Common features of diverse teams

In any organisation, a diverse team is the cornerstone of any project success. And if you only focus on diversity and difference, you might not get the best team experience. In this post, I show how everyone is the same. No matter what your background, there are three things that everyone wants to get from their work.



Diversity. It is one of the most important features of a successful project team.


When it is empowered and positive, diversity allows the project to access a wide spectrum of understanding, awareness and cultural richness. And it might help you to understand your customers and stakeholders better, too.


However, we are all humans. And as humans, there are certain things that everyone needs. If you only focus on diversity, you might miss other important features of personal and team dynamics.


Are people really that different?


Ever since I was a young boy, I was taught that I was different. And so was everyone else. Perhaps it's the same for you.


As I have grown, its become clear to me that humans share much more that we like to let on.

"We may have different religions, different languages, different coloured skin, but we all belong to one human race. We all share the same basic values." Kofi Annan

There is no doubt that diversity is important. And diversity is not the only valuable feature of human interactions.


When you are different, it makes it more complex to relate to your neighbours, colleagues, friends and family.


So embrace diversity, and remember these three truths. Your personal and professional relationships will prosper.


Acknowledgment

All people, irrespective of how their opinions and beliefs are different from yours, want their opinions to be acknowledged as valid.


It surprises me what new ways of understanding I gain when I try to put myself in another’s position, and it’s even more surprising to experience my perspective after I’ve sincerely considered a different viewpoint. Things change completely.


You may still not agree with the alternative viewpoint, but when you understand and acknowledge the viewpoint, the other person is more likely to consider your perspective too. This sows the seeds of compromise.


Respect

Linked to acknowledgement, but distinct in several ways, respect is the value system that appreciates each person as important contributors, and important just because they are human.


Like acknowledgement, this is not about agreeing with someone, and it goes much deeper that the feigned respect that you give to a company executive who you fear but do not respect.


Respect recognises that each person in the world is important, and has a unique perspective that is valuable.


You can tell a lot about a person by the way they treat cleaning staff or checkout workers at the supermarket.


You can tell even more about you by the way that you act when you have been wronged and have high moral ground.


It's so easy to treat others with disrespect when you have the upper hand, but it shows a level of sophistication and refinement when you hold the upper hand with respect, guided by a value system that is not defined by how others treat you. There is never a reason to treat someone with disrespect.


Trust

In my first IT project management job, my manager gave me trust.


I did not have to earn it, only keep it. I worked hard to maintain that trust, and I still keep in touch with that manager today, more than 10 years after I left the role.


This experience shaped my approach to being a manager in many ways, and if I think about it, how I act as a human. The main thing I remember is trust.


Trust is a fickle commodity. In many of my working relationships, both as a team member and as a manager, I know how important the trust mindset of the manager is.


If I expect that my team don’t know what to do and make mistakes, then the team sense this expectation and act accordingly, either through not taking any risks or by acting with less than full confidence.


On the other hand, if I engage with my teams expecting that they are extremely intelligent and dedicated, care deeply for their work and strive to deliver fantastic results, then the team sense this expectation and act accordingly, by taking calculated risks confidently.

Coworkers sharing their knowledge at modern office during business meeting

Importantly, you can’t fake your expectations.


Your underlying belief about the ability of your team shines through each and every time – either you believe and trust or you don’t.


This is not about taking your hand of the steering wheel, or abdicating responsibility, but rather about expecting that people who work with and for you to want to do the “right” things, the things that make a difference.


There are always exceptions to any rule, but your default expectation should be set to “everyone wants to do their best and make a positive impact” instead of “everyone is an unintelligent drone who needs to be micromanaged”.


Perhaps the contrast is overstated, but its amazing how many people have been treated like mindless pieces in a chess game, realise that the approach does not work, and yet apply the same approach when they move into a management position.


Expectations of incompetence perpetuates incompetence, and people who are treated as mindless resources are likely to act like mindless resources.



There is so much to be gained by acknowledgement, respect and trust.


When we look at people in this way, they are the same.


People want to be recognised for their efforts, be respected for being them, and trusted to make a positive impact in the world.


Come to think of it, I want to be acknowledged, respected and trusted, and my best is revealed when these things are given.


Try it out for yourself. After all, you want these things too.

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