NOVAK - Diversity and Inclusion

Leaders in many different organizations are facing crisis situations and finding themselves making decisions under pressure, often in virtual environments. While many urgent issues claim our attention, now is a particularly important time to gain diverse perspectives and to make inclusive practices a priority. Research shows that teams having a variety of perspectives develop better and more innovative solutions. This is an opportunity to help you and your team innovate for new ways to reach stakeholders. How to spur participation and inclusion in virtual environments? Here are practical tips you and your team can undertake today:

Before a virtual meeting

• Do your best to make sure everyone has access to adequate technology—don’t just assume since some participants may be reluctant to admit they don’t have what they need.

• Privately touch base with people to gauge how people are doing, especially those who may be feeling greater stress because of their race, gender or disability.

• Use inclusive technology strategies such as closed captioning, if available.

During a virtual meeting

• Start by recognizing all participants, preferably for each individual. If it’s a very large meeting, consider using the polling tool to get people engaged.

• Use self-deprecating humor or references to put people at ease and help them understand that you also are confronting day-to-day challenges.

• Use the chat function so people can ask questions, comment, and contribute their ideas. Remember chats are public even when you’re not addressing the whole group—keep them appropriate.

• As with in-person meetings, a few extroverts can sometimes dominate the meeting. Try to draw out introverts and underrepresented folks, and assure that all voices are heard.

• Throughout the meeting, offer recognition and respect through your tone and word choices.

We can make virtual work productive, inclusive, and innovative as we show sensitivity and caring for our colleagues.

The Novak Leadership Institute offers a proven, innovative approach to leadership development uniquely rooted in the principles of strategic communication and advertising. To learn more, visit novakleadership.missouri.edu.

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