ll become confident coaching up, down, and across your organization. What’s more, you’ll be ready to seek out more meaningful feedback to propel you forward in your career.
6. Hire the Right Person for the Job
Are you ready to expand your team or backfill an open position? Unconscious bias can influence our hiring processes in ways we don’t readily recognize. This makes it hard for us to attract a diverse slate of candidates and to recognize qualified candidates who may not conform to our expectations. Learn how you can avoid common pitfalls at every stage of your selection process.
7. Create a Learning Culture
Ongoing professional development is an important component of a winning inclusive leadership strategy. But how do you influence your team or organization to adopt a “learning culture” that values professional excellence? Build and sustain an environment that supports your pursuit of lifelong learning. Teams with learning cultures outperform other teams. Companies with learning cultures outperform their competitors. Keep developing these essential skills. The work of learning is never finished!