Your Circle, Your Space

The Art of Selective Inclusion

Unpopular opinion: You are allowed to be as ruthless about who you let into your space as you are about who you don’t.

Fishermen spend hours, sometimes days on the seas, chasing the big catch. They brave storms, unrelenting rain, and freezing cold, all in the hopes that their hard work will pay. When they finally haul in their nets, they get down to business efficiently sorting through their catch.

These fishermen know exactly what they’re looking for. Their hands seem to automatically find the specific species, the right size, and fish that are in tip-top shape. Risking costly fines or even one diseased fish can have catastrophic consequences that impact every person on that boat’s livelihood. Those that don’t fit the bill go back into the ocean before the boat moves on to the next hot spot.

fishermen sorting through catch

Whether you’re leading a community, running a business, or just navigating your own life, there’s a lesson here. You owe it to yourself and those around you to be mindful of what and who you let into your collective world.

Your friends, employees, and peers have given you their most precious gifts: time & trust. Allowing anyone or anything to damage those is nothing short of a betrayal.

If we want to protect that trust, we must be consistent and clear on:

  • the way we treat those in our community
  • the environments we create and expect them to operate in
  • the way we allow others to treat them; and
  • our expectations of them.

Quote simon sinek

Desperation is a thief that steals rationality

The first year after emigrating to Australia, I was desperate to find my tribe, to feel like I belonged somewhere in this new land. Naturally, I sought out fellow South Africans. Hearing that familiar accent around me after months of feeling like a stranger in a strange land was like a warm, comforting hug.

I got so caught up in the coziness of it all that I didn’t notice the warning signs that some of these new relationships were bringing. I ignored my gut feeling and that little voice in my head that kept whispering, “Something’s not right.” I made excuses and convinced myself that I was wrong to think or feel this way. The fear of being lonely again was just too overwhelming.

But then life has a way of waking you up. It wasn’t long before the negative vibes from these relationships became impossible to ignore. The initial longing for belonging turned into disappointment in myself for letting behaviours slide that I would’ve never tolerated back home.

I eventually decided to trust my gut, honour my personal values and the next steps became crystal clear. I found the strength to confidently and respectfully let go of those friendships that were doing me more harm than good.

And guess what? The world didn’t come crashing down. Instead, the space left behind was naturally filled with healthy, easy-going friendships.

Stand for nothing, fall for anything

I can’t help but reflect on this experience when I start working with business owners and executives who are insisting on trying to make everyone happy and think that saying “no” is a curse word.

Organisations are made up of human beings. Shocker, I know! We are social creatures and the way we interact with one another matters.

In these social relationships, things like trust, respect, belonging, inclusion, and open communication are the secret ingredients to keeping them healthy. It’s not just about numbers and spreadsheets; it’s about the people who make it all happen.

Leaders who choose to ignore that nagging little voice, the one that hints something isn’t quite right, are essentially rolling out the welcome mat for toxicity to move into their organisation.

However, those who roll up their sleeves and do the hard (and sometimes uncomfortable) thinking work and getting clear on their organisation’s values, who they serve, why they serve them and how they serve them, solidify the cornerstone of healthy relationships and partnerships.

We have a vision, now what?

Show, don’t tell!

One of the most powerful approaches for leaders to nurture and strengthen their organisation’s internal culture is to embody the core values themselves. This goes far beyond the act of printing those values and posting them on an office wall next to the coffee machine. It means a commitment to consistently align every action and decision with these values, even when doing so is the difficult route.

Once values are established, these values need to be reinforced by policies, processes, and forms of recognition.

When leaders authentically live the values they promote, they establish trust within the organisation. Team members recognise that these values aren’t just for show, but principles that guide decision-making.

Decisions have consequences

When employees see their leaders consistently making choices based on the organisation’s values, they’re motivated to do the same.

This also applies to the expectations leadership have of each other and their ability to call each other on negative behaviour. While it’s natural to avoid friction, it’s not damaging trust or risking organisational cohesion.

The message is clear to the organisation that no one is exempt and there’s no space for negativity to breed.

Your organisation’s GPS

Having a north star makes it easier for the organisation to bounce back from change and adversity. They’re adapt and navigate the challenges with less fear and more speed while keeping an eye on a stable horizon.

Structure = comfort

The more employees trust their leaders, the more confident they’ll feel voicing opinions and new ideas. This level of trust is essential to embrace change, create, and innovate.

Just say no!

If it doesn’t fit your organisation’s culture, it doesn’t belong. This applies to new hires, existing toxic employees, clients, suppliers and partners. Why risk having one bad apple spoil the bunch when you’ve spent so much time, money, effort and emotions on creating that elite culture?

And trust me, it only takes one!

As a leader or business owner, what conscious actions are you taking to make sure you only let in the good stuff and repel the bad?