Are you a leader that values inclusivity for your team? Do you want to intentionally create a space where everyone feels heard and respected in the workplace? Need to find a way to translate that virtually? 

Hi! I’m Rieanna, and I’ve been leading teams and organized community groups for a little over a decade now. I’ve learned that intentionality and inclusion are the keys to developing profoundly productive and healthy work environments, and more broadly, healthy societies. 

Many leaders have invested in personality assessments, guidebooks, or leadership retreats to curate inclusive spaces, myself included. While this is a great foundation, not many are intended for an unexpected shift to work in teams virtually. I’ve gotten experience with this firsthand over the past six months with my host company and Challenge Detroit project teams. I realized that now more than ever, intentional inclusion is the best leadership skill for me to be flexing. So, I wanted to share with you all five essential tips and insights for curating inclusive virtual teams: 

  1. Make teammate’s well-being a priority –  Inclusive leaders should always prioritize teammate’s wellness, but especially during this traumatic global workspace shift. We must develop a frame for this level of individual understanding upfront because we are all juggling massive changes in our daily life that have a long-lasting mental impact. 
  2. Establish team roles that play to individual strengths – Playing to each teammate’s strengths right now allows individuals to dive into work they’re excited about during an exhausting and challenging virtual workday. Rather than using valuable screen time to coach on areas of weakness and improvement, help your team sharpen their strengths to develop an expertise toolkit that can be adapted and translated digitally. 
  3. Dedicate virtual rooms to work on tasks “together” – There is power in working together, whether physically in office spaces or virtually. Set-up virtual “cafe” hours to crank through work individually, yet together. These sessions can cultivate collaboration and creativity when all the brains are in one virtual space together.
  4. Be radically honest with each other and model that behavior for your team  – As leaders, we must model the behaviors, actions, and culture we intend to create to develop trust as a team. You really can’t expect your teammates to be authentic if you have guarded yourself. Let teammates know when you are struggling and also when you’re doing well. Name it, so you can then move into the work with understanding and awareness. 
  5. Make time for relaxation, “play,” and fun! – Offer to play music in the background as you all work, allow cameras off for a working time, “call-in” the quieter teammate to share their thoughts first, or give space for someone to share that funny story. When we give our teams the chance to let their guard down and be themselves, we bring everyone along for that deep breath together. 

While many of these insights are not groundbreaking evidence, I have realized they are small intentional things that have been bringing my team’s great success during this challenging time. 

With that, I want to ask you: What’s something that you can commit to doing to be more inclusive with your team this month?