No one wants to admit they are not inclusive, especially today. Many interpret inclusiveness as clicking “accept” on meeting invites or inviting more people than necessary to meetings (resulting in 60% of leaders feeling overwhelmed and overbooked, according to BOLD survey findings). What exactly does it mean to be inclusive?

Where to Begin

Many companies and leaders focus on diversity because they recognize it is the “right” thing to do and because organizations that have cultures with diverse people, thinking and perspectives tend to perform better. 

To distinguish terms, consider the metaphor about a dance: 

Diversity is being invited to the dance

Inclusion is being asked to dance

Equity is contributing to the music mix

Belonging is feeling like you’re in your own home

Being diverse is not enough. In a recent BOLD Leadership cohort, BOLD leaders identified being included as the #1 desired behavior from ALLIES (which is a common finding). ALLIES – and BOLD leaders – practice different behaviors to help people feel included. (Click here for more details on these ALLIES behaviors). It’s not enough to have diversity. Let’s take a look at a starting point for inclusion.

Foundations of Inclusion

Jennifer Brown defines an inclusive culture as one where all employees feel “welcomed, valued, respected and heard.” An inclusive mindset needs to be intentional (and ideally start at the top), focused on creating an equitable workplace where everyone has the opportunity to thrive. This environment attracts and retains diverse talent and becomes a reinforcing loop that creates a positive culture. 

Let’s look at simple practices you can do right now to help people feel included:

  • Welcomed: How many times have you started an email or a meeting and jumped right into content? A simple, friendly greeting to welcome someone and acknowledge them can make a difference: a “good morning” in an email before diving into a request or a brief exchange with a new employee to show them you are glad they are part of the team.
  • Valued: When you value someone, you consider them important and worthwhile. Examples include soliciting, listening to and considering input before you finalize a decision; inviting them to meetings or development opportunities, showing appreciation by sharing feedback, checking in on how others are really doing, ensuring your team has the right resources, etc. In short, anything that shows them that they matter to you.
  • Respected: Respect is one of the most common requests people have and one of the most difficult, and personal, to precisely define. Respect means showing regard or admiration for others. Your idea of respect might be different from others – this can be a great discussion to have with key stakeholders. In a recent BOLD focus group exercise, women reported feeling a lack of respect when others questioned their credibility, didn’t treat them as experts (when they were), and asked them more questions and gave them more “pushback” on their decisions than their male counterparts.
  • Heard: This requires one of the most important, and least used, skills – listening. Most leaders think they are much better listeners than they are. The key is to actively acknowledge someone’s point of view, comment and/or feeling. The biggest reason people do not do this is because they feel that listening equals agreement (which it does not). When you truly listen and people feel heard, they will align faster and feel included even when you don’t agree with them.

Ask Yourself

  • How often do I WELCOME people when I see them in person or connect with them online? Am I welcoming to everyone–coworkers, clients, janitors, waitresses, etc.? 
  • Do the people around me feel VALUED? What actions do I take to let people know how much they matter to me? 
  • What does RESPECT mean to me and to those on my team? To what extent am I creating a respectful environment for my team?
  • What does it mean to me to acknowledge others and have them feel HEARD? What can I start or stop doing to become 10% better?

These questions can apply to all leaders, regardless of role or gender, and to all teams or families.  

Please reach out and my team if you’d like to connect about how to apply these ideas, to help members on your team navigate these conversations, or to discuss the biggest current challenges you are facing today.

Wishing you good mental, physical, emotional and social health.

Remember to find resources to inspire you here.

Yours in practice,


If you are interested in exploring how to unlock the potential of yourself, your team or the women in your organization, contact us for a complimentary discovery conversation.