Diversity is a fact, but inclusion is a choice. Inclusion matters to me — and is worth fighting for every day, and each of us has the power to make the communities we are part of more welcoming. People prosper when they can fully be themselves; when they feel welcome and don’t feel pressure to keep parts of themselves hidden. That spirit of inclusion allows for empathy and transparency, which enables more meaningful conversations. Ultimately, inclusion is the foundation for great work to happen.
In this post, I want to offer some practical steps that all of us can take to create a more inclusive culture where we work, starting with me. Building an inclusive culture is not always easy. We all carry unconscious habits and biases that we might not even be aware of. In my own life, I’ve had to be open to learning along the way about how to be better at including others. It’s been a journey and I continue to work at it each day.
As I’ve learned to appreciate the power of inclusion, here are three things I try to do when leading teams to help make it a reality:
- Recognize How Much You Don’t Know: Everyone carries around an invisible suitcase with them that holds their life experiences in it. Don’t assume you know what they are carrying. Ask questions. Find out what you don’t know. Learn if there are reasons people on your team may be holding back and ensure they are in an environment where they are open to share. The more you know, the more inclusive of a leader you will be. Your team will be enabled to do their best work, informed by each member’s unique perspective and experiences.
- Be More Intentional: If there is someone that never shares their opinion, proactively bring their voice into the conversation. In meetings, I take a mental inventory on who is talking the most and the least, and I stop the discussion mid-way to offer the quietest person a chance to speak. By being more intentional, you have the power to include more voices in the conversation. And the more voices, the better. Because the more ideas that are heard and tested, the more you discover the one great idea that can make a difference. That’s the power of inclusion in action.
- Tell Your Story: For a long time, I never told my own story. I did not think it was important. I thought I should just focus on the work. When I finally did share my own personal story of coming to this country, I was surprised by the impact it had. People on my direct team, and across Intuit, saw a different side of me. I was more than just the leader. They understood a part of my past that has influenced who I am today — and that helped us get work done together as a team. I encourage anyone leading a team to share your own personal stories because they have more power than you realize.
Creating an inclusive culture does not happen by itself. We need to be mindful about the choices we make, both conscious and unconscious. But it’s worth it. When we challenge ourselves to find ways to be more inclusive, we lift others up — and we all prosper.