As a general rule, people who are different from one another in style of work and conceptualization are difficult to lead on a team together. There are bound to be conflicts that arise when teammates prefer to do things differently and end up butting heads because of that fact. As the leader or manager of a diverse team, you are sure to be aware of this fact. Leading a team of vastly different people can sometimes feel like herding cats! However, this notoriously difficult endeavor is certainly not impossible. In fact, if lead right, a team of different people can be the strongest team there is. Here are six ways that you can use your team's differences to their own advantage.
1. Outline Everyone's Unique Traits
Being the manager of a diverse workforce is a great privilege and a big responsibility. A way you can start the process of unifying everyone on your work team is to get out a piece of paper and one by one, write down each member of your team's distinctive personality traits. Use phrases like courageous, shy, creative, pattern oriented and more to outline each person's unique traits. As you do this, you may notice where some similarities and differences arise. This will allow you to really dig into the dynamic of your team and see where people are being over or under utilized and make small or big changes that can increase unity and efficiency for everyone.
2. Make Rules For Conflict
Many people heartily and gladly avoid any kind of conflict. Conflict can be a frightening thing when people speak and lead with their emotions and let the conversation devolve to personal attacks. However, conflict can actually be an incredible growth opportunity if it is handled properly. You can encourage people who reach an impasse to look at the situation as an opportunity to grow as individuals and as a team. This can be done by you, the leader, setting rules to conflict arbitration. You can start by asking that they involve you for the first few go arounds of conflict solving. Then, you can lay out some rules, such as no name calling, no personal attacks, think logically and not emotionally and finally, always have a solution oriented mindset. Those conflicts are soon to be something positive with rules like that!
3. Emphasize Communication
If there is one thing you can always trace a disagreement back to, it is pretty much constantly a lack of clear communication. As the leader, you can create more unity in your diverse team by consistently emphasizing people having clear, honest and direct communication. This is sure to lead to more progress on every project you deal with as people work better together when they feel safe to communicate and do so constantly.
4. Clarify the Team's Purpose
Why have all of these employees been placed into a team unit under your direction? It is important for you to know this and communicate it as well as for your team members to understand it. Team mates knowing what their purpose as a team is gives them a clear focus to work towards as well as a sense of purpose as they do so. This clarification of the team's purpose could lead to a rise in productivity, communication and good work. You can do this by restating a mantra at the beginning of every team meeting that crystallizes the team's purpose or by placing it in a quote at the end of every mass e-mail.
Nobody said that leading a team of unique personalities would be easy. In fact, most people speak to its difficulty. That does not mean that it is not rewarding and impactful if done correctly. As the manager of your work team you have a great opportunity to workshop some of these tips and ultimately try to utilize every team member's unique qualities in a way that benefits everyone!