Mar 29, 2020
For the next foreseeable weeks, we are all living a virtual life. People must physically distance themselves and stay at home due to COVID-19. It’s socially and emotionally stressful and we are stretched around many of the normal approaches to teamwork and collaboration. Everyone is having to think out of the box when it comes to teams, meetings and productivity.
In this outside the box thinking, are we also addressing how organizations can be inclusive WHILE working virtually? We feel there is real value in focusing on inclusivity during this time of anxiety and new normal. Being inclusive is even more difficult when people are not in the same room, cannot read each other’s body language, are stressed and may not be at their own personal best in communications and leadership.
Companies want to stand for their vision and values of diversity and inclusion at all levels of their organizations. This is not something that goes away just because the working landscape is now virtual. Every senior leader that we spoke to was passionate about continuing their cultural transformations of influencing and promoting inclusion and diversity.
As our team has come to realize, inclusion is not just about having a diverse workforce. Reaping the true business value comes when leadership and teams appreciate and capitalize on the ideas, actions and reactions of each diverse personality, understanding that each person approaches their work environment with inherent differences, thoughts, communication styles, approaches, etc.
Given these real challenges, how and why have we taken to blogging about this subject?
A little bit of background here. Before the coronavirus took over our world, the three of us at JMJ Associates challenged ourselves to explore inclusion and diversity at a fundamental human performance and human experience level. With our JMJ experience in Integral Approaches to cultural transformation, along with our past work in project execution, construction, oil and gas, education, and public health, we all value the importance of inclusivity and diversity.
Leadership’s actions and reactions needed for an inclusive and diverse environment culture is even harder in a virtual world due to many factors. Some, but not all of the reasons, could be:
Based on this challenge, our individual research, and a recommendation from a business leader who has firsthand experience with his leadership team on promoting diversity and inclusion, we collectively dove into two books. The first book is “The Loudest Duck – Moving Beyond Diversity While Embracing Differences to Achieve Success at Work” by Laura Liswood. The second book, which dove-tailed perfectly with the concepts of the first book, was “The Fearless Organization – Creating Psychological Safety in the Workplace for Learning, Innovation, and Growth” by Amy C. Edmondson. Each book addressed synergistic concepts: one clearly discussed the current reality of organizational and cultural dynamics that hinder inclusiveness, and the other discussed how to create an environment where people are comfortable speaking up, which is fundamental to changing any company’s current reality.
In the book, “The Loudest Duck”, there were some critical concepts that resonated with us to be aware of when working virtually:
In the book, “The Fearless Organization”, psychological safety is critical for inclusion. People need to feel comfortable in speaking up, accepting failure, and being candid and honest. Setting this culture of caring and creating psychological safety is absolutely a leadership responsibility at all levels.
Physically distancing and working virtually, albeit we have been forced to jump into this situation without a lot of preparation, can be perceived as a tough challenge or a wonderful opportunity. Organizations can accept the challenge to focus on inclusivity in these more difficult times, laying the groundwork for the future, when we all return to our offices and work life becomes normal again. We firmly believe that our ‘current normal' is not where we want it to be regarding inclusivity and diversity. Today is the time to shift the paradigm. Here are some questions to ask yourself and organizations around how you are virtually creating inclusion:
We feel these were some salient points that could really help leaders navigate the waters of this new reality of working virtually. We challenge you to continue your development of these enhanced skillsets, and we will be sharing more detail in two subsequent blogs on inclusion; one on communication aspects of working virtually and the second on leadership challenges and opportunities of working virtually. In addition, we are hosting a podcast around real life examples we have faced that may help stimulate ideas around similar situations.
Stay tuned for our future blogs on our passion around a virtually inclusive culture.
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