🤐 One of the major stumbling blocks to building a diverse and inclusive team is that diversity itself so often goes unspoken in the corporate world.

'Leaders walk on eggshells when it comes to diversity. 20 years of experience has shown us that leaders steer clear of these tough conversations partly because they have never been taught how to have those conversations' Michael Welp, Diversity expert

But that’s dangerous. When you fail to talk about it, you show it’s not a priority. And worse, you leave it up to others to interpret and define what it means for them, which may not be the most open-minded, accepting view that we know is best for your team and the business.

So you need to start the conversation about diversity and inclusion with your team for three key reasons:

  • to build empathy
  • to build awareness
  • to lay some expectations and ground rules

'It's never too late to give up your prejudices.' Henry David Thoreau

How to actually do it?

Host a one-hour roundtable for your team to discuss diversity and inclusion. Here’s a suggested template with conversation starters you can use for this session:

✅ Rise to the challenge
Kick-off with a humble admission that you’re biased yourself, you’re learning about D&I, and you want to learn together as a team on how to be more inclusive. This may seem intimidating at first, but it’s important to recognize the challenges and anxieties the team faces while tackling D&I discussion topics at the workplace. Take this up as an opportunity to define and shape your culture of employee engagement.

✅ Define what ‘diversity’ and ‘inclusion’ means to all of you
Ask for a few volunteers to give their definitions for each term. The goal here is to teach people that diversity is something bigger than just race or gender, and that inclusion is a basic human need.

✅ Be an “inclusionist”
Go around the table and let each person share how they personally define themselves (think 5-10 key descriptors, could include dimensions like nationality, gender, personality, political views, interests, role in the family, etc). The goal here is two-fold: to celebrate that we are unique, and to give everyone the language to use to describe their colleagues (e.g., should you say a colleague is Persian or Iranian? Indian or South Asian? Hispanic or Latino/a/x?).

✅ Listen
Ask volunteers to share a time they felt like an outsider, or a time they were left out. Tease this out a bit – how did it feel, in a few words? The goal here is to realize that we all know the feeling of being left out or made to feel unwelcome, and it’s not great — so we all need to take responsibility for being more inclusive every day.

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The bottom line?

Diversity and inclusion may be a rich and complex matter but, as a leader, there are small things you can do with your team to get the conversation started and build an inclusive culture where everyone feels they belong.

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