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Alumni in Action

Alumni Webinar Series: Enhancing Engagement and Performance by Leading Inclusively

By Alumni Relations

June 12, 2020

Employee engagement has become a rare and valued commodity. Research shows that engagement is directly connected to the leadership style of a supervisor or leader. The leader sets the tone of the organizational culture; thus, a high level of cultural dexterity is critical. In this webinar, Binnu Palta Hill examines the relationship between employee engagement and inclusive leadership.

Employee engagement is the emotional commitment that an employee has to an organization and its goals. An employee’s engagement level directly influences their behavior and effort in that role. Engagement is a direct outcome of organizational culture. A positive and high performing culture must be built on trust and role modeling from leaders who embody authenticity. A strong leader who values inclusivity is necessary for employees to feel like they are valued in the workplace.

Palta Hill describes five different traits that help one become an inclusive leader:

  1. Commitment
    Make a genuine commitment to actively working to be inclusive, because staying the course can be hard. One can believe in the business case for diversity, but there has to be a commitment from the heart. A leader’s behavior has to indicate that they are committed to the work.
  2. Courage
    Courage is when humility meets bravery. Be willing to make mistakes, admit failure, and actively seek feedback. At the same time, be a leader who challenges the status quo and calls out non-inclusive behaviors at the workplace.
  3. Cognizance
    Cognizance of bias can be a leader’s Achilles heel. A leader needs to be able to self-regulate and understand that their words and actions may have a different impact than was intended. Having empathy for others and the willingness to have conversations about bias can make the workplace more inclusive.
  4. Curiosity
    Every person has limitations based on their own experience. Curiosity allows a leader to have a growth mindset and an openness to one’s own limitations. Knowing that there can be multiple lenses on reality based on how we walk through our day can help leaders gain perspective.
  5. Cultural intelligence
    Be open to learning about different ways of life without holding judgement. Taking an active interest in learning how we all connect and what diversity on the team looks like is critical. Being vulnerable and authentic with employees allows a leader to invite others on the team to change their perspective or take risks by trying something in a different way.
  6. Collaboration
    Collaboration requires a fundamental shared purpose and shared goal. A leader needs to empower their employees to make decisions that impact their own work. Every team member needs to have a voice. It’s up to the leader to create an environment where everyone feels like they can speak up.

Binnu Palta Hill serves as the Assistant Dean for Diversity and Inclusion at the Wisconsin School of Business (WSB). Prior to joining WSB in 2006, she spent over 10 years in the UW System teaching, consulting, and designing programming that enhances inclusion by leveraging strategic leadership and organizational cultural dexterity. Her expertise includes developing open communication skills within organizations by developing a shared vocabulary on conflict resolution, thus enhancing innovation and performance. A distinguishing factor in her approach is the combination of academic research and lived experience to dissect core issues related to identity differences.