As D&I continues to become a wider priority in organizations—not just an HR issue—leaders may find it tough to understand what actually goes into the work of doing inclusion. Contrary to popular belief, being inclusive requires more than giving people a seat at the table. It requires giving those people a voice at that table.

What makes inclusion a bit trickier—unlike diversity, which is generally a visible trait — is that inclusion is more a state of mind. We may read someone’s body language or hear them express feeling left out, but we can’t always expect it to be obvious. What’s more, we may have the right intent in including someone, but still fail to make an impact.

Why inclusion matters

At NLI, we use research from brain science to understand how to do inclusion better. We know, for instance, that the brain reacts very strongly to mismatched expectations. A lot of cognitive resources go into resolving something surprising. Socially, this has the effect of making exclusion all too painful.

Therefore leaders should take others people’s expectations into account when trying to be inclusive. (Not to mention, they should take those same expectations into account to avoid being over-inclusive.)

Inclusion as a tool

We know inclusion isn’t just a nice-to-have; it delivers real business results. Inclusive teams are twice as likely to meet or exceed financial targets, six times more likely to be innovative or agile, and eight times more likely to achieve better business outcomes.

And yet, without the right habits to practice inclusion, leaders will always have a hard time moving from caring about others, to actually unlocking their potential.

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