INCLUSIFY: The Power of Uniqueness and Belonging to Build Innovative Teams

by Mar 21, 2022

Based on our episode “INCLUSIFY: The Power of Uniqueness and Belonging to Build Innovative Teams” with Dr. Stefanie Johnson

Inclusify is a word that is intended to give the feeling of inclusion or being inclusive as an action rather than like including people as a passive verb. Inclusifying is supposed to differentiate the very intentional act of creating an environment where people feel like they can be their unique selves and still belong. And so, you have to do something to make it happen.

Culture crusaders

Most successful leaders recognize the value of being inclusive because they want different opinions and different perspectives. They want people to be able to thrive in the workplace, and so at least some people say they really want to do it, and oftentimes they think they’re doing it really well. But there are some things that leaders were doing that made them feel like they were really doing something that wasn’t. Culture crusaders are the leaders who are really successful at building a strong culture of belonging but people often don’t feel like they fit in, even when they might look like they fit in. Because to really feel included, there is that need to belong, but there’s also a need for individuality.


Some activities to do to look for the differences in the uniqueness that each of your team members brings: 

  1. Role modeling– It shows how you are different and the pieces of yourself as a leader that you don’t often share because it doesn’t fit the brand or the norm. Being authentic, vulnerable, and sharing those parts of yourself will allow other people to do the same.
  2. Human connection– One-on-one conversations with people where you ask them things like, “What’s happening in your world?” “What is your world like?” It is taking the opportunity to learn a little bit more about that world, especially assuming we have some foundational trust between us, that it doesn’t feel invasive.

Unconscious bias training

It is an easy way to demonstrate a commitment to diversity. It’s gained a lot of popularity, but there’s data from researchers that shows that it doesn’t really have a big impact on people’s behavior. It might change attitudes for a certain amount of time, but is it going to impact behavior down the road? This is a difficult transition period, and although a lot of people are really committed to increasing diversity and inclusion, there are people who aren’t necessarily on board with that or don’t believe that we need to be doing this right now. So, there are these opposing forces. 

There are training opportunities for skills or knowledge deficits. Most often, bias is really not about a lack of knowledge; it’s just that we have a lot of demands on our time and what do you prioritize? Culture is inclusive and we respect people. We’re vulnerable and we let everyone else be vulnerable. We have to live the core values.


Goals that leaders can put toward inclusivity

  1. Demographic goal– How many women, people of color or women of color we hire? Look at the intersectionality, overall, different departments or in different locations at different levels.
  2. Promotion rates through the organization- That’s where we start to see divisions. For example, men and women enter quite similarly, and then men start to get faster promotions than women, and that happens within companies.
  3. Turnover rates– There are big gaps in terms of retention for people of color and women of color. That’s costing organizations real dollars, too, so that’s a good one to monitor.
  4. Meeting indicators– Use surveys or do focus groups to see how people are feeling. If you have these really talented women, women of color, or people of color and they’re not moving through the ranks and not getting opportunities for advancement and development, they’re probably going to exit your organization and find a place where they do feel like they can advance.
  5. Participation– It’s a very easy metric to look at, but who’s participating in programs is a good indicator of engagement and commitment to the organization. You should keep your thumb on the pulse of how people are feeling.

You really want to be careful not to lose your current employees because that’s actually more of a cost and a risk than hiring. Because if you lose now, you have to hire more. You have big gaps in training and knowledge. Go check on your employees and ask what’s going to make them want to stay.


How COVID has really impacted these these things 

  1. Women had to leave because they were the ones who got stuck into taking care of the kids more than the men.
  2. Shift in the uniqueness and belonging that people experience. Typically, uniqueness is the bigger challenge. Individuals who are working remotely and not as frontline workers feel more like themselves.
  3. A lot of people feel like they belong, feel valued, but don’t necessarily feel like they can be their authentic self, and this is more true for underrepresented and marginalized individuals.
  4. It’s just harder for people to code switch, mask, or cover. When they go to work physically, they put on a uniform. Even if their uniform is a beautiful white dress, it’s still like going into a different place and turning on this different person.

As a leader, you have to create psychological safety for others and show them vulnerability. The true way to build psychological safety is to be open and be yourself as a leader so that everyone else feels free to be themselves. You first have to have the psychological safety that people feel they can share more about themselves. Start down that path by role modeling the vulnerability, and you have to look at the track record. In a psychologically safe environment, people feel like they can share different views or take a risk right away and they’re not going to be humiliated or punished for it.

About Catherine Mattice

Catherine Mattice, MA, SPHR, SHRM-SCP is President of consulting and training firm, Civility Partners, and has been successfully providing programs in workplace bullying and building positive workplaces since 2007. Her clients include Fortune 500’s, the military, several universities and hospitals, government agencies, small businesses and nonprofits. She has published in a variety of trade magazines and has appeared several times on NPR, FOX, NBC, and ABC as an expert, as well as in USA Today, Inc Magazine, Huffington Post, Entrepreneur Magazine, and more. Catherine is Past-President of the Association for Talent Development (ATD), San Diego Chapter and teaches at National University. In his book foreword, Ken Blanchard called her book, BACK OFF! Your Kick-Ass Guide to Ending Bullying at Work, “the most comprehensive and valuable handbook on the topic.” She recently released a second book entitled, SEEKING CIVILITY: How Leaders, Managers and HR Can Create a Workplace Free of Bullying.

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