As leaders, we may feel like we should always have the answers. We feel pressured to come prepared, to see around corners, anticipate challenges and “know” what the ideal solution will be, and then tell our teams what to do.
In life, we often only see the end result of good leadership. We don’t necessarily think about all the things that go into making that successful end result a reality.
There are some inherent problems in thinking we must do everything in order to be good leaders, and it puts too much pressure on us to be perfect. We only have one brain, one set of lived experiences. This limits our perspective on solving a problem and does not create an inclusive environment for our teams.
After all, teams are made up of people who want to contribute and be included. They need opportunities to share their ideas and feel heard.
Without these opportunities, they can feel like they are only worker bees, driven by project plans, requirements, and deadlines.
The benefits of having a team are that you have many lived experiences and perspectives from which to draw to solve the challenges you face. You need to get different perspectives and experiences on the table to find the best solutions, particularly to novel, complex issues.
As the leader, your wisdom lies in taking all of the options presented and making the best decision, even if an idea is not your own.
Create an Inclusive Environment
Creating an inclusive environment enables people to share ideas, ask questions, challenge one another, and debate. A sense of “psychological safety”, a term coined by Harvard Business School professor Amy Edmondson, needs to be established. This allows space for people to speak up and share their ideas without fear of repercussion.
The team is then part of the final solution. As the leader, you can say you took all options into consideration. At the same time, you have let your team know that you value their contributions and that you will listen to them.
Tools & Techniques for Creating An Inclusive Team Environment
How do we create this environment when there are many different personalities and opinions in the room? Here are some steps you can implement.
- Start with a question. This will get the creative juices going and inform everyone of the issue to be discussed.
- Listen more than you speak. Be mindful that no one monopolizes the conversation for too long and make sure everyone who wants to speak gets a chance.
- Be consistent. Practice this behavior in all meetings (big or small, critical or routine).
- Lead by example. Leaders gain respect by practicing what they preach.
- Remember, it’s okay not to know something and that it’s good to ask questions.
- Once all ideas are heard, thank people for their contributions. A little appreciation goes a long way.
In the end, you’ll still need to make the final decision on how to proceed. But along the way, team members have had the chance to get on board with you and feel valued.
By using this system, you’ll Identify problems, issues, and errors sooner. You’ll have more inclusive teams who are willing to participate, leading to greater employee satisfaction and less attrition. More ideas will generate better solutions.
All of the above will make you look great as a leader and contribute to your success.
You really don’t have to have all the answers. You just need the right process to find them.
What other tips do you have for leading inclusive teams? Learning from one another is always helpful!
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