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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.

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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]

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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.

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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.

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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

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Dr. Luis C. Almeida

A college professor who has taught and advised over a thousand students with questions relating to mental strengths.

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Last Updated on May 21, 2019

How to Be More Creative and Come up with Incredible Ideas

How to Be More Creative and Come up with Incredible Ideas

Regardless of how creative you already consider yourself to be, there’s a good chance you would like to level up your creative abilities.

You might want to write a better song, think of better solutions to problems at work or around the home or maybe paint a picture.

In any case, the good news is that creativity is not born: it’s made, and each one of us has the potential to be more creative and come up with incredible ideas.

“Creativity is any act, idea, or product that changes an existing domain, or that transforms an existing domain into a new one.” — Mihaly Csikszentmihalyi

The definition of creativity is broad, and reminds us that creativity is not limited to artists or musicians. It does however require that we have some kind of impact on the domain in which we create.

Creativity also emphasizes values.

“The process of having original ideas that have value” — Ken Robinson

This makes up for what Csikszentmihalyi misses out. For instance, we can make a change in the world without adding significant value. Any destructive act, like smashing a window, creates change, but it doesn’t necessarily create valuable change.

In short, there isn’t one single definition of creativity It’s up to us to find a definition that feels true and useful. When you know what your standard is, It’s much easier to embrace creativity and start to cultivate it.

And in this article, you will learn how to be more creative and take a good look at what goes into the creative skill:

1. Cultivate Focus

In order to create, there needs to be a focus on creating something, whether it’s a song, a theory, a product, or a sculpture.

You could also call this “drive” – it’s the initial spark that drives the solution to a problem, or the will to get on your laptop and start typing.

However, it’s worth noting there are different stages to the creative process: the divergent stage and the convergent stage.

In the divergent stage, we want a broad focus – we want to be willing to let in lots of different inputs, ideas and insights. This is the time for brainstorming all possible ideas and solutions.

In the convergent stage, we start to narrow our focus, like a camera lens. At this stage, we start to drill down to a handful of ideas or solutions, discriminating throughout the process.

How to cultivate focus?

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Take a 20 Minute Walk

Walking away and getting your heart rate up is the best free tool you have in regaining your focus.

I know it might seem counterintuitive to take a break right when you’re at your busiest, and especially when you’re drowning in your massive to do list, but the effects it will have on your clarity and ability to focus are undeniable.

Walking is physiologically proven to release stress, and clear your mind. In fact, most of my most brilliant ideas (and some pretty terrible ones too) have occurred on my daily walks.

If you give this technique a try, what you’ll find is that you’re much more productive than you were before you took a breather.

Over time, if you do these walks daily, you’ll quickly find that your to-do list starts to feel a lot less significant, and a lot more doable. It’s all about keeping razor focused, and that’s what short daily walks will gift you.

2. Build a Structure

When I wake up in the morning, I start the day with a structure in mind. I know that 15 minutes will be dedicated to meditation, 30 minutes to coffee and reading, 20 minutes to yoga and so on.

The structure of this morning routine might be boring, but the act of each task in itself has the potential to be, on some level, “creative.”

The point of structure is that it gives you the space to make time for something you want to do. It helps you carve out the time to do your creative work. Once you begin that thing in itself, you are free to go about it however you’d like.

Without structure, we can lose focus and can feel overwhelmed with possibility. If you’ve ever looked at a blank page and felt too overwhelmed with possibility to make a mark on it, you’ll know what I mean. How much easier it gets when you are given some guidelines or a deadline?

The trick is finding the right amount of structure for you and your creative needs. Too little structure and we feel overwhelmed. Too much structure, and we risk feeling limited and stifled.

Again, it’s worth thinking about creating in those two stages: divergent (less structure) and convergent (more structure.)

How to build a structure?

Create a Morning Routine

Your morning routine doesn’t have to be rigid or so arduous you dread waking up. In fact, it should feel like the opposite. When you get a routine that works for you, you’ll look forward to starting the day.

We all have different needs and preferences which can shape our ideal routine. In the book, Daily Rituals: How Artists Work by Mason Currey, you can be inspired over 160 different creators’ daily routines, from Charles Darwin to Pablo Picasso.

Experiment with any that take your fancy, and see how you feel with a bit more structure to start your day.

You can also take a look at this article about morning routine for inspirations: The Ultimate Morning Routine to Make You Happy And Productive All Day

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3. Find Motivation

There is a theory that suggests: people will be most creative when they feel motivated primarily by the interest, satisfaction, and challenge of the work itself — not by external pressures. This is also known as intrinsic motivation; a drive that comes from within.

Think of a time when you did some of your best work — chances are you were totally absorbed in what you were doing, to the exclusion of everything else. You were completely focused on the work itself, barely noticing time flying by.

Now think of a time when you felt under pressure to perform. Maybe it was an exam, or a commission for an important client, or maybe your boss had told you “there’s a lot riding on this.”

Notice the difference? In the first memory, you were driven by intrinsic motivation, which made it relatively easy, even enjoyable, to be highly creative.

In the second memory however, extrinsic motivation was breathing down your neck, distracting you by whispering about the rewards for success and the horrible consequences of failure: likely making it harder to focus on the task at hand.

For this reason, intrinsic motivation, if you can find it, is what separates the good from great creative work.

This isn’t to say only internal motivators help. I personally get motivated by luring myself to work with a good cappuccino at my favourite cafe. That will get me ready to write or edit or whatever I’ve been avoiding.

How to find motivation?

Connect to Your “Why”

Your “Why” is your fuel: the thing that drives you forward, that gives you a reason to do what you’re doing.

‘He who has a why to live can bear almost any how.’ — Friedrich Nietzche

When you have a reason to do something, a purpose or a goal that matters to you, you can connect your daily actions to it. Then, each act becomes infused with meaning and you find that intrinsic motivation comes naturally.

The trick is to remember your “why” and connect with it on a regular basis.

Think about how you want to feel on a daily basis. What would you like to accomplish in the next year? What would you like for yourself in the next five years? How about in your lifetime?

Ultimately, the tasks you face on a daily basis, or at least some of them, will connect to a greater purpose if you follow this path and you will find you feel more motivated to create and less resistance.

If you aren’t sure where to start looking for motivation, this will help: How to Get Motivated and Be Happy Every Day When You Wake Up

4. Be an Expert in a Chosen Domain

Research has shown that just as expertise in one domain does not predict expertise in other unrelated domains; creativity in one domain does not predict creativity in other unrelated domains.[1]

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So just because you can paint a pretty picture, doesn’t mean you can creatively solve a mathematical problem.

If you’ve taken one of those tests like the Torrance Tests of Creative Thinking, which will ask you to think of a bazillion uses for a pencil, and scored well, unfortunately this is only an indicator of divergent thinking skills. It is not a predictor for creativity all round.

The good news is, you can train your creativity in your chosen domain. Much like a muscle, you can isolate exercises to strengthen it.

Of course you can still do a total body workout – or atotal creativity workout – but it means your creativity-training exercises need to come from a wide variety of domains; not just thinking up uses for a pencil.

How to become an expert?

Make a Mastery Training Plan

Following our physical workout analogy, it’s worth applying the habits of great athletes to your chosen creative domain. For example:

1. Decide what area/s you want to work on

Much like a tennis player who decides they need to improve their serving technique, you can decide what area within your creative domain you want to improve at. Get specific.

2. Decide how much time you can dedicate

Most of us don’t have all day to train like a pro tennis player might, but you can likely squeeze 20 to 30 minutes in a day, if you want to. Whatever the time you can allow is, decide to dedicate yourself to it.

3. Review your progress

Finally, in order to check your progress, you can take regular reviews. Decide what your metrics are, and take time each week to check in with yourself.

How many days did you practice? How did you compare to the previous week? This kind of review can help you stay on track, and actually creates more intrinsic motivation as you see yourself develop.

5. Create a Conducive Environment

A psychologist in 1943 proposed that behaviour is:[2]

“a function of both the person as well as the physical environment they are in.”

I would suggest that the act of creating is a behaviour and that, even though it begins as an internal process, it’s very much affected by and even dependent on the environment we are in.

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I started noticing how environment affects me when I worked in an office. Over time, I realized that the more people who were in or who were talking, the more distracted I was. If I got to the office early before my coworkers arrived, I was twice as effective.

I was even more effective if I was at home. Now that I work from home, I know I’m even more effective when in certain coffee shops. Ideally, places that have high ceilings, gentle lighting, some barely noticeable background music – and excellent coffee.

It’s these little variations in our environment that can really shape our creative output.

If you’re an introvert, you probably do your best work alone. If you’re an extrovert, you probably do your best work in the company of others.

This isn’t to say you should find one way of doing things and stick to it: in fact, varying your environment from time to time is a great way to stoke the creative fire too, which we’ll touch on more later.

How to create a conducive environment?

Add or Subtract Stimuli

Novelty in our environment has been shown to stimulate the release of dopamine, a neurotransmitter that increases our desire to seek out reward.[3]

If you’re looking for creative motivation, adding some novelty into your environment can be just what you need.

On the other hand, some people are highly sensitive and when it comes to having too much stimulation in their environment, they find it difficult to focus.

Experiment with working in different environments. Note how you feel. Note whether you do better creative work or have more interesting ideas when you’re alone or with others.

Try listening to music, people chatting or try being in complete silence. Try a dimly lit room, try working in bright sunlight.

In each case, note how you feel before, during and afterwards and rate the quality of your work.

The Bottom Line

Creativity is not one particular skill or talent one can have. It comes in as many broad and unique flavors as there are people on this earth.

To be more creative, take little steps each day. Acknowledge where and when you feel most inspired, motivated and original and spend more energy in those areas.

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Featured photo credit: Sticker Mule via unsplash.com

Reference

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