Earlier in my career, I worked for a leader who refused to call me by my full name, although I corrected them every time they said “Mo” instead of “Mohamed.” One day, when I protested, they quipped, “Oh, just suck it up, Mo, it’s all the same whatever I call you!”
Well, I begged to differ, and that I did. I bought them a nameplate with Mohamed on it and jokingly suggested that if they didn’t use my full name, that nameplate would end up on their desk, with me in their seat. We later became good friends, and they never called me Mo again. I’ve also made it a habit of remembering a person’s name to help me make a more meaningful connection.
When it comes to nurturing inclusive spaces, it’s not much different. Not only does it matter how you address others, but gaining greater awareness of what makes them tick, or ticks them off, can be equally valuable in acknowledging them and ensuring they develop a greater sense of belonging.
That’s why emotional intelligence, or EQ, can be a crucial skill to help you become a leader who promotes diversity, equity, inclusion, and belonging. The ability to recognize and understand emotions in yourself and others, emotional intelligence helps you manage your own emotions and communicate effectively with others.
As a leader, your ability to understand and manage emotions is essential to creating a workplace culture that values diversity, helps you practice equity and encourage the inclusion of others so they can thrive, not merely survive. This means creating an environment where people of all backgrounds feel respected, heard, and valued because when employees feel they make a difference, they are more likely to feel part of the team and organization and will strive to be more productive, engaged, and motivated.
Developing Your Emotional Intelligence
As a leader who promotes diversity, it’s important to recognize that inclusion is a choice you make to practice greater equity. To help you become this leader, consider developing the following EQ skills:
Self-awareness is the ability to recognize your own emotions and understand how they impact your behaviour and interactions with others. Being self-aware allows you to identify your biases, which can help you avoid making assumptions about people based on their background, race, or gender. With greater awareness of your blind spots, you’ll be better prepared to navigate any unseen bends in the road and handle them with more caution.
Empathy is the ability to understand and relate to the emotions and experiences of others. When you lead with empathy, you can put yourself in someone else’s shoes and understand their perspective. Leaders who practice empathy and relate to others compassionately can help create an inclusive workplace culture because they make others feel heard, valued, and seen. Empathy also helps create an environment where others want to work. A recent study showed that 75% of employees would stay longer in a business where they were listened to and had their concerns addressed.
Emotional regulation is the ability to manage your emotions effectively, particularly in challenging situations. When you can regulate your emotions, you can remain calm, respond to difficult situations with greater empathy and understanding, and diffuse potentially destructive conflict.
Relationship management helps you build and maintain positive relationships with others and communicate effectively with people of all backgrounds. This quality helps earn trust and create a sense of community and belonging.
Why Inclusion Matters
Inclusive leadership can enhance your performance and that of the people on your team. You can encourage them to develop their sense of belonging by ensuring their voices are heard in meetings and by engaging with them actively, providing opportunities for them to weigh in, so they’ll buy in and contribute more readily. Teams with inclusive leaders are 17% more likely to report a higher performance and 25% more likely to collaborate and make collective quality decisions.
Here are some steps you can take to become a more inclusive leader:
Recognize and Address Your Blind Spots
As mentioned, start with elevating your self-awareness to address biases and assumptions so you can understand where they come from and how to mitigate them to ensure that they don’t negatively impact your interactions with others.
Become More Empathetic
Inclusion is a choice. You can more effectively understand the experiences of your team members, as well as nurture a safe space for them to share and relate their lived experiences with you. Consider listening actively and without passing judgment. Moreover, when you strive to develop and enforce fair policies and practices, you’ll underscore the importance of role-modelling more inclusive and equitable behaviour rather than just paying lip service to it.
You can provide training and education to help employees and leaders understand the importance of diversity and to create a workplace culture that values diverse perspectives and promotes equity and inclusion. When others embrace a growth mindset, they can remain open to other perspectives and collaborate to achieve collective results.
Bringing It All Together
Becoming an inclusive leader may be challenging because you’re constantly checking your blind spots, but it’s not impossible. You can start by trying to learn more about your motivators and stressors, as well as those of the people on your team. When you lead with greater intentionality to develop a just and fair environment, you’ll encourage others to share and grow and feel valued and respected.
In conclusion, when you elevate your emotional intelligence, you can design a workplace culture that values diversity and promotes equity and inclusion where others gain a greater sense of belonging. It can lead to a more engaged and productive workforce, and a more successful organization overall. And it might just help you remember the importance of someone’s name.
Ask me how I can help you develop your emotional intelligence
Becoming a more inclusive leader can help you lead and fully maximize your influence and impact in the workplace. If you want to learn about how these strategies can help you develop your emotional intelligence and achieve your goals, ask me about my Book your complimentary leadership breakthrough session now.