By Jiten Patel (2020)
Consciously inclusive leaders recognise that empowerment is an essential component in maximising engagement from, and the performance of, their diverse team members. They understand that fostering inclusion is not only the right thing to do, but that it yields significant business benefits. The states that, whilst there is a clear business case for diversity and inclusion, the benefits cannot be realised just through having a diverse/representative workforce; leaders have to a culture of inclusion. In my opinion, consciously inclusive leaders do this by better understanding the individuals comprising their team(s).
Often, people who are different owing to their sex, minority ethnic status, sexuality, cognitive difference(s) and/or disability(ies) among other characteristics, do not feel their line managers provide them with appropriate empowerment to enhance their career success. Organisations have then tended to turn to Positive Action programmes. I have created and advised on many positive action programmes for organisations, usually where participants are given access to a senior mentor. One key ingredient for success, I have found, is for participants their mentors to have access to a conscious inclusion expert. Effectively, therefore, I have often acted as mentor to both participants and their mentors in these types of situations.
In one such programme, I received a meeting request from a mentor. The mentor was a very senior leader in the top 5% of a workforce of 10,000+ people. The mentor was concerned about their mentee because the mentee seemed to have many personal issues and so seemed very distracted. They told me, “This positive action programme is to help the participants work on mutually agreed, work-related objectives. I’m not sure where I should take this.”
The first thing I did was to acknowledge the genuine concern the mentor had for their mentee. The mentee would not have opened up to them if they had not developed a mutually trusting relationship. We then explored the fact that employees cannot leave their personal lives at the door when they walk into the workplace. We came-up with strategies to support the mentee and agreed to review progress regularly (this programme ran for 12 months).
As a result, the mentor and participant built an even stronger relationship and they agreed to continue informally beyond the end of the programme. The mentee’s self-esteem and confidence grew and grew. The outcome was that the mentee not only resolved their personal situations (particularly around others’ expectations of what it meant to be a good spouse, manage caring responsibilities, etc), but also succeeded in completing their professional qualifications. Over 36 months, the mentee successfully secured two promotions.
Some so-called leaders argue that they do not have time for all this, what they call, ‘mollycoddling’. They recruit people based on their ability to do the job and expect them to get on with it. My response to this is simple; even the best among us look to the support of a mentor/coach and the first should be our own line manager. The best leaders know that true success lies in their ability of get the best out of their people. Simply expecting them to just get on with it does not ‘cut the mustard’, as the saying goes.
Empowerment is not necessarily a quantifiable measure, but more a feeling engendered in the other. Consciously Inclusive Leaders put the power into empowerment through:
- Recognising and acknowledging the impact of the lived experience (both within and without the organisation) of their mentee/team member.
- Developing an attitude which inspires confidence and improved self-esteem in the other.
- Providing appropriate inspiration and support to help the other develop their competencies