Diverse leadership teams are hard…they are harder to build, are unlikely to come to consensus and are more likely to have conflict.
So, why bother? Because… they are harder to build, are unlikely to come to consensus and are more likely to have conflict, they make better decisions. Research studies prove this out.
Before we go any further, let’s start with some definitions; here’s mine:
- Homogeneous groups have similar backgrounds, preferences and personality styles
- Diverse groups contain individuals with a variety of backgrounds, preferences and styles
Notice, I didn’t mention gender, race, ethnicity, sexual preference. Why? Because categorizing frequently leads to stereotyping and while stereotyping might be a shortcut to achieving diversity, it may not. In fact, it may instead simply lead to stereotyping as evidenced in the failure of diversity training. Here’s a recent post on this topic by a fellow leadership coach, Peter Bregman, Diversity Training Doesn’t Work.
What to do?
As with any critical decision, start by asking yourself the #1 leadership question: What outcome do I want?
Diversity is not always the best approach. Homogeneous groups are easier. Because of their similar backgrounds, preferences and styles they are likely to agree and move forward quickly.
- If the goal is getting more of what you already have, then a homogeneous group may be the way to go.
- If the goal is innovation and critical thinking, you are more likely to get there with a diverse group.
If you decide you want to build a diverse team, ask yourself the following questions to get started:
- Do I know the backgrounds, preferences, and styles of current team members?
- What actions do I need to take to learn this information about my current team?
- What are the gaps in the current team?
- Who in my organization could I add to the current team to increase the diversity?
- If I am hiring team members, what qualities would add to the diversity?
If you would like to read more on the results of diverse groups, here is an article by two Kellogg professors to get you started: Better Decisions Through Diversity.