Driving Transformation through Inclusive Teams

In their new column, Andrés Tapia and Michel Buffet explore the five disciplines of inclusive teams and why they are key in driving enterprise transformation

Today, companies need to be agile, innovative, and adaptable to survive and thrive. But how does that happen? The answer is through teams.

Teams are the smallest unit of culture within organizations—the space where diversity and inclusion come to life. It is an area where people can feel central, as it can be easy to get lost in the detailed structures of an organization. Teams, therefore, are where employees have the greatest chance to feel they belong, can bring their full selves, and do their best work.

But not all teams are created equal. Some teams are more diverse and inclusive than others, and studies show they perform better as a result. They are more innovative, productive, and effective than their counterparts. This has a compounding effect: Korn Ferry's research shows that diverse and inclusive organizations are 87% more likely to make better decisions, leading to greater outcomes.

So, what makes these teams achieve success?

The 5 Disciplines of Inclusive Teams

In our forthcoming book, The 5 Disciplines of Inclusive Teams, we explore the mindsets and habits (what we call “disciplines”) that shape inclusive teams and guide their impact. Based on interdisciplinary research and experience, we have found the following five disciplines that these teams practice consistently and skillfully:

Inclusive Teams Model illustrating the text below

  1. CONNECTING with who people are:
    Teams cannot achieve their best results if their members only work as individuals. Inclusive teams bond with each other through interest, confidence, and common goals. They explore and value the variety of abilities, qualifications, and backgrounds that each member contributes to the team, as well as their personal story, identity, and aspirations.
  2. CARING to nurture psychological safety:
    Inclusive teams value people’s identities, not just their actions. They show emotional interest and compassion for their teammates, and they make a psychologically safe environment where everyone can share their thoughts, feelings, and emotions without worry of criticism, exclusion, or backlash. They cultivate a feeling of connection and wellness for all members—which requires a certain level of emotional self-awareness. A Korn Ferry study found that 92% of leaders who were strong in emotional self-awareness had teams with high energy and high performance.
  3. SYNCHRONIZING to optimize collective intelligence:
    Inclusive teams align their behaviors and mindsets toward a shared goal. They interact and collaborate more effectively, using the collective wisdom of the group. And, according to one Korn Ferry report, teams with high levels of synchrony can reach a state of fluency, balance, and alignment that improves the results and quality of performance. This kind of nonphysical aspect is estimated by baseball statisticians to account for up to 40% of inexplicable variance in team performance.
  4. CULTURAL DEXTERITY to integrate perspectives:
    Diverse teams use their variety as an asset and a driver of innovation. They can recognize and appreciate their own and others’ ways of seeing the world, address problems, make choices, and overcome disputes in ways that make the most of cultural differences for better, more sustainable, and more inventive solutions.
  5. POWERSHARING to achieve equitable contributions:
    Inclusive teams recognize power in all members, no matter what their official roles or positions are. They make sure that everyone can express their opinions and influence the team’s work and results. They allow and enable power to flow from member to member based on the right skills and information of each member, and they build a culture of joint responsibility and assistance.

Developing the 5 Disciplines of Inclusive Teams

The five disciplines of inclusive teams are not innate or automatic. They need intentional and ongoing effort, practice, and feedback. They also need the support and guidance of inclusive leaders who can practice, enable, and reinforce these disciplines in their teams.

Inclusive leaders have the mindsets, skills, and behaviors to model and foster diversity, equity, and inclusion (DEI) in themselves, their teams, and their organizations. Leaders like the 94% of LGBTQ+ executives surveyed by Korn Ferry who say visibility is a non-negotiable responsibility to themselves and others. Having inclusive leaders who champion DEI values is key to building a culture that supports inclusive teams—teams where people feel valued, respected, and involved.

Korn Ferry has developed a comprehensive and proven framework to help leaders and their teams develop the five disciplines of inclusive teams. By using this framework, teams can show strengths and gaps, apply best practices, measure their progress, and sustain their impact. Similarly, leaders can develop the five disciplines of inclusive leaders to help foster more diverse and inclusive teams that optimize innovation and performance. Likewise, leaders at the enterprise level can shape an inclusive organization where all aspects of the enterprise are enabled by the diversity and inclusion within it.

Teams are the cultural units where today's organizations get the real work done. They are also the key to unlocking the full potential of diversity and inclusion for innovation, growth, and transformation. But teams need to follow these five disciplines to achieve this. And they need to be led by inclusive leaders who can enable and empower them.

Want to learn how Korn Ferry can help you and your teams to become more inclusive and drive transformational change? Check out our Diversity, Equity & Inclusion and Inclusive Innovation capabilities.