POSITIVE CHANGE: A BY-PRODUCT OF INCLUSIVE LEADERSHIP

In the modern narrative on leadership, the focus is on the attributes and behaviours that define ‘leading’. This approach may have served organisations well in the past; leaders tended to have positional authority or status otherwise conferred by a particular expertise or responsibility.

Today’s organisations look markedly different. They no longer operate in single environments, but must contend with a VUCA (Volatile, Uncertain, Complex, Ambiguous) world, one that is globally connected and constantly adapting to ever-more advanced technologies. Customers wielding mobile devices are taking a greater share of voice to express their preferences for engagement and experiences over product features and benefits.

Organisations’ most effective tactic for the new landscape is diverse teams. Diversity has the potential to drive innovation, market resilience and higher customer engagement. However diversity’s potential is only realised through inclusion, and inclusive leadership is the key to achieving this. 

Without managers skilled in inclusive leadership – setting the example for everyone else – diversity can devolve into little more than platitudes. On the other hand, nothing builds organisational and personal capability as effectively as well-executed purposeful and inclusive leadership.

Our approach to developing inclusive leadership – for practising and aspiring leaders – can be delivered in situ, observing and coaching learners at work, with or without the more traditional workshop-style sessions.

Because the nature of diverse teams is different ways of engaging and comprehending, we base our inclusive leadership programs on two essential skills and approaches: conversations and visualisation.

Conversations

Everyone behaves the way they speak. To form a thought we need words, and we invariably we default to the words that are most readily accessible.

Words have the power to unite or divide. Language includes or alienates. The words unsaid can be more powerful than those spoken.

Shared language forms an organisation’s culture, and culture sets the tone for behaviour. Cultures of defeat (‘it’s too hard’, ‘nobody cares’, etc.) and cultures of disrespect (sexism, bullying exclusion) are easily perpetuated simply by allowing a course of language to continue.

When it comes to change, facilitating conversations about the experience and perceptions of change are essential. People who can’t discuss the concerns and issues they believe may lie ahead, will have every reason to find the change intimidating or threatening. Teams that have the support to vocalise their challenges, fears and failures become resilient teams.

Unlike communication, which is a transactional exchange of information, conversation involves feelings, sensing and empathy. By opening conversation, not just the functional act of communicating, organisations give permission for people to express their emotions including excitement, fear and anxiety. It also lays the groundwork for other emotional responses such as commitment and loyalty. Where organisational communication can happen without interaction, there is no such thing as a one-way conversation.

When we hold conversation sessions, we are not just encouraging the verbalisation of thoughts, we look for patterns such as which groups don’t have a voice, recurring themes and who talks to who.

Conversation sessions

In addition to turning your leaders into master professional conversationalists, we use a range of conversation techniques to address specific situations, taking into account matters like the maturity of your team and the extent of change ahead.

  • Talk explore – group session used to spark creativity, uncover hidden ideas or issues and/or unblock old ways of thinking.
  • Talk sense – interview-type sessions used to understand any gaps between organisation’s intended and active culture to diagnose the source of issues such as performance blocks and toxic behaviours.
  • Talk-out-loud – a qualitative data gathering method for understanding how people complete tasks, make decisions and solve problems, used to design process improvements.
  • Talk it out – brings people together to address problems and issues in relationships.

 

Want to learn more? Talk to us!

Visualisations

Did you know there is only one way the brain can understand alternative states like the future? They must be seen – envisaged. The future conveyed in words is too abstract to be motivating – that’s why most people can never recall their company’s mission statements.

Studies also show that images are more effective for conveying complex data, for engaging people emotionally and for forming cohesive solutions.

Conveying information using images has been found to be more complete than words alone. Because images bypass the cognitive part of the brain, people are able to produce more creative ideas, and ideas free of bias. This makes collaborative visualisation very effective for team building.

When we receive information through spoken and written language, the information is processed in the short-term memory. The short-term memory has limited capacity meaning much of the information is not absorbed, let alone processed. Visual stimuli however are processed directly by the long-term memory, which is not only more accurate, but feeds back into other parts of the brain to increase our cognitive and emotional understanding.

This makes the use of images far more effective than text for conveying change-related concepts. Despite the comprehensive research that evidences the effectiveness of visual thinking, organisations continue to over-rely on cognition for managing change.

Given the complexity of today’s business environment, and the science of human conception, visual techniques are essential for effective change leadership.

To energise people in times of change and transition, visualisation activities used in tandem conversations  enable people to translate words into actionable ideas.

Let us show you how.