The acceptance that diversity is important and has a strong relationship to business success is becoming more established.  Whether its gender, age, race, brain diversity, culture or different experiences that people have, then having different viewpoints round a business table, if harnessed well, will lead to more creativity and ultimately better business results.  Achieving diversity is a goal many organisations are striving for with the hopes that when they have achieved this results will follow. But it’s not quite as easy as this is it?  The more different individuals in a team are, the more risk there is of disagreement that requires time and debate to agree on the best solution. For those who invest in strong debate and openness there is building evidence that this strengthens their chances of success. Those who surround themselves with similar people run the risk of tunnel vision and “group think” ultimately leading to failure or underachievement.

Amy Nauiokas, founder and president of Anthemis says: It is one of the ironies of our time that wehave greater access to information but often find ourselves in echo chambers of people who share our opinions and worldviews.Why does this happen?  It’s much easier to have a conversation if you can understand where someone is coming from (same background) or you like them (just like you).  If you have made the effort to have a diverse team, how can you harness the differences you have around the table to lead to better results?

Here are five simple steps that can be used to turn a group of different people into an effective team. That is to make differences work.

  1. Who you are – Understand each other’s skills, backgrounds and motivations.

Whether you use Myers Briggs, Hermann Brian dominance, DISC or Motivation skills, understanding the similarities and differences a group has, creates a common language, the need for flexibility and hence a framework for debate to reach a common understanding.

  1. Why are you together – Understand your common purpose

It seems both obvious and critical that teams should have a common purpose.  It helps engagement if the teams develop and crystallize this together as described in another article. If individuals can connect a team purpose to their personal purpose it becomes even more powerful.

  1. What you will achieve together – co-create your vision

Along with describing a common purpose, co-creating an inspiring vision can also bring different people together.  By working as a team rather than being given goals is a good way to create the buy in needed for success

  1. How you will work together – agree the behaviours you will adopt and demonstrate as a team

This aspect is fundamental for any team’s success. By agreeing and reviewing the behaviours needed for successful meetings you can hold each other accountable for good behaviour. Making it concrete by considering how you will share tasks or airtime will help those team members who find this a fuzzy concept.  Alternatively asking how you need to behave for a specific meeting to be successful is useful.

  1. When you will meet and for how long

Getting to practicalities will help a team to feel secure in the knowledge that the work done in the time together will continue.

These tools provide a good foundation for harnessing differences as the first steps of a journey to becoming a high performing team that delivers results.

If you need support in doing this– get in touch!

Thanks to:

Tony Jones for his continued message of the importance of diversity, inspiring me to write this and for reviewing this article.

Janice Steed for introducing me to motivation skills

Sally Moore for the great discussion on brain diversity “Enabling managers to manage brain diversity simply makes them better managers”

Karon West for pointing out that it is differences not diversity that need to be managed