16 Lessons Kindergarten Taught Me about Inclusion

I was thumbing through some of my old books from my seminary days and came across Robert Fulghum’s 1989 classic, “All I Really Need to Know I Learned in Kindergarten.” As I skimmed the pages, it dawned on me that this book was a tutorial on inclusion.

Lesson 1
Share everything-Inclusive workplaces are places where people share things they need to reach their full potential. If one person’s boat rises, everyone’s boat rises. As we are helped in the workplace we are obligated to help others in return.

Lesson 2
Play fair-Inclusive workplaces follow the rules and hold everyone accountable while recognizing that everyone does not reach their full potential the same way.

Lesson 3
Don’t hit people-Inclusive workplaces minimize negative micro-messaging by neutralizing them with positive messages that recognize and appreciate everyone despite their differences.

Lesson 4
Put things back where you found them-Inclusive workplaces are communal environments where resources are owned collectively, routinely shared and maintained for the next person.

Lesson 5
Clean up your mess-Inclusive workplaces hold individuals accountable. Employees know the rules, the rules are clear and the rules are enforced with few exceptions. The organization monitors itself.

Lesson 6
Don’t take things that are not yours-Inclusive workplaces give credit where credit is due. Individual and group accomplishments are timely, routinely and accurately recognized.

Lesson 7
Say you are sorry when you hurt someone-Inclusive workplaces are places where employees can make mistakes, learn from them and feel fully whole. Nobody is expected to be perfect in an inclusive organization.

Lesson 8
Wash your hands before you eat-Inclusive workplace members take responsibility for themselves because individual responsibility is the bond that holds the group together.

Lesson 9
Flush-Inclusive workplaces realize they are building legacies for the future. They want to leave inclusive workplaces and set an example for the next generation of workers.

Lesson 10
Warm milk and cookies are good for you-Inclusive workplaces understand that fellowship and celebration are regular routines that build cohesiveness and sustain high performance over the long term.

Lesson 11
Live a balanced life, learn some and think some and draw and paint and sing and dance and play and work every day some-Inclusive workplaces are learning laboratories, thrive on work/life balance, work hard every day but don’t take themselves too seriously.

Lesson 12
Take a nap every afternoon-Inclusive workplaces appreciate the connection between fitness and wellness and how taking care of our physical, psychological and spiritual selves positions us for success.

Lesson 13
When you go out into the world, watch out for traffic, hold hands and stick together-Inclusive workplaces have each other’s backs.

Lesson 14
Be aware of wonder-Inclusive workplaces are constantly on the lookout for new revelations. They thrive on creativity and innovation and accept the risk that comes with it.

Lesson 15
Everything dies and so do we-Inclusive workplaces know tomorrow is not promised. They bring urgency to the work and discretionary commitment that goes beyond the call of duty to get the job done now.

Lesson 16
Remember the first word you learned, look-Inclusive workplaces recognized that they do not have all the answers. They know to look in diverse and unlikely places for things that help them become more productive and effective.

And finally what I think was Fulghum’s most important nugget of wisdom, “If the dream is held close to your heart, and imagination is applied to what is close at hand. Everything is possible,” even an inclusive workplace.

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