Inclusive Leadership is a journey not a final destination

This week I presented at the TetraMap® UK Development Day on inclusive leadership. The presentation followed-on from a paper I co-authored with Anne Clews, Head of Performance Learning at Curium Solutions, entitled Empowering Inclusive Leaders for a Diverse World. In the last five years there has been significant discussion on the topic of Inclusive Leadership. Bothwick and Sweeney’s book Inclusive Leadership published October 2016 followed by Frost and Alidina’s book published this month entitled Building an Inclusive Organisation  shows the discussion is still going strong.

What does inclusion really mean in the workplace?

Experts in the field of diversity and inclusion will all have their own perspectives on how inclusion plays out in an organisation that does it well.  The naysayers would have you believe that inclusion is about being “nice and fluffy”. I know I am biased, but inclusion extends well beyond this. It makes clear and coherent business sense. In today’s environment, it’s not a case of profits or people. The two are interconnected and not mutually exclusive. If you treat your people well, with respect, dignity, and worth; productivity increases. Productivity equals profits, productivity equals retention of staff, happiness equals attracting talent. It really is a win-win situation.  

In UK law effectively everyone is protected. The table below lists the facets (protected characteristics) as per the Equality Act 2010 and how they manifest as diversity.  

Equality (protected characteristics) Diversity (the manifestation)
Age Life stages
Disability Experience of Barriers
Gender Identity Transitioning, Binary/non-Binary and Gender reassignment
Race Ethnicity, nationality and culture
Religion and Belief Faith and ideological beliefs 
Sexual OrientationSexual identity
Pregnancy and Maternity Family status
Marital/Civil Partnership StatusFamily status choices

As you can see the categories apply to each and every one of us. They also change and are not static elements in anyone’s life.


Why are we still having the inclusion conversation?

Indeed! Why do we and why are we still having this conversation? In an ideal world we wouldn’t be having this conversation. I often feel like it’s groundhog day. The conversations are happening all the time, year on year we see the same headlines but do we really see change across the board? I hear things like, well haven’t we achieved inclusion if we have Gender Pay Gap reporting, women in senior positions, initiatives like the 30% Club and Stonewall Workplace Index. What’s the big deal here? Where is the straight white man in all of this? Quite frankly it’s political correctness gone mad! Or is it?

Here are just a few facts and figures that demonstrate we still have work to do.

I hope you get the picture, we are still climbing the mountain. I think we are currently on the steep part of the slope.

What’s TetraMap® got to do with Inclusion?

TetraMap® is both a model and tool to reduce conflict and leverage diversity. It is a learning model that enhances learning and understanding of self and others. At its heart, TetraMap® centres on the  belief that strength lies in valuing differences. The Elements used are rooted in nature, with every Element having a part to play.

This video of TetraMap® captures the essence and what it means.

The values of TetraMap® are:

Being alert to the impacts of our behaviours, actions, and thoughts, working always toward sustainable solutions.

Working openly and honestly disclose information to keep things clean and clear.

Engendering trust in self and others and accept accountability for our actions.

Demonstrating respect for diversity by finding ways to work collaboratively and synergistically with others.

Proactively seeking better solutions and peaceful outcomes.

Working knowing that everything is connected to everything.

If all organisations and businesses could bring these values to life, like TetraMap® does it would really make for a truly inclusive workplace culture. From these values it also clear that communication and dialogue are essential to creating an inclusive workplace.

Why I am a TetraMap® Facilitator

I trained as a TetraMap® facilitator in November 2016, having been “TetraMapped®” the previous year. What I loved about it was both the simplicity with the depth. The premise of bringing people together using nature as a metaphor. As a workplace mediator it also links to my values and skills  of reducing conflict and leveraging diversity. I was also able to utilise straight away to encourage certain people to think more broadly. I have a high Fire and Earth Elemental preference, I come up with ideas and then execute to get it done.

Working in environments that were primarily high in the Air Element meant I wasn’t always heard in the right way. TetraMap helped me to understand how I needed to communicate in order to be heard. It’s not about changing who you are or your values. Rather what do you need to adjust to meet someone else’s style to be heard.

I use TetraMap® in Global Majority/Black and Asian Leadership Programmes I run. 

Lead to Achieve 

Advance HE’s Diversifying Leadership Programme

Find your Piece; Find your Peace Retreat

I have created a model mapping culture onto the TetraMap® framework, which you can view and read more about here.   

Bringing inclusion and TetraMap® together

Anne and I had been speaking for some about how we could show the value of using TetraMap® to create and inclusive workplace environment. Anne found she kept being asked the same questions with a number of organisations who had used TetraMap®.  

Which element is the “best” for being a leader?

This lead her to investigate the relationship between inclusive leadership and TetraMap®. Over 700 people were surveyed, all of whom knew their TetraMap® preferences. The research uncovered that there is a trend for leaders with high Earth preferences. In effect, people who get things done, focus on the return on investment and outcomes. In many organisations the opportunities are there for everyone. However, staff surveyed with a high Water Elemental preference felt like the opportunities weren’t there for them. They also felt as if the skills they had were not viewed not as valuable.

In other organisations, especially ones that are more values-led or caring professions the opposite can be true. Leaders have high Water Elemental preference are in fact the ones who are seen as the people who can bring others on board and move forward.  

The concept of synergy, holism and collaboration means that all elements can lead. It can often be the type of organisation that results in one Element shining as a leader above others. You can read the full report Empowering Inclusive Leaders for Diverse World  here.  

Inclusive Leadership is a Journey

The key thing is recognising that there’s no one right answer. Inclusion is an ongoing journey and it’s not about arriving at a destination and stopping. It’s more akin to pausing, admiring the view and finding out what else you can do. That’s where all organisations need all the elements in balance to work together to make any environment as inclusive as possible.

Creating an inclusive organisation is committing to making equality, diversity and inclusion everyone’s business. It’s going from compliance and reacting when things go wrong to taking a proactive and integral approach. Knowing your own style and that of others helps to build understanding. Inclusive leaders build trust to work with, not against someone. It is being cognizant that shifts negative behaviour patterns, making a truly inclusive one.   

What to know more about TetraMap® and how it can help your organisation and inclusion? I also use TetraMap® in 1-2-1 coaching to help you understand your communication preference to maximise progression in your life.

What are your thoughts about inclusive leadership? What does your organisation do to ensure leaders are as inclusive as possible? Let me know in the comments below.

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