Being an Inclusive Project Leader
Updated: Aug 13, 2022
A stellar project manager is a team leader who works together to deliver value. To achieve this, a leader has to build a culture of psychological safety and inclusivity. Everyone on the team has a voice and valid experiences and should be taken into account.
Below are some suggestions I have used with success to demonstrate inclusive leadership. These techniques have assisted me with building trust and relationships with my colleagues.
Use open-ended questions
Use leading, open-ended questions that allow people to offer their thoughts and opinions. Don't use simple Yes/No types of questions. Allow people to provide an answer with minimal interruption. Ask relevant clarifying questions to dig deeper into their thought process and reasoning.
Don't just listen to the loudest voice in the room
One of the most important parts of being an inclusive leader is to ensure everyone has a voice. Dominant personalities tend to be the loudest. It can be challenging for those with an introverted nature to speak up in those situations. Being timid or shy shouldn't preclude someone from having a valid opinion. During meetings, provide verbal prompts to people who have not spoken up to ask their opinions. If you think they are not comfortable speaking up during a meeting, find some 1:1 time to gather their feedback and learn from their experience. Offer everyone an opportunity to feel valued and heard.
Be a mindful and active listener
As mentioned in another article, mindful and active listening builds relationships and increases collaboration. Look at someone while they are speaking, use non-verbal and verbal cues to reinforce that you are listening to what they are saying. Reduce distractions and background noise, put away your cell phone and do not multi-task. If you schedule a meeting to ask for input from a colleague, try to be on time. If you are going to be late, try to communicate that you will be late and when you may arrive. Apologize when you do arrive and emphasize that you value their time.
Thank everyone for offering an opinion and look for ways to incorporate them
Feedback and ideas from colleagues are a gift. Not only should you thank people verbally or in writing, but also look for ways to incorporate their ideas into your work. Call out contributions in presentations or with senior leaders when it makes sense. Making comments such as "When I spoke with [insert name], she/he/they offered a great idea to...". People love to be recognized for their hard work in various ways. One of those ways could be public recognition, especially when it highlights their contributions with those with decision making on career advancement opportunities.
Partner with allies with lengthy company experience
The point of this article is to be inclusive of all colleagues, however, you should consider reaching out specifically to those who have been at your company for a longer time than yourself. Those employees can offer a unique perspective on where the company is, what has been accomplished, who to reach out to, and ideas they have to improve. Many times in my career, I have seen new leadership come in and ignore the contributions and suggestions of current employees, simply to bring in their own teams to implement their pre-determined strategy. Not only can this potentially diminish the potential career opportunities for current employees, but it can also decrease morale and increase the feeling of being undervalued. Inclusiveness means having a team of a mix of thoughts and ideas with a culture of psychological safety and improvement. Simply porting over an existing group to a new company with its own culture may not accomplish those goals.