Embodying the Inclusive Workplace

3 Principles For Becoming a Driven JEDI.

Take a moment and bring your mind back to right after a team meeting or an event where your team ROCKED IT. It could have been an engagement or a brainstorming session where everything just seemed to work out cohesively, as if all the brains in the room were interconnected. Perhaps you were part of a pitch team or worked to develop a strategy for a new project.

In the moments after the interactive connection, how’d you feel? Energized? Connected? Heard? In-flow? “Together”?

Now ask yourself, “How often does this happen?” Oh. 

But wait! Can you imagine feeling that way all the time at work? You can….by creating a 21st Century Workplace.

What is this workplace? And how do you get in on the action? Let’s explore.

A Neurochemical Reality

The 21st century workplace boasts psychological safety as its greatest feature. And unlike our ancestors, who were laborers and tradespeople, we are knowledge workers, for whom psychological safety is essential. When we feel safe, the brain is able to function optimally. And that’s what we’re paid for. The prefrontal cortex (PFC), or “executive brain”, becomes free to fully engage, rewarding you with greater creativity and productivity. When you think about it logically, who wouldn’t want to work in a safe environment?

I invite you to become part of the change you want to see at your workplace. Gandhi’s famous words are poetic, beautiful and action-oriented. The statement is so simple but, like many simple things, NOT easy. Psychological safety, by definition, means everyone feels safe. And to feel safe means to feel included, not threatened. For, when the brain is put on alert due to threat, you can’t think straight!

So, Let’s Just Be Inclusive!

Okay, so all we need for a 21st century workplace is to create an inclusive culture. But when it comes to inclusion, things get a bit murky.

Start with the good news: Inclusion DOES begin with YOU. It begins with each of us looking within, becoming courageous, and employing the grace of compassion. It begins with preparing oneself to stumble and fall. But for what? Ultimately, for safety! And like clean water, safety turns out to be a precious commodity. Once tainted, it’s ruined for all.

So how can you be part of the change in your workplace? Become an ally, an advocate, an activist, or best, a co-conspirer for a JEDI workplace. When Justice, Equity, Diversity and Inclusion become part of an organization’s DNA, you will enjoy not only engagement, creativity and productivity but enhanced health and wellness, too!

I’ve been working on my JEDI moves without even knowing it for 7+ years now. And the more I learn, the more I realize what I don’t know! What I do know beyond a doubt is that inclusion is a human imperative, and I personally understand how it feels to be included. Thus, I’m committed to making this the case for anyone willing to do the work.

Here are three essential principles for becoming a Driven JEDI, thereby being the change you want to see:

1. Self-Awareness: Recognize that the #1 human blind spot is believing that everyone else sees the world as you do. To say this out loud makes total sense. Yet, every single time you…

-are involved in a misunderstanding,

-intend to be funny but come across otherwise,

-miss the mark with a conversation,

-make an assumption or judgment about a person or situation,

…you’re falling victim to this blind spot.

To be human is to have this blind spot, so to understand and compensate, you must recognize what informs your vision of the world. This comes down to your biases. If you have a brain, you have bias.

To gain perspective about your biases, here’s a place to start: Do an exercise of self-exploration. Grab a pen and paper and write down the components of what makes you “you”:

-Your heritage/ethnicity

-Your social class

-Your gender

-Your sexual identity

-Your age

-Your surroundings (geographic location)

-Your position in your family

Then write about how each of these influences your life, the way you see the world, and what it means to be you. What is your “normal” way of living, thinking and looking at the world? What are your self-imposed self-expectations?

After you’ve written about your norms, get curious about others’ “normal”. This will allow you to see the world as others do, instead of assuming that your world view is the world view.

2. Courage: Messing up is better than shutting up: Embrace the lessons learned.

First, be aware and educate yourself about how others experience the world. Do not ask your BIPOC friends to educate you about their lives! There are resources out there, including DRIVEN’s offerings on Black History and Asian-American Heritage.

Then, do some fieldwork. Ask permission to ask questions; it’s the only way to continue to widen the lens and reduce your blind spot. To see more fully is to speak with others and understand (“stand under”) their realities. See the world through their eyes.

And then, be willing, ready and open to receive feedback. Exhibit “A” is chapter 12 in Robin DiAngelo’s book White Fragility about asking for feedback. It’s not a matter of IF you say something that insults another, but rather WHEN you do. If this is confusing, re-read the section about our #1 blind spot.

3. Self-Compassion: Whenever I say or do something “stupid”, I instantly start beating myself up. I used to get pulled into a shame spiral. And yet, most of these instances happen because of that #1 blind spot. For me to do this courageous work and be a functional human being, I had to commit to growing my self-compassion. And here’s a cool concept: Self-compassion suffocates self-judgment.

What would you add to this essentials list? When have you succeeded (and failed) in each of these areas?

Check your inbox every Tuesday this month to take a deeper look at each of these principles and be part of the change in your workplace.


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