9 Pillars of Successful Diverse Teams

Diverse teams usually produce better results than teams strictly comprised of the most intelligent minds available. Homogeneous teams seldom produce pioneering decisions that diverse teams, which encourage different ideas and fair evaluation, can produce. The more diverse the team, the greater the likelihood for stimulating interaction that produces creative ideas. However, for diverse teams to be productive, they must have the 9 pillars of successful diverse teams that ensure members act with a common goal, under adequate coordination and control, with encouragement and respect towards others, active participation, in a responsible manner, with unwavering commitment, in an environment that fosters healthy conflict, problem resolution and ethical behavior.

Nine characteristics determine the successful outcomes of diverse teams. Problems arise when teams lack an adequate understanding of these 9 pillars of successful diverse teams, which ensure that members act with common goals, control and adequate coordination, respect and encouragement from and towards others, active participation of all, responsibility, unwavering commitment, and in an environment that fosters healthy conflict, problem resolution and ethical behavior.

Research on diverse teams and multicultural teams has consistently showed that working with people from different cultures, beliefs, perspectives, and points of view promotes creative and innovative new products, strategies and solutions.  In most cases, the source of creativity derived from diversity results from conflict, which influences how teams perform.  The type of conflict that occurs and how a team manages it determines whether diversity is effective in generating innovative solutions or is ineffective, ending in failure.

1.  Common Goals

For a team to succeed, it must work together.  Shared goals and aligned objectives are essential to a high-performance team.  However, people often have diverse personal goals and objectives that can conflict with those of the team and other team members.  Some employees may seek new responsibilities and challenges, while others seek increased compensation or recognition.  Creating common goals starts with members who want to do what is needed.  However, sometimes the most talented, qualified, and gifted individuals don’t make the best team members. Maybe their style, vision, personality or motives are so far out of alignment with others that personalities clash, making common goals impossible.  Ideally, team members should be diverse but have the potential to accept, trust, compliment and engage professionally among one another.  All pieces of the team must find a way to fit together, share the philosophy that teams work and individuals lose, and commit to getting the job done.

2.      Control

A successful team must coordinate and control different viewpoints to stay on topic.  To do so, each team member should have a clearly defined role that focuses on the team goal, so that both the individual and team can recognize their own importance and need to cooperate.  Also important is formalizing and communicating a decision-making process upfront.  Decisions can be made many ways, but often they are made by a group leader or by a democratic or consensus process.  Whatever the process, it must be clear.  Ensuring control also requires a continuous feedback process that keeps members motivated, identifies unforeseen problems, corrects performance issues and addresses inefficiencies.

3.     Respect

The power of teamwork comes from people working together to produce more than the sum of the individuals on the team.  To harness the power of teamwork, each member must genuinely respect other team members and the team.  Team members must do their work and behave appropriately when performing their jobs, both in the team and outside the team, with a focus on contributing to the team’s success.  Members should encourage others, exhibit self-control and strong judgement, be honest and courteous, and demonstrate a genuine interest in others and the team.

4.     Participation

Diverse teams should bring together people with different perspectives, different points of view, and different backgrounds to build better, more creative solutions.  To achieve the goals of diversity, every team member must be equally important, with the input of each one necessary for the success of the team.  Sometimes, when differences between members of different cultural, racial, sexual or social groups create conflict that results in members being withdrawn or counter-productive, they undermine the effectiveness of the entire team.

In diverse teams, members should also recognize their own body language and how it can be misinterpreted among cultures.  Each member should exercise active listening skills and try to understand other members before responding.  If language is a problem, use a translation services company.  Each member must participate, encourage others to participate and show respect towards the ideas of others.

5.     Responsibility

Effective guidelines, procedures and practices establish full accountability for each team member to contribute positive and logical explanations of team actions.  Accountability makes every member responsible for success or failure, with each one cooperating with others to achieve success.  Exercising responsibility means arriving on time, attending meetings, and being attentive.  Team members must also adhere to established rules and policies, participate, complete assignments on time and hold others accountable.

6.     Commitment

Members must understand the expectations of each member, cooperate with others and support group decisions even when the group decides on ideas that are not the individual’s own.  Commitment can falter with a weakness in one of the other pillars.   Some of the main reasons include lack of trust, fear of revenge or ideas being discarded without valid reason.  When  members aren’t held accountable, other members can lose motivation; this is particularly true when a few members do most of the work.   Members must also understand how their collective work contributes to the company’s vision.  Barriers to success, such as uncooperative team members and impossible objectives, can also influence the level of commitment in a team.

7.     Conflict

Most people think conflict involves hostility, intolerance, heated exchanges and bad relationships. However, in business, healthy team conflict should be viewed as a natural process that fosters diverse and creative views.  When diverse people work in a team, leaders need to manage conflict to produce innovative solutions.  When conflict is absent from teams, groupthink often occurs, a phenomenon resulting when the desire for harmony or conformity overrides rational debate and analysis, ending in less than optimal decision-making.  While conflict is a healthy part of teamwork and decision-making, individual differences and perceptions can lead to unhealthy conflict with negative consequences.

8.     Resolution

In diverse teams, members have different beliefs, perspectives, and points of view, because they come from different backgrounds.  These differences can escalate to conflict.  How that conflict is handled determines whether it works to the team’s advantage or contributes to its demise.  Because people have different skill levels in communication, conflict resolution, cross-cultural communication and active listening, leaders must actively coach the team to avoid unhealthy conflict.  Leaders should encourage opposing viewpoints while also helping members recognize benefits of conflict.

When team conflict becomes unhealthy, the team should immediately address the problem by separating the person from the event.  Engage active listening strategies to understand the problem from all perspectives and then separate the facts from emotions.  See the attached infographic or Once the necessary information is gathered, the situation analyzed and an appropriate remedy determined, then, and only then, can all members be prepared to accept the remedy.

9.     Ethics

Members should recognize that negative team member roles such as stealing ideas, wasting time, pressuring or bullying, deception, racism, threats, harassment, unreliability, dishonesty and backstabbing will not be tolerated.

5 thoughts on “9 Pillars of Successful Diverse Teams

  1. Danielle

    Hey Pete! Wow what a great article, I especially love the graphics and then how you went into more detail on each of the 9 pillars. I can honestly say this was very useful as I am currently a manager and sometimes it’s easy to forget these ”pillars.” This article is definitely recommended for supervisors managers, and anybody that would like to be more professional in whatever line of work they wish to pursue.

  2. Mitchell

    Interesting read! Great points with good analysis. I’m glad you started with “Common goals” It’s obvious that people will have diverse goals and objectives, but in order to succeed, these goals have to harmonized in order to work towards a direct and straight path. This alone is the stepping stone to successful diverse teams. Great piece! Thanks.

  3. Jacob Blunt

    Quite an educative piece. I can now see reasons why some divers teams never gets it right. That’s because some of the points you enumerated her are being neglected. Thanks for sharing this, very helpful.

  4. Mia Cole

    I enjoyed reading through this article. In every functional team, one thing that is paramount and common to them all is the ability of members to learn how to tolerate and respect other members. Each member respects other member’s opinions, thoughts, and as well encourages their ideas. That is a strong pillar in building a working team.

  5. Frank

    You’ve said it all. I think clear cut rules should be put in place to check every member of unhealthy attitudes that may rub on other members and thus distort the team spirit. Laziness, act of irresponsibility, lateness, racism, deception and backstabbing should be fought with everything the team has got.

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