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It’s no secret the workforce is more diverse than ever. And too often, we want to pat ourselves on the back and say, “Look how diverse we are! We have all these gender breakdowns and so many more people of color — we are crushing this diversity thing!” All these are wonderful things, and we should aspire to do even more in these areas because they truly make a difference in a litany of ways. But the key is that you have to do something with diversity. Just hitting numbers isn’t enough. You must practice inclusive leadership.

With inclusive leadership, you take diversity to another level by giving people a voice. You take advantage of the diverse experiences and perspectives people bring to the table, and you help everyone feel like they are just as much a part of the workplace as you are.

But how do we include people, exactly? How do we give them a voice?

Inclusive Leadership — It’s More Than Just a Popular Phrase!

Deep down, I believe we all desire to be inclusive leaders. We buy into this phrase because it makes absolute sense — for us and everyone around us. We want to be more inclusive, elicit input, ensure people feel valued, etc. But how? If you go back to many of the topics we’ve discussed over the past few months (emotional intelligence, empathy, communication, etc.), everything starts with having an awareness of self. Think about these questions for a moment:

  1. How do you come across to others?
  2. Is your language inclusive?
  3. Do you use the correct pronouns (we or us instead of I our you)?
  4. Are you sensitive to the personal pronouns people desire (they, them, she, her, etc.)? 
  5. Are you willing to meet people where they are?
  6. What kind of examples do you use? Do they include everyone or just a small sample?
  7. How are we using language? Are we excluding too many people?

To be better at inclusive leadership, we must strive to improve our awareness of self, identify our blindspots, and ensure that the people around us feel psychologically safe in the workplace.  

Overcoming Unconscious Bias

Juliet Bourke and Andrea Titus wrote an excellent article about inclusive leadership in the Harvard Business Review, and they argue that overcoming unconscious bias and using humility and empathy are the keys to being a more inclusive leader. If you think about it, this makes complete sense. Many things come across through the things we say that we are 100% unaware of. 

We don’t think about how our language is perceived — not because we don’t care. We simply don’t know.

To combat this, they recommend creating a “Personal Advisory Committee” of people you trust who can provide real-time feedback on your communication practices and whether or not you are including or excluding people through the things you say. Do you appreciate, understand, and respect differences? Do you incorporate these thoughts into how you communicate with others?

We all make mistakes. If we want to communicate with vulnerability, we must admit that we don’t have all the answers and need people to help us fill in the blanks and pick us up when we stumble.

The Business World Demands More Diversity, Inclusive Leadership, and Communication

You can certainly create an advisory committee to ensure you’re improving how you speak with empathy and use language that promotes inclusion. It’s a wonderful idea. But maybe not all of us have that ability. This is where tools such as TalkMeUp can help. TalkMeUp is an innovative, one-of-a-kind software that profoundly addresses these needs and related shortcomings by leveraging AI for instant measurement, analysis, reporting, tracking, scaling, and more. Like an advisory committee, it gives you the feedback you need to understand how you communicate — all in real-time. 

And as we practice more with TalkMeUp and do things differently, this practice becomes who we are. To me, that’s the best feature. You can practice with TalkMeUp repeatedly and track your progress. As you begin to see changes in how you communicate, and TalkMeUp backs those thoughts up with accurate data, others will see you as a more inclusive leader.

Interested in seeing how TalkMeUp could help you communicate with greater inclusiveness?  Book a time for a brief demonstration.

About the Author
Ron Placone, Ph.D., is an Associate Teaching Professor of Business Management Communication and the Former Faculty Lead and Interim Executive Director for the Accelerate Leadership Center at the Tepper School of Business. Ron teaches a range of communication courses and leadership programs for Tepper students. Ron’s research interests include civility in discourse and fostering individual and team creativity. Previously at Carnegie Mellon, Ron was the Assistant Vice President for Learning & Development. Before joining Carnegie Mellon in 1999, Ron was Vice President and Director of Organizational Development and Communications for Mellon Network Services. Ron has been a consultant, leadership, and communication coach for numerous executives and corporate and not-for-profit organizations. He has consulted in health care, financial services, education, technology, and energy sectors. Ron has a Ph.D. in Rhetoric-English from Carnegie Mellon University.