We have all heard the homily “There is no “I” in “Team. ” As any sports coach knows, a team’s results overshadow the individual. You do need some top talent on a first class team, but every team is more than the sum of its parts.
Similarly in business environments, success is a function of more than individual effort. Employee collaboration and contribution leads to increased success. Employee contribution and engagement in group decision making is as important to success in business, as football linemen are in contributing to a scoring drive by protecting their quarterback or opening a hole for the running back for the touchdown drive.
Simply put: Engaged employees are more satisfied team members. They know they are part of the team. Engaged employees feel they are contributors to the overall success of the enterprise. Which brings us to a hotly debated question by leaders and teammates around the world, “How to most easily engage employees?” The answer can be very simple . . . include them in more decisions affecting the team. When teammates feel included as though they are included in the decision making process and share in the resulting outcomes, the whole team benefits and improves.
While current discussions around inclusion are often related to ethnic or cultural perspectives, broader employee engagement stems from including all employees — at all levels and in all areas of an enterprise — in issues ranging from the development of minute process details to reviews of broad policy or strategy concepts. Enterprise leadership development requires the organization to step away from dictatorial and one dimensional, top down planning. Effective leadership seeks to include fresh voices that can bring new perspectives and attitudes to the discussion, ultimately arriving at vibrant solutions. The net result offers broader engagement and fresh insights, often leading to new solutions. In short, inclusion leads directly to better results.
“Inclusion is a call to action that means actively involving every employee’s ideas, knowledge, perspectives, approaches, and styles to maximize success.”
Inclusion is the process of valuing individuals- all individuals, and leveraging their diverse talents, not in spite of their differences, but because of them. Inclusion is a call to action that means actively involving every employee’s ideas, knowledge, perspectives, approaches, and styles to maximize success. In their book, Power Up – Transforming Organizations through Shared Leadership, David Bradford and Allen Cohen describe their “Inclusive Model” for improving results. It includes:
- Flattened organizations
- Empowered contributors
- Continual, transparent communications
- Rewarding innovation and creativity
- Divergent thinking with an open-ended decision process
- Shared Leadership and Accountability
In many cases, leadership may not be comfortable with the change in the business culture that is necessary to include broader participation in the functions and welfare of an organization. The mindshift toward inclusion at every level will pay dividends. Cascading this policy and practice throughout the organization accelerates results.
To begin expanding the teamwork in your organization try these fresh ideas:
- Recognize your bias. Realize that others may have a fresh view on a solution that you may have overlooked.
- Open minds at every level to new, untested notions. Consider fresh alternatives from fresh perspectives.
- Challenge assumptions. What was desired, efficient, or productive just yesterday may not be the best solution to today’s reality.
- Power and accountability must flow down. More people must be included in creating solutions
- Realize that including employees in the decision and evaluation process expands the responsibility for good decisions and engages more people in solutions.
Up for some more challenge? These challenging, but rewarding, action items will help your organization reap the benefits of a workplace inclusion strategy.
- Work from a well-documented plan of action complete with goals, objectives and lots of small manageable tasks to help realize change. Achieving an inclusive work environment is a culture change initiative, but it does not require a lot of large undertakings.
- Create opportunities for cross-generational work teams and interactions. Cross-functional teams comprised of men and women who are intergenerational and racially diverse stimulate new thinking, which leads to greater possibilities.
- Invest in team building and leadership skills to develop inclusive systems. Instilling the organization with competencies that foster successful teams and skills for leading diverse teams is a critical success factor.
Inclusion means being open to every employee’s ideas, knowledge, perspectives, approaches and styles. It’s about engaging employees so they become active contributors by feeding the organization with great ideas. Companies that are proactive about intentionally harvesting as many diverse viewpoints as possible can then inherently derive innovation out of inclusion.
“Inclusion means being open to every employee’s ideas, knowledge, perspectives, approaches and styles.”
Inclusion represents opportunity for growth, new knowledge, and global community. What is your organization doing to inspire next level thinking about shifting from diversity management to inclusion?
It is hard work, but the payoff is huge — a committed, highly engaged, high-performing team.