Simply hearing the word diversity today can cause angst. Some individuals relate this word to differences that can create conflict, uncertainty and even negativity. Across the country there are millions of dollars spent in the name of diversity, trying to manage it, attract it and protect it.
Diversity no longer means simply different levels of experience or expertise in the workplace. Diversity can include diversity in ethnicity, culture, race, gender, and even socioeconomic background. Unfortunately, diversity executed without a true understanding of benefits may result in difficulty with communication or lack of trust.
Business owners today know that diversity in the workplace is imperative to retain a competitive edge in the marketplace. This is because diversity even with the struggle of varying viewpoints will help organizations be more innovative and creative. Studies have shown that when teams are diverse, they are more capable of effective problem-solving and making more decisions that benefit the entire company.
In a recent publication “Why Diversity Matters” by McKinsey & Company, it was stated that companies with the top numbers of both ethnic and racial diversity in their management were much more likely to have higher financial return numbers when compared to others in the industry. This means that a company that is focused on having cultural diversity in the workplace tends to be a more successful company. This might be because people who are different from each other challenge each other to overcome old ways of processing information and learn new pathways.
These new pathways, or ways of thinking can change a group’s social behavior and result in the entire group thinking more productively. One example of this happening was in an experiment that was conducted both in Singapore and in Texas. Financially literate people were assigned to simulated stock markets and were asked to correctly price the stocks. Teams were built as either homogeneous or ethnically diverse groupings. Scientists found through this study that the diverse teams were more than 50% more likely to price the stocks correctly.
By far the most important part of being able to build successful diverse teams is in the hands of leadership, and their ability to be servant leaders. When a leader is willing to lead and serve, their teams will naturally follow.
Some of the ways that leaders can be sure they are practicing servant leadership include:
1.Build a solid foundation – Ensure you establish diversity within your team, and set the expectation for others to follow.
2. Communicate a shared vision – Clearly establish and communicate your organization’s vision statement, mission and goals which bind your team and serve as a launching pad.
3. Push healthy competition – Engaging each team in healthy competition can create ownership; spur action and foster creativity that can benefit the entire organization.
4. Give power to employees – Once you have established guidelines, empower your teams to make decisions on their own allowing them to leverage their diverse thinking.
5. Recognize the success of diverse teams – Take time to let them know that you have noticed how well they are doing. This in turn motivates each team to try harder to meet company goals.
Servant leadership is paramount in building a diverse team capable of delivering unprecedented results. Although differences can be uncomfortable, by creating a solid foundation, communicating a shared vision, creating healthy competition, empowering your people to make decisions and recognizing the success of your diverse teams, you will be well on your way to leveraging the power of diversity.