The Single Reason Most Leaders Fail to Commit to Inclusion

Path through the forest by Ugne Vasyliute - a journey to inclusion

Photo by Ugne Vasyliute on Unsplash.

Why inclusion fails

Building inclusion is an important topic these days, as it is key to building up a strong team. Ideally, everyone feels like they’re important contributors and can make meaningful impact. 

However, many organizations seem to try to build more inclusion into their organizations, yet fall flat.  They build out new Diversity, Equity, and Inclusion programs.  They maybe even hire more diverse teams.  Perhaps the work is done to see, hear, and understand. Conversations, consultations, assessments, external reviews, feedback forms, listening circles, even apologies. 

But often the work stops there. After all, people were given a seat at the table, right? It often feels like nothing has changed.  

This is a shame. Unfortunately, we’ve all experienced the feeling of having been seen, heard, understood, and ignored. This dismissive combo leaves us with a terrible feeling that is alienating and erodes trust, and is pervasive in our culture.

Oftentimes, this feeling is inadvertently created when intending to include others on the path to doing the right thing. The programs were put into place.  People were invited! Alas, good intention does not always equal positive impact. The harmful result of alienation and isolation occurs when the path towards inclusion is abandoned too soon.

People were asked to the table, but were they then swiftly asked to leave before the real conversation began? Hiring more minorities is great, but if they’re asked to then conform to the majority, does it really matter?

If this is the case, this work was merely performative. Lip service at best. It leaves people wondering why they were invited to sit at the table in the first place. Honestly, even though the intention of building inclusion was there, without follow-through, this can actually cause more division and exclusion, no matter your best intentions.

If you’re truly seeking to include others and earn trust, there is more work to be done. 

Building true inclusion

What does real inclusion look like? 

“I see you, I hear you, and I understand. And because I do and I care about you, here’s how this will be reflected in what happens next – in action. And here are the commitments to doing things differently that we are going to make and keep.”

For people to feel included and appreciated, seeing, hearing, and understanding must be followed by action. By making and keeping commitments. This is an inclusive process that builds trust.

As leaders, if we seek to earn back that trust from those who feel unappreciated and excluded, we need to follow through and do the work of taking action. We all know what it’s like to have our expectations broken by people saying one thing and doing another. By sticking to our commitments and walking the walk, we can begin to rebuild that lost trust.

We can’t always translate someone’s input into the action. However, this is no reason to excuse exclusion.  We can still help them feel valued and appreciated for their contribution even if it is not incorporated into next steps. 

“Thanks for your thoughtful input. We’ve made the decision to go this direction, which is different from the path you suggested, and here’s why. Even though this might not be the outcome you were hoping for, we hope you can help us move forward together and keep us accountable.”

This might seem simple, but think about how you’ve been made to feel appreciated in the past. It’s often the small, consistent action of being shown that they care about you and the work that you do.  You can do the same for others.  By investing in and caring for your people with these simple, small steps, you can move towards a true team rather an a group of people. 

As you seek to unleash and include others, be mindful not to abandon the path early. Yes, the journey to inclusion might seem a little bit longer, but it’s worthwhile and leads the way to a better future.

P.S. Want to learn practical ways to unleash and include those around you and earn trust? Join us for the next episode of the In Trust podcast!