Smart Leadership


Inclusion: We All Want to be Insiders (Part 4)

Inclusion: We All Want to be Insiders (Part 4)

This is the final article in a four-part series on inclusion. My premise has been inclusion is built on four tiers; acceptance, identity, distinction and the final tier and topic of this article, visibility. If you have not read the first three articles I encourage you to read them, but let me quickly summarize.

Acceptance— is the immediate and continued integration of every person into the team.

Identity— each team member having well-defined roles that are not in conflict with each other.

Distinction— each person recognized for their uniqueness and the valuable contribution that their uniqueness brings to the team.

What I can tell you without hesitation is that your red hot employees have a strong sense of inclusion. People are internally asking these questions; do I have a place here, am I accepted as part of this team, do I have an identity among my peers, and do I have distinction as a contributor of value within the larger organization. If they have an overwhelming yes to these questions they will be full on, red hot, committed to the company and its strategy.

I recently read an article based on an interview with former President Bill Clinton. In the interview, he was asked about the key qualities of a great leader. Here are the four he named; Vision, Explanation, Inclusion, and Execution. What was particularly noted by the interviewer was President Clinton’s “striking” emphasis on the third one, inclusion.

The article stressed how the success or failure of the Presidents endeavors hinged on his ability to create inclusion. This meant that every person had been consulted (given a voice) and their interests considered. The result, these people became allies in helping the President accomplish the desired purpose. This is what it means for people to have visibility.


There is nothing that makes people feel like outsiders like they are standing on the sidelines looking in, more than feeling they are invisible. Even in a collaborative environment, individuals need credit for their part in the process for no other reason than it gives them visibility. As leaders, we cannot afford anyone feeling like they are not on the inside. Having the opportunity to be visible, that final piece of the inclusion puzzle increases both engagement and retention levels.

Some companies like Google have taken this idea to new levels. Google has become known for their weekly Friday meetings where employees are given an opportunity to ask questions, express their ideas, and concerns directly to top executive leadership, in the presence of the entire company. Google recognizes the importance of cross communication and encourages interactions across teams and departments on a day to day basis. They have created a culture where there is the opportunity for every person to have a voice and to be seen beyond the narrow scope of their immediate department and peers.

As leaders, we tend to gravitate toward certain people for various reasons, whether it is a bias or we are just comfortable with certain personality types (usually people just like us). This leaves other people on the outside feeling obscure and insignificant. I have seen this so many times where only select people are given the opportunity to contribute to an idea or a project leaving a whole lot of other collective intelligence off the table.

My own inclusive leadership style starts with the belief that every person has something great inside of them, some untapped potential that they can bring to my team to make it successful. If I restrict myself to certain go-to people then I intentionally or unintentionally, have created exclusion within my culture. My select group will continue to deliver because I have afforded them all four tiers of inclusion therefore reinforcing my selection. But this becomes a self-perpetuating system that pushes others to the sidelines watching and wondering what they are doing wrong.

Jack Welch tells us that 20% of our people will be star players. I would contend that star players arise when the opportunity is afforded them through the four tiers of inclusion, visibility, being the primary differentiator. But why are we limiting this to 20%? I know of companies who tailor their evaluations so as to only show a 20% star list in their employee base (not the original intent of Mr. Welch). As a leader, my primary concern is the untapped potential that exists in the remaining 80% because they are not given the same considerations.

The bigger question is what is that untapped potential costing the company? What ideas are lost, innovation that never makes it to the table and creativity that goes unnoticed? Traditionally, we have put the burden of visibility on the employee, but why? The smarter leader creates opportunities for their people to deliver what resides inside of them. This is the role of leadership to create a culture that fosters the development of potential in everyone who has a vested interest in the future of the organization.

If I create a culture where all four tiers of inclusion are afforded to every person, will they all become red hot employees? Maybe not. But I am more concerned that I will fail to discover someone who will prove to be a star player given the opportunity and I let them get away.

Consider this thought; if a light is kept under a box then it cannot be seen. Nonetheless, the light still exist it just cannot give off its light. As leaders, we have the power to create the box or remove it.

I am sure we all have different ideas of what makes a red hot employee, but I can tell you what they all have in common; a strong sense of inclusion, working from the assurance they are an insider.

All feedback is welcome! Let me know your thoughts. Thank you for reading my post.

Brett M. Hutton is the author of the newly released book Smart Leadership: How Top Leaders Boost Production, Performance, and Profitability by Creating Exceptional and Engaging Cultures. Click on the title to order the book directly from the website for a discount. The book is also available on Amazon and Barnes and Noble in paperback, kindle, and nook. You can visit his website @ for other blogs or to download a free chapter from the book, Development: Your Best Investment.