As discussed in my previous article on diversity and inclusion, managing a diverse team poses certain challenges and risks. While the most successful teams are well-managed diverse teams, the least successful teams are poorly-managed diverse teams. Well-managed diverse teams may be smaller in numbers than homogeneous teams but perform better overall (see image below).
Homogeneous teams can work well in many situations, but when you already have a diverse team or want to build a diverse team for increased creativity, more innovation, better customer insight, more objectivity and less cognitive bias, higher employee satisfaction, and a boost in recognition, global image, value, and profit, managers need to be ready for this challenge.
Leadership - What Managers Can Do
Managers need to be aware of the role of the individual and the role of the group. These two roles may seem counterproductive, but they can be complementary when managed well. The success of diverse teams depends on managers and leaders acting as a role model, providing psychological safety, and fostering trust and relationships. Taking a variety of values, beliefs, preferences, orientations, attitudes, lifestyles, abilities, experiences, competencies, genders, generations, nationalities, and ethnicities in your team into consideration may seem like herding cats but can be attained with the right mindset, a commitment to agility and constant improvement, and coaching to move into the right direction.
Take Baby Steps to Success
A great way to start is looking at your team meetings. Bringing different preferences and perceptions of team members to light will create awareness. Realizing that 'your normal' is not what everybody else considers normal and that treating them the way they want to be treated and not the way you think you should treat them is an eye-opening experience and the first step in building successful diverse teams. As for team meetings, you can brainstorm how people feel about agendas, time, delays, speaking up, listening, turn-taking, decision-making, disagreeing, giving feedback, and many other topics that can cause misunderstanding and discomfort.
Setting up a framework, discovering people's comfort zone and then expanding it with the help of a coach will further the success of a diverse team.
Taking it to the Next Level
Understanding how we build trust and relationships, showing respect for each individual team member, and providing transparency, equality, and consistent positive experiences will take your team to the next level. The most successful managers to achieve that for their teams share certain traits that we also find in people who are very successful in building intercultural competences, such as self-awareness, open-mindedness, a high level of curiosity and empathy coupled with a low level of fear and prejudice, the aptitude to listen and learn, the ability to adapt, and the willingness to see the WHY beyond the WHAT.
Want to learn more about this topic?
Then join us for the next webinar in the World Trade Center Palm Beach webinar series about international business, global markets, and intercultural communication. During the 90-minute webinar "Benefits of Diverse Teams and How to Manage Them Well" on Wednesday, August 11th, 11:30am - 1:00pm EDT, I will provide some background information and research on diverse teams and why diversity is beneficial, and I will be talking about the role of the individual and the group in a team, what managers of diverse teams can do to achieve team cohesion and efficiency, and how teambuilding activities and a code of conduct can help create and maintain successful diverse teams.
As a language teacher, intercultural and diversity coach, and communication skills trainer, I help people communicate successfully in their own language, in a foreign language, and across cultures. I also help diverse and virtual teams turn their cognitive diversity into an asset and collaborate effectively.
Join me for this insightful webinar in collaboration with the World Trade Center Palm Beach and register here.