You’ve seen it. A teammate that holds back their great ideas. Meetings where no one pushes back to make projects better. A team that’s so afraid of making mistakes that they are hesitant to try new things.
These are symptoms of a workplace that needs more inclusive leadership.
Inclusive leadership is the ongoing commitment to create psychological safety for your team. When your employees feel safe, they are empowered to share opinions, express ideas, and make mistakes. And that is when you will unlock their greatest potential.
Here are our five foundational ways you can show inclusive leadership.
1. Connect the work to your company mission
We all like to know that our work makes a difference. That impulse is especially true for the Millennial and Gen Z workers on your team.
If you're going to keep your team inspired, illustrate the why behind their work as often as possible.
Think of this as the recipe for their passion. It makes every piece of work more meaningful because they understand how what they’re doing impacts the solution your company provides.
Plus, it enables your team to come up with solutions on their own to work towards your company goals. They are on the front lines and know the work best. If they have a company goal as a guiding star, they will see opportunities that may never occur to you.
It's then up to you to create a safe space for them to bring up those ideas.
2. Be open to ideas
The worst ideas are the ones left unsaid. You want your team to feel safe and encouraged to share what they think. And that depends on your inclusive leadership.
During your new hires' onboarding, make sure to highlight that you want to hear their thoughts. And then actively work to make sure that’s true throughout your working relationship.
When your team brings forth ideas or feedback, thoughtfully listen. Empower your team by not dismissing ideas out of hand. Work with them to understand their reasoning. You may find a misconception that you can work through together.
It's part of a leaders' job to facilitate ideas and turn thoughts into strategies. It's not rare for a seemingly bad idea to be the spark for a good one.
So allow the space for ideas and watch the innovation unfold.
3. Practice transparent communication
Transparent communication is the ability to have open, sincere, and direct dialogue. But there's a fine line between transparency and rudeness. Keep empathy at the top of your mind.
When done right, transparent communication is one of the foundational practices to showing inclusive leadership, and your team will appreciate you for it.
For example, be clear and transparent about your challenges as an organization. Chances are your team feels them anyway - being clear about what you’re working towards will inspire trust and reduce anxiety.
4. Provide scheduling flexibility
Flexibility was the name of the game during the pandemic, and it is the model of the future.
Many people find they are more productive with flexible schedules. Giving your team scheduling flexibility and the ability to adjust when they work goes a long way to employee satisfaction.
Flexible schedules in hybrid or remote work situations allow employees who are also caregivers the space in their day to ensure family comes first. And everyone, regardless of family status, has things that come up from time to time.
Maintain space for their privacy, but consistently check in on your teammate's well-being and encourage them to take time off when needed.
As much as “employee wellbeing” and “unlimited vacation time” are lauded, make sure you are walking the walk.
5. Offer constructive feedback and positive reinforcement
Constructive feedback and positive reinforcement go a long way. Far too often, leaders share they don't like something but don’t explain exactly why.
This leaves your employee feeling directionless and can generate anxiety.
Instead, make sure your feedback explains the how and why behind your decision. It then becomes a teaching moment, rather than anything personal.
No one likes to be constantly criticized. Constructive feedback focuses on tangible takeaways and includes positive reinforcement on what they do well. Your job as a leader is to support their growth and guide them, rather than just telling them what they did wrong.
It's important to remember that your words matter, especially being in a position of power. So practice honing how your employees react to your messaging and continually adjust language and tone as needed. Everybody has different communication preferences, so keep a close eye on what you say and how.
A safe workspace is better for everyone
Showing inclusive leadership means your team feels safe. Only with that foundation can your team grow and fulfill their potential.
Connect your employees' work to the company mission, emphasize the importance of their well-being, be a champion for their ideas, practice transparent communication, and continually develop an inclusive culture that will elevate everyone on your team.
Your goal should be to find ways to keep everyone feeling accepted. Make a point in showing you value them as professionals and as people. Use this as a framework for your future hires and current employees and you will be well on your way to leveling up as a leader.