The Shift from Uniformity to Diversity

Have you ever noticed that in many space movies, the bad guys all suffer from the same disease?

I’m not exactly a movie buff, but I do observe patterns, and it occurred to me that in many science-fiction space movies, there’s a common theme when it comes to the villains.

A lack of diversity.

Think about Star Wars, for example. Take a look at these two pictures:

Photo courtesy of IMDB.com

Photo courtesy of Wookiepedia.com

The good guys are a bunch of rag-tag individuals thrown together for a greater good, despite their many differences. Meanwhile, the bad guys are a bunch of people dressed in the same outfit with the same bad aim.

I bring this up because I’ve been thinking about the subject of diversity for a while now. It’s one of the biggest challenges facing leaders today, and it requires a significant shift in perspective. In fact, it’s one of the eleven shifts I outline in my new book, Leadershift: 11 Essential Changes Every Leader Must Embrace.

Making the jump to a diverse team is critical for any leader looking to stay at the top of their game. The good news is there are four actions that you can take today, as a leader, to make sure that you embrace the strengths of diversity within your own team.

Strategic Shuffling

Diversity is a challenge for many leaders because they don’t understand the kind of diversity they need for their team. Some leaders think that hiring people who look differently is the answer, but diversity of appearance—while not wrong—isn’t enough.

What leaders need is diversity of ideas. Diversity of thinking. Diversity of experience.

The good news is you have that on your team right now, you just need to tap into it. Take a look at your team, and instead of inviting the “Yes Men” to the table, invite people who bring a different perspective.

Invite folks of a different age, a different background, a different political leaning. Surround yourself with people who believe in your mission but have a unique understanding of how to accomplish it, and you’ll be on your way to greater diversity.

Shared Thinking

Now that you’ve invited fresh people to the table, it’s time to give them something to work on. Right now, you have a project or a problem that could use some sort of creative boost, and the best way to get that catalyst is to put it in front of your team.

I’m a big fan of bringing people to the table to discuss an idea. I’ve found that I can get some folks from my team, share an thought with them, and within an hour I’ll have a vastly improved idea. That’s because more brains are better than one, and the people on my team bring a lot to the table in the way of creativity and insight. Your team will do the same if you’ll give them the chance.

Intentional Questions

You don’t have to restrict diversity to planned meetings or specific projects—you can get the benefits of diversity on a daily basis if you’ll develop the habit of asking questions. Asking people what they think, how they would approach a solution, or even what is one great idea they have that your team isn’t currently implementing can unlock a flurry of fresh observations.

As an added benefit, questions are a great way to not only get to know what your team thinks but how they think as well. Sometimes we need a new process as much as a new concept and learning how information and ideas form in the mind of our team can prove helpful for future projects.

Courageous Departure

Finally, we can embrace diversity as leaders only when we’re willing to break from the way we usually do things. I’ve said it before, but it bears repeating: many people are more comfortable with old problems over new solutions.

As leaders, we cannot let that happen to us.

Departing from what’s tried and true costs us something—usually in the area of our pride. We have to be willing to make mistakes, look foolish or even admit that we don’t have all the answers to reap the full benefits of diversity. That’s why stepping away from our formulaic ways of thinking takes courage.

Or, as Sir Winston Churchill said, “You must put your head in the lion’s mouth if the performance is to be a success.”

 

If your organization or team seems to have lost a step, it might just be time to shake things up and bring some new and different voices to the table. Diversity is a great strength, if we’re willing to embrace the mental and practical shift it requires.

And if you’d like to learn more about the shifts that every leader needs to make, I invite you to download the free chapter from my book. The book releases in February 2019.

20 Comments

  1. Mary Ottman on November 29, 2018 at 12:15 pm

    So many great points in this blog post! Diversity comes in so many forms, not just appearance.

    From my experience gained during my 27 years as a leader in Army Civil Service, I could also add the next step of not only soliciting ideas but also truly considering them and implementing those that make sense.

    So many times, leaders act as if diversity is a checkbox on an organizational chart.

    They meet their employment guidelines but they do not update their processes to actively solicit diverse perspectives and ideas and then truly consider their validity.

    If people can visibly see that their ideas are truly being considered and the merits used to weigh ideas, they are more likely to open up and consider offering more creative ideas.

    Thanks for the post!

  2. Carl L Chambers on November 29, 2018 at 1:06 pm

    I do not feel that today’s leaders are committed or concerned with diversity and inclusion and those that are in many instances are committed for the wrong reasons. An example of this is an organization that adopts a diversity initiative because they are required to do so to receive sought government contracts.

  3. EMILY ANN BEL on November 29, 2018 at 1:43 pm

    Sometimes the leader is committed to diversity, but the group is not, (especially in a church).

  4. Jennifer on November 29, 2018 at 1:49 pm

    Great idea and primitive.

  5. DARREN LYONS on November 29, 2018 at 1:50 pm

    Many leaders think that diversity is a soft skill with no tangible benefits. Diversity is not a bunch of feel good initiatives but it is good business! As customers become more diverse and educated the organizations that serve them should look, act and think more like them as well. Finally, in addition to inviting diverse people to the table, leaders benefit from creating an environment where thier ideas and thoughts are welcomed and encouraged. As important as diversity is, inclusion is even more critical. .

  6. Ed Mielock on November 29, 2018 at 3:27 pm

    Love ya John! Keep up good work! God bless. Ed

  7. Ionela Budu on November 29, 2018 at 4:20 pm

    As usual, surprise us with your thoughts and ideas, giving us a new thought at the same time.
    The diversity you are looking for must be respected and represent at least a small percentage of future action, for which you have thought about it.
    I evolve through diversity and information, through empathized experiences and lessons learned, by observing others and self-knowledge.

  8. Art Teska on November 29, 2018 at 4:42 pm

    Diversity is putting aside ore conceived solutions and accepting responses that are relevant to solving the particular organizational issue. We can promote diversity by defining the problem and letting people have the freedom to incorporate it within the organizations structure.
    Thanks great thought, challenging for any situation.

  9. Jay Jenkins on November 29, 2018 at 5:21 pm

    Thank you!

  10. Sage Newman on November 29, 2018 at 6:10 pm

    Often times when we think of diversity and inclusion, do we ever think about adults with special needs?

  11. Angelica F. White on November 29, 2018 at 8:35 pm

    Diversity is a key component for competitive advantage. It expands the horizon of opportunities because it provides many angles in perspective, leads to better innovation and better humans. It forces an attitude of respect, tolerance and collaboration.

  12. Mukhtar Ahmed on November 30, 2018 at 1:45 am

    Thanks for sharing your thoughts. Great points to learn and act. We normally think about diversity as building team with people of different culture, religion, geographies and without gender bias.
    I think mostly weak leaders do not hire people who have different houghts and ideas. They are comfortable with “yes sir” staff. With this they also do not develop themselves.

  13. jennifer obiago on November 30, 2018 at 7:09 am

    you idea are 100% right.

  14. Adebisi Alex olalekan on November 30, 2018 at 10:47 am

    Leadership blind spot is a global phenomenal…..this is a deep thought for 21st century global leaders.

  15. Linda Plantz on November 30, 2018 at 2:12 pm

    John’s points on diversity are Biblically sound. I like that. I find that most organizations are not using Biblically sound principals to promote diversity. I fear this is may be true of our governments as well, be it federal, state or local.

  16. Dr. Krista Abbott on November 30, 2018 at 5:37 pm

    This is a wonderful post. I was just sharing with some colleagues this week about the importance of diversity in our thinking and developing our ability to look through the lens of another to tackle the projects our company is developing. If we all look at things in the same way, then we are unidirectional, we create unintentional blind spots. Diversity enables us to have a full view and be multi-directional in our approach … leading to a greater impact.

  17. Libby Gardiner on December 2, 2018 at 12:18 am

    I loved reading this. One of my favourite times as a leader manager was when I had a remarkably multicultural staff people from different backgrounds, some of whom I gave them their first job in Australia – in fact at one stage there were only two Australians on the permanent staff – we had South Africans, Portuguese and elsewhere, some from the army, fresh from uni and we had the most wonderful time. Different backgrounds all with a passion for conservation and the environment. Staff meetings were something else again. I really miss the diversity.

  18. Phyllis Anderson on December 3, 2018 at 4:08 pm

    Thanks John. Diversity of thought and perspective is key to leadership growth. Diversity offers a better understanding of both the problem and the solution.

  19. David Gbadegbe on December 4, 2018 at 6:20 pm

    Great insight, the idea of diversity today is misconstrued. This post is a truth that will set many people free if they are willing to embrace it.

  20. Samson on December 8, 2018 at 4:25 am

    I can’t wait for the release of the book, learning about managing diversity has been a great challenge for me.

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