Diversity is important, in more ways than we think.
Diversity in the workplace is always a “hot” topic. If you are a business leader or executive, you know that you have to be careful with this one. Red lights and sirens usually go off in your head. They are screaming that you need to look out for something bad that you’re doing. No one wants problems. To stay out of trouble, we prepare for the right decisions which we want to think about before we have to make them.
When we generally talk about diversity in our organization, we go right to the subjects of gender, racial or sexual diversity in the workplace. Those are sensitive areas in our culture and our world. We need to consider them in our organization, especially in the area of how everyone treats each other. Having diversity in our organization, however, should not stop or hold back the process of building and managing the best teams.
Instead of thinking about maneuvering around the subject, embrace it. Here are some good reasons to be diverse in the right areas and for the right reasons:
Reason #1 – You need diversity in expertise, talents, backgrounds and personalities.
Consider that the body has to work together to accomplish its goals and objectives. When you see your organization as being more of a “person” than a “thing,”you realize that you have to consider everything that affects your organization. It has its own personality and its own strengths and weaknesses. It also deals with what happens in the organization and what happens outside of it as a real person. There are emotions and thoughts involved.
For those areas which make you feel uncomfortable or confused on how to manage them, find or hire team members who aren’t fearful of those areas. You should encourage them to find the solutions which will address those concerns you have. More importantly, find those people who love to work in those areas and enjoy the chance to solve those challenges.
Jim Collins, in his timeless book “Good to Great,” gives a great example for the concept of putting team members “on the bus.” Using the example of a “bus,” he suggests that it is important to have the “right people in the right seats” in the “bus” of your organization. Within this visual concept, you need people in the right places and providing the right resources to work together. Diversity in skills, experiences, and personalities provides you a better chance to get what you need and to get the success you want.
Reason #2 – You need diversity in viewpoints.
Some people, especially those who live in the South or in Texas, call it the “good ol’ boy network.” For those who aren’t familiar with the term, the “good ol’ boy network” is a group of people who generally think and talk alike. Frankly, they usually also look alike and hang around the same places. If you have ever spent any long amount of time in an organization, you know what I’m talking about. You’ve seen these people gravitate towards each other. Frankly, if you’re in the group, you’re concerned about staying in the group. If you’re not, you’re either trying to get in the group, criticizing the group, or thinking about the problems of not being able to get into it. In all of these cases, the situation at work is usually a bad one.
When building and managing your team, you should want for everyone to get along and to work together with a shared set of principles and standards. You should always want team members who can get along with each other. They need to be able to work with ideas and initiatives from people who are different from them. What you don’t want as a leader is to miss out on different perspectives and to consider new ideas and initiatives. If you want for your organization to continue to grow and improve, you need to open up times on your team to talk about new ideas and concepts – both of which will not happen if you have a team that always thinks and acts like you. Instead, you will have a team that is more focused on protecting themselves from getting into trouble, which keeps your organization from growing and succeeding.
Reason #3 – You need diversity in personality roles.
If you have people who have the skills and experience to provide the best solutions to the challenges your organization faces, you’re in an even better position to succeed and win. However, you need people with different personalities and motivations to keep your organization in motion.
There are different personalities in the world that come into play when you take initiative to pursue a business opportunity. The first one is the “visionary” who “sees” the opportunity. You are most likely this type of person if you started an organization. These people are able to provide a pretty good idea of what that opportunity looks like. They are able to get people excited about the opportunity. However, they may not be the person who figures out the details, or wants to figure out the details. If a “visionary” person is also the one who has to figure out the details, the usual result is that the opportunity doesn’t get pursued for long. The reason is because that person looks for the next opportunity that provides the excitement that person loves to feel. The “strategic” person, however, gets excited about the opportunity, because there is an opportunity to create a strategy and to build a successful business. However, the “strategic” person gets discouraged in dealing with the day-to-day work. Instead, the “details” person loves the day-to-day work and enjoys working on the “little” parts which contribute for success in the opportunity.
Reason #3 – You need diversity in community roles.
People love their work when they are in the “right seat” and want to succeed in their roles. It creates a lot of energy within the organization, because they can’t stop talking about what is being accomplished. These people also want others to join them in their work. They want others to celebrate successes and accomplished goals and objectives. The result is to get people motivated to do a great job, too.
And then there are other personalities which complement these people. They give the community the necessary resources and encouragement to allow them to work with joy and enthusiasm. People who love to serve others and provide encouragement are important for your team as well. They encourage growth and increasing strength in the personal and professional lives of the team. This helps in building up the life of your organization. These people are able to embrace diversity because they like to provide unique encouragement and support. This builds on the team diversity with their contributions.
Result: You gain racial, gender and sexual diversity as you commit to professional diversity in your team.
You will find the diversity in what you need by looking for the right resources. Focus on some key points which will put you in the most meaningful direction. Hiring the right team members because they are highly skilled provides diversity in personality traits and strengths. It provides unique and valuable personal skills and experiences, and contributes knowledge and intuition in key areas. Simply put, it is the best strategy for diversity to strengthen your team.
A practical example: My own team
Many years ago, I built a team for my graphics and website design business that I founded. Within the process, I intentionally tried to find and manage a wide blend of experts in the various areas we needed for the team, but I also intentionally tried to find the best blend of personalities to work together. Within the process, I tried to be as “blind” to race, creed, color, gender, etc., and to focus instead on the simple question: who would be a great addition to our corporate “family?” As a result, we had an excellent team which was comprised of the following professionals:
- Asian-American female project manager
- Native American male website programmer and 3-D graphics expert
- Hispanic gay male graphic designer and animator
- White male network administrator
- White female paid intern writer and content manager
Here was the interesting part: no one on the team really thought of anyone else as being “different.” It wasn’t about what they looked like or where they came from. Instead, everyone thought of others as being “really good” at what they did. As a result, there were some incredible collaborations as a team. Everyone’s backgrounds, viewpoints and expertise were openly embraced as being critical for our organization’s success. We would laugh about having one of the most diverse teams in the industry, but that’s what made us stronger. Our team contributed to each other’s knowledge and skills by sharing expertise and life experiences. There was a commitment to respect each other and to encourage each other to achieve excellence. As a result, we saw the positive results from our work together.
Think about this . . .
You don’t need a team that thinks like you, sees things the same as you, or agrees with you all of the time. Instead, you need a team that sees your vision, mission, strategies and approaches. It then works with you to walk alongside you to provide you the expertise and wisdom you need to realize success. To see everything you need for success, seek diversity in the ones who can be committed to the same positive results as you are. Embrace diversity and you’ll see for yourself.