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Use team’s diversity to best advantage

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in Leaders & Managers,Office Management

Many readers tell us they’re spending more time managing diverse teams. Widely divergent ages, ethnicities and backgrounds strengthen a team by bringing new perspectives and real-world solutions and, on the flip side, by avoiding group-think.

But keeping the group on track is the trick:

Separate cliques. Maximize teamwork by keeping subgroups of friends from sealing themselves off. Use breakout sessions to rotate the group so that each participant gets to mingle. Or randomly subdivide the team into working groups so everyone mixes. Or establish a “buddy system” in which teammates with little in common must collaborate to reach a goal.

Establish the “LUNA rule.” Instruct your entire team to follow one rule at all times: Listen for Understanding, Not Agreement.

This way, you train everyone to consider others’ views as a first resort. Example: Some older workers may express unshakable loyalty to the organization, while their younger teammates may speak in more critical terms. By having everyone listen to understand, they can begin to appreciate others’ frames of reference and accept differences in opinion.

Pair bickering teammates. Perhaps it’s counter-intuitive to put adversaries together, but it works. Take two vastly different people and give them an assignment with a deadline for the next meeting. Then leave them alone. By holding them equally accountable— and forcing them to rely on each other—you increase the odds that they’ll settle their differences or at least agree to disagree for the good of the team.

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