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Building Stronger Teams by Cultivating Diversity

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Building Stronger Teams by Cultivating Diversity

Leaders and organizations need to appreciate how people are made up of different attributes.

What makes everyone unique and diverse? Researchers Lee Gardenswartz and Anita Rowe created the 4 Layers of Diversity Model which defines the various dimensions and indicators that encompass diversity.

  1. Personality: Openness, carefulness, social orientation, amicability, anxiety (The Big 5 personality traits)
  2. Internal Dimensions: Age, gender, sexual orientation, physical ability, ethnicity, race.
  3. External Dimensions: Geographic location, income, personal habits, recreational habits, religion, educational background, work experience, appearance, parental status, marital status.
  4. Organizational Dimensions: Functional level, work content/field, division/department/unit/group, seniority, work location, management status.

Now, with such variety and combinations of dimensions, imagine the depth of diversity we must deal with while managing teams. 

While understanding that differences are essential, what is important is respecting, and valuing the differences and embracing the uniqueness of each other.

Diversity doesn’t come only from HR initiatives or hiring quotas, it comes from believing that your teams will be more successful if you actively build them with diversity in mind. 

You need to believe that diversity matters, and you need to recognize your blind spots.

Take a step back and spend a minute to visualize yourself walking around your office and looking at the members of your team. See them as the humans they are. Consider how different they are from each other, and how different they are from you – not just in how they look or live, but in how they think, behave, and do business. 

Now, take another, closer look and you will see that the group probably isn’t as diverse as you think it is. As individuals and as leaders, we all have inherent biases that influence the decisions we make when we constitute a team or hire for our team. We end up selecting people who are like us. We need to lead with diversity by actively seeking out people who are different from us because we genuinely believe in the power of diversity to strengthen our teams.

To manage diverse teams that combine the collective capabilities of women and men, people of different cultural heritage, ages, and personalities, requires a different mindset. Let us look at what a true diversity embracer would look like. According to research conducted by Deloitte, there are 5 signature traits of inclusive or diverse leadership:

  1. Cognizance of Bias: Being aware of one’s own and others’ biases and taking corrective actions that affect team members and their productivity. Treating people and groups fairly – that is, based on their unique characteristics, rather than on stereotypes.
  2. Courage and Curiosity: Open to new and different ideas & opinions. Encouraging people to come up with new ideas or share diverse opinions in meetings. Having the courage to acknowledge personal strengths and weaknesses, seek contributions from others to overcome limitations, and admit mistakes when made. Approaching diversity wholeheartedly and seeking opportunities to connect with diverse groups and demonstrate the ability to see things from others’ point of view.
  3. Mutual Respect: Accepting and respecting ideas/opinions. Not passing any negative comments or outrightly rejecting ideas. Understanding the uniqueness of each member and also accepting them as members of the group. Ensuring team members feel connected to the team and larger organization.
  4. Collaborative: Believing in synergy through diversity. Leveraging the thinking of diverse groups for smarter ideation and decision-making that reduces the risk of being blindsided. Creating a safe environment for diversity to function.
  5. Culturally Intelligent: Taking an interest in understanding and learning about other cultures. Changing style appropriately when working with different cultures. Understanding local practices and norms.

Diversity isn’t just a buzzword—it’s a fundamental aspect of successful teams and organizations. By embracing the richness of differences, fostering inclusivity, and leading with an open mind and heart, you pave the way for innovation, growth, and collective achievement. 

Commit to cultivating diverse and inclusive environments where every individual feels valued, respected, and empowered to contribute their unique perspectives and talents. 

Together, we can build a brighter and more equitable future for all.

July 9, 2024
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