Most teams aren’t homogenous–that is, the people you manage likely come from different backgrounds and bring varying cultural experiences into the workplace. Differences in age, gender, race, sexuality, and even income level all contribute to the inherent diversity of your team. Consequently, the individuals you work with will need different things from you and may not always work together as well as you might hope. As the leader, you have the opportunity to empower your team by striving for empathy and inclusivity. Below are a few skills you can focus on to help lead a diverse team well.
Master the Art of Listening
Your team members each have their own unique experiences in the workplace, and you may not always be aware of everything that goes on. It’s essential to be willing to listen with the intent to understand, don’t be quick to insert your own opinions or feelings. Learn to ask insightful questions, validate your employees’ feelings and experiences, and find ways to move forward with empathy. It’s also important to create space to receive feedback from employees so they can express concerns.
Recognize the Value in Each Team Member
The beauty of a diverse team is that you get a wide variety of perspectives and skills. Be intentional about recognizing the value each team member brings to the team, whether that’s the technical skills they bring to their work or the positive attitude they bring to the office. Constructive feedback is necessary for the office to encourage growth, but make sure you balance it with appreciation and acknowledgment of strengths as well.
Learn to Mediate Conflict
Conflict is inevitable among human beings, as as the leader, you set the tone for how conflicts play out. There are tons of resources, from books to training courses, on how to effectively mediate conflict. Taking the time to learn and practice these skills will help you to be able to resolve conflicts peacefully and avoid building resentment on your team. Conflict can be an opportunity for growth and learning, but only when handled with care and respect.
Evaluate Personal Biases
Finally, make sure to take the time for personal reflection on your own inherent biases. You bring your own background and experience into the role, and with it likely some biases–but that’s okay, everyone does! What matters is taking the time to recognize them in yourself, make sure they don’t influence your decisions and work to overcome them.
Taking the time to work on these skills will help you become a leader who empowers others, even in incredibly diverse teams. Diversity is a powerful asset, but only when managed well and not allowed to become a source of conflict or tension. You set the tone for your team, so make sure you set a positive one.