Written by Melissa Summer. 1 min read.
In this episode of The Myers-Briggs Company Podcast, we’re joined by Dr. Rachel Cubas-Wilkinson, Principal Organizational Development Consultant for The Myers-Briggs Company, as she highlights key insights around Inclusive Leadership and why it’s a rising priority for organizations to strengthen employee relationships and inclusion.
Diversity, equity and inclusion, also known as DEI, has been a focal point for organizations recently. And it’s a good thing too, because good DEI practices aren’t only better for employees – they help the whole organization perform better.
Many organizations have diversity initiatives, and much of the time HR is handling the equity part of the equation.
But why is it so hard to get inclusivity right?
And why is it that many leaders think they’re more inclusive than they actually are?
Listen to this episode to learn:
- Why leaders, people managers and HR should focus on inclusion and what inclusion means when it comes to DEI initiatives?
- What is the leadership perception gap?
- How can leaders know how inclusive they are?
- What HR can do to create a culture of inclusion in their workplace
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Intro: Welcome to The Myers-Briggs Company Podcast, where we bring together thought leaders, psychologists, and personality experts from around the world to talk about work life, home life, and how to get the best from life.
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Melissa Summer (MS): Diversity, equity, and inclusion – also known as DEI – have been a focal point for organizations recently. And it’s a good thing too, because good DEI practices aren’t only better for employees, they help the whole organization perform better. Research shows that the relationship between leaders and employees can impact employee sentiment and well-being. Additionally, strong relationships between leaders and employees can promote a sense of inclusion where different perspectives, experiences, and personality types can thrive.
Leaders are central to creating and driving a culture of inclusion. Many organizations have diversity initiatives. But much of the time, HR is handling the equity part of the equation. But why is it so hard to get inclusivity right? It all starts with self-awareness and a practical, committed approach to becoming a more inclusive leader. In this episode of The Myers-Briggs Company Podcast, Dr. Rachel Cubas-Wilkinson, principal organizational development consultant for The Myers-Briggs Company, highlights key insights around inclusive leadership and why it’s a rising priority for organizations to strengthen employee relationships and inclusion. Dr. Rachel Cubas-Wilkinson has more than 15 years experience in consulting, leading teams, and teaching in virtual and face to face contexts.
She’s worked across industries and geographies, including corporate higher education and nonprofit in the US and abroad. Dr. Cubas-Wilkinson has also served as a university lecturer and faculty member, designing fully online courses and degree programs. She holds a doctorate degree in transformative leadership and change from the University of New England and a master’s degree in organizational leadership and received the Catherine T. MacArthur School of Leadership Praxis Award for Exemplary Practice in Leadership.
She’s also a founding board member of the Peter Drucker Global Leadership Society, South Florida chapter. And she’s the co-author of the Inclusive Leadership: Harnessing Diversity of Thought workshop hosted by The Myers-Briggs Company. Welcome Dr. Rachel.
Dr. Rachel Cubas-Wilkinson (RCW): Thank you Melissa. I am so excited to be here with you, and you always make things very exciting too.
MS: Thank you. To start, DEI has been a focal topic for so many organizations recently. I think some because of societal things and because of cultural things, but it is something that more and more people are talking about. Why do you think there is this big focus on DEI, and specifically on inclusion?
RCW: That’s a great question. And I think you’re spot on. I was just reading some research recently from Gardner, where they said one of the top business priorities for 2020 is indeed inclusion. And I’ve been seeing a real uptick in the last few years in the work that I’ve been doing with organizations and leaders, where they’re coming to us to find ways to give DE&I commitments legs and figure out ways to make the initiatives more successful – in part because there have been DE&I initiatives that maybe the organization has focused on for some time, maybe in years past.
Some organizations have been working on creating a more diverse workforce for decades now, but there’s still a lot of evidence to show that we haven’t moved the needle as much as we’d like to in DE&I. So I think some of these recent partnerships and conversations are really timely. I think the other thing, and I think you started to kind of mention it, but, simply put, employees want to work in inclusive workplaces. They want to be part of organizations where inclusion is part of that company culture. They want to really be heard, have a voice. And they want organizations to give them that place where diversity can thrive.
MS: So with DE&I, DEI stands for diversity, equity, and inclusion. Would you be able to give us the definition of all three of those? I know you focus on inclusion, but can you tell me a little bit about what diversity is versus what equity is versus what inclusion is?
RCW: Yeah, totally. That’s a great question. I mean, I think broadly speaking, we talk about diversity in anything that differentiates one person from another. And then when you dive deep into diversity, there’s actually different veins of diversity. So there’s the part that we all usually think of when we hear diversity, and that’s visible differences. Whether you and I look the same, how we look different, etc.
Then there’s the vein of diversity that’s kind of invisible differences: maybe differences we might have in our religion, in our mental health, in our different preferences, etc. And then there’s the vein of diversity that is really cognitive. We call that diversity of thought and it’s kind of the sweet spot for The Myers-Briggs Company. I think it’s kind of a true north for us in terms of where we can really move the needle from a training standpoint in support of organizations.
That’s kind of broadly speaking, diversity. And I think it’s really important to ensure that that’s clearly defined organizationally because I tend to find that we often narrow our definition of diversity when we should be broadening it to include things like cognitive differences, because otherwise we’re not going to find as many inroads to creating those inclusive work environments.
Then when you look at equity, I think we simply think of it as kind of fair and equitable practices for everyone. So there, HR tends to be very involved. We look at things like employee policies, employee handbooks. Are we using fair practices across the employee lifecycle from hiring all the way to exit, for example?
And then there’s the part of the DE&I space – certainly a very broad landscape – of inclusion, which is really where most of my work has been focusing on in the last few years. And it’s really digging into inclusion of diverse employees, creating an environment where diverse employees can thrive. And it’s really all about that culture. There’s a real culture that companies create for employees where they sort of expect employees to perform their job duties within this interpersonal and work dynamic culture that the company creates. And that’s really where we’re seeing the greatest movement from organizations that we’re working with because we’re using inclusion as a lever to be able to harness some of those wonderful benefits of diversity that we all have heard of in terms of having inclusive teams and inclusive organizations.
MS: It’s interesting- I know we’re going to talk mostly about inclusion because that seems to be a big driver of the other two, or at least of organizational change. But it was interesting when you were talking about equity. It reminded me that there’s something in the Myers-Briggs Type Indicator and I think it’s around the Thinking and Feeling preferences. What is fair for someone who prefers Thinking might be different from what is perceived as fair for someone with a Feeling preference.
RCW: Yeah. Spot on. We use that quite a bit in our workshops and it’s very interesting because I think we can make the gross assumption that everybody knows the definition of fairness or equity. But what we find in our workshops is there are personality-based nuances and differences in how you and I might define that.
MS: What is the difference? What is the definition? Can you remind me again of the Thinking and Feeling preference?
RCW: Happy to. So I’ll pick on myself. I have Thinking preferences, so here’s how I tend to define fairness or equity: if you and three other friends go to dinner, so there’s four total people at the dinner table and you split the check and the check is $80. You’re each going to pay 20 bucks, right? It’s fair, it’s equitable. Everybody pays $20. And that’s really kind of how a Thinking preference tends to look at fairness as just objectively equal.
When you look at someone with a Feeling preference, what we tend to see is that those folks bring a nuance to fairness and equity that is very subjective. It’s very much about, well, let’s understand the situation of those four friends that are going to dinner. And maybe what’s fair is that one person should pay $5 from the check and somebody else should pay $15 and somebody else should pay $40.
And while it might be sort of a crude quick-hitting example, what it’s highlighting is that objective, sort of step-back-from-the-situation view of what’s fair regardless of the individuals involved versus somebody with a Feeling preference who says ‘No, let’s jump in. Let’s understand the people involved. There are unique circumstances and let’s figure out what’s equitable so that they all give what would be equal for them.’ It’s more of a subjective, relative comparison.
MS: I have a preference for Feeling and my immediate thought was, ‘Well, what if one person is unemployed? And also who’s the person who’s buying the dessert plus the appetizer, plus all the drinks?’ which can get expensive.
RCW: I want to go out with your friends if somebody’s ordering dessert and drinks.
MS: Always dessert.
RCW: Oh gosh I never have room for dessert, unfortunately.
MS: That’s why you’ve got to have it first.
RCW: I guess so, right? Yeah, that seems so counterculture, but we should do it.
MS: So going back – thank you for defining those by the way – that’s a great example. Going back to inclusion and really making sure that if you have all this diversity in the organization, that you’re making sure that those people feel welcome and feel included. So why focus on inclusion for organizations, but then also for leaders and employees? Like what are the differences that you see with organizations, leaders and employees who get it, who are doing inclusion well versus those who maybe are just focusing on diversity and equity and haven’t really given inclusion a second thought?
RCW: You know, that’s interesting . . . From an individual standpoint, if I were to ask you, ‘Would you like to work someplace where you have a voice and you’re appreciated and you’re recognized not just for accomplishing the work that we hired you to do, but for the sort of way that you, Melissa, carry it out?’ Would you say you’d rather work for an organization like that or would you rather work for one that’s indifferent to some of the things that you bring to the table and they’re not going to appreciate and recognize you for some of those nuance things. What would you say?
MS: Oh, definitely the first one.
RCW: Yeah. And I think, in a in a nutshell, that’s what it is for individuals. I have yet to encounter somebody that when I ask that question, they say, ‘No, it’s okay. I’ll work for a non-inclusive workplace.’ So I think for individuals, there is something about an inclusive workplace where we just feel recognized beyond the task and the work that we do. And we all want that kind of workplace.
There’s also a lot of research that shows that we kind of want that recognition and appreciation from our direct managers. We kind of want our direct manager to know, ‘What are my strengths, what are my motivations, my behaviors, and how might they be different from somebody else?’ And it’s a tall order for leaders to be able to figure that out, but I think that’s how it kind of exists from an individual standpoint.
Once you take it up a notch, I think teams are often plagued with challenges that can be rooted in inclusion. So sometimes I work with teams that are suffering from siloed communication, lack of trust, lack of openness with each other. Maybe they’re even hoarding information from each other. And when you really dig into it, it’s because they haven’t felt those inclusive practices towards each other, right?
I need to feel safe enough as part of a team that my voice is going to be heard, that it has an equal platform, that I can depend on you like you can depend on me. There needs to be some psychological safety where if you bring up an idea and I have an idea that’s quite different, I don’t feel inhibited from bringing that idea forward.
And if I do, then we see suffering from a team standpoint because your teams are not as productive. If we juxtapose that on the team standpoint, those teams – when you look at that research from homogeneous teams versus heterogeneous teams – the teams that have diversity and that know how to harness it, where it’s really coming to the forefront. For them, decision making and collaboration is actually harder. You have to be more intentional because you’re wrestling with divergent ideas.
You’re having to wrestle with challenges to the status quo, the way you’ve done things organizationally in the past. Maybe somebody is bringing up something that was a vulnerability for you, something that you weren’t aware of before. And so teams that work well together, even through that diversity, they have to kind of push past some of those challenges, some of the conflict. There needs to be a lot of trust for that. And then when they do, they end up reaping the benefits of enhanced collaboration, better decision making, smarter decisions. There’s new research that just came out on Harvard Business Review a couple of days ago around diverse teams make smarter decisions. A really good, worthwhile read for us to kind of take a look at and remember.
Then I think if you take it up a notch from that point, you have leaders. And what I tend to find is I’ve been doing a lot of training and coaching of leaders in the last couple of years, and I tend to find that inclusive leadership is something they want to do. They want to grow in their ability to be inclusive. But there’s so many challenges and barriers to doing it that from a desire and from an attitudinal commitment, to them, actually operationalizing it every day, there’s quite a chasm there. And we can talk about that a little bit later on what causes that chasm.
But it’s rare for me to find a leader that doesn’t understand, even if it’s just from a people perspective, the value of creating an inclusive work environment. And then I think when you walk the leader through some of the business benefits of creating an inclusive work environment – how that moves the needle on things that every leader and organization would want – then I think they’re even more convinced.
And then at that point they’re saying, ‘Okay how? Rachel, help me operationalize this, help me figure out how to do it.’ And then I think if you take it up a notch again from an organizational standpoint, it’s almost reached the point where I don’t see how as an organization, you can’t be focusing on inclusion in some kind of substantive way.
And I think that’s because company culture has really hit an all-time high in terms of emphasis from employees. We’ve seen a lot of shifting, a lot of resignations, a lot of movement in the labor workforce, in the market. And people are sort of being more choosy. And in fact, I read a statistic the other day where three fourths of employees are researching company culture before they take a job with a company, sort of regardless of compensation, regardless of the employee benefits. Three quarters of them are out there looking up information. And you have to ask yourself, as a company, in a world of online reviews where I can go on Glassdoor and I can find out all kinds of information, ‘Can we afford to not focus on inclusion at this point?’ And we can talk more about any one of those things, but they’re all very fascinating there.
MS: There are so many things in my head. I’m trying to keep straight what I want to ask next, but now, given what you’ve said, now I have like three or four different things. So one of them is, it sounds like from what you’re describing, that there is kind of the employee inclusion of individuals being inclusive and that’s kind of bottom up. And then top down, there’s the HR people and the people who are leading the organization at the C-level that set the inclusive practices, but that the leaders and the managers are really the people who are kind of connecting those two within the company.
RCW: Yeah, that’s exactly right. So you’ve hit on a couple of things that we can dig into. First, when you look at that top level, oftentimes organizations think that if the C-suite is committed to inclusion, then we’re good. And for good reason. You want your C-suite to be committed because inclusion is about company culture and we know that company culture drives things like employee engagement, employee retention, etc. In fact, I was reading a study from MIT Sloan from last year and one of the things that they looked at is Glassdoor reviews and all kinds of other exit information for employees. And they found that seven of the 20 most powerful predictors for a negative or a toxic company culture have to do with inclusion.
It’s like a cluster, seven of the 20 of them. It’s a cluster of information that points to how well do does an organization create an inclusive work environment for every single employee? And they subsequently found out that it’s so incredibly important that employee perception of company culture is actually ten times more predictive of attrition and turnover than even how I feel about my compensation.
So if we just kind of like wrap our head around that, that’s pretty amazing because how I feel about my compensation is still not as important as how I feel about company culture. And in fact, a toxic company culture that was defined ,seven out of 20 factors were about lack of inclusion. That tells you that employees don’t want to work for a toxic company culture.
And we think of toxic cultures as something so extreme that it couldn’t possibly be us as an organization, it couldn’t possibly be us as leaders. But when you dig into it, toxic simply means that employees want to feel respected and they want to feel included. And more than half of the employees that actually left organizations during the recent shifting and The Great Resignation left because they didn’t feel those things. They felt disrespected. They didn’t feel that their voice was heard. They didn’t feel that they were included.
So I think organizationally, inclusion is becoming a real priority for employees. And it needs to be for us as companies too, because we can’t we can’t really hide our corporate culture anymore in this world of online reviews. And if candidates that we’re trying to recruit are looking up information about the company culture – and we know that 75% of them are – then they’re going to quickly find that information one way or another.
MS: Yeah. And I know that company culture also seems like it’s one of the most difficult things to change. It’s not the same as hard number profits.
RCW: It’s hard. That reminds me of the second thing that you’re talking about, because you were saying there’s that organizational perspective on inclusion and then there’s the sort of operational piece of people managers. So I’m glad you reminded me about that. On the organization side, let’s say that you agree that you want an inclusive company culture regardless of where you are. Maybe you need a lot of improvement, maybe you need a little bit of improvement.
Oftentimes, what I find is that organizations tend to focus most of their efforts in one of three buckets. Bucket number one is: let’s relook at our mission statement, our vision. Let’s become an organization that adds inclusion as a value that drives us. They kind of spend a lot of time there.
Other organizations spend a lot of time on the equity side of DE&I where they go back and they look at hiring practices, whether there’s fairness there, whether there’s policies that inadvertently discriminate people, etc.
And then I also see the third bucket of organizations that spend most of their focus on putting out public statements that say, ‘Look how inclusive we are of a workplace. Come and work for us. Look how diverse we look. You’re going to feel belonging here, you’re going to feel included, you’re going to feel appreciated, etc.’
And while all of those are great, and I would certainly say they’re important to your overall DE&I charter, I find that the fourth and most important piece is lacking. And that’s the direct support of the people managers and the leaders at the organization enabling them to be inclusive leaders.
Now, why is that important? It’s because 70% of the difference of whether or not I feel included at work, guess where that comes from Melissa? It doesn’t come from mission statement, company values. It doesn’t come from the C-suite wanting inclusion. It comes from the relationship that I have with my direct manager. Up to 70% of the difference of whether employees would say the company culture is positive or negative or toxic, whether I disengage, whether I feel included, it all comes down to the people managers.
MS: That’s a lot of things to put on the people managers’ shoulders.
RCW: It is.
MS: ‘By the way, most of company culture is based on how good of a manager you are.’
RCW: [laughter] Yeah, no pressure.
MS: [laughter] No pressure.
RCW: But you know what? I think it’s important for us to look at that because I say this to leaders during the workshops. I say, ‘You know what, are just saying it starts with leaders and it ends with leaders because that’s the M.O.?’ The M.O. is you blame leaders for everything, right? And you say the buck ends with leaders. But the reality is no, and research shows that.
I believe Boston Consulting Group did a study a couple of years ago and they found if there is not consistent leadership engagement at the company where every single people manager is driving to inclusion, the employees of that company were far more likely to not feel included. They were two times more likely to feel excluded, and they were three times more likely to look for a job elsewhere because that commitment to inclusion that the C-suite was talking about wasn’t making it down to their day-to-day employee experience. So leaders are really important, not from a blame perspective, but from a capacity standpoint. What are we doing to help support our leaders every single day? Really operationalize what is inclusive leadership?
MS: I manage people and when I think of myself and my own inclusion or what I’m trying to do to make sure people are included- I know that The Myers-Briggs Company, there’s an ebook that we have out called The Inclusion Delusion. And the whole thing is that those of us who are leaders or who are managing people may not be as inclusive as we think that we are. Which I feel like that probably works generally because I think oh when they do intelligence things that everyone thinks they’re above average intelligence. No one thinks that they’re average or below. But it how does that work with the- I think it’s also called the leadership perception gap?
RCW: That’s a really good question. I mean, we wrote that piece that I think is really helping folks. I get a lot of comments on that. The Inclusion Delusion goes into what are those barriers and challenges that companies and leaders face once they’ve decided inclusion is important, but then connecting the dots, moving the needle: what are some of those operational challenges? And you’ve hit on one of them. And it’s this leadership perception gap.
And I think in a nutshell, the way I define this is there are perceptual vulnerabilities that we each have. And, yes, every single one of us has them when it comes to being an inclusive leader and when it comes to assessing my own inclusivity as a leader or your own inclusivity as a leader, and the efficacy of how inclusive we’re being. And there’s a couple there that we can dig into, if you like.
MS: Yeah. I mean, the first one was: how do you know how inclusive you actually are?
RCW: Yeah, that’s a good question. So let’s kind of talk a little bit about those perceptual gaps then. So first, one of the things that research tells us is if I do not feel that I am skilled, particularly skilled in the area of inclusion, I’m unsure of what to do to make my team feel included. I’m unsure of when to do it, how to do it.
Oftentimes what that leads to for a third of leaders is we succumb to the temptation to do absolutely nothing. We don’t even step out to try to be inclusive, to try to lead an inclusion effort at the company, to try to create a subculture on our own teams that says this is a place for divergent thoughts and perspectives, and for inclusion. We don’t challenge the status quo, and we don’t hold ourselves and team members accountable to inclusion because we’re simply unsure of what our own skill set is there.
And that right there is just pretty powerful in and of itself because we don’t want to be in positions sometimes where we try and fail, or try and do the wrong thing. And we feel like there’s a fear that we can create more damage than good if we don’t have the skill set there.
MS: Especially with those stats that you said about non-inclusive leaders and people leaving. That would almost make me think, ‘Well, I don’t want to do anything wrong and hurt more people than I’m helping.’
RCW: That’s exactly right. I find that quite a bit with coaching leaders. They say, ‘You know, I felt like maybe I just didn’t touch inclusion stuff because I was unsure and I didn’t want to just do more harm than good because I felt like I wouldn’t be able to come back from a failure or a difficult conversation.’
And it’s a real coaching process to kind of work through that and give leaders enough confidence in their own skillset to move forward, to take the very next step every time. Then I think a second perceptual challenge that we’ve been working on quite a bit is pretty staggering. And it’s the fact that two-thirds of all leaders hold an inaccurate view of their own inclusive leadership capabilities.
So two-thirds of us are not accurately seeing our own capability. And if we dig in even further, just as you mentioned with the IQ example, a third of us actually rate ourselves in a more positive light, saying that we are more inclusive then we really are as perceived or as rated by the people around us, the people who report to us, our colleagues, our peers, etc.
And so there’s a real challenge there. And then I think to compound the challenge even more, organizations are not directly supporting leaders as much as they need to. So even as of 2021, the statistic was only a third of companies even had a strategy to help leaders be more inclusive in their day-to-day workplace. Only a third of organizations, which tells you that leaders are potentially floundering out there. Or it tells you that leaders have the best of intentions. But we’re not measured by our intentions, right? That direct report that’s leaning on you to create an inclusive work environment is not oftentimes going to be able to judge you or rate you by your intentions. Only by your behavior. Is your behavior demonstrably inclusive or is it not?
MS: How do you measure this? If it’s not intention and it’s not what I think I’m doing, but what I’m actually doing – like what my behaviors are – how do you measure that?
RCW: I have a passion for self-awareness, so I often say that’s the answer to so many things. But I think with inclusive leadership, it really is. It begins with a self-awareness to understand there is a perceptual gap. I have limitations in my own perspective of my own skill sets and a pathway that allows you to get feedback, get data that you can reflect on to say, ‘To what degree are my behaviors evidencing this attitudinal commitment or this desire that I have to inclusion?’
Now for some leaders, getting that data might be as simple as asking your direct reports in a one on one: ‘Do you feel like you’re working in an inclusive work environment? This is what inclusion is. To what degree would you say we’re doing this well on the team?’ And if there’s trust and if there’s openness, that’s probably a really good format for at least getting that piece of data because we know that getting feedback from others is really important.
For other leaders, it might actually be something of a more formal evaluation, a more formal assessment, which was the impetus for when I created the inclusive leadership self-evaluation for the program. It was to actually break down the question: am I an inclusive leader? And I didn’t even make it binary of you either are or you aren’t. We are all to some degree inclusive because it’s not a trait, it’s a skill set, right? It’s not something you’re born with or you’re not. It’s a skill set that you can grow and that you can measure.
So what I did is I kind of changed the question from, ‘Am I inclusive or not?’ to ‘What are my strengths and stretches when it comes to being an inclusive leader?’ And then I broke that question down into granular behaviors that can be observed by others. And then we can say, ‘Okay, I think that others would say yes to this question. I demonstrate on my team that I am open to divergent ideas. And even if I come into a team meeting and I have a plan in place and I have an idea for moving forward and I’m the team leader, but you present me with a divergent idea. I’m open to it. I’m receptive. I’m willing to change course, willing to change plans, etc.’
And so by asking leaders more targeted questions that way, I find that you get a much better answer where they’re changing their own perspective to say it’s not about how much I want to be inclusive, it’s not about giving myself credit for intention or desire. It’s about how much what others describe me as role modeling this behavior.
And when you change the lens that way, I find that leaders are often quite hard on themselves. It kind of swings the pendulum the other way. Rather than positively assessing their own behavior, they start to really question and they start to say, ‘Gosh, I don’t know if others would describe me in this light.’ So it creates a real open point for discussion and for self-awareness.
MS: That makes sense because when I think about when you said asking people who report to you, ‘Do you think I’m an inclusive leader?’ And I imagine that people are going ‘Well, you do my performance reviews and I don’t want to make you mad because you’re my boss and I have to work with you on all these projects. So yeah, sure. You’re an inclusive leader. Yeah, I feel included. Why not?’
And there’s a certain level of trust, but maybe not being completely honest because there is that bias in asking someone who works for you – unless you have a lot of trust with that person and they know that nothing negative is going to happen.
RCW: 100%. We actually have an organization we’re working with right now who said, ‘We want our team leaders to have conversation sessions with their teams about inclusion and inclusive leadership. We want them to talk to their teams about what they’re learning in inclusive leadership program training that we’re that we’re doing.’ And one of the things that we did, Melissa, specifically for what you just said, is the questions that the team leaders are going to ask their direct reports is not just, “Am I an inclusive leader, yes or no?’ But we’ve given them a mechanism for transparent feedback, but through specific competencies.
So what the individual team member is going to do is get introduced to, first of all, what is inclusion. Remember, hearkening back to the fact that we can all define fairness and equity quite different. Inclusion is no different. We have to make sure and establish a baseline for what is inclusion.
So you have that conversation first as a team leader. Make sure everybody’s on the same page. And then we created an activity where they’re introduced to the behaviors that create inclusion because those behaviors can be done by anyone, whether you’re a people manager or a leader or not, right?
It’s about creating that environment where you hold yourself and other people accountable to being open minded, creating inclusion, harnessing diversity of thought, etc. And employees can actually use those competencies and say, ‘Here’s a competency that I think our team does really well on and here’s why. And here’s a competency that I think we could improve upon and here’s why.’
And what we’re finding is that the nature of the conversation changes because it’s all about let’s have a dialog where our strengths are, where our stretches are, and here’s the evidence – here’s the actual behavior in a nutshell that I think we are or are not doing as a team. So I’ll give you one example. I was in a workshop a couple of weeks ago and we were talking about Extraversion and Introversion.
And one of the things that I mentioned is how differently we can show up in team meetings. So I said, somebody with a preference for Extraversion, you may not have to ask them what’s on their mind, right? They may actually willingly impart that information to you. They’ll speak up. They’re happy to brainstorm out loud, think that way. Whereas somebody with a preference for Introversion might sit back, observe more during team meetings, and be a little bit more private, contained, less expressive.
And the team said, okay, how do we how do we actually change that? And we actually invited people with a preference for Introversion to say what makes it easier or harder for you to be vocal in a meeting, to step into the meeting and to sort of share information so that your voice can be included.
And we just kind of broke it down into things like, I need advance notice for meetings. Meetings that are like, ‘Hey, can we meet in 5 minutes?’ Don’t expect me to have these wonderful, eloquent thought-out things because I need some time to reflect on things. They ask for things like an agenda in advance. And then it was funny because I threw out the question: How much in advance is in advance, right? How much time do you need? And it was so funny because the chat sort of flooded in. Some people said, I need five minutes and it went all the way up to a week.
And we actually created a spectrum and we realized, wow, even something as basic as needing to be told ahead of a meeting what we’re going to talk about so that I can bring my voice to it, even if you don’t define what an employee’s needs are, you might be meeting the needs of the employee that only needs five minute’s notice. But you’re certainly not meeting the needs of the employee that wants a week to think about things. So that’s just one very quick example of how it’s almost like inclusion needs to be an ongoing conversation for teams, and it really can be.
MS: Yeah, there’s the podcast episode that we did with Jerry Bingham, who hosts Hush Loudly. That episode is Leadership, Extroversion, and Introversion, and now I feel like we should go back and rename that one Leadership, Extroversion, Introversion, and Inclusion because one of the things she brought up is that she has a preference as a leader for Introversion. But was talking about how as a leader, do I give the people who are following me what they need most? And she was talking about that brainstorming side of it and how she wants to make sure she gives people who prefer Extraversion the space to speak because she knows they want to, but maybe put a time limit on it so that they’re not taking up the whole meeting. But then her other idea, which I thought was really neat and I had never heard of before, was having a brainstorm whiteboard where before and after the in-person brainstorming meeting, people could come a week before or a week after. And if they had other ideas they wanted to put up there, they could put up little Post-It notes and put it in writing. And I thought that was a great idea at the time.
And all the podcast episodes have been great so far. That one comes to mind specifically for this example. But now I’m thinking like, ‘Oh, all these things about self-awareness and appreciating differences – if you’re acting on them, that kind of seems like it falls under inclusion then.
MS: Absolutely. And it’s fascinating how inclusion reverberates in so many important themes. Even if you think back to Daniel Goldman’s work on emotional intelligence. What did he say emotional intelligence was? He said there was the side where you learn more about yourself and therefore you regulate your own behaviors. You adjust to circumstances because you know more about yourself.
And then the second quality of an emotionally intelligent person is that you learn about others and you regulate to their needs, to their preferences, to what might be going on for them. And so it really connects to so many powerful constructs and skill sets. And I think if you’re out there and you’re trying to be an emotionally intelligent leader, if you’re trying to be an empathetic leader, it starts with inclusion. Inclusion is a really good place to focus some of your investment of time.
MS: This also makes me think of an article that I remember reading from you that said the Golden Rule – the whole ‘do unto others as you would have them do unto you – is not the best one to use anymore.
RCW: That’s exactly right. This is an exercise, Melissa, that kind of throws leaders for a loop. So I was just in a workshop last week and I said to them, ‘Okay, guys, what do you like to be recognized and appreciated for in the workplace?’ And what was so interesting is 20 different people came up with 20 very different answers. Some people wanted to be recognized for, ‘I focus on the bottom line and I drive results.’ Other people wanted to be recognized for, ‘I’m creative and I’m innovative and I help the organization go in different directions – whether it’s process or new products or services.’ Then somebody else said, ‘I want to be recognized for the fact that I’m in-tune and support my team members. I’m very collaborative. I take a team based approach.’
I got 20 different answers. And I said to them that one of the challenges that we face as leaders – and this is based in research – is we think a simple question like ‘what do you want to be appreciated and recognized for at work?’ . . . we make two gross errors. Either we answer that question as one size fits all. We think, ‘Well, I’m not even going to ask that question because surely everybody wants to be recognized for a job well done.’ Or maybe everybody wants to be recognized for being on time, on budget, within scope, whatever you think that one size fits all answer might be. And that couldn’t be further from the truth because even in a group of 20 people managers, there was a very shallow degree of similitude there. The answers were so different among them.
And then I think the second challenge is that we might answer it in the way we would answer it, but we do it for our employees in kind of that Golden Rule. So for me, I have Intuition and Thinking preferences. For me, the mastery of something is important. Give me an intellectual challenge, let me master it, let me demonstrate competency. And I feel proud when that’s recognized by my boss, by my peers, by other people, etc. That’s sort of what ticks my box and motivates me and sort of makes me want to push harder the next time around. If I’m attributing that Golden Rule to my direct reports, then I’m only going to recognize in them when they operate like me, right?
I’m going to say to them, ‘Hey, really good job on demonstrating your expertise in this particular presentation. It really came across well. I think you commanded the room. I think folks heard you.’ And you know what? Maybe at face value, that’s a wonderful compliment. But maybe the person’s deepest motivation is for collaboration. Maybe their deepest motivation is, ‘I want to be recognized for staying true to my values. And I work for this organization because my values cohere with the values of the organization.’ And maybe for them, competence and mastery is an interesting sort of compliment, but it’s not really what moves the needle for them and makes them feel included and lights them up and brings out their motivation.
So I have to give credit to my colleague Michael Segovia, who was the one who first said it to me, the Golden Rule versus Platinum Rule. And he said the Golden Rule is you give to others what you want. You treat them the way you want to be treated, and you will sometimes get it right. And a lot of times you’ll get it wrong because there’s not a bunch of little ‘yous’ reporting to you or peers and colleagues. But the Platinum Rule says, ‘Let me go find out what it is that you need, what it is that you want, and really meet you there and give you the ability, the space to flow the way you need to, use the processes you need to, to really live in the skin of your personality type and bring all that wonderful perspective to the team. It’s an exciting proposition to do that.
MS: All right. The Platinum Rule. I have that down now, let’s see. So if the Golden Rule is to treat others how you want to be treated, the Platinum Rule is to treat others how they want to be treated.
RCW: Absolutely. That’s exactly right. And it harkens back to what you were saying with Jeri, where she’s saying, ‘I’m an Introverted leader, but hey, I recognize I could take the stance of, okay, all of my direct reports, all of my peers and colleagues, it’s time for you to flex to me as an Introverted leader. Or I could flip that on its head, and I could say the fact that I know that about myself is wonderful and the fact that I know that you don’t have Introverted preferences, you have Extraverted preferences, is an opportunity for me to give you the gift of flexing my behavior, to give you what you need, creating that space for you to do that live brainstorming, for you to really live in the skin of your personality type and come up with projects and accomplishments and successes that work in the way that fits for you rather than in some process that I’m giving you.’
MS: When it comes to HR professionals, they have some diversity initiatives that maybe have been running. They have a strategy towards that, but they don’t know what to do around inclusion. Where would be a good place to start for them?
RCW: That’s a really good question. I think you need to start with your leaders. You need to find out if you have a good base of support for your people managers, whether you’re doing this in a pilot sense. So maybe you’re taking a group of leaders, a division of your company. Are your leaders all on the same page as to the drive for inclusion? Why are we doing this as a company? What is it going to look like when we’re successful or not successful? How are we going to hold ourselves accountable to that?
And then, more importantly, leaders are a pretty picky audience in the sense that they need to know how it’s relevant to them, right? So you have to connect the dots for me as a leader, if you want me to give legs to an initiative at the company. You have to connect the dots for me to say, ‘Here’s your own sort of journey of self-awareness to how inclusive you are currently – what your strengths and stretches are, and what you can work on every single day within reason to actually help you be a more inclusive leader.’ And if I don’t have that formal support, then I think those leadership perceptual gaps that we talk about just kind of take over at that point and make it really hard for HR to move the needle.
And then I think the second big recommendation that I would give to HR is do not underestimate company culture. We’re in a time right now where in the labor market, jobs far exceed the number of employees. Three-quarters of people research about company culture before they take a job. Over half of employees say they want to leave their job to go work for a more empathetic organization or leader. Company culture is just really important right now. And the number one predictor of sort of those negative ratings on something like Glassdoor is if you have a toxic company culture.
And remember that among the top five reasons that you would be declared as having a toxic company culture by an employee would be that they feel disrespected and that they don’t feel included. Those are up there as really predictive of my perception of company culture, feeling like it was a toxic work environment for me. And then of course leaving that review. Or the opposite – working for an inclusive workplace where I feel appreciation, I feel belonging, I feel inclusion. And guess what? I’m going to go tell people about it and I’m going to say, ‘This is the place to come and work. Take a look at this job post and we’re bringing people in.’ I’m hearing more and more from companies right now that they’re having to increase by leaps and bounds their recruitment efforts, their retention efforts. Well, if inclusion is ten times more predictive than compensation, then it’s a really good place for HR to focus.
MS: Yeah. And as you were mentioning that, there’s a lot more jobs available than there are people to be in those jobs. Has inclusion changed once a bunch of people started working remotely or went to a hybrid workplace? Has that had any effect on either people’s inclusion- or does that have any effect on how leaders or HR should be more inclusive?
RCW: That’s interesting. I mean, it’s a social construct that I think we’d want to research for a very long time. I can tell you in all of the workshops I’ve done and the hundreds of people that I’ve worked with just in the last 12 months, I think folks want to be more human and they want to be treated more like humans in this pandemic.
And we did that webinar, I think it was just a couple of months ago, where we talked about how the psychology of employees has been so impacted in the last 12 to 24 months. People have lost family members to COVID. People have entered financially challenging situations, whether they were layoffs, people fell into poverty that had never been there before. People were switching jobs. We have great disengagement happening. Gallup is reporting that uptick in disengagement of employees. All of these things come together to create a psychology of an employee that says, ‘I don’t just want a job. I want to be treated right, like a human.’ Which is why I was mentioning earlier that over half of people say, ‘I will leave my job right now if I could go to an organization or a leader that’s more empathetic.’
So to me, that screams that this is really coming to the forefront. It’s coming to the forefront in a very individual kind of way. I want to feel that I have a voice, that I’m heard, that I’m appreciated. And when you do that for me, there’s that psychological contract. What do employees then in turn do for the organizations? And it’s a lot. They speak up more, they contribute more. They’re more willing to collaborate. They’re more willing to challenge the status quo. They might bring up ideas that you’ve never considered before that changed the face of the way you do something as an organization. That’s why there’s research showing that one of the business benefits of inclusion is emergence into new markets and innovation.
Because when you invite that divergent perspective and there’s the psychological safety – that culture that’s open for me to be able to bring that divergent perspective to light – some pretty powerful things can happen.
MS: Wow. That sounds like a ton of good business benefits. And it sounds too like – I don’t want to make it sound like you get more out of people – but people are more engaged and willing to give more in their professional life when they feel like they’re being included.
RCW: 100%. And isn’t that true? Even in like our personal lives, you know, people who demonstrate gratitude to you, appreciation to you. I mean, I don’t know about you, but I just want to go like above and beyond for those for those folks. And so I hope it doesn’t come across like you said, in a manipulative sort of ‘we’re trying to get the best out of people’ sense. It’s more of, there is a transaction. We as organizations give employees the space in which to do their job duties. And that space can be an interpersonally positive space with work dynamics that are positive and that are engaging and that let people sort of create and co-create in the way that works for them and brings that diversity of thought to the forefront. Or it can be in a very different light, right? All the way up to a negative corporate culture or even a toxic one.
MS: Well, when it comes to appreciation, Rachel, we appreciate so much you being on this podcast and sharing all the information you have shared with us today. I know I’ve learned some things that I didn’t even know, and I’ve heard you talk many times before.
RCW: You know, I’m super appreciative. I think it’s such a timely topic, but it’s one, Melissa, that I hope we’re going to be talking about for years to come.
MS: If people want to learn more about inclusion and your take on inclusion, and if people want to hear more from you, where can people find these things?
RCW: That’s a great question. So if you want to learn more about specifically inclusion and diversity of thought, which is that sort of sweet spot for The Myers-Briggs Company, we’ve got lot of really nice webinars out there on our website.
If you go back to past webinars, we have one specifically on nurturing diversity of thought [https://www.themyersbriggs.com/en-US/Resources/Nurturing-Diversity]. And that’s a really nice one because we will explore what DE&I is, what are the business and people benefits of inclusion, and we get into how to start that with a couple of really practical recommendations.
Another one is that ‘inclusion delusion’ that you were talking about. I believe that’s a white paper that we have out online. That’s a really good place to dig into more on the leadership perception gap [https://www.themyersbriggs.com/en-US/Programs/DEI-Guide]. And I think we did that as a webinar too, Melissa, if I’m not mistaken. There might be a webinar out there on the ‘inclusion delusion’ specifically.
And then if folks are interested in how inclusion might connect in the current competitive landscape, we do have that upcoming webinar that we’re doing on looking specifically at with this tight labor market, what are some of the things that organizations can do to support the new expectations of employees? And one of those is digging into how leaders need to be more empathetic, more emotionally intelligent, and more inclusive of their teams and of people. So those are all really nice resources to check out that specifically look at inclusion as the lever for harnessing diversity of thought.
MS: Perfect. And that website for people who may not know is the Myers-Briggs dot com [themyersbriggs.com]. And I’m pretty sure with the inclusion delusion, at this point with that ebook white paper, you could just Google ‘the inclusion delusion’ and you could probably find it. But yeah, it’s good to know about that webinar too.
So if you’re listening to this and want to go find that webinar again the Myers-Briggs dot com. I believe ‘resources’ under the header and then ‘webinars’ and that’s where you can find the rest of the blogs too. So thank you again, Rachel. This has been just so fantastic and love having you on here to talk about inclusion and talk about how HR and leaders and individuals can be more inclusive, but also that perception gap just really, really, really fantastic podcast.
RCW: Thank you Melissa. It’s an honor. And all of those who are listening, it’s an honor to have shared this space of time with you. We hope that you reach out and connect with us.
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