How To Lead Diverse Teams?

The world is no longer divided into silos of different cultures and societies. With globalization coming into play, the process of an intermingling of people and hence their traditions, ethos and working practices is increasing.

In earlier times, it was considered safe (and comfortable) to have employees from similar backgrounds who did not pose a challenge to the accepted norms. But this is long gone with the world reducing itself to a global village and boundaries shrinking.

As boundaries blur and create space for workplaces which are more open, business teams are seeing people from various backgrounds and ethnicities come together, unlike the homogenous workplaces of the previous century.

And this is good news.

Numerous studies have pointed out that teams which are rich in diversity in terms of race, gender or culture, ethnicity or academic backgrounds, have a better chance at success and are smarter than homogenous ones.

This is because:

  • Diverse teams are more likely to examine facts objectively.
  • They improve the quality of decision making by bringing in the broader perspective.
  • They inspire innovation. Homogenous teams can sometimes hinder imagination by giving a monotonous turn to the thought processes.

Sundar Pichai, CEO of Google, also known to advocate more substantial diversity has remarked, “A diverse mix of voices leads to better discussions, decisions, and outcomes for everyone.

Now that we know that having a diverse team begets a lot of benefits but being in such a group is not a smooth process it’s far from it. And leading such a team without any significant fallouts is a challenge.

But with few points kept in mind, we believe you can reap all that diverse teams have to offer.

1. Be Patient:

Patience is a virtue which so heavily talks about in leadership skills that you probably assumed every blog talking of leading teams would have it. But when it comes to diverse groups, patience takes center stage of your being as a leader.
Any discussion which has opinions which are wide-ranging and often antagonistic to each other has tendencies to turn aggressive; you cannot afford to lose your head then.

Also, more opinions do lead to informed decision making, but it also means the decisions will take time.
Having uniformity in thoughts is more natural and can lead to faster conclusions, but they might not guarantee a more thorough solution to a problem which consumes time. Patience is immensely needed in times like these.

2. Cultivate Empathy:

Empathy is the key to emotional intelligence. While as a leader, one is often faced with times when prior knowledge is needed to make difficult decisions, and we tend to make assumptions too. But, when dealing with a team that has persons from different backgrounds, it is tricky to make assumptions.
Since here downplaying identities is counterintuitive so let empathy work its magic because once people feel they are respected and their voice matters, they will contribute hugely.
Empathy is essential, but the necessary thing is to assess how they would feel in their shoes and not how you would. Once you can do that, smoothing out differences or treading rough waters as a team will be a lot easier.

“When we listen and celebrate what is both common and different, we become a wiser, more inclusive, and better organization.” — Pat Wadors, Head of HR at LinkedIn

3. Drive Inclusion as a Behaviour:

If bringing together people from diverse backgrounds will itself lead to better results then leading would have been a cakewalk too.
But this not how it goes, when people with varied perspectives and mindsets come together, moderating the dialogue so that no one feels snubbed is very necessary.
The entire purpose of having a diverse team fails if problem-solving and hence the decision making is not inclusive.
By leading with example, as the captain of the ship, you will have to assert that every action will have a contribution from everyone.
One crucial aspect businesses and corporates often miss when they talk of diversity is also including people with special needs. The disability should not be seen as an impediment to growth but an enabler of a more inclusive atmosphere.

As an example look at how wholesome an app will come out to be if one of the developers as a mute person can enhance how persons with hearing or speech impairments experience apps.

Conclusion:

Of course, diversity tends to bring conflict which sometimes may be corrosive. But it is often because team members bring a different set of values to the team. Just good intention is not enough to overcome such value-based differences while leading organizations.
But with empathy, patience, and an inclusive mindset, your diverse team can become your biggest asset.

Here at Applify, we try to make our teams diverse. With women in leadership positions and having persons with different geographical and academic backgrounds come together, we build apps that you can count on.

Deepak Bhagat Written by:

Chief Commercial Officer & Co-founder, Applify

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