An open and honest environment is important for a healthy company culture.
Fostering this is important to employee engagement and your ability to retain top talent.
But if your employees don’t feel free to express their opinions, you are keeping them from feeling more motivated to contributing their best work.
Why is this the case? And how can you turn this around?
Studies show that creating a sense of belonging in the workplace is one of the top criteria for an employee to feel engaged. A sense of belonging allows employees to feel like they are able to be authentic. And the ability to feel authentic at work affects an employee’s sense of contribution, which in turn, affects their engagement and performance.
Most CEOs pride themselves on creating such a sense of belonging. They cite great on-boarding processes, recognition programs, and intentional cultural markers and norms such as “Dress Down Friday” and the annual employee picnic.
But there is one area affecting employee retention that gets overlooked quite a bit. And this is making sure that you teach your people how to value differing perspectives or opinions.
As your employees come from all walks of life, backgrounds, beliefs, and experiences, they are bound to have various perspectives and opinions. And nothing will curb a feeling of inclusion faster than to discount someone’s opinion.
I’ve heard things in executive meeting brainstorming sessions such as, “Well, John, that can’t work because…” or, “That approach is impossible,” as first responses to someone offering ideas for solutions.
People hesitate to speak up. They are afraid of “getting it wrong,” or of being discounted.
And nothing is worse than sending that kind of message if you are trying to create a spirit of inclusion.
Everyone wants to feel included. Having that sense of acceptance and belonging is key to fueling the desire to contribute and be a part of something.
Here are three tips that will help you boost your culture’s spirit of inclusivity.
Make sure you have a growth mindset.
Do you find your executive team is in a rut when it comes to new ideas? Make sure it hasn’t calcified to a fixed stance of “This is the way we have always done it.” You may not readily hear it, but you will see it in the way that your executives become complacent and comfortable with “what is.”
If this is the case, begin having brainstorm sessions around new ideas by asking the question, “What is possible, here? If we couldn’t do it the way we have always done it, how might we approach this?”
The first responder to someone else’s opinion must be a cheerleader.
Develop the “carrot approach” to encourage people contributing their ideas and perspectives. Adopt the group norm that when a person comes up with an idea, the first one to respond must offer something positive.
He or she doesn’t have to agree with the opinion, but should at least laud the other person for thinking outside of the box. This kind of immediate response will develop a culture of acceptance and inclusion. No idea is a bad one – let’s consider it.
Ask questions instead of making pronouncements.
When exploring the opinions and perspectives of others, take an open-minded approach by asking questions to dive deeper. “Tell me more,” or “Let’s talk about how that might work.” This keeps you on your toes to consider new possibilities, and at the same time, creates a spirit of togetherness as you work through toward a solution.
The next time you are tempted to share why a particular idea won’t work, pause and redirect. You’ll find that your team will become more engaged, animated, and willing to contribute at much higher levels.
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Patti Cotton helps executives optimize their effectiveness in leading self, others, and the enterprise. Her areas of focus include confidence, leadership style, executive presence, effective communication, succession planning, and masterful execution. With over 25 years of leadership experience, both stateside and abroad, Patti works with individuals, teams, and organizations across industries, providing executive consulting, leadership development, succession planning, change management, and conflict resolution. She is also an experienced Fortune 500 speaker. For more information on how Patti Cotton can help you and your organization, click here.