“We need diversity of thought in the world to face the new challenges.” -Tim Berners-Lee

While diversity is a core value in corporate America, too often, leaders are afraid of diverse perspectives. Surrounding oneself with like-minded professionals is easy. However, trusting diversity develops a better leader and a stronger organization. A wide range of perspectives and experiences represented in a leadership team or an advisory board is critical for innovation and promotes overall growth within an organization.

Building a diverse leadership team is often discussed but rarely achieved. Typically, you hire or recruit people that are like you. During the interview process, you connect with the candidate because they are a mirror image of you, and you like yourself; therefore, you hire people like you. Break this mold by creating a profile for each position within the organization or each role on the board. Irrelevant of the current leadership personality, recruit someone whose skill sets matches the job description to be successful in that particular position. Fit the personality of the person to the role, not to the leadership.

While it may be easy to fill an advisory board with a bunch of yes-men, you are doing yourself a disservice by not being told what you need to hear. Excluding diversity stunts innovation and growth. It is important to have those diverse perspectives at the table where individuals are empowered to analyze situations from different angles based on their acumen, their faith belief structures, their specializations, and their unique experiences.

When strategically assembling a diverse leadership team, Board Developer has a specific process. For advisory boards, we conduct several assessments: where the organization has been and the current pulse of where the organization is. Finally, we then determine the needs of the organization. Once the specific needs have been decided, the search for quality individuals that fit that particular professional specialization begins.

To find the right diverse team members, spend a tremendous amount of time on the work planning process. Plan heavily and take a long time to hire right. Hiring right and attaining the right staff or board members is essential because it takes a lot of finite resources to find a quality individual. Never settle. Never hire outside of the parameters you built. Never put someone in a position if you have not already defined the role. Do not create a position for someone. Organizations do this time and time again due to loyalty. It is a mistake and often eliminates diversity.

To improve diversity in leadership:

  • Think differently
  • Strategically analyze where the organization is on a regular basis
  • Assess the current leadership’s ability and ask the hard questions internally.

For the small business owner or leader, surround yourself with people that have different opinions. By practicing the philosophy of being an active listener, you can listen to various points of view. When you listen actively, you will discover that while their perspectives are different, they are not contrarian; they are respectful. A leader creates an atmosphere of deep respect when they actively listen to other perspectives, resulting in sustained civility.

There will be challenges when building and leading a diverse team. The leadership of the organization must be ready for challenges and willing to face hard conversations. Implementing a diverse leadership team means a business owner must be okay with someone telling them that they could be doing things better. They must be receptive to perspectives that are different from their own. Allowing other perspectives to enrich your organization results in spectacular “Aha!” moments.  Those “aha!” moments do not continue to come from people like you because you have already experienced them. To develop more “aha!” moments within your organization, bring diverse perspectives to the table…