How to Be an Inclusive Leader

Posted Jun 9, 2020

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Summary

This presentation focuses on inclusive hiring, de-biasing feedback, creating a culture of psychological safety, understanding courage, critical conversations, and best practices for leaders. 


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Hello, welcome to Beacon Health options webinar, How to be an Inclusive Leader. Hello there, I'm Jada Jackson. I am a licensed mental health counselor and it is my pleasure to be with you today. Our agenda, we are going to look at; inclusive hiring, de-biasing feedback, creating a culture of psychological safety, understanding courage, critical conversations, and then we're going to wrap it up with best practices.

So when we're looking at inclusive hiring and really wanting to have an open-mind and being acceptable in the hiring process, the first step I would certainly encourage you to do is to carefully consider every question. Most questions that we ask of our new hirees or potential hirees should be centered around their abilities. Not necessarily what they look like, obviously, their cultural background, their race, their ethnicity. It is very important to develop a frame of mind that it is the skillset that they offer which should be the focus.

So, before you begin asking questions, I would encourage you to look at the questions and see if the questions have an undertone of bias. And we'll talk a little bit about this later. But all of us, to some degree, have our own biases. And because we have our own biases, oftentimes, we do not realize that how we present a question, or how we make certain statements has the potential of being offensive. So just be very careful and consider every question that you ask a potential hiree.

Analyze motivation. Again, what are your motives? What does it mean for you to ask specific questions? Why are you asking certain questions? And what is the motivation of your company? What is the motivation of your department when you are hiring? What are you looking for? But at the same time, is your motivation sprinkled with potential biases?

And then, challenge. Always challenge yourself to make changes according to the needs of your company and department, but also the needs of your potential hirees. So again, once you're looking at how things unfold, as far as the hiring process, because every company has a step by step hiring process. But that process, if not challenged at the individual level has the potential to become biased. And so, again, when we're looking at inclusion and inclusivity, one of the things we have to do is look at one's itself. Because it is an individual and personal responsibility.

Stay laser-focused on a person's potential to contribute to the team. And first ask yourself, what gaps currently exist on the team. So again, the idea is to consider what does the team need and how can you feel the gap. But also when staying laser-focused means not allowing one's bias to come into play when looking at who you should hire. So you're going to hear me say quite a bit throughout this webinar, what are your biases? Where do you fall short? And all of us do at some point. And I learned that the hard way, I'll share a few stories later on. But again, we have to be willing at this point to look at ourselves in the mirror and really say, what can we do to make a change? What can we do, individually, at the personal level, what can we do to make a change?

So looking at de-biasing feed back. Again, I've said it already, be aware of potentially biased judgment. So I want to lay a foundation here. And all of my webinars, I have to sprinkle with a little psychology and counseling because that's what I do. But I think it is a very important to understand, when we're looking at biases, we really have to consider our family of origin. How are we raised? What are our core belief systems? What did our parents teach us about decision making? What did our parents teach us about other cultures?

And remember, even though our parents may have never said, definitively, do not trust this race or that race, the unspoken sub-conscious level behaviors are what children pick up. So we may not be aware of how biased we are because it's normal to us. So, I am going to encourage each one of you to except the fact that you certainly have biased judgements. And I'm going to encourage you to just be very much aware of what those judgments maybe.

Now, be able to own mistakes. That, believe it or not, is a very difficult one. When we're talking about giving a feedback, for example, in removing the biased connotation of any feedback. The one thing we want to do is make sure that we, ourselves, own our own mistakes. And in modeling this behavior, we can certainly encourage others to do the same. And then definitely, be aware of common biases. Everybody knows about the halo effect, the employee who can do no wrong.

Again, maybe that employee can do no wrong in your eyes because you share a common background, maybe you share the same race or culture, or maybe it's someone that you are close to. Remember, just because someone is like you, doesn't necessarily mean that someone who is unlike you, is not able to perform the job. So again, being very much aware of how our similarities and commonalities draw us to others who are like us. And therefore, you may not intentionally have a moment of thinking, I am going to discriminate against that person who is different from me. It may not be that at all. It may just be that, huh, here's someone who was very similar to me, and I relate to this person better, and we work well together.

And then what that bias, and that similarity, that commonality has done, is it has excluded someone who is different from you. Whether you are black, white, brown, green, yellow, purple, whatever it may be, the reality is, in order for us to develop an inclusive environment, it means we have to do something different. Which means stepping outside of our comfort zone.

And then there is the ostrich effect, avoiding confrontation. Inclusiveness discrimination, racism, all of these conversations are hot topics. And rather than addressing them, it's easier to avoid them. And again, I get it. However, when we're looking at our company's bottom line, it would be [whoppers 00:10:43] to create an environment where everyone feels included for maximum productivity. So, avoiding confrontation may not always be the best effect. But finding, or striking that healthy balance between aggressive and confrontation that disrupts an environment, finding a balance where you can have the hard conversations and really address uncomfortable situations.

And then there's pessimism bias. That employee who just can't get it right. Well, in this case, maybe that employee just can't get it right because of that employee doesn't feel included. Maybe that employee needs a helping hand. Maybe that employee learns a little differently and has a different learning style and it may need additional help in a certain area. So, it's being very cognizant of the fact that not only are people different, different looking, different sounding, maybe in their communication, but maybe they learn differently.

I always liked to look at personality types when looking... And I'm sure most companies have their employees take a personality assessment to understand who is in the environment. If you're an introvert, then oftentimes, people believe that you are quiet, you're reserved, you're not willing to engage with people. And some of those traits may be accurate.

However, the difference between introversion and extroversion simply means that someone who is introverted needs to unplug and isolate for a moment in order to recharge, or to get back to baseline. Extrovert means that, yes, that person may be a little more outgoing, that person may be able to engage with people very easily. However, really what it means to be extroverted is, that person, in order to get back to their, their baseline, their emotional stability, they need to connect with people in order to recharge. So when I'm looking at even my employees, I want to know what makes them tick, and understanding them is the first step to being an inclusive manager or boss.

Now let's look at creating a culture of psychological safety. Again, this is so important. But acknowledged that biases exist in all of us, and learn how to recognize and change them. Well, easier said than done for sure. But what does this really mean? I've already said acknowledge that bias has existed all of us. I've said that from the very beginning of this webinar. And the reason that is important is because most of us think that, oh, I don't have a problem with this race, or that race, or this culture, or that culture, or this gender or that gender. And we may not. However, it's not really so much about what we believe about ourselves. It's what others feel when we engage in conversations. Or maybe it's how we react to differences.

So I would love to encourage you to learn how to recognize those biases. And the only way to learn about others is to ask questions. And the only way to change one's bias is to ask how might I change this situation so that you feel comfortable, or so that I can understand a little bit better.

One of the things that I have noticed in all of my inclusion seminars and workshops and when working with different companies is that, because this is such a taboo topic, because talking about race and inclusivity or talking about discrimination and racism is so uncomfortable, and it's such a hot-button topic, that we would rather avoid. But I cannot begin to tell you how many black, and brown, and yellow people that I speak to that would really love to have a conversation with others. Maybe the White-American culture. To talk about things that either offends them or that maybe you just don't get a chance to have an honest, genuine conversation.

And then I have the opportunity to speak to white Americans who feel that there is a reverse in discrimination, and racism, and inclusivity, because there are many more opportunities extended to minorities because of the attempt to balance the inclusiveness in our country. I believe that all of us, to some degree. And again, it's regardless of race. I believe that all of us have experienced some form of discrimination, whether you're white, black, brown, green, yellow, or purple. As I say, we've all experienced it. And unfortunately it establishes a very strong, psychological, emotional, and physical barriers, that prevents many of us from engaging in a trustworthy way.

So, when we talk about creating a trusting work environment, really what we're talking about is establishing safety. Everyone knows Maslow's hierarchy of needs. The second tier of that framework is safety, feeling safe. So if we have a basic fundamental need to feel safe, then whether it's at work, whether it is at home, whether it's walking around shopping, safety is an innate need that we have.

Well, coming to work every day, if someone does not feel included, does not feel safe, does not feel that they can talk to their superiors, or if they can really engage in a healthy, genuine, authentic conversation with coworkers, then yes, there's not a trusting work environment. And I believe that when you do not have trust in the environment, it certainly impacts, not only the bottom line of the company, but again, the effectiveness and the productivity of the company.

So, what do we do? Let's look at courage. I really encourage my clients often times that when they want to make a change, they have to be willing to have courage. So, take action. Sometimes you don't always know what to do, but making the decision to do something, is the first step. And I believe that first step is just clearing the courage of barrier. We have to have the courage to make that change.

And then being self aware. I have kind of a three-tier framework that I work from. And I call it awareness, knowledge, action. Awareness, knowledge, action. So awareness, being very much self-aware of oneself. But when you're aware of oneself, you also have to be aware of others. And when you're aware of others, then you also have to be aware of the world. So it's being aware of self, others, and the world at large. So, starting with self-awareness, understanding, again, where am I being biased? And what can I change? How can I make a difference? How can I start a healthy conversation? How might I be more inclusive in this meeting or in this department?

So again, I love saying personal and individual responsibility, because I believe that all change begins with one person. And that is, oneself. Make it a priority. Being courageous has to be one's priority. And being inclusive means that you have to make it a priority. So again, making everything that you do a priority when it comes to establishing a healthy inclusive work environment, a healthy inclusive hiring process, a healthy inclusive department and or company, be fair.

That's the one thing we all want. We all want to feel that we are valued as human beings and everything is fair and above board. In other words, you're not going to use your bias, or your similarity to another person, or your commonalities with another person, to elevate that person above someone else. We want the system to be fair. We want the hiring process to be fair. We want every project that we're working on to be fair or every project that we are given to be fair.

So again, it's about fairness. When we are fair, what we're saying is, everyone matters. And it takes courage for us to step out and take that position and own that direction. However, being fair can be very beneficial, again, for an effective team, an effective department and/or company. Be consistent. Whatever you do, continue to do it. And if you change it, communicate. So, be consistent. Whatever structure, strategy, or implemented process that you have, be consistent and do it the same way for everyone.

And then be comfortable with risk. You have to be courageous to take risks. And when you're doing something that is uncomfortable, then that means you have to be comfortable taking the risk. So be willing to risk being different, doing something different, doing something that you're not comfortable with, but be comfortable with risking having difficult conversations and including those that even you may not be comfortable with, but be willing to risk having the conversation and asking the right questions.

Let's talk about critical conversations. Again, such a difficult topic when you're talking about gender, race and culture. So, critical conversations, you have to be committed to having the tough conversations. We talk about, have the hard conversations, have the difficult conversations. Here, just have the critical conversations. Because it is critical to have a conversation about these issues, especially when we are in hostile climates pertaining to race and culture and gender differences.

And focus on diplomacy. When you're having a conversation, be willing to be politically correct, be willing to learn about someone who's different from you. One of the things that I had to learn, I teach a master's level multicultural counseling course. And in that course, one of the things I encourage my students is, it is so very important to look for similarities rather than being afraid of differences.

I can remember when I first started counseling and it was actually rather funny. Because often times, when we're given a client, we know very about that client until they turn in their paperwork. I knew that I had a client coming in at 10 o'clock in the morning, and I knew it was a male client. I just didn't know any of the other details. So when the person comes into my office, I learned that he is a Caucasian, 67-years-old, and I am an African-American female, just graduating from my master's program. He was one of my first clients. I probably say maybe he was the 10th client that I had. So when he comes in, there's clearly a difference.

So what do we do in a situation like that? Well, I was taught in grad school that you address the obvious and have the hard conversation. And I saw him, he came in, he sat down, we looked at each other and I said, good morning, sir. And he said, oh boy. And he started to laugh. And I said, well, let's just get this out of the way. Clearly, there's a difference between us. And he said, you're about 50 years younger than I am. And I say, well, not that young, but clearly there is a difference. If you feel uncomfortable with my race, my gender and my age, let's just have that conversation.

So we got to talking. Then found out that we were both San Francisco 49ers fans. Yeah, we were both from the San Francisco Bay Area. And that became the similarity that we connected with. We went on to become really a strong client-patient dynamic. The relationship grew. I was able to help him in many ways. And it worked. The moral of the story is, once we get past the fear of having the conversation, once we get past the differences, there's always a similarity that can connect to people, that far surpasses gender, race, culture, or surpasses those things that we're so terrified of talking about.

And there is active listening. Active listening, everyone understands that that is part of the communication process. Again, we know that one person states something, the other person says, "So, what I hear you saying is..." And then they repeat back to the other person, what they heard them say. And then, person one gets to say, yes, that's what I said. Or no, that's not quite what I meant. And then active listening continues.

Active listening is a great way to ensure that the conversation is going in the direction that the speaker and receiver wants it to go. However, I believe that there is another step that is just as important as active listening. That is active learning. I love information. And the strength finder input is one of my strengths. And that simply means that I love the input of information.

However, information is not enough. Active listening is not enough. What's the next step? What are you going to do about the information that you input? So, what's that next step? What can be done with the information that I've received? What can I do? What proactive steps can I take, practically, applicably? What are those steps? And so once we recognize what those steps are, then we engage.

So let's look at some best practices. Slow down. Just slow down. And the reason is, oftentimes, we are moving so rapidly that we do not have time to think, we do not have time to execute strategies to reach an ultimate goal or objective. And even if we are attempting to follow a systematic way of approaching our goal, if we're moving too fast, we may miss the important aspects of being inclusive. Sometimes we may not even think about it. But everyone needs to think about it. Whether you are of the majority culture or the minority culture. Everyone discriminates. So slow down. Just be willing to take that extra step.

And then have integrity. Again, this is that personal responsibility to question oneself, how can I have integrity in this process? Meaning, I know that I am very different from the person on this application, I would love to hire this person. This person has the skillset, check. This person has the experience, check. This person has all of the qualities that we need in our department to feel the gap, check.

Okay. But you may be different. Or maybe you didn't have a great connection because of some differences. Well, have integrity. Make the right decision. Again, have courage. Be willing to be uncomfortable. Take the risk. And then develop a support network, a support network for you, helping you understand differences. I just believe that when we enlist the right people in our support network, we can quadruple our abilities to be effective, not only in the workplace, but in our personal lives as well.

So, if you are Hispanic and you need to hire someone, enlist a white or a black person to help you, and balance out the areas that you may be blind in. Because remember, all of us have blind spots. In the world of psychology, we called that lacunae. It means that you do not know what you do not know. And if you do not know, then there's nothing wrong with asking someone to come in and support you in those areas that you don't know. It doesn't mean that you're incompetent, it just means that you're smart. Because you're enlisting additional people to assist in the process.

Open doors, have opened doors. Again, it's so important to, not only have the conversation, but I have an open mind, leave the door open for difficult conversations, for challenges and problems that may occur. And even in your own mind, open the door to possibilities, open the door to include others. Again, even if your differences outweigh your similarities.

And then challenge the status quo. We all have been there, faced with a decision, if we should say something that is different than what every one else expects, the masses might be going in one direction and you're going to go the opposite. That is oftentimes scary, but that's where that courage comes in. So, I would encourage you to look at where are the areas that I personally can challenge the status quo in my company, my department? What does that look like for you, especially in the hiring process?

And then have empathy. It is so important to recognize that everyone wants to feel valued, everyone wants to feel included, everyone wants to feel like they matter, everyone wants to feel like a human. So I encourage my clients sometime, at a personal level, that when you get into conflict with your spouse, or your children, or your mother, or father, or your brother, or sister, the only way you can have empathy is to put yourself in their shoes. But that is such an uncomfortable situation. But if we have courage to empathize with someone else, by stepping into their shoes for a moment and trying to understand how they might feel if they're excluded, or how they might feel, if someone looks down on them, or how they might feel if certain statements causes them to feel the humanized, having empathy is certainly a best practice.

And then finally, as you are implementing this process, be positive. Optimism is certainly better than pessimism. The glass half full is always better than a glass half empty. I believe, as a cognitive behavioral therapist, that one's ability to reframe, meaning changing a negative situation into a more positive situation, or changing a negative thought into a more positive thought, shifting your negative perception into just a little more positive perception, being intentional about being positive, is probably the best practice of all.

So with that said, I will in end with this case study. In Starbucks, in 2018, two black men were arrested for trespassing when refusing to leave Starbucks premises. Many of you may remember this scenario. Of course, it caused outrage. Many people were upset at the fact that these two black men came into Starbucks, sat down, asked to use the restroom. The manager told them since they did not buy anything, they could not use the restroom. They explained that they hadn't bought anything because they were waiting for someone to join them, another friend. And there's a complicated scenario.

But, it turns out that the manager called the police and reported the two men as trespassers, suggesting that they would not leave when asked to leave. And they had not bought anything from the store. Well, the onlookers, who were several white people who were sitting around watching the situation unfold, went to bat for the two men, suggesting that it was unfair that they were being arrested because they hadn't done anything. And again, you can Google this event and there's a video of the event.

But the bottom line is this, the COO Roslyn Brewer, who is an African-American woman, she reiterated the need for anti-biased training of all employees. And she called it a teachable moment. And that's what I believe too. I believe that every moment is a teaching moment. And we really have to look at the situations as an opportunity for us all to learn and to grow.

Now, this case study are like some others. But again, the question is, at the very most, the individual and personal level, oftentimes, I believe that it's the biases that get in the way. The manager of Starbucks may have been threatened by the two men. I don't know that for sure. However, the fact that she called the police, I think really escalated the situation. But what's the teachable moment? The teachable moment is that, all employees, black, white, yellow, brown, green, purple, whatever, all employees can use anti-bias training. Just in this case, it was white to black. And that's understandable.

But I would like to reiterate that we all have biases based on our family of origin, based on our core belief systems, based on our experiences. We all need anti-bias training. And with that said, I hope this webinar has given you food for thought. I hope it has allowed you to see some of the best practices and ways that you might challenge yourself at an individual level. And I hope that, as you hire employees, you will do so with the understanding that inclusiveness is important, but it begins with oneself.

Thank you so very much for your time today. Please, contact your Employee Assistance Program with any questions you may have. Again, I'm Dr. Jada Jackson and it was a pleasure to be with you today.

 

 

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