How Leaders Can Champion DEI by Addressing Their Workplace Preferences

Published on
February 20, 2024
Sonja Lutz
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By being mindful and intentional of the diverse communication styles within our team and adjusting our approach accordingly, we can build stronger connections and trust among team members. Andwhen there's more trust, collaboration just flows more smoothly, leading to better productivity and higher quality work results.

Plus, when we tailor tasks to fit our team members' preferences and strengths, it's like unlocking their full potential. They're more engaged, they stick around longer, and they're happier with their work. It's a win-win.

Ultimately, it's about creating a workplace where everyone feels valued and supported, where they're motivated to bring their best selves to the table every day. And as leaders, it's up to us to make that happen.

How Your Preferences Impact Your Direct Reports

Understanding how individual preferences affect your direct reports in the workplace is crucial for frontline managers to effectively lead their teams. 

Here are 2 few key aspects to consider:

Communication Styles

Understanding and adjusting to the various ways people like to communicate can really make a big difference in how our teams function. Some folks prefer straight-to-the-point conversations, while others appreciate a more empathetic or collaborative approach. As managers, when we acknowledge and respect these preferences, we're building stronger connections with our team members. And guess what? That leads to clearer communication, fewer mix-ups, and better teamwork all around. It's a win-win situation that boosts productivity and performance.

Morale and Motivation

Recognizing and respecting individual preferences can really make a difference in our team's morale and motivation. When we, as managers, take the time to understand what makes each team member tick, it shows that we truly value their uniqueness. This simple act of recognition can work wonders for morale, creating a positive atmosphere where everyone feels seen and appreciated. And believe me, a simple ‘thank you’ also goes a very long way.

And when we tailor tasks to fit each person's strengths and preferences, it's like giving them the keys to their own success. They feel empowered and invested in their work, which naturally boosts motivation and ownership.

Addressing Your Biases Head-On

When working within the realm of employment, especially for an organization committed to fair treatment and inclusivity, it's essential to be mindful of your own preferences and biases. Ignoring them isn't an option. It’s crucial to actively address and counteract any potential biases, as they can often operate on a subconscious or instinctual level.

Let's dive into how you spend your downtime at work. You know those moments when you're not caught up in tasks or meetings? Back in the day, they called it "who do you chat with around the water cooler?" We all have these breaks in our day, whether it's grabbing breakfast, lunch, or just a quick coffee break.

For remote leaders like us, there's a tightrope act in balancing casual conversation with each team member. Are you really getting to know what makes each person tick? Or do you find yourself dreading certain one-on-ones or team meetings? It's important to shout out everyone's wins, not just the same few names. Sure, it's great to acknowledge those who go above and beyond, but fairness is key for morale and unlocking everyone's potential.

Here's a way to look at it: It’s kind of like being a parent to a bunch of kids. You know how it goes; there's usually one who makes your life a breeze, but that doesn't mean the others don't shine in their own ways. It's the same with our team members. Each one brings something special to the table, even if they have their quirks. Sometimes, those quirks lead to some pretty amazing outcomes!

That's the beauty of having a diverse team, right? Everyone has their strengths, and when we celebrate those differences, that's when the real magic happens. It's all about acknowledging and cheering on each team member for the unique contributions they bring. That's what builds dynamic and successful teams, after all!

And often, as managers, we tend to gravitate towards spending that time with people who are similar to us. But here's the thing we need to realize: there's a cost to that.

How I Tackle My Biases to Boost Team Performance:

  1. Acknowledge that everyone holds biases, including myself.
  2. Recognize the impact biases can have on decision-making and interactions.
  3. Commit to continuous self-reflection and examination of my own biases.
  4. Seek feedback from colleagues or mentors to gain insight into blind spots.
  5. Educate yourself on various types of biases and their effects.
  6. Implement strategies to mitigate biases in decision-making processes.
  7. Challenge assumptions and stereotypes through conscious effort.
  8. Foster a culture of open dialogue and diversity within the workplace.
  9. Encourage diversity in hiring practices to counteract unconscious biases.
  10. Hold yourself accountable for addressing biases and promoting fairness and equity.

Unpacking "In Group/Out Group" Dynamics

Let's talk about "In Group" and "Out Group" dynamics –these are pretty important concepts that really shape how people interact in teams and organizations.

So, when we talk about the "In Group," we're talking about that group where someone feels like they really belong. You know, it's where they share things in common, whether it's interests, goals, or just a vibe that clicks.

Now, on the flip side, the "Out Group" is the opposite. It's where someone doesn't feel that same sense of belonging or connection.

These dynamics can get pretty complex, and they definitely play a big role in team dynamics and overall company culture. But here's the thing: if we take the time to really understand these dynamics and work on inclusive behavior strategies to make everyone feel included and valued, we can create a work environment where everyone can do their best work and really thrive.

Key Takeaway: Effective leaders recognize and address "In Group" and "Out Group" dynamics within their teams. They strive to create an inclusive environment where all team members feel valued and respected. This may involve fostering a sense of belonging among diverse team members, promoting open communication, and providing equal opportunities for contribution and recognition.

Podcast "Diversity & Inclusion" Feature - Listen Now!
Episode #37: Get Better Results by Understanding Your Preferences with Duane Hughes | Listen Now

As leaders, we all have our own ways of doing things. Those ways are influenced by many things, some are more obvious to us while some are hidden. As an example, we all have our own upbringing and history that shapes ‘our way’. And sometimes, those ways can become blinders, preventing us from truly tapping into the potential of our teams. Our preferences and biases significantly influence our leadership style and the outcomes we achieve with our teams. That's why it's crucial for managers to acknowledge their biases and preferences, and develop more inclusive behavior and practices. Our communication style and the tasks we delegate have a significant impact on team dynamics, morale, and ultimately, performance.

Understanding the "Similar to Me" Preference. It's innate behavior to prefer people who are similar to you.

Impact on Team Dynamics

These dynamics can significantly impact team cohesion, collaboration, and performance. Members of the "In Group" may experience greater trust and cooperation among themselves, leading to more effective communication and decision-making. Conversely, individuals in the "Out Group" may feel excluded or marginalized, which can result in decreased morale and productivity.

A lot of information is shared in these informal settings, and it can be a huge unfair advantage for In Group members. Make sure any Out Group members are getting equal time on both your formal and informal calendars!

Mitigating Negative Effects

To ease the impact of "In Group" and "Out Group" dynamics, leaders can foster teamwork and mutual support among team members. This might mean organizing team outings, assigning cross-departmental tasks, or simply giving folks chances to bond. When we celebrate diversity and make everyone feel involved with inclusive behavior, we're tapping into the full potential of our team and boosting overall performance.

Key Takeaways for Managers

  • You can't change what you don't realize.
  • Pay attention to how you use your free time at work.
  • Create a one-on-one game plan and take charge of your schedule.
  • Mix with different groups and let some of that group vibe influence you.
  • Be inclusive in your actions and decisions, be open-hearted and open-minded.

The Key Takeaway

Like a deck of cards, we’re all different. There are many layers and experiences that shape who we are, and show how valuable we are as individuals.

So, here's the deal: when you find yourself in the "in-group" spot, make sure you're practicing inclusive behavior and keeping the door open for others. And if you're in a position of power, spread that inclusivity around. Make people feel seen and heard for who they truly are.

And if you're feeling more like you're on the outside looking in, stay flexible. Mix it up, mingle, and be authentic. Avoid shutting yourself out because you have a ton to bring to your workplace, and people will appreciate all of it if you make an effort.

As leaders, it's crucial to address these "In" vs "Out" dynamics within our teams. That means confronting our biases directly, educating ourselves, and assembling a team with diverse and unique talents. By doing so, we unlock our own potential for success.

Programs to Address Preference Bias and Enhance Leadership

If you're seeking additional resources on overcoming preference bias and enhancing inclusive behavior and your leadership skills to unlock your team's potential, we can help! Explore a sampling of our programs that tackle this topic below.

1:1 Leadership Coaching for Business Unit Leaders

Get senior leaders ready to broaden their horizons, prioritize growth, and make those big-picture plans a reality.

Group Trainings

Our all-encompassing program is designed to assist your organization in tackling any challenge it encounters. Whether it's navigating remote-hybrid management or focusing on specialized areas like DE&I and women's leadership, we've got you covered.

Mastering a "coaching mindset" is key to effective leadership.

3-part series tailored for groups of managers and leaders, aimed at establishing a shared understanding of their inherent strengths and leveraging this insight to bolster team support.

This program focuses on fostering awareness and acknowledgment of unconscious bias, recognizing the advantages of a diverse team, and providing actionable steps to progress forward.

This program empowers leaders to cultivate an environment where every team member can thrive equally, fostering trust, flexibility, and productivity in an ever-evolving landscape.

In this program, leaders gain clarity on the distinctions between Diversity, Equity, and Inclusion, while also delving into the intricacies of cognitive bias and its impact on decision-making processes.

View the episode transcript

The future of work has arrived. It's time to thrive.