Do you need your team to come up with more creative ideas? Do you need your team to solve complex problems? If the answer to either of these questions is yes, you need two major ingredients.

The first takes real effort, but the second one is easy.

The first one isn’t IQ. It isn’t EQ. It isn’t depth of experience. It isn’t breadth of experience. It isn’t qualifications. It isn’t even technical competence. It’s diversity. Not the appearance of diversity –focusing solely on how we appear on the outside – but real diversity, how we appear on the inside. True diversity is diversity of thinking.

You and I live on the same planet as billions of other people. But we don’t all live in the same world. Every one of us sees the world around us differently because we are all looking through the filters of our own experiences – and your set of experiences is unique to you – just as mine is unique to me.

 

When someone’s filters are similar to ours we usually connect without any real effort. When they are different then it does take a little effort – but as long as we recognise what’s going on it really doesn’t take much.

The making of a team

When diversity within a team is fully understood – it is the making of a team. You end up with a wide range of inputs, perspectives, insights and experiences fused together to form a powerful whole. This is exactly why one of the worst things a manager can do is to recruit in their own image– surrounding themselves with “mini–me’s” who all see the world in the same way. Although we like people who are like us – at the most basic level that’s how it works – we need people who are different to us because they come fully fitted with the very things that we are missing. That’s why we need diversity.

The breaking of a team

When diversity is not really understood the wheels start to come off. Lack of similarity leads to lack of understanding. Lack of understanding leads to lack of trust, lack of trust leads to a lack of connection and before you know it you are pouring precious resource and energy down the drain and the diverse, creative, problem-solving, dream team you put together becomes dysfunctional and everything starts to unravel.

Because when we look at people who are like us we are more likely to see what’s right with them rather than what’s wrong with them. When we look at people who are different we are more likely to see what’s wrong with them rather than what’s right with them. That’s where we need to take care and make sure our team value their differences – and of course we need to lead by example, so as leaders we have to focus on what’s right in others, and then actively encourage the same approach across the team.

So how can you make sure everyone in your team is able to understand how people are different and how they can use their understanding to look for what’s right in their colleagues, despite their differences? This would be a good time to come back to the number 1 principle of leadership.

There are only two rules that MUST be obeyed in leadership – everything else is just noise – but these two rules are indisputable!

Always remember rule number 1, which states loud and clear…. It’s not about you!

Leaders who focus only on what they think, on their own perspective, on their ideas, on their needs and on their ego will never inspire others for long. Leaders who absolutely get rule number 1 will be able to do magical things with their teams and for their organisations.

As a leader, make sure your primary focus is on building a diverse team, then understanding their perspective rather than convincing them of yours and you will be amazed to see how many things start falling into place as your team excels in both creativity and complex problem solving beyond your wildest dreams.

The final ingredient

Oh – I promised you two major ingredients. What’s the second one?

Food!

If you hold a meeting with your team to come up with creative ideas or solve complex problems – make sure you bring food! Trust me – you won’t regret it!

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Peter Anderton

Author: Peter Anderton

A sought after coach and change agent, Peter has spent many years in Organisational Development, focusing on developing high performance leadership teams, executive coaching, strategy and change. He builds relationships quickly and is as comfortable in the boardroom as he is at ‘grass roots’. Known for his integrity, energy and a real passion for making things happen, he has a uniquely direct yet supportive style that delivers.

Peter is a qualified NLP master practitioner, a Chartered Fellow of the CIPD and a Chartered Engineer.