How to Build Inclusive Teams
We interview a diverse panel of women to discuss the state of diversity and inclusion at the workplace today, as well as tips for leaders for how to build inclusive teams.
In this episode of the Leadership 480 podcast, we interview a diverse panel of women to share their experiences and best practices for how to build inclusive teams in the workplace.
Welcome back to the Leadership 480 podcast. I'm your host, Beth Almes, and our topic today is about what every leader should know about leading diverse teams. We know this can be a tough topic for leaders.
There are no one size fits all answers about how every person feels or how every individual reacts, but as with everything we do around leadership, the goal is to try to get better. Today we've put together a diverse panel of women to share some of their experiences and insight around leadership and diversity and inclusion practices at work.
Joining us today, we have Quiana Hayes-Perciavalle, Director of Program Management Operations at ConnectiveRx. Alyia Gaskins, founder of CitiesRX and host of the podcast, Checkbox Outreach, and Sarah Haidar, an industrial organizational psychologist and member of our innovation lab at DDI. Thank you all for joining us on the Leadership 480 podcast. It is such a pleasure to have you.
Thank you for having us.
Thank you Beth.
Hi. Excited to be here.
Let's start with the open question about conversations in the workplace. Specifically as leaders are leading conversations today around diversity, race, social issues, it can be uncomfortable for a lot of folks but how do you feel like the conversations are changing? What have you observed?
Well, this is Quiana speaking. I've definitely noticed that there is a shift in the dynamic where it's... I would say people are being more cognizant and aware of it. It's something that the conversations are now occurring where I think previously, it may not have been as much in the forefront but now just... I think with today's climate, it's a topic that can't be avoided at this point.
Yeah, this is Alyia. I would echo Quiana. I think that these aren't new topics, but I think this summer with the murder of George Floyd and Breonna Taylor, I think these conversations have been elevated in a new way.
I think the fact that you're seeing so many companies put out statements saying that they stand with black lives. I think people who may have never paid attention to these issues before are now seeing as they turn on NBA games, their favorite player has a Jersey that says Black Lives Matter. I think there's like an elevated consciousness.
What I would caution though, is I think that what really matters as to whether or not we're going to see a change, is what happens after the conversation. I think it's great we're talking about it, but what are the actions that we're teeing up and how do we hold folks accountable for what are the different commitments and things that they're proposing as part of that conversation. I think for me that then will show, is this a new moment or is this more of the same.
Yeah. I also would like to echo. Typically in the workplace, we try to avoid conversations about race and gender and age and all of that because these are legally protected classes and things that individuals want to keep to themselves and decisions not to be made according to those personal matters. Right now this is changing.
Right now we're given the platform to communicate this and to talk and express. It's absolutely essential, so there's a huge shift in the culture of companies from hush hush, don't speak about these issues to now amplify them, speak about them, address them and there's definitely a lot more... very challenging as well.
For leaders who have diverse people on their team who are coming from different backgrounds, do you think it's better when they talk about the issues or acknowledge what's going on? Is it sometimes better to say nothing in your experience with leaders at work?
I believe it's better to just in my leadership role and having to support like various groups of people. I think is necessary to have that discussion. I don't believe it's going to do anything helpful if it's not addressed, if it's not something that people are acknowledging, because then it becomes brushed under the carpet and then you have people that may start forming some discomfort in the workplace, some resentment about it. I don't believe that it's necessary to brush it under the rug and not acknowledge or address it. It has to be.
I mean, and diversity comes in so many different forms, not just race. There's all types of diversity that it has to be acknowledged because there are situations where it could cause more harm than good if it's not.
I was going to say, I think that it's really important to have these conversations because when we think about diversity, like why are we trying to get diverse teams in the first place? I think that the reason why is because we recognize that having multiple perspectives, different thoughts, different opinions represented, creates a better work product.
It allows us to create something that is more useful to our consumers, that there'll be greater buy-in, and so if we're not creating a space where we're actually having a discussion about that diversity and celebrating those things that we bring, then I think we end up silencing the very innovation and creativity that we're trying to harness and bring to the forefront.
I totally get it. We've even said it on this podcast that it can be uncomfortable. It can be awkward. You may not know what to say, but I don't think that's an excuse. I think that's an invitation to be open and curious to learning. I also think that there's work you can do individually to think about where are the places where I am most uncomfortable?
What are the things I don't know that I need to learn about and work on in myself before I enter these conversations, and then where are the things that I can lean on my team to help me understand, to hold me accountable and help me learn the things that may be a blind spot for me, but by ignoring it, I don't think it makes it go away. I think it more so means that we sacrifice the potential that we could be having when we fully embrace the differences people bring.
I also have to add to that. It's really about... We're humans at the end of the day and we're coming to work and these are social issues that are happening and they're impacting us, especially now since most of us work from home and to ignore them and pretend like they're not happening I think this is definitely would be short sight from any leader. I can give an example from an international perspective. I am Lebanese and back in August, a huge explosion happened in the capital of Lebanon, Beirut, where there were thousands of injuries and 203 deaths.
That impacted where I grew up and if my leaders didn't talk to me about that, like I would feel really upset and I'm really happy that they did. I think it's absolutely essential from a creativity perspective, but even from a humane perspective we can't pretend like these things don't interact with each other and impact each other.
Yeah. Sarah, I think you raise a really good point, especially now in our COVID world. Like before I might be able to show up at work and if something was bothering me, if something had happened in my life, maybe I could compartmentalize that or find a way to turn that off, but now with Zoom and everything else, you're in my home.
I mean, technically you guys are looking at my guest bedroom right now. You're in my life in a new way and I think these issues are part of who we are. They're part of how we experience the world around us, and so getting more comfortable talking about it allows me to build a new relationship with you as my team member, as my coworker that I might not have been able to before.
Yeah, I think so. I will say too, I think there are... In my own experience some folks don't like to talk about it and they'll always let you know. If you give them the opening and say how are you doing with this or what are you thinking?
They can usually say it's something I'm trying to focus on work at the moment or trying to do something, because if there are folks who are uncomfortable, they'll usually let you know pretty gently and just say, "Thanks for asking, it's something I'm trying not to talk about right now." If that's how someone is... if they're a little bit more introverted as that's how they're feeling.
Yeah, Beth. I would say also another maybe approach that a leader can take is us, do you want to talk about this from the get-go. Like acknowledge that this has happening and say, "Would you like to, and we don't have to if you don't want to." Just that acknowledgement, I think is super important.
I think it's also, to Alyia's point as well is people... like why do we care about inclusion? Of course, it's a thing that we must like from a personal perspective, but also from a creativity perspective, and if we don't invite people to be their authentic selves, we kind of miss out on that authenticity, which is really essential for inclusion at work and feeling comfortable to voice your opinions, one problem solving, one creating a product.
It's really a chain of comfort and psychological safety which is... it's so important to address these issues.
I would say something we found helpful in my work, as people individually, do you want to talk about these issues? Because then it's really easy for people who may not want to talk about it to say, no. We try and frame it in the context of the work something like what would it take to have the greatest impact on X, Y, and Z, or what would it take to have a better understanding of how those most impacted by the product or the policy that we're advancing?
What would it take to create a table where they're here and influencing that decision? Or what would it look like if we had a diverse team?
I think sometimes framing it from those perspectives, then invite you into a conversation where there's no way you cannot then bring up issues of race and racism, and we get into, what do we need to know about our history in order to have this conversation better?
What are the things we're not acknowledging or not saying that we need to learn more about? And I think that can be a way to make sure everyone is a part of the conversation and doesn't get to opt out, but it becomes very much about the work than their personal choice to engage or not engage.
Just chiming in, I think a big part of being able to reach that point where your team will feel most comfortable having those discussions is how you set the stage at the onset, establishing a rapport with your team in the first place where that comfort level exists. One of the things that I've found to be very helpful is to establish that rapport with those that report to me.
Just being able to allow them to be in a safe space when they engage with me and comfortable doing check-ins at the onset of every discussion, how are we doing? How are we feeling? Anything you want to explore. Just making sure that they are acknowledged for that human part that you identified Alyia.
I think that that's important. Just making sure they have a safe space and knowing the door is open to have those discussions so that if something is there, something is on their mind bothering them or they want to bring forward an issue that may relate to something pertaining to diversity that they know that there was a safe space with you.
I think that is such a good point for leaders, that building that trust it doesn't start... It's not the first time probably you're talking to somebody about something like let's have... this is the first time we're going to open up. It's a long history of trust that you have to build up front before they're going to feel safe talking about these issues that goes into regularly checking in on people's lives long before you might have these tough discussions. That's a great, great point. Yeah.
I actually would love to also add something is, just because we create a safe environment it doesn't mean like it's going to be easier. It's going to resurface because of this comfort and because of this conversation, because these are difficult issues that are systemic, personal, sensitive. From a leader perspective, it's not only about being inclusive but also how do you handle these conversations and these conflicts that could arise and that could be really challenging as well.
Yeah. I don't know if you guys have seen the article, but it was in... so my background is in public health, so I've a bunch of health related journals, but there was an article, it was called Confronting Power and Privilege for Inclusive, Equitable, and Healthy Communities. It came out a couple months ago. What I like about it is it talks about how it's really difficult to create a safe space, because what makes you feel safe maybe very different than what makes me feel safe.
They talk about the importance of creating a brave space and it builds on a lot of what we've just talked about, creating these relationships and trusting environments where I then have... I may not feel safe but I feel like I have the courage or I have the ability to say what's on my mind and bring my authentic self in that space, and they go through a series of questions that you can ask to create a space that is a brave environment.
I've really liked that framing because sometimes we have no idea what people are dealing with and what will make them safe in that moment and when conversations get tense, all of the things we might've done to create that safety might go out the window.
I think that it's just something where one of those key qualities in leadership is that ability to empathize and being able to understand other perspectives and take yourself out of your tunnel focus as a leader and put yourself in the shoes of your team member to be able to understand what angle they may be taking and that's one of the things I always try to do in my role, is not see things from my angle but really understand it from that person's angle.
It probably leads to, I have a psychology background and so that teaches you to step out of yourself and go into that person's realm and really understand kind of how they would feel in this situation. Like I said, it starts with establishing that rapport.
If I know one of my team members has this particular home situation or these particular events going on, when other areas come up, I'm able to go into that realm with them to understand how their perception may be impacted.
Yeah. Absolutely. One question I wanted to ask you all too, there's often situations for a lot of leaders where some might have a diverse team, some might only have one person on their team who's different than everyone else and that can create often... the leader tends to kind of cater to the majority or it's just a little bit easier than when they have just one person who's different to kind of overlook that.
Have you ever been on a team where you were the only, whether it was the only woman, the only person of color or the only person from a different culture, or only in any other way, whether it's background or education or anything like that? And if so, how did that affect your team dynamics?
It's interesting, when you pose the question of have you ever, I started thinking to myself, how many times have I not been the only one?
It's the reverse, right?
Yeah, it happens way more often than I wish to admit. I think for me... I think two things happen in my mind when I'm in that situation. I think there's the first piece where I am excited and thrilled to be at the table. I recognize the fight and the opportunity that I have and that many folks in my own family or just who look like me, have not been able to have that opportunity. There's a sense of like excitement and like, yes, I made it. I'm here.
Let's figure out what we can do, but then there's this other piece of any time you're the only one, I think sometimes people then think that you are the voice for everyone who looks like you, and I can't be the voice for all black women in America.
I can't be the voice for everyone from my income, everyone from my geography, and I think it's really important for leaders to recognize the weight that sometimes you put on people to carry the experience of others who look like them and I think that as a leader who's leading a diverse team, what I always try and think about is diversity in itself is not enough.
It's great to get more people to the table, but if we're not creating an equitable table where we're actually changing what happens and challenging those questions of, okay, who has decision making or who has authority at this table. If I'm the only black person but I'm the only person who's not in a leadership position at the table, then it's not necessarily a big win just because I'm at that table.
If every time we're thinking about the data we look at, if we're only looking at data from maybe specific peer reviewed journals where the boards are mostly white or different norms haven't been challenged, then I think we're still not getting to a point where we're like elevating new thought and new dynamics, and so I think it's really important to not just set the table but like change the table and make sure that anyone who is coming in from a diverse background, that they have the ability to be a part of the decision making and authority structures at the table.
I also want to say that when you were posing that question, I felt like, oh, I've been through this so many times before. It becomes very salient to you, so those like minority aspects of yourself like whether being international or a woman, or even of a certain degree status, that becomes very like obvious. That also makes you feel uncomfortable as an individual, but then as a leader how can the leader kind of remove that discomfort?
I think a big part of it is really explicitly saying like, we're here to think together, to learn together and whatever I'm saying... there's like actually no different power structure in this meeting, for example and let's just discuss as individuals not as leaders versus individual contributors.
From that perspective, if you have individuals from different backgrounds, they all feel invited to actually contribute to the conversation.
For me, it tends to be more common that I would be the only... when I step into certain roles, it tends to be more common than not. I would say the biggest thing that tends to stand out is it tends to, at some points be where there's a lack of acknowledgement of what you may bring to the table. There's a lot of having to try and prove yourself or... and it tends to be where you may say something but then another person may communicate the same thing but it's heard more from that other individual than you.
It could be the fact that you're speaking at the table and no one's validating what you just said or you're not being heard. I've been in diversity from various aspects.
Diversity meaning my background as in my professional background, what I may bring to the table versus what my peers, I may be in a room with people that are more savvy and tech where I bring a different aspect or angle from my work history, or it might be that I am the only woman at the table, or it might be that I'm the only minority at the table. There's a lot of angles that kind of may set me apart from those that I'm working with.
It tends to be a point of, I don't go into these conversations or I don't come to the table feeling like I have a point to prove, or here I am. I'm the only this are, or I'm the only that, so I have to do something about that. It becomes more evident when it's one of those situations of, I've just kind of stated this but it's been glossed over or just stated this but such and such restated it and now everyone hears it but when I expressed it, no one heard it.
There tends to be those type of dynamics that I've encountered where it's kind of like, hey, I exist. I'm at the table too. Can you acknowledge that? I've just said something or I've just brought forward this point or... it's kind of like, sometimes I felt like we're speaking different languages, but we're saying the same thing. There's that aspect that I've experienced and just being kind of the only at the table.
Yeah. As you all are talking and it sounds like that's such work for the leaders at the table to think about that too, to make sure that people are acknowledged and heard when they're sending forth ideas. Especially if you've heard an idea once and it comes back a second time, somebody else is amplifying it, you want to make sure to say, oh yeah, Quiana mentioned that earlier as well and it sounds like you're in agreement or there's lots of little ways that you can acknowledge that people have shared these ideas without saying, "Oh, now that you say it, that sounds much more interesting to me or whatever."
Yeah. I think those are really excellent points about how leaders can guide those conversations and make people feel heard. Alyia, I think your point too as you were talking about how sometimes we assume that one person who is whatever reason that they're representing everybody of that background or things like that, that's probably another area for leaders where we can try to be more sensitive to the fact too, that people aren't necessarily thinking that way also because they are that type of person.
For example, if you have an opinion on something, it's not because you're the only woman in the room. It might be your opinion because you have a background in science or marketing and that's why you bring it to the table.
That's also... because I think we can say, well, they're thinking that way because they are a woman or because they don't have a background in tech. That's why they're only thinking... that doesn't make the point any less valid.
I wanted to ask as well, like, as you've seen leaders approach these topics in the workplace, or have approached inclusion in meetings, what have you seen that works well? Or if you have seen things that have specifically not gone well. We won't name names of anyone who did that, but things that didn't work well even if people had good intentions.
I think when people speak, that one of the things is the validation that you've heard that individual and thank them for their contribution in that moment. That's important and I think that means a lot to the contributor.
Specific meetings, I think also another one is having that... inviting everyone. Like really creating that comfort level and the beginning and the get-go and setting the stage that in this meeting, we're going to challenge each other and it's nothing personal and we're going to push just so we can think big and be creative, and that encouragement of learning and mistakes, that I think really helps people speak up in any capacity.
To me that is very important skill and of course also invite everyone. When someone is quiet, maybe because they're more introverted than others, to ask them. Ask them maybe to follow up and write you an email about what they think, like post the meeting in case they didn't say anything during the meeting and then you realize that.
Amplify people's voices when they're undermined, when someone talks over them, when they're interrupted, when the actual credibility is taken away. Just really be very aware of everyone one on the table and try to make everyone feel heard and participate.
This may sound really simple, but I think that when it works well it's because people have been very intentional about the meeting they're trying to have. I think when you're clear about the results you're seeking, when you're clear about how we structure this conversation.
Where is that conversation taking place? When is it taking place? How did you invite people? What are the materials that they needed beforehand in order to prepare.
If we're talking about international teams and making sure like the timing of that meeting, I think all of these things then go into how people enter the space and how they feel when they're coming in. I think it's very important to then set that grounding of this is what we're seeking to achieve.
I also think sometimes when people start the meetings in the beginning like setting some intentional like guiding principles or ground rules or norms. All of those things can be very helpful in my experience with setting the environment to have a productive conversation.
I think that's such a great point around having great meetings. Inclusive meetings is just great leadership. Some people think of like diversity and inclusion as like an add-on or something separate that they have to pay attention to, but the more inclusive your meeting is, it's just structuring a great meeting is an inclusive meeting by nature. That's a great point.
Yeah. A tool we've done in the past is we've spent time... like it's almost just a Excel spreadsheet where sometimes we'll map out who's coming to the meeting. We put the note all down and then we say, okay, what's the contribution we were seeking from them. That might be the perspective they're bringing. That might be an idea we've heard.
That might even be like, they're an ally and we need them at this table because we're trying to make the case for something, but then we also write down what's their gender, what's their race or ethnicity and get a sense and then you can step back and say, okay, look at this table I have.
I have all of these people who are maybe representing one idea. I'm missing another perspective. Who else can I invite? And if I don't know who to invite, who could I ask to help me figure out who else to bring?
If I have everyone and I'm looking in this table is all one race, or maybe there's only one person from another race ethnicity. How can I think about increasing diversity there? And so it gives you a chance to really, I don't know, be critical and analyze the table that you're setting and then challenge yourself to go find additional perspectives.
Going along with that, I think one of the biggest things that starts from the top, because sometimes the... a company may not have that diverse background of people. With that, I think even it starts at the point of making sure the landscape of your team is taking into consideration a diverse group of people, making sure you have that pool of people to choose from at the onset where there's not only one of, but looking and making sure that you're building a team and that you're hiring on a staff that is diverse from the onset and diverse in all aspects so that you do have that pool to choose from.
Yeah. To that point, we always try to think about from the get-go, is what are the different perspectives we want on the table? Whether it's someone from content, from marketing and just to have those different insights and have multiple individuals that we can target for those working meetings, just like you mentioned, Quiana, so we can have that diverse approach, we use for problem solving we want these different points of view and data points as well.
Also, Alyia, to your point about meetings and how we create meetings, I think setting an agenda with clear goal of what we're trying to accomplish during that meeting and who's on the table during that meeting is so important and also providing people voice within creating that agenda.
Not just say hey, we're going to do this. Ask them, what do you think we should do? And take those items from all the participants as well.
Yeah, and Sarah, I want to build a little bit on something you had mentioned earlier too, which I think is so important, is about conflict on the team. The more diversity you have with the team, the more diverse perspectives, it's a good thing but it does by nature invite conflict because if you have... when we all think of things from the same perspective, like we all come to the meeting, we're like, yup, sounds good.
We all agree. We all have the same approach to this. Great, but when you have a lot more perspectives, you'll get better problem solving but you're also going to get conflict on your teams.
How have you seen maybe conflict arise and how it's handled in a way that's healthy versus in a way that makes people feel maybe excluded. Some people are very naturally conflict averse, how can we have better meetings where we have healthy invited conflict without people walking away feeling badly about it?
I think a big part of it is really striving to work a win-win solution, because if you have people who think that whatever you're working on is not important and another party thinks it's really important, the first party is going to yield and say, "Okay, I'll defer to you. You can do whatever you want."
If someone feels really, really passionate about a specific solution, they could be super forceful. You have this dynamic of yielding and being forceful, but ideally you want something in between a win-win solution.
I think a good way to do that is to allow people to explain the importance of middle ground in a way, a middle ground in our communication style but ideally to the best solution possible.
Again, really highlighting the importance of the work that we're doing and removing that personal aspect of things and trying to bring the best ideas from these conflicting parties, but a really important piece I think would be that again, safety of speak up, push, receive, listen, because otherwise we're going to have these either forceful or yielding individuals and that's not a healthy dynamic.
I think we also have an opportunity to shift how we frame these conversations. When we start with a frame that there's going to be conflict, I think people prepare for that. They prepare for the conflict before it's even created and may enter the space quite defensive or frustrated already before they've even uttered one word. I think sometimes shifting the language like these conversations invite complexity.
We might know what that means, but it's a different way of entering in and then it's like, oh complexity, that's a challenge. That's an opportunity. That's something we can solve together and wrestle with versus, oh, I don't want to go into a space that's all about conflict from the very beginning.
Definitely I agree with what Alyia and Sarah said. It definitely takes all those aspects and... I was going to mention as well, the reframing of how it's brought to the table is definitely necessary to make sure people aren't going in with a negative perception of how it's going to progress versus more of this is a storming session, we're going to get this information.
We're going to really acknowledge, validate everyone's contributions and go from there and if there is... where it starts to turn left, being able to reframe that and reel it back in so you guys can continue on and reminding them of the common goal that you're working towards and at the end of the day, I'm a big advocate of... at this point it's business. It's nothing personal. It's no knock against you as an individual. At the end of the day we have a goal to accomplish, how are we going to get there?
One thing I think would be super important is you don't want it to be a conflict where it's so stressful that nothing can be accomplished. You don't want people to have elevated cortisol level, then they're going to have heart attack after a meeting.
You want to make sure at some point as a leader, as a team leader, as a facilitator, whoever is kind of trying to work on the flow of the meeting decides to intervene and say, okay, we clearly have a conflict but have a suggested like systematic methods of solving this problem, like a voting exercise for example.
Okay, clearly now we're not able to reach a consensus, let's see what the vote will say and, on an anonymity, and create that safety again. I feel like I'm always bringing that element of psychological safety because it's so important in any conversation of that source. Again, this idea of having a systematic intervention for conflict.
Yeah. I think the other thing too, is one of the best things I've been told as a leader is to be comfortable admitting when you don't know, or when you need help. There are folks who are very skilled in leading diverse teams and facilitating conversations about diversity, equity, and inclusion, and it may be something you identify that your team needs support in doing this.
As you're mapping out that meeting, one question might be, do we need an outside facilitator? And I think making sure that you've budgeted and put resources to say, if this is a value we want to focus on then we're going to put the resource in the budget behind it to make sure we do it well and set the conversation so that we can build those skills to eventually do it on our own.
Yeah. I think that's such an important point of... As leaders, I think that's one of the reasons people feel so uncomfortable, is they feel like they have to have all the answers. All really valid ways to move through and you don't have to be perfect at doing this.
The point is to open the conversation versus having to say, "Don't worry, everyone. I showed up with all the answers. I know how to do this. It's fine." One thing you had mentioned Sarah too, is some inadvertent ways that people may feel left out and you might not even be realizing it.
I was curious if you all have experience in any of those, like ways that you have noticed that people are being left out of the conversation and the leaders totally trying not to do that, but they're completely unaware of how that might happen, and some examples of ways that we might be overlooking inclusion and why some people might be feeling left out.
I think in the leadership role, I think it's... Just as a leader, it's something that you have to consciously always be aware of. I think it's human nature that it's going to happen. You just always have to keep that in the forefront that I need to include, I need to include so that you aren't overlooking your team.
It has to be one of those conscious efforts that you don't exclude someone so that you're making sure everyone's... it's just one of those things you have to keep at the forefront when you're engaging people, is that okay, I need to make sure I'm including everyone, validating everyone's opinion, seeking out information from someone I may not have heard from in a while from the group, that type of thing. It just has to be a common practice.
Quiana, I want to ask you. Do you feel like we could be over-inclusive as well, or you start making all these meetings and inviting everybody all the time or almost become the distractor? Like what's like the beautiful threshold of that balance?
I think it becomes a question of, would the concern be out of... if it becomes too much, is it too much because of the inconvenience of it or is it too much? What qualifies when we're doing too much? That becomes the question. It's becoming an inconvenience or is it seeming too much because I'm trying to... I'm probably trying to better define when it seems to become overboard.
Yeah. I think maybe overboard would be when it's no longer productive. Alyia mentioned earlier, we start inviting people to the table, but maybe they don't need to be in that meeting, for example, so just being cognizant.
The reason why I asked is I think maybe... a good way is to ask if people say, hey, like do you feel included? Are these activities? Beth, to your question is sometimes we come or a leader comes in with the intention to be inclusive, but then it becomes exclusive unintentionally.
For example, like I can give a very simple example from my gym, these icebreakers, and they're like, give me your name and tell me your favorite Christmas song. Let's assume I'm not familiar with Christmas songs. Like maybe I don't know Christmas songs.
Like I can't really be participating. Similarly, such like icebreakers could happen at work and sometimes it happens, and you unintentionally become exclusive, but a good way to address it is to your people and say, what did you think of those? How can we be more inclusive? And again, have that conversation backwards with that.
I think something else too, in my experience is everything doesn't have to happen in the meeting. I think sometimes we put so much emphasis on the meeting and let's get everyone to that meeting. There's great resources... I mean, there's one called, it's more so on community engagement, but it's on a spectrum of engagement. It goes from informing to empowering. Informing is basically, I'm just telling you what's happening. Empowering is we are actually co-creating and developing this product together.
If we're talking about a meeting, you are actually the decision maker in setting the table for how we have this agenda with me. I think it's really important again, going back to being clear about what's the result we're trying to achieve, or we're clear about the result.
We can then have better, I think clarity as to who should be engaged, but then I think we also need to identify how are we during that engagement and being honest with people. This meeting is a meeting where we're literally just educating. We're not making a decision or... and so maybe there it's important to have more voices because we want to hear all of the different perspectives.
At a different meeting, this one might be a co-creation meeting. Maybe we can't have 70 people because we're trying to actually have enough space for us to go deep into folks' perspective. I think, again, it really goes to thinking about what are we trying to achieve?
How do we achieve that? And then how do we be honest with people about decisions they have the opportunity to inform. The decisions they have the opportunity to make, and then the places where this is just a space for listening.
I think that open forum for using feedback as well as a mechanism for inclusion, that doesn't have to be in the meeting because yes, at some point there's going to be a limit. You can't have... what a disaster it would be to have 70 people trying to create something or to really work on something together.
You can't possibly do it, but at the same time using feedback afterwards, so say you were in a small meeting where you made some decisions or you came up with a concept, using afterwards to say hey, "Here's what we came up with. What do you think?"
Or things like that using feedback afterwards can be a really helpful way if you can't have everyone in the room at one time to keep making sure that you still are inclusive afterwards to make sure that those voices are still heard.
That's a really great point of not everything has to be in the meeting. You can be inclusive in other ways.
And not everything even has to be a meeting.
That's also a part, and there's times where I know we've had the situation of, if this can be informative via email, make it an email, versus if it's something where we actually need to engage to making a meeting and don't pull people into the meeting if it's just going to clog up their calendars.
You have to be very strategic and mindful of exactly who you're bringing to the table and the purpose because you don't want to pull them in just to say, "Oh, I've been inclusive and I have everyone here." You have to be very mindful of why you're bringing that person to the table so you're not loading up their schedule with things where they had other things to do when they're not a key contributor to that moment.
I definitely want to go back really quick when you asked the question about persons we might be overlooking. I was recently talking to a friend of mine and he is a huge disability rights advocate. He is actually in a wheelchair himself and we were talking about sort of virtual engagement and I was like, "Oh, it seems like everyone is now figuring out how to do all of these virtual meetings and I wonder what it means for community engagement."
He was saying... he's like, "Alyia, sometimes people overlook the people in my community." He's like, where let's say somebody has a hearing impairment. Okay, well, great. We have all these virtual meetings, but that might be very difficult for me to participate, or maybe I have a visual impairment where sitting in front of a Zoom meeting for multiple hours to be a part of this community engagement, I can't engage because it's difficult for me physically to even be a part of that conversation.
He's like when people send multiple documents for a meeting, I can't flip through all of those documents as fast as everyone else on my team. For me, it was just very eye opening to think about even some of the things that we think are like tools to make communication easier, we have to ask easier for who and like, how do we ensure that if there are other communities that we're trying to engage, have we actually thought about the tools we're using and is it helpful or harder for the members of those communities?
I think that's a really great point. We need to be thinking about all types of diversity and that's where that feedback loop can really come in. As we look at where leaders need to step in and continue that conversation about how are things going?
How are you adjusting? It gives people the opportunity to say, listen, this has been hard. It's challenging to be on video all the time, or it's hard for me to follow the meetings because of a hearing impairment.
As we start to wrap up here, I love where all three of you have been headed. There are so many tools at our disposal to make sure that we can be more inclusive and it doesn't have to be hard. The solution can be really simple.
Meetings is one part of it, but there are lots of opportunities for feedback activities, and making sure we're just talking to each other and structuring things in the right way to be more inclusive.
I so appreciate the perspective that all three of you brought to the conversation today, and thank you to our audience for spending some of their 480 minutes with us. This is not the end of the conversation but a step in the right direction. Thank you all for joining and remember to make every moment of leadership count.