Managers: Use Diagnostics to Understand Your Teams’ Diversity

Managers talk to me about their problems:

- “Our innovation engine is stalled because we need new perspectives..."
- “We don’t reflect our customers, and that hurts our ability to perform….”
- “We have a talent engine that is caught in a loop of hiring its own...”.

Sound familiar?

While these ideas resonate with many, few managers -- to start -- identify these are diversity and inclusion problems. But they are. Diversity is about group richness, variety and resources that managers can draw on to solve problems and act on opportunities. It encompasses, and applies beyond, demographic diversity.

Four Ideas to Start:

Individuals aren’t diverse. Teams are diverse. That’s a new idea to most people – and a critical piece of information for managers who want to build their teams’ performance.

The concept of team diversity encompasses, and expands beyond, demographics. While people of a certain age, or ancestry or gender may be unusual on your team from a demographics viewpoint, they may approach problems, interact, and lean on education and experience in much the same way as everyone else. Demographics is a weak proxy for the variety of ways diversity of experience, thinking and approach can add to the valuable and divergent inputs to your team’s work. Think broader.

Every team has some diversity. If we think about diversity in terms of its potential to deliver business performance, then we’re looking beyond demographics to the way experience ranges and creativity is expressed (for example).

Managing for diversity is an active, thinking and actuation process (and there are management tools and practices to help). When managers start thinking of diversity in terms of inclusive innovation (i.e., using the talents, experience and ideas of everyone to take the next step), then knowing how people vary within the group, why it matters, and how to welcome the expression of those differences is a key “management of teams” task. This takes time and attention and thought.

To manage for diversity, a manager has to understand diversity that matters– and particularly, the diversity in their teams and where and how some more diversity (or less diversity) may be beneficial. Diversity diagnostics are key tools that get you started in understanding the range of attitudes, experience and behaviors (yes, 3 key areas) that demand our attention if we are to diversify (have variety) and include (put that diversity to work) team members.

There are many employee diagnostic tools that have been built for individuals to understand themselves in relation to others. There are many fewer that look at the team overall to know what the collective ethos is – to give the manager, and the team, the tools to value and respond. In my experience, that response is necessarily built in the rhythm of the business; in how we meet, interact, decide and consider.

FavoritesTeresa Nelson, PhD