By Gordon Yee
Inclusion is quite the buzzword today and, like many buzzwords, we may be tempted to just ride it out until it is over. But what if it isn’t a buzzword? What if it is the latest evolution in leadership, and helps us to get to the place that we all want to be?
An inclusive environment is one where the contributions of everyone are appreciated from each member of the team; each person is recognized as an individual with a particular skill set that contributes to the team.
We are fortunate that the typical Toastmasters environment tends to be an inclusive one. Not everyone is the best speaker, evaluator, Toastmaster, etc., but chances are, we still appreciate them for what they DO bring. This appreciation is what an inclusive environment strives to achieve, and it recognizes that people are motivated by so much more than money. After all, are you paid to go to Toastmasters?
Some potential benefits of being in an inclusive environment are:
Protection – People feel protected by the team, and as a result, will protect the team. This means that they will contribute to ensure tasks get done, mistakes are corrected, and that the overall responsibilities of the team will be met.
Involvement – Members of the team will be more involved, not only in their own tasks, but in the overall goals of the team.
Loyalty – Once on an inclusive team, people tend to be more loyal, and will not leave for small increases in status or salary. They would rather stay where they are appreciated.
Trust – There are no secrets on an inclusive team, and each member can trust the other within the confines of the workplace.
Transparency – All goals and objectives of the team are communicated to the team. This allows each team member to see their role in the team to achieve those goals.
Communication – As a necessity to all the above, communication is at the heart of an inclusive environment.
So how do you get there? Simple. EACH.
Empowerment. Accountability. Courage. Humility.
I wish I could take full credit for the development of EACH; however it is a philosophy that I was introduced to through Catalyst, a global non-profit focused on accelerating progress for women through workplace inclusion.
An Inclusive Leader will empower his team and involve them in the decision process. Since you value people for what they do well, an empowering leader will not tell people what to do. Instead, they will ensure that the team member is fully aware of the goals and constraints, and will allow the member to decide the best course of action to take. This is not ad hoc and random, but rather a set of deliverables as determined by the team leader and team member(s).
This environment allows people to do things their own way and to feel vested, that they are listened to and that their opinion counts. As such, they will value the team for protecting them, and the team will value them for their contributions.
Each team member must be accountable for their outcome – both good AND bad. Since deliverables (responsibilities) were decided with this member, they should certainly know their obligations. Part of that obligation is to ensure that they meet their objectives, and there can be no reasonable excuse.
After all, if they can’t be held responsible when things go wrong, how can they feel pride with a job well done?
This seems a bit odd at first blush, until you realize that courage is what happens when you take your own personal interests out of the equation. Without concern for what is best for YOU, it is much easier to see what is best for accomplishing your teams goals and thereby doing the best thing for the team.
Sometimes, that might even mean taking one for the team, which will certainly call for courage!
You admit mistakes, and accept and learn from criticism and different points of view. You should actively seek contributions from others to overcome limitations and encourage your team members to do the same. There is nothing wrong with pride, but there is with egoism and boastfulness. Learn to share accomplishments with the team, recognizing individual performance yet applauding team accomplishments.
It starts with you.
Although it is best if the concept of inclusion starts at the top and works its way down, that is not the only way to accomplish this environment. Discuss the concept with your coworkers and team. Encourage open communication, discuss your goals and objectives, and try to help each other meet these ends. Most of all, if you want to be a member of an inclusive team then it starts by YOU acting in an inclusive manner. It is the small, simple things, that will show the rest of your team what it is like to act with Empowerment, Accountability, Courage, and Humility.
If you would like to learn more about how to be an inclusive leader even outside of Toastmasters, visit edx.org and search for Inclusive Leadership. They offer several courses that can either be audited for free or you can gain a certificate for a small fee. Their online courses are easy to follow and fit into the busiest of schedules – they can help you grow, and become the leader you want to be.