Diversity of Thought Blog

Building an Inclusive Culture: Collaboration and the effect of open leadership


Fostering a collaborative and inclusive work environment is one way you can support gender equality and right gender imbalances within your work place.

Encouraging cooperation and respectful relationships between staff is not only important in ensuring that the voices of men and women alike are heard equally, but it is essential in creating a harmonious work environment where staff feel safe, supported and heard, and as a result can perform to their highest standard.

At times, it can be difficult to foster and promote a culture of collaboration and inclusion within the workplace. Forming strategies that you can consciously enact is a great method to go about promoting these values within workplace culture.


Strategies for collaboration and inclusion:

Here are three strategies I’ve found effective in fostering a collaborative and inclusive work environment:


1. The ‘around the room’ technique.

In meetings I like to use a strategy I call an ‘around the room’. As the name suggests, go around the room and ask for each individual member’s current work and projects. This strategy gives individuals the opportunity to:

  • share information and update everyone on tasks/projects that they are working on,
  • flag areas where they require assistance or clarification from other staff members, and
  • provide an opportunity to pose questions to specific individuals at the meeting or to the group collectively.

This technique gives every person the opportunity to share their opinion and give feedback, encouraging collaborative discussion. I find that the ‘around the room’ strategy is especially effective in fostering inclusion in a meeting setting as not everyone feels comfortable speaking up when questions are posed to a group at large. Addressing each person individually and giving them the opportunity to speak it is much less daunting.

The benefit of this strategy is that it gives everyone a voice and in doing so incorporates more diverse perspectives into discussions which can lead to outcomes that could have otherwise been overlooked. Setting an ‘around the room’ as an agenda item to be covered in the meeting ensures the time to consider others workload and views are not overlooked.

I have had great feedback from my colleagues about using the ‘around the room’ technique in my own workplace.

“Everyone has the chance to speak in meetings which is great. From my first week, I already felt part of the team.” Luke, Accountant.

“I have been in the same job for over 15 years and until now I had no idea how important my work was to the whole organisation.” Sandy, Accounts Payable Manager.


2. Creating leadership opportunities for all.

Another strategy I like to use and would highly recommend you adopt in your own workplace is posing an issue that requires solving to your team and asking for an individual to put up their hand and take charge of it. Encouraging everyone to consider taking on the leadership role of solving this issue, no matter their experience or qualification, provides an opportunity for them to perform a leadership role and develop leadership skills in a professional environment with the support and guidance of a sponsor that they may not otherwise have the opportunity for in their current roles.

In one instance this approach drew criticism from one of my staff who did not agree with a junior team member taking on a particular project. However, because the junior team member was committed to making the project a success and had a sponsor to guide them, the project was successfully completed and enabled the company to be more efficient.

Giving a person the opportunity and agency to perform a leadership role can draw out their potential. For this technique to be effective in fostering inclusion and collaboration ensure everyone is encouraged to take on the role and that they have access to a sponsor and the resources they need to succeed.


3. Reading body language to give those who want to speak the chance to.

Paying attention to body language and mannerisms during group discussions, particularly at meetings, can give you the opportunity to facilitate inclusion by calling on those who visibly want to give input. It can be daunting to speak up in group environments and similarly, waiting for the right time to interject could result in a missed opportunity to contribute. Actively trying to spot the people who want to contribute and making space for them in the conversation is a technique you can use to promote inclusion.


These are just three ways you can help foster inclusion and curb gender imbalances within your workplace. There are plenty more and I encourage you to seek out your own new and creative ways to promote collaboration and inclusion for yourself. Actively enacting techniques that promote inclusion in the workplace is key and I challenge you to ask yourself what you can do to promote collaboration and inclusion in your organisation.


About the Author

Naomi Rule is a Director of The 100% Project. Her experience includes CFO and COO appointments across National and International companies focused on growth and transformation. She believes inclusive leadership is fundamental to building strong and aspirational teams and that diversity and inclusion are key to achieving organisational success.