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Beware of the #1 killer of inclusion

July 24, 2015 Susan MacKenty Brady

As we work to help our clients understand unconscious bias and ensure that the actions that leaders take are in support of—not preventing—an inclusive culture, we help them take positive steps to produce better bottom-line results. In our work, we’ve also seen self-righteous indignation, or said another way, grandiosity, squelch inclusion. Grandiosity is the belief that “I know best.”

We’ve all felt this way from time to time but self-righteousness kills the compassion and curiosity needed to show interest in other people. And needless to say, that’s bad for business.

Take Sally for example, who recently came to my office complaining about how Bill (names have been changed for anonymity) “just doesn’t get it.” Sally, without asking Bill questions about his point of view, had determined that Bill’s thinking and suggestions were “wrong.” Since Sally was stuck in her own version of being “right,” it was impossible for her to work with Bill to solve the problem at hand.

I cite this example because I write and talk regularly about “Coaching Your Inner Critic.” And most assume my work is primarily involved with helping individuals overcome that voice in our head that tells us that we are not enough or that we “should” or “shouldn’t have (fill in the blank).” Most associate their Inner Critic with feelings of shame and worthlessness.

But the reality is the “not enough” voice of our Inner Critic is only one aspect. The other and, I believe, far more destructive and pervasive (and not talked about) enemy of inclusion is the opposite extreme—indignantly thinking we know better and looking down our nose at others whose opinions and contributions we long ago decided was not worth our time.

So, organizations that are serious about developing cultures of inclusion need to help equip leaders at all levels with the capacity to see and own their grandiose thinking and then pause before it kicks in and impacts their success to drive results. It’s easier said than done, but the most inclusive and effective leaders are those who can pause and then coach themselves into a place where they can meet others—especially those whom they judge, don’t understand or may not relate to—with respect.

A culture of inclusion is a result of specific actions and inactions by the people in the organization. As leaders, paying attention to our own moments of dismissive and often harsh judgment of others is where we need to start. Only then can we learn from and engage with all of the awesome different perspectives around us.

Do you see grandiosity in the people you work with? Is your self-righteous indignation preventing inclusion around you? If you can answer yes to either question, your organization isn’t as inclusive or as successful as it could be. Learn more here.

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