‘Diversity in business teams’ has become a catch-cry. Whether it is gender, ethnicity, age or ability, the inference is that great teams need diversity amongst its membership. But what value does diversity bring to the team?
For good teams to become great, they need to share a common vision, and ownership in the creation of goals and strategies to achieve that vision. Teams that are harmonious and find it easy to make decisions have the best team performance, right? What about teams where there is continual conflict and bad feeling? Neither are good. The best performing teams are ones where difference is celebrated and conflict is managed.
Great teams are respectful of the different styles we each have in thinking and interacting with each other. Team members need to feel safe and supported in order to be confident to challenge issues and manage conflict.
Consider the crew that will one day (soon?) travel to Mars, perhaps working for Elon Musk or NASA. Simulations of such voyages put astronauts in cramped quarters for hundreds of days. These simulations show that different cliques form in the crew based on values similarity. Where there is higher agreeableness and self-awareness amongst the members there is better team cohesion and cooperation.
As Suzanne Bell, who is working on the Mars project for NASA, put it: “…We assume that astronauts are intelligent, that they’re experts in their technical areas, and that they have at least some teamwork skills. What’s tricky is how well individuals combine.”
Team Thinking Preferences
It’s not only about having the right people on the bus, but the right people in the right seats. Research shows that diverse teams made up of different thinking preferences create higher performing teams. These preferences include:
- Results-oriented. Team members who naturally organise work and take charge tend to be socially self-confident, competitive, and energetic.
- Relationship-focused. Team members who naturally focus on relationships, are attuned to others’ feelings, and are good at building cohesion tend to be warm, diplomatic, and approachable.
- Process and rule followers. Team members who pay attention to details, processes, and rules tend to be reliable, organised, and conscientious.
- Innovative and disruptive thinkers. Team members who naturally focus on innovation, anticipate problems, and recognise when the team needs to change tend to be imaginative, curious, and open to new experiences.
- Pragmatic. Team members who are practical, hard-headed challengers of ideas and theories tend to be prudent, emotionally stable, and level-headed.
The Power of a Question
So, what difference does it make when self-awareness is combined with thinking diversity? In communication, it changes the conversation from a statement, such as:
“we don’t have the money to do that” to a question –
“how can we find the resources to do that?”
Simply by understanding that there are different ways of addressing a problem and no single right way, a question helps to lead the team into a collaborative discussion rather than a combative argument. Such is the power of a question.
Want to learn more? HBDI Smart Thinking