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Four Steps to Becoming a More Inclusive Manager

Paradigm is a strategy firm that partners with innovative companies to build stronger, more inclusive organizations. Paradigm believes that with the benefit of diverse perspectives, our clients will design better products, deliver better services, and build a better world.


Inclusive leadership behaviors are critical to leading innovative teams where everyone is empowered to do their best work. While everyone in an organization can and should contribute to fostering an inclusive work environment, leaders have a uniquely important role to play. The following steps are actions you can take, as a manager, to start creating a more inclusive environment:

1.  Objectivity

Inclusive leaders ensure that decisions are made in objective, data-driven ways. Here are a few ways to build objectivity into your work:

  • Establish clear and transparent people processes.
    To boost objectivity and increase perceptions of fairness, leaders should add structure to key decision-making processes and make an effort to communicate regularly on how decisions are made.
  • Be specific when giving feedback.
  • Providing specific examples to support feedback is helpful for ensuring evaluations are fair and objective. Articulating examples allows leaders to consider relevant context, which can interrupt unconscious bias.
  • Slow down to avoid mental shortcuts.

Writing down reasons for decisions interrupts mental shortcuts, helping people slow down and consider information more robustly.

2.  Belonging

Inclusive leaders ensure employees feel respected and valued, and that they are able to express themselves authentically at work. Here’s a few tricks for fostering belonging with inclusive behaviors:

  • Vocally support organizations inclusion efforts.

Leaders can emphasize the importance of diversity as part of their organization’s mission or values and consistently communicate this both internally and externally.

  • Foster a sense of belonging when people are new.

An inclusive leader can address feelings of belonging, especially when people are new, through effective onboarding programs that instill a sense of community.

  • Plan inclusive team events.

To ensure social events are inclusive, leaders should gather feedback from employees on what types of events they are interested in (e.g., “Lunch & Learns”, volunteering, book clubs, hosting external speakers).

3.  Voice

Inclusive leaders ensure everyone on their team feels safe speaking up and sharing ideas. Here are some simple things you can do to implement inclusive management and help your team feel like they have a voice:

  • Reflect on communications preferences.

Leaders’ own communication preferences often influence the communication patterns. Reflecting on preferences, and observing team norms, can highlight barriers and lead to effective strategies.

  • Establish and communicate meeting norms.
    Aligning on norms for meetings — for example, reinforcing the importance of giving everyone a voice and limiting interruption — creates an inclusive culture and reminds people to create space for everyone’s new ideas.
  • Invite quieter employees to speak.

To encourage participation from quieter folks, leaders can ask team members to share an agenda before meetings. Allowing employees (specifically introverts) a chance to plan and reflect may make it more likely that they contribute to meetings.

4.  Growth

Inclusive managers proactively foster employee growth by ensuring everyone has an opportunity to learn, develop, and advance at work. Here’s a sampling of ways you can promote equitable growth for your employees:

  • Focus feedback on the process, not the person.
    Vague feedback focused on innate attributes can communicate a fixed mindset. Leaders may also be more likely to give vague feedback to employees from underrepresented groups, stunting their growth.
  • Talk openly about mistakes and failures.

Leaders in growth mindset organizations communicate that mistakes are a normal part of the learning process. Their own mistakes and those of others are discussed openly and analyzed in order to help employees grow.

  • Distribute time across the team.

People’s ability to grow and advance is directly related to the amount of time leaders invest in them. To help distribute time evenly, leaders can reflect on who they spend formal (e.g., meetings) and informal (e.g., coffee chats) time with.

Inclusive Management with Paradigm

Organizations can amplify the impact of these efforts by deploying an overarching strategy that embeds inclusion into organizational systems and processes. This list is an adaptation of our white paper on inclusive leadership. To learn more, read our full whitepaper Inclusive Leadership: Unlocking the Power of Diversity Through Inclusion.

May 12, 2023

If you’re interested in more information on Paradigm’s Four Steps to Becoming a More Inclusive Manager, contact us today!