Leveraging the Power of Diversity

May 3, 2022 David Witt

A diverse workforce brings together a wide variety of people with different experiences, skills, perspectives, and insights to solve problems. “Organizations with diverse workforces have a tremendous opportunity,” says teams expert Lael Good.

“One of the things we know from Blanchard’s teams research is that the more diverse the team, the bigger the opportunity the team has to solve complex organizational problems, execute more quickly, make better decisions, enhance creativity, and produce consistently superior results.

“But we also know that the more diverse the team, the bigger the possibility the team will derail when it comes to the inevitable dissatisfaction stage all teams experience on the journey to high performance.”

Good says team members need superior communication and conflict management skills at this stage. They also need an awareness of unconscious biases and an ability to step back from assumptions.

Leaders must be exceptionally skilled at not only recognizing the different strengths, skills, and abilities people bring to a new team but also knowing how to pull those talents and values together to serve a common purpose.

“One of my favorite questions to ask new team members is ‘What is something you do well, or are an expert at, that has been underutilized by some of the other teams you've been on?’” says Good.

“As the leader, you can use this approach to identify the different perspectives and experiences each member brings to the team. Try saying ‘Share with me some viewpoints or life experiences that you believe would be valuable to this team.’ or ‘Tell me about the people and events that have influenced your career and how they might relate to your bringing a unique perspective to this team.’ Your goal is to gain insight and appreciation for each person and what they can bring to the team.

“Dr. Don Carew, cofounder of Blanchard’s teams practice and a wonderful mentor of mine, has always said ‘Take time in the beginning and the end will take care of itself,’” says Good. “Building relationships among team members by asking people to share their contributions and perspectives so that they can get to know one another is the start of that process. It will help when you define your team purpose. If you can get each person's different viewpoint aligned toward achieving that purpose, you're going to have a much less difficult time as you move forward.”

Even with the best preparation, team members still need to be prepared to move through predictable and sequential ups and downs on their journey to becoming a high-performance team, says Good.

“Most teams start off with excitement and high morale, but with no idea about how they are going to work together. We call this stage orientation.

“As team members start working together, they discover this wasn't all they thought it was going to be.  In fact, it's much harder. We call this second stage dissatisfaction. Now they have to communicate and learn to work through conflict. As they begin to do that, they start to open up opportunities to become much more cohesive. And the foundation for that is trust.

“It takes some time to build that trust.  With an understanding of the stages of team development, the leader is able to diagnose where the team is and what they need at any given time.  Following dissatisfaction, a team progresses to integration and, ultimately, to production.”  

At each stage of a team’s development, the role of the leader changes significantly, says Good.

“At the beginning, during the orientation stage, team members are going to be looking to the leader to help make decisions, determine the direction, and provide the information for working together. As disagreements or conflicts emerge, the leader is going to need to use resolving behaviors and a dialogue tool to help team members understand other people’s perspective and work through some of the conflicts.

“As the team continues going forward, the leader takes a step back. At this point, the team is making most of the decisions and starting to take different leadership roles within the team. Now the leader is sharing leadership.

“One of the things we know is that you will truly never be able to lead a high-performance team if you aren't willing to share leadership. That comes as the team continues along that development curve.”

Before closing out the discussion of team development stages, Good reminds leaders to pay special attention to the team development stage known as dissatisfaction.

“One of the things I want people to keep in mind is that conflict is normal and even expected as part of moving through the team development curve. What we don't want to happen, though, is for that conflict to become personal. We use two concepts from Craig Weber’s book Conversational Capacity as a part of our Team Leadership program—candor and curiosity—and show how to demonstrate them in conversations with others.

Candor means being straightforward, honest, and direct when sharing your perspective. Curiosity means being open to hearing others' perspectives and to possibly changing your mind as the conversation goes further.”

Developing an appreciation for alternative points of view, embracing conflict, and developing good communication skills are key attributes of a high-performance team.  Good encourages leaders everywhere to take advantage of the opportunities diverse teams offer.

“I think it's always worth the risk to take the plunge and bring people together who have different experiences, skills, perspectives, and insights. None of us is as smart as all of us.  Utilize diverse teams to generate better results for your business.”


Would you like to learn more about harnessing the power of diversity in your work teams?  Join us for a free webinar!

Diversity: The Teams Differentiator

Tuesday, May 17, 2022

Knowing how to create and leverage a diverse team is a tremendous organizational advantage. Crafting a team with varied thoughts, backgrounds, and inputs can lead to better and more creative ways to solve problems.

In this webinar, teams expert Lael Good will share how to build, charter, and manage a diverse team through four stages of team development.

Participants will learn:

  • The benefits of creating diverse teams and how to get started
  • The four predictable stages of team development—and the leader’s role in building trust and moving the team forward
  • Creating psychological safety and addressing conflict constructively
  • Communicating effectively with increased candor and curiosity

Don’t miss this opportunity to tap into the power of diverse work teams. Learn how to make team diversity your edge to being more competitive, more innovative, and better able to solve problems in a changing work environment.

Register Today!

About the Author

David  Witt

David Witt is a Program Director for Blanchard®. He is an award-winning researcher and host of the companies’ monthly webinar series. David has also authored or coauthored articles in Fast Company, Human Resource Development Review, Chief Learning Officer and US Business Review.

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