We’re often told that the most effective teams are those boasting a tapestry of diverse experiences, perspectives, and personalities. On the face of it, this idea holds a lot of promise. However, in reality, it’s clear that such diversity can lead to varied preferences and methods of operation.

At its core, there’s a truth — to harness the strength of these different identities, an atmosphere of trust is paramount. A trust that celebrates individuality, allowing each member to become and behave as their authentic selves. Without this, a team can easily devolve into a monochrome ensemble, regardless of its surface-level diversity.

Understanding how people see the world

As the old adage goes: “To walk a mile in someone else’s shoes is to understand them better.”

If you’re a methodical planner, while a colleague thrives on spontaneity, the synergy lies in merging these energies. Similarly, imagine pairing a visual thinker, adept at sketching out ideas, with a teammate who blossoms through written exploration. The magic emerges from blending these distinct styles.

In a profound instance, consider a team member who has experienced domestic abuse working on a project related to a relevant charity. By facilitating a safe environment, not only is there potential for a groundbreaking product, but also an avenue for personal healing.

Likewise, unless you give space and time to understanding the impact of systemic racism on people in your team, then you’ll never make the most of having broad life experiences making system decisions.

But, how do we bring these theories to life?

I like to open my mind to things that don’t affect me.

Ewan Main, Product Manager, William Joseph

Unlocking trust through curiosity

Trust is akin to offering vulnerability, without the fear of repercussions. Think of those tentative moments, hesitating to voice a thought, unsure of the ensuing reactions. It’s in these fragile moments that high-performing teams shine, striving to grasp issues beyond their personal experiences.

The underlying secret? To develop your own understanding before expecting the same from others.

Signalling a genuine understanding often paves the way for richer, more genuine interactions. And while profound dialogues may not always occur in crowded workshops, the subsequent side conversations are often golden nuggets of insight.

Education: a personal endeavour

Before approaching someone directly impacted by an issue, immerse yourself in its depths.

This lays the foundation for empathy, allowing you to adjust your tone, language and actions based on another person’s feelings.

Such proactive strides significantly enhance the chances of establishing a connection, crafting a space for genuine interactions.

A toolbox for understanding

As a team, we’ve delved into numerous activities to gain insights into individual experiences and worldviews. A few effective tools that have stood out include:

Fostering curiosity and understanding can be transformative. While it’s easy to preach diversity, genuine inclusivity is nurtured through trust, education, and proactive efforts to understand every member’s unique story and perspective. The journey might be intricate, but the results? Truly revolutionary.