Human Resources' number one job is ensuring Leaders model the culture their organization needs to be successful. The behaviors below are a foundation of building an inclusive culture for leaders.
These three traits will set a leader up for success in building an inclusive culture.
1. Model Behavior and Empathy
One of the most important things that a leader can do is model the behavior that they expect from others. And one of the most important behaviors that you can model for an inclusive culture is empathy.
Empathy is the ability to understand and share the feelings of another. A lot of times employees don't necessarily expect you to support how they feel, but they do expect you to attempt to understand where they are coming from.
Empathy can be challenging, especially during a heated situation. So make sure that as you are thinking through how to respond to certain inflammatory scenarios that you take a moment to step back and think about another person's viewpoint. It will ensure you don’t make a poor decision, and may actually help diffuse any issue.
2. Address inappropriate behaviors
So what do you do if somebody does something that's inappropriate? The first and most important thing to do is address it. It's best to have a conversation one on one. Having a private conversation is best, and a closed door and office is preferrable. The worst thing you can do is to not address it. By not addressing inappropriate behaviors, you have essentially endorsed those behaviors as appropriate.
Don't participate in inappropriate behaviors. This goes without saying, but if somebody is acting in a non-inclusive way or doing something that could be inappropriate or hurtful to another,by participating, you also communicate that it's okay.
Explain to the person what the consequences of inappropriate behaviors are, whether that's progressive discipline, a performance improvement plan or some other type of discipline, there need to be consequences for inappropriate behavior.
If you have the ability to get HR involved do so if necessary. Sometimes it's best to partner with somebody who's an expert in addressing inappropriate behaviors.
If someone comes to you and says that something happening is inappropriate, accept someone's perceptions as reality. Don't tell them that they're too sensitive or shouldn't feel the way they do. By doing this you automatically tell them that their opinions are not important and their perceptions are not real. You should acknowledge a person’s feelings. Ensure that they are addressed in a way that is appropriate and productive.
3. Demonstrate trust and understanding
Nobody's perfect and we all make mistakes. If somebody brings something to you and feels like you were acting appropriately, thank them for feeling comfortable enough to address the issue with you. Try not to be defensive. Instead, try accountability. By being accountable and open to the feedback, you're communicating that you're willing to listen and change. Don't criticize them in return, or try to refute everything they said, acknowledge the validity of their perceptions and understand that everybody is going to have a different interpretation of the things that you do. A lot of times by focusing on the intent of something that you did can help defuse the situation.
Improve. Always be open for improvement. Nobody has all of the answers and we are all learning every day. By being focused on continuous improvement and learning from others mistakes and from your past mistakes and engaging in empathetic and proactive behaviors, you will continue to get better as an inclusive and open leader.
I'm the Vice President - Human Resources for CPM Holdings, Inc. In this role, I oversees the aspects of Human Resources for 27 domestic and international locations in 11 countries. I've previously held progressive HR roles for Fortune 500 organizations.