Published: May 31, 2020

‘Inclusifying’ may be the most important thing leaders can do in this moment of extreme workplace change. Ensuring that diverse teams feel engaged, empowered, accepted and valued could mean the difference between getting through COVID-19 intact—or not.

Dr. Stefanie K Johnson Inclusify Book Cover With the launch of her new book, Inclusify: How to Maximize Uniqueness and Belonging to Build More Innovative Teams,” Associate Professor Stefanie K. Johnson at the University of Colorado Boulder Leeds School of Business says there’s no better time for proactive discussions about diversity and inclusion as we prepare to re-enter an altered workplace.

“The status quo is officially broken—we’re not doing anything the same way we used to—this is the perfect opportunity to rebuild organizations that are more equitable and inclusive,” says Johnson, who is recognized by Thinkers50 as one of the top 30 thought leaders in management for 2020 and the “authoritative voice on inclusivity and diversity.” Her book has been named a must-read for “all managers who want to build diverse and happy teams” by Business Insider and is #15 on Amazon’s Hot New Releases.

In her book, Johnson asserts that humans have two basic needs: to stand out and to fit in. Companies react to those needs by creating groups where everyone fits in and no one stands out, or where everyone stands out and no one fits in. So how do we find that happy medium where workers can demonstrate their individuality while also feeling like they belong? It’s a fine balance.

Leaders often make one of two mistakes when trying to create diverse and cohesive teams:

  • They underestimate the importance of the collective, making some employees feel like they don’t belong.
  • They ignore the benefits of different perspectives, making some employees reluctant to be their unique selves. 

In contrast, leaders who inclusify find ways to encourage people to be themselves while ensuring they also feel like part of the team. These managers forge strong relationships, inspire greater productivity and create a more positive environment for everyone. The result is a fully engaged team with diverse perspectives that increase innovation and drive value.

“Inclusion is a complicated dynamic,” admits Johnson. The book presents practical ideas that managers can use to ensure that workers who stand out are able to fit in too. Providing support, empathy and transparency is a good place to start.

Right now, while many work from home, remote workers feel isolated and unconnected, which threatens their need for belonging. But the current crisis has created an opportunity for managers to relate to their teams in a real, empathetic way.

“We’re all dealing with the same challenges and know what it feels like,” says Johnson, “The leaders who build that connection will have a stronger team with better performance, now and in the future.”

More About the Author

Dr. Stefanie K Johnson Inclusify Book Release Stefanie K. Johnson is an associate professor of management and entrepreneurship at the Leeds School of Business. She studies the intersection of leadership and diversity, focusing on how unconscious bias affects the evaluation of leaders, and strategies that leaders can use to mitigate bias.

Johnson’s research on improving selection practices has resulted in more equitable hiring at the Hubble Space Telescope using dual anonymization and in the NFL by improving the Rooney Rule.  

She has published 70 journal articles and book chapters in publications such as Harvard Business Review, Journal of Applied Psychology and The Academy of Management Journal. Her work has been featured in The Economist, Newsweek, Time, the Wall Street Journal, and on CNN, ABC, NBC, and CNBC.

Johnson has presented her work at over 50 meetings around the world, including the White House at a 2016 summit on diversity in corporate America.

She is an esteemed member of the MG 100 Coaches and the 2020 Thinkers50 Radar List.