We need to build a culture of inclusion where everyone feels valued, and creativity thrives.
“Inclusion” is a word that’s used so often today that it’s easy to overlook the meaning. In simple terms, it means making sure everyone feels “included” and not left out. That means they feel like they’re a valuable member of the team where it’s safe to share their thoughts and ideas. They have a voice, and the environment allows them to use that voice to contribute. It doesn’t mean everyone will necessarily agree with them, but they’re respected, and their ideas are not dismissed.
People make assumptions about others without conscious thought. That’s called unconscious bias and refers to our tendency to decide things about people based on things like age, race, gender, etc. For example, someone might assume that an older employee isn’t good at technology or has dated ideas, or that a quieter person doesn’t have anything of value to share.
For a manager to build a culture of inclusion, they need to become conscious of how easily bias takes place, then take proactive steps to bring that understanding into the workplace. Consider these suggestions:
Take advantage of FranklinCovey books and courses that speak directly to these issues, such as:
- The 7 Habits of Highly Effective People® (especially Habit 6 – “Synergize®”).
- The Leader’s Guide to Unconscious Bias: How to Reframe Bias, Cultivate Connection and Create High-Performing Teams.
Be intentional in meetings about reaching out and including people. Watch the dynamics of the meeting and look for patterns of conversation. Watch for people who talk a lot but don’t ask any questions; they’re adding their own ideas but not exploring the value that others can bring.
Pay special attention to quiet people and introverts. Extroverts generally form their ideas by talking about them out loud, but introverts process internally and shape their thoughts before expressing them. Take care to consider your introverts in the room. Instead of calling on them for their input, give extra time and space to allow them to formulate and voice their ideas.
When capturing ideas, share them in a meeting on a whiteboard and list the person’s name who came up with them. It’s a simple way to show value to a person and their thoughts.
Be careful of assigning the same types of tasks to the same people. Rotate the responsibility for notetaking in a meeting to different people, both onsite and virtual. Delegate all types of tasks—both challenging and menial—fairly between everyone in the group.
How do you start building a culture of inclusion? By starting with yourself and modeling it for others. Determine where your own unconscious biases are the strongest, then arrange to have lunch with people in that group—just to get to know them. Don’t prepare an agenda—just listen and ask deeper questions in response to what they say.
Start small and stay consistent, and a culture of inclusion can begin to take hold.