Inclusive Leadership

The Key Point
August 2016 – Number 2

This week in The Key Point, we begin our series on leadership. Over the next several weeks, we will share important leadership traits and principles that can help you build a healthy, sustainable business that will thrive in a competitive economy. We start with a basic building block that will set the tone for everything else – Be Inclusive. How can we be advocates for inclusive procurement if we are not inclusive leaders ourselves?

One of the myths of old-school leadership is that leaders should essentially dictate culture and best practices to their team. One leader was heard to say, “Solutions flow from the top down…only revolutions flow from the bottom up.” This could not be further from the truth. The absolute best research you will ever do involves the ideas, suggestions and even the frustrations of the people who work in your business and deal with the customer on your behalf. Early on in my career, my employer had a suggestion box system where employees were encouraged to submit their ideas for products, safety improvements or other things that would make the company more efficient. If a suggestion was implemented, the employee received a bonus check in proportion to the savings or the economic impact of that suggestion on the company. As you can imagine, there were lots of good suggestions…

Employees are often motivated more by culture and their perception of their value to the organization than by their wages. Nothing makes a person feel more valued than to be listened to by their leadership. Just as an irate customer situation can often be diffused just by patiently listening, you can likewise maintain a positive atmosphere and build a constructive company culture by listening to your team.

  • Implement a legitimate suggestion/feedback system, with protections against retaliation and the option to contribute anonymously if necessary. You will be amazed at what you learn and the brilliant ideas your staff may have…
  • Take time to just ‘chat’ with staff – one on one or in small groups – from time to time. Informal interaction with your staff allows them to get to know you a bit, which helps them to ‘buy in’ to your vision for the company…
  • Minimize the consciousness of job levels within your company. Yes, there must be structure, but less emphasis on authority driven by position cultivates a team concept, where everyone’s role is vital to our mutual success…
  • Give your team a stake in your success through incentives, bonuses, rewards and recognition. It goes without saying that people who stand to prosper – even in small ways – from their performance are more highly motivated…

Never forget that the most valuable asset you will ever have is the human capital that you employ. Making them a part of how you lead will pay phenomenal dividends…