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Diversity in the Workplace: 5 Ways to Help Your Team Perform Better

February 16th, 2012 by Bruna Martinuzzi

This article first appeared on OPEN Idea Forum.

When we think of diversity, most of us first think of race, ethnicity, gender and age. We think of the legendary Louis Armstrong’s lyrics from his song, “What a Wonderful World,” that allude to the notion: “The colors of the rainbow so pretty in the sky, are also on the faces of people going by.” Yet, diversity in organizations is a much broader spectrum than that. It encompasses diversity in passions, talents, personality, motivations and experience, to name a few.

But diversity is not about focusing on how we differ—as author Ola Joseph puts it, it is about “embracing one another’s uniqueness.” Leaders who recognize and celebrate the uniqueness of their people help their teams perform better. Harnessing the richness of diversity can lead to better problem-solving and decision-making and increased creativity and innovation.

Here are some inspirations to help you raise your diversity awareness so that you can capitalize on its value.

Optimize the innovativeness of team members. There is ample research to show that the most innovative teams are composed of varied individuals with different styles, approaches or skill sets. In The Ten Faces of Innovation, author Tom Kelley, who is also the general manager of the design company IDEO, describes the 10 personas that are crucial for establishing a culture of innovation. These include, for example, The Cross-Pollinator, who has the ability to draw associations and connections between seemingly unrelated concepts to break new ground, or The Hurdler, whose skills lie in being a tireless problem-solver who enjoys tackling something that’s never been done before. Here’s a brief introduction of the Ten Faces. If you want to fuel innovation, make sure that each of these 10 personas has a place on your team.

If you need help assessing the various innovation approaches of your team members, consider introducing the Innovation Styles Assessment, which recognizes four unique innovation styles like, for example, visioning (envisioning the ideal future) and experimenting (combining and testing).

Be a talent hunter. Imagine having a reputation for being a talent hunter, for being known as the type of leader who walks into a room and looks for what’s right with people. Extensive research has proven that focusing on enhancing people’s talents rather than eliminating their weaknesses is the most direct route to individual and organizational improvements. A primer for this is Marcus Buckingham’s and Donald O. Clifton’s book, Now, Discover Your Strengths, which helps readers identify their talents and build on their strengths as a way to boost performance. Talents are defined as people’s naturally recurring patterns of thought, feeling or behavior that can be productively applied. The book also provides access to StrengthsFinder, a Web-based assessment that helps you identify the five most powerful signature themes, or talents, for you and your team.

When we shackle people with labels of what they are not good at, we diminish their confidence in their ability to succeed. Resolve to view your people as a reservoir of talent rather than a problem to be fixed. As Peter F. Drucker once said: “Nobody ever commented, for example, that the great violinist Jascha Heifetz probably couldn’t play the trumpet very well.”

Help people live their passions. Passions are pursuits that fully engage our hearts and minds; they fuel us, and they are different for each person. A company that understands the importance of supporting their employees’ individual passions is Amex Bank of Canada. As explained in the article, “Amex Ignites Employees Passions—for Living and for Work,” the company has instituted a program called “Realize the Potential,” which recognizes and supports the people who are taking the time to identify their passions and realize their potential—whether it is through charity work, taking a sabbatical for adventure travel or being mentored by the company’s top people. With this program, Amex is sending a message to their people that they want to know the whole person, so they encourage people to tell their managers about their passions—and to explore them while working within Amex.

Accommodating employees’ passions is a smart thing to do. It engenders loyalty and the enthusiasm spills over into one’s work.

Educate the organization about “micro-inequities.” This idea comes from Douglas R. Conant, retired president and CEO of the Campbell Soup Company. In a Harvard Business Review article, “How to Make Diversity and Inclusion Real,” Conant defines “micro-inequities” as the common behaviors that undermine a culture of inclusion. Conant set up courses to raise his managers’ awareness of these behaviors. An example of this is the language used. “Too many male managers,” says Conant, “may rely too heavily on sports analogies—a habit that might not be inclusive for women and nonathletes. We wanted to make sure that people learned to listen, speak and act more inclusively.”

Know what motivates people. If you want to motivate people to give you the best that they have to offer, consider that not everyone is motivated by the same things. In his book Drive: The Surprising Truth About What Motivates Us, Daniel Pink shows that external rewards (what he calls the carrot-and-stick approach) incentivize performance when the work is simple and straightforward and involves only mechanical skills. But for nonroutine jobs, when the work entails even rudimentary cognitive skills, external rewards don’t work. Instead, there are three crucial factors that motivate people to perform better:

  • Autonomy: People are motivated by a desire to be self-directed.
  • Mastery: People have an innate desire to become better at what they do.
  • Purpose: People want to have a sense of deeper purpose in their work.

Consider these motivators and give people the flexibility to choose the way they want to complete their work; give them opportunities to master their craft, to develop and grow and, finally, inspire them with a deeper purpose, a higher ideal than simply making more money for the company. As Pink says, don’t unhinge profit from purpose.

Guard against viewing people through a narrow lens and be wide open to the broad landscape of diversity. As Max de Pree, retired CEO of Herman Miller, said: “We need to give each other the space to grow, to be ourselves, to exercise diversity. We need to give each other space so that we may both give and receive such beautiful things as ideas, openness, dignity, joy, healing and inclusion.” What a wonderful world, indeed.

Copyright © 2012 by Bruna Martinuzzi. All Rights Reserved.

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One Surefire Way To Be A Better Leader

February 16th, 2012 by Bruna Martinuzzi

This article first appeared on OPEN IDEA FORUM.

Harry S. Truman said: “It is amazing what you can accomplish if you do not care who gets the credit.” These words are echoed by John Donovan, chief technology officer at AT&T in a recent New York Times interview: Strive for Results, Not for the Accolades. One of the leadership lessons Donovan learned in his career is that “people appreciate you when you play for results, and not for your role on the team.” He says that he learned that “that giving credit away, deflecting credit, was an effective thing to do.”

It is an admirable quality for a leader to share credit for what is accomplished. More often than not, it’s the other way around: people are very protective of their contributions and some make it an art to keep score. This diminishes rather than enhances our status. It takes a big man (or woman) to feel secure enough to let the light shine on others.

Here are some tips to help you be that big leader:

Put yourself in others’ shoes.
Think about a situation when a leader gave you credit for something you accomplished. How did this feel? Chances are it made you feel good about yourself, about your work. It made you feel proud. As a leader, you have the power to bestow these feelings on every team member who deserves to be recognized. A small effort in genuinely sharing credit boosts people’s spirit.

Show Others that You Value Them.
When we give credit to someone for their work, we send a message that we notice them, and that what they do is important. Studies have shown that an increase in productivity results when individuals are singled out, and made to feel important. Having a leader who makes a point to notice what each person contributes to the team, no matter what position the person occupies in the corporate hierarchy, is a powerful way to create employee engagement.

Hone your awareness of team members’ different linguistic styles.
Linguist Deborah Tannen in a Harvard Business Review article Power of Talk: Who Gets Heard and Why states that “Most of us judge others’ competence—as well as their confidence and authority—by the way they talk. Based on what we hear, we decide whether a boss’, peer’s, or subordinate’s ideas merit our attention and support.”

The problem with this, as Tannen’s research shows, is that we all have different linguistic styles. For example, someone’s style may be to use “we” rather than “I” to describe accomplishments because “I” may seem too self-promoting. The unintended consequences of this style, explains Tannen, is that a person “doesn’t get credit for accomplishments and may hesitate to offer good ideas in the future.” As a leader, you should develop an awareness of people’s speaking styles so that you don’t unintentionally discount someone’s contributions because of their understated manner.

Allow people to sign their work.
Every artist likes to sign his painting. Similarly, every worker likes to put his personal stamp on his own work. Don’t deprive people of this privilege. If you submit a report that was drafted by one of your team members, find ways to include the person’s name somewhere in the report.

Make sharing credit a part of the meeting agenda.
This idea comes from Mike Robbins in Focus on the Good Stuff: The Power of Appreciation. Periodically, start off meetings with team members sharing all the good things that have happened since the last meeting. Examples include specific acknowledgments of individuals, announcement of successes—even small ones—or expressing gratitude for the team in general. This is a quick activity that can boost morale and make it easier for those who are unaccustomed to giving appreciation.

Pass on third party praise.
If a client or other stakeholder praises one of your team members, no matter how small the praise might seem to you, make sure that you pass on the comments to the individual concerned. Forward complimentary emails and add a personal note to congratulate the person and let them know what this means to you personally and to the department. It only takes a few moments and it means a lot to the recipient.

Tell the story.
When you share credit, make an effort to give the context and some of the details of the individual’s contribution. As James Kouzes and Barry Posner state in Encouraging the Heart: A Leader’s Guide to Rewarding and Recognizing Others, “Stories put a human face on success. They put the behavior in a real context and make standards more than statistics.” They honor the person’s contributions and set the standard for others.

Recognition is an energy booster; it has a ripple effect. When we are seen to share the responsibility for successes with others, it encourages other team members to do the same. When enough people start to do this on a team, it becomes the norm, a part of the team culture. The result is a better place to work for everyone. It is also a surefire way to become a better leader: As Lao Tzu, Chinese philosopher, said: “When the best leader’s work is done the people say, ‘We did it ourselves!’”

Copyright © 2012 by Bruna Martinuzzi. All Rights Reserved.

 

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Presenting with Credibility: Practical Tools And Techniques for Effective Presentations

Presenting with Credibility:
Practical Tools And Techniques for Effective Presentations

"Presenting with Credibility will make you an enchanting presenter. Read it if you want to take your presentation skills to the next level."

Guy Kawasaki, author of the best-selling Enchantment

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