The term Diversity, Equity, and Inclusion (DEI) has certainly made the headlines recently and it goes without saying, there are mixed feelings about the work and its potential impact.
Many of us have had DEI professionals in our workplace, or been part of workshops intended to support inclusion, but the results were uncertain. Often, the stumbling block lies in leadership, knowingly or unknowingly being a barrier to change. This includes visionary, motivated leaders who want their workplaces to be dramatically more inclusive. Pam Jeffords, Founder and Managing Partner of DiversityWorks Group, says, “We’ve found that typically the problem lies within the process and not the people.” So, while the flawed process that a leader may have inherited isn’t their fault, it is their responsibility to change.
What you can do to be more genuinely inclusive
The first step in inclusivity is inner work to become more conscious of our own biases. The work involved in becoming a conscious leader aligns closely with the work needed to foster true inclusivity. Both result in increased awareness and emotional intelligence for the leader and more empowered employees. We can only change the prevailing culture and social norms by working with the majority groups that are seen as the “norm.”
While doing this:
- Engage everyone in the solution: We often tap the employees from historically marginalized or underrepresented groups to help us identify the culture we want. However, by also engaging majority groups in the conversation, we are getting a holistic picture of the culture while not burdening those we are trying to help.
- Interrogate your own biases: Be aware we all have intrinsic and unconscious biases. We also all have a highly subjective perspective, shaped by our past experiences and background. We might feel that our views are “common sense” or “normal”, but that’s only because they align with the predominant paradigm of our specific society. An awareness of your opinions and perspectives as subjective will help you identify where your biases may be coming into play and may be unhelpful in creating the culture you want.
- Take feedback and get curious: If someone gives you unexpected and potentially uncomfortable feedback, try not to dismiss it or become defensive about it. Try to hold space for that conversation and empathize with their perception of the situation. This will help you assess whether the situation developed because of something avoidable and if your behavior needs to change.
- Silence is tempting but not the answer: You won’t get everything right the first time, and it requires courage to speak out, knowing that you might get it wrong or face criticism. But sometimes that’s the only way to learn – even if it’s uncomfortable. Moreover, our fear of saying the wrong thing may keep us from saying anything at all, which is a form of complicity.
- Keep people accountable: It is exhausting (and sometimes dangerous) for those with less power in a system to call out problematic behavior. It is less so for a white person, for example, to hold another white person accountable, and essential for changing behaviors.
Embarking on this journey isn’t just about specific actions; it’s about stepping into the realm of conscious leadership. Conscious leaders can create genuinely inclusive spaces where every team member feels valued, secure, and empowered to flourish.
For more information about the importance of conscious leadership and how I help business leaders become conscious leaders, read my blog “Why Conscious Leadership Needs to Be One of Your Top Strategies.” If this course sounds like what you or your organization need, find out more information on our Elevating Conscious Leadership page. Join us and be part of the shift to a better, more inclusive world.