While it is easier to work with people who think and act as we do, it is not necessarily better. In fact, the diversity of opinions brings many benefits. When a team is made up of people with different ideas, perspectives, talents, and skills they will usually excel at higher levels.

But… not always.

Just because the make-up of a team is diverse, it does not guarantee high performance. In fact, the greater the diversity, the more opportunity there is for conflict and frustration.

So, what is a leader to do? How is it possible to unite and motivate a diverse team into a high-performing team?

Here are a few things we can do to increase our ability to work well with people who are different than us (and even enjoy it)!

While this is by no means an exhaustive list, here are three things we can all do:

Be curious. (Ask questions)

Begin with an open mind. We need to be willing to consider other ways of behaving or thinking that are outside of our comfort zone. If we are locked in and convicted about our thoughts, we will not be able to carefully consider different ideas. A specific way to demonstrate curiosity is to ask questions to better understand what the other person(s) are thinking or suggesting.

Seek first to understand. (Summarize the other’s point of view)

One of Stephen Covey’s principles, “Seek first to understand,” is critical. Often, we feign listening but are just waiting for the other person to pause so we can jump in with our opinions. (I am guilty as charged). Instead, listen well enough so that you can summarize what you have heard to the speaker’s satisfaction before sharing your own opinions.

Collaborate. (Seek a new win-win approach)

Work together to find a new and better solution that all parties are excited about. Collaboration takes time and energy, but the reward of coming to a consensus on how to move forward is high. Take time to uncover the value in all ideas, and then look for a way to merge the best of the ideas into a completely new alternative.

Finding value in diverse thoughts and ideas is not always easy, but it is worth it. A team that encourages diverse thinking and constructively collaborates is not only more likely to perform well but will create a culture of empowerment and fulfillment.

A Thoughtful Challenge:

Think of someone who has vastly different opinions or ideas than you do. Then, proactively demonstrate curiosity about their perspectives and listen well enough so that you can summarize their thinking to their satisfaction.  You do not have to agree, just be curious and seek to understand their point of view.

About the Author: Leigh Ann Rodgers, Founder of Better Teams and Forward, is an IAF Certified Professional Facilitator with 20 years of experience in the human development field. Leigh Ann is a skilled meeting facilitator, trainer, and coach working across the globe to help leaders cultivate teams that are happy and high-performing.

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