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4 Strategies To Become An Inclusive Leader And Foster A Diverse Culture Of High-Achievers

Employees want to feel represented. They want to be a part of a company that understands and respects their race, gender, and beliefs. To foster effective team-building and create a growth-focused culture, companies should incorporate inclusive leadership values.

Diversity creates an opportunity for progressive companies and their employees. Inclusion communicates company values and builds a team that becomes invested in the growth of a company.

Leaders that take on the personal responsibility of embracing diversity and inclusion build trust, earn respect, and cement buy-in from those they lead.

The statistics paint a picture.

There were three hundred forty-six companies surveyed in a 2015 McKinsey & Company research study. The study says, "the average gender representation increased on their executive teams only two percentage points, to 14%, and ethnic and cultural diversity by one percentage point, to 13%.

What's more, many companies are still uncertain as to how they can most effectively use diversity and inclusion to support their growth and value creation goals." We have a long way to go.

Inclusive leaders empower people, capitalize on each employee's strengths, and leverage growth through inclusive principles and values.

In a 2018 study of over 1,700 companies, organizations with a diverse leadership team had 19% higher revenue on average than companies with less diverse leaders, according to Boston Consulting Group.

Here are four practical strategies for leaders to embrace inclusive principles and foster a diverse culture of high-performers.

1. Become self-aware of your unconscious bias.

Leaders are humans first. You grew up and learned certain beliefs. You lived and experienced life during your formative years, absorbing the views and opinions of the world around you.

Whether you realize it or not, you developed beliefs about people that are different than you. Family, friends and even your community growing up expressed their views, which affects you one way or another.

Unconscious bias is defined as "societal stereotypes about groups of people that are outside of your awareness." Your thoughts toward other races and genders may be different than what you would say out loud. Just about everyone has an unspoken bias.

To become an inclusive leader, start with self-awareness of the biases you have. Self-awareness is one of the most powerful traits of successful leaders. If you understand what makes you tick, you can see the bottlenecks before they surface, and learn how to best grow and support your team.

Self-awareness of biases allows you to start working on adjusting your beliefs and doing what's required to understand race, gender, and beliefs that may be different from yours.

Dealing with unconscious bias helps you become a better leader because you don't push those biases onto those you lead. You can also see and address any bias that's happening within your team.

2. Ask questions and embrace self-education.

You don't know what you don't know. The best way to understand what you don't know is to ask questions and educate yourself. Leaders are the first to self-educate, and especially on the topics of diversity and inclusion.

When you ask questions, you uncover biases and start to understand experiences that are different than yours.

One of the main things you'll hear African Americans and women say is that it's exhausting having to educate someone before they can have a real conversation about diversity and bias.

There are great books, videos, podcast episodes, documentaries, and training programs that can continue your education on diversity, inclusion, unconscious bias, and marginalized people's daily reality. Do your research and embrace the growth.

3. Root out microaggressions.

When you think about creating a high-achiever culture, this team is led by a leader who actively works to address and deal with microaggressions.

Microaggression is a term used to describe behavioral or environmental injustices, whether intentional or unintentional, that subtly communicate derogatory or negative attitudes toward stigmatized or culturally marginalized groups.

Microaggressions stem from bias and can destroy trust, develop a bitter culture, and give fuel to racial and gender stereotypes. It can create an entitled attitude or breed resentment that threatens the growth of a company.

Becoming an inclusive leader means you identify microaggressions in yourself and your team. You address them and put policies in place to make it known that they're not acceptable.

The intention is not good enough — creating an inclusive culture requires affirmative action and a commitment to make everyone feel safe.

4. Understand that everything matters.

The way you communicate as a leader speaks volumes. What you accept as a leader tells your employees everything they need to know. Being intentional and leading by example is how you'll develop more buy-in from your team.

Everything matters when it comes to diversity and inclusion in the workplace, and it starts with leadership. One offhand joke can have a ripple effect. One instance of letting bias shine through can chip away at your company culture. Tolerating microaggressions can cause good employees to leave.

Diversity and inclusion efforts and enforcement can't be taken lightly in any way if you're serious about becoming an inclusive leader. Gender diversity can't be an item on the training to-do list. Inclusive leaders make diversity a priority.

The statistics tell us that "teams with inclusive leaders are 17% more likely to report that they are high performing, 20% more likely to say they make high-quality decisions, and 29% more likely to report behaving collaboratively," according to the Harvard Business Review.

Inclusive leaders help build a modern company of high-achievers and a team that's dedicated to growth.

Different groups of people bring a vast array of skills to companies — embrace them and make them feel safe and respected, and watch your team’s culture and productivity grow.


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