A different way to approach diversity with your team

By: Glenn Sharp, Sharp Leadership Development

How do we learn from what we are witnessing on the news? How can we take these hard lessons and apply them to improve our organization and team?

First, let’s define what I mean by diversity. In the news and social media, this type of discussion seems to gravitate toward race and gender only. Don’t get me wrong.

Glenn Sharp, President/CEO, Sharp Leadership Development

Race and gender are a large part of diversity and inclusion. But it is just a part. Diversity is defined as anything that makes us different. So yes, it could be race and gender, but it could also be where you grew up, your religious beliefs, your sexual orientation, whether you played sports, how you were raised, etc… It could even be the way you think. In fact, all of the things we just mentioned that make us different also impact the way we think.

Next, we need to acknowledge that there is evil in the world. There is racism, sexism, homophobia, xenophobia, etc. We also must acknowledge that there are people out there, in every demographic group, who have terrible intentions, are hateful, self-serving and selfish. However, this constitutes just a small portion of individuals in each demographic. We should remain grounded by looking at our everyday lives and not what we see on the screen. Could we safely say that the majority of people we encounter everyday are kind, good-hearted, and even loving? I think so.

So how do we constructively process the things that we see and hear on the news or social media? We hear from our HR department that we need to be sensitive regarding what is going on but, for most of us, we don’t really know what to do.

The solution is simple. It is something that as a leadership development professional is the basis for what I do. We need to start learning the habit of understanding the way each of our team members think. Yes, habit is the correct word in this scenario because truly understanding where a team member is coming from (regardless of race and/or gender or anything else) and why they think the way they do must become ingrained into the culture of a team for them to succeed.

One way to do this is for the entire team to take one of the many personality assessments available in the marketplace.  I like Myers Briggs or the Enneagram but there are many to choose from. Then have a team event to discuss your results and educate each other about how each of you thinks and behaves. It is helpful to have this type of event lead by a professional facilitator.  Having a third party in the room helps to keep it real and can encourage the team to go below the surface.  After this team building event, the team will have a common language to use and will have a deeper understanding of each other. To create that habit they could have a monthly team meeting to revisit what they learned and build upon it.

This is just one way to create that habit of understanding the way the people around you think.  They key is to be intentional about it and ingrain it in your team culture.

Glenn Sharp is the President and CEO of Sharp Leadership Development.  He assists leaders in tackling challenging topics like the ones you read above and encourage individuals to look within themselves for ways to provide perspective for them and their team. He can be reached at gsharp@sharpleadershipdevelopment.com.