Advertising
Advertising

Last Updated on November 11, 2018

6 People Management Tactics to Lead a Diverse Team to Success

6 People Management Tactics to Lead a Diverse Team to Success

There is a wide body of evidence indicating that diverse teams perform better than homogeneous ones. Diverse teams in your organization will too.

Leading a diverse team is an art that can be learned. It does take some time to bring everybody on board for a vision but having good people management skills can accelerate the process considerably.

It’s in the leader’s best interest to have its team working to capacity and moving in the same direction in order to get things done effectively and efficiently.

In this article, I will share with you why working with diverse teams can be challenging and how to lead a diverse team to go for the same goal.

Why Is It Hard to Lead a Diverse Team?

Unfamiliarity with shared governance principles

It is very difficult for a leader to lead a diverse team to go for the same goal without taking a shared governance approach. The principles of equity, partnership, accountability and ownership must be applied and embraced in order for the diverse team to operate to capacity and have “buy in.”

Equity, or the understructure and mensuration of value states that no role is in essence more important than any other. Partnership is paramount in relationship building and serves as the justification for involving diverse team members in decision making.

Allowing for evaluation of role performance between and among the members of the team is key in the process along with ownership structures that allow for the acceptance, contribution and recognition by all parties involved. Diverse teams are diverse in nature and expect the former in order to operate to capacity.

“The whole is more important than the sum of the parts.” Leaders must understand that no living system, like a corporate unit or any other unit, can function to capacity — or “go for the same goal” if its parts aren’t operating in harmony. Lack of systemic thinking will eventually result in entropy.

Leading diverse teams to be “on the same page” is challenging because leaders working with a “homogeneous” mindset are rarely equipped with the former concepts presented in this section. Stakeholder participation is key.

Advertising

Little diversity understanding

Diversity means variety and/or a range of different things. Leading a diverse team to reach the same organizational goal can be challenging because leaders may not know what this “variety” and “range of different things” actually are.

Let’s start with the obvious. If a team is composed of ten white males, one female and no Latino males/ females, ethnic variety is lacking in the unit. A leader’s failing to understand that the former is a problem, as well as the fact that the ratio of employees within his or her unit is unbalanced — there are too many while males in proportion to everybody else — can and probably will have long-term consequences relating to “goal buy in,” especially if the unit’s leader isn’t sensitive to group diversity.

To make things more complicated, diversity of gender and thinking are real challenges that the leader may face for lacking adequate understanding of diversity. In the popular book, “Men are from Mars and Women Are from Venus ”, some of us have learned that we (men and women) motivate, speak, argue, and communicate feelings differently. In the book, it is written that men like to process info by thinking before communicating whereas women like to process info by communicating their thought process.

Ethnic minorities can behave differently and possess a range of different things. Italians tend to be impulsive, Hispanic Americans tend to be emotional, the Japanese are collectivist, the British individualist, Vietnamese are reactive, Malaysians tend to compromise… Being the leader of a diverse team is more labor intensive!

In addition, most people like to associate themselves with people who are like them and who are familiar with what they believe in. No wonder why leaders have so little understanding of diversity in the workforce today. This makes leaders’ jobs more challenging when driving teams to be on the same page about projects.

Unfortunately, lack of diversity understanding doesn’t help organizations to be more productive. There is overwhelming scientific evidence indicating that diverse teams make fewer errors than homogeneous ones and when errors do occur, diverse teams are more likely to solve them.

Resistance to change

Most people like the familiar. No wonder why 1 out of 2 freshmen attend a college within 100 miles from home. The irony of resistance and change is that implementing change is in the leader’s job description!

Leaders should embrace change rather than resisting it yet resistance to change is real and occurs in every continent across the globe. That’s why leading diverse teams to move in the same direction as the leader when the leader is afraid to change can be so challenging. Tolerance for change varies among leaders.

As I said already in this article, we are creatures of habit. Loss of control, breaking the routine, fear of the unknown and elements of surprise are all reasons why leaders fear change. There is however, a direct correlation between one’s ability to lead and their easiness with these former reasons why leaders resist change.[1]

Advertising

Change isn’t always technical and can be social. Social change is important but is difficult for many leaders, making things more complicated for the leader to have his or her people on board on a project. I wish that people management was like chopsticks. Always useful and unchangeable.

Unfortunately, people management is an evolving science and requires leaders to adapt to new societal trends with much more frequency.

As a side note: Henry Petrosky, Duke University professor and the author of the book The Evolution of Useful Things predicts chopsticks to stay as they are for another millennia. Thank goodness that leaders aren’t chopsticks.

6 Powerful People Management Tactics

When thinking about revising your company’s training and development program or simply offering good informal training to employees at your organization, consider adopting the following tactics on how to lead a diverse team to go for the same goal.

1. Understand first… judge second

Before making any judgement, strive to understand the members of your team. What are their likes and dislikes? What makes them feel comfortable or uncomfortable? What makes them feel good or bad?

Listening to what they have to say as well as being empathic to what they may be feeling could be the difference between you getting them on board or not.

Remember: Leaders must be patient in order to first understand then judge. Patience is a virtue.

2. Ability to relate

If a leader can’t relate with his or her team somehow, they won’t be able to influence them.

Failing to influence the members of the group will exponentially decreases the leader’s chances of having diverse team members on his or her side.

Advertising

If a leader has a group of African Americans on staff, it may be a good idea to find out who Margaret Walker, Medgar Evers, Booker T. Washington and other influential African-American figures are.

Leaders who can’t relate don’t stay leaders for too long. Never forget that.

3. Take an interest in others

True leadership is about developing the team, not developing the leader. It is about taking interest in the welfare of others.

There are a number of activities that a leader can do to display interest in the life of his or her team members. A wise unit leader goes to lunch with his team and periodically has walk/talks with them to get to know who his or her team members really are.

Another good idea is to stop by your team’s station or offices once in a while to chat about topics unrelated to work. People from diverse backgrounds will appreciate this gesture.

One of the fastest ways to lose a diverse team and have them boycott a goal is to show disinterest in them. Leaders can’t afford to show disinterest if his goal is to have the diverse members of the team moving towards a common goal.

4. Be flexible

Being flexible is a great practice that will help a leader gain trust from his team. Flexible leaders treat their team members with respect and strive to accommodate diverse styles and needs.

Providing guidance when required and praising diverse team members when accomplishment is attained, will increase the chances that the team will be on board.

One of the fastest ways to “lose” a diverse team member is to single him out or find fault in his work when there wasn’t anything to report. The former isn’t good leadership and will most definitely create distrust and resentment which will then significantly decrease team member buy-in.

Advertising

5. Develop soft skills

Acting as a team player rather than an autocratic dictator, having effective interpersonal and non-verbal communication skills, along with the ability to receive critical feedback and engaging in storytelling can be excellent ways to bring diverse teams on board.

Good leadership calls for the need to connect with colleagues and other members of the organization. The act of giving constant criticism or isolating team members won’t help any leader to bring them on board a vision.

Maintaining an air of professionalism and building positive morale are critical components that persuade diverse teams members to buy into a vision. The act of delegating is a good one as well.

6. Have good judgement

Having good judgement starts by having an open mind. Diverse teams are likely to express differences in opinion. In order to keep them on board, the leader should take their ideas into account even if the majority rule believes otherwise. Sometimes, the best solutions are the ones that the people on the team thought were the least favorable. If a diverse team member isn’t participating in a meeting, ask him or her to share an opinion. Never, under any circumstances, disrespect them in public even if they have done something wrong. Dale Carnegie has taught us this lesson in his classic book, “How to Win Friends And Influence People.” In the end, the leader will lose influence and an ally resulting in less buy in from diverse team members.

Conclusion

Organizations who have diverse teams have an edge against other institutions with more homogeneous ones. There is an art to bringing team members from diverse backgrounds on board to share the same goal and people management skills are at the center of that.

One’s ability to listen and learn can go a long way. Being flexible, taking interest in others, developing soft skills and the ability to relate are also important skillsets that leaders should learn if their goals are to lead diverse teams and have them on their side.

Unfamiliarity with shared government principles, little diversity understanding and resistance to change are major threats that can impede a modern leader with bringing his team together on a goal.

Having people management skills are at the center of what makes diverse teams function as presented in this article. Fortunate will be leaders who strive to understand their diverse team first and judge them second. They will have buy in. They are the true modern leaders.

Featured photo credit: rawpixel via unsplash.com

Reference

[1] Harvard Business Review: How to Deal With Resistance to Change

More by this author

Dr. Luis C. Almeida

An Associate Professor of Communication Arts at Lee University who has advised over a thousand students with questions relating to mental strengths.

8 Simple Mindfulness Exercises to Bring Peace and Happiness to Your Life 3 Ways to Reprogram Your Subconscious Mind to Reach Your Goals 6 People Management Tactics to Lead a Diverse Team to Success

Trending in Smartcut

1 The Key to Finding Job Satisfaction and Having a Successful Career 2 How to Be a Successful Businessman (The Complete Guide) 3 12 Hard Skills That Will Land You More Career Opportunities 4 How to Effectively Manage a Heavy Workload at Work 5 Best 5 Language Learning Apps to Easily Master a New Language

Read Next

Advertising
Advertising
Advertising

Published on January 16, 2019

How to Effectively Manage a Heavy Workload at Work

How to Effectively Manage a Heavy Workload at Work

We’re all busy, but sometimes we go through periods where the work piles up and it seems like it might never end.

You might have such a heavy workload that it feels too intimidating to even start.

You may have said yes to some or too many projects, and now you’re afraid you won’t be able to deliver.

That’s when you need to take a step back, take a deep breath, and start looking at what’s working and what’s not working.

Here’re 13 strategies you can use to get out from under your overwhelming workload:

1. Acknowledge You Can’t Do It All

Many of us have a tendency to think we can do more than we actually can. We take on more and more projects and responsibility and wear numerous hats.

We all have the opportunity to have and take on more work than we can reasonably expect to get done. Unfortunately, our workload is not static. Even now, while you are reading this article, I’m guessing that your inbox is filling up with fresh new tasks.

To make real, effective progress, you have to have both the courage and resourcefulness to say, “This is not working”. Acknowledge that you can’t do it all and look for better solutions.

At any given time in your life, there are likely many things that aren’t going according to plan. You have to be willing to be honest with yourself and those around you about what’s not working for you, both personally and professionally.

The more you exercise your ability to tell the truth about what’s working and what’s not working, the faster you’ll make progress.

2. Focus on Your Unique Strengths

Whether you’re an entrepreneur, a leader or working as part of a team, every individual has unique strengths they can bring to the table.

The challenge is that many people end up doing things that they’re simply not very good at.

In the pursuit of reaching your goals or delivering a project, people end up doing everything themselves or taking on things that don’t play to their unique strengths. This can result in frustration, overwhelm and overwork.

It can mean projects taking a lot longer to complete because of knowledge gaps, or simply not utilizing the unique strengths of other people you work with.

It is often not about how to complete this project more effectively but who can help deliver this project.

Advertising

So, what are your unique strengths that will ensure your workload is delivered more effectively? Here’re some questions to help you reflect:

  • Are you a great strategist?
  • Are you an effective planner?
  • Is Project Management your strength?
  • Is communication and bringing people together your strength?
  • Are you the ideas person?
  • Is Implementation your strength?

Think about how you can bring the biggest value to your work and the projects you undertake.

3. Use the Strengths of Your Team

One of the simplest ways to manage your workload effectively is to free up your time so you bring your highest level of energy, focus and strengths to each project.

Delegation or better teamwork is the solution.

Everyone has unique strengths. It’s essential to think teamwork rather than working in isolation to ensure projects can be completed effectively. Besides, every time you give away a task or project that doesn’t play to your unique strengths, you open up an opportunity to do something you’re more talented at. This will empower both yourself and those around you.

Rather than taking on all the responsibilities yourself, look at who you can work with to deliver the best results possible.

4. Take Time for Planning

“Give me six hours to chop down a tree and I will spend the first four sharpening the axe”. – Abraham Lincoln

One hour of effective planning could save hours of time. Rather than just rushing in and getting started on projects, take the time to map everything in.

You can take the time to think about:

  • What’s the purpose of the project?
  • How Important is it?
  • When does it need to be delivered by?
  • What is the best result and worst result for this project?
  • What are the KPIs?
  • What does the project plan and key milestones look like?
  • Who is working on this project?
  • What is everyone’s responsibilities?
  • What tolerances can I add in?
  • What are the review stages?
  • What are the challenges we may face and the solutions for these challenges?

Having absolute clarity on the project, the project deliverables and the result you want can save a lot of time. It also gets you clear on the priorities and timelines, so you can block out the required amount of time to focus and concentrate.

5. Focus on Priorities

Not everything is a priority, although it can often feel, in the moment, that it is.

Whatever you’re working on, there is always the Most Urgent, Important or Most Valuable projects or tasks.

One tool you can use to maximize your productivity and focus on your biggest priorities is to use the Eisenhower Matrix. This strategic tool for taking action on the things that matter most is simple. You separate your actions based on four possibilities:

  1. Urgent and important (tasks you will do immediately).
  2. Important, but not urgent (tasks you will schedule to do later).
  3. Urgent, but not important (tasks you will delegate to someone else).
  4. Neither urgent nor important (tasks that you will eliminate).

James Clear has a great description on how to use the Eisenhower Matrix: How to be More Productive By Using the Eisenhower Box

Advertising

    The method I use with my coaching clients is to ask them to lay out their Top Five priorities for the day. Then to start with the most important priority first. At the end of the day, you review performance against these priorities.

    If you didn’t get everything accomplished, start the next day with your number one priority.

    If you are given additional task/projects during the day, then you will need to gauge their importance V the other priorities.

    6. Take Time Out

    To stay on top of a heavy workload, it’s important to take time out to rest and recuperate.

    If your energy levels are high and your mind and body is refreshed and alert, you are in more of a peak state to handle a heavy workload.

    Take time out of your day to go for a walk or get some exercise in. Leave early when possible and spend time with people who give you a lot of energy.

    In the background, it’s essential to get a good night’s sleep and eat healthily to sharpen the mind.

    Take a look at this article learn about The Importance of Scheduling Downtime.

    7. Maintain a Healthy Work-Life Balance

    Maintaining a healthy work-life balance can be tough. The balance we all crave is very different from one another.

    I’ve written before about 13 Work Life Balance Tips for a Happy and Productive Life. Working longer and harder doesn’t mean achieving more, especially if you have no time to spend with the people that matter most. The quality of who you are as a person, the relationships you have, the time you spend in work, deciding on what matters most is completely within your control.

    Work-life balance is about finding peace within yourself to be fully present, wherever you are, whether that be in the office or at home, right now. It’s about choosing what matters most and creating your own balanced life.

    If you feel there is not enough balance, then it may be time to make a change.

    8. Stop Multitasking

    Multi-tasking is a myth. Your brain simply can’t work effectively by doing more than one thing at a time—at least more than one thing that requires focused attention.

    So get your list of priorities (see earlier point), do the most important thing first, then move to the next item and work down your list.

    When you split your focus over a multitude of different areas, you can’t consistently deliver a high performance. You won’t be fully present on the one task or project at hand.

    Advertising

    If you allocate blocked time and create firm boundaries for specific activities and commitments, you won’t feel so overwhelmed or overworked with everything you have to do.

    9. Work in Blocks of Time

    To keep your energy up to produce your best results it’s essential to take regular breaks.

    I use the 60-60-30 method myself and teach it to my coaching clients.

    Work on a project for a sustained period of 50 minutes.

    Then take a 10-minute break. This could be taking a walk, having a healthy snack or just having a conversation with someone.

    Then continue to work on the project for a further 50 minutes.

    Then take another 10-minute break.

    Then take a complete 30-minute break to unplug from the work. This could be time for a proper lunch, a quick bit of exercise, reading or having a walk.

    By simply taking some time out, your energy levels stay up, the quality of your work improves and you reduce the risk of becoming burned out.

    10. Get Rid of Distractions

    Make an estimation on how many times you are distracted during an average working day. Now take that number and multiply it by 25. According to Gloria Mark in her study on The Cost of Interrupted Work, it takes us an average of 23 minutes and 15 seconds to return to the original task after interruption.[1]

    “Our research has shown that attention distraction can lead to higher stress, a bad mood and lower productivity.”

    Distractions don’t just take up your time during the distraction, they can derail your mental progress and focus for almost 25 minutes. So, if you are distracted 5 times per day, you could be losing almost 2 hours every day of productive work and almost 10 hours every week.

    If you have an important project to work on, find a space where you won’t be distracted, or try doing this.

    11. Commit Focused Time to Smaller Tasks

    You know sometimes, you need to simply tackle these tasks and take action on them. But there’s always something more pressing.

    Small tasks can often get in the way of your most important projects. They sit there on your daily To Do list but are often forgotten about because of more important priorities or because they hold no interest for you. But they take up mental energy. They clutter your mind.

    Advertising

    Commit to spending a specific period of time completing all the small tasks you have on your To Do list. It will give you peace of mind and the space to focus more on your bigger priorities.

    12. Take a Time Audit

    Do you know exactly where your time is going each day? Are you spending too long on certain projects and tasks to the detriment of bigger opportunities?

    Spend a bit of time to analyze where you are spending your time. This insight will amaze you and give you the clarity to start adjusting where you focus your time and on what projects.

    You can start by taking a piece of paper and creating three columns:

    Column A is Priority Work. Column B is Good Work. Column C is low value work or stuff.

    Each day, write down the project or task and the time spent on each. Allocate that time to one of the columns.

    At the end of the week, record the total time spent in each column.

    If you are spending far too much time on certain types of work, look to change things so your focused time is in Column B and C.

    13. Protect Your Confidence

    It is essential to protect our confidence to ensure we don’t get overwhelmed, stressed and lose belief.

    When you have confidence as a daily resource, you are in a better position to problem solve, learn quicker, respond to anything, adjust to anything, and achieve your biggest opportunities.

    Confidence gives you the ability to transform fear into focused and relaxed thinking, communication, and action. This is key to put your mind into a productive state.

    When confidence is high, you can clearly see the possibilities at hand and create strategies to take advantage of them, or to solve the challenges you face each day.

    Final Words

    A heavy workload can be tough to deal with and can cause stress, burnout and ongoing frustration.

    The key is to tackle it head on, rather than let it go on and compound the long-term effects. Hopefully, you can take action on at least one of these tips.

    If it gets too much, and negatively affects your physical and mental health, it may be time to talk to someone. Instead of dealing with it alone and staying unhappier, resentful and getting to a point where you simply can’t cope, you have to make a change for your own sanity.

    Featured photo credit: Hannah Wei via unsplash.com

    Reference

    Read Next