I recently attended an inclusive leadership workshop at BBH. We were asked to evaluate actions and determine whether they were inclusive. As a long-time BBH manager, I felt confident.
As workshop exercises go, this one seemed to have a clear answer: A card was pulled from a deck and participants were asked whether the behavior written on it was inclusive or not. The card said, “Treat people how you’d like to be treated.” Roughly 90% of the workshop’s participants said that axiom was an inclusive behavior. After all, it’s the Golden Rule, the supposed paragon of how to treat people. Pretty straight forward, right?
Yet with a little more discussion, participants in the inclusive leadership workshop learned that the behavior they were discussing wasn’t the most inclusive approach. “While the main idea aims to be respectful, the delivery doesn’t take into account personal preferences that might differ from your own,” explained Marla Barr, Senior Vice President and Head of Diversity, Inclusion and Employee Engagement at BBH. “For example, if I make a big fuss over a colleague’s birthday, that isn’t inclusive if they dislike being the center of attention. It’s more inclusive to quietly place a card on their desk to show you care.”
That one exercise completely changed the way I think about inclusion and it was just the tip of the iceberg.