Actively Listen, Practice Empathy, And Show Up
As machines become increasingly accurate and intelligent, we humans will need to sharpen our cognitive skills. One of your primary responsibilities as a Learning and Development leader is to ensure that you empower the workforce to develop the four sets of skills critical to thriving in 2030. I have compiled a series of articles titled “eLearning Skills 2030” to explore the essential skills to help you future-proof your career and lead your team. This article explores how to advance DE&I, why it is critical, and what actionable steps you can take today to improve.
What Is DEI&B Allyship?
Diversity, equity, inclusion, and belonging (DEI&B) are the four values that work together to strengthen team dynamics, productivity, and innovation. As discussed in my article “Three Tactics To Align Your DEI&B And Employee Experience Strategies,” DEI&B is paramount to every organizational strategy and sustainable, long-term, strong performance results in your organization. Allyship refers to the actions you take to show up and advance DEI&B, including mentoring, highlighting a colleague’s accomplishments, being mindful and respectful of team members’ and customers’ cultural differences and needs, and helping others advance their careers. According to “The State of Allyship Report,”  an ally is someone who learns, practices empathy, and takes action on someone else’s behalf. The same report survey results show that 92% of respondents said allies have been valuable to their career because these allies helped increase their sense of trust, inclusion, and belonging in their organization.
Why Is Allyship Important?
Put simply, allyship is good for both the individual employee at the individual level and the organization at the aggregate level. When you as a leader also commit as an ally to actively listen, outsmart your biases, and practice empathy, you empower others in the organization and entrench DEI&B values in your organization by breaking the continuation of inequity and ultimately driving performance results. Research  shows that allyship is a crucial driver of performance outcomes, including employee satisfaction, innovation, productivity, profitability, and customer satisfaction.
How Can You Become A Better Ally?
Given the importance of allyship, it is imperative that, as a leader, you become an even better ally. Research for the “The State of Allyship Report”  also revealed that survey respondents described good allies as honest, trustworthy, good listeners, empathetic, helpful, and supportive. To become a better ally, you must sharpen several skills, including building trust, outsmarting your biases, actively listening, practicing empathy, and embracing lifelong learning. Below are three tactics to help you strengthen these skills.
To build trust, you must ensure that your values, ideas, words, and actions always align and are conveyed authentically and honestly. You must honor your commitments and not be afraid to show vulnerability in the face of difficulty. Without trust, it will be challenging to communicate, collaborate, and deliver results together with your team. Building trust increases credibility and reliability in the team, which is vital in providing performance outcomes.
Outsmart Your Cognitive Biases
To disrupt the continuation of inequity and lack of belonging, you must outsmart your biases. The human brain thinks in ways that can prompt decisions and actions that are not based on rational judgments. These distorted ways of thinking are biases and result from our brain taking information-processing shortcuts, being influenced emotionally or morally, and being susceptible to social influence and peer pressure. Understanding cognitive biases is a critical skill for the workforce because it can facilitate better decision-making and help you detect inequity, lack of diversity, and lack of inclusion and belonging in the workplace. Understanding biases ultimately helps us make better decisions by outsmarting the way our brain has been conditioned to think.
By modeling active listening, you foster a listening and learning ecosystem where your employees and team members also do the same, resulting in an organization that listens to each other, learns from each other, and as a result, makes sounder decisions to drive better business outcomes. By practicing these tips discussed above, you can improve and model your active listening skills, which can help inspire your team to do the same. More broadly, you must also focus on creating an environment of psychological safety where people can feel comfortable sharing their ideas, bringing up challenges, and asking tough questions without fear. According to a Harvard Business Review article by Jack Zenger and Joseph Folkman , active listeners create a supportive environment that makes others feel supported and understood, a crucial element of inclusion.
Empathy is about connecting more authentically with one another. In her Harvard Business Review article , Annie McKee observes that practicing empathy is rather difficult and requires knowing oneself and managing oneself as well as being patient and deliberate in your practice. Reach out to people in your organization you have not met before. Set up an online or in-person short meeting, and over a coffee, ask them about their life and then listen to them. Lead by example and ask to shadow a colleague from another team, a customer, or another stakeholder. Encourage your team members to do the same. Try to spend the whole day learning about them by shadowing, observing, and engaging with them. Empathy is foundational to allyship and advancing DEI&B in the workplace.
Embrace Lifelong Learning
The more you learn about others and the impediments they face, understand cultural differences, study history, and triangulate data to distill your own conclusions and understanding, the better ally you will become. In his Harvard Business Review article, John Hagel III argues that organizations must focus on encouraging their employees to embrace the explorer’s mindset, because lifelong learning is not only about transferring existing knowledge but also creating new knowledge and understanding, which, in turn, brings people closer and drives better business performance results.
As a leader, you must practice authentic allyship by cultivating trust and understanding in your organization through listening, empathy, and continuous learning. You have a responsibility to lift and shine the light on underrepresented individuals and groups in your organization by modeling good allyship and advancing DEI&B. Additionally, you must model these skills and behaviors to help empower and grow the next generation of leaders today, in 2030, and beyond.
 The State of Allyship Report: The Key to Workplace Inclusion
 Why Allyship Is Good For Business
 What Great Listeners Actually Do
 If You Can’t Empathize with Your Employees, You’d Better Learn To