Diversity, just about gender?

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Gender. A hot topic nowadays, at least in the Netherlands. Kids should be raised gender-neutral. Some people consider themselves not men or women. I read an article about parents who wanted not to share the gender of their kid with family and friends, just to make sure their kid is raised gender-neutral.

Some people believe teams should have equal men and women. The Technical University of Eindhoven decided to only accept women for some positions during the first six months. After six months also men are allowed to apply for the vacancy.

I believe diversity is not just related to gender. Yes, it is a factor however here is so much more. What about where did you grow up, work experience, age, where did you live, travel experience, education, etc. Gender is just one of the factors.

Diversity is important. Sometimes organizations need to comply with diversity because of legal constraints.

The world is getting more complicated and complex, diversity in teams can help you to deal with this new world. It will help you to communicate with the outside world as diversity will also increase in the outside world. Also, it just more fun to work in a team with high diversity.

However, there are definitely also some risks with high diversity. Firstly, conflicts could easier occur, as backgrounds are really different. Are team members willing to accept diversity? Secondly, when work is straight forward, flipping burgers at McDonald’s, or working at an assembly line, it doesn’t add anything. There is not enough value in creating diversity. Lastly, performance will be low in the beginning. The team needs some time to start up. Yes, the Tuckman model but be aware of this mode. Read Doc Norton blog post for more information about why Tuckman was wrong.

So how to deal with diversity? How to make it work well. There are some activities you can do to get a diverse team up and running.

If you work with team members from different countries or even maybe different regions, organize a culture aware workshop. Learn to understand why people act as they act. Make sure small things don’t explode.

Team building activities will help you. It could be personal maps, doing fun stuff things together, just get to know each other outside the work environment.

Improve communication among team members. It is important for team members to learn how to give feedback to each other. Provide them a workshop in understanding and using the Feedback Wrap or Feedforward. Spend time on learning how to give and receive feedback.

Temporary team members could also help you to increase diversity. Invite people with a different mindset to meetings. They will ask questions because they don’t understand or are used to a different approach. What in the end, will make you as a team think again about an approach.

Assign the devil’s advocate. Maybe maximum diversity is not always needed. What if you assign the devil’s advocate to someone during meetings? This role will be about challenging any decision made by the team?

Some tips and insights on team diversity! I hope you enjoyed it and if you have some more tips, please share them with me.

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