Workplace diversity is important as it improves the performance of the team. Many companies focus on diversity when they are hiring new people. A whole system analysis is essential before the recruitment process, to understand if your ‘system’ will support the success of your new staff members.
Your new people will land in teams where their manager is or is not willing and able to manage a diverse workforce. The first line manager has a huge impact on the experience of the new hire and an important role in sustaining diverse employees in the workplace.
That manager may wonder where to start or where to focus. I believe that answer is simple, and it will yield dividends for all employees and the entire team.
Just imagine the competitive advantage if you have healthy diverse teams within your business. These teams will exceed your expectations, and their goals, because you’ll get great contributions from each member and a synergistic uplift because the employees propel each other forward.
The opposite is true too. An unhealthy or even mediocre team (with or without diversity) will not achieve its goals or potential. What you’ll have is a group of individuals who are just doing their jobs. You don’t get synergy from that team.
Trust and Respect Drive Better Results
What’s the difference between these two teams? It’s the level of trust and respect between the manager and the employees, and between the employees themselves.
A healthy diverse team with high levels of trust and respect can do great things. Every employee benefits from being part of that team, and your company is much more likely to be successful.
There are a number of ways you can accelerate trust and respect amongst your team, but I’ve found that the following two exercises work best because they allow everyone a peek behind the façade of who each person on their team really is. That additional insight into others will break down barriers and increase our understanding of each other, which in turn leads to increased trust and respect.
Accelerate Trust and Respect by Exploring Diversity in Personalities
One type of diversity that is a given, but not often discussed, is the diversity of personalities on your team. You can use an assessment like DISC to help people understand their own and others’ personalities and preferences – like finding out who has the ‘I’ or influence style versus the ‘C’ or conscientious style. As the C’s compare notes with their fellow C’s, they begin to realize they are more alike than they thought even though they may be a different gender, generation and race. Likewise with the I’s. Being an ‘I’ is not dependent on gender, race, age and so forth.
Your team will benefit from a discussion of the different personality groups because they can agree on how to best work together and capitalize on their different personalities. You, the manager, can discuss the strengths of the different personalities and how the team benefits overall by having a diversity of personalities. This all leads to a greater appreciation of diversity on the team.
The net result of a group discussion like this is that people get to know, understand, and appreciate each other quicker. They also begin to understand how they fit within the group, and how their strengths contribute to the team’s success. This will help retain and sustain the diverse employee who may feel, at first glance, out of place in the workgroup.
Accelerate Trust and Respect by Exploring Childhood Experiences
Another way to positively explore differences and commonalities with your team is to discuss their different childhood experiences growing up. I have witnessed great discussions in groups when everyone shares information about their childhood. How many kids were there in the family? Were they the eldest? Where did they grow up? What were their challenges? Who had the biggest influence on them as an adult?
This might seem like fluff, but the benefits can be significant. People tend to trust people they know, and sharing about one’s childhood opens the door to knowing each other on a different level. Also, just like discussing similarities in personality, you will find similarities in your teams’ childhoods that aren’t related to age, race, or gender.
These are just a sample of the ways that you can accelerate the development of a healthy, diverse team by creating space for the sharing of knowledge, understanding, trust and respect.
This content is reproduced with permission.
Donna Evans, high performance team developer, leadership trainer, coach and speaker, founder of Team Building for Success where she used these techniques and seen their success first hand. If you would like help with guiding your team through a process like this, Team Building for Success have proven tools and coaching to do just that. Reach out to Donna for more information!
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