How to create diversity of thought

How to create diversity of thought

Groupthink is a trap and businesses do far better when there is diversity of thought, says Neil Bradbrook, managing director of Ahead Business Consulting.

When it comes to running a business, nothing is more important than diversity of thought, says Neil Bradbrook. No matter how good a leader you think you are, it is the team you assemble around you that will help you succeed. Here’s how:

1. Realise there are more questions than answers

We might have to make the decisions, but we do not have all the answers, which is why it is so important that we listen to the team around us. Only when we hear the suggestions they are making and the solutions they are coming up with can we make a truly informed choice.

2. Understand there is unity in diversity

Taking on board views that differ widely from your own can be a challenge but looking at a problem from every possible angle is the way to find the best solutions. That means surrounding yourself with people from as many different backgrounds as possible rather than hiring in your own image. That takes a conscious effort - we have all heard of unconscious bias - and so self-awareness is key. The best senior managers are the ones that realise they might not be doing everything right.

3. Learn how to listen

A good manager should always be prepared to change their mind when presented with views that differ from their own. That is why listening is so important. Listen to what your employees have to say, listen to your customers, take advice. You do not have to act on everything but listen - and listen well - before making that call.

4. Love the ones you’re with

Trying to force people into your own mould will never work; embracing them as they are and seeking out the value they can bring, will. That can be difficult. Some team members can struggle to engage in a way you understand. They are the ones you have to invest even greater effort into listening to, because only by accepting that everyone can be part of the team will you have a truly inclusive organisation.

5. Reach out and touch

If you do not try to show you are genuinely inclusive there are some people you are going to turn off. You will be the loser in that situation because you will be missing the opportunity to find out what they could add. Some managers find it hard to empower the individuals in their team. That is understandable: few people are given the training they need to take on a management position, with most being promoted simply because they excelled in the role they were already in. If you are not sure how, don’t ignore the problem, but seek help or coaching to improve your skill, so you know how to engage all your people.

6. It’s not all about you

Without being told otherwise, it is easy to fall into the trap of thinking that with power comes responsibility and with responsibility comes the need to make all decisions alone. But no one person can be right all the time, so don’t fall into the trap of thinking you are. If team members feel they understand your organisation’s vision and their role within it - and that they have the autonomy and opportunity to contribute and make a difference – they will help solve your problems for you.

7. One plus one equals three

We are social animals who like to interact and do things together. If you can create a working environment where people enjoy what they do and feel empowered to air their views, that is to everyone’s benefit. If you are all pulling in the same direction, and everyone knows what the effort is being put in for, it will be so much more effective than if you just have one or two people doing it. I have always been a firm believer that the power of the team is far greater than the sum of its parts; if you get the team right, collectively you will be so much stronger than each of you on your own.

Neil’s Top Tips

1. Never think you know it all and don’t need help – the day you think this is the day you are doomed to failure

2. Don’t recruit people like you, tempting as it is – actively recruit those who are different

3. The most important skill for a successful leader is the ability to truly listen

Neil Bradbrook is managing director of Ahead Business Consulting and a Fellow of the Institute of Leadership & Management.

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