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Appreciating Diversity

I was talking to an attendee at a conference at which I was speaking on virtual teams. We started to talk about diversity on project teams. He was surprised when I noted that the more diversity on the team – the better! From his perspective – it meant more work for him. He didn’t want to deal with folks who thought differently than him or had different ways to getting the work done as it meant that it would be more difficult to control the project and complete the project as he saw fit (read “his way.”) After all, he is the project manager so this is his job, right?  No.

The last thing I want on the team is a bunch of team members who think just like me or do things the way I do them. I don’t have all the answers and there may be a better way of accomplishing a goal. I don’t have an ego – I don’t have to be the best at everything. I know where my strengths lie and I’m confident enough to bring in others who will challenge me.

I’m always perplexed by those who want people just like them on the team. Seems boring. And – as my husband would say – one of me is enough!

When we enable for diversity – and appreciate and value that diversity – we accomplish so much more! Projects and initiatives launched are more creative and innovative and better meet the needs of diverse stakeholders. Better decisions are made overall because of the variety of perspectives on the team. Yes – there may be more conflicts but that is part of life. And with the right project leadership, they can be easily resolved. And think of how much we learn from those around us who come at an issue from another perspective!

Back to my conversation at the conference. Is there extra work involved in managing a diverse team? Yes, likely. I have to spend more time to get to know others and how they work and think so that we can collaborate successfully. And certainly if the team is virtual that complicates matters. But bottom line – it is well worth the extra effort! What comes out of the extra effort – besides success on the project – are strong working relationships and sometimes friendship.

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