Updated: Sep 13, 2020
By Anjli Garg.
You are welcome here.
You are valued.
How do you feel when you read these words?
All employers want to hire and retain talented, engaged and productive employees. What draws talented employees to your team, and what helps them stay?
Inclusion. Feeling that they are a valued and welcome part of the team.
Fortune, which has been publishing ‘The 100 Best Companies to Work For’ for over two decades, has consistently found that: “Inclusion has become the gold standard for employee-centric companies.” Fortune’s findings simply reinforce what each of us already knows: The expansive power of inclusion, and conversely, the shrinking feeling that accompanies exclusion and indifference. If you have any doubts, just go back to the top, re-read the first three sentences and really feel the effect of those words on you.
When employees feel embraced as a valuable part of their company, they contribute to the success of their company through their creativity and engagement.
So how does an organization make employees from all different backgrounds, viewpoints, belief systems, races and orientations feel that:
Their authentic selves are welcome and contribute to the strength of the team;
They have a seat at the table;
Their perspective and voices are heard and welcomed by the team; and
Their contributions are valued by the team?
In short, how does a company foster and maintain culture of inclusion?
As an immigrant, a woman of color and a leader in corporate America for the past two decades, I have experienced first-hand the powerful effects of both inclusion and exclusion. I have consistently found that awareness, empathy and taking personal responsibility result in real and lasting change. In fact, they are transformative. This realization propelled me to do a deep dive into leadership and emerge as an executive leadership coach. I now coach corporate leaders on how to thrive as inclusive leaders.
This piece focuses on leadership’s role in creating an inclusive corporate culture through a shift in the consciousness of leaders. When leaders shift to an inclusive mind-set, their personal transformation ripples out effecting change in their teams and wider organizations.
As a leader, where do you start? As with anything, you begin with yourself, and use inquiry as one of your primary tools. By inquiry, I mean examining what is, with curiosity. In my legal and coaching practices, I have found that one of the most effective tools for examining an issue is asking questions without any agenda or conclusion in mind. Just as a detective looks for clues to solve a mystery, you are using inquiry to get to the truth of your corporate IQ (inclusivity quotient). This may seem like a simple thing, but most of us, caught up in the daily pressures and routine of life and work, rarely stop to inquire into the ‘why’ of our actions. Why are we doing what we are doing? Why are we doing it in this particular way? Is there another way to do this?
Corporate IQ (Inclusivity Quotient) Inquiry
I offer the following exercise that applies coaching principles to help you assess your corporate IQ. When engaging in this exercise of inquiry, I would encourage you to create a quiet space without distraction and allocate some dedicated time for reflection. When done authentically, this can be an uncomfortable exercise. All of us suffer from unconscious biases and have preferences and leanings. So, as you engage in this exercise, be curious and let go of any judgments about yourself and others that may come up. You can do this in the privacy of your own mind space, or with a trusted friend, ally or coach. If you have never consciously thought about inclusivity, then starting with your own mind space makes sense. At some point, you will need to engage with someone else, because, all of us have blind spots that will need to be uncovered in order to see more clearly. This conversation will take courage and require vulnerability, so find someone with whom you feel safe to be authentic and real. Remember, vulnerability is a strength, not a sign of weakness. Being a great leader does not mean that you are a perfect person. Leadership requires energy, thought and awareness to know what is needed, courage to be uncomfortable and vision to inspire change.
The First Step: You
This exercise starts with you. Ask yourself, how inclusive are you of yourself at work? Meaning, how much of who you are do you share or hide with your colleagues, your managers and your direct reports. Here are some questions to help you with this inquiry:
How do I show up as a leader?
How free do I feel to be myself at work?
Do my words and decisions at work reflect my values and who I am?
These open-ended questions are different ways of getting at whether you bring your authentic self into your work and in your interactions with your colleagues. For example, if at your core you value consensus but adopt a more directive leadership style with your team, ask yourself why (with curiosity)?
This self-inquiry matters, because if you do not feel free to be yourself at your organization and in your role, how will those who are looking to you for inspiration and motivation feel free to be themselves? I have seen the power of this self-inquiry first hand. When I was coaching a leader who was disengaged in her work, it became clear that one of her main sources of discontent was that she did not feel free to be her authentic self at work. She had to pretend to be someone else, someone less outspoken and more accommodating. When she realized that speaking up was a core value for her, she experimented with ways that felt safe for her to speak up. She felt happier and freer in her work, and so did her team.
The Second Step: Your Team
The next step in the corporate IQ inquiry is to take a look at your team, and how you view and interact with your team members. Here are some questions to help you with this aspect of the inquir
Who is part of my team? How is each person different from the other? What do they all have in common? How diverse is my team?
What are the traits of my team members?
What does each member of my team need to thrive?
Are certain members of my team always quiet? Why?
Whom do I turn to first on my team? Why?
Whom do I trust most? Why?
Whom do I value most on my team? Why?
What traits do I look for in a successful employee? Why?
Who gets the juicy assignments? Why?
Review the answers to the above questions, and look for any patterns or themes. Ask yourself, what do my answers reveal about my values? What conscious or unconscious biases may be at play? Again, these questions may be difficult to delve into on your own. I strongly encourage you to explore these questions with someone who can hold space for you to explore without judgement.
The Third Step: Your Team’s Team
As you continue your inquiry into your corporate IQ, you can take a look at each member of your team in his/her leadership capacity by asking the above questions with that person in mind. For example, if Shirley is part of your team, who is part of Shirley’s team? And so on. This step in your inquiry is equally important, because each person and their actions and mindset contribute to and are reflective of your company’s inclusivity culture.
The Fourth Step: Your Corporate Environment
The next step in your corporate IQ inquiry journey is to look at your organization as a whole and ask yourself:
How inclusive is my company?
How diverse are my colleagues at each level of the organization?
Are there any common cultural aspects to the organization, such as common styles of dress, speech and mannerism?
What are the stated values and mission of the company? Do those values and mission include diversity and inclusivity?
By this stage in the process, you will likely discover some patterns regarding inclusion in the insights you’ve gained at each step of your inquiry. You will likely have thoughts on how the company is fostering inclusion, and where further attention and work is needed.
The Fifth Step: Bringing Inquiry and Corporate IQ to the Organization
At some point, it would make sense for you to engage your team members and your wider organization in this conversation and inquiry exercise. How and when is up to you to determine. How hesitant or willing you are to approach them with these questions is important information for you about the state of inclusivity in your team and company.
These five steps are not the end of the inclusivity conversation. They, and the tool of inquiry, are merely a beginning framework for leaders to take stock of their and their organization’s inclusivity quotient. I firmly believe that in order to foster a collective consciousness of inclusivity in an organization, each leader must adopt an inclusive mind-set and have the courage to see and do what is uncomfortable. An inclusive mind-set requires awareness, empathy and self-work. Your team and your organization will thank you, and so will your bottom-line.
I would love to hear your thoughts, and your experiences with the corporate IQ inquiry exercise. Please also get in touch with me if you are interested in participating in a group on corporate IQ inquiry.
About the Author Anjli Garg’s passion is to help people tap into their innate power so that they can live the life they truly desire and thrive even when things don’t go the way they expected. Her superpowers are deeply connecting with people from a place of total acceptance and presence, so they can recognize their greatness and find their most innovative, creative selves. This enables clients to create the life they’ve dreamed of and enjoy their success.
Anjli has published articles and spoken at conferences and panels on topics such as privacy and data security, unconscious bias, and diversity and inclusion. She has 20+years of experience as a corporate transactional attorney, and obtained her J.D. from NYU School of Law.
Currently, Anjli is Director, Associate General Counsel, Citibank, N.A., and an executive leadership coach. At Citi, she is the global counsel to the commercial cards business, working with its largest institutional clients. She is also an active member of Citi Legal’s Global Diversity Council. She can be reached via LinkedIn at Anjli Garg or via her website at www.yourcoachtosoar.com.
TCIC series is provided to readers by The Conscious Inclusion Company (TM)