When I first began leading as a teenager in the Boy Scouts I realized very quickly that there was a lot I didn’t know and skills that I didn’t have. I knew that for us to survive in the wild it would take everyone’s talents. Later, in business as a Regional Manager I knew that I didn’t want to surround myself with people just like me. I knew that I was weak in some areas and needed to have people on my team that would have the skills I lacked. It would have been easy to surround myself with people just like me. We would have had few disagreements but we wouldn’t have been successful because we would have missed a lot of great ideas and we wouldn’t have all of the skill sets we needed.
Any great sports team has diversity. There are those players that are strong on defense others are best at offence. There are also specialty players like the field goal kicker or in soccer the goalie. Diversity isn’t something to be feared and avoided it is the key to success. There are a lot of types of diversity like gender, race, age, education, skills and history or background to name just a few. As a new regional manager my leadership team was made up of all white males. I was the young college educated guy. The rest of my team was older and came up through the field.
I stirred things up when I promoted an incredible lady from administrative assistant to office manager and put her on the leadership team. This was controversial to say the least. Our new addition needed to know that she had my complete support and I wanted her to express her opinions. She wasn’t shy and her opinions created some interesting discussions and caused us to look at many things differently. As time went on I was able to create additional diversity on our leadership team. From a leadership standpoint this was challenging and we had some very lively and sometimes heated discussions at our team meetings. I had set a very clear vision for our Team and Region. This helped to keep us together. People may have had different ways to achieve the vision but we knew that we all wanted the same end result.
When the oil and gas industry went through a severe down turn in the 1980s our Region didn’t just survive we were able to pick up some great people other regions were planning to lay off. We grew and every one of our four facilities was profitable every year! We became one of the most profitable regions in the entire company. This was because our diverse Leadership Team was able to come up with and implement creative ideas to reduce costs and increase revenues.
Several years later as a high school soccer coach we used leadership and embraced diversity to win five Boys High School Soccer Championships. Leading a diverse team is a challenge for a leader because team members are different than you are but it is essential for success. Your best friend is having a vision that your entire team agrees with and is passionate about achieving. I challenge you to embrace diversity. Thoughts to ponder.
© 2016 Greg Kozera