If you can’t communicate well, you can’t be a good inclusive leader
In this guest article, Advita Patel, Founder of CommsRebel, discusses how inclusive leadership is a recipe for thriving teams.
Your team depends on you to lead them to success. To do that you need to curate a safe space where everyone can thrive, build trust, communicate frequently, and ensure colleagues are clear on how they add value. Whether you are a leader in a large organisation, in your own business, or in a small team, it’s critical to understand people as individuals and how you can personalise your support to them. If you don’t know your team, and what inspires them, you are at risk of not including them or helping them feel valued in their role. This can lead to poor performance, sickness, high attrition, and disengagement – which ultimately will impact the bottom line.
The inclusive leader’s toolkit
To avoid tokenistic gestures, micro-moments can have an incredible impact. Here are five practical steps on how you can be an inclusive leader and the three pitfalls to avoid when you are cultivating a culture of inclusion.
Five practical steps to be an inclusive leader:
1. Lead with curiosity
Ask questions to find out more about your colleagues. ‘How can I help you thrive?’ is a great opener. This will help you understand how you can better support them.
2. Check your bias
Reflect on how you treat people and consider the assumptions you might make about them. We all have unconscious biases, but we can become more aware of our dead spots by acknowledging them and asking for feedback.
3. Personalise your approach
A blanket approach is never going to reap results. How can you personalise your interactions with people? How can you treat them as individuals?
4. Create feedback loops
Encourage your team to share their feedback on all aspects of their work life, including their leaders. Remember to show how feedback will be used, and if it isn’t, explain why not.
5. Review strengths
Go through your team and consider their strengths. Build in all that you’ve learned about everyone.
Walking the talk
Three pitfalls to avoid being seen as tokenistic or performative (basically doing things for show and not contributing to any change)
1. Bombarding people with information without explaining the purpose or call to action
This is the biggest criticism I hear when working with organisations. If you’re sending information out frequently, but you’re not explaining the why or what you want people to do with it – they will switch off and become disconnected.
2. Behaviours not aligning with the messaging
I can’t tell you how many times I’ve reviewed messages and then looked over HR policies or had conversations with colleagues only to see massive contradictions. You can’t say we offer flexible working but then have managers restrict how people choose to work or tell colleagues everyone’s voice matters but not have any form of two-way interaction. Make sure there’s a safe space for your leaders to ask questions, separately from the broader colleague population.
3. Creating a campaign without checking what the data is telling you
I will always advocate for using data to help identify the gaps and barriers before campaigns are created. Look at your engagement scores by demographics, where are most of the comments coming from in your internal social media sites, and most importantly, which groups are staying quiet – is there a pattern of behaviour? Get into the detail as this information will help you create a more meaningful campaign that will help make a difference.
Be mindful of what you’re trying to achieve, and don’t fall into the trap of doing something for the sake of doing it. That can be more harmful than not doing anything at all. As we shared in my latest book, Building a Culture of Inclusion, progress over perfection, every time.