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Inclusive Leadership Program

Ben Roulston

By Ben Roulston, Thinka Co-founder,
31 May 2024

Thinka’s Inclusive Leadership Program helps leaders disrupt unconscious bias and promote an inclusive workplace culture.

This program looks at building inclusive leadership behaviours that support people who are excluded or under-represented in the workplace. It challenges unconscious bias and builds understanding around diversity: i.e., gender, LGBTIQA+, neurodiversity, ability/disability, ethnicity, and people who are Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander. The aim is to provide equitable access, opportunities, and a strongly empathetic workplace culture.

I didn’t know I had so much growth in me until I started the course, I could feel myself changing and loved every minute of the experience.

Stage II
Program Purpose

This Inclusive Leadership Program supports leaders to develop an inclusive culture – so they can disrupt unconscious bias and successfully empower diverse teams. It helps leaders in all industries understand the benefits of diversity and encourages fairer and more equitable decision-making. Whether your leaders are just starting out or have been in these positions for some time, our program helps them remove blind spots and foster an inclusive environment.

Working with organisations across Australia, we know that leaders face unique challenges. Here are a few of them:

  1. Rise of ‘human skills’: More and more, organisations are helping employees develop both technical skills and soft skills to help navigate diverse workforces. Leaders who understand the value of diverse teams that demonstrate breadth across underrepresented groups is key. This means representation across ethnicity, gender identity, sexual orientation, Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander inclusion, age, and ability. 
  2. Purpose-led business: Younger generations of employees are seeking organisations that are committed to purpose and are progressive in areas like diversity and inclusion, sustainability and technology. With purpose and a strong commitment to ‘people, planet, profit’, organisations have a significant competitive advantage and a more compelling EVP for attraction, retention and engagement. 
  3. Increased use of global talent: Hybrid working has opened up more opportunities for teams to work across the globe and harness diversity of thought. Organisations are no longer restricted to local talent pools and can explore their options with digital connectivity being a key driver. Bringing in global talent means diversity training and inclusion initiatives become even more important. 
  4. Gender bias and discrimination: Gender bias and discrimination continue to be major challenges for women in leadership positions. Women might face bias in hiring and promotion decisions, and might be perceived as less assertive or capable of decision making, for example. In many industries, women and marginalised groups continue to be underrepresented in senior leadership positions. 
  5. Lack of support: Underrepresented groups might experience a lack of support from their colleagues or senior management, who may not take their concerns or challenges seriously. This can leave leaders and team members feeling isolated and unsupported, and can make it difficult for them to access opportunities. This is made more difficult when there is intersectionality (i.e., a combination of social factors, such as women over the age of 55).

Overall, these challenges present a strong case for demonstrating the value of inclusive leaders in modern organisations. However, if your leaders need to develop awareness and inclusive behaviours, Thinka’s Inclusive Leadership Program and coaching sessions, supports this growth and development.

Program Benefits

With the help of this Inclusive Leadership Program, leaders will explore inclusive behaviours to enhance their capability:

  1. Advocacy: Advocacy is important to establish fairness and equity in the work environment. When underrepresented groups are given opportunities, are included and feel a sense of belonging, organisations benefit and every individual benefits. With skills in advocacy, leaders can feel safe to ask for what they or their team needs and bring issues and unconscious bias to light. 
  2. Collaboration: Leaders who can appreciate different needs and perspectives among stakeholders are better able to foster a collaborative work environment. Leaders with emotional intelligence and well-developed communication skills know their audience and can connect with ease. They also actively include all people in conversations and decision-making. 
  3. Empathy: Finding ways to relate to other people’s experiences and the emotions they are feeling, gives leaders a better insight into team members. When this happens, there is a better opportunity for connection and collaboration and this in turn means they’re more likely to support each other to achieve outcomes. 
  4. Relationship management: Leaders who seek to understand other people and appreciate their differences, are better able to maintain healthy relationships. Leaders who apply an inclusion lens to interactions, by responding in respectful ways to what people need, build longer-lasting connections. This also has a positive effect on team member mental health and psychological safety. 
  5. Decision making: Leaders make well-considered decisions with confidence when they’re prepared and see all points of view and uproot unconscious bias. Leaders can build this capability by challenging old views, researching and educating oneself, and by setting a well-considered action plan in place.

By developing competencies in these skills employees can become more inclusive leaders and impact diversity and inclusion outcomes in positive ways.

Program FAQs

What is an Inclusive Leadership Program?

Our Inclusive Leadership Program is a professional development course specifically designed to support those in leadership positions. It aims to provide participants with the skills, tools, resources and confidence necessary to develop inclusive leadership behaviours. Our specialist facilitators have worked with many leaders across Australia and draw from these experiences to offer meaningful advice, practical strategies, and case studies to learn from.

Why should my organisation offer an Inclusive Leadership Program?

Being part of an Inclusive Leadership Program can help leaders develop skills, access mentoring and build partnerships across a supportive community of peers. It can also help participants to challenge themselves and each other to uproot unconscious bias, to make decision-making fairer and more equitable. The networking opportunities are crucial to helping leaders help each other.

Who can attend an Inclusive Leadership Program?

This Inclusive Leadership Program is designed for leaders – especially team leaders. The leadership skills we focus on build competencies in establishing an inclusive team culture, as well as developing a more well-rounded, robust leadership style.

Are Inclusive Leadership Programs only available in person?

Our Inclusive Leadership Program can be delivered face-to-face or as online learning – depending on the organisation’s set-up. It is typically made up of a series of workshops and/or webinars with case studies and tools to support real world application – so leaders can apply inclusion strategies right away. Often these are complemented by coaching sessions with a Thinka coach. Coaching plays an important role in challenging old biases and behaviours and supporting leadership development in each of the participants. Organisations might also opt for a blended program that makes use of eLearning modules and other forms of media.

Program Case Study

‘Lead for Inclusion and Belonging’ with Carsales

 

1. What was the objective?

Carsales launched a ‘work from anywhere’ initiative when COVID-19 began. This program was designed to support leaders to champion their team members through the new challenges of hybrid working. Carsales wanted a bespoke workshop focussed on inclusion, belonging and high performance to support this new change. They wanted to engage their leaders with a framework they could use with their teams and actively apply inclusion and belonging strategies to uplift engagement and results.

2. How did we do it?

Thinka designed a unique three-hour virtual inclusive leadership workshops that would be rolled out six times across the organisation.

Due to the workshop’s length and the topic’s depth, the content needed to be interactive, informative, and practical. Each session would be made up of 25 participants from various sectors within Carsales, including its incubator programs; so, the workshop needed to create an environment of psychological safety quickly, as the group may not have worked together before.

The workshops included understanding bias, overcoming the challenges of working in a hybrid environment, knowing how to be an advocator, and what challenges can stop us from being our most supportive selves. A key part of the workshop was the focus on being an inclusive leader, and how this would be an essential skill moving forward in their careers.

3. How was it integrated and what were the results?

In addition to the workshop, Thinka created a ‘Leader Meeting Pack’, which included a guided meeting plan, tools and assets that any leader could pick up and utilise with their team. The language and visuals in the assets were all in Carsales branding.

The learnings from the workshop, along with the Leader Meeting Pack, allowed the participants to feel supported in driving initiatives focussed on inclusion and belonging. There was a highly positive response post-workshop from the leaders. As a result, Carsales engaged Thinka again to design a workshop on Inclusion and Belonging aimed at their team members.

Example program

Month 1

What is diversity and inclusion?

Defining diversity and inclusion and hearing stories from people across diverse groups.

  • Induction
  • Program roadmap
  • Virtual workshop
  • Guest speakers (stories from diverse groups)
  • Application tools

Month 2

Unconscious bias and barriers to inclusion

Discussing the idea of privilege, conditioning and how unconscious biases need to be unearthed to make way for inclusion.

  • Virtual workshop
  • Application tools
  • 1:1 coaching

Month 3

Inclusive leadership behaviours

Mapping inclusive leadership behaviours to become conscious of what best practice looks like.

  • Virtual workshop
  • Activity (‘Inclusion map’)
  • Application tools

Month 4

Practical strategies to promote accessibility

Researching and identifying practical measures to make the work environment accessible, comfortable and safe for all.

  • Virtual workshop
  • Guest speaker (accessibility expert)
  • Application tools

Month 5

Coaching teams and building an inclusive culture

Coaching teams in inclusion and designing a process for dealing with exclusion to make sure all groups are protected.

  • Virtual workshop
  • Application tools

PROGRAM Outline

Delivery Options

In Person Program

Virtual Program

Hybrid Program

Key Outcomes

1. Leaders who understand what diversity and inclusion means.

2. Leaders who understand how to play their part in building an inclusive workplace culture.

3. Leaders who approach access, opportunities and performance support equitably and fairly.

4. Leaders who engage in practical measures to improve the workplace for accessibility.

5. Leaders who are empathetic and who actively challenge exclusion, escalating when required.

Possible Inclusions

1. Program roadmap

2. Induction

3. Welcome box

4. Workshops

5. Activities (e.g. Hackathon)

6. Guest speakers

7. Tools for application

8. Assets (e.g. eLearning, video)

9. Coaching

10. Participant management

Target Audience

All levels of leadership

Our in-person delivery option maximises opportunities for robust conversation, experiential activities and intensive group work. This is no ‘death by PowerPoint’ experience – our facilitators are skilled in presenting and leading immersive experiences that get the most out of people. Supported by multimedia, attractive takeaway pages and practical strategies for using back on the job – this in-person approach is valuable for building strong bonds and bringing people together to collaborate.
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Our virtual delivery option breathes fresh life into the online experience with its almost ‘radio show’ feel. Our expert facilitators use a combination of multimedia, questioning techniques and break out activities to target micro-skills – with a focus on application. Supported by an online platform hosting custom-built materials, participants can be assured of lively, dynamic sessions that have a distinct bias to action. Going virtual keeps program sessions succinct, sharp and focused on targeting particular skills in a dynamic way.
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A hybrid model takes the best of in-person and virtual delivery options and blends them together, so there’s a healthy mix of face to face collaboration and targeted skill building. Depending on the program themes, we work with you to decide what is better suited to getting together in a training space versus what would sit comfortably in an online setting. This flexible combination allows you and your team to get the best of both worlds.
Q
Leaders across all levels can participate in this program to ensure the practice of inclusion is understood throughout the entire organisation. Inclusion needs to be built into all processes such as recruitment, performance management and succession planning. It also needs to be approached practically so that the actual work environment is accessible, comfortable and safe for all groups.
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