Many organizations are creating more balanced teams that represent our diverse world. We know from research that diverse teams make better business decisions. And as a leader, you are doing all you can to increase representation across your team.
Fast forward a bit and you’ve done it! You now have a balanced team. Congratulations! This is the first step though. Now it’s about creating inclusive teams.
When you finally get to a place where you have a diverse team you might think the work is done. Actually, this is where the fun work begins. You have many team members with different ideas and perspectives and ways of working and, and, and . . . It can get overwhelming. To get the best results from your team, you need to be able to harness the power of their differences. Hard to consider when you can’t get through a team meeting without a disagreement, right?
1. Think back to that training you had when you first became a leader. You know, the one about the four stages of building a team. Forming, storming, norming, and performing. Review the lesson to remind yourself what will you need to do for everyone to come together and deliver as a team.
2. Remember that it’s okay to be uncomfortable. It’s okay for everyone to have different perspectives and even to disagree. That’s kinda the whole point. We are so conditioned to want everyone to like each other (and us) and get along. Having people in conflict seems wrong. But as long as you are coaching your team, you can get to a great solution.
3. Create a team charter. During your first meeting as a team, set some guidelines for how you will work together. If you are in different locations think about video conferencing. Take time zones into consideration as well. This team charter should include simple etiquette. Include a rule about (not interrupting each other) and team communication (ie: Slack, email, Yammer). Build the charter together with the team to gain buy-in.
4. You can’t always have your way. Each team member will think their idea is the best idea. Make sure everyone feels heard, even if their idea isn’t selected. Agree in your charter that you will decide together which idea or ideas will work. This could mean one idea to start. It also might mean that you blend different ideas together. Whatever solution you decide on, make sure everyone is in agreement and committed to the idea.
5. Don’t allow for interruptions. This should be a part of the team charter, as I already mentioned. Everyone should have a chance to share their ideas and thoughts. You want each team member to feel like they are being heard. They may not agree with the other person’s idea but need to be respectful and listen.
6. Feedback, feedback, feedback. Giving feedback is key to driving trust and accountability among team members. We need to be vulnerable enough to open ourselves up to feedback on our performance. It will help us get better. If a team gives and receives feedback with positive intent, everyone can improve.
7. No brilliant jerks allowed. You may have certain folks on your team who are used to being the smartest one in the room. Not anymore. With the newly formed team, try to start on equal footing so no one dominates the conversation. Make sure that everyone understands that they each get an equal vote. And be clear that you are the tie-breaking vote.
8. As a leader, one of our greatest strengths is hiring smart people and letting them come up with solutions. The solutions may have never crossed your mind. Don’t expect that your ideas will always be the best idea. You are asking your team members to be open to other’s ideas, so practice what you preach.
The tensions of a diverse team can lead to amazing outcomes if managed. As a leader, you need to be able to harness the power of each individual for the good of the larger team. I wish you luck on building inclusive teams!