Diversity is More Than Culture
While I was still a full time corporate employee, discussions about diversity in the workplace had a lot to do with managing different cultural backgrounds. I understood that leaders who have experience working with different cultural backgrounds would be better at managing diversity in the workplace.
In my later experience coaching professionals in the workplace, I see another important face of diversity emerging in the workplace, which has to do with dealing with diverse personalities. I have noted that confrontations between teams in the workplace have had a lot to do with personality differences despite sharing similar cultural backgrounds.
One may be a leader who is inclined to talking themselves through issues with a subordinate who thinks through to solutions. This talking leader may read the lack of verbal feedback from his staff as either failure to understand the situation or signs of a disengaged employee. This difference in personalities can cause constraints to their relationship if left unattended.
Some leaders have been known to maneuver this landscape by hiring employees with similar personalities, or as I say, cloning themselves. Much as this may bring some harmony in office relations, it destroys a spirit of creativity in these teams.
In an article by Nneka Orji in theglasshammer.com, she writes that while not always the same or complementary to your personality type, the most successful teams are made up of a mix of personalities. Although the emotional stability trait in extremes may not be desirable, the benefits of working with an agreeable and creative colleague should not be discounted. A balanced team is important.
I have observed that often the struggle in the engagement between personality types comes into play when the leader is more focused on managing the individuals above driving the results of the teams. Keeping the objectives at the forefront of every engagement should empower the leader to work with the resources at hand even the different personalities.
I believe that a key to managing diverse personalities is when managers adopt the right behavior to drive people to achieve the desired results as opposed to trying to modify the team’s behavior to suit his style.
“The mistake that most managers make is that their preferred leadership style will work with all employees,” says Amy Gallo, a management consultant and contributing editor at Harvard Business Review. “Managers need to adjust their management and coaching style to work with different employees.”
Jesus led a team of diverse personality types among his disciples, and using his model Servant Leadership approach, he adopted a different leadership behavior for each of them. Jesus did not hesitate to use the sharp rebuke for the boisterous Simon Peter but was gentle to the susceptible John even allowing him to lay on his bosom at meal times.
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