Diversity is inherent in today’s workplaces. Inclusion, however, is not something that happens by chance. It has to be consciously cultivated and reinforced so it can become part of the workplace culture.
So how can leaders go about promoting inclusion throughout an organization? Leaders need to walk the talk by consciously cultivating and reinforcing an inclusive workplace culture so as to encourage others to emulate their behavior.
This is known as role modeling, one of the most powerful and cost-effective tools that leaders can use to promote inclusion.
The importance of role modeling should not be underestimated. Employees look for cues that communicate both the characteristics and intentions of their leaders. They will observe how their leaders define respect, whether the leaders value inclusion, and whether the organization’s values apply to themselves.
Hence, a leader’s day-to-day behavior is critical to help reinforce an inclusive organizational culture which, in turn, shapes workplace culture and employees’ behaviors.
Leaders can foster an inclusive work environment through role modeling by following these 3As:
Everyone has unconscious biases that influence how they interpret and respond to situations. These in turn, impact the decisions they make. Effective leaders proactively undergo self-assessment or seek feedback from team members so as to develop greater self-awareness.
These leaders understand the impact their behavior has on others and put in effort to cultivate inclusive language and behaviors by mirroring the traits of successful leaders.
Employees are quick to recognize when a leader fails to lead by example and walk the talk. While mistrust affects employee morale and productivity, trust creates environments that
encourage inclusion and innovation.
Leaders are those who show themselves to be approachable, yet vulnerable, with shortcomings they strive to overcome. These are the ones who will be regarded by their employees as more convincing role models.
Leaders who take personal accountability for inclusion are effective drivers of
employee behavior. By consciously recognizing inclusion as a key driver of business decisions and incorporating it as a success indicator, it demonstrates the leader’s commitment to address any underlying factors that may limit workplace inclusiveness.
When leaders take steps towards being accountable role models, employees will also align their decisions and behaviors accordingly.
Role modeling is central to inculcating an inclusive and productive workplace. Those that are making the most progress are leaders who lead by example. After all, actions speak louder than words. The right behavior will not only help shape employees’ performance and interactions with co-workers and customers, but also drive business growth.