You may have heard about your organisation aiming for equity over equality, but much of this has to come from competent leadership.
If every line managers right up to board level boss recognised individual difference in identities, backgrounds and experiences, it would improve workplace culture tomorrow and help for better business.
Equitable leadership is more than inclusive leadership. Equitable leaders foster a team effort that gets the most out of each individual because of their differences. It’s not only better for your organisation’s culture through diversity, equity and inclusion – and therefore helps retention through belonging, it’s better for the business’s bottom line through diversity of thought and leveraging the best potential from each individual. But more than this, shouldn’t the goal be to be a respected people leader of a galvanized, effective and loyal team one we should be striving for?
Imagine a sports team, it would be wrong to expect each player to have the same speed, height or skill sets. Their very difference, makes them into winning contenders, their strengths should be supported and fostered. So why should the workplace be any different?
I’m not asking you to add more to your already onerous busy workload, just think about these points, be mindful, try and integrate them into your day to day, and before you know it, it will be part of your leadership DNA. Here’s how…
Identify difference, support it and celebrate it
Get the most out of your team by understanding and supporting individual strengths, experience and diversity of thought, which can only lead to better brain storming, problem solving, new ideas and innovation. Not to mention better human capital, better retention rates and a better working environment and team experience, making your team cutting edge. It’s amazing how much work goes unnoticed, particularly within marginalised groups, – shout about successes and attribute them to the responsible and correct team members.
Use collaborative thinking
Decisions have been usually made by one voice, and that’s why organisations are not usually as inclusive as we like to think they are. Collaborative thinking and bringing different voices into the decision making process can help customer experiences, client engagement, the services your organisation provides and the policies and systems in place making your organisation into a better DEI employer. If you haven’t got diversity of thought in your team, seek out perspectives from the missing gaps, for example from your Employee Resource Groups or Affinity Networks.
Interrogate and interrupt micro behaviours and biases
Understand the part that biases play and how they influence behaviours. Get to know what forms a microaggression and how to intercept that process effectively with positive outcomes. Get to grips with this for yourself first and then cascading down to your team.
Listen, make mistakes and learn
Check in and use empathetic listening. Lose your fragility and replace with a keenness to learn from others. By realising that mistakes are an opportunity to learn, you will only grow as a leader. Being a leader who is known to listen, helps you be accessible and therefore help pre-empt and trouble shoot any issues, but will also make you more approachable for new ideas and you will find those who don’t usually put themselves forward or speak up will be more likely to come to you, but this involves you taking the lead. Make sure you get those who might not speak up to include their views in meetings or approach them one to one for their opinion.
Be sympathetic to history and systemic discrimination
Learn that workplace legacy has taken its toll on marginalised groups, which means that some colleagues have not seen the same access to career progression and have not been afforded the same privilege of feeling belonging or included. Once you realise this has created an environment that people haven’t always felt they can be their best selves or heard, compensate for it by building trust and helping individuals overcome these barriers.
Get comfortable with communicating
The subtleties of language make a big difference. Lead by example and use equitable language by making it as inclusive as possible. Ask what colleagues are comfortable with identifying with, both within the team and the wider workplace. Try and be specific about ethnicities, i.e. Not using the word B.A.M.E (Black, Asian, Minority Ethnic), when referring to an individual. Avoid terms like “blackball”, “black sheep”, Avoid ableist language like, “That person is crazy, mad, or insane…”
Include non-binary colleagues, i.e. stop using “ladies and gentlemen”.
Try not to define colleagues by their identities, i.e. “disabled colleagues”, use colleagues with disabilities”
It can feel like a minefield and that it’s better to say nothing, but there is no wrong in trying and it’s all about practice. Remember, it’s a journey, it’s good to make mistakes if we can learn from them.
Create working practices that are equitable
Understand your team and challenges they might have. Ask if they need any additional support. For example, there might be an accessibility issue from working from home, a team member might feel anxious about returning to work, not all members of the team are available after work for informal team building or can do that call to Singapore after hours.
Challenge the systems for equitable workplaces
Identify where your organisation has institutional discrimination in place, where procedures fail certain groups and where reward systems can discriminate. If your organisation hasn’t caught up yet with changing how structures and procedures including promotions, bonusses and hiring work, you can be the ambassador of change and amplify the voices in your team. Take any areas to your bosses, DEI professionals or your own stakeholders and make a case. You can also make those subtle differences within your team. Question your biases when offering stretch assignments, ensure you have a diverse candidate pool when hiring or promoting, recognise that some marginalised groups might need additional help in the way of informal of structured sponsorship to get recognition and use objectivity as possible when making decisions that affect individuals in your team.
If you would like more information about becoming an equitable leader, effectively leading diverse teams, interrupting micro behaviours and bias, please email us.