Spotlight on: What does inclusion mean to you?

As National Inclusion Week rolls around, organisations around the country – and the world – will host events and webinars, celebrate colleagues, and hold open conversations to better understand new perspectives and lived experiences.

All in the name of building more inclusive cultures, workplaces, and societies.

And this is what we do, right? We speak about it every day: with each other, with our clients, with our coachees, and with our partners.

So, we wanted to take a minute to reflect on what inclusion really means to us, on an individual level.

We’d love to hear your thoughts too. Do any of these comments resonate? Do they open the doors to a conversation you want to have?


‘When I turn the word inclusion on myself I would describe it as a felt sense. It’s a feeling that I’m accepted for who I am – my beliefs, my norms, my circumstances, my quirks, and my foibles! When I feel included, I don’t have to waste time and energy hiding who I am. Instead, I know that the differences I bring to the table will be appreciated and encouraged. When I am included I know I am me, and I am ok... In the words of Oscar Wilde: ‘Be yourself, everyone else is taken’.’

Rob Bravo, Head of Wellbeing and Executive Coach

‘Inclusion is a feeling. It’s sitting round the campfire together – being part of the circle; belonging. Looking around at the different faces through the flickering flames, hearing the stories everyone shares, feeling connected.

Inclusion is an action. It’s noticing that someone’s looking left out and bringing them in. It’s taking active steps to structure a team differently to ‘the norm’. Sometimes it’s the unpopular action.

Inclusion necessarily invites failure. We can never perfectly include everyone in everything every time. But inclusive leadership means trying.’

Rebecca Hourston, Managing Director, Head of Women’s Leadership

‘Inclusion for me means seeing myself in others – feeling their pain and triumphs as my own, and seeing their challenges as my responsibility to fix. For me, it’s an ever-evolving state: the more we connect as humans, the more we can accomplish together.’

Shamela Kylassum, Executive Coach Director

‘Many of us can recall a sense of exclusion – and there are varying degrees of exclusion and the impact it has. Why is this still happening? I often think to myself, why is it so hard to treat people equally, and more importantly, equitably? Inclusion is a basic right and a key aspect of human life. And it should happen in all areas of our lives.

For me, it’s the overarching feeling people get when they feel comfortable and confident in themselves (and who they choose to be) – when they feel welcomed, and valued for their contributions. And that’s why inclusion is an outcome of our collective behaviours – to ensure people feel this way.

Diversity and inclusion are often used interchangeably. I first heard the term ‘diversity is a fact, inclusion is a choice’ from Dan Simpson at Siemens Energy, and it stuck. Because it’s exactly that. It’s a choice we all have in our power to control. And yes, you can have that sense of inclusion and lack diversity – but that’s a separate conversation.’

Laura Lally, Head of Marketing EMEA & APAC

‘It means that everyone is aware and proactively making sure people feel part of something.  It’s the feeling that people can be comfortable to be themselves. The ability to share who we truly are to be understood. It’s recognising not everyone is the same and being curious about our differences to understand how to work together. It’s when someone who feels different finds a way to express themselves and feel accepted.  

It’s like a garden with different flowers growing in it: all sharing the same soil and benefiting from water and sun together, and all pointing towards the sun.’

Jo Lyon, Managing Director and Co-Founder

‘Inclusion means allowing everyone to feel like they belong, just the way they are.’

Lucinda Quigley, Head of Working Parents and Executive Coach

‘Inclusion, to me, is a feeling of belonging to a group. It’s permission to be who I am, and show up how I want to. When I first started out at work, it didn’t occur to me to hide who I was. An LGBT colleague at the time remarked on my openness, and how it helped her to speak more openly about her personal life. I certainly had a way to go before feeling fully comfortable owning my story, but I recognised my responsibility in doing so.’

Scott Rutter, Head of New Business Operations


What does inclusion look like in day-to-day life?

Jo shared some advice for how each of us can become more inclusive:

  • Take the time to get to know people before you judge.
  • Be curious about people’s heritage and history.
  • Reflect on yourself and how you show up.
  • Give and receive feedback in understanding others better.
  • Be aware and notice if someone might feel excluded or different.
  • Open yourself up to be vulnerable and share.

If you want to build an inclusive culture – and generate that critical sense of belonging – within your organisation, you’ll find more advice and guidance in our monthly newsletter. Or you can get in touch with us here, and we’ll be happy to have a chat about your challenges and vision.