You're less inclusive than you think you are

A growing body of research suggests that more-diverse teams outperform their less-diverse counterparts, but many organizations still struggle to create an inclusive work environment.

Leaders themselves inaccurately measure how well they support and include people of different backgrounds, according to a survey by Zenger/Folkman, a leadership development consultancy.

Jack Zenger and Joseph Folkman analyzed feedback data for about 4,000 leaders at an organization with a reputation for promoting diversity. After analyzing how leaders self-evaluated their inclusive behavior and how their peers rated their inclusiveness, the authors found the following trends:

Trend 1: Leaders misjudge their inclusiveness

Leaders whose inclusiveness was poorly rated by peers overrated their effectiveness, whereas leaders whose inclusiveness was highly rated underrated their effectiveness, Zenger and Folkman write for Harvard Business Review.

Discrepancies between self- and peer-evaluations pose unique challenges to creating an inclusive environment. For although a leader may intend to be inclusive, their peers may perceive their actions very differently, the authors note.

Trend 2: Inclusive leaders are seen as more effective leaders

Managers who received poor inclusion ratings also received low overall effectiveness ratings. However, leaders who were perceived as highly inclusive received higher effectiveness ratings, Zenger and Folkman report.

How “superbosses” support diverse teams

Trend 3: Less experienced leaders are less inclusive

Senior leaders received higher ratings on diversity and inclusion metrics than their lower-level counterparts, the study finds. Senior executives may have performed better on inclusion metrics because they have more leadership experience, the authors note.

According to Zenger and Folkman, leaders are not accurate judges of their inclusive behaviors, so organizations must continue to seek out the objective evaluations of their peers (Zenger/Folkman, Harvard Business Review, 10/30).

Related: Inclusion efforts aren't keeping up with campus diversity. Here's how you can fix it.


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