Inclusive Decision Making: Four Questions to Ask Yourself When Making DecisionsApr 11, 2022 03:41PM ● By Beth Ruffin
Business leaders who understand the need for diversity, equity, and inclusion often find themselves grappling with how to operationalize and formalize the work. A good place to start is to ensure that you’re making inclusive decisions – those that serve all.
I’ve developed four simple questions that you can ask yourself to make certain you’re being inclusive when making decisions.
How are you exploring your biases?
You’ve most likely heard about unconscious or implicit biases – the way that we categorize people based on past experiences, thinking, and societal conditioning. All humans have unconscious biases, and the opinions they yield occur so quickly that we don’t realize they are happening.
I recall a time a few years ago when we held interviews for an open position on my team. During the interviews, there were a few candidates who had all the necessary qualifications, yet they were extremely shy and quiet.
I remember telling them that they should work on their presence more and offered suggestions like Toastmasters, communications courses, and other public speaking workshops.
While my intention was one of good intent, I didn’t realize then that my actions were biased. The job I was hiring for did not require extroverted tendencies and outgoing personality; however, my own preference got in the way and turned away some potentially great talent.
It’s important to understand your biases – unconscious and conscious – and become intentional about confronting them. Here are a few ways you can do that:
Take an assessment – Harvard has a set of implicit bias tests that can get you started.
Ask for feedback from others to identify patterns of bias/favoritism.
Check your discomfort – what situations/places/people make you feel uncomfortable? This may be a sign that bias is at play.
You will never be free from bias, but by facing your biases, you learn how to mitigate them.
How are you embracing the perspectives of others?
The beauty of human diversity is that we each bring our own knowledge, perspectives, experiences, and wisdom to the table. It is essential to embrace curiosity and learning through others, understanding there is value in bringing others to the table. Inclusive groups of people are more innovative, creative, and satisfied.
What other perspectives do you need at the table when making decisions? Look at who is a part of the process and who is missing. Do you need to add visible diversity like race, age, or gender? Are you missing secondary diversity like socioeconomic status, work function, or geographic location? How about tertiary diversity such as beliefs, perceptions, and values?
When you truly value the input of others, you let them know that you care about their thoughts, and you ensure you make decisions that include multiple perspectives.
How are you evaluating your progress?
Inclusion is a daily practice. It is not something that you achieve, but rather something that you continually evaluate and redirect.
I often tell people to use their “inclusion lenses” when making decisions. Ask yourself questions like, “What can I do to ensure people around me feel seen, heard, and accepted?” “How can I change my posture to be more welcoming?” and “How would I feel if I were on the receiving end of this decision?”
The more you grow and develop your inclusive muscle, the more inclusive decisions you’ll make. Here are a few tips to evaluating your progress:
Self-assessments – check in with yourself often and ask yourself if you’ve made progress.
Pay attention to how others interact with you.
Look at your network – does it still look the same as it did a year ago? This may be a signal that you need to broaden.
As our world changes, we all have a responsibility to grow and change with it. The journey of inclusion is a lifelong one; evaluating along the way helps you move forward.
How are you elevating the voices of others?
I used to always say that I wanted to “give other people a voice,” but I soon learned that we all have voices – whether we choose to listen to them or not. The key here is to make sure you are elevating those other voices around you.
Are there other people who contributed to the decision you made? Are there other voices who impacted your decision? Are there other people who have something valuable to say about the decision that was made? If so, elevate those voices.
Provide a space for them to speak and properly credit others for their ideas and contributions.
The next time you start the decision-making process, I challenge you to ask yourself these four questions. Ask yourself how you’re exploring, embracing, evaluating, and elevating inclusively.
The more you do it, the more natural it becomes. I guarantee your teams and your customers will thank you for it.
Leader, teacher, speaker, and author Beth Ruffin has a long career in building relationships to achieve organizational goals. With over 20 years’ experience in financial services focused on account management, enrollment technology, and human resources, Beth has developed expertise in strategic planning, curriculum development, facilitation, team building, leadership development, and nonprofit board leadership. Learn more about her at: