Inclusiveness as a Management Trait.

The 26th of January each year is when Australians take pause to consider how far the country has advanced since the dawn of European settlement signalled by the arrival of the First Fleet of soldiers and convicts at Sydney Cove in 1788. Phillip although steeped in the class structure of England showed some signs of inclusiveness in management.

The organisation establish there was hardly an example of constructive teamwork in the making. As the multifaceted band of some 600 souls
 gathered before Governor Arthur Phillip on a grassy adjunct to the makeshift parade ground on the 7th February to hear the reading of the declarations of King George III establishing the British colony of New South Wales, discrimination and exclusion were already well founded.        

Arthur Phillip (Image:1786 portrait by Francis Wheatley (National Portrait Gallery, London)

Commofthieves 0001Tom Keneally’s book “A Commonwealth of Thieves – The Sydney Experiment” provides amazing insights through his research into the daily life of administrators and convict workers in those early days. Although we believe we have come a long way since then in terms of managing organisations, reading accounts like those of Kennelly provides valuable lessons even today about how we treat both employees and other stakeholders in our businesses or government agencies.

Consider the celebrations of that followed that first Australia Day. As Kennelly reports, the entire complement of the First Fleet were assembled to hear the proclamation with the convicts seated on the ground encircled by their Marine guards. Also present were the Masters, officers and some crew of the various vessels which had transported men and women and supplies on a precarious voyage around the world.

At the conclusion of the formalities the Governor and military officers “retired to a cold collation in a large tent set to one side, to which the general offices of the colony only were invited “. (The genesis of our modern Australia Day BBQ no doubt.) Everybody else was sent back to work including the ships’ Masters “with no more accommodation for them than for the convicts themselves”. Even further excluded were the indigenous peoples who no doubt looked on from nearby bushland with great bewilderment at the strange sight, and yet unaware of the terrible portent this scene had for their future.

The Founding of Australia  By Capt  Arthur Phillip R N  Sydney Cove Jan  26th 1788

The Foundation of Australia by Captain Arthur Phillip RN Sydney Cove 26 January 1788″ by Algenon Talmage RA 1937 – Image: yourtravel.com.au

How often do we as managers keep to ourselves and our executive teams the spoils of the business’s success which were earned by the hard work of others? How often do we exclude from recognition those on whose labour, intellect or expertise we depend to achieve the outcomes for which we will be rewarded? How often do we ignore those arm’s-length stakeholders with whom engagement might provide a much better outcome than our insular decision-making?

Exclusivity in management

Our modern organisations are not made up of prisoners or press-ganged workers (although sadly in some parts of the world near-bondage conditions still apply). Nevertheless the culture of management in some organisations clearly sets up a divide between management and operational employees. Examples can be seen of senior management groups that exercise their exclusivity by creating an environment of favoured treatment to which only a chosen few have access.

This is usually demonstrated by managers:

  • Mixing at work and socially only with people of a particular profile.
  • Ignoring or excluding those who are “not like me” or “do not think like me”
  • Making assumptions about employees “fitting in” based on assumptions about cultural background, race, religion, gender or physical attributes that results in their exclusion from activities or opportunities enjoyed by the select few.
  • Encouraging elitism whether directly or indirectly by acknowledging or rewarding only those who hold particular rank regardless of the fact that their achievements are due to the industry of those they supervise.
  • By whatever name we choose to call these choices and judgements they are fundamentally discrimination.
  • Inclusiveness is an important attribute of successful managers
Inclusiveness in management

Andrew-Carnegie

Most managers understand and respect the concept of teamwork and the importance of managers and employees working together toward a common goal. Even Andrew Carnegie the great Scottish- American entrepreneur who built a 19th Century steel empire on the back of oppressing workers acknowledged “Teamwork is the ability to work together toward a common vision. The ability to direct individual accomplishments toward organizational objectives. It is the fuel that allows common people to attain uncommon results.” —                                                                                         Andrew Carnegie (1835-1919).

However it is the manager who understands and respects the concept of an inclusive workplace that will have greater success. Workplace inclusivity is about acknowledging the individual’s contribution and actively providing opportunities to develop high performance work relationships by Managers:

  • Respecting differences in people with an open mind and encouraging wider participation in ALL aspects of organisational life;
  • Being self-aware of how their behaviour impacts on others and how it might influence the behaviour of peers and subordinates;
  • Providing a good example to others by open demonstration of their inclusive style;
  • Getting to know their team as individuals – their likes and dislikes strengths and weaknesses, and their needs. Seeking out those who are less assertive or vulnerable and providing support and encouragement;
  • Adjusting their communication style to ensure clarity in both sending and receiving messages;
  • Assigning projects, opportunities, training and responsibilities on the basis of equity and free from bias or prejudicial assumption
  • Giving opportunities to lead in small leadership roles those who haven’t led before and giving opportunities to lead in more responsible roles those who have successfully led in small things;
  • Ensuring that no team member is alienated by being excluded from selection for tasks, opportunities and responsibilities based on untested assumptions, such as assuming without enquiring that a parent with small children would not be available to participate in a three day residential training course or conference.

The benefits of an inclusive style.

Even in the hustle and bustle of pursuing organisational outcomes it must be the Manager’s focus to ensure the ascendency of team work. As another industrial giant Henry Ford founder of the assembly line concept observed: “Coming together is a beginning; keeping together is progress; working together is success.

Inclusiveness in a manager’s style is readily identified by employees and creates a positive environment that:

  • Promotes motivation and a feeling of belonging;
  • Allows employees to get to know the Manager better improving understanding and respect for the manager’s authority;
  • Allows the Manager to understand what motivates individual employees and how best to manage them in terms of how and to what they respond;
  • Allows the Manager to understand each individual’s potential and its limits and to uncover their hidden skills;
  • Identifies opportunities to provide mentoring and coaching;
  • Provides a chance to communicate a common message to all and allow them to see how others behave and what the organisation’s behavioural expectations are.
  • Helps build a common positive culture, removing divisions and encouraging commitment to the team as a whole.

Exercising an inclusive style requires some thought and discipline. It is very easy to drift back into introverted habits. Managers need to continually focus on sustaining that style amidst the many challenges of working life.

Whilst Governor Arthur Phillip battled – principally through employment of the lash – against the threat of famine at Sydney Cove in the third year of settlement when the early attempts at agriculture were not going well, the little known parallel settlement at Norfolk Island (off the coast of New South Wales) came under a the more humanistic leadership of Major Robert Ross Commander of Marines and Lieutenant-Governor to Phillip. As MajorRossKeneally writes, “He began to give allocations of land to groups of convicts, perhaps six people at a time, who were jointly responsible for growing what they needed on a particular, communally shared acreage. Thus the convicts would become their own motivators and regulators, and gang up on those who slacked off…Ross decided to offer monetary and other prizes to those who put up for sale the most pork, sales and corn.”

Major Robert Ross (Image: www.BBC.co.uk)

That inclusiveness would seem to have better recognised the interdependence of management and labour in challenging circumstances. Perhaps as a military man Ross reflected on the precept of Alexander the Great “Remember, upon the conduct of each depends the fate of all.” ~

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