It’s crunch time at work and you’re reviewing an important plan for your supervisor who asks, “What do you think?” You secretly hate a certain part of his plan. Your experience tells you that there’s a better way to achieve what your supervisor is trying to achieve. You think that giving your honest opinion, though, could go one of two ways: You could hurt your supervisor’s feelings or you could paint yourself as a difficult team member. Neither result is good, but the problem is that we think those are the only two potential outcomes.
In many workplaces, it’s dangerous to disagree with the boss. Doing so signs you up for every crappy task and unwanted assignment possible until your boss forgets or forgives your transgression. It doesn’t have to be that way, though. Differences of opinion can help you build a competitive advantage. As a leader, you have the power to change the way your organization works in this regard.
Build a competitive advantage through differences
Diversity of thought encourages differing approaches and ideas to solve problems and create forward-thinking strategies for business growth. Focusing on individual contributions to the workforce is what will ultimately fuel growth.
We need to move beyond thinking of “diversity” as limited to things like race, age, sexuality, and gender. There is little value to having a workplace full of people of different ethnicities, gender identities, and ages, but who all think alike or at least pretend to think alike.
We need to surround ourselves with intellectually diverse people by encouraging thought diversity and differing opinions in the workplace. This can open doors to new ways of doing things, close gaps between departments, and influence each member of the organization to bring something unique to the table.
Welcome the idea of differences
Here are four ways your team can make thought diversity the future of your business:
1. Build partnerships that lead to innovation.
Work with others—clients, stakeholders, other companies—to meet people who have different perspectives on your industry. Their way of thinking about and doing things will be different from yours. That will only enhance your problem-solving skills, creativity, and ability to develop unique strategies.
2. Hire diverse characters.
No one wants to work on a team of people who are exactly alike. Employ and work with diverse people. When you are filling out your team, look for people with different experiences, from different backgrounds, who will have different insights into the issues of your team. Diversity of character is often more valuable than the perfect skill set. Skills can be trained; character is developed through experiences and over time.
3. Change the culture.
In order to encourage your diverse workforce to draw on individual experiences, you need to make any necessary changes to the culture of your organization to ensure that it’s a safe place to take risks and share differing opinions.
4. Develop people.
Providing employees with professional development opportunities will give them the confidence to make individual contributions that benefit the growth of the organization. Professional development empowers workers to improve their role within the team.
The Gillespie Nimble New Manager Jump™ Series provides training that helps you encourage diversity of thought. The series provides a collaborative, cohort-based experience that explores the skills needed to lead a team and challenge the status quo. New Manager Jump helps new managers not only understand the difference between compliant employees who toe the line and committed employees who take risks and innovate, but it also teaches new managers the skills needed to move their team from compliance to commitment. As a leader, you set the tone for the environment. Encouraging diversity of thought within the workplace creates an environment of collaboration and inclusion, giving team members the motivation to contribute and do well.
To learn more about the skills needed to encourage a workplace of thought diversity, download our tip sheet “Seven Leadership Skills for Forward-Thinking Growth.”