A State of Being Included

Originally shared in A Daily Dose Of Leadership on July 29, 2020.

We looked at what it takes to build a truly diverse team in the last blog. But just having a group of people with varying skill sets and experience doesn’t promise there will ever be a high performing team…

I’ve been in a number of situations where I was always the odd man out. Now before you write me off by saying that doesn’t surprise you, hear me out…

Have you ever been part of a work group where, regardless of your expertise or performance, you just never seemed to fit in because you didn’t come from the same school or didn’t attend the same church? Maybe it was because you had only been with the organization for a few years while nearly everyone else around you had been there for decades. How a scenario where a significant portion of the management team had all come from one other company and anyone without that history was a bit of an outsider? And what if your education or credentials didn’t match the corporate culture but your history of achieving results was second to none?

Do any of these sound familiar? I can’t imagine someone not being able to relate to at least one of these examples… Believe it or not, I’ve been through each of these and several others to be completely honest.

I don’t share this as a sob story, but to begin painting a picture in your mind…

In each of these examples, there wasn’t a ton of diversity either. And I’m not sure it would have mattered either way.

A quick Google search shows the definition of inclusion as being “the action or state of including or of being included within a group or structure.” While I looked similar to most of the folks in each of those groups, there was always one reason or another that I couldn’t join in the reindeer games. So be it…

But let’s take a look at another scenario where there’s as much potential for diversity as you can imagine but so many organizations fail to create a culture that welcomes these folks as part of the team.

For nearly a decade, I did a huge amount of hiring. One of the best resources I found for great candidates was the Veterans Services division of the Virginia Employment Commission. I can remember new hire orientation sessions where 75% of the folks in the group were veterans. And as a rule, veterans have amazing skills that can add value to any organization!

Here’s the challenge: getting someone in the door is far different from keeping them. Unless a company is very intentional about their on-boarding process, a veterans drive to excel and find ways to improve processes will quickly be squashed by a culture of this is how we’ve always done it… When someone who’s trained to find solutions and is coming from a culture where you move up or move out, running into constant resistance any time they have an idea for making things better isn’t very likely to make them feel like they’re being included in the group!

So how can we avoid leaving team members out in the cold, regardless of whether they’re just like us or not? We’ll take a look at that soon… Until then, I’d challenge you to think into how you’ve been proactive about including the people on your team who may not have the same background as you. And if there’s anyone who may be on a proverbial island, what can be done to make them feel like they really are part of the team?

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