This last week I’ve been working with an organization to seek out diverse perspectives before launching a new project. It’s been enlightening to hear what people from different states, race/ethnicities, and backgrounds have to say in listening sessions and focus groups. And it reinforces my belief that seeking out diverse perspectives gives leaders greater insight.
Whether embarking on a enterprise-wide initiative or making decisions that will impact an organization or community, diverse perspectives can give us the information we need to be more effective. They can keep us honest, keep us from moving into groupthink, and provide a resource to sharpen our thinking and lead to innovative solutions. As leaders, we truly benefit from a diversity of perspectives!
So how can we as leaders seek out diverse perspectives? Here are a few ideas from the Center for Spirituality and Healing at the University of Minnesota. They advise leaders to:
- Encourage contributions from everyone and give voice to individuals and constituencies not in the room. Those in the room may need to represent stakeholders who are not present.
- Acknowledge the impact of power and privilege on who speaks and who listens in groups. Be mindful of the status that is accorded to a person because of her or his position, race, ethnicity, economic class background, sexual orientation, gender, religion, ability/disability, education, expertise, and/or profession.
- Practice respect for others. Listen deeply. Acknowledge and accept difference of opinions. Discern when to voice differences and when to hold them lightly.
- Appreciate the constructive value of conflict. While conflict can feel hard or uncomfortable, helping a group move through conflict can result in better outcomes for everyone. Learn to tolerate and work through it, rather than smooth it over or ignore it.
Think of a group you lead that has some diversity. Consider who speaks in the group. Who has the most “air-time?” Is everyone heard? In your leadership role, how can you enable every participant to contribute fully?