5 Top Tips to become a more inclusive leader

Dianne Richardson, the new CEO of Britain’s Energy Coast Business Cluster approached our Executive Director Catherine Eve, wondering how Cumbrian leaders could create an inclusive environment as we return to work post Covid, conscious more than ever of the differences between people’s circumstances over the last 18 months.

Catherine’s presentation to BECBC made the link between diversity and innovation and the essential role a leader, who behaves inclusively, plays in this.

Harnessing diversity of thinking can help provide innovative solutions to our shared challenges but that doesn’t just happen by bringing people together who are different. Inclusive Leaders show high levels of Emotional Intelligence and are comfortable holding that uncomfortable space, allowing people to acknowledge rather than gloss over different and potentially conflicting ideas.

To get you started here are 5 practical things we can all do to promote an inclusive environment….

1. Expand your current thinking pool, seek new perspectives

This is as simple as talking to someone who has different interests to you, they may like different music or holiday destinations, challenge yourself to ask why they like the things you do….and keep listening as they explain, trying to keep your mind open to the possibility and legitimacy of a different perspective. Once you have started with food or music, you can work your way up to the tough stuff like football teams!

2. Have a conversation with someone new

Most of us are creatures of habit, we seek out the same people in the same places. We sit next to the same people at lunch, greet the same people at networking events and gravitate toward the same kinds of people as we are comfortable with. Next time you walk into a room, consciously challenge yourself to redirect your attention, look for the person in the room you wouldn’t normally approach. No, go on! Now go and introduce yourself to them, find out more about them.  You don’t need to be striking up a friendship for life but you might surprise yourself by what you find out or think about as a result of one, different, less predictable conversation

3. Go somewhere different

This is a really simple first step. Take a different route to the same place. Sit in a different seat at the meeting room table. Set your chair so you see a different angle of the room. Even these small changes can expand your current view, enable you to welcome new information and perspectives. All of sudden you are seeing things you haven’t seen, thought of people you haven’t seen in ages, considered different options……give it a try

4. Practice being comfortable with ambiguity and difference

Humans are amazing! Our survival instincts are so hard wired we are often unaware of the influence they are having on us, modifying our behaviour even when we are not really in any danger. These physiological alarm bells steer us clear of potentially dangerous situations, including those where our tried and tested views of the world are met with contradiction. Our body reads these situations as potential threats, scanning for potential discord and danger and putting our bodies on high alert. The feeling of mental and physical discomfort that comes in those situations is a driver for us to remove ourselves from the situation and in the future avoid situations that appear similar. As a result we often avoid that uncomfortable feeling, rather than sticking with it and exploring the differing perspectives and we therefore miss out on new and potentially useful information.

5. Leaders speak last in a meeting

Matthew Syed sums this up perfectly in this snipped from a fantastic podcast “The Diary of a CEO” with Steven Bartlett.