I recently interviewed Liz Broderick, the Sex Discrimination Commissioner for the Australian Human Rights Commission. She has managed to bring together some of Australia’s most influential male CEOs and Chairpersons to form Male Champions of Change, a group that aims to elevate the issue of women’s representation in leadership on the national business agenda.
I asked Liz what she saw the best leaders doing to create high performing teams. The thing she highlighted was that the best leaders created diverse teams and ensured all team members had a voice.
“The best leaders ensure they have a diversity of voices on the team. They don’t surround themselves with people just like them because they understand that diversity leads to better thinking and better outcomes. I think making sure everyone has a voice is perhaps the key challenge for leaders trying to create a high performing team.”
She made the point that leaders need to be proactive to make this happen.
“What I’ve learnt over the years is that if you don’t actively, intentionally include, you will unintentionally exclude. I think that one of the things that distinguish high performing teams is that people are not aware of an overt hierarchy. They actually feel on a level playing field with everyone else, irrespective of what their positional authority is, and in that way are encouraged to put their views forward in a way which they don’t fear victimisation.”
In a new book on decision making, Decisive, authors Chip and Dan Heath say that the key to making better and more creative decisions is widening your options and testing them with more realities. Coupling diversity with a collaborative style of leadership gets you that by bringing more ideas and points of view to the table, and allowing more voices to be heard in evaluating them. But, as Liz Broderick points out, you can only achieve the diversity component by taking action yourself.
Why is this often difficult? For a start we know that bringing different ways of thinking together and allowing different voices to be heard makes the management of teams and the task of leadership more challenging.
And leaders should also reflect on how they actually feel about having someone who is very different to themselves in the team. If you feel uncomfortable with the idea, you may need to explore why this might be the case? True leadership is the capacity to do things that make you uncomfortable for the benefit of the team.
Maybe the next person you recruit should be someone entirely different to yourself?
Have a great week.