Teams reflect their leaders. This applies to inclusion as much as it does to any skill a team wants to develop. And there is no more effective way than to see your leader model that skill.
We designed a workshop in the dark for a multinational team in Mexico going through a time of change and transition.
The central theme was adaptive intelligence, a topic that people with disabilities have to continually hone to achieve dignified living.
The 28 attendees gathered at the entrance of the darkened tunnel to receive instructions. We formed three teams according to the color of lego they received. The teams were divided into pairs that would randomly enter the darkness.
Then I received via walkie-talkie the information: “One participant uses a cane due to reduced mobility and has to enter first to avoid crowds. Her leader comes with her, she wants to accompany her even though they have different colored legos and do not belong to the same team."
I met them in the tunnel and offered to guide the participant with reduced mobility, it is one of my roles as a facilitator in the dark. The leader politely but adamantly refused. She emphasized that she wanted to be the one to escort her collaborator through the darkness to her chair.
And so she did. The journey was very slow and the leader displayed remarkable patience. Once inside the darkened room, other facilitators offered to escort the mobility-impaired participant to her table. The leader declined and did not seek her own table until she was assured that her collaborator was properly seated and secure in her seat.
Amidst the uncertainty of entering the dark for the first time and having to find people with the same color lego as yours to find a table, this leader demonstrated impressive inclusion by being the one to escort her partner with walking difficulties.
She was a leader who modeled what she intended her team to develop during the workshop in the dark: courage, patience, emotional management and temperance.
Our recognition and bravo to inclusive leaders who model first!