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Seeking Input Through Inclusion


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Where do you get your input? If you consistently rely on the same group of people, the same publications, the same web sites, chances are you’re missing out on key insights that can lead to greater innovation and better bottom-line results.

One of the traits we identified in Becoming an Inclusive Leader™ is being open to a wide range of inputs.

The inclusive leader must have not only the capacity, but also the willingness, to seek and listen with an open mind to varied inputs, recognizing that the wisdom of the crowd most often results in successful innovation. This means listening no matter where the input is coming from—the front lines, from a tenured employee or a new hire, from a Gen Yer or a retired traditionalist. It means listening to external voices as well—to customers, to communities, to competitors.

“One of the things that I find is most important is to listen,” Manny Fernandez, director with FedEx Office, told us as we were writing this book. “Often we get caught up in our workday and, instead of leading, we start dictating and giving orders.” Fernandez said that he has found it helpful to share plans with his team and listen to their feedback. They may not be in agreement with what you are proposing, but that’s okay because it’s part of the inclusion process.

“When you allow the team to participate in the process, you’re going to come up with a better solution” he says. “One of the things I’ve learned in striving to be inclusive is to ensure that everyone feels like they have a valued voice in the process, and then to have a bias for action.” That bias for action, he says, means being “ready to roll” once you get the feedback you’ve requested. That bias for action and follow up is critical, especially in a world accustomed to the rapid pace of communication fueled by technology.

We also sought input from Donald Fan, senior director at Wal-Mart Stores, Inc. He told us: “We’re promoting three inclusive behaviors—one is active listening.” Active listening involves some very specific behaviors. “So, when we listen to our associates, we’ve got to stop doing anything else. We need to give this moment to who we are listening to and pay attention.” That’s a skill that may sound simple but give it a try. You’ll see that it’s not simple. But it is a powerful way to convey inclusion to employees. In addition, Fan says, Walmart is working actively to draw out its quieter employees. “A lot of times our quiet associates have a point of view but they may not feel comfortable to speak up and share. As a leader you need to probe, ask questions and mine their points of view. Our 2.1 million associates across the world are our competitive advantage. We don’t want to omit one unique perspective or one creative idea.”

Having a wide, and diverse, range of inputs helps to ensure that you are not inadvertently overlooking key issues that impact your organization and its success.

Inclusive leaders listen–to everyone! Make sure that your listening posts are broad and varied.

Be inclusive!

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