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Tuesday, May 17, 2016

The Language of Inclusion

     Greta took a 360-degree survey at the suggestion of her boss.  In an effort to get her to see herself through the eyes of others, she needed to know how she was performing as a leader.  The survey would allow her to compare how she saw herself to how her boss, peers, direct reports, and "others" saw her.  Greta rated herself as open and inclusive.  She felt like she invited people's input and was sociable and encouraged dialogue.  But when she looked at the feedback from her raters, she was shocked by what she saw.

     Her direct reports saw her as anything but inclusive.  They rated her low in areas like "being open to input, showing diplomacy" and "creating a positive environment".  Greta thought she was doing a great job in making her team feel like she valued them and their opinions.  She had no idea other people didn't see her the same way.  She wanted to talk to her team and find out why this was the first indication she was receiving of how they saw her.  Why hadn't they told her before? she wondered.  She later found out from her boss that it was because of the following reasons:
     1)  She had created mistrust because of a lack of inclusiveness.  When employees don't feel comfortable being up front and honest about matters important to them at work, it's because the leadership has discouraged them from speaking up.  Greta did not realize that every time she shot down someone's idea in a staff meeting or used demeaning and condescending words when talking to an employee, she slowly destroyed her staff's confidence in her ability to remain open and receptive to their input.
     2)  Greta had created animosity between herself and others because of her unfiltered communications style.  She didn't seem to care that she walked on other people's feelings when she passed harsh judgments on their performances.  She failed to consider how she often disrespected people by being dismissive when they brought her concerns.  Or when she interrupted someone in the middle of their point and hijacked the conversation as if only what she had to say was important.
     3)  The team often felt she turned them inward and against each other.  They noticed how she seemed to favor certain people.  Usually when someone made her look good, she was more supportive of them.  But if she couldn't shine through another person's work, she cast them aside like yesterday's news.  They hardly received a glance from her or she was on them so hard they felt they were being singled out for no reason.
     When Greta sat down for an evaluation with her boss, she felt blindsided by the details of the report.  Had she paid more attention to what her staff had been trying to say--whether it was in a conversation when she cut them off, through negative body language feedback, or through their lack of open communications--she would not have been surprised.  She needed to be more aware of what was going on around her.  And more importantly, she needed to be more aware of her own behavior.  
     She could fix some of this mess with just a few small changes.  A major one would be to learn the language of inclusiveness.  It sounds like this:
     1)  Tell me what you think about this issue.
     2)  Why don't you decide?  I trust your opinion.
     3)  Would you mind making the presentation?  You're the expert in this.
     Instituting these statements as part of her interactions with her staff would carry her a long way in building stronger relationships.  She will reduce animosity, eliminate mistrust, and best of all, be more inclusive.
     Need to do a 360?  Ask us about 363 for Leaders.