***This article is inspired by chapter 9 of “Leadershift” by John C. Maxwell – “Team Uniformity to Team Diversity” ***
Diversity is interpreted in a variety of ways in our world today. It comes in the forms of race, age, genre, talent, skills, interests, and more. When leaders embrace the diverse makeup and contributions of their team members, everyone wins. Our differences can make a positive impact when we embrace them rather than resist.
One definition of “team” was found in a Harvard Business Review article many years ago – “A team is a small number of people with complementary skills who are committed to a common purpose, set of performance goals, and approach for which they hold themselves mutually accountable.” (The Discipline of Teams by Katzenbach and Smith, March-April 1993 edition)
Leadership is about bringing the best people to the table to solve problems and capitalize on opportunities.
Consider John C. Maxwell’s 3 advantages of team diversity and evaluate how your team and organization measures up.
1 – Diverse Teams Fill In The Knowledge Gap
As a leader, it’s important to know what you don’t know. The reality is that no one knows everything, nor should we try. The more we try to absorb, the more diluted the specialized knowledge that makes us successful becomes. Business coach Dan Sullivan teaches the principle of “who, not how,” which is about finding people with the knowledge you need rather than wasting time trying to learn something yourself. This is especially important when you are in a time crunch. Unless you have months or years to learn something new, your best option is to find someone who has the knowledge you need for the project or initiative you’re working on. Building a team with diverse knowledge will help go farther faster.
2 – Diverse Teams Fill In The Perspective Gap
Pick an object on your desk. Then walk around and see if it looks the same wherever you go. The likelihood of it looking the same from all angles is minimal. That’s how it is with situations, challenges, and opportunities. Think of how witnesses see a car crash or a crime being committed. Each person can testify to what they saw, but no one sees the entirety of the situation. When you build a team to accomplish a goal, it is critical to have a variety of perspectives to contribute toward it. You will see things one way, but your team members will see other challenges or opportunities. This is highly valuable to have a variety of perspectives. This is also why coaches and counselors are so valuable in our professional development. Having an objective thinking partner helps you see your situation and the world in a whole new light. This allows you to take action in fresh ways that you might have overlooked. Ask your team to share how they see things. Listen, don’t judge. Gather the information and evaluate how to proceed with their valuable feedback.
3 – Diverse Teams Fill In The Experience Gap
We are living in a time where multiple generations are working together in most organizations. Many leaders are not taking advantage of this opportunity, but rather bemoaning how the generations don’t get along. Experience mostly comes through time, but it can also come from focused learning. Therefore, older generations have much to contribute based on years in the industry or in the organization while younger generations have grown up in a digital world where technology is their native language. Both are valuable. Both can learn from one another. But it takes humility on both ends of the spectrum and it requires valuing each other’s training and experiences. There’s no better time to encourage mutual mentoring. Older team members can mentor younger ones based on what they’ve seen throughout their years on the job. Younger team members can mentor older ones based on their expansive knowledge base to work smarter and faster with technology, social media, etc. Encourage your team members to embrace learning from one another. This can simultaneously strengthen the team and build relationships among peers.
Diverse teams are required to win in today’s world. If you recruit a team full of people who think and act the same, you will have limited success. Most teams already are diverse, but many leaders haven’t tapped into diversity as a strength or benefit.
I encourage you to evaluate your team members. What does each one bring to the table in skills, experiences, knowledge, and expertise? If you will keep this in mind, you can utilize each person most effectively on various projects and initiatives you are leading. Give them opportunities to lead based on the greatest need they can fulfill. This gives them practice leading and shows the value for their diverse contribution.
Leadership is about getting things done with and through other people. If you will commit to building a diverse team and utilizing each person’s unique contribution, your team can experience more success in a shorter period of time.
Until next time…make today GREAT!