Leading with Inclusion at the Core


Looking online one can see that most companies post their Core Values on their websites.  Often Core Values are also included in employee handbooks and other such marketing materials.  

I have two questions to explore…

  • First, how do those values “show up” in the organization and can they be evident to an “outsider?”
  • Second, with this “global economy” I’m surprised to see that inclusion and/or diversity are not more often a publicly noted and institutionalized Core Value. Instead, organizations are using those terms as a side note or “part of” another value statement. I ask why?

Leading Diversity

Issues regarding workforce diversity and inclusion have been in the media forefront the last 10-15 years and more fervently with the first and now second election of President Barack Obama.

The beautiful panorama of our diverse nation is evident in nearly every screenshot when President Obama is speaking publicly.

Most of those individuals make up our workforce.

My concern is that some leaders view the terms “diversity” and “inclusion” as  cliché or have the attitude that, “we know we have a diverse culture, why state it?”

  • Are leaders are becoming callused to the term “diversity?”
  • Why isn’t one or both a stated Core Value?

Let’s take a look at this from a different perspective.

How do we open up the communication chains and increase inclusion as leaders?

Adapting & Leveraging

In a 2010 Q&A With Velma Hart she states this:

“Diversity and inclusiveness speaks to changing environments. In its heart, in its essence, that’s what it’s about. If we cannot adapt and leverage the opportunity that the differences that are happening around us all the time as leaders bring to discussions, bring to planning, bring to execution of programs, and bring to everything we do, then we are absolutely missing the boat, and that includes the notion of diversity of thought… And the richness of the debate is what brings, I think, a better product forward.”

Increasing Cultural Competency

Let’s increase our cultural competency and commit to diversity and inclusion.  Doing so would make stronger organizations and illustrate how we “show up” as organizational leaders.

To many organizations still have bias’ when seeking diverse team members as they recruit, omit practices that support inclusion when providing professional development opportunities, or ignore formalizing and implementing a diversity strategy for organizational health, growth and sustainability.

Building and institutionalizing formal practices that ensure an inclusive organizational culture is critical for success and business growth.

In the article, The Six Core Values of Innovation by Jeff De Cagna inclusively is a key to being innovative.

If a company is innovative and seeks sustainability that key component cannot be omitted.

Re-Examining Diversity

To take a closer look, Deloitte is re-examining the business case for diversity.  Deloitte shared this:

A “2011 Forbes Insight survey of 300 multi-national executives in which 41% identified the ‘failure to perceive the connection between diversity and business drivers’ as a barrier to developing and implementing a diversity strategy.”

It’s time to recognize that there is a connection, move beyond the barrier, and open the doors for increased communication and strategic planning.

Celebrate our uniqueness, don’t avoid it but prepare and may take time for those who haven’t addressed this before today.

5 Keys to Success

In my view there are 5 keys to successfully embracing diversity and inclusion as a leader and in a company.

  1. Create a diversity and inclusion strategy plan as an integral part of business planning goals. Sylvia Ann Hewett Associates shares great ideas for getting started and there are many other examples online.  A consultant or diversity coach would be very helpful during the planning process and may assist during implementation.
  2. Ensure multiple opportunities and a variety of professional development and team building activities to increase diversity awareness.
  3. Empower employees and encouraged to voice their concerns. Have a “safe place” for each person to share his or her observations and make certain someone follows-up with feedback that is both supportive and constructive.
  4. When the company’s Core Values are formed, show  online how they are embraced.  Teach for America and Target have great illustrations of this concept.
  5. The company’s president must embrace it, endorse it and reinforce it!  Without his or her buy-in the strategy will never succeed.

Egon Zehnder International couldn’t have said it better,

“CEOs who understand the nuances of cognitive bias, nip microinequities in the bud and hire for competency in diversity will find it is well worth the effort. With the commitment to diversity—and leadership competence in addressing it—flowing from the top, such CEOs create the potential for a wealth of business benefits.”

Does your organization include diversity or inclusion in its Core Values? If so, how does it “show up” in everyday business practices? If not, how can you influence a change of perspective during discussions and create action leading to a plan including a positive engagement of diversity and inclusion practices? I would love to hear your thoughts!


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Kilby Watson
Kilby Watson
 is an advocate for Leadership Through Learning
She leads change through education, professional and organizational development
Email | LinkedIn | Web

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Your Leadership LifeQuake


There you go… showing up for work…then everything changes…

So, there you are…sitting in your boss’ office (the founder and president of the firm), waiting for him to call you into the room.  He has sent someone to get you. Although you know you did “nothing wrong,” it still feels like you are being called to the principal’s office.


Imagine this: You have been working hard for the company for a few years; learning new skills and creating a new role from when you were first hired. It is a small firm and feels like a family. Naturally, there are some ups, some downs that come with the territory. But you enjoy your work and are respected by your colleagues for what you contribute…

So why do you feel uneasy?

Then, he calls you inside. He says this:

“Well, … it has been quite a journey the past few months in this economy, but we are finding new resources, new clients and making headway despite it all.”

(You breathe a sigh of relief.)

“Still, there is something I would like to share with you about the road ahead.”

(Your eyes widen and you are listening so intently that you can feel the words as they are spoken.)

“I have been offered an opportunity I cannot refuse.  It will greatly improve my work-life balance and give me more freedoms than I have now as a business owner…the position is at another firm.”

(He takes a breath and you realize you are holding yours until he speaks again.)

“I have decided to close down my firm for a while so I can pursue this new venture and fully engage into this new role. Officially, the business will close on June 1.”

(You quickly do the math – 3 months.)


(You breathe finally.)

So there you have it.  Three months and you will be out of a job…

My Very First LifeQuake

A “lifequake” has just shook you to your core.  What do you do now?

Well, you have a time limit so there is no time for a “pity party.” It’s time to move like a river around a rock and take actions to ensure your success. Professional development opportunities await!

It’s time for some serious assessment and professional development planning.

Professional development now – you ask? Yes! This is a great opportunity!

You do not have to only develop your expertise while at a company. You have heard of Strategic Planning for business purposes. So now it’s time to create a strategic plan of your own.

How to Make a Strategic Plan

1. Do your own SWOT analysis

Review your political, social, economic and technical skills.

  • What needs do you have?
  • Does anything need  revamping or further development?
  • Do you need more education or training to attain a job you would like to have in the future?

2. Work smarter, not harder

Get a piece of paper and write this down as a header: “My Strategic Direction” and make a list or a chart.

  • Determine what goals you should achieve, and the strategies you must employ to achieve the accomplishments.
  • Then, Network, Network, Network!
  • Learn to ask for help if you haven’t done it before.
  • You might be surprised at who assists you in your search!
  • Use online social media to help you attain mentor, knowledge of free/low cost resources in your area/field of interest and build community knowledge strength.

3. Action Planning

Specify your objectives with each strategic goal.

  • Give examples of the tactics you may use to reach each objective
  • Specify your responsibilities and timelines with each objective and monitor your progress so as not to fall too far behind – remember you have a deadline.
  • Remember to account for your budget and specify the money needed for the resources that are necessary to implement your plan.
  • Lay your plan out on a week-to-week basis if needed.
  • Be strategic.

Excellent Reading Options:

How have you addressed a “lifequake?” What are the best strategies for shifting gears and finding a new path? The biggest concern typically is the budgeting factor. What methods would you suggest for helping others address their budget when looking at a new and unexpected road? How have you used online social media and/or online tools to aid your transition into a new role?

Kilby Watson
is an advocate for Leadership Through Learning
She leads change through education, professional and organizational development

Image Sources: 1699.photobucket.com

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Servant Leadership – Greetings from the Front Desk!


Over the years, I have learned never to assume that a person is what their professional title reflects.

What has been most fascinating, I must say, has been the experience of learning from those in the business world who are typically characterized as a…shall I say…”second class citizens.” Although they may seem to be as “functional” necessities, many are the stongest leaders found in an organization.

I am referring to the wonderful people who greet you at the door of their organization.

Real Talk

When was the last time you sincerely conversed with your receptionist(s), executive assistant, secretary, and/or office manager who greets you and your guest everyday and who ensures that all are well cared for?  Or better yet, when did you last take that influential person out to lunch for casual conversation?

Think About This

Did you ever stop and consider that these servant leaders often know more about the inner-workings of the office and/or business than their esteemed counterparts found in the corner office or behind the mahogany desks at your office? Did you ever consider that these “interchangeable” people might actually be the very source of power and influence at your organization and you never even thought about this/

They listen, assist, teach, and influence many people everyday. These behaviors, and not their positions, are what makes them so influential in your workplace.

Attractive Leaders

The frontline people who greet your employees, guests, and customer often times decide how easily the schedule flows each day by “greasing the wheels” and maintaining strong relationships with other people in the roles of receptionist, executive assistant, and/or office manager at various other firms.

They often come in early and/or stay late to make sure the coffee is made, documents are ready and presentation materials/equipment are all set for the next day.

Whether on email, or by phone, or in person, they provide empathy, healing, and awareness to anyone they meet. They gently persuade, conceptualize, express foresight, engage in stewardship, illustrate their commitment to the growth of others, and build community to help serve.

Wow! That is an attractive leader! That is who I want to be around!”

But Rather…

But rather than receive high accolades, honors, or recognition, these highly influential people often get overlooked for the true value and influence they provide for their organization. Many people who are decorated with advanced degrees in education, awards in performance, or high in positional authority often simply walk by and give little love and attention to the people of true influence.

And in doing this, they are not only short-changing the people for whom they owe much, they are robbing themselves of the honor, dignity, and strength they receive back when they first “show up as a giver” to others.

Yet, I have both been, and seen, these diligent, hard workers passed over with little more than a “hello” when visitors come in. I have noticed the lack of sincerity in the greeting to them. I also know some of these servant leaders (including me)  have advanced degrees, extensive training and are hard workers.

They are people. And at times, they too would like some recognition, respect and attention, just as those in more “elevated” positions.

Servant Leadership

Jane T. Wadell of Regent University (2006) writes this about servant leadership:

Greenleaf (1991) explains that the servant-leader is servant first, which begins with the natural feeling that one wants to serve. Following the desire to serve may be a conscious choice that brings one to aspire to lead. The leader-first and the servant-first are two extreme types of leaders with the servant-first leader taking care to make sure other people’s highest priority needs are being served.”

These servant leaders focus on identifying and meeting the needs of others rather than trying to acquire more power, wealth, or any kind of “fame” for themselves. These “others-focused” people are working with their eyes as wide open as their hearts to help people every day, all day. Just because they are doing this doesn’t mean that they should be “dismissed.”

On the contrary: They should be appreciate and shown gratitude!

As you interact with these who willingly serve so many so often, think of this: Some work in these roles because they like what they do. And others are just “biding their time” until their talents, skills, and interests are noticed.

No matter what their intentions, to be in this role servant leadership is often a part of their core personality – or they wouldn’t have been content for long. Once their gifts and talents are truly recognized, and the person determines they would like a change, how does one elevate a servant leader into a more strategic role in the organization?

A greater understanding comes from the summary of Servant-Leadership Characteristics In Organizational Life,

“Servant-Leadership is about creating the right organizational environment to get the best out of people. It is about organizational effectiveness to unleash the true potential of employees, which is especially needed at the middle-management level of organizations. Today’s highly competitive global marketplace requires leaders to realign their organizational structures, systems, and management styles in order to empower their employees to survive and thrive in their changing organizations.”

Don’t Try This At Home

As you enter your workplace tomorrow, schedule some time for lunch with your receptionist(s), executive assistant, and/or office manager.

  1. Truly engage the person(s) in conversation about their professional and personal life goals. Find out what their aspirations are and discuss how you can best provide them with opportunities for future growth within the company.  Make yourself available.
  2. Set up monthly appointments with them for mentorship or offer and allow opportunities for them to meet with a mentor of their own choosing. Introduce them to those whom you feel would be wonderful assets to them in their desires for growth. Allow the person(s) into your network.
  3. During your time with them, help them develop a professional growth plan.  If more training/education is needed, be an advocate.  If possible, offer financial support.  If that isn’t possible, again, open up your network to help support their needs.
  4. Don’t be afraid to express your concerns as an employer – the fear of losing good/talented people once their goals are met; the desire to assist, but not get “abused” in the process.  Be open and genuine.

This show of concern will likely be a surprise for your servant leader, But what a welcomed and refreshing surprise it will be in the end!  Loyalty will be gained in more substantive form by those who reach out.

Remember, this is truly about talent management, not just shifting a person’s role.  The best laid plans for your talent can create a more sustainable, competitive enterprise!

So when you come in tomorrow, try to get on their calendar.

What are you doing to increase the potential of your Executive Assistant? Have you been a mentor to the person at your “front desk?” What kind of relationship do you have with those who work to serve your needs and your client’s needs each day? What strategies have you used to help develop your “front desk” talent? I would love to hear your thoughts!

Kilby Watson is a Learning and Development Professional
She leads change through education, professional and organizational development

Image Sources: en.wahooart.com

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