On my Sunday bike ride along the boardwalk this morning, I ran into an exceptional array of religious diversity. Some Jewish people out for a stroll in Bradley Beach, an open air Methodist service on the boardwalk in Ocean Grove, some people wearing all white returning from the sea where one of them had just been baptized. In Asbury Park I came across an older gentleman wearing an "I Love Jesus" baseball cap and a Mennonite family on the playground. I have had that experience before on Sunday mornings on the boardwalk stretch from Belmar to Asbury Park, and it always makes me appreciate the diverse area I live in. The ocean calls people of all faiths to the boardwalk for reflection, celebration and community.
I kept thinking about diversity as I pedaled home. Building a strong team requires diversity. As a leader, if you assemble a group of people with similar cultural backgrounds, similar talents and similar communication styles your organization will be shallow, and unable to compete in a rapidly changing and global marketplace. Smart leaders embrace diversity because it makes their organizations stronger, more capable and more effective. Innovation comes from the ability to look at problems from diverse perspectives.
To build the capacity to act effectively, leaders must design and build the following types of diversity into their teams and organizations:
- Diverse cultural backgrounds so that your organization understands and can coordinate, cooperate and transact with a wide array of suppliers, customers and employees.
- Diverse talents so that individual strengths overlap and make weaknesses irrelevant (props to Pete Drucker for that thought - it is one of my favorites, although not an exact quote:)
- Diverse working styles that complement each other: assertive people, patient people, people that lead, people more comfortable following, steady people, people who love change, analytical people, people who honor the rules and traditions, people who say "break the rules" when they no longer make sense, and so on...
If you are a corporate leader, you may have more diversity training than you can handle, and the real meaning and purpose of why diversity is important may sometimes get lost.
If you are a small business owner, you may not have the benefit of human resource professionals that can help you build strategies for diversity.
In either case, take some time to reflect on the organization you lead. Where can you benefit from more diversity? Where are you lacking? What action steps can you take to increase the strength of your organization today?
Contact us if you are interested in learning more about building strong diverse teams for the future, or want to see how diverse your current team is in terms of talents and style preferences.