We had the opportunity to sit down with Glen Guyton for a SHV Learning Community webinar and learn from his experience with integrating diverse teams. Here are some of the highlights.
The Value of Diverse Teams
It’s common knowledge that diversity in a team comes with many benefits. These include multiple perspectives, more creative solutions, better problem solving and a healthier bottom line.
However, as Glen pointed out, diversity by itself is not enough to see these benefits. If you have a diverse team but they are not integrated and effective, you will not be able to access the benefits of that diversity.
Glen pulled out his guitar as an object lesson. First, he sang a song unaccompanied. It sounded nice. Then he played the guitar as he sang. The harmonies enriched and improved the experience. A team that is not diverse is like a one-note team; diversity lends itself to harmony in the workplace, more depth, and a better overall outcome – as long as everyone is in harmony.
A team that is not diverse is like a one-note team; diversity lends itself to harmony in the workplace, more depth, and a better overall outcome – as long as everyone is in harmony.
Dimensions of Diversity
We talked about the different dimensions of diversity in the workplace. Perhaps when you hear the word “diversity” you think of race or gender differences. But there are so many other ways that people are diverse. An effective team will also incorporate folks of different ages, personalities, thinking styles and religious backgrounds, for example.
What dimensions could your workplace use more diversity in?
Of course, integrating diverse teams comes with challenges as well. Some issues that might arise include the internal biases of team members or leaders, communication differences among team members, and unconscious but sometimes clashing cultural expectations.
How to Build a Diverse Team
Glen shared eight ways to build a more diverse team.
- Start with Diversity in Mind – It’s important to be purposeful when it comes to diversity. It’s probably not just going to happen by chance. So make diversity part of your thought process from the beginning.
- Address all Aspects of Diversity – A truly diverse team incorporates people not just of different races and genders, but also different thinking styles, different personalities, different generations, different abilities, different sexual orientations and so on.
- Re-examine Your Recruiting Strategy – As you focus on increasing your diversity and effectiveness, pay attention to your recruiting process. How can you be more deliberate in adding new, diverse employees to your team?
- Celebrate Employee Differences – This is a big one! Part of effective diversity is the ability to acknowledge both the differences between team members and the value of those differences. Remember, diversity is something to be celebrated, not tolerated!
- Stop and Listen to Your Employees – We’ve spoken before about how important it is for leaders to listen to their employees. The process of integrating diverse teams is no exception. Take the time to really hear and understand the different perspectives you’ve chosen for your team.
- Provide Leadership Development Opportunities – Invest in your people! Once you have a diverse team, it’s time to work on people and leadership development. By maximizing the effectiveness of individuals, you maximize the effectiveness of your team as a whole.
- Improve Your Own Leadership Skills – It goes without saying that a good leader is always working on developing and improving their own skills. Active listening, empathy and managing healthy conflict are crucial skills for integrating diverse teams.
- Evaluate Your Efforts – You have your diverse team. You are developing your people and your own leadership skills. You are taking the time to listen to employees and are celebrating their differences. Now take a step back and evaluate. How are you doing? What might need to be improved or adjusted?
Seven Principles for Overcoming Implicit Bias
One of the largest obstacles to integrating effective diverse teams is the implicit biases that we all carry and are rarely aware of. Glen has graciously provided us with a downloadable tool that contains seven principles for overcoming implicit bias. Get your copy here.