When we hear the term inclusion, I often find people’s eyes glaze over a little.
There seem to be many different interpretations of the word. Some managers tend to think of it as a soft HR issue. This is the reaction I get although the research clearly indicates that teams who operate in an inclusive way outperform their peers by 80 percent (Deloitte). So I suggest we start thinking of it as “show up as you are.”
We all know the better teams at work are those who introduce disruptive ideas, solve for the customer, produce for their organizations, and have healthy team spirit among team members. They do so best when they use their diverse thinking to collaborate, share viewpoints, listen well, and challenge each other energetically. The ability to communicate and collaborate in these ways cannot and will not happen if there is a risk of fear or mistrust.
Conversely when there is a team spirit where “I can show up with my brilliance and with my flaws and I am loved anyway,” that is when everyone will contribute their best, individually and collectively. We need to feel safe to speak up without running the risk of being rejected. We need to know we will receive compassion from our teammates if we miss the mark. We want to actively invite our teammates to build on our ideas, or even shoot them down, without taking it personally, or we want to have the courage to concede when another solution wins, all the while acting for the greater good of the team.
Google’s research on teams demonstrates the power of psychological safety. They discovered that teams where people spoke up in equal measure and where members were sensitive to one another’s moods and personally connected were the highest performing teams. All this may sound a bit idealistic to some teams, while others have successfully achieved this status.
Getting closer to an inclusive team environment does not happen overnight, and it does take effort and an ongoing journey to stay the course. In my work I am always surprised just how little time is spent on the soft stuff of teamwork. I wonder why. Several studies over the past decade have shown that the largest skills gaps in organizations tend to be soft skills like problem-solving, decision-making, communication and collaboration. Perhaps teams are not spending time on the soft skills because it can be challenging to assess and difficult to show direct business impact. Yet intuitively we all know and daily we experience people challenges that make teamwork the hard work.
You feel it and you know it is there, so on your journey, I offer a practical exercise to add to your work on inclusion called A Surprising Fact. This is how it works.
As you know, it may take many of these types of discussions to truly build safety and inclusion, so keep on working at it.
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