Leadership Insights: Inclusion - Leaders MUST Make Inclusion a Priority

inclusion leadership values Apr 20, 2023

I was coaching a young and vibrant student from Kansas State University a few years ago. This woman was a go-getter and despite her youth, she was a non-traditional student wanting to be a nursing home administrator after working for about 5 years in the healing sector. 

The first day that we met, she came into the coffee shop with a list of things she wanted to accomplish during our time together. I was impressed immediately. Other students I had mentored weren't this organized nor did they really know what they wanted to accomplish with a mentor/coach. 

After we had walked through all of her goals and I answered the first set of questions she had for me, I was able to ask her a bunch of questions and find out  where she gained this level of organization and determination. Her response was swift and direct. "As a black woman and type A personality, I have learned that to be taken seriously, I have to be more prepared than anyone else so I can get ahead and be successful."

I was ashamed at first, apologizing for my lack of understanding her struggles. She then went on to thank me. She thanked me for being curious about her and her experiences. I was blown away. After all she had experienced, how could she thank me for being so ignorant? 

Fast forward a number of years and I was blessed to welcome two, beautiful Mexican children into my home through the foster care system. They arrived with all of their belongings (a couple of bags and a box) right before the pandemic shut everything down. Suddenly we became first time parents, having to home school and work from home. We all had a quick course in getting to know each other and I learned a lot about poverty and English being a second language. 

Both of these experiences made me want to dive deeper and learn from my biases and where I sit as a privileged white person. Never had I looked at life that way. 

I became extremely curious about inclusion and the experience of people of color and all underrepresented communities that we have in the workplace. My mentee made a lasting impression on my heart. In fact, I have listened to countless podcasts, read articles and books, and prayed about how I have played a part in systemic racism. 

As I began thinking and praying about creating Weaver Solutions, a major value I wanted to incorporate was inclusion and celebrating all individuals regardless of their backgrounds, culture, ability, perspective and so much more. 

This is a journey and we will never truly arrive, however there are things we can do as leaders and managers to make the path more inclusive for everyone in our employ. 

Here are a few things that you can begin incorporating into your workflows and practices to begin to become more inclusive: 

  1. Celebrate employee differences: Recognize and celebrate the unique qualities and talents that each employee brings to the table. You can showcase employee achievements, recognize cultural holidays or festivals, or hold diversity appreciation events.

  2. Ensure equal opportunities: Ensure that all employees have equal opportunities to contribute, grow and develop within the company, regardless of their gender, ethnicity, religion or other differences.

  3. Foster a culture of respect: Encourage and model respectful behavior in the workplace, such as active listening, open-mindedness, and kindness. Create a workplace culture that values diversity, equity, and inclusion.

  4. Provide diversity and inclusion training: Provide regular training and development opportunities that help employees understand and appreciate differences, and provide them with skills to work effectively in a diverse environment.

  5. Promote diversity in hiring: Develop and implement policies that promote diversity in hiring and recruiting practices, such as establishing diversity goals, actively seeking out diverse candidates, and using inclusive language in job descriptions.

  6. Engage in community outreach: Engage in community outreach and volunteer activities that promote diversity and inclusion, such as volunteering with local non-profits that serve underrepresented communities.

By embracing and celebrating inclusion in the workplace, you can create a more positive and productive work environment that supports the well-being of all employees. And for my friends in aging services, if you haven't considered this as a retention practice, you should start immediately.

I teach about this in my Leadership Institute that starts June 1st, and we dive deeper into inclusive workplace practices and examine systemic change to make this a priority. If you are interested in being part of this or even learning more. Let me know at [email protected] . 

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