Here Are Four Ways Managers Can Be More Inclusive

By Sidney Finkelstein
September 11, 2017

Teams and organizations that emphasize inclusion attract better talent and perform better. Find out why. 

Management teams and organizations that prioritize inclusion attract better talent and perform better. For example, dozens of studies have demonstrated that more diverse teams make better decisions.

By definition, inclusive leaders embrace the notion that every person counts. If that sounds fairly straightforward, it really isn’t. In bringing this mindset to life, leaders wind up embracing a number of unconventional management practices. I conducted over 200 interviews with great bosses and identified four practices that managers follow to truly become inclusive leaders.

HIRE FOR TALENT, NOT THE RÉSUMÉ: Inclusive leaders don’t hire the way managers traditionally do, hewing to some established formula for assessing a recruit’s desired credentials. Rather, they create their own formulas, seeking out underlying qualities such as exceptional intelligence, creativity and flexibility, and recognizing that the best candidates might well be unorthodox hires.

UNLEASH EVERYONE’S CREATIVITY: Traditional leaders might talk about innovation and the necessity of adaptation, but they really only want employees to do what they’re told — with no excuses. Inclusive leaders invite team members at all levels to contribute their own original thinking. They define the core vision of the team and regard everything else as potentially open for innovation, believing that the only way to stay alive is to set aside assumptions and fears, and welcome good ideas from everywhere.

USE OPPORTUNITY AS YOUR PRIMARY DEVELOPMENT TOOL: All too often, women and minorities are compelled to prove themselves over and over again before being given real responsibility. Inclusive leaders, however, open the doors of opportunity as wide as possible. Their core belief is that the people they hire can and should do anything, and that their team members should continue to develop rapidly and in new directions throughout their careers.

FOSTER COMPETITION AND COLLABORATION: Many leaders don’t invest in ensuring that their people gel into a unified team. Inclusive leaders do — and in a fairly unique way. Whereas traditional leaders might foster either a competitive environment or close collaboration between team members, inclusive leaders do both at once. By being both intensive and nurturing, this kind of culture helps sustain an insider mentality on the team. Employees think of themselves as a “band of brothers and sisters” united against the world. This creates a cauldron of colliding ideas that fuels exceptional performance.

Embracing and integrating these four practices might require that you unlearn old habits. Usually, the ones who grasp inclusive leadership the quickest are those who display the greatest curiosity and courage. Give up your need to be “the expert.” Practice asking more questions, even if you fear looking foolish. By incorporating the management behaviors described here, you’ll increase your odds of becoming an inclusive leader and building a high-performance organization.

Sydney Finkelstein is a professor of management and the director of the Leadership Center at the Tuck School of Business at Dartmouth College. His new book is Superbosses: How Exceptional Leaders Manage the Flow of Talent.

Copyright 2017 Harvard Business School Publishing Corp. Distributed by The New York Times Syndicate.

Topics: Management

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