Your first mistake toward inclusion, and how to avoid it.

The first mistake, the most common mistake, and possibly the most limiting mistake that organizations make in the name of inclusion is failing to clarify their objective. They get all revved up in pursuit of a vague, ambiguous target only to find themselves confused, exhausted, and struggling to show progress a year or two down the road.

Vague, ambiguous targets are really hard to hit. It is even hard to know if you actually hit them.

Don’t be that organization.

Inclusion is not fuzzy or impossible to measure. It only seems that way in your organization because you have allowed it to remain a fuzzy thing. Put a ring on it! Write something down. Your definition will be imperfect and incomplete, and that is a huge improvement over what you are currently working with.

If you say that you are committed to inclusion without clarifying what that means, you may just as well say that you are committed to stuff and things.

Clarity is the first proof of actual commitment.

I facilitate a 1- to 2-day design process to help organizations bring true clarity to what an inclusive employee experience is inside their organization, and to make sure that it is rooted in their unique values and in how they as an organization create value.

To prime that process, there are a few definitions / models that I like to share with people. If you are wanting to bring greater clarity to what inclusion means in your organization, here are a few things that might be helpful toward getting the wheels turning.

Netter Principles

The Netter Principles came out of an event hosted by Cornell in 1998. Rather than capturing the experience of being included, it speaks to the things that inclusive organizations do. While I am not a huge proponent of the best practices approach, I think this is a pretty good set of things to consider.

Uniqueness & Belonging

This is a model that does speak to the experience of being included — defining it as a place or space that meets two powerful human needs: the need to belong and the need to be unique (or authentic). It provides you with a definition of what inclusion is and what it is not, and that in itself is very valuable.


In this solid paper on inclusive leadership, Deloitte has a model that also speaks to uniqueness and belonging, but adds other elements as well.

Brené Brown

And lastly, Brené Brown has some powerful language that I think captures much of the experience of being included. In talking about connection, she defines it as “the energy that exists between people when they feel seen, heard, and valued; when they can give and receive without judgment; and when they derive sustenance and strength from the relationship.”

Anything that helps us put more specific language around the experience of being fully included makes it easier for us to identify what kinds of behaviors, practices, and policies help create that experience. It also makes it much easier to measure progress.

When you have a clear, concise definition of what inclusion means for your organization, asking employees if their experience matches said definition becomes a really valuable metric.

Be good to each other.


  1. Inclusion. Reducing the consequences of identity

    […] have written here frequently and recently about the importance of getting crystal clear on what inclusion means in your organization. One of […]

contact       brand management by venn market strategies