Malcolm Forbes defined diversity best when he said “Diversity: the art of thinking independently together.” Diversity is inevitable in life and workplace teams are more diverse than ever before. Diverse leaders should understand that “Strength lies in differences, not in similarities”, as Stephen R. Covey said. If they learn how to manage diverse teams, they will be able to form and build a strong team, a force to be reckoned with.
There are great challenges in managing and leading people from different genders, ages, backgrounds, cultures, experiences and goals. With globalisation and virtual offices, getting all the teams to work together can be a daunting task. So here are some secrets:
1. Have an active involvement approach. It is important not to exclude anyone. Make sure to involve all team members in sharing ideas, discussing problems and making decisions. Practice active listening and don’t interrupt them. Doing this will make team members feel heard and respected.
2. Have an open-door policy. Leaders need to be approachable especially in dealing with conflict or concerns. It is important for team members to feel that they can approach their leaders and know that they will listen to their problems and have empathy. This builds trust.
3. Build a common workplace culture. Although employees are diverse there is one thing they all have in common, their workplace. Leaders should try and build a common workplace culture. While respect and consideration for diversity is extremely important, the workplace needs a set of ground rules that people understand and know the reasoning behind these rules. Without rules, misunderstandings and eventually conflict is inevitable.
4. Lead by example. Treat others as you would like to be treated. What you as a leader says or do and how you act or react, will influence the team. They will mimic you. It is very difficult to create an effective team, so make sure you set the tone in terms of motivating and supporting the team members.
5. Let team members connect. When faced with diversity in team building activities and exercises, team members learn to communicate, observe and respond to each other in a relaxed fun platform. This will help them connect or bond. Team members will be encouraged to learn more about their diverse team members when they are taken out of the everyday workplace. This will also help build compassion and understanding for each other.
To manage diversity in the workplace, leaders need to learn critical skills. This will help with conflict and change management. A diverse workplace increases the company’s competitive advantage because it encourages everyone to think differently.
The Mindspa Institute is a soft skills training company who provide skills development training both in house and on public platforms nationwide and abroad. View www.themindspa.co.za for outlines on Change and Diversity Management skills, Conflict Management skills, Communication and Emotional Intelligent skills courses to name but a few. Alternatively phone 010 110 0227 or email [email protected] for more information.