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3 quick reminders for leading a diverse team

Monday, March 3, 2014  
Posted by: Barbara Francella
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By Subriana Pierce

We all want diverse teams. That’s a given.

Study after study has confirmed: The success of diverse, collaborative teams navigating the complex retail and consumer goods industry depends on the combined skill sets of the team members, their personalities and the way they approach and solve problems.

If we truly respect diversity, team members will have very different communication styles, views about traditional corporate hierarchy and decision-making processes. There may language barriers, too.

Effective leaders of diverse teams will find that employing different leadership styles and flexing their own styles will yield better results than using a consistent approach with every team member.

Related: The 10 essential behaviors of 'inclusionist' leaders

To leverage the potential of a diverse team:

1. Hold your team accountable. Don’t allow different work styles and behaviors to become excuses for your team members. When you allow this, it appears one person can get away with something that another person can’t. Ensure that every member of the team has a goal and objective and hold them accountable to meet it. Celebrate the wins and the successes, but hold them 100-percent accountable for the results!

2. Go "under cover.” There will be times when you know something is wrong and want to jump right in and fix it. When this happens, remember: The people who know best how to address a situation or fix the problem could be on the team. That’s probably why you hired them, right? Try staying under cover and letting the team solve its own problems. (You can jump in later, if necessary). The team will get to a solution and achieve the intended results, though they may get there differently than you would have. Let team members move in their own way while you serve and guide the team in the right direction. This is a good strategy for getting a grip on your team’s dynamics, too.

3. Have the tough conversations. Giving and receiving feedback isn’t always fun. Team members will receive feedback differently. Flex your style based on your employee’s style. You may deliver the message differently to different team members, but as a leader you must have the tough conversation when necessary. Don’t sugarcoat. You want the team to perform better. Don’t hold back on what will improve performance and ultimately help your employees long term.

The better you are at leading a diverse team, the more you’ll attract diverse team members. The end goal is driving results and the diverse makeup of your team, if managed properly, can get you there.

Subriana Pierce is managing partner of Navigator Sales and Marketing, a company that assists clients in navigating consumer goods and retail through consulting, coaching and product representation. She previously served in senior roles for Albertsons Southern California Division and Frito-Lay North America. She was honored as one of the 2013 "Top Women in Grocery” by Progressive Grocer and one of the 2012 "Top 100 under 50 Diverse Executive Leaders” by Diversity MBA Magazine. She is a committee Co-Chair within the Food Industry Circle Board for City of Hope.

Views expressed in signed blogs and user comments are those of the authors and do not necessarily reflect the opinions of the Network of Executive Women or its Officers, Board members and sponsors.

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