According to the Diversity Council of Australia (DCA), ‘Inclusion occurs when a diversity of people feel valued and respected, have access to opportunities and resources, and can contribute their perspectives and talents to improve their organisation.’

There’s a myriad of evidence supporting the benefits of inclusion in teams including these findings from the Inclusion@Work Index (DCA) that states workers in inclusive teams are:

  • Eleven times more likely to be highly effective than those in non-inclusive teams
  • Ten times more likely to be innovative
  • Six times more likely to provide excellent customer service; and
  • Four times more likely to work extra hard

But at the heart of inclusion, lies the basic premise that every human being has the right and need to be included.

As a Leader you have a key role in fostering inclusion in your team to bring out the best in every individual and your team collectively.

But how do you do that?

Here’s three ways you can help build and maintain inclusion in your team:

1. Acknowledge everyone’s basic human need (and right) to belong.

Human beings are social creatures (even the most introverted amongst us).  We all have an innate need to belong.  At work, in teams, belonging is essential to create trust and make it safe for interpersonal risk taking.

Here’s how you can help acknowledge this need and right.

  • Recognise and accept each team members unique individual strengths.
  • Ensure you ask all members of your team for their input, thoughts, solutions, even if some may be more experienced – helping build confidence and capacity in others as well.
  • Look for things that connect your team members and help them see that – rather than things that make them different.

2. Challenge behaviours that exclude others

Watch for behaviours in your team that create exclusion.  These can be unintentional behaviours or it can be as overt and concerning as prejudice and bias.  The result is a breakdown of trust at a minimum.  Individuals will shut down and guard their behaviour if they feel they are not included in the team.

Here’s how to prevent exclusive behaviours.

  • Watch for behaviours that exclude others, reminding team members of the importance of being an inclusive team safe for all members. Side whispers, exclusive cliques, negative body language when a team member is speaking, ignoring others, invites out for only some members of the team – are all warning signs to watch for.
  • Challenge junk theories of superiority in the team – you can do this by ensuring everyone understands the individual strength, value and benefit of each individual on that team regardless of any other factor, and by avoiding the perception of favouritism.
  • Shut down and address through corrective action words or behaviours that have a prejudicial or discriminatory undertone – regardless of intent. If you sense this may be a factor in your team prepare yourself for how you will address this if it arises. Having a plan will help you respond appropriately in that moment. You can also create awareness of your expectations of behaviours in your team to be proactive in this space.

3. Model inclusion

As the Leader its your role to model the behaviours you want to see in your team and the broader workplace, and for those behaviours to be in line with legislative principles and the principles of a healthy workplace culture.

Here’s some ways you can model inclusion:

  • Rotate the chairing of your team meetings through each individual member of your team.
  • Ask each individual to take turns organising social activities to enhance the personal connections amongst the team. This will ensure activities are equitable.
  • Ensure opportunities for special projects, education, acting up – are equally split amongst the team.  If there’s a capacity problem preventing this ensure you have a plan to address that.
  • Check your own bias – it can be frustrating as a leader when someone isn’t as invested or capable in a role as you would like them to be.  Not all team members bring their best to the team – and there can be many reasons for that. See if you can help turn them around.

In Summary

There’s a myriad of evidence supporting the benefits of inclusion on teams.

At the heart of inclusion lies the basic premise that every human being has the right and need to belong.

As a Leader here’s three ways you can foster inclusion on your team:

  1. Acknowledge everyone’s basic human need (and right) to belong.
  2. Challenge behaviours that exclude others
  3. Model inclusion

How I Can Help You Foster Inclusion in Your Workplace:

1. Psychological Safety Introduction – 3.5hr F2F or Virtual Workshop

Psychological Safety has been found to be the single most important factor for high performing teams. By fostering inclusion, making learning safe, inviting team contributions and providing air cover for candor – we create cohesive, growth focused teams who work together to deliver the best organisational and customer outcomes.

Learn more about this workshop here.

2. Unite Team Strengths – 3 Month Coaching Program 

Team Strengths Coaching is a dynamic way to increase the collaboration and unity of your team by fostering inclusion through understanding and acceptance of individual strengths, traits and behaviours.

Learn more about this coaching program here.

Tanya Heaney-Voogt

Director & Principal Consultant
MBA, ICFACC, MAHRI, Dip Mgt, Dip Coaching, Prosci® Certified Change Practitioner

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