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Bringing Inclusive Leadership Into The Conference Room

Bringing Inclusive Leadership Into The Conference Room

Inclusive leadership: a term we hear and assume the definition of. To be an inclusive leader is to simply include everyone and provide equal opportunities…right? Sort of - inclusive leadership is a bit more nuanced. Betterteam.com defines inclusive leadership as “the ability to lead and manage people and organizations without biases or prejudices and to cultivate a work environment in which individuals are treated fairly and feel safe, respected and valued.” Inclusive leaders also actively work to make employees feel empowered, courageous, understood, confident and heard. It’s definitely not as simple as it seems; it carries quite a lot of responsibility.

Under inclusive leadership, teams and businesses perform better. According to Juliet Bourke, what leaders say and do make up to a 70% difference as to whether an employee feels included. When leaders are aware of biases and have high levels of empathy, employees can feel 33% more included.

Investing time, resources, and emotional capacity into inclusive leadership makes a huge difference in your company’s organizational culture, yet if meetings are not inclusive, your success as an inclusive leader will be limited.

If meetings are not inclusive for all participants, a large gap between employees and managers can arise and lead to issues such as biases, discomfort, lack of diversity and satisfaction, and poor collaboration and problem-solving.

Qualities of an Inclusive Leader

Inclusive leaders lead by example. They act, respond, and support in ways that inspire colleagues to be inclusive and affirm employees who need reassurance and guidance.

Feedback is a major tool inclusive managers can use to become the best leaders for their teams. By respecting and applying feedback from employees, leaders practice actively making the workplace more inclusive. Asking for input from people who have expertise on the topic can ensure team members have the chance to shine.

An inclusive leader also encourages participation and pushes for every voice to be heard. Learning peers’ personalities and asking them to participate accordingly makes the team stronger as everyone has the opportunity to shine in different ways.

Inclusive leadership also means making reasonable accommodations. If an employee needs a change to be able to work more efficiently or thrive in their role, is the manager’s responsibility to support them. Of course, not all accommodations can be met, yet choosing to make appropriate exceptions proves to employees that their needs are important.

Inclusive leaders also tend to have small egos. This means they treat employees equally and work to foster an equitable system at work. If a manager has a substantial ego, they will not be able to successfully embrace employee ideas or challenge their own biases.

Providing opportunities for everyone to learn and grow is another key quality of inclusive leaders. If the same team members are delegated the same challenges and opportunities over and over again, there is not much room for team growth. Managers should work toward understanding the abilities of employees and giving them opportunities to use, grow, and challenge their skills for the betterment of their careers and the growth of the business.

Inclusive leaders are advocates for employees. Looking out for employees and their well-being gives teams a sense of calm and constant support knowing they are under empathetic management.

Collaboration and team building are also huge for inclusive leaders. Promoting and encouraging collaboration among individuals who do not usually work closely together can create magic and spark incredible ideas. 

Check out our meeting modules for engaging team-building activities paired with comprehensive meeting materials.

Inclusive leaders prove their sensitivity and understanding of the diversity in their team by relaying information in various ways conducive to different learning styles. By presenting key information visually, auditorily, and through writing and physical exercises, managers capture the attention of all team members and give them the opportunity to better catalog and remember the material.

Ensuring the workplace is psychologically safe for all employees is also key to inclusive leadership. If employees do not feel comfortable enough to share their thoughts and ideas, call out negative behavior, and have constructive conversations, any inclusive efforts will bring minimal results.

It is clear that inclusive leaders have plentiful positive qualities. Here are a few more to be aware of and work toward:

  • Accountability
  • Self-awareness
  • Inclusive language
  • Cultural intelligence
  • Courageous
  • Humility
  • Listening skills

Benefits of an Inclusive Environment

  • Happier and more satisfied employees. In an inclusive environment, people are more likely to feel that their voices are heard and respected, that they have more opportunities to succeed, and that their ideas will be seriously considered.

  • Easier talent acquisition and retention. A huge plus to an inclusive environment is the positive word of mouth and good reputation that attracts like-minded people and talented employees. 

  • Less burnout. Absenteeism decreases when employees feel included at work, leading to less burnout.

  • Managers experience less imposter syndrome. Inclusive leadership has positive reinforcement built into the title. When we’re inclusive, we feel good that we’re accomplishing a crucial foundational part of our job, one that no matter what other struggles we’re facing, will pay off for our employees and company.

  • Better information retention. Time is saved and information retained when leaders offer and practice different ways to learn, listen, and teach in order to cater to everyone’s learning preferences. Everyone has ample opportunity to soak in material however best they learn.

  • We work smarter and harder. Inclusive environments mean stronger emotional connections which in turn makes us more passionate about our work and generating meaningful results.

  • Strong ethical standards. Managers who lead by example and advocate for ethical behavior set standards for employees that keep the work environment positive, unbiased, and virtuous.

Tips on How To Facilitate an Inclusive Meeting

An inclusive work environment with a weak meeting culture can only take a team so far. If our meetings are not always inclusive, we lack the opportunities, confidence, and skills to participate, collaborate, speak up, and form unique solutions and ideas.

If you’re beginning to shift your work culture toward greater inclusivity, meetings are a great place to start making changes.

Inclusive meetings mean diversity is embraced so that every member feels safe and welcome to participate and collaborate with each other.

Let’s talk about some ways in which can ensure our meetings are inclusive.


Prep

Firstly, let’s talk about preparation. Thoroughly preparing for a meeting in advance is always a good idea, yet more than an agenda and invite are necessary for a truly inclusive experience.

When preparing for a meeting, keep engagement and your team’s participation at the top of your mind rather than talking points. This includes analyzing what the meeting entails by asking yourself if everyone will be included and will have a chance to participate. Asking team members how they like to be involved during meetings before they take place is a great way to tailor meetings to different personalities and let everyone play to their strengths. Whether team members like to be in the spotlight or enjoy being a team player, they need to be comfortably involved.

When inviting folks to the meeting, consider the many different perspectives that will be needed in the discussion. It is important to include people who have a say in the decisions as well as those who will be affected by the decisions. Author Georgina Pacor put it perfectly: “Diversity is being invited to the party, inclusion is being invited to dance.” Once we’ve gathered a diverse group of people, we have to be sure they have opportunities to actually talk about their unique perspectives. So, be sure to communicate your agenda, expectations, and goals to participants before the meeting to allow them to prepare to contribute.

When preparing, it makes a huge difference to plan how information will be shared and how collaboration will commence. As previously mentioned, including visual, auditory, and kinesthetic elements during the meeting will allow all team members to participate and accept information better depending on how they learn and operate best. Planning team-building activities that stimulate the minds of all types of learners can further establish new information and multiply results.

GettaMeeting provides comprehensive meeting modules that appeal to every type of learner. From educational video presentations to individual and collaborative thought-provoking icebreakers to hands-on team-building activities, your team will attend wildly valuable meetings full of collaboration and team bonding. Much more info at gettameeting.com


Standards

Next, let’s dive into meeting standards. Expectations should be set for meetings, such as participation and roles. Being clear about how everyone should participate (and creating an environment that makes people feel welcome to do so) is crucial to a communicative team and a successful meeting. If participation does not meet your standards during meetings, leaders should be able to ask individual participants their opinions and ideas, especially those who tend to listen without chiming in but have insight and expertise on the subject.

Similarly, if a few people in the team tend to contribute a lot during meetings while others listen intently, asking members to try different roles can bring new perspectives to light and help those who might not feel as safe sharing their ideas feel more at ease.

Meeting facilitators should also use inclusive language, practice cultural sensitivity, acknowledge any personal biases, and call out any biased behavior.


How Meeting Participants Can Support Inclusivity

  • Stick up for yourself. If you are being undermined by someone or it feels as though your voice isn’t being heard, talk to your manager. If your colleagues talk over you or dismiss your contributions, have a discussion with your peers about how you feel and what would make you feel more included. Pamela Maynard, CEO of global IT consultancy Avanade used to struggle to feel heard during meetings despite her valuable contributions. To resolve the issue, she collaborated with her manager and used future meeting agendas to reserve time for her to share her thoughts and ideas so that she would no longer be overlooked. When the meeting leader paused during the next meeting for Pamela to speak, it made her feel much more comfortable and considered, especially because she had the opportunity to prepare beforehand. Pamela's experience is far too common, therefore, if you notice a similar pattern during meetings, it's important to speak up.
  • Collaborate with your manager if you witness biases or lack of opportunity. A successfully inclusive manager should ask colleagues to keep them in check by running decisions and ideas by the team before proceeding. During this time, team members can help managers stay on track and make unbiased decisions.
  • Ask your peers what they think. Encourage participation from everyone by asking genuine questions and input from colleagues who might have knowledge on the meeting subject or who haven’t yet had a chance to contribute.
  • Practice role reversal and switching roles. Make your peers feel heard by practicing role reversal: actively listen, show your interest and understanding, summarize what was said, and reply. This helps our peers feel heard and understood, which further encourages collaboration and willing participation. If a few members tend to fill the same role at every meeting, consider discussing different roles that different team members can try so that everyone has the opportunity to listen, speak, and lead.

Final Thoughts

We know that there exists a close link between diverse and inclusive organizations and those that are successful, financially strong, innovative, and collaborative. When an inclusive environment is being built, psychological safety increases significantly which contributes to a high-performing team

So, before you host your next meeting or after one ends, ask yourself: “Has everyone been given the opportunity to be successful?”