Why teams need a different kind of diversity

Diversity. It’s a hot topic. Numerous companies for instance have a quota for the amount of women they need to hire or have in their management teams. It balances out the team, brings a different perspective, more focused on inclusion and harmony. All good reasons, but who is to say that a woman is the only or best person to do this? Do they really need a woman, or do they need qualities that in general are attributed to women? 

Don’t get us wrong, we are very much in favor of not discriminating in your hiring/firing and promotion policies and getting rid of traditional views and ways of working that make equal opportunities for everyone difficult or sometimes even impossible. However, discrimination works both ways -  It shouldn’t be negatively or positively. You simply want to hire the best person for the job, regardless of gender or background.
But what is generally seen, that most companies don’t really know what kind of person they actually need. Of course, you want your new manager to be communicative, pro-active and independent. Of course you would like your new controller to have financial experience and know how to read an excel sheet. But when are they really the right person for the job? And more specifically, for your team? Besides the formal function description and role from a content point of view, what will the informal role of that person (need to) be? And it is this informal role that is often neglected, and not seen as one of the main reasons teams function the way they do.

If you could choose your next team member, what would you do? Let’s say you’re a person whose brain is always ‘on’. Ideas just pop up like mushrooms all day, you love to jump from one idea to the other mid sentence and you always talk fast. Who would you prefer? That person that can follow your every brainwave, brings in new perspectives, and joins you in talking big and bold ideas? Or someone you see getting annoyed the longer the conversation lasts, asks you questions like ‘but how would that work in practice?’ or ‘I don’t see how that could work, did you run the right calculations on that?’. Most would choose the first, because how great is it to have someone you can really bounce ideas off to? And, let’s face it, also makes you feel pretty good about yourself, because everything you do is amplified? And if that person happens to be a man, woman, or from a different cultural background, dependent on what you were ‘missing’, you also nailed your diversity target! But what happens if one of those amazing ideas actually needs to be implemented? And when you have to start worrying about things like planning, budget, or even worse - details? Nothing…Because it is simply not how your team is wired. They want to create, not implement.

It doesn’t matter if your team consists of a great mix of men, women, different cultural backgrounds and ages where you can put a nice diversity team stamp on. If they are wired to think and act in the same way, you’ll eventually get stuck. You won’t get past the idea phase, or vice versa - you will never step into it and just keep doing what you’ve always done. You’ll focus too much on emotion and not enough on facts, or focus too much on data and forget that there are human beings that are being affected by your decisions as well. 

And if you are lucky enough to be in a team where there is already a mix of personalities, don’t underestimate the effect of actually understanding and accepting this. People generally fear the unknown, and you can get easily annoyed by that ‘pencil pusher’ or ‘scatterbrain’ if they are wired differently than yourself, and because of that you can’t see and understand what their value to the team really is. Once you have recognized this as a team, you can start playing to those strengths and find new ways to mitigate any gaps your team might have. Have the ‘scatterbrain’ organize the brainstorm sessions. Have the ‘pencil pusher’ do the analysis to back up the ideas that came out of that brainstorm. 

When you are valued for your full self and not just your functional background, you can bring your whole you to work and as a team really take it to the next level. 

Bricklayers can help you identify your team’s strengths and weaknesses, create a common understanding of and appreciation for each other and together implement new ways of working to really embed this in your team and company. Combine people with process, because one simply cannot exist without the other. And not just a one off team session where everybody walks out feeling energized, two days later vaguely remembers what it was about and a week later is back to business as usual. A lasting impact on your company, minimal investment and maximum output. 

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