The power of diversity in teams and organisations
What should diversity in teams and organisations look like when it comes to leadership? There are dozens of right answers, but I want to look at it from a ‘skills’ and ‘behaviour style’ perspective.
Having diverse skills and people with different natural behaviour styles in a team or across an organisation is important. It’s like putting together a successful football team. You recruit players with different levels of experience, different skills so that you have the best defenders, attackers and goalkeepers. You have some big personalities who rally the troops when everyone needs motivation and some quieter ones who are steady and super reliable. The coach is the facilitator and brings different skills to the team to get the best out of everyone. You probably have people from different countries and different cultural backgrounds because what happens off the football field is just as important as on the football field. With the right practice, a diverse and very well-rounded team will make a high performing football team.
Building a corporate team made of people with different skills and behaviour styles will enable you and your team to boost innovation, unleash creativity, tackle problem solving and increase performance. In other words, you create a high performance team.
In 2017 I coached a leadership team of a commercial real estate industry in New Zealand. The company had aggressive growth plans and the leadership team oozed energy and enthusiasm. During the first workshop using DiSC as the diagnostic tool to understand the different behaviour styles of the team, it was evident that everyone apart from one leader had the same behaviour style: D for Dominance. I remember standing with them on the big grid copied onto the conference room floor and everyone crammed into the ‘D quadrant’ and I asked: ‘What does that tell you about your recruitment and leadership strategy?’ They were all driven, big picture thinkers and results oriented. They were diverse in gender but similar of age. Perfect for growth and expansion. What were the limitations of not having detailed oriented, moderate paced decision makers or structure and harmony loving behaviour styles on the team? There was a lack of balance and you could feel it in the room. I learned later that they had to sell the business as they the pace they were growing at was too fast. A lot of factors would have played into this but I wonder how much the lack of diversity in behaviour styles in the leadership team had to do with it?
In the HBR article Carson Tate talks about different working styles being conducive to high performing teamwork: https://hbr.org/2015/04/differing-work-styles-can-help-team-performance which is very much in line with the DiSC behaviour styles. Tate sees for styles:
- Logical, analytical, and data-oriented
- Organized, plan-focused, and detail-oriented
- Supportive, expressive, and emotionally oriented
- Strategic, integrative, and idea-oriented
When members of a team, or leaders of an organization, all have the same style, you’ll quickly run into trouble. For example, if everyone in your group has a big-picture, strategic, intuitive approach to work and chafes against the structure of project plans, you might frequently be over budget and behind schedule. Or, if everyone has a linear, analytical, and planned approach to work and dislikes disruption, innovative new product development would be impossible.
What I have observed in leadership over the years is that we intend to hire people who are similar to us. But we need people with different skill sets and behaviour styles. We need to recruit and nurture for diversity. Next time you hire or build a team for a project or you create an intact team, make sure that you take diversity into consideration and set-up your team for success.
Contact me on firstname.lastname@example.org to discuss your team culture and diversity and how a DiSC workshop can help you identify different behaviour styles quickly.