Team Play for Mindful Inclusivity

Games are an easy way to integrate DEI into your team

“But who actually feels that way?”

“We need more data…”

These common refrains arise in many facilitations I lead for leaders who are faced with uncomfortable data regarding their diversity, equity, inclusion, and belonging practices. These are often leaders who rose to their position by applying a “think” mentality to their work, solving problems, creating efficiencies, being what we consider “productive.” But the usual definition of “productive” is centered around maximizing output and minimizing time and money spent, leaving little room for more human-centered values.

This first response to data on diversity and inclusivity is an often defensive one, borne out of feelings of vulnerability that we aren’t doing enough or are being attacked for what we may have done. Ironically, tapping into this feeling, and using it to both motivate and inspire teams towards greater inclusion, is key.

Much of inclusive communication comes down to practice, to understanding how we react when we respond to our feelings first and how to move past that initial reaction to a more inclusive response.

This is hard to do, especially in moments of frustration, fear, anger, or just plain urgency when what you know has worked before will work again. What can we do to give ourselves the opportunity to practice this skill? To develop the capacity to recognize what is coming up for us, how our teammates communicate, and how we can respond in a more productive way?

One compelling way is through games.

Team games often help us replicate cruise control modes – competitiveness, goal setting, strategic outcomes, etc. while lowering the stakes of decision-making in a constructed space. By using play, we can effectively observe our (and others’) actions, reactions, and styles in real-time, and use the opportunity for feedback in a low-stakes environment. Play also gives us a chance to practice the skills that help us become more inclusive communicators.

Continuous practice in observing our behavior in the moment and making intentional decisions to stray from our cruise control mode will help us outside of gameplay in recognizing the triggers or physical sensations that signal you need a moment to process what is happening before responding. By creating the recognition, and ultimately trust, among team members, we can build more inclusive teams that take into account a broader range of ideas often allowing us to be more proactive and creative with significant financial and wellbeing outcomes.