Stephen Covey, who wrote The 7 Habits of Highly Effective People, is quoted as saying, “Strength lies in differences, not in similarities.”
If you want to create a team and a workplace that is rock solid, you have to start seeing people as a representation of what they can do for the organization, and not just see them as someone who does things differently than you.
As leaders, it is easy to build your team with the people you like the most, who operate like you do, and whose processes are similar to yours. We tend to think the more similarities we have with someone, the more successful our interactions will be. However, the truth is if we want to produce something bigger and better than ourselves, we need to bring something else into the mix. If we want to grow, we have to take on opportunities to work through the uncomfortable.
Don’t make the mistake of thinking that diversity doesn’t mean unity and collaboration. People are capable of so much more than we give them credit for. If we stop prioritizing ease and comfort over quality and integrity, our teams will do the same.
Diversity is defined as the range of human differences. Keep in mind it is not just about making sure that you have people of different races and genders working for you. True diversity goes beyond race and gender and values people for how their personal range of differences contributes to the team as a whole.
Here are just a few ways you can increase the diversity in your team to increase creativity, productivity, and growth.
Diversity to Increase Creativity
“There is no doubt that creativity is the most important human resource of all. Without creativity, there would be no progress and we would forever be repeating the same patterns.” – Edward de Bono
The beautiful thing about people is that we are all different and it is our differences that make us valuable to each other. We cannot be everything to everyone and we can only be who we are. We all have strengths, talents, and weaknesses that all come naturally to us. While we can work hard to overcome some flaws and shortcomings, there are just some things we are not cut out for. The amazing thing is there is someone else who is made for that very thing.
Our backgrounds, family lives, cultural influences, just to name a few, are all things that will impact how we see the world and how we use that viewpoint to steer the choices we make. When we are intentional about finding the value in others’ experiences and then using those voices to fill in the gaps in our own worldview, as a team, we are capable of so much more than we could ever do with a dozen more people just like ourselves.
If we want true creativity, we cannot afford to have tunnel vision.
Diversity to Increase Productivity
“It is not enough to be busy…The question is: What are we busy about?” – Henry David Thoreau
It is well-known that people who are more fulfilled and satisfied in their work are more productive.
How does this factor into diversity?
I’m so glad you asked!
If you have a team of 4 people that are each similar in personality, they might understand each other and work well together, but they will also share similar flaws and weaknesses, which adds up to frustration and a significant gap in productivity when working together. If each of those 4 people has a different personality with different strengths and weaknesses, not only are those productivity gaps well-filled, but each person will be performing at a higher level. Because they are taking on the tasks that utilize their strengths and talents, they will be more content and satisfied in their work which serves as a motivator.
If you want to increase productivity among your team, you need to find a way to fill in the gaps with different types of people and make sure you are putting the right people in the right places.
Diversity to Increase Growth
“Whatever makes you uncomfortable is your biggest opportunity for growth.” – Bryant McGill
The truth is that we don’t grow unless we step outside our comfort zone and allow ourselves to be challenged. Taking on new people with different ideas and different ways of doing things is a great start to challenging yourself and your team. If we surround ourselves, with ourselves, we will only be what we already are and our weaknesses are compounded. If we accept the truth that we all have areas in our lives where we are short-sighted and recognize that others have what we need to add to our perspective, our potential for growth is unlimited. Multiply this dynamic by each member of your team, and there is no telling what your team is capable of.
Start with Yourself
“How wonderful it is that nobody need wait a single moment before starting to improve the world.” – Anne Frank
If you want to create a more diverse team, you have to start with yourself. This is the time to examine how you operate and why you do things the way you do.
- What are your areas of weakness?
- What makes you uncomfortable and why?
- Which people do you work best with and why?
- Which people do you not like to work with and why?
- Are you regularly recycling the same ideas and format?
You can’t correct what you aren’t willing to confront. Being able to honestly confront your own ideas and the parameters of your own comfort zone is not easy. Not very many people are willing to do it. The truth is if you want to level up and take your team with you, you can’t afford to conduct business as usual. It is a hard and uncomfortable thing to do but it will be the springboard that moves you and your team forward into greatness.
“Great things in business are never done by just one person; they are done by a team of people.” – Steve Jobs
Your next move should be to evaluate your current team. This aspect has many different facets and might take some effort, but it has the potential to make the biggest impact.
During the hiring process, you were most likely the most drawn to the prospects you had more in common with or the ones you were able to connect with on a personal level. As long as they had the required qualifications, you were probably not asking yourself what they could bring to the team that no one else could. In fact, it was likely the opposite. You were probably asking yourself how well they would fit in with the existing team and the way you do things. While a valid concern, to be sure, the result of that line of thinking is you most likely now have people filling roles that they might not be best suited for or doing tasks that are draining them and holding them back from being able to perform to the best of their abilities.
Personality testing is a great tool at your disposal to give you an overall picture of the natural strengths, talents, and weaknesses of the people you have working for you and also highlight areas to look out for. It is a 500 million dollar per year industry and continues to expand in popularity every year which tells us that companies are more concerned than ever with creating a workplace that is well-rounded and strong. They are recognizing their need to make sure they have the right people filling the right roles.
Online blog leavedates.com says about personality testing, “A successful project team will need a range of skills and personality types to deliver on time, on budget, and to spec – a team made up of six of the same type of person may double down on shared strengths, but they will also share the same weaknesses. Imagine, in a team made up of only perfectionists, nothing would ever be finished; in one full of alphas, you’re asking for conflict. Understanding the different personalities in your organization or department enables you to build a team with complementary skills, where the weaknesses of some are made up for by others’ strengths.”
If you look at your team honestly, how many of them are simply echoes of each other or of you? How many of them balance one another or bring a new and fresh perspective to projects and tasks? Where does your team tend to get stuck when working together?
Answering these questions will give you a clear-cut picture of where you might need to make some course corrections.
Hiring and Recruiting
“Diversity drives innovation – When you limit who can contribute, we in turn limit what problems we can solve” – Telle Whitney
This is the area to really think outside the box in order to make the biggest impact. Before going into the hiring process, take a look at your current team and determine what you are missing. How many different and relevant voices do you actually have contributing? How many of the voices you currently have are all saying the same thing? What are you wanting to say with your ideas and the work you produce?
When you begin to view prospective employees in terms of what they can bring to the table that you need, you are much less likely to overlook someone who you might not usually go for based on your typical methods.
Hiring and recruiting are no longer just about filling roles. It’s about deciding what you want to say through your product and then being intentional about having the right people in place to make that happen.
Don’t prioritize comfort over quality. Be brave. Dare to do the hard and uncomfortable things.
“The wave of the future is not the conquest of the world by a single dogmatic creed but the liberation of the diverse energies of free nations and free men.” – John F. Kennedy