Like most things that are beneficial, leading a diverse team isn’t always easy. Inherently and by definition, you are not ‘diverse’. Individuals rarely embody diversity. That’s one of the reasons that workplaces ended up so lacking in diversity: we tend to employ people like us.
Your listening skills need to go into overdrive
You simply cannot zone out when you have a diverse team, complacently assuming you probably more or less know the opinion your team member is conveying. The whole reason you’ve assembled this diverse team is because they’re bringing a rich and challenging variety of viewpoints to the table. Zone out and you’ll be completely lost – and then you’ll lose them.
Give yourself time for things to sink in
One of the reasons that diversity is dynamite for business is that people from different backgrounds are better aligned with the mindsets of customers and clients from those backgrounds. So your product or service has a better chance of landing. If you as a leader are from a totally different background, you might find it hard to get where some people on your diverse team are coming from – give yourself time to digest their points before making a judgement.
You need to read more widely
You just do. Read far and wide, left and right, gay and straight and everything in between, from the tabloids to the deepest recesses of the internet.
Check your instinctive responses (inherent bias)
Mindfulness is often thrown around as something of a cure-all these days, but it really is invaluable as a tool for checking our responses. Imagine you’re a celeb and your instinctive responses are the paparazzi – in this picture, mindfulness is your bouncer, pushing back the paparazzi, giving you space to move gracefully to where you want to be.
Consult an expert
As I’ve already said, leading a diverse team doesn’t come naturally – that’s where diversity and inclusion officers can come in.
Expect bumps in the road and good disagreements
You’ve asked for this! Remind yourself and your teams that disagreements are 100% OK, as long as civility never gets left behind.
Don’t anticipate a clear path
The benefits you’ll reap from a diverse team are going to be diverse. And they may not happen in an ordered and timely fashion. You will reap what you’ve sown, but the harvest may not be like any you’ve known before! Be OK with it not ‘working’ straight away.