I had a recent team meeting where I brought our Caring Leadership coaches together to discuss an idea regarding the community. The call ended up going in an entirely different direction, but ended up in an amazing place. As the conversation grew, many strong opinions came forth on all sides, but I trusted each of them individually to carry everything out well. Could the call have flown off the rails? Sure. But because I was open to hearing all of these different opinions. I was practicing an essential part of caring leadership: inclusive listening. Having the willingness to hear from diverse voices and accept dissenting opinions not only supported my team to continue their conversation in an authentic way, but also allowed each participant to be and feel heard.
Inclusive listening can apply to all areas of your life. It’s an ongoing skill that you can constantly improve, especially when it comes to leadership. Here are a few ways to do that:
Don’t Just Listen; ACT!
As diversity grows around you, in the workplace or otherwise, you’ll likely find yourself coming to head with personalities you haven’t encountered before. Maybe they’re more outspoken than you’re used to, or even a little more blunt and direct. Either way, their opinion still matters. So be sure to listen and include those with varied backgrounds, and not just keep a narrow view of a select few. Act on feedback that may counter the topic or could be “uncommon.” Address the elephants in the room and don’t succumb to just speaking to those holding the majority view. Inclusive leaders both look for and listen to diverse perspectives and take specific actions to show that those perspectives are valued. Commit to taking action on what you hear.
Participate AND Collaborate
To collaborate means to admit that you alone don’t have the answers. Instead, the best ideas and solutions usually occur in round-table discussions. It’s easy to include those around us who are like us (affinity bias), but when we branch out and present the challenge to bring in all of those personalities to one conversation, that’s when the magic happens. It doesn’t always need to be negative. As a caring leader, you can audit your practices by asking yourself if you’re allowing this bias to get in the way of your leadership, or if you’re open to bringing in and highlighting these different views. It might not always be a walk in the park, but it will be worth it.
Choose Your Words Wisely
Treat others the way they want to be treated. Speak to others in their language. We communicate most effectively with our words, and how you speak to those within your inner circle and outside of it reflects highly on you and how you carry yourself through your leadership. Assess your conversations and determine if you made an effort to hear from all sides and recognize microaggressions. You may not realize how the words you or your team speak affect others and could eliminate these feelings of being inclusive. Take the time to research the right things to say and how to refer to certain situations and people in your space.
It’s ultimately your choice on how you communicate with those around you, but I hope you choose to lead with heart when you lead in all aspects of your life.