12 Jun Valuing Differences
Our next discovery along the EQ spectrum is valuing differences. This discovery is a differentiator for high-performing teams.
When we join a team, project, or relationship we bring our unique life experiences, culture, and thinking style into the room with us. Mature leaders recognize the fact that their perspective is shaped by these differences, and value the different perspectives, insights, and approaches brought by team members from different journeys. Great leaders identify and amplify differing perspectives to enable teams to discover the best path forward.
What Do We Mean by Valuing Differences?
When we recognize our personal cultural lens, believe other lenses offer insight, are curious enough to learn other perspectives, and amplify minority perspectives, we become more effective in purpose fulfillment and discovering next-level performance.
Benefits of Differences
When teams include different perspectives shaped by race & ethnicity, geography & culture, thinking styles, subject matter expertise, gender, and sexual identity, but are bound by clear shared values and purpose, they are primed for more objective decision making; in essence, inaccurate cultural lenses of individuals are “tested” against the perspectives of their teammates so the best approach can emerge through discussion and healthy conflict. These teams are also better at making innovative breakthroughs that are essentially “invisible” to teams to approach problems from just one cultural perspective.
Research shows diverse teams outperform teams of similar people in these areas:
- Financial Performance
- Success of Innovation Projects
- Team Communication
- Risk Assessment
- Acquisition and IPO success in Venture Capital Firms
The Bottom Line
The best leaders amplify diverse perspectives so teams become more insightful and creative than their individual members.
Tactics for Valuing Differences
- Accept that you have biases: Your perspectives, beliefs, and assumptions are unique, and they might limit your awareness and performance. Admitting that you have unconscious assumptions sets the stage for curiosity and exploration.
- Explore the differences: When we explore the differences in thinking styles, religion, race & ethnicity, gender, sexual identity, and geography that are inherent in those around us, we can learn valuable information that helps us become more aware, and enables our teams to perform better.
- Do the work of being curious: Unlock your potential contribution by remaining curious when you encounter differences in views and opinions. Rather than thinking or saying “that’s stupid,” say “help me understand” – begin to learn and take on the perspective of those around you.
- Reconsider your role: Become a leader and facilitator. Instead of viewing yourself as the “savior” who has the right answer that others need, view yourself as the “facilitator” to help emerge the right decisions and the best knowledge from the group.
- Create the largest in-group possible: In-groups are people who are like us. Out-groups are people who are less like us. We subconsciously assign others to in-groups or out-groups based on various factors we consider to be similar to us in some way. To create the largest in-group possible, build a shared purpose – the more clear, compelling and inclusive that purpose is, the more likely people are to see themselves as co-members of an important in-group, rather than members of different out-groups who only share transactional relationships.
- Amplify different perspectives: Seek out the voices that are not as strong on the team. Amplify those voices by inviting and encouraging them to share their perspectives. This is not “treating everyone the same” – it is more akin to “giving special honor to those considered the least among you”. We are all different, and the voices that differ deserve to be heard. More importantly, those differences are what makes the team stronger.
Going forward, what are some actions you can take to become more explicit about how you value the differences in others?
For further reading, see the following resources:
- Competency 14: “Values Differences” in the Korn Ferry Leadership Architect™ FYI® for your improvement.
- Article: In-Groups, Out-Groups, and the Psychology of Crowds
- Article: Getting Over Your Fear of Talking About Diversity
- Video: Neuroscience of in-group bias
NEXT: Driving Engagement