Culture wars part 5: Inclusive thinking
In our final part of the Culture Wars series, we dive into the way culture can stretch our thinking and widen who is included in critical decisions, and how leaders can forget to leverage the thoughts, opinions, disagreements or different angles that a diverse workforce can give.
So why do we still keep the key decisions to a handful of people, usually of the same age, background or gender?
They’re leaders, stupid!
Yes, it still makes a lot of sense to have one or a group of experienced, skilled and talented individuals who are the decision makers in your business. That’s what they do best, and it’s what will keep your organisation’s head above the water.
But that doesn’t mean the thinking within the organisation should be kept to the top level or C-suite. And here are a few reasons why…
The Ivory Tower
We’ve all seen it: the old boys club, the ‘you’re not a creative’, the ‘it’s above your pay grade’ These ‘them and us' scenarios mean there just isn’t any accountability when decisions don’t make sense. And the cliques we fall into at work only get exacerbated when we go further up the chain, sometimes to the point where we think the ideas of anyone else in the business can’t be as good as ours!
This ‘culture of exclusivity’ is nothing new, but it’s certainly toxic and damaging. The whole point of leadership is to share a vision and help everyone to work towards it, so why on earth wouldn’t you include them in building out that vision? If someone feels invested from the start of a journey, they’ll produce better results, and you’ll get much easier buy-in.
An easy way to break down these clique-y barriers if you’re experiencing them elsewhere is to try reverse mentoring. This is when employees, people at a ground level or in a different specialism or group, act as a mentor to senior leaders or executives. Reverse mentorship can give leaders a fresh perspective on a particular topic. This can break down hierarchical barriers and in turn give valuable insight. By going in with an open, honest and determined mindset, you may impart some wisdom and hopefully prevent the ‘them and us’
How’s your thinking?
Inclusive thinking isn’t just about what everyone else thinks or contributes either. Rather than coming up with a solution, running it by your usual enabler or council, then cracking ahead with it, open up your horizons and really question what someone who you’d never really think to include would think. Even if they aren’t a subject matter expert, they could identify something you’ve missed or tell you if they think someone like them will ‘get it’.
By understanding your own barriers and prejudices (yes we all have them deep rooted in our consciousness), our own experiences and exposure to people will have formed instant impressions of certain characters, groups or classes of people.
Our emotional intelligence is what encourages and drives these actions. Remember when P&O decided to sack everyone and replace them with international workers at a fraction of the cost? Well, we’ll nail our flag to the mast and guess that not everyone was included on that decision, and look how that turned out.
Listen more and ask questions
Listening and observing can be really powerful. Be present, don’t always let your initial instinct influence a situation and welcome interactions without judgement:
- How much do I know about realities that are not similar to mine?
- How might my position and belief be limiting my decision making?
- Am I informed or educated enough on a given topic?
- Is my opinion required? How does my intervention contribute to the decision or action that is required?
- By using my language and body language, am I allowing the chance for everyone to feel safe and comfortable in joining the conversation?
We’re going to leave you with a pretty scary prospect: companies that aren’t thinking inclusively are already on the road to failure. It may begin with good intentions of managing potentially damaging information, or keeping the contributing group small for a quicker outcome, but you’re setting out a culture where it’s ok to keep secrets or only inform those on a need to know basis.
And before you know it, you’re finding out information at the last minute when it’s too late to do anything about it, because you have been excluded from the thought process, in the other direction!