Updated: Feb 8
Becoming intimate with your personal and business values can guide you in times of crisis; those times when you don't know where else to turn. To piggyback on the last few posts about values, I wanted to share an example of when my value of inclusion guided me to think more holistically about my team and the future of my business.
I realized that inclusion was a defining value of mine after completing a series of leadership workshops years ago. During a problem-solving exercise, taking in the moment, I scanned the room. We've all been in a situation just like this - there's "that group" of 3-4 loud individuals debating on what to do; opinions and ideas are coming from everywhere. It can be chaotic, especially for team members that don't tend to speak up.
My sights landed on a person at the other end of the room, her body language suggested that she was slightly disengaged. I saw a visible sigh and eye roll. "I bet she knows the answer," I thought to myself. I quietly snuck over to get her take on what was going on. After warming up, she offered the answer in a super nonchalant manor. In my head, I exclaimed, "I knew it! She did know the answer!" I gently encouraged her to find the courage to speak up. If she didn’t interject at a workshop like this, when would she ever?
As managers in organizations, how does this resonate with you?
Let's consider this example and relate it to what it might look like with a value lens of inclusion. How would inclusion of voices that might not easily be heard shift the culture of your organization?
Here are some lessons I learned that day:
As the owner of my business, I need to watch and listen. Louder individuals have the confidence to speak up but there is genius behind those that are quiet.
Examine your process: how do we make decision-making inclusive in our organization? Are voices from all areas of the organization considered and if so, do people feel comfortable sharing opinions? How can I engage with those who may be resistant to expressing themselves?
Marginalized voices are less likely to share opinions due to a number of things like peer pushback or judgement, stereotypes, and systemic racism I may not even see or know about. How do I encourage equity in my business?
Having diverse voices at the table is step 1; but are those voices cultivated, encouraged, and amplified in my workplace?
I hear this all the time, “But Amanda, at my business we have to make decisions quickly. I don't have time for this.”
I’m not going to say there’s a quick way to build inclusion into your business culture. Especially if people have been burned in the past. But, there are ways to start. And putting in that effort will payoff over time. Here are some ways to start integrating inclusion into your company processes:
Random anonymous surveys and send them out frequently. From the results, there is transparency of findings, swift actions taken, and excitement & accountability at all levels for improving the workplace dynamics.
Know your team and celebrate uniqueness. Know what makes each team member tick and encourage them to contribute in a way that is comfortable for them. For example, some people need brainstorming sessions to ideate while others need quiet time.
Explore bringing in a common language. I used CliftonStrengths in my business. It was a way for our team to know where each other’s talents were and how to ask for help. As a manager, it helped me identify pockets of talent and where (and how) to bridge the gaps.
Having used CliftonStrengths in my food business for years, I know from experience that it is a powerful communication tool to improve workplace culture. So much so that I went through a certification process! I am now able to go into workplaces to teach this program and I encourage you to try it. I'm passionate about getting this into growing businesses because weaving this language into your company culture inherently kickstarts inclusion by celebrating the unique talents we bring to the workplace.