Appreciating Diversity and Differences Builds Effective Teams

One key to developing strong and effective teams is the ability to appreciate the benefits of the differences each team member presents. Those differences can confuse, frustrate and cause misunderstandings – OR – they can be illuminate, broaden our horizons, provide growth, and help us to gain new insights.

Achieving our organizational goals can often be best achieved when diversity of opinion, background, and skill are engaged.

We’ve all likely had the experience of being on a team where one or more members presented special challenges. They were negative and critical. They lacked skills or didn’t contribute. These, certainly, are all legitimate complaints, but they don’t have to lead to a negative outcome for the team.

Sometimes we can achieve a positive outcome by delving a bit deeper, gaining an understanding, and appreciating another’s point of view.

Tom Champoux of The Effectiveness Institute has shown how our personal behavioral style contributes to how we see the world, process information, and interact with others. Our behavior styles are defined by how we make decisions, solve problems and meet challenges. Each individual’s behavior tends to be consistent with their style. Unless we understand each others’ styles, we may get annoyed by how others act, or what they say.

Achieving our organizational goals can often be best achieved when diversity of opinion, background, and skill are engaged.

Some of us move fast, talk quickly, and make spontaneous decisions. Others are more deliberate and prefer to process information before making a decision. Still others are people-oriented, or perhaps more task-oriented. Some are more analytical and detail-oriented while others tend to be big-picture thinkers.

Teams that include a range of behavior styles tend to excel.

Conflicts can occur when individuals with different styles interact. A quiet person may be intimidated by someone who comes on strong. Someone who tends to hold back can frustrate a person with a more direct style. It sometimes helps to realize that the behavior is not aimed specially at the person on the receiving end; rather it is the way the other person relates to the world.

When we work through style conflicts, and value the advantages diversity brings, we maximize the quality of our team.

Kevin is decisive and takes quick action. He assesses information quickly and decides best courses of action. However, he has grown to respect a fellow teammate, Anne, who is much more methodical in her thinking. When faced with a big decision, he often seeks out Anne’s opinion because he knows she will consider factors that may not have occurred to him.

Ron used to annoy his teammates. When working on a project, he was quick to find problems. However, his teammates have developed tremendous respect for Ron because he sees things they often miss. His constant questioning is now regarded as a positive attribute. Utilizing each team members’ strengths can make for a highly effective team.

Teams that include a range of behavior styles tend to excel.

Overtly acknowledging and appreciating other teammates’ attributes will contribute to your teams’ success. When you appreciate characteristics that you admire in a teammate, you not only recognize the attribute as a benefit to the team, you also help that member see their value-add. Your acknowledgment may also serve to strengthen the quality in the person acknowledged.

As with our behavior styles, age, gender, race, cultural background, and ethnicity all affect who we are and how we interact with others. When someone behaves or speaks in a manner differently than what we’re used to, we may feel awkward or uncomfortable, or embrace the difference and gain an understanding for what we are unfamiliar with. Differences often broaden our perspectives and enrich our teams.

How do we make sense of people who behave differently from us? It helps to develop an attitude of curiosity. When we don’t take things personally, we are in a better position to gain understanding and learn from each other. If we are aware of having a negative reaction to how someone interacted with us, it’s helpful to pause and examine what just happened.

Gather the facts; eliminate the assumptions about the other person’s intent. Seek clarification. Stay engaged. It’s often the case that the person simply has a way of interacting and viewing the world different from yours.

What does your team do to benefit from differences? What can you do today to acknowledge the strengths and the value added by the diverse styles that your teammates present?


Continue reading our New Leadership series with Who Are My Heroes? Young Millennial Leaders

Margy Bresslour is the Founder of Moving Messages, a company dedicated to encouraging the expression of appreciation. Moving Messages works with organizations to create a positive and productive culture where employees feel valued and are fully engaged, and where customers and clients love doing business. Margy offers consultation, coaching, and mentoring that develop individuals who thrive, cohesive teams that enjoy working together, and organizations that get rave reviews and improved outcomes.

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