In this article, Centric Cleveland Business Unit Lead Joe Smucny shares some key practices for businesses to employ as they strive to innovate and incorporate an inclusive culture.

The last few weeks marked a momentous occasion for the United States: Pope Francis visited us in person for the very first time. His visit and initial comments on his first day in the U.S. inspired me to write this article.

Whether or not you agree with all of his comments and positions, there is one underlying theme that struck me as universal: we must care for and include all of humankind. It should not matter which side of the aisle you sit on, or whether you are of a particular religion, or part of no religion at all. This message is very important to me, and I’m proud that my company, Centric Consulting, believes this also. It’s a company Key Thrust – We Must Incorporate Diverse and Inclusive Practices In All That We Do.

I believe that Pope Francis is one of the greatest and most notable leaders in our world. His visit here has inspired many to travel long distances to see him and hear him speak in person. His message asking us to remember, include, and care for all of humankind, to be good stewards of our global village, is something I would encourage you to build into strategies and tactics of everyday business.

Defining – and Encouraging – Diversity

It’s likely there are hundreds of ways to view and measure diversity. As leaders in our respective business communities, it takes courage and some extra work to incorporate diverse and inclusive practices. While it might require some extra effort, the payoff is great, as it can lead to better ideas, better collaboration and better solutions.

Here are some tactics I’m personally going to strive to improve upon. = I encourage you to think about these as well:

  • Cast a wide recruiting net. Recruit from a wide variety of colleges and universities, not just the ones that are most familiar. Consider candidates with new and different skillsets other than your own. Present growth opportunities to all members of your team.
  • Interview with an open mind. When interviewing candidates, go in with an open mind, be prepared with appropriate questions, and look for that unexpected diamond in the rough.
  • Attend events that challenge personal thinking. When networking, push yourself to attend activities and events with people that challenge your thinking – even your way of life.
  • Look beyond differences. When evaluating individual performance, look beyond whatever differences you have and judge performance based on the accomplishments of those individuals.
  • Ensure equal opportunity and respect is given to all members of the team. When facilitating or attending meetings, make an effort to respect an individual, even if you may disagree.
  • Be active throughout your entire city. When hosting team gatherings, consider all the neighborhoods in your community. Explore a little, and I think you will like what you find. I know I do here in Cleveland!

All of these points can be difficult to do sometimes. But again, as leaders in our business communities, we need to have the courage to do so and thus earn our respect as leaders every day. As we know, incorporating diversity does not mean sacrificing quality for our clients and customers. Conversely, being more diverse and inclusive in our thoughts and actions can lead to opportunities, ideas and innovation we might not have had otherwise.

I am personally committing to do all that I am writing here. I know it’s not easy and I know that I’m going to make mistakes. But I need to try harder, and I’m not going to give up.

I encourage all of you to reach out to all individuals in your community, fearlessly and take some chances. Strive to innovate in the ways in which you build your teams and conduct business.