Diversity and inclusivity are big talking points across the world, from Hollywood to elected representation. As we have already noted with the UK’s efforts to address its national gender pay gap, there is a drive to create a more diverse and representative perspective at all levels of work and society in general.
This approach has been shown to deliver benefits, with the most diverse quartile of executive teams outperforming the least diverse by more than 1/5 according to a recent episode of the PM Podcast. However, overcoming the current status quo and creating more inclusive leadership and working spaces is still proving to be a challenge, so we thought we’d have a look at how to enhance one’s project management skills by creating a more inclusive environment.
Tips for Being a More Inclusive Project Manager
To truly harness collaborative work practices across diverse teams, leaders need the project management skills to bring out and embrace what different people bring to the table. Here’s how they can do it.
- Foster diversity of thinking.
Speaking about inclusive leadership in the podcast referenced above, Agata Czopek describes how diversity of thinking can benefit a team. This is due to the different approaches that people from varied backgrounds, cultures and outlooks can have when approaching problems. She cites innovation and risk spotting as two of the major areas where diversity of thinking improves results for organizations.
- Ensure inclusion and not just diversity.
A shallow engagement with building diverse teams can often debase the process, making it a numbers game of getting a certain mix of people in a group. However, inclusive leadership needs to go much further than this, as otherwise not all team members will necessarily feel they are actually included in actions and knowledge sharing. For those outside the majority group, there can be an understandable fear that challenging the norm through their suggestions is too risky.
To achieve true inclusivity, leaders should consider how secure and comfortable everyone feels with taking part in the group, then strive to create a platform that supports all communication styles.
- Achieve the qualities of an inclusive leader.
Building a team and environment that embraces diverse people and thinking requires leadership that is open to possibilities. This means acknowledging and being humble about the biases one’s own biases, as well as being curious about what diverse approaches can offer.
- Clarify the organization’s culture.
In any team or organization, the cultural norms can often be taken as a given. This creates problems, however, when people from outside of that “norm” are introduced, as they face invisible barriers to their collaboration. To solve this issue, management needs to make the expected standards of work and communication clear, to write down the unwritten rules that everyone is presumed to understand but can all too often be confusing.
- Empower diversity.
One way of embracing inclusivity and diversity is to rotate who’s running meetings or taking point on tasks. It can be unnerving for people to put themselves forward for roles when they perceive that their thinking goes against the established processes, so it is up to leaders to empower those team members by giving them the lead in situations and supporting their approaches.
Fostering more inclusive collaboration will take effort and patience, but the rewards are well worth it. Your projects and organization as a whole will be healthier in the long run.