What does inclusive leadership have to do with fishing? (2 min read)

“There’s nothing as powerful as a concept, and nothing more dangerous than a misconception”

In my last post, you got a fresh perspective on the concepts of inclusion, diversity and inclusive leadership.

This post is about the three misconceptions you should get rid of in order to create an inclusive culture overtime.

  • Diversity is NOT about positive discrimination

This is the single biggest objection and misunderstanding about diversity. That’s the question I get asked over and over as soon as I tell people what I do. “Oh, diversity, is this the thing about positive discrimination and quotas?”. The point is not to hire or promote a person only because she or he belongs to a minority group, forgetting all about talent. The point is to remove the barriers, often unconscious, that prevent us from recognizing talent when it comes in different sizes and shapes, in the first place.

We tend to fish in the same pools, and look for a certain type of people, often those who look like ourselves. Legal quotas (mandatory and set by governments) about women on boards, or disabled people for instance, and corporate diversity targets (what companies intend to achieve as a result of their actions), force us to fish in other pools in order to reach out for and consider qualified people who we tend to overlook.

Diversity is about widening our talent pools, not narrowing them. By fishing in bigger pools, you increase your chances of finding the right talent.

In all cases, decisions should always focus on skills and competence. When you hire, promote or dismiss people. Bad performers should not be tolerated just because they are “diverse”. Never fall into the trap of believing that you must choose between diversity and quality.

  • Inclusion is NOT about accommodating minorities

Inclusion is about adapting to everybody’s differences, including those differences that the “majority” brings. If you focus only on minorities you alienate the majority, that deserves to feel included as much as anyone else. This is one of the reasons why so many people reject inclusion and diversity initiatives: because they don’t feel part of it.

  • Inclusive leadership is NOT only about recruiting

So many times, managers tell me “We are not hiring at the moment, there’s nothing we can do about diversity right now”. I also hear human resources business partners tell me “You should talk to our talent acquisition team, hiring is not my responsibility” as an answer to my question about how they embed inclusion and diversity into what they do.  Inclusive leadership applies to all management situations. It’s about how you communicate, hire, onboard, promote, develop, reward, and dismiss people. It’s also about the working conditions you provide and most importantly, the work culture you create.

I hope that helps. Thanks for taking the time to read this. Let me know what you think in the comments below. I’d love to hear your different perspectives. Have you come across these misconceptions? How do you deal with them? What other misconceptions have you seen?

This is an excerpt from one of the chapters of my upcoming book “How to become an inclusive leader – The winning leadership habits in a diverse world” (release in March 2017).

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Check out my Inclusive Leadership Program that empowers leaders and managers to get the most out of their teams by outsmarting unconscious bias and adapting effectively to human differences.


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