The world after the 2008 financial meltdown has presented a conundrum for leaders. How do you invest energy in people, or include them in organizational decisions, when they might not be there tomorrow? Is that a waste of time? How do you ask them to invest in moving the organization forward when they know they might never be part of that growth? We can start by using the very principles of Inclusion as the HOWSM that we leverage for organizational performance—particularly the 12 Inclusive Behaviors—to face the uncertainties and, together, move forward into them. Leaders can start this effort by leaning into their own discomfort. They can neither predict the future nor guarantee people that they will have jobs for life; that naturally produces anxiety. So leaders can lead more effectively by being transparent around this reality: dealing with it, facing it, owning it, and discussing it, among themselves and with the people of the organization—especially the people who may feel the greatest impact of whatever looms on the horizon.
Leaders must also create a safe space for two-way conversations with people about the volatility of the situation. This allows all people to see that they are not alone in their fears, that others throughout the organization share the same concerns, that the leaders care about them and what happens to them. (When that caring is truly present, it makes a big difference, but it must be authentic. If there is little or no caring, it should not be forced or stated.) At the same time, these conversations make it clear that everyone needs to continue doing their best work. This is not easy, but people need to avoid letting fear block them from taking risks, speaking up, and helping the organization reach higher levels of performance even in the face of this change.
Used in these ways, the 12 Inclusive Behaviors can foster the kinds of interaction that allow information to flow and trust to remain—even possibly to blossom. That trust is absolutely essential, not only for the general well-being of people in the organization, but also for their continued performance and contributions at a high level.
Can you see the cycle here? Inclusive behaviors help leaders build trust and cohesion in transitional times. That, in turn, creates a “safe enough” environment in which people can continue to leverage Inclusion as the HOWSM as an accelerator of organizational performance, whatever the uncertainties of their personal situation.
You cannot guarantee job security. You can make sure everyone is valued and heard, even in uncertain times. If you do, a painful and uncertain process can have positive, growth-oriented outcomes for all concerned.