Culture, diversity, and sustainability are the defining keywords of the present day workplace.
Leaders and employees alike are searching for the magic formula to understand and theorise abstract and far-reaching concepts like culture and diversity.
Current ways of achieving diversity that organisations and leaders adopt are to include observable diversity like ethnicity and background into consideration when forming teams. This is amazing progress compared to 10 years ago when I was rejected for jobs in small companies at the final stage of interviews because of “cultural fit” and not due to technical or leadership abilities. Today, that is not just unacceptable, we are in a world where people actively try and work against such biases. That is a pleasant and welcome change.
Where the trouble starts is after the formation of a diverse team. Leaders and teams will not be able to harness the power of Diversity of thought if we are unable to fulfil the “Inclusion” aspect.
Leaders and teams will not be able to harness the power of Diversity of thought if we are unable to fulfil the “Inclusion” aspect after forming diverse teams.
So how do we encourage inclusion?
It is simple: lower judgment, be curious, explore together and do not rush!
This is the fundamental step- to provide a psychologically safe environment that enables people to share their ideas and perspectives without being judged too harshly. The key to this is knowing that all people and cultures have norms, beliefs, dogmas, and ways of thinking that can be unusual or fundamentally different in a different context, place, or culture. A common understanding that we can all be weird in a way and it does not necessarily mean we are wrong is a good start to being comfortable to both share and listen with an open mind.
Be genuinely curious about understanding the other person’s perspective. Declare your intent to understand more, so that your questions are taken with the right intent and not as judgmental. Invite the other person to ask questions as well.
This is where transparency and vulnerability come into the picture. Do not discount your own ideas just because the other person seems to be more authoritative on the matter. Declare your intention to invite feedback around your thinking. Take assistance in exploring the topic from their point of view. Evaluate the difference in views and their relevance to the context at hand. Especially in a business setting, there is usually a common outcome/goal that unites parties. This is the time to place the common goal over a person’s own ego or want for winning. The common goal can be a guiding principle to form a shared view and a well-rounded solution for the problem at hand.
Do not rush
If there are big differences in views, it is a good idea to take a break to ponder over and reconvene. Exploring new ideas together kicks everyone’s brains into action to processing the new ideas. And thinking over things, people might change their mind to lean more towards one's own view or the other person’s view, in the context of the outcome that the team is collectively trying to achieve. Even if the timelines are tight, a break of a few minutes or hours to deliberate over independently can work wonders.
If these ideas resonate with scenarios that you have encountered in your life, I would love to hear about them through your comments.