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Valuing Diversity to Improve Team Performance

October 15th, 2012

By: Karen Colligan

Someone once said, “If both of us think exactly alike, one of us is unnecessary.”

We all know that any given project, or product development effort, requires a variety of skills sets and experience – behold the cross functional team. But beyond that, our inclination is to put people together who have similar personalities; who seem to “click.” We think that their natural alignment will provide harmony and accelerate productivity. But harmony doesn’t always guarantee the best results. In fact, recent studies have shown that teams made up of diverse personalities are more innovative, better at solving complex problems, and are higher performing overall.
Diverse teams perform better because they bring multiple perspectives, experiences and approaches to the table. These varying approaches and thought processes create a dynamic that is better equipped to deal with complex problems and challenges. Additionally, diverse personality traits within a team offset one another and build on each other for synergy and innovation. A diverse team is much less likely to fall into “groupthink” which can actually impede performance.

Every team goes through a four-stage development process – forming, storming, norming and performing (Bruce W. Tuckman). As part of the forming process, leaders should become aware of their own work and communication style, and strive to identify and understand the styles of those on the team. Create some discussion around individual work style preferences, communication styles and perceptions of the team goal. Communicate the value that each style can bring to the achievement of that goal. Set up standards that provide for clear communication and sensitivity to the different styles. Establish a process for dealing with conflict.

Learn from those whose style is different from yours. They can teach you to improve in your weak areas, and you can coach them to improve their skills in areas where you’re strong. As the team continues to move through the development stages, continue to recognize and value their diversity.

Let them know, loud and clear, that ALL of them are necessary.

Until next time,

Karen

Diversity, Leadership, Performance, Professional and team leadership, Teams

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