inclusive culture

By developing an inclusive culture within your organisation, you will create a healthy and enjoyable place to work, explains Sid Madge

For far too long, if you were female, any challenges you were experiencing were simply dismissed as gender bias or put down to the menstrual cycle. If you were male, you were expected just to man up. But over time, our collective understanding of the issues most of us face from time to time altered, allowing individuals to express themselves more and seek assistance when needed: the culture changed.

I love words, and I always feel there’s a clue in the word to help us find the meaning. The first thing I noticed about the word ‘culture’ is that there are two ‘u’s.’ The first ‘u’ represents you the individual, your knowledge, beliefs, customs, capabilities and habits. The second ‘u’ is everyone else within your group, be that family or at work.

Culture is where you meet others and the environment you individually and collectively create together. By developing an inclusive culture, which works for all, within your organisation, you will create a healthy place to work that people enjoy being part of. You’ll retain great staff, and your productivity will improve. In other words, you’ll help everyone in your team be the best they can be.

Below are five great ways to create a nurturing, supportive and inclusive culture so we can all shine, individually and collectively:

1. Embrace Change

We might like the idea of things staying the same, but they never do for long. Life is change. Besides, we would get bored if everything were always the same and we were always the same. All great cultures adapt. Or they die out. It’s as simple as that.

The greater we are at adapting to change, the richer our lives become. I’m often asked how I deal with change and have been called a change expert. I accept what is, and I adapt to what is happening without trying to fight it. The more we resist, the more things tend to persist.

As adults, we must become much more comfortable with failure. It’s the same issue as our unwillingness to ask. Stanford psychologist Carol Dweck refers to the differences as the growth mindset and fixed mindset. Children naturally have a growth mindset: they try, fail, try again and ask a million questions about everything. Adults try, fail, cover up any signs that they even tried and refuse to ask anything in case they look foolish. The kids have it right.

Take a minute to think about the last time you resisted change at work. How did it turn out? Do you have a growth mindset or a fixed mindset? Change is inevitable, so we may as well embrace it and enjoy the journey, and the benefits.

2. Be the Best ‘u’ You Can Be

Always give your utmost and fully turn up in whatever you are doing. Athletes often say: trust the process and the outcomes will sort themselves. In other words, do the work, be the person you want to be, hold yourself to a higher standard and the results will follow as surely as night follows day. We can’t always control the outcome. Everything is always changing around us, but we always have control over what we do in that change and who we are. Sure, sometimes we do our best and it doesn’t work out, but there is still a quiet satisfaction to be gained from knowing we did all we could.

No two paths are the same; everyone’s path to happiness, greatness or whatever your –ness is, is different. But there are constants: perseverance, passion and principles.

Take a minute to think about the last week. Can you point to at least one example where you were your best self? The more we demand that of ourselves, the quicker cultures at work will change around us.

3. Celebrate Difference

Creating a culture that allows for enquiry and exploration is surely better for us as individuals, as businesses and as collectives. Everyone matters, regardless of who we are or where we come from or where we are heading. There are 6,909 languages spoken in the world and an astonishing 3,814 distinct cultures. That’s a whole world of diversity and difference that needs celebrating and embracing. And it all starts with those two ‘u’s.’

In his book Wisdom of Crowds, author James Surowiecki states that at the heart of collective intelligence is a “mathematical truism”. If we ask a large enough group of diverse, independent people to make a prediction or estimate a probability, and then average those estimates, the errors each of them makes in coming up with an answer will cancel themselves out. In other words, if we celebrate difference and seek input from a diverse set of independent people, we will always get a better result than we would get by consulting the same type of people or a small set of ‘experts’.

This is counterintuitive because we’ve come to revere the expert, but difference and diversity is where it’s at. No one is smart enough to know everything, but everyone is smart enough to know everything. Together, we all add something of value, so we see more of the issue and produce better solutions.

We must celebrate our own difference, whatever that may be. And we must also make space for difference and diversity in all our cultures. Let’s celebrate the wonderful diversity we have in our companies and the world. Embrace difference as a learning tool.

Take a minute to think of the last time you met someone from a different country or background – how did you react? We can all learn from each other.

4. Don’t Be Afraid to Ask

What is your culture at work? Is it what ‘u’ want it to be? If we start there, then we (the collective ‘u’) can build something that accepts, honours and nurtures everyone involved for who they are. Everyone is interesting and brings something unique to the world in general, and your business in particular. Everyone has value.

One of the quirks of adulthood is we stop asking. We stop asking questions because we don’t want to look like we don’t know the answer and we stop asking for what we want. This shouldn’t be some selfish temper tantrum, but we all have the right to be in a place that is nurturing and supportive and to speak up when it’s not. Culture isn’t changed overnight; it is often a much slower process that comes about when lots of other ‘u’s’ start to speak up. Mental health is now being taken seriously in business and beyond because people started to speak up and ask for support. They raised the issues and kept raising the issues.

There is an adage that we get what we expect. But I’d go further: We get what we are willing to settle for. The only way to create a better culture is to stop accepting the one we currently inhabit and ask for something better.

Take a minute to think about the culture of your workplace. What stands out about this culture? Is there something specific that really bothers you? If so, speak up. Decide to stop accepting it, and lead by example.

5. Be More Bilbo

I recently lost my best friend Bilbo, a 12-½-year-old Springer Spaniel. Often people who have never had a dog find it difficult to understand the devastation of losing a pet, but he really was my best friend. He never complained, growled or moaned; he just lived life to the full. He was always happy to meet new people and saw the best in everyone. Everyone was a friend he just hadn’t sniffed yet. He was welcoming and loving every morning and was content with the simple things – a nice tennis ball, a walk on the beach or a cosy snuggle. The feeling I have for him is one of absolute admiration, respect and love. He was joy itself and my life is far emptier without him. Although I’m incredibly sad right now, I am also so grateful he shared his life with me. And I’ve vowed to Be More Bilbo from here on in.

I think we should all Be More Bilbo. The poet and civil rights activist Maya Angelou once said, “I’ve learned that people will forget what you said, people will forget what you did, but people will never forget how you made them feel.” So true. Bilbo always made my life feel better, especially after a tough day. I don’t remember anything other than those wonderful feelings.

Take a minute to think about how the culture you work in makes you feel. How, in the course of your day, do you make others feel? Are you uplifting and supportive, or grumpy and demanding? How are you contributing to a positive or negative culture at work? Be More Bilbo.

Sid Madge is a transformation and change specialist and founder of Meee. Meee draws on the best creativity and thinking from the worlds of branding, psychology, neuroscience, education and sociology to help people embrace change and achieve extraordinary ... (Read More)

One comment on “Five Steps to Creating an Inclusive Culture

  1. Amy Green on

    Awesome quote: “We get what we are willing to settle for. The only way to create a better culture is to stop accepting the one we currently inhabit and ask for something better”. That is now on a post-it note on my desk!


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