I tend to stay away from the word diversity because I do not believe that it is the root cause for anything in the workplace. I especially do not believe that under- or over-represented groups are the root cause for suboptimal productivity and financial results. The issues do not lay with individual performers.
The issue and therefore the solution lay with leadership. Leaders who are self-aware and deliver the best results do not accept suboptimal performance. They especially do not accept paying 100% of an employee’s salary and benefits for 60% return given that the underrepresented group members leaves 40% of themselves in the car because they do not find their ideas or approach welcome. Allowing leaders to accept less than 100% from their team members leads to mediocre organizations and great leaders do not accept mediocrity. Let me repeat that – Great leaders do not accept mediocrity – for any reason.
Let’s move beyond the labels and the need for political correctness and pretend you see yourself as the perfect leader. By definition, this means you are getting the best results from your team. If this were the case, it would be truly unfortunate. Why? Because you would then need to accept that your team can do no better than they are today. How will you get promoted? How will you get that bonus modifier you desire? How can you possibly advance in your career if you are already doing everything right?
Let’s decide right now that we are going to look in the mirror and accept ourselves, and our teams, for the strengths and weaknesses we bring to the table. Let’s get really brave and find out what we can do that would invite our team to sit closer to the table, share their ideas and energy. Will we learn that we are not the perfect leader? Absolutely yes! That’s the point. Finding out what we we can change to improve our results is what it is all about.
When we accept we are not perfect, we discover what we can do, even slightly differently, that could improve the performance of our teams. It is on this path that excellence and financial reward are found. It is also on this path that the humans become better humans, which is more important than financial gain. This is where we establish dominance in new industries, retain competitive advantage, and provide real value. This is where the game gets won.
My challenge to you – are you willing to find just 1 thing you could do differently that would invite every member of your team to perform more effectively? If you are, there are a great number of resources you can leverage (books, blogs, a coach, podcasts, workshops, etc). See below for a few suggestions.
If this challenge makes you uncomfortable or you find yourself readily dismissing it, ask yourself why. There is just one acceptable answer – your team is already performing at the highest level possible.
Suggested leadership resources: The Rocket Model: Practical Advice for Building High Performance Teams by Curphy and Hogan, Stand Out: Find Your Edge. Win at Work by Marcus Buckingham, HBR IdeaCast http://feeds.harvardbusiness.org/harvardbusiness/ideacast, SandersSays http://sanderssays.typepad.com/sanders_says/, “Listen, Learn… then Lead” by McCrystal http://www.ted.com/speakers/stanley_mcchrystal