Building high-performing teams through increasing value through diversity and inclusion

Today, the importance of building self-sustaining and productive teams is often discussed. There is much to learn from, how a CEO builds and assembles his management team, and in the same way a department leader can build his-/her team. When a new CEO starts in a company, he-/she immediately start the process to assemble a high-performance management group. In the same way a project manager or department manager can do.  

One of the first thing a new CEO need to consider is the size of his-/her management team and ensure diversity of thoughts and perspectives. The team must have open conversations about how they work together in the team, and how differences and similarities manifest themselves. Such conversations are important for creating a feedback culture, and they help the team become a safe place to fail and learn – and therefore also create innovation.

Diversity and inclusion have become the focus of most companies in recent years. The visible diversity, such as gender, age, ethnic background, and the like, is important. But the danger is that we overlook the need for “invisible diversity” in teams. When you put together a team; Do you then consider the participants’ different life experiences, different personalities etc.? The most innovative ideas are usually created in teams that are characterized by a variety of different thoughts. A CEO needs to take the lead in promoting why diversity is important to the entire workforce, emphasizing its value to the company. When your employees see you walking the walk, they will fall into step.

Complementarity is important. A team needs complementary participants. Although the candidates’ competence is particularly important, many underestimates the importance of the participants in the group complementing each other in other areas as well. What personality do they have? How good are they at conflict resolution? How verbal are they? How self-conscious are they? The former CEO of Porsche, Peter Schutz gave the following advice: Hire personality. Train skill.

Educate and create awareness all year long. Once you understand the value of inclusion, diversity will naturally follow. Give your human resources department the job of developing an ongoing education and awareness program that informs people about conscious biases present throughout the workplace and society. Get employees involved in hands-on training and workshops to help identify and tear down barriers. Follow up every talk, training and hiring of a new employee with a debrief and review of how diversity and inclusion align with the goals. Build cross-functional teams. Encourage cross-functional teams to collaborate on projects, actively soliciting ideas and opinions from every corner of the room. This will help transform the organization’s “just like me” mentality into one that embraces the new and unexpected.

Letting team members participate in recruiting new members can also prove to be an important ingredient for making a good team. Giving the team an opportunity to vote for or against a new candidate increases the likelihood that they will help the person they choose to succeed afterwards. It is also advantageous if members of the group contribute to the recruitment of new peers in the group, as these are better at “selling” the job to their peers. Recruit with the intent of building an inclusive workforce. A CEO can hire and inspire a recruiting team that embraces diversity. Charge that team with the mission of finding and building an inclusive team — make it one of their key performance indicators (KPIs). Tell each single teammember with teaching hiring managers that looking for people “just like them” goes against the overall goal of building an inclusive workforce.

How do you promote a healthy team dynamic? The most effective leaders in today’s businesses are those who strengthen the teams, and which focuses on the relationship between people and their role in the team. A healthy group dynamic is crucial to high-performing teams. This means that the teams get the most out of their time effectively, that they can really engage creatively and thus find good solutions for the challenges that the team must solve.

But how do you promote team members’ awareness of the dynamics of the team and their own role in this? Promote people of diverse backgrounds. Promoting people of diverse backgrounds to positions of influence is just as important as hiring them. Not only will this give employees an example of a viable path to strive for, but it will also ensure that different perspectives infiltrate upper management, the company’s overall approach to problem-solving and product development.

The feedback culture in the group is of great importance. One of the biggest challenges in giving feedback to someone else is that the recipient may not want the feedback. This has at least two consequences. A: We feel uncomfortable by giving feedback and B: The receiver is in the defensive position. If the team has weekly or monthly meetings where giving feedback is set as a regular entry on the program, the team members become more proficient at both formulating and receiving feedback.

Create security to promote innovation. Being aware of the interpersonal conditions of a team is important for productivity, efficiency, and innovation. Studies suggest that teams that focus on relationships have an important ingredient called “psychological security” (Edmondson, 2008). The term can be explained by the fact that the team members feel safe and supported by the team, they are not afraid of making a mistake and they feel free to experiment. This is an important difference between traditional efficiency-focused organizations and more innovative and learning-focused organizations.

Research shows that companies that embrace diversity in terms of gender, ethnicity and race are often more creative, innovative, and profitable. McKinsey & Company recently examined more than 1,000 companies across 12 countries and found that firms in the top quartile for gender diversity are 21% more likely to experience above-average profitability than those in the bottom quartile. Additionally, companies in the top quartile for ethnic diversity are 33% more likely to score more profits than those in the lowest quartile.

Celebrate diversity and inclusion. Create a space for employees to celebrate different perspectives, then you will build great teams.

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