Shane Snow explains how to cultivate an atmosphere of inclusion. Pay attention to little things (micro opportunities) to include people. If someone is affected by decision, make sure they are included in it and can participate. Be flexible with how work gets done as long as it gets done.
- So my name is Shane, and if one more person calls me Sean, I'm gonna flip out. If you happen to be the last person to call me Sean, after 1,000 people have called me Sean in my life, then I might flip out on you, and you might feel weird about what a tiny thing you just did that your tiny mistake and my outrageous reaction. But in reality, this is what happens to us in our lives. A thousand little things, a thousand little mistakes or innocent things can add up and become the straw that breaks the camel's back. When you're working with a team, you don't know what are all of those things that in someone's life have been historically that Sean element.
We often call these microaggressions. Sometimes they are more nefarious than just simply calling you the wrong name. The antidote to this thing that causes people to feel bad and maybe sort of throws a wrench in the dynamic of team is the opposite of microaggressions. It's microactions, positive microactions, and so I like to think of every little opportunity you have to do something positive to reinforce the fact that you belong here, and it's safe to be you. Those are micro-opportunities that can add up to help create that dynamic where you can have that healthy conflict and feel safe.
The worst thing that you can have is the potential, among a group of people, to add up to more, to make progress together through that cognitive friction, but if people don't speak up because they don't feel safe. That's a problem. We talk a lot about inclusion in business, but I think a lot of us are using that word to sort of not mean what it really means. There's a set of statistics we all love to talk about, which is that when you have corporate boards that have men and women or people from different racial or ethnic backgrounds those companies make better decisions, and they make fewer dumb decisions.
We love these statistics, and we use them in our diversity and inclusion initiatives as a justification for hiring lots of different people, especially along those kinds of dimensions of demographic diversity. But the statistics we don't like to talk about is how at the workforce level, at the team level, the employee level, usually having lots of different kinds of people, including from different demographics leads to higher turnover, more discomfort, and actually doesn't lead to better results. We don't like to talk about those because there's a paradox there, and the reason for the way these two sets of statistics line up is about inclusion.
So what inclusion is about is it's about actually allowing those different ways of thinking to mix. It's not just about getting the ingredients, but it's about having them speak up, making it safe to speak up, and making it safe to express something different than what's accepted. The reality is if you have people who think differently, they're going to work differently, and they're going to have different ideas. So when that comes together, there's a couple of ways that it can play out. Often we have debates, or we have arguments. There's two kinds of arguments. I think this is important. First kind of argument is where you're trying to convince people you're right.
Second kind of argument or debate is where collectively you're trying to make progress together. It's not about who wins. It's about pushing the whole party forward, so this is the thing that's different about a group of inclusive people who are having a healthy friction or conflict versus a group of people who are different, who are going nowhere, who are potentially making themselves or each other feel unsafe. The group that is able to have permission to be wrong, to dissent, to debate, where it's not personal.
It's all about moving the whole gang forward. That's a dream team.