Why inclusive leadership matters
Interview with Mary Burke, VP Customer Success, DocuSign EMEA.
VP of DocuSign’s EMEA Customer Success, Mary Burke has strong views on the need to maintain a diverse team. Today Mary shares her insights into fostering a culture of inclusiveness within her team.
Why is diversity and inclusion important in the Customer Success department that you oversee?
I believe that high-performing teams benefit from a balance of perspectives, coming from different backgrounds, cultures and personalities. It’s especially valuable to have balance and appreciation of other points of view when you’re a primary interaction point for a diverse range of customers. The energy you give off as a team matters to customers. They need to have confidence in your professionalism, efficiency and ability to be a trusted advisor to their business, and that only happens when the team is interacting well with each other and the customer.
It’s one thing to wish to build diversity, another to achieve it. What’s your approach?
I look at the overall skills and culture balance of my team and hire to close the gaps. I find myself constantly reviewing the composition of my team. I try to be open-minded when I encounter someone with interesting skills or experiences that I hadn’t considered before. I ask myself what value they could bring to the team and in some cases, even reconfigure the team to create the ideal position for maximising those traits.
People are talking more and more about inclusion. Why is it so important?
Like every organisation, DocuSign’s customer success team has to fulfil a critical set of business requirements, and it’s all too easy to centre conversations around those goals. However, it’s equally important to understand each individual’s personal goals for their career. When you invest time in that, you foster a sense of belonging and inclusion.
I also prioritise regular one-to-one conversation with members of my team and inevitably draw out sensitivities, even biases, we may not be aware of. Spending that extra time lets you address those and make adjustments to people’s environment. It’s about staying aware and removing the obstacles to people’s success (including exclusive team dynamics) and showing people they matter – to the team and to DocuSign.
I schedule regular team meetings as well, because these allow you, as a manager, to observe how people interact in groups. You get glimpses of unconscious behaviours, in around-the-table settings, which might hold people back. A common scenario is more introverted personalities struggling to have a voice in a group conversation. It’s my experience that introverts are often equally passionate about their ideas as more vocal personalities, and it’s important to create opportunities to draw their contributions out through encouraging inclusive meetings.
What about encouraging inclusion outside of the boundaries of the job?
We spend a large proportion of our lives with our colleagues, which makes it all the more important to maintain a good dynamic socially. At DocuSign, we support a broad range of activities that bring people together and fuel people’s passions. We encourage people to let us know what they feel strongly about and to form Employee Resource Groups for those causes.
Thank you for your time. To wrap this interview up, could you share your top 5 tips on how to create an inclusive work environment?
- The first step is to be deliberate about building a diverse team. Challenge yourself to step away from the urge to carbon copy your top performer when hiring.
- Then, your job is to maximise what people bring to the table. And, the way to do that is to listen and be approachable. As a leader you want people to feel they can bring things to you openly.
- Build trust. Inclusive leaders not only engender trust, they also trust their people.
- Ask questions. Questions are what prevent us from making assumptions. When we understand people well, it’s much easier to create an inclusive environment for everyone.
- And, don’t be a lone leader, a good leader consults with others and leans on valuable resources – even when we believe things are going well.
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