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A product development team found itself suddenly ill with hot politics and divisions. Working at a leading manufacturing of industrial and medical products in the U.S., the team had all the human resources needed to succeed:

 

Mike: VP of marketing and a well-established executive

Susan: mid-level female accountant

Amy: newly hired female biomedical engineer

Tom: mid-level male production manager with a degree in industrial engineering

 

What happened?

 

Amy was passionate about biomedical innovation. However, her passion was in clear conflict with Tom. He was strongly committed to the industrial side of the company. Tom was against investing in new medical products. He wanted to improve the company´s existing products for the gas and oil industry.

 

Mike had executive meetings to plan marketing strategies. Clearly the top management team favored the medical side of the company. They considered this strategy core for business growth. In contrast, the industrial side was perceived as a less competitive function.

 

What should Mike have done differently? Great leaders recognize 4 scenarios of diversity. They manage the challenges of diversity and maximize its opportunities.

 

My new article published in Human Relations  describes these 4 scenarios on challenges versus the benefits of working with people different from you.

Scenario 1: Diversity of Values

Great leaders avoid divisions within the team -medical vs industrial- that lower collaboration and performance.

Scenario 2: Diversity of Status

Great leaders avoid unnecessary status differential –the boss vs the team- that impair the flow of communication and performance.

Scenario 3: Diversity of Information

Great leaders promote exchange of unique information and knowledge –engineering and marketing- that enhance problem-solving and creativity.

Scenario 4: Diversity of Contacts

Great leaders promote an open mind -rather than a silo mentality- that brings visibility and put the team into the organizational scene.

For more recommendations, click here to read my previous post on leading diversity.

 

Diversity is a “mixed blessing.” It has the potential for exceptional performance and innovation. However, this potential may not be realized when the group is ill with sharp authority and separations.  

Mike should have managed the challenges better relying less on his status and more on preventing the internal division of the group around the value of medical versus industrial side of the company. On the benefits, he should have promoted the exchange of information and used their connections to build social capital.

Margarita Mayo

I´m Margarita Mayo. I´ve been a Professor of Leadership and Psychology at IE Business School since 2000. Prior to that I was a Fulbright scholar at Harvard University and professor at Ivey Business School. I feel passionate about scientific dissemination, and I have more than 20 years of international experience teaching courses on soft skills, giving keynote conferences and coaching executives on leadership development and change management. Always eager to help develop the next generation of leaders.

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