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For each individual to bring their best self forward, a sense of belonging must first be established. Diversity and inclusion are often treated as a single initiative owned exclusively by HR.

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But for real change to happen, every individual leader needs to buy into the value of belonging — both intellectually and emotionally. Part of this process requires tuning in to empathy; each person remembering a time when they were excluded, shamed, interrupted, and so on, so they can apply those lessons outwardly, she says.

Top-down approaches drive compliance, not commitment. From senior leaders to frontline employees, every individual must see and understand their role in company culture. This means identifying differences in employee experience and values across the organization so that change can be made relevant for each person and knowing that lasting change must activate different parts of the system — top down, bottom up, and middle out — in different ways.

Too often, leaders focus diversity and inclusion efforts disproportionately on the employee pipeline, but the employee experience continues far beyond an offer letter. Organizations must adapt their processes to scale diverse and inclusive behaviors.


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Who gets to speak and how often? Are you leaving out anyone whose input would be valuable? That also means understanding how your teams work best, and when tension and discord are actually beneficial. And when these habits are put into action in an environment that supports honest conversations and healthy tension, real change becomes possible.

People are wired to react with fear and distrust when their beliefs are challenged. While fear can be a powerful motivator, it also encourages people to narrow their perspective — the opposite desired effect for creating a more inclusive workplace. Finding ways to frame challenges through a lens of possibility — and elevating the power of shared experiences and storytelling to do so — creates greater potential for positive change. One of our clients decided to do a commitment tree; every employee wrote down their personal, individual commitment to diversity and inclusion, and they put those in a very public place so they could see signs of their progress and celebrate those.

The products and services you put into the world reflect your values — and your biases. What is your brand saying about who you are as a culture? In what ways is your employee base not congruent with your customer base? What experiences are being left out or misunderstood? Here are the latest Insider stories.

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Check out the latest Insider stories here. More from the IDG Network. How CIOs can promote diversity and inclusion. Hiring for diversity: 9 ways to retool your process. What holds for diversity and inclusion.

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The Practice of Adaptive Leadership: Tools and Tactics for Changing Your Organization and the World

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As a leader in a matrix organization, learning the art of fearless questioning will help you guide your employees and your company through difficult issues that arise. Nobody likes meetings. While they are necessary in some cases, a better way to communicate in a matrix organization is through technology. Using instant messaging platforms like Slack and others, leadership and teams can communicate and share files in real time, without going through the process of scheduling and executing long meetings. Utilizing technology to communicate will ensure everyone is on the same team, and no information gets lost in silos.

Traditional organizations normally have top-down leadership, where each level of the organization must delegate and approve tasks.

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After all, these are the subject matter experts that are working on the individual projects. Giving them more leeway to proceed how they see fit will help move things along and help drive innovation in your organization. For leaders, developing a broader strategy when it comes to business goals can help insulate a matrix organization from loss of focus — or misplaced focus. Managing a variety of cross-functional teams is easier and more effective when there is a singular, organizational goal.

When you see the big picture, each management decision becomes easier — and ultimately, more effective. Looking for advice on how to thrive as a leader in your organization?

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Contact us today. Your email address will not be published. Home About Dr. Denise P. Federer Process Who Can Benefit? What Is a Matrix Organization? Surviving the Matrix When you are a leader in a matrix organization, there are certain survival skills necessary to successfully navigate this new world.