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Last updated October 17, 2014

Diversity is important in any team, but especially in your governing body. Instead of tolerating the differences, make a real effort to celebrate diversity for what it brings to your organisation. Here are some simple ideas to get you started:

 1. Acknowledge differences as simply differences, not weaknesses.
How often do you hear people described as ‘so quiet’, or ‘so fussy’, or ‘so loud’ like it’s a bad thing? Simply by dropping the word ‘so’ you will remove the judgement and simply describe the quality.

2. Look for ways to tap the full potential of every individual.
Once you identify a personal quality, actively look for ways to encourage its use within the team environment. Don’t ever let a strength go to waste.

3. Recognise that most people work from a place of ‘best intent’ and respond accordingly.
When you start to feel frustrated by a person’s behaviour or perspective, remind yourself that they are not trying to deliberately annoy you. Look for the intention and assume the best.

4. Encourage people to ask for help.
When one individual asks for help, it allows someone else to use their strengths. By encouraging this kind of culture, you give good reason to celebrate the diversity in your team. You need each other.

5. Actively seek information from a wide range of stakeholders, with various backgrounds and from various cultures.
By seeking out information, rather than simply waiting for it to be presented, you are demonstrating that you don’t just accept different ways of thinking – you actually want it.

6. Include everyone in the problem solving and decision making process.
Formally invite different perspectives, and publically recognise their importance in making sound decisions.

7. Provide workshops which enable team members to recognise their unique strengths and the strengths of others.
Often times people are unaware of their own value, because they don’t realise that their strengths and behaviours are unique. They assume everybody thinks and acts like they do! Give them opportunities to realise how special they are.

8. When doing performance reviews, discuss opportunities for developing existing strengths, not just areas perceived as the weakest link.
When leaders constantly work to even out the skill gaps in individuals, they are left with a mediocre team who all have a mediocre ability at many different things. It is far more effective to focus on what people are already good at, and look for ways to make them even better.

9. Arrange social events where team members are encouraged to share stories about their family background, culture, hobbies and interests.
You cannot celebrate and best use the diversity within your team, if you don’t know where the diversity lies.

10. Recognise both personal and professional achievements within your team.
There is no such thing as personal life vs professional life. Any skill or experience is transferrable, so celebrate the diverse range of achievements and accomplishments that occur both inside and outside of the office.

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