Managing diverse teams

New Zealand’s population is changing faster than the ability of our businesses to seize the opportunity that this change brings.

The businesses that thrive in the new world will have brands that speak to multiple populations and needs, innovation that cuts cost and delights customers and internal cultures that drive engagement through inclusive leadership.

Superdiversity – can we handle it?

In “The Discipline of Innovation”, Peter Drucker identified the key external triggers for successful innovation as:

Demographic changes, changes in perception, and new knowledge. True, these sources overlap, different as they may be in the nature of their risk, difficulty, and complexity, and the potential for innovation may well lie in more than one area at a time. But together, they account for the great majority of all innovation opportunities.
(Peter Drucker, HBR August 2002)

Why do demographic changes offer us the chance to innovate?

Think about Auckland, New Zealand’s largest and only Superdiverse city. It is our economic powerhouse and typically the destination of choice for new immigrants seeking employment and career continuity.

The 2013 census data confirms what our eyes tell us. By 2028, our Asian population will have doubled and within five years the majority of our workforce will be over 55.

Beyond the surprise that the numbers bring lies an opportunity to seize the strategic opportunity and position our organisations to win in the race to market. We need the right talent in the right jobs and this talent will not look, think, act or lead like us. Can we handle that?

Managing diverse teams is different to managing homogenous teams

It seems obvious doesn’t it? Managers of diverse teams need to navigate through generational, cultural, technical and geographical differences every hour of every day. They need a new suite of leadership skills to recognise and decode cultural and generational differences so that the work gets done accurately, happily and on time.

These new skills result in profound improvements in communicating across cultures, being heard accurately when providing feedback, influencing networks appropriately, growing trust across a diverse group and managing  conflict in ways that drive innovation and productivity.

The global-local manager

Investing in training our front-line managers and future talent to effectively manage diverse teams is the only way we will optimise our success.

We are so deeply conditioned to see the world our way that learning how to look at things differently requires us to acknowledge then unlearn our inherent view of what is and what is not real or appropriate.

“It is only when you start to identify what is typical in your culture, but different from others, that you begin to open a dialogue of sharing, learning and ultimately understanding”
(The Culture Map, 2014, Erin  Meyer)

Switching styles and increasing flexibility in communication is a winning strategy for all leaders working to create success and engagement and isn’t that all of us?