The Signs of Change: Small Actions Make A Difference
KJCG’s definition of inclusion is: A sense of belonging. A feeling of being respected, valued and seen for who we are as individuals; there is a level of supportive energy and commitment from leaders, colleagues and others so that we — individually and collectively — can do our best work. Organizations that embark on specific efforts to build inclusive workplaces that embody the above definition often struggle to keep people engaged during the delay between the initial “talk” of the Inclusion Effort and when new inclusive culture, mindsets and behaviors begin to reach people in their day to day lives. Since the transformation of an organization cannot happen over night, demonstrating even the smallest inclusive behaviors on a daily basis can make all the difference.
For many people in an organization engaged in an Inclusion Effort, Inclusion may seem like an abstract term that holds little or no meaning. “What does it look like?” or “How do we measure it?” are questions that are commonly asked. However, the answer is simple “you know inclusion when you experience it!” This is why small actions make a big difference. By taking even the smallest inclusive actions, organizational leaders model the necessary behaviors that become a part of the competencies needed to create a culture of inclusion
Some of the small actions that can make a big difference are addressed in our 11 Inclusive Behaviors, such as greeting people authentically and saying “hello” and speaking up when people are being excluded. But what does this look on a day-in and day-out basis? Recently, we surveyed the Core Inclusion Partners (a cross-organizational group of people who have participated in in-depth education regarding inclusion concepts and assisted in building a peer-to-peer network for communicating these concepts throughout the company) in a current client about what they were seeing with respect to any new behaviors leaders and managers were demonstrating that could be attributed to the organization’s Inclusion Effort. Some of the responses were great examples of the small actions that managers and senior leaders in any organization can do every day to make inclusion more and more of a reality as the organization shifts its culture and mindsets to inclusion as a way of life.
1) Including Hellos at every meeting – One of the most powerful actions that leaders and managers began to implement was consciously beginning all meetings with simple hellos. This enabled everyone in the meeting to greet others–and to set the stage for more inclusive conversations and interactions in meetings. Saying hello lets people know that they are seen, and feeling seen is a first step to feeling included.
2) Senior Leaders schedule one-on-one meetings to get to know the members of their staff as individuals – Some of the leaders started scheduling one-on-one meetings with each member of their staffs to hear what was important to each person—their values, what they needed to do their best work—and to better understand each person’s frame of reference, At the same time it provided each person an opportunity to see the leader as a human being and more than a “title.”
3) Valuing people’s knowledge and abilities over rank and tenure – By genuinely knowing the people in their organization, leaders began utilizing a wider range of people for special projects, basing their actions and decisions more on people’s capabilities and knowledge rather than going to the same people over and over again, particularly people that are relied on primarily because of rank and tenure.
4) Leaders make themselves accessible to their people – In this particular organization, one leader blocked out time on her calendar once a week and communicated it to everyone to ensure that she would be in her office and accessible to her team. This is a far cry from a leader saying that she is available to her people, but never actually being in the office when someone knocks on the door.
5) Be open and receptive to new ideas and suggestions – Another individual described a leader who would always create obstacles that actually prevented projects from being completed. After an inclusion workshop, the leader became more receptive to suggestions and began calling this individual on a daily basis for updates and to offer assistance in completing the project.
The journey along the Path to an Inclusive Organization is one that may seem difficult to achieve, but demonstrating even seemingly small Inclusive behaviors on a daily basis, can make all the difference in ensuring that an organization continues to move toward this vision. Although Inclusion is the BIG idea, it cannot be achieved without the small actions. What are you doing today to demonstrate your commitment to creating an inclusive environment in your organization? What actions would you recommend to others to shorten the delay between the initial Inclusion Efforts and the realizations of a new culture and mindsets?