Diversity and inclusion have emerged as a trending topic of discussion among corporate circles in recent times. Having a diverse workforce on-board can-do wonders for an organization’s culture. Today, most organizations realize that ensuring diversity in teams enables them to create higher customer value, a more lucrative firm, and a better quality of work-life.
However, one of the most common mistakes leaders tend to make while nurturing their teams is, they look at diversity as a completely different topic. They must treat it as an inherent element of a person's mental and emotional being. After all, when it comes to diversity, a person’s attitude is just as important as their actions, decisions, and behaviors.
Therefore, it's a good idea for leaders to start with a well-informed mindset and urge their teams to follow suit. This means that while building and integrating teams, one should seek out people with not just the skill, aptitude, and enthusiasm to succeed, but also the right mindset and the attitude to treat everyone at the table equally. I have always adopted this technique myself to build strong, inclusive teams that thrive on working closely together and offer a variety of perspectives to their conversations. Never once has it failed me.
Building Successful, Ever-Relevant, High-Performing Teams
Truth be told, had setting a team been simply a matter of bringing together the best people, it wouldn’t have been that difficult. On the other hand, maintaining a team that’s connected, productive and enthusiastic is a more complex undertaking that requires a careful consideration of team chemistry.
The team's architecture, for example, can be used as a tool. I strongly believe that EQ is a crucial component in a group's cohesiveness. Every team requires leaders who possess strong emotional intelligence (EQ) and interpersonal skills. In fact, having a strong team chemistry is such an imperative that, if necessary, leaders should reject a prospective candidate who possesses the necessary skills, craft and impact, but lacks the necessary personality to enrich the culture. Yes, these choices are challenging and appear to be suboptimal at first. But in the end, they help foster a culture that thrives on diversity.
Taking it a step further
A leader's attitude and personal value system are key indicators of how they hire, onboard and support their people. Today, most conversations about workplace diversity center around data, metrics and percentages. While at a first glance this may indicate an attempt to quantify a mindset, this is often deceptive. However, as leaders, we must always keep in mind that impact measurement and intent are inextricably linked. It's not only about their attitude, it's also about what they accomplish. Actions are what moves the needle, and we must keep track of which actions have a higher impact than others.
The Flywheel Effect
You get a flywheel effect if leaders already have a strong culture in place, and support it further with the correct structures and policies. A good culture attracts people from diverse backgrounds who are better cultural fits. This, in turn, draws more people who believe in diversity as much as their leaders do, eventually resulting in an ideologically united organization with no shortage of talent. This way, diversity and inclusion will become second nature to the team, and diversity will begin to thrive on its own.
What leaders need to know
It is critical to establish a level-playing field. As leaders, we are frequently involved in discussions about assembling a diverse team to bring to a meeting since it appears to be inclusive. This type of addition is merely decorative. It's critical to have teams that are intentionally and consciously diverse. Another way to say it is, diverse teams play an important role in achieving success, but you can't achieve success just by forging a varied team together.
People feel empowered when they are recognized for their contributions, accomplishments and individual efforts. This is still a vital part of culture. Diversity and inclusion are about being aware of people's needs, situations, and most importantly, how leaders treat them.
The essentials of diversity for a leader
- Be genuine: If you truly want to influence diversity, keep asking questions until you've exposed all of your own and your team's biases. Make informed judgments based on your convictions.
- Speak up: Make it clear that you value diversity and inclusion. Discuss how it’s on your priority list, and make sure that everyone on your team understands that they must always consider it.
- Empower people: If you have people on your team who are enthusiastic about diversity and inclusion, give them opportunities to test their ideas, evaluate what works and what doesn't.
Summing it up
People are at the heart of diversity. Diversity and inclusion will become second nature to teams if you, as a leader, establish the right environment for it. Our journey to creating excellent teams and exciting outcomes begins with creating that environment where everyone in the organization feels respected, heard and included.