Inclusive conversations in times of change

With everyone working remotely, it’s easy for some people to be or feel left behind. If you aim to be inclusive in your approach to managing this change response, invest your time in having inclusive conversations to inform your leadership and decisions, and establish or re-establish a sense of connection in your company.

Leaders need to demonstrate inclusive intent

Inclusive leaders don’t simply talk the talk, they demonstrate their inclusive values in what they do, what they say and in the relationships they build. Instead of asking questions such as “how are you?”, which have an answer more reflective of habit than reality, consider open-ended questions that prompt thought and can shed insight into your team members’ actual experiences, and start by relating to the other person and emphasizing that you are seeking real information. Consider:

“We are all having a significant period of adjustment. In my role I have to make several decisions almost minute by minute and I want to make sure these – as best as they can – suit your experiences and needs. I wanted to take the time to hear from you about what has made this transition difficult, what has been helpful for you, and what you may need. My goal is to make sure you are well supported because we value the work you do and your contributions to the team.”

Notice the use of the word you. In these conversations, focus on the individual and not the group. Language that brings others into the conversation decreases the importance of the person you are conversing with. Too, where many employees are uncertain about job stability you really want to mitigate stress and promote openness. Be clear about how information will be used, where it will be shared and whether or not the person is comfortable with their name attached to the message.

Humility, Trust and impact are key

A benefit of inclusive leadership is that it requires one to learn. Leaders need to communicate that they do not know everything and that they are willing to learn. Though they need to be approachable, they should not assume that people will approach them.

Inclusive conversations are difficult. It takes courage for an individual to express barriers or inequalities in the workplace to a member of leadership. It takes humility for a leader to accept responsibility for having contributed to those barriers or inequalities. Demonstrate trust and appreciation for the conversation, not defensiveness. The conversation is helping you learn and helping your leadership impact be more closely aligned with its purpose, if inclusion is indeed a value of yours. Oh, and , don’t forget:

“Thank you. I appreciate that you shared that with me”

Leaders need to demonstrate that they are inclusive and that conversations about equity, diversity and inclusion have a positive impact on their teams and organizations. It’s not just about having the conversations; it’s about how your learning informs your leadership and how your leadership promotes inclusive behaviors and attitudes in others.

Note: If your true priorities right now are business survival, consider who can check-in with people in a similar manner to help establish inclusive leadership is integral to your change response and resulting culture.

Future Focus

The leadership actions you take now will help inform to what extent people trust, respect and connect with you moving forward. As will those actions you don’t take. Use this as an opportunity to consider if EDI are true leadership values of yours and, if they are, demonstrate them and start practicing. Like any skills, inclusive leadership skills develop over time. Maintain commitment and keep learning.

Leaders need to demonstrate inclusive intent and have inclusive conversations during periods of change response and recovery #changemanagement #inclusion #leadership #diversity #businesscontinuity


Photo by guy stevens on Unsplash