Today’s global marketplace and technology have created an environment where leaders encounter diversity in age, gender, ethnicity, religion, values, education, etc. The richness of diversity, when managed well, creates a stronger, innovative, and more productive work team.
Unfortunately, many current events are creating more polarization of people and making it harder for teams to accomplish goals. This polarization often stems from the inability to “see things from the other person’s point of view”. Taking time to get to know a person creates empathy and allows us to understand their point of view better. Leaders that want to foster more unity in their team don’t need them to all think alike, but rather need them to appreciate the diversity of the team and what unique contributions each team member brings to the table.
Here are four activities that can help bring your team together through creating stronger understanding and empathy for each other:
- Get your team to have more understanding about the strengths of other people on the team. One way to do this is by assigning each team member a different person on the team each week to find out what makes them unique. Have them set aside 20 minutes to conduct a “Get to Know You” meeting with that person. They should seek to understand the other person’s strengths, hobbies, interests, goals, and anything they might have in common. Empathy goes both ways so this exercise should be 10 minutes for each person to ask questions. Have them report back to you as the manager what they feel the other person’s greatest strength is and why this is valuable to the team. Do not have them report back in front of the whole team, or after the first week, people may just repeat what they have already heard about the other team members. Keep track of what is said about each person for another activity.
- After completing the above activity give each team member the assignment to create a “Me Board”. This gives the team a visual of what makes each team member unique or special. Have each team member create a poster board (or a PowerPoint slide for virtual teams) with pictures to answer assigned questions. Have them start with a picture of themselves (if they have a family, it could be them with their family). Then select a few questions that help the team get to know them better such as:
- What is your favorite food?
- What was your favorite vacation?
- What is your proudest accomplishment?
- What is your favorite book to read?
- What makes you laugh the most?
- What was your favorite movie?
- What did you want to be when you were small?
- What is your favorite game or sport to watch and play?
- What would you sing at Karaoke night?
- What two radio stations do you listen to in the car the most?
You can pick one team member to share their “Me Board” each week at a team meeting and if time allows, give other team members the opportunity to ask questions.
- After the team has had a chance to get to know each other with activities like the ones above start your meetings with other team-building activities. One activity could be having people answer trivia questions about team members or other topics from the “Me Boards” (food, movies, books, sports, etc.) then submit their answers to earn their place on a weekly leaderboard. Throw in random or funny questions that do not have anything to do with the individuals on the team. Post the results to show who is a trivia mastermind or who gave the best responses. Virtual teams can play this team building game through a weekly email blast or other technology such as a “Slack” integration.
- Most people enjoy being recognized for their talents and accomplishments. Set up a peer recognition system that allows team members an opportunity to acknowledge the contributions of their teammates. This could be done by having them write what they see on a notecard and drop it in a box on your desk (have them send an email to you for virtual teams). You can then pick one person from the cards each week to highlight in front of the group. Read the card and identify the person for their impact on the project/team. It is important to “spread the love”. Don’t always pick the same person. Make sure you are recognizing different people on the team each week. Even the lowest-performing team member should be doing something positive (or you may have them on the wrong team). Give the person being recognized a small gift card ($5 – $20) to get coffee or lunch.
The diversity of individuals on a team helps to create a more innovative and productive work environment. This diversity allows teams to grow both individually and together which results in increased overall profitability. By taking a more proactive approach to building empathy and bringing the team together, you strengthen your team and tap into the full potential of your diverse workforce, giving your team a competitive advantage.
Interested in learning more, join us for a complimentary 1-hour webinar, Understanding Diversity & Inclusion, on February 17, 2021, at 9:00 AM.