Inclusive leadership in maintenance

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You probably stumbled on this article because you are either a new leader (congratulations!), or are looking to shake up your organization’s current leadership practices. Becoming a leader is much more than getting people to do what you want them to, it is also about empowering them to feel like valued members of a team.

A team can only be as effective as their work environment, so it is essential to establish an engaged workplace culture. One of the biggest challenges in maintenance leadership today is the skills gap. As skilled workers leave the industry, companies are finding it harder to find qualified leaders to replace them and their knowledge. What is even more challenging is the lack of information about why talent has left. If management doesn’t know what is wrong and people won’t speak up, then the cycle continues.

Let’s look at an example. Bill was recently promoted to plant manager at a large company. Unfortunately, his newly inherited team lacks morale and feels like they aren’t being heard, which puts Bill at risk of losing team members.

As a first-time manager, Bill wants to bring a fresh perspective and create an engaging workplace. Bill is aware that the past management at his company may not have been the most effective and is looking at exploring a more inclusive leadership style but isn’t sure where he should begin.

In this article, we will explore how to commit to inclusive leadership, turn that commitment into action, and stick to the plan so Bill and you, can be an inclusive leader and start building an engaged maintenance team.

What exactly is inclusive leadership and why should maintenance leaders care?

Inclusive leadership is a proactive approach to leading a team. Leaders make an effort to recognize people for their contributions and support their efforts and growth while respecting their uniqueness in a bias-free, authentic way. They embrace diversity and vulnerability and use them to guide decision-making.

Inclusive leadership is a proactive approach to leading a team. Leaders make an effort to recognize people for their contributions and support their efforts and growth while respecting their uniqueness in a bias-free, authentic way. They embrace diversity and vulnerability and use them to guide decision-making.

Statistics show that:

  • 85% of businesses say that diversity drives the most innovative ideas
  • 80% of workers indicated inclusion was important when choosing an employer
  • 30% of companies with inclusion practices generated up to 30% higher revenue per person

Inclusive leadership statistics

The anatomy of an inclusive leader

There are six main characteristics of inclusive leadership.

  • Collaboration

    Inclusive leaders know how to help team members understand each other’s diverse views. They take each individual’s lived experience to develop an inclusive, productive team while respecting everyone’s individuality, culture, and self.

  • Cultural intelligence

    Each day we show up for work, we bring our perspectives on how we view the world, shaped by our lived experiences. Inclusive leaders use this knowledge to develop a deeper connection with their colleagues.

  • Cognizance of bias

    Bias is a natural part of the human experience. Inclusive leaders understand that organizational and personal biases may influence decisions, and they make a deliberate effort to identify biases and develop strategies to prevent them from impacting work.

  • Commitment

    Inclusive leadership is a commitment. Adopting inclusive practices and applying them to all facets of management are essential in creating extraordinary outcomes.

  • Courage

    Showing commitment to inclusivity takes courage. The road to inclusivity isn’t always easy. It is essential to acknowledge that inclusive leaders don’t have all the answers.

  • Curiosity

    Inclusive leaders are always actively learning about the different cultures and worldviews. They’re always challenging their views and biases by asking questions to gather an understanding of how they can incorporate these learnings into new ideas.

A roadmap to inclusive leadership

This may all seem a little overwhelming, especially for those eager to get the ball rolling. However, changing behaviours takes time. So while the transition may be slow, there are a few things maintenance managers can start doing right away.

  • Make a personal commitment to developing diversity and inclusion. Really understand why it is crucial to your job and the success of your team. This will help establish inclusive leadership as a formal practice within your organization.
  • Create goals for success. For example, you might have a goal to limit the use of exclusionary language. To do that, you can create a list of words or phrases and develop alternatives, such as eliminating gendered descriptions (ie. saying “folks” or “team” instead of guys) or using race to describe team members.
  • Create milestones for your strategy. Start identifying how you can make your current responsibilities more inclusive, such as running more frequent meetings, giving feedback etc. We go into more detail on types of meetings and feedback strategies in the section below.
  • Establish accountability. Tell your team about your goals for becoming a more inclusive leader and explain that you need their support and participation to understand ways in which you could do better in your interactions with them.

Applying inclusive leadership techniques in your everyday work and life

A big part of incorporating inclusivity into your daily routine means embedding a series of small intentional practices to establish and grow an inclusive culture in your department.

Inclusive leadership techniques

Some practices maintenance leaders can embed are:

1:1 meetings

The goal of these meetings is to get to know each employee on a personal and professional level. Hosting regular one-on-ones helps to foster this type of relationship. In this type of meeting, you want to carve out time to talk about yourselves. This tactic is a good way to find out how your employee perceives the world.

Here are some examples of questions you may ask:

  • What are you passionate about outside of work?
  • What drives you/motivates you?
  • What do you do for fun that you haven’t had much time for lately?
  • How are you/how is life outside of work?

The character traits discovered in these conversations become great tools to learn how to more effectively manage your employee.

2-and-2 approach

A 2-and-2 approach works by picking a regular meeting where ideas are collected. When an idea is presented, the meeting host chooses two people to discuss why the idea is good, and two people to discuss an alternative idea. The balance in opinion creates space for more diverse opinions.

Team meetings

Team meetings are a great place to express diversity, celebrate wins and achievements, and boost morale. Consider having team members take turns hosting meetings as a way to encourage leadership behaviour.

Education and training

The importance of properly training and educating your team will ensure the transition to an inclusive team is successful. You may want to consider consulting an expert in the field and possibly inviting them to give a presentation on inclusivity and diversity in the workplace. We don’t always have all the answers, and bringing in an expert can help alleviate some of that pressure.

Performance reviews

Performance reviews are an excellent way to facilitate a two-way dialogue between manager and employee. Consider adding a 360 review process. The process involves collecting feedback from your direct reports, peers and managers. The process is anonymous and can include questions about leadership style and inclusivity. The value of a process like this is that it allows for feedback on potentially sensitive subjects and eliminates the possibility of creating biases towards employees.

What next?

Change isn’t always easy, especially when breaking away from the status quo. But don’t be afraid of change or tough conversations. It’s proven that adopting inclusivity and embracing diversity in the workplace have lasting positive effects.

Join in on the The Fiixers community to participate in conversations about diversity and leadership, including access to our full series on inclusive leadership; sign up here: https://community.fiixsoftware.com

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