All Articles Leadership Management How this leader learned inclusion up close

How this leader learned inclusion up close

A CEO describes her journey toward inclusion and offers advice for how other leaders can learn and model inclusion in their workplaces.

4 min read


How this leader learned inclusion up close

SmartBrief illustration

Weaving Influence is a full-service digital marketing agency. Since launching 10 years ago, Weaving Influence has helped clients launch more than 150 books, carving its niche in working with authors, thought leaders, coaches, consultants, trainers, nonprofit leaders and speakers to market their services and books. This post is by Becky Robinson.

I still remember my reaction the first time I got an email from a client, a cisgender woman, who included her pronouns in her email signature. I’m embarrassed to admit a couple of things: First, it was 2019, not so long ago. Next, I thought it was weird and didn’t understand why she’d done it. 

Not long after, a contractor working for my company wrote a coming-out note to alert me and the team about her new pronouns, name, and to open up communication about her transition. She shared the following: “Lots of personal growth and discovery, and it will be nice to have at least one professional environment where I can use the correct name and pronouns.”

A third conversation with a client about his nonbinary child and a collaboration with a nonbinary consultant provided more opportunities for me to learn about a world that still seemed new and foreign. While still working in-person with my team, I relied on younger, Generation Z colleagues to help explain terms and vocabulary still unfamiliar to me. We’d stand around the office and the 30-somethings would mentor the 50-somethings — a crash course. 

At the risk of sharing information publicly that isn’t mine to share, I’ve had far more personal opportunities to learn inclusion than the ones described above. The workplace experiences prepared me to be more accepting and loving with people I knew personally.

As a business owner and leader, it has been critically important for me to learn, grow and change to create a workplace (and world) where people are valued, included, accepted, and honored as they are. On this journey, I’ve learned several key lessons:

To grow as a leader, spend time with people who are different from you

Data from a study conducted by RDR Group, Yale University, and Yale University Health showed that the way to reduce bias is by practicing inclusion. My experience reflects this: As I get to know people who are different from me, our differences dissipate and our common experiences as humans emerge. 

Follow and learn from a variety of people

I’ve purposefully followed people to create diversity on my social media feeds so that I can become more familiar with others’ experiences. By following people of different racial, ethnic, gender and sexual identities, leaders can gain new understanding, insight and empathy.

To create an inclusive work environment, practice inclusion

Use people’s correct names and pronouns. Include your pronouns in your communications, both written and verbal, to make it safe and normal for others to do so. Don’t make assumptions about people’s identities; instead, ask questions to invite people to be open about themselves. 

Model the behaviors you want from your team

As a leader, you have the opportunity to set the standards for how to welcome and include all people. Be sure to not only model the behaviors you expect from others, but also communicate directly about specific behaviors your team can implement to create an inclusive environment. Hold people accountable for any requests you make, and create a zero-tolerance policy for any behaviors that do not maintain the values of your organization. 

Be open to what you still need to learn while sharing what you’ve learned

It’s OK to not know all the right ways to include others, as long as you show humility, kindness, and respect. Read, research, explore, and ask questions if you need to. 


To learn more about the importance of inclusion for leaders, view my recent webinar with authors Celeste Warren and Jennifer Brown, sponsored by SmartBrief.

Becky Robinson is the founder and CEO of Weaving Influence, a digital marketing agency that specializes in helping thought leaders and authors build their brands, drive visibility and increase sales. Robinson’s first book, “Reach: Create the Biggest Possible Audience for Your Message, Book, or Cause,” is launching in April 2022.

If you liked this article, sign up for SmartBrief’s free email newsletter on leadership. It’s among SmartBrief’s more than 250 industry-focused newsletters.