As today’s workplace becomes more complex, the challenges we experience are more demanding and novel than ever before. To overcome these unique circumstances, it is now critically important that leaders make diversity a number one priority when creating teams.
Diversity comes in all shapes and forms from age, race, culture, and gender identification to experience and skill level. But the one form of diversity that is often overlooked is psychological diversity. A team that thinks, behaves, and acts the same will march in the same direction. While there will be little conflict, there will also be little innovation and many missed opportunities. Assembling a team that will challenge one another with unique ideas, questions, concerns, and perspectives is crucial to eliminate blind spots in the problem-solving and decision-making processes.
If you can only have five members on your team, make sure you find the right fit for these critical roles:
- The Historian. The most senior member on the team is a wealth of information. S/he knows what has been tried, what works, what doesn’t, and who all they key players are in the organization. S/he is the go-to person for the toughest questions. Building a strong relationship with the Historian is critical. If you ask, s/he will tell, and that knowledge can make you look like a Rockstar in strategy meetings. But beware that you might need to challenge a Historian that doesn’t want to try anything new because it’s already been done.
- The Drama-Free Zone. Team members who stay focused and excuse themselves from gossip, drama, and conflict are a leader’s dream. Most leaders would take a drama-free B-Player over a high maintenance, pot-stirring high performer any day. Drama-free team members are usually also very even-tempered and not easily rattled. They can be a great sounding board for the leader who needs a spin-free perspective on a situation.
- The Challenger. Every brainstorming session needs a Devil’s Advocate to ask the tough questions. A Challenger is a Devil’s Advocate with positive intentions and strong communication skills. S/he is not seen as a naysayer, but as someone who always questions assumptions, ensures bias is identified and removed, and they ensure that the information available is weighed accurately and fairly. Sure, the Challenger may make some meetings longer and more exhausting, but the quality of the end result will be worth the extra time.
- The Cheerleader. There are peaks and valleys to every organization, and in the depths of those valleys, you need one person who can spot the silver lining and make it sparkle. This is the person who is realistic and acknowledges the challenges, but only lets the team dwell on those issues for so long before forcing everyone to get their head in the game and focus on what is worth fighting for.
- The Artist. The Artist can create something out of nothing. A tag-line. A strategy. A solution. A vision. When there’s an Artist on the team, they can’t help but create something new and drive the business forward. They drown in slow, bureaucratic cultures of mediocrity and they may not always paint inside the lines, but when handed the right paint brush, they bring magic to life.
Leading a team of cognitively and psychologically diverse team members won’t always be easy. At times it may seem like everyone is speaking a different language. But, effective leaders understand there is more power in our differences than our similarities.