By: Daniel Stewart, President & Executive Consultant
It can be easy to unintentionally find oneself living in a “bubble”—surrounded by people who share your opinions, perspectives, and outlook. It is the norm for most neighborhoods and houses of worship as like often attracts like. Social media exacerbates this further by prioritizing content that their algorithm has determined you are more likely to interact with.
Leaders know they must make an intentional effort to include and surround themselves with a variety of different voices; staying in an “echo chamber” isn’t an option. Prioritizing inclusive leadership is a business imperative - it’s critical for leaders to pull in new and different perspectives to ensure that various ideas and viewpoints are taken into account. Fresh thinking that challenges old ideas is vital to any organization's long-term health and success.
One way to encourage new ways of thinking is for leaders to actively work on developing an inclusive mindset. Here are three choices you can make that will promote the growth of an inclusive mindset:
Whatever the conversation is, reflect on who is involved, who isn’t, and who should be. What perspectives are you missing? Who would bring those perspectives to the table? If possible, pause the conversation—even in the middle—and invite those voices in. Make a note of who to include in the future, and be proactive about asking those voices to sit at the table. Finally, be intentional in amplifying the ideas and perspectives that add particular value to the conversation. Recent research suggests that magnifying voices can help raise the status of underrepresented groups and bring additional attention to new perspectives.
Everyone has a set of filters and perspectives shaped by our own experiences, values, and beliefs. Ask yourself what other viewpoints you can take as you consider your current problem, challenge, circumstance, or opportunity. Actively challenge your perspectives with new ones. Psychologist Adam Grant suggests “thinking like a scientist.” In scientist mode, Grant suggests, “you look for reasons why you might be wrong, not just reasons you must be right.”
We tend to fall into relationships with people who think as we do in both our work and personal lives. Cultivating relationships outside of your usual circles requires work, but it’s essential work that can help you expand your thinking. Actively look for relationships with people who are not necessarily like you. Get outside your department, function, or community. Ask questions and encourage conversations that help you understand their perspectives.
Remember, challenging your thinking doesn’t require you to change your mind—only to open it. When you look at other perspectives and hear other voices with curiosity and humility, you will be able to honestly examine and consider options, ideas, and solutions. As you invite these different perspectives into your thinking and encourage others to do the same, you will help everyone in leadership develop a more inclusive mindset.
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