I’ve always subscribed to the idea that small steps in the right direction are the best way to get where I’m aiming to go. No one other than me may know where I’m headed, but there’s less drama than if I were to heroically proclaim my intent. I’ve done that throughout my life, and it’s worked fairly well.
This slow-and-steady approach is particularly useful for accomplishing challenging goals, or making difficult behavioral changes. For example, I’ve done it when I wanted to write my books, when I wanted to change careers and start a business, and when I learned to adapt my communication style or expectations of other cultures.
You get the picture.
So, I’m a huge believer that small steps make a big difference over time. When it comes to workplace behavioral changes, it’s the same thing. Creating a workplace that’s both diverse—especially intercultural—and inclusive of different people and their individual values and work styles is not something that happens overnight. If it were easy, we’d all be doing it already. But establishing diversity and inclusion is a challenging task that requires daily attention.
Here are seven small steps that will lead to big changes over time in your ability to be inclusive with diverse people in multicultural situations.
1. Learn about the breadth of diversity. We tend to think that diversity refers to race, ethnicity, and gender, but it’s more than that. Becoming informed about the effects of socio-economic status, disabilities, age and gender identity can help paint a bigger picture about the diverse folks we interact with on a daily basis by contextualizing their experiences of being excluded.
2. Learn about your blind spots. Our brains have an instinctive need to group the millions of bits of information bombarding us and efficiently process it by preferring what’s familiar. That’s the foundation of our implicit biases, and it’s a completely normal brain function. Understanding your tendencies toward biases and blind spots can give you a better foundation to become more inclusive of those who are different. CultureWizard’s new , coming available later this month, can help you build that foundation.
3. Encourage colleagues to develop self-awareness, if possible. Others have their own blind spots, too, so it can help to explain that our natural biases can impede inclusive behavior—but can be alleviated through self-awareness. Just be sure to be mindful of cultural differences when encouraging colleagues from diverse backgrounds.
4. Encourage socializing among colleagues. If you can get your organization to offer time to chat without work on the mind, that’s great. If not, try to add a non-business component to your interactions with colleagues, especially those with whom you would not usually interact. Engaging in “curiosity conversations” like these can help you break down pre-conceived biases about people who are different from you, all while helping you learn more about your colleagues.
5. Express yourself when you see someone being excluded, but do it in the most culturally sensitive way. This can as be as simple as stating that you want to hear from someone whose been interrupted frequently or “talked over” by others.
6. Be a model of inclusive behavior. If you hear a denigrating comment about someone, be sure to tactfully express that it’s not the way people in your organization behave. Of course, if it’s egregious, you may want to consider other action.
7. Support your company’s stated inclusivity objectives. You can be an advocate for these objectives in simple ways if you know what they are, and they should be easy to find. For example, if there is a stated “family friendly” policy, be clear to those around you that you understand some of the extra demands people may have outside of work. Allow them to feel they can bring their whole selves to work without having to hide anything.
When you think about each of these small actions, you’ll admit that they’re not all easy to do. In fact, some of them are quite difficult. You likely won’t be able to integrate all of these actions overnight, and most will require practice. So start small. Maybe pick one a day and grow from there. When it comes to creating an inclusive, diverse workplace, it’s the small steps that change behavior in the long run—big time!