Episode 19: How can you effectively manage across difference? And how can organisations support their population to manage diverse teams?

Welcome to the latest episode of the Steps to Change podcast, where we delve into the fascinating world of learning and development, organisational behaviour change, and practical strategies to inspire action.

Your host, Allen Liedkie, is joined by the insightful Sarah-Jane Georges, a seasoned expert in the realm of leadership and team dynamics. In this engaging conversation, they explore the nuanced art of leading diverse teams, highlighting the importance of understanding and adapting leadership styles to embrace inclusivity.

The discussion orbits around the transformative “Steps to Change” model, offering listeners a roadmap through the phases of See it, Own it, Change it, and Live it, and underscores the significance of recognising personality and communication styles to enhance team cohesion.

Read on to learn more about managing across differences and find out how it can lead to a more diverse workplace.

What is Cross-Difference Management and Why Is It Important?

Managing cross-difference in the workplace revolves around recognising and effectively navigating the myriad of personality preferences, communication styles, and diverse backgrounds that team members bring to the table.

It’s about understanding that each individual’s unique approach to work, problem-solving, and interaction can vastly differ based on their personal and cultural experiences, cognitive styles, and behavioural tendencies. This nuanced approach to leadership and team management is crucial because it directly impacts team dynamics, collaboration, and, ultimately, the effectiveness and success of organisational projects and goals.

At the heart of managing cross-difference is the concept of inclusivity. Inclusivity in this context means more than just acknowledging diversity; it’s about actively engaging with it, understanding it, and adapting leadership and communication methods to ensure all team members feel valued and understood.

This process involves a deep dive into how different team members prefer to communicate and contribute, ranging from those who are more analytical and data-driven to those who thrive on interpersonal relationships and expressive dialogue.

The importance of managing cross-difference cannot be overstated. In an increasingly globalised and interconnected world, workplaces are becoming more diverse. This diversity brings a wealth of perspectives and ideas, fostering innovation and creativity.

However, diversity also introduces complexity in collaboration and communication, which can lead to misunderstandings, conflict, and inefficiency if not managed effectively. Leaders adept at navigating these differences can create an environment where everyone’s strengths are harnessed, leading to higher job satisfaction, retention, and team performance.

Moreover, managing cross-difference is integral to building a culture of respect and belonging. It signals to employees that their unique backgrounds and viewpoints are not just welcomed but are integral to the organisation’s fabric. This sense of belonging can significantly enhance employee engagement and loyalty, contributing to a more robust and resilient organisation.

The Challenges Posed by Managing a Diverse Team

Managing a diverse team while enriching presents a set of challenges that require nuanced understanding and strategic leadership. One of the primary hurdles is navigating the varied communication styles and personality preferences that each team member brings. This diversity in approaches can sometimes lead to tensions and misunderstandings within the team, as what works for one individual might not resonate with another.

Another challenge lies in the potential for unconscious bias and value judgments that can subtly influence team interactions and decision-making processes. These biases can lead to a lack of appreciation for different perspectives and approaches, hindering collaboration and innovation. Moreover, they can create an environment where not all team members feel equally heard or valued, impacting their engagement and contribution levels.

The complexity of managing a diverse team is further compounded when considering additional layers of diversity, such as cultural backgrounds, neurodiversity, and gender dynamics. Each of these elements can influence communication preferences, work styles, and interpersonal interactions, adding another dimension to the leadership challenge.

Furthermore, in environments where diversity in leadership is still evolving, individuals from underrepresented groups might face additional challenges in being heard and recognised, necessitating leaders to be even more proactive in fostering an inclusive atmosphere. These challenges underscore the importance of a deliberate and empathetic approach to leadership in diverse teams, aiming to harness the strengths of diversity while mitigating friction points.

How to Improve Cross-Difference Management

The Steps to Change process offers a structured approach to enhancing the management of cross-difference in the workplace, starting with the ‘See it’ phase. This initial stage is about gaining awareness and acknowledging the diverse perspectives and communication styles present within a team. By recognising these differences, leaders can begin to understand the unique dynamics and potential tension points that may arise from these variances.

Moving into the ‘Own it’ phase, the focus shifts inward, prompting leaders and team members to reflect on their own preferences and biases. This introspection is crucial for understanding how one’s own behaviour and communication style might impact others, especially in a diverse setting. It encourages individuals to acknowledge their role in team dynamics and consider how they might inadvertently contribute to misunderstandings or conflicts.

The ‘Change it’ phase is where actionable steps are taken. Armed with a deeper understanding of both their own and their team’s diverse needs, leaders are encouraged to adapt their management and communication approaches. This might involve tailoring feedback methods to suit different individuals or adjusting meeting styles to ensure all voices are heard and valued.

Finally, the ‘Live it’ phase emphasises the application of these new strategies in everyday interactions and decision-making processes. It’s about making a sustained effort to incorporate inclusive practices into the fabric of the team’s operations, continually seeking feedback and making adjustments as needed. This ongoing commitment to adapting and learning is key to building a truly inclusive workplace that thrives on the rich tapestry of its diverse team members.

Episode 5: What Provides An Effective Feedback Conversation?

Learn More

For more information on managing differences within the workplace and promoting diversity, reach out to us at Steps today! Our friendly specialists are happy to discuss how our courses can lead to lasting changes for your work environment and staff.