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4 Common Misconceptions About Team Diversity

Team diversity is a must, and all you really need to do is get to know your team. Find out how in this article!

Team Building
People Strategy
Competencies

Leen Sawalha

VP Product & Growth

Wednesday, December 10, 2014

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To many, team diversity has become a regular part of their everyday organizational functions, and to most, a concern. There’s a lot of literature out there about the importance of team diversity and how its benefits are plentiful, but the idea is still unsettling to many.

However, with globalization, technology, and all the changes that are making markets increasingly competitive, there is no time for uncertainty. You need results fast, and team diversity is the way to go. It’s understandable to be a little uneasy, which is why  we came up with 4 common misconceptions regarding team diversity that will help ease your mind!

Misconception #1: Team diversity = Cultural diversity

The first common misconception about team diversity is the belief that a diverse team means that its members consist of individuals from different cultures. While all culturally diverse teams are, in fact, diverse teams, not all diverse teams are only culturally diverse.

Team diversity can range from cultural, gender, and age diversity, all the way to simple functional diversity!

But while we’re on the topic of cultural diversity, here’s one thing you should never (ever!) do: Stereotype. This point cannot be emphasized enough. In fact, here it is one more time for good measure: DO NOT STEREOTYPE!

Sure, people from different cultures have many similarities, but just because someone on your team has a certain cultural background doesn’t mean you know who they are, how they’ll perform the work, or how they’ll behave in certain situations.

People are unique individuals, regardless of the color of their skin or where they come from. Everyone has different personalities, natural reflexes, and strengths that make them who they are. Look past their exterior and get to really know them.

Misconception #2: Age diversity is the worst kind of team diversity

The generation gap between the new-comers and old-timers seems to have been creating quite a buzz recently. Generation Y seem to think they know it all, while the more experienced are battling against the changes that are bombarding them from every direction.

But is age diversity really the worst kind of team diversity? Absolutely not! What some might call differences, I call complementary strengths. One group has the know-how, experience, and wisdom, while the other has the technological skills, creativity, and drive.

But, of course, we don’t want to generalize here and contradict the aforementioned “no stereotyping” rule! So, what do we do? Understand one another!

Get to know your team members, recognize their strengths, and realize that both generations have a lot to learn from one another. Each one of them brings crucial elements to a team’s overall success, so why favor one over the other?

Misconception #3: A diverse team is a less efficient team

All the literature talks about how diverse teams are more effective, but if you were ever part of, or have ever managed a diverse team, you know that it takes quite some time to get the ball rolling (if you haven’t used the right tools, that is).

It takes time for team members to get to know one another, their strengths and weaknesses, what they can contribute to the team, how they learn and function, etc. But that is usually time that many of us just can’t afford.

But I’ll let you in on a little secret: diverse teams don’t have to be less efficient. There are scientifically validated tools that would allow you to shave off days of inefficiency. Why wait months for a team to finally get one another before watching the magic happen?

What if I told you there is a way to find out what is the best motivator for every member of your team, who is the most organized and who to go to in case of an emergency, who will likely take on the leadership role and who is likely to ask all the right questions, who will buckle under pressure and who wouldn’t even get shaken by an earthquake!

Misconception #4: Managing a diverse team is more difficult

Here’s a fun fact for you; managing ANY team has its own challenges! Sure, it isn’t easy being a good manager, but it certainly isn’t impossible when you know how to get it done. Managing a diverse team is no different than managing any other team, but it’s understandable to find it difficult if you don’t know the right approach.

It would also be difficult managing a team you don’t know. As a good manager, you need to be able to capitalize on your team members’ strengths and natural reflexes in order to achieve your results. It will always be challenging, but it isn’t difficult when you know your team’s tendencies and capabilities.

Yet, no matter how successful you were in the past with other teams, achieving results can seem excruciating when there’s a misfit between the team and manager.

Why is it that certain people responded well to your managerial style while others didn’t? Because people are different! You need to start thinking of a team as an entity that has certain needs before it can be productive for you in return. So the first step would be: Find out who your team is!

The objective is (hopefully!) quite clear: team diversity is not limited to one category, and is not impossible, nor difficult. All you really need to do is get to know your team! And if you’re like everyone else who cannot afford the time it takes to do it the conventional way, get with the times and try psychometric evaluations. There’s many of them out there, but with the right one, you can get your team to where you want to be simply, quickly, and efficiently!

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