Characteristics of an Inclusive Workplace: Leaders need it Simplified!

July 20, 2021 | kelsey

When it comes to leading a team that displays characteristics of an inclusive workplace, leaders are confused. There are so many theories on the best type of leadership and the best type of measures.

Which one should they pick?  As a leader have you ever asked yourself – what does inclusive mean? Let’s explore what it means to be inclusive, the benefits around, and the characteristics of an inclusive workplace in more detail.

Expectations on leaders are big

I have worked with over 10,000 leaders in the last 14 years – and one thing I know for sure – the expectations on leaders are big. 

Typically, I see leaders being sent to attend sessions and briefings, or sent decks with detailed explanations on what they have to do on all the things we expect of them:  

  • Increase engagement  
  • Manage performance  
  • Embed the values and the behaviours 
  • Drive the diversity and inclusion solutions 
  • Provide safety leadership  
  • And let’s get agile as well while we are in the process!  

And, by the way, you also need to run your business and make that a success.  

I feel that leaders are overwhelmed with the information around what they are supposed to be doing.  

In my experience, the vast majority want to do all of the things expected and are in raving agreement on the importance – but the frantic life of business gets in the way.  

My quest has been to simplify this so that they can work towards becoming an inclusive leader, without the stress! 

The truth is that all the things we are trying to achieve are in fact connected – but we need to help leaders understand the glue. And then we need to simplify the action -the part for them so that is easy for them to succeed.  

You are probably nodding your head in agreement but you are also probably very aware of the complexity of what I have just said.  

It makes sense but it’s not that easy to achieve. Or is it?  

What does it mean to have an inclusive culture?

As an inclusion nut, I usually use this as the backbone of any such strategy.  

Inclusion in its broadest sense means every individual feels like they belong and feels that their uniqueness is valued.  

Inclusion has traditionally been coupled with the word ‘diversity’.  

We know that diversity doesn’t work unless that difference is included and respected. But the cool thing about creating an inclusive culture, is that it has multiple other big spinoffs.  

Having the characteristics of an inclusive workplace also enables: 

  1. Increased engagement – it’s really hard to be engaged when you don’t feel included.  
  1. Innovation – when I feel included, I share my wild ideas. 
  1. Collaboration – WE are in this together.  
  1. Productivity – it takes a lot less energy for me to be myself at work rather than pretend to fit in.  
  1. Talent pipeline and bench strength – I have a broader view of who may be dubbed ‘talent’. I might even have a view that everyone is talented (wild thought!) 
  1. Psychological safety – a safe-to-speak-up culture which reduces group think and enables innovation and engagement.  
  1. Safety leadership – having an environment where I feel safe to report. 

The list goes on. But you can see where I’m coming from.  

Psychological safety is at the heart an inclusive workplace culture 

When it comes to what an inclusive workplace culture really feels like each day, it’s important to consider the environment’s psychological safety.

A “psychologically safe” workplace is characterised by a climate of interpersonal trust and mutual respect in which people feel comfortable being themselves to make mistakes or take risks in their work.  

Google’s research of its own workforce revealed that psychological safety was the most important team norm for high-performing innovative workplaces – those norms are:  

  • Psychological safety 
  • Dependability 
  • Structure and clarity 
  • Meaning and purpose, and  
  • Impact  

While all five norms are important to team performance, psychological safety has been shown to be the most important attribute – if this attribute is strong, the other four norms are so much easier to achieve.  

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