#HRTechChat: The Power of Inclusive Leadership in the Age of Technology with Jennifer Dole, Larry McAlister and Al Dea

In today’s rapidly evolving world, the intersection of technology and inclusive leadership is shaping the future of organizations. The qualities of inclusive leaders play a crucial role in fostering a culture of belonging, collaboration, and innovation. In this podcast, we will explore some key attributes of inclusive leaders and discuss how technology can be leveraged to enhance inclusive leadership.

Courage: At the heart of inclusive leadership lies courage. Inclusive leaders must have the courage to challenge the status quo, address biases, and create an environment where every individual feels valued and respected. They understand that being a great leader means embracing diversity and making intentional efforts to be inclusive, even if it involves taking risks or stepping out of their comfort zones.

Desire to Help People: Inclusive leaders have a genuine desire to help people thrive. They recognize that by fostering a sense of belonging and inclusivity, they can unlock the full potential of their teams. They actively seek opportunities to create conditions that allow everyone to contribute their unique perspectives, skills, and knowledge. By nurturing an environment that encourages collaboration and cooperation, inclusive leaders drive greater team performance and overall success.

Embracing Human Qualities: Inclusive leadership involves recognizing and embracing the human qualities that set us apart from machines. While technology can enhance efficiency, it is the human touch that enables true empathy, compassion, and self-awareness. Inclusive leaders listen with empathy, act with compassion, and demonstrate genuine care for their team members. These human qualities foster trust, build stronger relationships, and promote a sense of psychological safety within the organization.

Leveraging Technology for Inclusive Leadership: Technology can be a powerful tool for inclusive leadership. It provides leaders with actionable data and insights, enabling them to understand the voice of their employees better. Tools like coaching platforms offer valuable support for managers, helping them navigate conversations around well-being, mental fitness, and career growth. Additionally, technologies that promote diversity and inclusion in the hiring process, such as AI-powered interview analysis, can reduce bias and create fairer opportunities for all candidates.

Business Outcomes of Inclusive Leadership: Contrary to the notion that inclusive leadership is just “soft stuff,” it has tangible business outcomes. Studies have consistently shown that diverse and inclusive teams outperform homogeneous ones. Inclusive leadership leads to higher employee engagement, increased productivity, and improved retention rates. By quantifying and presenting these outcomes, inclusive leaders can demonstrate the value of their approach to stakeholders, including the CFO.

The intersection of technology and inclusive leadership presents an exciting opportunity for organizations to create an inclusive and thriving workplace culture. Inclusive leaders, driven by courage and a desire to help people, are leveraging technology to enhance their leadership practices. By embracing human qualities, using technology as an enabler, and focusing on quantifiable business outcomes, inclusive leaders are shaping the future of work. In this age of technology, it is essential to recognize the power of inclusive leadership in unlocking the full potential of individuals and driving organizational success.

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Jennifer Dole 00:00
Hi there. I am Jennifer dole, your host of #HRTechChat. And today’s podcast. We’ve got some great guests, Larry McAlister and Al Dea. Welcome to the podcast. Larry, you want to do a quick introduction?

Larry McAlister 00:18
Thank you, Jen. Glad to be back. My name is Larry McAlister, I was a three time CHRO for the past 10 years, I ran HR transformation technology for two Fortune 500 companies. About a year ago, I started my own writing this book called the power to transform and working with Jen and Al on, you know, just talking all things leadership and technology and transformation. So glad to be here.

Al Dea 00:46
Sure, happy to do so great to be here. My name is Al de for the past 15 years, I’ve worked very similar to Larry at the intersection of people, organizations and technology. I like to tell people that I try to help smart people become people smart. And what I do, how I do that today is in going into companies and helping them think about how they develop the next generation of leaders. And then also really spending a lot of time thinking about actually doing that within organizations. And so trying to help them develop leaders who can lead and manage and effectively in today’s world of work.

Jennifer Dole 01:17
Certainly not a surprise that we’re all together. And we all know each other, right? Because we’re traveling that journey together. So really appreciate you being here today. I want to dive into inclusive leadership. And to get us started, like, what are some of the qualities of inclusive leaders?

Larry McAlister 01:40
I can start because I know LC expert on this. So I’ll just think of what’s in my mind. I think the number one thing to be an inclusive leader is courage. Right? It’s so easy to work, you’re gonna mess it up, or you’re gonna offend somebody. I think being courageous and knowing intentionally, that to be a great leader is to be an inclusive, right, we’ve all said, always knowing each employee, what they are is what works. Anything that’s very possible.

Al Dea 02:15
I would add to that is when I think about two things about leadership. So the first is just a general idea of desire to help people get more together, right. And so I think part of being inclusive. Leadership is this aspiration and belief. You want to set conditions to get more out of everyone, and kind of see that and search for that. I think the second thing that comes to mind is really thinking about what makes us uniquely human, and leaning into those things. And so I think courage certainly is something that a human can do that a, an AI bot can’t. But I also think about things like listening with empathy, acting with compassion, self awareness. I think those are also other elements I would add to it.

Jennifer Dole 03:13
Yeah. I mean, you bring up the AI bot, right. And I did a presentation with Brent Skinner, my, the co founder of 3Sixty. And at Unleash, and we talked about the technology can help you with efficiency, but you have to balance that with empathy. And I think it’s just an important kind of concept for people as they’re looking at technology and the transformation layer you have experienced.

Larry McAlister 03:46
It reminds me of two things. So I’ve been saying that technology will take some of your job, or some jobs. But that’s not the point. The point of technology in our space is to get you to the human interaction, much faster with more actionable data. So being a great leader means you understand what’s going on, you understand that people’s voice, so many of these technologies give you different views of the employee voice. And as we know, to be a great leader, great team, and have a great team as each person has to be hitting on all cylinders. And if you have if you’re not allowing or engaging someone because it is an inclusive worry for you, you’re never going to have a great team. So using technology to understand how to get to these conversations quicker. And like outside with empathy and curiosity. These tools are here to get you there. More knowledgeably than in the past even more powerful than just an employee survey. It’s you know, if you go to coaching you get, you get to see what a group of people were being coached really care about. And that just makes you smarter. So I like Al’s idea of people smart. These tools are helping people smart for sure.

Al Dea 04:58
I would just add to that. And what I think about a lot of times is, if we just go back to our basics of what Edgar Schein taught us about organizations, we remember that organizations are just a bunch of people working toward shared goals. And so when I think about inclusive leadership, I think about it through the lens of this idea of curiosity and inquiry to finding out how can we work together to achieve those shared goals. And a willingness, I would say, whether you’re using technology, or whether you’re using humans to go and find those ideas and to find, the things that bring are the people have the skills, they have the knowledge, they have the ideas, they have to generate some kind of, toward some goal or outcome. And so I think that inclusive piece of it is just that hunger to search and to look for what is out there, as well as the ability to enable other people to come to the table to bring that into create conditions so that they bring that and that’s all people, for sure.

Larry McAlister 05:59
So Jen, at your Unleash event? What kind of questions were on some people’s minds that were in the audience?

Jennifer Dole 06:07
So HR felt like they were the owners of being empathetic towards people? And I said, No, you need to share that. And, and then they did, there was another group that talked about using technology to help them figure out who’s going to be in the office and who’s not going to be in the office and this whole return to the office. And they said, we’re using this technology to figure out how we can be more empathetic towards people and what they need. And I was just like, you’re in the right place. So you know, it was just it was mixed between, you know, those two views. But based on like, what Al was saying around curious, I love that word curious. And I’d like to replace critical with curious, right, so I think manager sometimes can be critical of, you know, are you working all day long? If you’re at home? Or why do you need that time off? Or why do you think that, but if they were less critical and more curious, would they be more inclusive.

Al Dea 07:23
So I’m actually trying to some of the conversations I’ve had with Larry previously about some of the work that he did at NetApp. And this idea of the enabling the whole self and enabling the whole human. And I think about Jennifer, that example, you just gave in terms of leaders thinking about a policy for return or going to go into the office and what that means, and maybe trying to use Larry’s model. And in thinking about the whole human in terms of the leader, the leader may have their own ideas and views about why that they should be they should have a certain policy or the benefits that they think they have. But using their curiosity to understand the whole human of well, what does that look like for my people? And really leaning in and trying to understand what are what is going on? And what could be going on, that would perhaps make this policy a great policy, or perhaps maybe not make it so great. And again, using that curiosity to figure that out. And again, there is a technology component to that, because you can certainly listen and you can certainly Paulson, you can certainly ask for people. But in addition to that, you can also certainly just be curious yourself and go down the hall and talk to them or catch them on Zoom to do it. But I’m thinking about that within some of the conversations I’ve had with Larry about just that framework that they use that net up to really better understand their employees as well as what they could enable for their employees to be successful, regardless of what policy or process they were thinking about.

Larry McAlister 08:46
Now, that’s a good point that this whole idea, we know it now I’ve said this a lot recently, like 30 years ago, you’d have you had to have big muscles to do your job because there was much more physical labor. Now it’s all about your brain, your heart and your soul. And if as a manager as an organization, you’re not given agency or license to talk to your employees about that stuff. You’re missing more than half the picture. You know it’s not like when I first came up you would never talk about your personal life or what you’re going through at work right? You didn’t never would. But now as mental fitness becomes more in society, you know, we’ve seen a lot of athletes come out and say how important well being is for them and drives elite athleticism, same thing at work, you know, it’s a muscle that we have to build and you know, we would do these quarterly conversations where at first it was about career and future and not just day to day work. It was about thinking about you and your boss talking about the future. But as time has gone on, we started building questions around the well being how are you doing? Are you feeling burned out? What can we do to you know, I help you stay healthy and accelerate and bring you a coach. So if you’re not playing both sides of the equation, work and mental being mental fitness, you’re missing out? out. And more tools are helping us understand that.

Jennifer Dole 10:04
So let’s dive into the like business outcomes of inclusive leadership. Because I hear so often that this is sort of like the soft stuff. But I’m going to argue that the soft stuff is the hard stuff, and that you can actually, you know, put business outcome influence a business outcome with this. So curious around, you know, how do you go have that conversation with the CFO?

Larry McAlister 10:33
Well, for me, I was just at the better up, uplift conference, right where they talk about, you know, Alexei, who’s the CEO kicks off with here are actual results. So he focused mostly on sales. So he in Salesforce, they teamed up. And you could see sales, folks who had coaching versus those who didn’t have double the sales velocity, size of deal, they were healthier, they miss less days, and there’s a stark difference. And the proof is now true. I think people used to call it soft, because you couldn’t prove it. You know, what’s the ROI in having a healthy employee? But now with the data that coachings straight up coaching makes your Salesforce better across all industries? It’s flat out incontrovertible? And I think that more and more of that has to happen to convince the CFO who I think is starting to get a little more and more. Now, I’d love to hear your sort of thoughts on that.

Al Dea 11:33
Well, no, I mean, I think, you know, Larry, having probably I assume at some point, his career has had to have these conversations before around this. And so I, I think the quantifiable approach that you mentioned, I think is the right one to start. But let’s I think the if we’re being honest with ourselves here, we’ve all seen the statistics, they’ve all been there, right? That this is not new, they’ve studied them for they’ve studied this for years. Right. And so I think the question becomes, if the statistics are there, what is present that is perhaps not enabling us to come around to those or to action upon those because they’re like the better apps got some great stats, McKinsey’s looked at this before, There’s long been decades that has shown that diverse teams outperform those that are not as diverse. And so I think that a curious question I’m kind of thinking about is, what conditions do we need to enable within companies that they begin to come around to this? Because I think the data certainly is there. And I think one other like aspect of this, that sometimes I think about is this idea around. So we talked about some metrics around things like engagement, productivity and retention. But sometimes what we fail to do is also to even ask her house ourselves, how are we defining what those are? Right? And let’s take productivity as an example. Right? What does that even mean? Right, like, what does that mean, within our organization, or even retention for that matter? Larry, I think you and I have talked about this before, but the way that we may be viewed retention 30 or 40 years ago, versus what we might view it today, just given the context of the changing nature of the environment might be slightly different. And so while I do think that on one hand, some of the data that we’ve been looking for in terms of the business case has always been there, I think the other curious question I have is that in today’s world of work, are some of those same metrics still relevant? And that doesn’t necessarily mean that we shouldn’t be inclusive? I think it does. But I think it points to a broader question that even if you’re someone who says that you’re data driven, are you are also asking yourself, are we like not only measuring the right things, but we do we actually have we actually define them in a way that is fit for today’s world of work.

Jennifer Dole 13:37
Such great points,

Larry McAlister 13:38
So one other thing I want to bring up when I thought about how DIMB or DEI is treated at some companies, it’s more like, let’s get people to think about it. Come on, it’s the right thing. You know, we have we have facts and figures around it. But what are companies doing to enable managers to do something about it? So one thing I saw when I was at unleashes is company called Clovis AI. And they’re doing interviewing for diversity. And so they do similar stuff that you’ve seen before, where they’ll look at the job description and say, you know, this is not this looks very, you’re about to hire a man, right? Like that. But what I really liked is they’ll analyze the interview. So they’ll, you know, as you’re interviewing a candidate, they’ll analyze that interview and then give pointers to the hiring manager, a better language, how to have a better experience with the with the candidate, and how to think as you’re talking and analyzing what you’re getting back from a candidate to do it in a much more equal lateral way. So anything that is teaching people how to do stuff is way more powerful than just saying it’s the right thing to do, even though it is the right thing to do.

Jennifer Dole 14:49
So this is my favorite subject. It’s the intersection of technology and diversity, equity and inclusion and protect Be like promoting women in the workplace, we’ve seen a lot of challenges that women have gone through the pandemic, and that many of them are quitting the workforce or not being promoted because they’ve got all these other responsibilities. And, you know, I’m committed to raising more awareness around how technology can help this. And it AI is doing some amazing things right now.

Larry McAlister 15:30
Yeah, two things I would say. I think I told you this last time generally posted on one of your LinkedIn posts that when we when I first brought better up into a company that CO had 30, female directors whose engagement scores were dropping time over time. So we asked them, what would you want, they said, a coach or a mentor. And I firmly believe it’s very difficult to have managers learn how to be real coaches, it’s a, it’s a commitment to do it, and you have to build that skill. So we brought in better up. And those 30, which is individual growth, whole person growth, like I was mentioning before, you know, it’s perfect. If you’re having if something outside your job, like maybe kids or something are affecting what you’re doing at work, so I’d have a coach to the whole thing. So after a year, all 30 of those direct women were still engaged still at work, and asked to sign up for another year. So that’s technology of AI matching you to the coach that fits you best, right? So AI to match the right coach, and then the right coach to have the personal interaction. And that was what made me take better up to me to this day was that specific instance.

Al Dea 16:37
So as Larry was talking, the other thing I think about sometimes is FNA or organizational network analysis, and using that technology to find the spots in your organization, or define the people who can be the mavens are the nodes are the connectors, if you will. And it’s really interesting, because I’ve seen, I’ve talked to see some, both cert consultancies that do this, as well as software providers that do this. And a lot of times they will, before they do a project with a company, they’ll say, Okay, tell me who you think the nodes in your company are? And they’ll they’ll list off like a list of people. And then they’ll say, Okay, well, we’re gonna go and try to find out and what there’s always a really, really interesting conversation and discussion of the people who, based off of what we believe are critical levers of leadership or connection, or maybe, or who are the mavens, versus what we go and find in reality, and I always think that’s such a fascinating dichotomy, and particularly through the lens of inclusion, right, because there can be some people who are incredibly impactful in your organization. But if your mindset and belief about quote, unquote, what leadership looks like, is a certain way that is going to screen for a certain type of individual, and that might not always be realistic or in reality, or expansive enough to account for the many other types of leadership that might exist within your organization. And so I think that’s, that’s certainly one thing. And then the other thing, Jennifer, that comes up, particularly when we’re talking about women, is this idea of in concept of social capital, and the ways in which we can think more expansively, and be more inclusive about fostering that social capital, or in some ways, giving away that social capital to people, particularly those who potentially are overlooked or underserved. And I wonder the role that technology maybe could play in doing some of that?

Jennifer Dole 18:24
Yeah, I’ve spent some time talking with the CEO of performance, which is organizational network analysis. And, you know, he likes to say, like, work doesn’t get done through an org chart anymore. The hierarchy, it’s, that’s just not the way work, it works. But it’s all these relationships that you have within an organization. And he’s actually got data that shows how, you know, people that influence the influencers in the organization have such an impact on their network, right, good or bad, it’s there. And that they found that leaders weren’t the ones that were the most influential. So it’s really interesting. And then I wrote a case study on using it for restructuring, right? Restructuring is made through Excel spreadsheets, and they just, you know, I mean, I’m very much generalizing right now. But restructuring is done. So archaic Lee, and there’s new technology that can let you do it, so that you’ve got the right organization in place afterwards.

Larry McAlister 19:40
So I have a side to organizational legs. There’s this company I work with called Presidio and they are able to say, Oh, you looked at him two gentlemen. So they’re able to say we can say who are high risk turnover people because of what’s going on in their in their life. So this person is in meetings 80% The other day, and that that is a higher risk of people leaving, or they had one analysis in a company where five or six people took a training course on how to become a manager, they didn’t get promoted, and they all left. Or they say, you know, most of your meetings are with these seven people, for them left. So now you’re a higher risk. So not only to give you your higher, your higher, you could just say, Who am I highest risk people that turn over? And why gives you the list automatically. And then back to taking action? how technology helps you take action, then you say, Well, what can I do to help these people and it gives you a list of how to work. So if you’re seeing higher turnover in underrepresented groups, this has given you the data of why that might be and that before we didn’t know, right, we were just like, oh, this keeps happening. Let’s start another training program. This is saying that’s because these guys are not connected to the people who are making change, or whatever it is. So you know, are brought up all day, but I think it’s really getting more and more precise. So more of this for sure. I think gala Jim?

Jennifer Dole 21:00
Yeah. I mean, the technology is getting you to that personal conversation. But let’s think about like the experience of the leaders right now. They’ve got so much thrown at them. How do they? How do we help them?

Al Dea 21:21
Oh, we’re where do we? Where do we start?

Jennifer Dole 21:25
We don’t have enough time today.

Al Dea 21:28
Yeah. Well, I mean, I think a couple things. So I think if you’re assuming that you’re a leader, who cares? I think the first place to start is what they tell you, when you when you get onto an airplane, right with this with the safety instruction videos, right? You need to take care of yourself first before you assist someone else. Right. And I think that that is the right the right place to start. And so and I mean that in two ways. One is in terms of just given all that the demands and what’s going on of taking care of yourself. But the other thing terms of checking yourself about yourself with respect to inclusion with inclusion, right, what ways and what behaviors? are you demonstrating where you’re showing up as inclusive? You know, what are some things that maybe perhaps you are not doing, that you could be doing to demonstrate more inclusion? And what are percent of potential spots that you are you might be biased against, that you can’t see that you might need some more help with? Before you can start trying to make space for other people, I think it’s first best first to really start with yourself. So I think I think that’s the first thing I would say. And then the second thing that I would, I would say, and this goes for anything that a leader does. If you ever want anyone to do a specific thing, or model a specific behavior, unless you’re actually going to do it yourself, the odds that you’re going to achieve some sort of outcome that’s significantly different than what’s designed today, or I think they’re just a lot less possible. And so, once you have figured it out for yourself, then it becomes Okay. Well, how do I start modeling this in my each and every day? And so those would be the two places that I would start.

Larry McAlister 23:01
Yeah, the taking care of yourself first is 1,000%. True, you cannot drive energy, if you don’t have your own. I mean, that’s flat out. The second thing that I say I’ve spent a huge part of my career, saying the employee manager relationship is the most important relationship in the company. And what organizations do to money, that relationship is incredible. So much extra stuff, fill out forms, take mandatory trainings, write long development plans, do all of this stuff to scaffold them, as opposed to what I tried to do? Rip all that out and say, let me give you three easy ways for you guys to work together. Right, making it easier, you keep dropping stuff on a manager is just, it’s just takes them backwards right? To they have to climb through all this minutia to get to the relationship, which is the only thing that matters. So I think organizations are incumbent on organizations to say what can we do to make this easier? and hand them tools that make them understand how to take action to be a better leader, or a better inclusive leader? What are easy ways to happen? I trusted relationship more than I trusted training. And it’s our idea to enable them to do that.

Al Dea 24:11
Yeah, and I think to Larry’s point, I really do fundamentally believe this when I say this, but nobody goes to work wanting to do a bad job, right? Like no one goes in every day and thinking like you know what, I really hope I do a crappy job today, right? But there are so many things that get in the way of people just being able to do a job they’re assigned to do and to do it well. And the more that we can to Larry’s point to remove those friction points. So we can just let people do their jobs and to do them well, to gain that sense of autonomy, autonomy, mastery and purpose that we know will make them feel engaged and feel excited about the work they do. The more that we can do that sometimes with technology, although one could argue that sometimes technology is the friction point. But when we can think about how do we make things simple, how do we make things easy? How do we use technology to do that? I think that’s another really good place to start because One thing that we all have in common about going to work every day is that none of us want to show up and do a bad job. Right?

Jennifer Dole 25:06
Sounds like the manager experience is the next frontier. Right? We spend a lot of time with the employee experience, but I think the manager experiences where we need to spend some time.

Larry McAlister 25:20
How do you say less is more? I’d rather have fewer things that are powerful, then keep adding more and more stuff on them? For sure.

Al Dea 25:27
Yeah, Jen I think you’re spot on with that comment. And, Larry, I agree with you that relationship that an individual employee has with their manager, I mean, that is how an employee feels connection to the work to the company, to their peers, and the more that we can maybe laser in and really rethink about rethink what it means to be a manager in today’s world of work, I think there’s a lot of opportunity there to really not only improve it, but if you can improve that I think that can be such a force more of a multiplier, or any other outcomes that you’re trying to drive in your business.

Jennifer Dole 25:59
I think that’s where we leave it today. So thank you both so much for being here. This has been a wonderful conversation. I just enjoy spending time with both of you. And I always learned something. And I always feel a little bit smarter. Just talking to all of you so. So thank you. This has been 3Sixty Insights, #HRTechChat, and we’ve certainly covered a lot today. So thank you for being here. Thank you for listening, and we’ll talk soon.

Larry McAlister 26:29
Thanks Jen. Thanks Al.

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