It’s easy to get caught up in our unconscious biases — so easy that, most of the time, we don’t even realize it’s happening.
We tend to gravitate toward those who have similar viewpoints, worldviews, and ideas as us. This isn’t always a problem when you’re spending time with friends or family, but our unconscious biases can certainly become problematic in the workplace.
Old habits and mindsets die hard, but when leaders understand that being inclusive is as much a business strategy as it is the “right thing to do,” it may be easier to change your viewpoints—and resulting actions—than you thought.
In her Harvard Business Review article “Creating a Culture Where Employees Speak Up,” Sylvia Ann Hewlett discusses the importance of letting go of unconscious biases and embracing the diversity of your company in order to boost your bottom line and improve the culture of your company.
Hewlett writes, “publicly traded companies with two-dimensional diversity — where the senior leadership team has both inherent diversity in terms of gender, age, and race, and an acquired appreciation for difference based on experience and learning — employees are 70% more likely than those at non-diverse publicly traded companies to report having captured a new market in the last year and 45% more likely to report having grown market share.”
In other words, inclusive leaders who spearhead inclusive organizations tend to have better success in reaching new markets, which therefore expands the company, than those companies that aren’t inclusive of others. What’s interesting here is the idea of “two-dimensional diversity.” It isn’t enough to simply hire employees of different races, genders, sexual orientations, and abilities. Inclusive leaders need to listen to the ideas that these different backgrounds bring to the table. Being diverse, and being inclusive, are not the same things.
Hewlett recommends business leaders create a “speak-up culture,” which essentially means to create a workplace that values diverse ideas, and that is a place where everyone feels comfortable sharing their ideas and opinions. This seems like common sense, but when a leader is juggling the tasks of maintaining an inclusive culture along with day-to-day responsibilities, it’s difficult to carve out the time to evaluate whether the current culture is working or not.
Thankfully, Hewlett has compiled a list of six behaviors that the best inclusive leaders (and aspiring inclusive leaders!) can do that are pretty simple, not overly time consuming, and best of all, that can lead to an inclusive, speak-up culture:
- Asking questions and listening to your team’s answers
- Facilitating helpful arguments
- Providing good, useful feedback
- Actually acting on advice
- Sharing credit with your team
- Always staying connected with employees
By practicing these six behaviors, inclusive leaders can work against their unconscious biases and listen to everyone in the company, regardless of their differences or varying backgrounds. Encourage your employees to share their ideas to create a speak-up culture today.
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