10 Tips To Create A More Inclusive Team Environment
One of my favorite things to do during summer weekends is to go down the shore* to visit friends and share hysterical, mostly embarrassing memories, from long ago. The stories never get old and, in fact, become a little better with time. Hours spent with my friends are familiar, warm and easy – like being suspended in time. They remind me of the slow, lazy days of summer when I was a kid and the biggest decision was a bomb pop or toasted almond. My friends and I have so much in common – our age, values, education and earnings. We like the same food, music, and many of the same activities. Our visits are a nostalgic and comfortable time for everyone involved.
Don’t we all like the comfort of what is familiar? Comfort is what drives people to hire others just like them – people of the same religion, race, ethnicity, socio-economic background, gender, generation, physical ability, etc. But comfort doesn’t unleash innovation, and innovation is core to growth. And as summer ends and the school year starts up, it’s time for new beginnings, new learnings and personal growth. For those of us out of school, it’s still a symbolic time of change and renewal, and a good time for us to think about how we challenge ourselves to get the outcomes we want.
As an organization, we are united around a common goal of growth. Organic growth, as opposed to growth from acquisition of new capabilities or technologies, most often comes from innovations, both small and large. One thing that fuels innovation is diversity of thought within experiences, learnings and understandings.
There are some easy steps we can take to unleash innovation by ensuring we are inclusive in our day to day work.
5 simple ways to create a more inclusive team environment:
- Break bread – Have lunch or coffee with someone new to the team or someone outside of your immediate team that you’d like to more effectively partner with or influence.
- Create familiarity – Sit next to someone you don’t sit near at standing team meetings and spend a few minutes before the meeting learning about them and what they are working on. You never know when you’ll hear something that makes working with them or doing your job easier.
- Seek new perspectives – Ask someone who rarely speaks in meetings their opinion and why.
- Create a learning environment – Invite someone who has done something well to share it with your work group to help others learn.
- Provide opportunity – Rather than going to a trusted team member, give an assignment to someone new. This eases the burden from the one person who already has too much going on and gives someone else a chance to learn and contribute.
At the same time that you want to make sure you’re doing the most to make sure your coworkers are heard and recognized, make sure you are doing the same for yourself. Feeling left out? Below are 5 steps to combat that feeling.
- Self-promote – Self-promotion isn’t a bad thing. Think of it as a way to share with other about your role and your responsibilities inside of the company. It is also great to inspire others to achieve their professional goals. Yes, there is a fine line between being a braggart and informing, but this is not a negative thing when done appropriately. Where can your contributions help others?
- Speak succinctly – Everyone is busy, and sometimes messages can get lost by how they’re communicated. Ever feel like you already presented an idea to a team only to hear someone else say it and have it accepted? Consider how you’re saying it, and figure out how to say it in just a sentence or two. It is likely you will then be asked to expand on it.
- Watch out for non-verbal communication – Is your body language reflective of what you want others to think? Leaning back, crossing your arms or slouching indicates you are retreating. Opening up your arms, sitting up, nodding and leaning in all tell your audience that you are engaged and ready to participate.
- Use your network – Leaders are formal influencers, but there are many informal influencers who have just as much – if not more – informal power. Learn who those people are and ask them to provide feedback on you and your ideas. Ask them to champion it in a meeting with you. If you raise an idea, ask them to build upon it and give the credit back to you. Ask them what you can do to be more effective in meetings and informal interactions, and who else you should talk to in order to get traction on your idea.
- Ask – Have a new idea? Why keep it to yourself? The most effective way to get a yes is to ask the question. The worst that can happen is that someone says no.
*Note that “go down the shore” is considered grammatically correct by those of us raised in NJ!