Inclusify: The Power of Uniqueness and Belonging To Build Innovative Teams

Dr. Stefanie K. Johnson

As a leader, which do you value more in your teams: belonging or uniqueness? This week on ProjectHR, Dr. Stefanie K. Johnson, author of Inclusify: The Power of Uniqueness and Belonging to Build Innovative Teams tells us why BOTH are important! In this episode of ProjectHR, we'll talk about:

  • What it means to "inclusify" and the benefits of doing so;
  • The eight leader behaviors that support belonging and uniqueness;
  • Tips for conducting inclusifying meetings; and
  • Common pitfalls that leaders may experience!

Dr. Stefanie K. Johnson

Business Academic

“The key is making people feel like they belong, but as their true self.”

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Why Are We Like This?

  • Human nature - we all want to feel like we belong and are part of the group, but at the same time, it’s part of the human spirit to be your unique self.
  • “The key is making people feel like they belong, but as their true self.”


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How Leadership is Missing the Mark

  • With Dr. Johnson’s research, leaders who thought they were doing a good job, but whose team members didn’t agree, were usually missing out on either emphasizing “uniqueness” or “belonging”.
  • Leadership IS trying to create inclusive and diverse teams, and have good intentions, but because of missing out on one of those two elements, they can’t reach their goal.

A Sample of Leadership Archetypes

  • Culture Crusaders: Leaders who believe that everyone has to fit in, fit the company mold. They tend to hire on culture fit, and ultimately don’t value “uniqueness”.
  • White Knights: Leaders who are really trying to heroically celebrate uniqueness and promote different perspectives, but in doing so, inadvertently hurt the “belonging” because they alienate men.
  • Dr. Johnson has created an archetype assessment on her website that gives leaders feedback on which one they might be most at risk for and gives them suggestions of steps they can take to improve! 

What Does It Mean To Inclusify?

  • Inclusifying: A leadership style that involves living and leading in a way that recognizes the uniqueness and belonging of their employees. 
  • These are things that matter to people and actually add value to the organization.

Benefits of Inclusifying

  • Increases innovation, employee engagement, retention, overall causes employees to view leadership more positively.

The Inclusify Process

  • There are two essential human needs: Uniqueness and Belonging.
  • For each of those essential human needs, there are four different leader behaviors that they can engage in to increase uniqueness or belonging:
    • To support Uniqueness: 
      • Support: Demonstrate vocal and visible support for diversity & inclusion,
      • Empathy: Demonstrate empathy                                                      
      • Learning: Having a learning orientation                                                
      • Fair: Being fair and making sure policies & procedures treat all fairly
  • To support Belonging: 
    • Transparent: Letting employees know how decisions are made   
    • Empowered: Allowing people to do work in their own way       
    • Aligning: Making sure your inclusive behaviors aren’t excluding anyone
    • Motivating: Motivate diversity & inclusion by celebrating differences

Tips for Conducting “Inclusify”ing Meetings

  • Provide all attendees with an agenda in advance.
  • Find ways to make sure everyone contributes: either taking turns or calling on people (with notice). 
  • Encouraging your team to engage in “amplification”, where everyone works to attribute ideas to the people that came up with them. 

Common Pitfalls

  • Diversity and inclusion doesn’t happen overnight, so don’t get discouraged that it does take work and time.
  • Alienating/upsetting men, who can feel left out - inclusion includes everyone.
  • Don’t expect to avoid all errors, just because you’re utilizing “The Wisdom of the Crowd”! Even when making decisions with a non-homogenous group, errors can still happen, but since all of your errors are uncorrelated, your end result is that you’re more likely to come to the correct decision. 

Speaking Engagements & Workshops

  • Topics: Unconscious Bias, Diversity, Corporate Boards, Women in STEM and, of course, Inclusify!

Dr. Stefanie Johnson: Backstory


  • Dr. Stefanie K. Johnson: 
  • Visit Dr. Johnson’s website to inquire about workshops or to preorder “Inclusify”!

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