We’re moving our mindset today from BASIC to BADA$$ when it comes to DEI. We’re continuing our deep dive into ACTIONABLE guidance about inclusive leadership.

Why? Because BADA$$ Leaders don’t just say they’re inclusive. They BELIEVE, ACT and LIVE inclusively! We may not always get it right, but that won’t be for lack of trying!

Today we dive into the “I”: Inclusion.

Recall our definition from last November.

Inclusion = You know, live, and lead like everyone counts and all perspectives matter.

Last Tuesday, I conducted a workshop on leadership brand (click here to listen to the recording). Now, before you think “random”, let me unpack this for you and connect the dots.

In that session, I laid out the most important questions that you must ask yourself to take ownership of your unique, authentic, leadership brand:

⁉️ Who AM I?

⁉️ What do I DO like no one else?

⁉️ What is the IMPACT I have on projects, teams, organizations, and the world?

Here’s the connection to inclusion.

Those three questions give us deep insight into ourselves. They help us draw upon how our lived experiences combined with passions, talents, skills, and expertise create a one-of-a-kind individual that brings a one-of-a-kind contribution to anything they do.

And it’s that combination of unique, authentic, unadulterated individual contributions that bring success to any project, team, group, organization.

Now, some of you masters of the counter argument will say “We’re (our team, organization) not the best at inclusion, but we’re still getting it done.” (How many F’in times have I heard this?)

To that I say, “Yeah, you’re getting something done. But you’re underachieving.” It’s time to dream much bigger than what you’re already accomplishing with a less inclusive approach. (Here’s the  data from McKinsey to back that up ​​​​Delivering growth through diversity in the workplace | McKinsey.)

Think about it this way: Imagine a beautiful, 1500-piece puzzle. A single piece is unique in its color(s), its shape, and its importance to the overall picture the puzzle creates. But put all those unique pieces together and what you get is amazing. The sum is ALWAYS greater than the individual pieces. Alone, the pieces are important. But together? You get it. Inclusion quite simply creates MORE.

Each of us can get our head around our own unique leadership brand. Guess what? All the people around you come with a unique brand. Each person leaves their unique stamp on the world based on who they are, what they do, and how they impact the world. As a BADA$$ leader, it’s your job to create that one-of-a-kind, unique, masterpiece puzzle. It’s your job to get all that unique goodness to engage. It’s your job to stop settling and to dream and lead much, much bigger.

Here are a few tips to set you on a path of inclusion:

⭕If you’re a people leader, when you introduce someone who reports to you (directly or indirectly), say “we work together” instead of “he reports to me” or “she’s on my team”.

⭕When you’re in a meeting, identify whose voice hasn’t been heard and ask for their insights and thoughts. Consider saying, “I’ve not heard from everyone yet.” Then ask specific folks for their perspectives.

⭕When you see someone trying to get into a conversation – or being talked over – interject smoothly by saying, “Excuse me. I see we’ve got some voices that are trying to be heard. I want to hear what he/she has to say, please.”

⭕When you witness an idea being dismissed before it has had time to develop, step in and ask the originator to expand upon their thoughts. Consider saying, “I didn’t completely understand that last idea. Can I hear more?”

⭕When you put together a team, start your list with those who have the skills, but have not had the opportunity to serve in a role. Consider the value they could bring. Also, make sure that the composition of the team is diverse and that they have the tools to work together inclusively.

⭕As a CEO or executive, ask your leadership team – as a group or one-on-one – “What are you doing to create a culture of inclusion on your team? What is your best practice for inclusion?”

⭕If you manage a hybrid team – some work from home, some in the office – create virtual “drive-by” conversation time with those who are not in the office. Make sure that you’re giving those at home the opportunity for informal touchpoints with you.

⭕If you manage anyone who works virtually most of the time, schedule regular career conversations to ensure that you are always aware of their goals and objectives. (You should be holding regularly scheduled career conversations with everyone, but those who are virtual very often get overlooked because they miss informal face-to-face opportunities.) Don’t fall victim to “out-of-sight, out-of-mind” mentality aka distance bias.

⭕If you are facilitating a session focused on developing new ideas or problem solving, tell the team at the start that you want to hear the craziest, off the wall ideas first. Give people permission to leave their fears at the door and create the expectation that ALL ideas are welcome.

I’ve got a ton more, especially for my HR business partners, but I’ll stop here. If you need more, let’s talk about it.

BASIC leaders think good performance is good enough. Their motto? If it ain’t broke, don’t fix it! They let sleeping dogs lie!

BOLD leaders want more for themselves, their teams, and their organizations. They step in when they see opportunities to improve inclusion.

BADA$$ leaders have courage and are intentional about inclusion. They don’t wait for the moment; they create inclusion. They don’t talk about it. They are about it. Periodt.

Where are you on the journey? Inclusion requires intentionality. Get after it.