In Part 1 of this series of guest posts, team performance expert Joe Slatter of Better Practice™ discusses the value and challenges of establishing “a common sense” within teams. The second in a three-part series, this post discusses the problem with trying to hire people like ourselves.
In Part 1 we discussed the value and challenges of establishing “a common sense” within teams and the part context plays in the perception of what’s “normal” between individuals and among teams. We ended with the question of how to get everyone on the same page fast. We considered avoiding the problem by hiring people like ourselves. Unfortunately, there are two big problems with that:
Problem #1: There are no people like ourselves, and even if there were...
Ironically, the closer two individuals' versions of normal are, the harder it seems to be to identify misunderstandings when they occur.
I learned this lesson the hard way on my first project abroad in Düsseldorf, Germany. My team was made up of people from many different places, and I was told the work would be done primarily in English. That was a bit of a relief to me. My German skills were... let's say... limited. I prepared myself for the challenge of communicating across languages.
As it happened, I had far more misunderstandings with native English speakers than I did with everyone else. I assumed that if I understood the words, I also understood what they meant. It turns out that wasn't a very good assumption. With non-native speakers, on the other hand, I had prepared myself to listen more closely, and made a special effort to confirm my understanding through more active listening.
Note to self: Active listening is always a good idea, particularly when you think you need it least.
Problem #2: Surrounding yourself with people like you eliminates one of the most significant advantages of having a team to begin with.
When individuals come together for a common purpose while sharing different perspectives, that diversity can be the team's greatest asset. To put it another way: if everyone on the team thinks and behaves the same, then someone might be redundant. Duplication creates capacity, not capability.
Varied perspectives offer clearer vision, and an improved ability to “look around corners” to see potential challenges and opportunities. If those different perspectives can be shared and put to use by the team, they also provide more tools for problem solving. Steve Jobs said that "innovation happens when multiple disciplines intersect." That intersection of multiple disciplines is focused diversity.
So far in this series, we have established the role of context and how it relates to an individual’s sense of what is normal. We’ve also addressed some of the challenges and advantages of diversity. In the final part, Joe will look at ways to quickly establish “a common sense” among team members so they can harness their differences and perform with grace and agility. Stay tuned!
About the Author
Joe Slatter is the Founder and Principal of Better Practice™, a management consulting and team performance firm based in Denver, Colorado specializing in remote and distributed team environments.
Joe believes that all teams can improve their performance by establishing a common sense and listening to each other. A musician at heart, his upbringing and work over the past twenty-five years across countries, languages, cultures and industries instilled a deep appreciation for the power of perspective and teamwork. Joe created Better Practice to help others quickly learn, apply and benefit from the lessons he has learned over time.
About Better Practice™
Better Practice offers a management and team performance model and services that help teams improve the way they improve. This results in a higher return on investments in people, process and technology that compounds over time.
Better Practice serves clients around the world. For more information visit www.betterpractice.com.
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