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Q: I manage a team with a diversity of backgrounds and experiences. While I know that there are lots of benefits here – diverse teams are often more innovative – it has still been hard to create cohesion, and bring the group together. How can I help strengthen this team as a leader?
Uniting and exciting a diverse team can be tricky. If you’re used to building cohesive teams by rewarding merit and loyalty, consider turning that inside out and putting…
- Respect before merit: If any team member feels disrespected, it’s not their problem, it’s your problem. Building mutual respect among all members establishes psychological safety, which Google found to be a more valuable ingredient of successful teams than the “merit” of each member.
- Curiosity before loyalty: Research in Scientific American showed that being around people who are different from us makes us more creative, more diligent, and harder-working. It’s not just that diverse teams bring more perspectives. Each team member also ups their game. Encouraging curiosity can be scary for a leader. Robust questioning can feel like disloyalty, but it’s really a sign of trust.
- Adhesion before cohesion: Cohesion around you might not be enough. Diverse teams need a stronger glue that sticks each team member to each other. Make team meetings so rewarding that members have FOMO.
All of this makes more work for a leader. It’s harder than leading lookalikes. But the payoff can be more innovation and fewer mistakes – a winning team.
Jon Huggett, Torch Executive Coach
This article was featured in the Torch People Development newsletter, Curiouser. Each month, we deliver the latest research, stories, questions, and insights about the art and science of people development to your inbox. Sign-up and join a community of people passionate about growth, learning and leadership.