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Inclusion could benefit from good relationship habits

One of the key challenges to diversity, equity and inclusion (DE&I) strategic initiatives is making lasting change that “sticks”.

Achieving genuine change requires changing mindsets, habits and behaviours that have often been built up over decades – sometimes generations. Where DE&I agendas are concerned, many lack the conviction and corporate buy-in this requires.

Building inclusive cultures:

Diversity, equity and inclusion heads need consistency

Poor strategy crippling D&I efforts

Are you doing diversity training right?

In general, DE&I programmes tend to focus on structure (employee network groups, inclusion committees, awareness events, recruitment metrics, etc.) and training to build awareness particularly around unconscious bias.

The challenge of these approaches is that they create awareness of the problem without empowering people to change behaviours.

Giving information without the power of transformation creates tensions.

Fear of saying “the wrong things” cripples meaningful conversations. Anything that smacks of discrimination provokes a knee-jerk reaction and often a heavy-handed legal approach.

Misunderstandings quickly become grievance procedures. Also, more often than not, the majority demographic (typically white middle-aged males) become alienated and/or defensive. 

Rather than working together to create an inclusive culture in which everyone (both majority and minority groups) can thrive, DE&I efforts often become misinterpreted as a win-lose scenario – giving unfair advantage to “some of them” instead of benefiting “all of us”.

Despite valiant attempts to live out commitments of dignity and respect for all, progress towards greater diversity and inclusion is often delayed or derailed by misunderstanding and defensiveness.



Instead of leaving the task of creating inclusive cultures to just the senior leadership or the DE&I team/affinity groups, we address the challenges through a relational lens that makes Inclusion everyone’s “response-ability”. 

The success of this approach is based on the power of The four habits of all successful relationships, as trademarked by our business.

These are:

  1. Be curious, not critical
  2. Be careful, not crushing
  3. Ask, don’t assume
  4. Connect, before you correct

In a workplace inclusion context these become:

  1. Understand and value difference
  2. Create psychological safety and growing together through conflict
  3. Understand unconscious bias, develop cultural competence and create healthy boundaries
  4. Be intentional about communicating value and appreciation, creating line of sight between career aspirations and corporate opportunities and developing a strong sense of belonging

Starting with the senior leadership team each individual is empowered to take personal responsibility for changing their behaviours from habits that damage relationships and create exclusion, to habits that strengthen relationships and create inclusion. 

Beyond mere head knowledge, developing the principles and techniques that underpin these four fundamental habits equips leaders and their teams with specific and practical behaviour changes to create an environment with more HEART – Honesty, Empathy, Authenticity, Trust and Respect. 

By creating this common language around expected behaviour change, individuals hold themselves and each other accountable for building stronger relationships by learning to show up better, have better conversations and achieve better, more inclusive outcomes.

The more aware each individual becomes of how their behaviour lands with others, the more intentional they can be about doing things that land well with everyone and makes them feel included.

If more people become intentional about treating people equally well more of the time, the environment becomes inclusive. 


Andrea and Jonathan Taylor-Cummings are behaviour change consultants and co-founders of 4 Habits Consulting