As RingCentral’s Head of SMB Content, Grace Lau has forgotten more than most of us will ever know about forming meaningful interpersonal connections. Her blog post on Face-To-Face Interactions should be required reading for remote workers, and she knows a thing or two about in-person interaction as well. We caught up with Grace for a unique perspective on what makes a culture inclusive, and what a true sense of inclusion can do for an organization.
For Grace, the ideal culture takes the whole person into account.
“Typically, when managers say “Let’s have a one-on-one and check up on how you’re doing,” that’s often limited to how you’re doing in terms of projects and tasks. In an ideal state, they’re checking in on how that employee is doing as a human. If they’re going through stuff, whether it’s…say sexism at work, or they’re a Black employee and protests are happening and they’re feeling affected by it, they should be able to bring that up at work. For me, the ideal state of inclusion is where an employee can feel comfortable bringing up issues and be their true selves without judgment.”
She’s noticed that a humanistic approach pays dividends an organization can feel.
“I’m lucky enough to have a manager who’s great, and who I genuinely feel cares about how (her team is) doing, whether it’s burnout, or any non-work-related side of the conversation. When you have that level of support and that kind of relationship with your manager, for me at least, I just naturally feel more invested. I want to have my manager’s back and make sure we hit the goals we’ve committed to. Being a “team player” is more than “I’m here to just do my job and get the paycheck.” It’s about building a team of people who care about you. I think that sort of human reciprocity goes beyond the fuzzy stuff; it spills over into enthusiasm and the willingness to go the extra mile, you know, doing the little things that make everyone’s lives easier as a team.”
Grace thinks a culture of inclusion ignites the imagination — and that’s when people really shine.
“When you’re able to not just imagine that someone who looks like you can reach the highest levels of an organization but actually see it, you’re able to actually visualize it because the company is walking the talk. Seeing someone like you in a position of power makes it easier to believe that not only can someone like you advance, but that the people who hold those positions are more likely to care about issues like yours. When we see a mother in an executive position, we understand—hey, you can have kids and have a life outside of the C suite. Ultimately, we want to be known as a company that does more for diversity and inclusion than just posting about it on social media. It’s easier to build your reputation and strength as a team when you’re actually seeing those things reflected in an org chart.”
RingCentral is making major strides toward a more inclusive culture – but in workplaces overall, Grace says there’s still work to be done.
“The best individual contributors are usually the ones considered to be good managers in (their) fields because they know exactly how (a particular) job needs to be done. But the set of skills as a manager is so different from doing an individual contributor job. Now add in the extra challenge of navigating these spaces as a person of color or as a woman in an environment that’s mostly white and male. You need the skills that make you a good individual contributor, the skills that make you a good manager and you have to gracefully navigate the challenges of being like the only woman in the room or being the only Asian or Black person in the room. That’s a lot to deal with, and typical “diversity” training may not be enough to cover it. We’ll need to talk about things like implicit bias, which is tough because the people who need it generally don’t know they need it.”
From the emphasis on personal interaction she promotes within her team to her active involvement with our LGBTQ Employee Resource Group, it’s easy to see that shared humanity drives Grace Lau. She’ll share that focus with the world in the near future when her book of poetry, The Language We Were Never Taught To Speak, comes out in Spring, 2021.
Originally published Sep 22, 2020, updated Feb 24, 2021