This is our latest article from my partner at strengths circle and me on how you can successfully capitalize on individual strengths and differences, make people flourish and your organization thrive.
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How can organizations create an environment in which everyone with the capability to excel can do so and feel safe and appreciated?
We at Strengths Circle have worked with many leaders across different industries and countries and we know diversity only really works when we can create a truly inclusive work environment that allows employees to be their authentic selves, work in their strengths and therefore reach their full potential. Based on our many years of experience, we have gathered the following 5 key ingredients to make your diversity & inclusion strategy sustainable:
1. Always start with your top and cascade down:
Always, always start with your top leadership team. Driving a successful diversity strategy begins with the senior leaders as it’s them who have to ask the right questions for the company and set the tone. Specifically, they need to understand the competitive components that build future success in their organization, and how to attract and retain people who can bring different strengths, thoughts, opinions, backgrounds, cultures and approaches to their market. The top leadership team needs to understand, support and be a role model in living the company’s D&I strategy.
In practical terms this means: Make sure D&I sits at the core of your company’s business strategy and is an essential part of your decision-making processes. Actively involve all top leaders right from the beginning when rolling out any initiatives such as training
2. Know your business case and what’s at stake:
If you want other people’s buy-in – actually, if you want your own buy-in, particularly for when it’s time for some tough business decisions, you really need to understand what your organization’s business case for diversity and inclusion is. How it matters not just for the company overall but also how it connects to your very own business objectives, to the ones of your department as well as to your team’s. Only if you and your employees truly understand the cost of failing at this, can you start to expect real commitment.
In the future of work, diversity will not be an option, but an imperative to sustain in our global, fast paced economy, where never just one person owns and knows the truth.
3. Build on your people’s strengths:
Adopting a strengths-based approach means shifting the focus from fixing problems and weaknesses to building on people’s energizing strengths and identifying opportunities to leverage them. In doing so, the leaders need to have a realistic picture of their own strengths and skill sets first before identifying, recognizing and developing their people’s strengths.
The differences and strengths of others are potential drivers of change. The more opinions, the more variety, and the more diversity we bring to the table the more we can unchain our creativity, which is hidden in every one of us.
We believe that diversity in recruiting and development will increase if the focus is on strengths.
4. Create a culture of psychological safety:
Psychological safety means that people in a work environment feel safe to put oneself on the line by asking questions or help, seeking and giving tough feedback, admitting a mistake and owning up to it – or proposing new ideas. You feel you can trust others around you, others trust you and your ideas and inputs are appreciated.
Psychological safety shows real accountability and ownership. It doesn’t mean we have to be all friends and it’s always just a cosy, cuddly atmosphere. No, it means we are comfortable with the uncomfortable because every single team member feels appreciated and listened to. It’s not an easy fare to create such a culture in your team and wider organization. Only too often, leaders don’t take the time or have the courage to unearth unspoken emotions within a team, build trust and ensure that everyone’s opinion is equally heard. This is the key for innovation and inclusion.
5. Be aware of your mental filters and de-bias your decision making:
A D&I strategy isn’t just all about unconscious bias training but it can’t work without it either. If we want to create a truly inclusive culture and retain and attract diverse talent, we do have to understand and counterbalance our biases. Our biases don’t just impact our decisions concerning other people but any (business) decisions we take on a daily basis. If we want to be better prepared to make sounder decisions in the VUCA world we live, we need to continue to dig deep and incessantly increase our awareness of our personal biases and how they affect our decision-making. We have to equip ourselves and our people with the right tools to recognise and mitigate that impact.
Judgment, preaching and pointing fingers have often proven to be counterproductive. Instead we need to be curious, listen to understand, and ask the right questions to open people’ s minds and help them change perspective.
What do you do to create an inclusive work environment that enables your people to excel and feel appreciated? We’d love to hear about your key ingredients to success.
Silke Cramer & Inka Kretschmer – For more on what we do at Strengths Circle, please visit www.strengthscircle.com