There is no doubt in my mind that leadership today aspires to have a diverse set of employees, a meritocracy and an inclusive culture. Those words are in every speech, on the walls and in the values. And, I believe people have the best of intentions. The problem is that we don’t actually understand what is required of each person in order to have a truly inclusive culture (or an engaged culture or a collaborative culture). We say the words, but they do not translate into what every single employee should stop doing and start doing.
Inclusion is a feeling. I feel as if I am part of the group. I feel as if my opinion is valued and is heard. I feel as if I have the same opportunity to connect, grow and develop as anyone else – meaning no one else has an advantage over me in terms of connecting to people, finding growth opportunities, receiving guidance, coaching or mentoring, or developing my career path.
What if many of the things we talk about are all part of the same pattern of behavior? Feeling fulfilled at work means I have meaningful relationships, I am making an impact and I have opportunities to grow. Is that really very different from feeling included?
Psychological safety – another hot topic today – is about feeling safe enough to say what I think, to offer my ideas and to bring out my concerns without fearing I will be criticized, downgraded in some way, rejected or fired. Is that really all that different than inclusion? When I feel included, psychological safety is present. I can’t feel psychological safety if I don’t feel included.