Inclusion: The New Core Competence for Leaders
We all know that not one person has all the answers, so it only makes sense that a company would want to have an inclusive, diverse workforce to bring in varying points of view. The problem is that most companies focus on diversity stats, but that doesn’t really make a difference in the culture of an organization, particularly when the whole point is to drive better business results through collaboration.
I prefer to focus on inclusion, and believe that inclusion precedes diversity. A more inclusive work environment will attract a more diverse workforce. Just as communication is a core skill for a modern leader, I believe inclusion is a core skill for the 21st Century – a style you can learn and practice. What is inclusion? Simply put, it means including people…seeking diverse opinions and taking into account other points of view. It’s treating people like they belong and feel valued, and making sure you are building teams and environments where no one feels they are on the outside. This isn’t always easy. You have to demonstrate it by interacting and engaging, and treating people with respect. It’s not what you say, but how you are that counts.
I also believe in focusing on the strengths of our people, rather than their weaknesses. That’s how we get people to go from good to great, instead of not-so-good to mediocre. This is especially important for women. In my experience, there is no difference in competence between men and women, but there is a massive difference in self-belief. We try to challenge women to regularly operate outside of their comfort zone so they can build confidence, aspiration level and impact on the organization.
I’m proud to say that we built our Global Virtual Sales Organization with inclusion in mind. Being a global team based in 49 countries, we harness the power of the tremendous diversity of culture, ethnicity, gender, and generations to drive our success. We also engage with our employees through frequent interaction, communication and recognition, leveraging our unrivaled Cisco collaboration technology to connect our team.
Something must be working. In the past few years of our internal employee survey, our organization scored higher than the company average in every single category. And, in the most recent survey, our employee engagement score was a full 15 points higher than the company overall. I believe that our culture of inclusion has created this engagement which in turn has led to our outstanding and consistent sales growth and business achievements during the past five years.
Inclusion is not a fad or a nice-to-do. In my view is a must for maintaining a healthy, thriving organization that delivers sustained business results.
Our Global Virtual Sales Organization (GVSO) consists of Global Virtual Sales and Global Virtual Engineering teams with more 1800 people in 50 countries, supporting nearly 40 languages. In 2015, GVSO earned significant industry recognition by winning the Stevie Gold Awards for both the “Global Sales Team of the Year” and “Innovation in Sales.” The team also won the 2015 Stevie Silver Award for “Best Use of Technology in Sales.”