6 Strategies for Leveraging Diversity in Your Organization

Bringing people together from a wide variety of backgrounds creates tremendous opportunities for organizations, but also some challenges. In two upcoming executive briefings in Calgary and Ottawa, best-selling business author and consultant Ken Blanchard will be discussing how organizations can benefit from new perspectives if they can unite people behind a common set of values and goals.

For leaders looking to improve their ability to successfully manage a diverse workforce, Blanchard recommends six strategies:

  1. Set a clear, inclusive vision. As Blanchard explains, that includes identifying your organizational purpose, picture of the future, operating values, and action steps.
  2. Increase the quality and quantity of conversations occurring between managers and direct reports. The greater the amount of diversity there is in the workforce, the more managers have to communicate to make sure that everyone’s issues and concerns are on the table.
  3. Walk the talk. In the past, if leaders were inconsistent, employees would talk about it in the bathrooms and the hallways, but that was usually as far as it went. Today, people are much more direct, so integrity is more important than ever.
  4. Turn the organizational hierarchy upside-down. Effective day-to-day implementation requires turning the organizational chart upside down so that front line people are at the top serving customers while leaders move themselves to a supporting role and focus on removing roadblocks and providing resources.
  5. Consider the whole person. Don’t ask people to “leave their nerve endings at the door.” Employees want their managers to know them as people—including the issues they might be dealing with both in and out of work. Employees want to feel cared for, understood, and supported in their efforts to make a difference at work.
  6. Increase involvement. As Blanchard likes to point out, “No one of us is as smart as all of us.” One of the great advantages in having a diverse population is that you can tackle a problem from a rich variety of viewpoints. But you have to encourage participation and listen to what people have to say to make the most of that opportunity.

Globalization and the increasingly international nature of business are changing the requirements of leadership. The old ways of doing things are not necessarily the ways of leading in the future. By using the excitement, willingness and the capability of people from diverse backgrounds, leaders will find they can make a significant impact in their organizations, their communities, and in all walks of life.