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Diverse teams deliver results, research shows

Friday, September 16, 2016  
Posted by: Rufino Cabang
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Increasing team diversity — gender, racial, ethnic and psychological — can improve business results, Jo Miller, CEO of Women's Leadership Coaching told participants during the NEW Leadership Academy webinar, Sept. 8, 2016.

Teams that are diverse in many different ways deliver superior work performance," Miller said during "The Power of Diverse, Inclusive Teams." Referencing a study by Sodexo, Miller said gender-balanced teams are more engaged and deliver higher client retention, growth and profit.

"Companies with racial and ethnic diversity on executive teams have higher earnings," Miller added, pointing to a McKinsey study.

What makes a strong team?

Miller cited findings of Geoff Bellman and Kathleen Ryan, authors of Extraordinary Groups: How Ordinary Teams Achieve Amazing Results, who list seven performance indicators linked to high-performing teams:

  • Compelling purpose
  • Shared leadership
  • Just enough structure
  • Full engagement
  • Embracing differences
  • Unexpected learning
  • Strengthened relationships

The key to diversity's positive impact on each performance indicator is rooted in "informational diversity," Miller explained. "We're bringing together people who think and solve problems differently."

Cultivating openness to opposing ideas and valuing differing perspectives is key to leveraging a diverse work team. "When a team doesn't understand or embrace this diversity, it can be disruptive to the team's performance," Miller said. "It can feel like hard work."

Miller urges leaders to nurture "psychological safety," an atmosphere which encourages interpersonal risk-taking.

"Think about what it's going to take within your groups to build that sense of psychological safety. It starts with trust," Miller told leaders. "It starts with leading the way in terms of how you react and respond to someone you disagree with."

"Get comfortable being uncomfortable," Miller said.

Practicing good meeting facilitation and participation is another way to encourage team well-being. "We all know what that looks like," Miller emphasized. "Having an agenda set out before a meeting, making sure people think ahead and prepare — not just allowing the loudest voices to dominate."

It may be necessary to educate your team on the benefits of diversity and inclusion. "Be the instigator," Miller urged, advising leaders to "bring in people from different backgrounds. Bring in a guest speaker to your team. Reach across your organization and pull in people from different professional areas."

Convincing your company's leaders of the power of diverse, inclusive teams may be warranted — and easier if you have a working model to share. "Make your team a real-life learning lab for what it takes to build a diverse, inclusive team," Miller said. "When you put these best practices in place, monitor your results, monitor your effectiveness and create a presentation. Take it out on the road."

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