Create a safe space for your people to feel seen, heard and valued
There are many tried and tested ways to embed an inclusive leadership practice into your day-to-day practice. Here are a few simple things you can say that will contribute to an inclusive environment in your workplace.
1. I see you, I hear you.
If inclusion is about making sure people feel seen and heard, well, see and hear them then.
Say things like: “I hear you” / “I’ve heard what you said.”
“I see you”
“I saw you today in the meeting… you seemed really engaged /
I loved how expressive you were / You had some really thoughtful opinions."
Of course it doesn’t have to be positive.
“I saw you today in the meeting… you seemed quieter than usual.
I just wanted to check in, is everything ok?"
If they say, “yes” - then let it go and move on. No need to create a problem when there isn’t one. But you never know, that could be the opening they need to let you know what’s going on with them and to get some support around.
2. Call people by their preferred name
An inclusive leader builds effective relationships rooted in trust. One easy way to do this is to call your team members by the name they wish to be called. This is a basic sign of respect and a way to make sure people feel seen, heard and valued for who they are and what they bring to your team.
Does the person like to be called by their full given name or to have it shortened? (example, my full name is Emily, I prefer to be called Em. Does your colleague named Michael prefer to be called Mike, Mikey, Michael or something else?)
Is the person using an anglicized version of their name? For example, someone named Shang Rong may call themselves Sharon if working in a Western setting. If that is the case, get clear, do they genuinely like to be called Sharon? Or are they trying to prevent their colleagues from feeling uncomfortable because people may not know how to pronounce the name correctly?
I believe in you to role model your ability to learn new names and pronounce them correctly.
Take the extra step to check in and get curious about people’s names and find out what their preferences are. It will pay off. Find out about the name origin. This honest curiosity in another person can really help build a foundation of trust. Learn to pronounce names that you may have never heard before.
Some of the leading companies I work with have audio recordings of their names in their staff directory. This is both for people with visual impairment, but also it’s a great tool if you’re working across cultures and there is a name you’re not familiar with. If you don’t have access to such a tool - you can check online, or if that is not possible, go ahead and practice directly with that individual until you get it right.
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3. Share pieces of yourself with your team
You’ll reap the benefits of inclusion and diversity more when you can relate to and talk about inclusion from a personal perspective. There is no need to wait for ‘official’ moments to showcase vulnerability. It’s powerful to share pieces of yourself with your team through daily interactions.
When you share pieces of yourself with your team members, you’re paving the way for them to do the same. Not to be like you, but to share pieces of themselves. Where can you find moments to bring in your true self?
In a quick text to a team member if you’re running late, Instead of “I’m running 10 min late” try “I’m running 10 min late because I’m out picking up something festive and the store was crazier than I anticipated.”
When a team member is struggling with something, instead of “I can see you’re struggling, there’s a simple way out of it, do this…” it’s “I can see you’re struggling, and I’ve been there, in fact there was one time when… Here’s what I do in situations like that now.”
When your team members do bring in pieces of themselves, notice it. And appreciate it.
A client gave me a great example of this. There was a new young team member on his team and in the first month of working together the feedback had been that it was hard to get to know this person and that they always kept their camera off in virtual meetings, etc (they work remotely so that means all interaction).
One day on a call, a colleague’s dog was barking in the background, and there was a brief chat among the team about pets. The next day, in another meeting, this new team member switched their camera on and revealed their cat sitting on their lap. It turns out this person often had the cat on their lap in meetings and hadn’t been sure if they would be judged for it or not.
Something as small as another colleague having a dog barking in the background opened up the space to have pets and show up with a pet, which, for this person, was something important to them. You may ask, what does having pets have to do with us working together. And at the surface, it doesn't. But it's about creating an environment where people feel like they can bring themselves in fully. Or put another way, it's about making sure they don't have to hide parts of themselves in order to show up.
When it comes to inclusive leadership skills it's all about making a conscious effort every day. Integrate small things that will lead to big change.
What’s a specific challenge you’re having around inclusion and diversity where a fresh perspective would be helpful? Check out other articles? Learn more about coaching?
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