Why diversity is more than demographics

When I first became a Manager, I had one member of staff in my team.  She was my antithesis.  Completely the opposite of me.  I didn’t understand her way of working or why it was so difficult and I found it very frustrating.  She would focus on the minute details, take her time over things and make sure everything was exactly right.  In contrast, I support the Facebook mantra of ‘done is better than perfect’.  That doesn’t mean a lack of standards but I’m not looking for the best piece of work ever but sometimes if you spend too long making it perfect, you end up missing the moment.

Not long after we had begun working together, I went on a training course about emotional intelligence and it was there that I had a light bulb moment.  We did an activity about working styles and in doing this, I realised that my colleague was a ‘be perfect’ whereas I’m a ‘hurry up’.  As soon as I realised that, my approach changed and we had a much more successful working relationship from there on in.  By the time she left the organisation, I had learnt that the opposite skills that she brought to the team were exactly what I needed and once I was back to working with someone similar to myself, I felt a loss of skills that had been extremely valuable.

Today, I deliberately look for difference when hiring people.  It might be tempting to recruit in my own image and it can be easier to work with others who think the same way that you do and take the same approach but I now understand the true value of diversity and aim to construct a team where each individual brings something different and can shine in their own right.  My current team is a fantastic example of this – individually unique and perfect together.  They each bring something to the party which makes for endless good times!

Often when we talk about diversity we think about demographics – sex, race, age, ability – and this is extremely important but I do think it’s more than that.  In my view, we need to think about difference more broadly and recognise the value of bringing people, views and skills together.  The reason diversity is said to be good for business is that it brings a variety of viewpoints and a wider range of experience which improves decision making and problem solving .  An article published in The Guardian claims that ‘unconscious bias and a tendency to hire in their own image can lead managers to bring in the wrong candidate for their team ’ and suggests that ‘a lack of diversity is one of the biggest issues threatening the advertising industry today, challenging the credibility of the industry and preventing businesses from being run as effectively as they could be’.   The advice in this article is to ‘consider each hire based on the value they can add to the team, rather than simply in a specific role. It is not always about hiring the best person for the role, rather the best person for the team as a whole’.

Keep an eye on the skills in the team and consider what’s missing.  Then when you recruit in the future you can look for someone who will add value to the team rather than bringing what you already have.

Have you got your own stories about the benefits of having a diverse team?  Can you relate to the experiences above or do you have your own which challenge this view?  Let us know in the comments below.

 

If you want to understand the roles in your team or find out if you have unconscious bias, try these tools:

 

www.3minuteleadership.org 

 

Photo: Pixabay.com

 

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