No one likes feeling like they’re on the outside.
When I was in elementary school, I didn’t get an invitation to a sleepover. The rejection still stings. While my parents did their best to make that Friday night special – we went to McDonalds and they let me stay up late to watch Dallas – it just wasn’t the same. I spent the entire weekend attempting to put the experience behind me. Then, Monday came.
In my classroom, I could hear the whispers and giggles of the sleepover crew, further reminding me that I was on the outside. I did my best to act unaffected, but on the inside it was agonizing.
I kept asking myself, “what’s wrong with me?” Yet, assuming the source of the problem had to do with me led to a host of unhealthy attempts to fit in and be popular during the years that followed.
I know I’m not the only one who’s ever shape-shifted to fit in … who’s acted inauthentically in order to win the attention of those in the in-crowd.
Fortunately, I grew out of this need to conform, which was great because there’ve been many experiences since then where I’ve felt excluded. And while maturity has changed my response to this feeling, it is still not a pleasant experience.
We all want to feel valued for what we have to offer.
We all want to feel a part of a team without compromising our personal integrity to fit in.
I was reminded of this recently when I facilitated a leadership workshop in Houston for SLB. At dinner the evening prior to the event, I sat at a table comprised of the most diverse group of men and women I’ve been around for quite some time. These professionals represented the globe – they were from Trinidad, India, Nigeria, the US, China, and Iraq.
We couldn’t have been more different, which one gentleman noted during our conversation. He added that difference, specifically, diversity, was one of the reasons he’s stayed with SLB. I knew his educational background and experience – he’s highly recruitable! He mentioned that he regularly gets calls to leave, but chooses to commit to his organization because he can’t imagine walking into any other group, seeing the level of diversity, and actually feeling valued and welcomed for the difference he brings to the table.
In that spirit, I believe it’s everyone’s responsibility to create an environment of belonging where people feel accepted, not rejected. Here are the Three Keys to Inclusion to help counter the damaging – and sometimes unintentional – impact exclusion can bring:
You can learn from anyone – you just have to be curious about their life experiences. Take the time to ask people about their childhood, their educational experiences, and their families. Questions are the gateway to connection. When people feel connected, they feel safe to be themselves. Make it a point to engage weekly with your team in informal conversations. You never know what you’ll discover when you go off-script.
Share Your Secrets.
I once heard a great phrase: If you want people to tell you their secrets, you’ve got to tell them one first. Okay, by secrets … I mean, not all of your secrets. But share something about yourself. The depth of sharing you’re willing to offer sets the tone for others to follow. When we allow ourselves to be vulnerable, we create a space where trust can grow. And if you’re going to share, remember: people don’t want to hear your hero stories. They’re more interested in your missteps, mistakes, and lessons learned.
As you learn about people, respect and appreciate who they are. Resist the urge to judge. Inevitably, you’re going to learn something about someone that you disagree with or have a negative reaction to. This isn’t your time to be self-righteous. If you’ve done your work, you’ll respect how they’ve arrived at their opinion or conclusion. You don’t have to agree with them; you just have to be empathetic to their view.
You don’t have to like everyone you come in contact with – and likely you won’t. ☺ But you can always be a good teammate by ensuring the people you work with feel valued and respected. Doing so can create magic for any team.