When someone thinks of diversity in the workplace, most likely they think about ethnicity and gender. Most companies have operated for years under traditional diversity paradigms, where the focus is on equal opportunity and fairness, and simply because it made good business sense.
The problem with this approach is that it’s short-sighted, and doesn’t fully demonstrate the true benefits or value of diversity. As companies become more complex in terms of operations, size, and staff, a new kind of team dynamic is needed to lead the way.
Diversity has evolved over the years to embrace a new way of thinking. I see this paradigm shift in my own team. As the head of the Industrial Services group of DTZ, one of the most rewarding aspects of my job is building a high-performing and diverse team that brings energy, a fresh perspective to the work, and leadership.
Each of the five team members in my group is unique in terms of age, education, experience, and personality. Some are married, some are single, some are recent college graduates. They’re entrenched in different stages of life. It’s precisely these differences that have become our greatest asset and made us stronger as a team.
Each member of the Industrial team has different strengths and perspectives. Being an effective leader is getting to know my team, appreciating their differences—and leveraging them. For example, I recently had a young man join my team and immediately noticed he was adding a different perspective to the work and was effective. I feel his perspective is largely driven by his life experiences, as well as the stage he is in his life. In his case, this is his first job, first time to wear a suit every day, and first time to manage his income/expenses in the real world.
This life is a far cry from where I’m at, with five sons attending three different schools, and averaging 12 to 14 sports games per weekend! Another team member is newly married, traveling to exciting places (before he and his wife have children), and looking to purchase his first house. My thought was that if the key to success is diversity (and all of our lifestyles are very diverse), then it can be beneficial to have varying viewpoints on our processes ranging from marketing, branding, prospecting, approaching the deal, responding to proposals, and interacting with clients.
This new mindset has allowed me to better understand and respect each member of my team’s skills, talents, and work approach, and be open to new ways of functioning and operating as a team. Diversity is evolving, and so is our business—especially our clients. It’s not just about different people and cultures but about different perspectives and ideas. It’s about connecting diversity to actually serving the client!
We are all on the same team with our unique assets and differences, not despite them. My colleagues make me better every day. We learn from one another and have fun working together. And that’s the best part of my role!
Blake Anderson, managing director and principal at DTZ, oversees the firm’s industrial services group in the Dallas-Fort Worth area. Contact him at [email protected]