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From equity to diversity to inclusion

For years I’ve been talking about gender equity in the boardroom. In more recent times I have tweaked this to also speak about diversity in the boardroom, ensuring a diverse range of people take on director roles. Even more recently, I have shifted again to talk about inclusion.

Only with real inclusion will gender equity and diversity be successful.

This Deloitte report defines diversity and inclusion:

  • Diversity refers to the presence of people who, as a group, have a wide range of characteristics, seen and unseen, which they were born or have acquired. These characteristics may include their gender identity, race or ethnicity, military or veteran status, LGBTQ+ status, disability status, and more.
  • Inclusion refers to the practice of making all members of an organisation feel welcomed and giving them equal opportunity to connect, belong, and grow—to contribute to the organisation, advance their skill sets and careers, and feel comfortable and confident being their authentic selves.

How do we create an inclusive board?

With improved equity and diversity comes a greater need to facilitate and encourage inclusion.

You can’t just put people together and expect the magic to just happen. There are lots of tools, models and methodologies out there for increasing inclusion. One I’ve been working with lately is a framework called SCARF.

I’d heard of SCARF, so jumped at the chance to learn more about it as part of facilitating a session for the Leadership Great South Coast opening retreat in March 2022. The SCARF module was a part of this terrific program long before I was involved. I stepped into the program, delivered the module and have been playing with it more since then.

SCARF was developed in 2008 by neurologist Dr David Rock. In an article published in NeuroLeadership Journal called SCARF: a brain-based model for collaborating with and influencing others, he outlined the SCARF model’s five domains of human social experience.

  • Status is about our relative importance to others.
  • Certainty concerns being able to predict the future.
  • Autonomy provides a sense of control over events.
  • Relatedness is a sense of safety with others, of friend rather than foe.
  • Fairness is a perception of fair exchanges between people.

How it works

SCARF helps identify the areas where the board or team feel threatened or blocked in order to find ways to better communicate and collaborate. To eliminate threats (e.g. mishandling feedback) and to maximise rewards (e.g. regular praise).

This tool can be used with any team, not just a boardroom. Have a play. See if helps with your leadership outcomes.

If you don’t know where to start, here some starter questions:

  • How would being more conscious of status and certainty shift the way you operate?
  • What are we doing to increase autonomy and relatedness?
  • What are we doing to decrease autonomy and relatedness?
  • How could we boost fairness?

Another good starting point, consultancy People Leaders has a one-page 28-day SCARF tracking sheet to help increase your awareness around how your board or team is going based on the five domains.

I’d love to hear about it if you do give SCARF a go. Or, feel free to share any insights on Twitter, LinkedIn or even the Take on Board Facebook group (if you’re a member).

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Ideas to Action

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