Thursday, 29 July 2021
What is inclusive leadership and why is it so important? These questions and more are answered by Thais Compoint in this thought-provoking new book. Having led Diversity and Inclusion strategies in multinational and Fortune 500 companies including Coca-Cola Enterprises and Cisco, she is familiar with the challenges – and the rewards – of integrating the mindset, skills and habits you need to be successful.
Leaders, whether line managers or CEOs, have great power to create inclusive environments, says Thais – unlocking potential and allowing individuals, teams and organisations to flourish. We talk to her about clarity, change and their crucial role.
“The inclusive leadership aspect in any Diversity and Inclusion strategy is really important. You need leadership to drive it, but you have to have clarity from leadership about what that means, the expectations and behaviour necessary and the importance and huge positive impact it has in an organisation. I am passionate about this topic - and even though I left the corporate world last year, I wanted to remain in the field as an independent consultant.
The book was published in April, but it was years in the making. I’ve worked in Diversity and Inclusion for 18 years and had so many stories to tell - where people had got it right, but also very wrong. I thought this was something I could put down on paper that would be inspirational for business leaders.
Writing a book is an interesting adventure. It allows you to really get clarity on your ideas and also look outside your own experience to the latest research. Importantly, throughout the process I had a diverse panel of business leaders who would read sections and give me feedback, which I found invaluable.
In my experience so many managers get it, they know the benefits of Diversity and Inclusion, but they still want to know what they can do about it in everyday life to make it real - which is ultimately what this book is about.”
FOUR KEY POINTS:
- If you are not intentionally including people, then you may be unintentionally excluding them – because we are all biased. Human beings are not very objective and empathy doesn’t come naturally to most people – either cognitively or emotionally. As a leader, you need to put yourself in other people’s shoes because if you’re not mindfully doing that then it may not happen as a matter of course. You really must be intentional about being inclusive.
- Inclusion is about adapting to everyone’s differences, including the differences of ‘the majority’. When we talk about diversity people generally think about minorities, but actually everyone brings differences to the table - and acceptance of others’ differences is also about accepting our own differences. It’s important to integrate this and to create a space where people feel safe to really be themselves, whether that is through personality type or opinion, for example.
- There is so much that anyone can do to move toward being inclusive, especially if they are a business leader or manager - and a lot that you don’t need resources or permission from anyone to do. You can always choose to respond where you see stereotypical thinking or biased behaviour. In the book I talk about how it is very common for women to be interrupted, for example – research shows on average they tend to be interrupted nearly three times more than men. If you can be aware of the risk of this in your own team you can then organise your meetings in a way where they don’t get interrupted.
- My book is really focused on habit; you’re never going to be able to change everything that is important, but you can make a difference step-by-step. Once you integrate one habit into your life and work then you will integrate another, then another. You don’t need to be in a different organisation or have a different HR department to start to make inclusivity work. You do need effort and intentionality though. Being an inclusive leader is simple…but it’s not easy.