Those of us who work for large corporations are aware that diversity is something that we’re expected to foster. It is a topic of training and a stream of reports that provide statistics about how we’re doing in terms of our employees and contractors/suppliers.
There is endless research telling us about the benefits of a diverse workplace. In addition to being a goal that makes companies feel like they are making a contribution to social justice, having people of diverse backgrounds brings us better connections to our customers and improves decision-making by making us less susceptible to groupthink. Leaders seek diverse teams in terms of talents because we need people with different skills and strengths to improve our capabilities.
Nonetheless for many of us, meeting diversity targets can devolve into an annoying statistical exercise. I was recently talking to an international group of MBA students at a local university, who had experience in American companies. Some of them remarked that we strive for diverse numbers but don’t take advantage of that diversity when we get it. We continue to run things the way we always have, expecting them to change to fit in.
Instead, they suggested that as leaders we need to engage with the diverse populations we’re bringing in to the company and allow them to change us. It means that we need to let go of our preconceived notions about how things work, just as we need to be about new technology.
How can you do this? It all starts with personal connection.
- Engage every member of your team in conversation to develop personal relationship. You should know who they are, what their family looks like, what their career aspirations are and how they feel they can best contribute to the team.
- Once you have a relationship you can ask them (individually and/or collectively depending on the personal and group dynamics)for advice on how you and the team can do things better, and how team members can be better engaged. You need to have a real discussion about this so that you understand where they’re coming from.
- Remember you can’t ask for advice and get anything meaningful back if you routinely ignore it. When you make changes, you need to acknowledge that the suggestion came from your team, acknowledging the person who made the suggestion, if appropriate.
Diversity can make your team much more effective, but only if you really engage with everyone and open your mind to the possibilities of change.
QUESTION: What advice do you have for engaging with every member of your team?
Leadership/Career Coach Kris Ishibashi works with leaders to bring together their skills, their authentic selves, and their intentions to inspire their organizations to superior performance. Click here to set up a complimentary consultation.