Inclusive Coaching — What It Is and Why It Matters

Ritu Bhasin teaching inclusive coaching

Image © Duy Ta, 2020

One of the diversity, equity and inclusion (DEI) areas that is top of mind in the work that we do here at bci is the critical importance of teaching leaders how to be inclusive in their coaching efforts — especially when coaching team members from equity-seeking communities.

We know from extensive research that professionals from equity-seeking groups are most vulnerable to receiving messages that they need to conform to a white, cisgender, hetero, male normative of leadership behavior. As you may know from my book — and my commitment to (or obsession with?!) teaching authentic leadership — regardless of how well-intentioned, messages of conformity harm our DEI efforts.

Picture the following scenario: there’s a highly skilled woman of color with excellent technical skills on your team, but she repeatedly gets feedback from leaders that she needs to be more vocal, be more animated, self-promote more directly and be more assertive in order to get ahead. Essentially, she constantly receives messages — both directly and indirectly — that she needs to change her preferred ways of behaving to conform to the dominant cultural way of behaving within your organization, in order to advance her career.

Not surprisingly, I’ve heard variations of this scenario at almost every organization bci has worked with. But what I also hear in tandem is, “We are trying desperately to advance women, People of Color and professionals from other equity-seeking communities, but we have retention issues with these groups. What can we do to address our challenges?”

Based on my work, there are a few key must dos for addressing retention issues. This includes teaching and encouraging your leaders to provide inclusive sponsorship and advocacy support to professionals from equity-seeking communities and doing so in a way that encourages authenticity and leverages cultural differences — instead of pushing conformity — while promoting career advancement.

In short, leaders must be competent at inclusive coaching — which is now more important than ever as we begin the return to in-person working. (If you’re interested in learning about how inclusive leadership and inclusive coaching can make a difference in your workplace, here’s a short video where I talked about how leaders can inclusively coach diverse professionals for success.)

It’s so important that we continue to build our inclusive coaching proficiency and cultivate an environment that is built for success. Doing so not only helps our workplaces be more inclusive and dynamic, but also provides a unique opportunity to allow inclusion and success, authenticity and advocacy and more.

And of course, if you’re interested in learning more about bci’s inclusive coaching programming, please feel free to reach out to us.


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