“Good is the enemy of great.” Jim Collins made that statement famous when he wrote his book, Good to Great, almost 20 years ago. Keeping in mind Collins’ perspective, are we limiting ourselves from creating great teams by settling for good ones?
Most would agree that a good team is one that works well together. For some, that may look like a team of individuals with similar ideals, methods, and experiences working methodically towards the same business objectives.
Others would argue that this definition of a “good” team doesn’t begin to scratch the surface of what businesses need today. To be competitive today, we undoubtedly need “great.” And to achieve that, we first have to get comfortable with moving past what we’ve been comfortable with. If we are comfortable with “good,” what’s going to motivate us to be “great?”
A Collective Goal
Of course, it is essential that we all work towards the same vision, but it is also important to have individuals on our team who want to help shape that vision. Great teams are made up of individuals with new ideas, unique ways of thinking, and different life and work experiences. They have team members who look, act, and think differently. A great team is diverse.
Forbes conducted a study a few years ago where they measured the effectiveness of diverse teams. They studied more than 200 business teams, over two years, in a wide variety of businesses. Their results were astounding. Decisions made and executed by diverse teams delivered 60% better results, and teams that followed an inclusive process in decision-making made decisions two times faster with half the meetings.
When Forbes broke down the demographics of the teams, the results became even more profound. Gender-diverse teams made better decisions 73% of the time, while teams that included a wide range of ages and different geographic locations made better decisions 87% of the time.
With numbers like these, the case appears to be an easy one to sell to business leaders. Build a great team by building a diverse team. Now, if it was just that easy to make it happen.
Making the Right Choices
Great teams start with great hires. With unemployment rates hitting 40-year lows, the challenge to find the right talent has never been greater. Today’s recruiters don’t just face the challenge of having a full pipeline. They face the challenge of having a pipeline full of qualified, diverse candidates that are genuinely considering making a job change. If we expect our hiring managers to select diverse candidates, we must ensure that they have diverse options. Where we post jobs, the information we include in job postings, and our screening criteria for candidates all influence the makeup of our candidate pools. Effective recruiters continuously seek to diversify their pipelines by looking for new, creative ways to source diverse talent.
Professional and social organizations that are dedicated to the development and advancement of women and minorities offer partnership opportunities that include job postings, leadership mentoring, and event sponsorships. Most of these organizations are looking for more than a one-time monetary investment. They’re looking for a relationship that benefits their members as well as their employer partners. Take the time to research these organizations, and focus on the partners who share your goal of building a highly effective, diverse team.
Once hiring managers are presented with qualified, diverse candidates, we have the responsibility of ensuring that they understand the company’s goal of creating and maintaining a diverse team. Making decisions about who gets to join the team is an honor and a significant responsibility. In addition to understanding all of the legal requirements about what can and cannot be asked in the interview process, the best hiring managers will clearly understand the importance of selling the business to all types of job seekers from all types of backgrounds. They’ll be able to honestly discuss how a diverse candidate will fit into the business and how that candidate can expect to grow their career once they’re on the team.
Hiring managers also have to be smart enough to discern what is most important to the individual candidate and then articulate how their company can uniquely meet those needs. That often means understanding individuals with different life experiences, work backgrounds, and personal goals. Some candidates will care passionately about the company’s culture, while others will be driven by career growth, compensation, job title, commitment to community, or level of work-life balance. It’s easy to convince someone who is just like us that they’ll love working where we do. It can be more challenging when the candidate sees things through a different lens of life.
Diversity Is Key
We aren’t doing ourselves any favors by bringing on diverse candidates if our business is not up for discussion around diversity of thought. While our recruiters can bring diverse candidates to the table, and our hiring managers can ensure that our new hire classes are filled with the best diverse talent, it’s up to leaders throughout the business to ensure that this diverse talent stays and succeeds.
Businesses that value diversity understand the importance of a diverse, internal pipeline focused on individual development and succession planning. What better place to look for a great leadership candidate than on our own teams. Creating and managing effective development plans for high-performing women and minorities allows us to reward top performers while ensuring the business can continue to grow with leaders who are ready to step up and in when needed. Not all diverse candidates may be willing to raise their hands to take on additional responsibilities or to be considered for a new role.
Studies have long shown that women traditionally struggle with the confidence to speak up while men tend to be more eager to take the spotlight (or at least ask for it). A recent study by Hewlett Packard revealed that men applied for a promotion when they met only 60% of the qualifications, while women tended to apply only if they met 100% of them. Formal development plans that identify women and minority leaders are just one way to ensure that everyone has a chance to throw their hat in the ring for the next big promotion.
Building an inclusive culture is tantamount to creating a culture where everyone has an equal opportunity to be successful. How difficult would it be for a professional golfer to suddenly join a professional basketball team? Probably nearly impossible. While the golfer is a professional athlete, with lots of great skills that make them the best at what they do, those skills most likely won’t be appreciated in the middle of a game on the basketball court. Thankfully, most work teams don’t require such homogenous skill sets.
Honing Skills for Success
In the business world, we’re looking for team members with any number of skills. We need extroverts, introverts, numbers experts, techie types, people types, and everyone in-between. We need individuals who have experienced life and the professional world in a variety of ways. The Golden State Warriors probably won’t be looking to add Tiger Woods to their roster anytime soon. As a result, their work environment doesn’t need to be accommodating to the unique needs of a professional golfer. Who would have thought that building a successful culture in the business world today could be considered more complicated than building a professional basketball team that’s competed three years in a row for the NBA Championship?
Because the workforce needs team members with a variety of skill sets and experiences, successful businesses recognize the need to be prepared for continuous cultural shifts. That doesn’t mean they change the core values or goals of the business. However, it does mean they’ll need to be constantly thinking about how the work environment helps or hinders different team members’ success.
Does the culture foster a workplace that feels inclusive to LGBTQ employees, those with disabilities, veterans, older workers, minorities, and women? Does it help make everyone feel like an important part of the team and encourage everyone to raise their hand and willing to share their unique skill sets and perspectives? Or does the culture create an environment where only certain groups of employees feel comfortable bringing their whole selves to work? If employees are spending a considerable amount of time working to hide their life experiences at the office, they’re much less likely to be fully engaged at the workplace.
Perhaps most importantly, diversity and inclusion must be intentional and measured. Keeping diversity and inclusion goals top of mind is important at all junctures of the business. From planning strategies to business processes to team logistics, the makeup of a team matters. Many politicians have reminded us over the years that “hope is not a strategy.” Sincerely desiring a diverse team and inclusive workforce likely won’t make either happen. Leaders who make diversity a priority and weave it into the details of their business can reap big rewards. Building internal reporting processes, setting (and resetting) goals, and holding the business accountable can only happen with consistent and intentional leadership that values the importance of a diverse team.