Build Teams for Collaboration, Not Comfort

As a navigator of collaborative processes, I am often asked about handling conflict or differences of opinions within teams. Leaders, especially in the church, are often afraid opposing viewpoints can stifle effective collaboration, when in fact the opposite is true. Often the most caged thinking comes from similarity, not diversity.

When a leader is surrounded by people just like themselves, they are susceptible to being caught in the trap of homogeny: people who are like us often serve to validate our thinking when it should be challenged.

To escape the trap of homogeny when building a high performance team of collaborative thinkers, strive for diversity in these 7 areas:

Leadership Style. Well functioning teams have a balance in styles of  initiator, challenger, processor and supporter. Each of these types have strengths that lend to effective, collaborative decision making, but an imbalance can lead to either:

  • lots of discussion with little actionable results (all processor/challengers)
  • quickly derived yet superficial, and often inadequate, actions ( all initiator/supporters).

Occupation.  Something happens when the skilled laborer and the entrepreneurial activator are encouraged to process the same problem. Blending occupational styles on a leadership team brings diversity in approach to problem solving. The forklift driver brings a straightforward honesty and linear thought process to an investment banker’s conceptual ideation and verbal panache.

Personality. Plenty has been written about personality typing in business and non-profit, and the benefits of this type of diversity are obvious. The most important concept for leaders to adhere to is consistency. Pick one of the leading type indicators, be it Myers-Briggs, Birkman, Insights or the like, and stick with it. Teach to Personality regularly, and celebrate the diverse creativity of God.

Cultural Heritage. Our family experience brings with it inherent modes of thinking and perspectives of the world. As a leader forming a high capacity collaborative team, try to avoid stereotyping and unrealistic expectation, but seek a cultural diversity that reflects organizational health beyond its current state.

Spiritual Maturity. Including younger, newer believers on a collaborative process of vision development affords an opportunity to model maturity. In the same way that a child learns to speak from consistent environmental influence, disciples are made by pattering and observing other disciples growing in their faith. Seeing leadership teams as intentional faith incubators brings a new dimension of results beyond the team’s intended output.

Generation. Diverse generational representation calls us to live outside our personal preferences and brings different viewpoints. Each generation approaches collaboration and big-idea thinking differently from the next, based on their experience in our rapidly expanding culture. In an on-demand and DVR culture, my son will never understand the concept of watching his favorite television show every week at a set time, only once, as I did with the Dukes of Hazzard growing up. Our experiences shape our view of the world and can bring depth to group strategizing.

Gender. My wife reads this blog occasionally, so to say anything more than men and women just think differently, might get me into trouble without my even knowing it. Suffice it to say, having diversity in gender allows a greater opportunity to approach a problem or create a moment from every perspective.

In every area of ministry, building a diverse team of people allows leaders to effectively develop collaboration around ideas and develop investment toward execution. When everybody looks, thinks, talks and listens the same, it makes for fun sounding meetings; however, the tension that comes from diversity brings fundamentally sound results.