February 2018

Isn’t inclusion all about being nice to people?

This is a question that I was recently asked during an interview for a podcast and I want to provide a perspective on that in this newsletter.

A definition of ‘Diversity’ is the mosaic of people who bring a variety of backgrounds, styles, perspectives, values and beliefs as assets to the groups and organisations with which they interact. It’s all the ways we differ. ‘Inclusion’ is recognizing, respecting and accommodating differences to create and sustain an environment where everyone can achieve their full potential. It’s where we value, recognise and appreciate difference.

A key aspect of having diversity is managing differences and tensions. When there is diversity there are different viewpoints, different backgrounds, different generations, different ways of thinking and different perspectives. When these differences meet, there tends to sparks! That’s what creates new ideas, innovation and alternative ways of thinking. It comes where there is tension that is created.

The key challenge therefore is how to have these ‘tense’ conversations in a respectful manner. So, instead of inclusion being about niceness, I would purpose that ‘being inclusive is having the ability to manage these tensions.’ How does one have confronting conversations? How does one promote courageous feedback? How does one challenge the status quo in a respectful manner? How does one get heard?

If you are leading a team where there is diversity then more is expected of you. To ensure that there is inclusion in your team, demonstrate and role model:
  1. The ability to ask questions, listen and paraphrase key points
  2. The ability to articulate alternative viewpoints clearly
  3. The ability to focus on the topic you are discussing rather than on the individual
  4. The ability to accept the group consensus decisions and support them
If you can do all this, that’s when you get the best of ‘Diversity and Inclusion’.


Ask Dr Tom

Newsletter Reader Question: What are the barriers to Diversity and Inclusion?

Dr Tom's thoughts:

Diversity and Inclusion is a journey that an organisation embarks on. Some of the barriers they face include:
  • Failure to clarify to employees how diversity fits in with its mission and values. How does attention to diversity help us be a successful organisation?
  • The view that leaders hold all the knowledge and always have the answers. This attitude implies that others within the organisation have little to contribute.
  • Negative evaluations of employees who ask for help or raise problems
  • Systemic discrimination including the exclusion of those who do not fit the norm from leadership positions and other promotions
  • Parochialism which means viewing the world solely through one’s own eyes and perspective
  • Conscious and unconscious bias
Breaking down barriers is long-term journey that requires both strategic and tactical responses.


Book Recommendation


DE-ESCALATE: How to Calm an Angry Person in 90 Seconds Or Less, Douglas E. Noll, J.D., M.A.

Douglas E. Noll specializes in difficult, complex, and intractable conflicts. In his book Noll shares easy to implement effective strategies to de-escalate tense situations.

In this book, Noll teaches effective communication by hearing the emotions behind the situation instead of reacting to the words. He suggests that this helps transform emotionally volatile situations and hurt feelings to calm,
non-aggressive ones. Even though some of the examples and steps are quite long-minded, at the core, it is about cultivating healthier relationships and creating a more caring and compassionate future for all.

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