For greater workplace success, build inclusive team cultures and champion your LGBTQ+ colleagues

For greater workplace success, build inclusive team cultures and champion your LGBTQ+ colleagues June 30, 2022

In celebration of Pride month, we recently invited Equality Institute Founder and CEO Bernadette Smith to lead a company-wide town hall conversation on LGBTQ+ identity and workplace success.

Her talk reminded us of traits of the most successful teams, how members of the LGBTQ+ community are often inherently and uniquely poised to deliver strong leadership traits, and how all of us can work to be stronger allies and more inclusive leaders, from wherever we sit in the organization.

Here, are just a few of the highlights and key points shared by during the conversation:

A 2-year study of 180 teams at Google found that those with the greatest success shared 5 key traits: dependability, impact, meaning, structure and clarity, and psychological safety.

These five traits called forward from Google’s study on teams aimed at finding the keys to successful outcomes and greatest collective impact.

Their findings found that the best teams had:

  • Members who completed work on time and consistently met expectations.
  • Clear goals and well-defined roles.
  • Team members who found personal pride and significance in their work.
  • Work that felt purposeful, able to positively impact the greater good of the world around them.
  • Team members that believed no one could be punished or humiliated for their ideas, concerns, questions, mistakes, or for how they showed up to do their work.

This last note is critical to all the rest.

People need to feel safe first. Only then can they bring forward the vulnerability needed share unique, possibly brilliant, ideas and perspectives with those around them.

Unfortunately, even in 2022, far too many members of the LGBTQ+ community, still feel showing up as their full selves at work could be unsafe or risky – for fear of termination, judgement, blatant discrimination, or unconscious bias.

And it could be costing companies some of their strongest potential future leaders. Why?

Those in the LGBTQ+ community can develop specific traits, just because of who they are and what they have had to go through to be themselves, that can uniquely position them as strong candidates for roles in leadership at every level of an organization.

Just like some of the best leaders, like you, your LGBTQ+ team members are likely:

  • Great network builders. For safety and security, just to survive, hide or feel safe, members of this community know how to build a coalition and network of allies to connect, engage, and move progress forward.
  • Naturally empathetic. Those who have been targeted, bullied, or considered “other” often approach those around them with additional layers of empathy. They know how it feels to be torn down unfairly and want to use that experience to lift others up and prevent them from experiencing the same negativity.
  • Risk-takers. Coming out (over, and over, and over again) requires immense courage, especially in the workplace.
  • Often, members of the LGBTQ+ community must read the room, draw quick conclusions, and identify the safest path forward to move through a space, depending on the make-up of individuals in a room, the scenario, or the circumstance.
  • Acting on their intuitions, members of this community often know how to adjust their presence to meet others in manners that feel safe for all.
  • Many must develop incredibly tough skin to show up and be who they are – out or in secret. After each moment of hardship, micro-aggression or otherwise, finding a way to keep their spirits up and keep going despite it all provides a constant call for resiliency.

In addition to simply seeing LGBTQ+ teammates for all they can bring to the table in the workplace as leaders, there are so many ways each of us can work to be better allies and work toward our most inclusive team cultures.

Here are just a few ways forward:

  • Share your pronouns. Foster a culture where all can share who they are freely-without judgement.
  • Don’t assume. Ask your teammates for the help and support they need and honor their asks with action. Diversify your network. We all have biases around who we include in our networks and spaces. Aim to connect with those from a wide variety of demographics and backgrounds.
  • Offer unconscious bias training. There’s so much we can all learn from recognizing and addressing our blind spots. We all have them.
  • Be an active listener. Seek to understand and know your teammates.
  • Lead with intent to help others – what can you do to help those around you learn, grow, and succeed?
  • Look for opportunities to address and fix inequalities or systemic issues as you see them. Make sure no one is being held back unfairly.
  • Speak up for others. Always. When they are in the room with you, but even more so when they are not. Be the biggest cheerleader and champion of your team’s progress, work, and accomplishments. Always give credit where it is due.

Where do these thoughts leave you?

Even seemingly small efforts can make a big difference toward creating teams that feel truly seen, heard, understood, and valued.

What action(s) can you take, starting today, to be a more active ally to your LGBTQ+ peers and colleagues? What can you do to build more inclusive cultures and teams? Consider making a personal commitment or an action plan, and if you are able, share your thoughts with your networks and teams.

This conversation proudly aligns with Avison Young’s on-going commitment to develop inclusive workspaces where all our teammates feel safe, secure, respected, and supported to show up as themselves, completely, without fear or judgement. 

Rachel Kresge is Avison Young’s Global Content Development Manager and a member of the Avison Young Women’s Network.