I have been trying to practice the 12 Inclusive Behaviors for the last few weeks. During this time, a question I have grappled with is “What do these Inclusive Behaviors tell me? If I were to practice these behaviors at work, would it mean that I have created an inclusive workplace? In short, what is inclusion—an event, a process, or something else?”
Inclusion is certainly not an event. Visualize a manager at the workplace making an announcement: “February is the inclusion month for this year. In February we will ensure everyone feels acknowledged and included for what they have done.” This turns inclusion into a “program of the month.” When the next customer order or project milestone comes up, “programs of the month” get put aside. Event-based approaches are clearly ill suited for creating inclusion.
So is inclusion a process, or the outcome of a process? If we were to ensure the 12 Inclusive Behaviors were exhibited at the workplace in a certain order/algorithm/manner, would we have an inclusive workplace? Can you think of a successful cultural change initiative which happened only because a certain process was followed repeatedly? I can’t think of any!
A few days ago, while reflecting through my notes from the Be BIG workshop, I came across this statement: “Inclusion is a Mindset”!
The Merriam-Webster Dictionary Online defines mindset as “a mental attitude or inclination; a fixed state of mind.” A “mental attitude or inclination” influences/determines behavior. Hence changing the “mental attitudes or inclinations” makes it easier to change behaviors; then we practice the new behaviors until they permeate our way of living. At that point, we live them out involuntarily.
The idea of “process” evokes images of conscious attempt. A team can start practicing Inclusive Behaviors through a conscious process. But the challenge lies in making inclusion a mindset at the workplace. When this mindset takes hold, and the behaviors are practiced long enough, we exhibit them as involuntarily and naturally as walking when we want to move or breathing every minute of our lives. It is at that point that we have created an inclusive workplace!