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Compassion is the prerequisite for inclusion

What's inclusion mean in practice? And why is compassion so important to its success?

4 min read


Lead Change is a leadership media destination with a unique editorial focus on driving change within organizations, teams, and individuals. Lead Change, a division of Weaving Influence, publishes twice monthly with SmartBrief. Today’s post is by Nate Regier.


“Diversity requires commitment. Achieving the superior performance diversity can produce needs further action — most notably, a commitment to develop a culture of inclusion. People do not just need to be different, they need to be fully involved and feel their voices are heard.” — Adecco Group CEO Alain Dehaze

For many organizations, simply tolerating diversity is big step. For others, the leap from tolerating to celebrating diversity is a long road to walk. For the growing number who are pursuing inclusion, you are on the cutting edge. Inclusion is not just the next step, but a quantum leap forward. Inclusion is about leveraging diversity, which requires a completely different mindset.

The compassion mindset

Compassion is the pre-requisite for inclusion. Companies leading the charge are using compassion to include and maximize people — not in spite of their differences, but because of them. For these organizations, compassion is much more than kindness and altruism. It’s a mindset that views people as valuable, capable and responsible.

Each facet is like a switch. When the switches are on, energy is used to create and include. When the switches are off, energy is used to destroy and divide. Each switch plays a critical function for inclusion.

3 switches of the compassion mindset


When our value switch is on, we view ourselves and others as innately valuable because we are human. That means we are created equal and deserve to be included as equals on the human playing field. We can support inclusion through these behaviors:

  • Seek first to understand.
  • Listen to and validate feelings without judging.
  • Assume positive intentions.
  • Affirm experiences, even if you can’t relate.
  • Empathize by finding common emotional ground.
  • Get vulnerable by sharing your own feelings, motives and experiences.
  • Realize that valuing a person innately doesn’t necessarily mean you adopt their values or condone their behaviors.

Accenture, a global consulting firm, is a leader in inclusion. Colleagues of ours at Accenture made this connection: the switch of Value supports psychological safety, which allows people to bring their full selves to work.


When our capability switch is on, we view people as capable of making a contribution. We believe in them, invest in them, look for ways to utilize their skills and see potential where others might see limitations. We can suspend judgment in place of curiosity and facilitate inclusion through these behaviors:

  • Learn about people’s experiences, skills and gifts.
  • Listen to people’s stories of overcoming obstacles.
  • Approach mistakes as opportunities to learn and grow.
  • Tell people you believe in them.
  • Ask curious questions and listen openly to the answers.
  • Explore how differences can be used to the team’s advantage.
  • Test your own assumptions about others by sharing them and asking for feedback.
  • Never withhold information that might help someone contribute more productively.


When the responsibility switch is on, we accept that regardless of what has happened before, we share responsibility for what happens next because our fate is interrelated. We can share ownership for inclusion in these ways:

  • Know your own boundaries and stick to them without attack or blame.
  • Ask for and make commitments to each other about new behaviors going forward.
  • Know your purpose and connect it to any inclusion initiative.
  • When disagreement arises, seek common ground in something bigger.
  • Own up to mistakes, make amends and adjust behavior.
  • Always seek to maximize your own and other’s capabilities to advance the teams’ goals.

If you are considering or are already embracing inclusion in your culture, use these three questions to turn on The Compassion Mindset and guide your efforts.

  • How would I treat you if I believed you (and I) were valuable?
  • How would I treat you if I believed you (and I) were capable?
  • How would I treat you if I believed you (and I) were responsible?


Nate Regier, PhD, is CEO and founding owner of Next Element Consulting. He is a Top-100 keynote speaker, author, and writer. He hosts a podcast called “On Compassion with Dr. Nate,” and is working on his third book, “Seeing People Through,” about leveraging personality diversity.

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