Do you remember that awkward elementary school experience – two scrawny kids choosing the players for their team? There was always a tension between picking a friend because you liked them and picking a “star” because you wanted to win.
Whether it was a debate team or a football team, you needed a variety of players to cover offense and defense. Your choices didn’t always work out as planned. The thick glasses didn’t always guarantee intelligence any more than extra height ensured skill under the basket, but certain general characteristics proved to increase your chances for victory.
Last week I wrote about some of the challenges facing diversity, specifically gender diversity on leadership teams. I mentioned that more information can often facilitate positive change. I have been thinking about the teams I have been on where men and women were peer members, and I have come up with a few ways that demonstrate how the women’s participation made the teams healthier and stronger.
Just like in elementary school – and other areas of life – stereotypical generalities are not true for every person, but they are often worthy of consideration. I am writing from personal experience, but I have also listed some articles below that confirm these three points.
I firmly believe that men and women live and work best together in partnership, and I have experienced many times that the best teams are often diverse, not only in gender, but also in age, personality, strengths, and cultural background.
I hope this post will increase appreciation for and promote women’s participation on leadership teams, not because it is the only or most important equity disparity, but because that is where I have personally observed the great need.
Men and women are like two feet—
they need each other to get ahead.
Helen E. Fisher
Women add integrity.
In my experience, the women on my teams consistently committed to maintaining a high standard of fiscal, legal and labor integrity. When women participated on the teams, we implemented accountability systems, complied with necessary policies and laws, and quickly investigated decisions that appeared questionable. Financial partners, funding, and the organizational reputation for integrity increased as a result. When women participate on a team, there is great potential to build a strong ethical, moral, and integral foundation.
Women strengthen collaboration.
On mixed teams, the team members rarely worked alone in siloed responsibilities. Instead, the women facilitated true teamwork by ensuring regular communication and interaction, systematic sharing of ideas, and fostering a healthy feedback culture. They promoted honest personal and productivity evaluations. The women were approachable, quick to ask clarifying questions, reciprocally helpful, and loyally supportive of team decisions. Mixed gender teams often led to better ideas, better decisions, and greater productivity and growth.
Women foster personal development.
The women I worked with prioritized personal and team development, often establishing strong mentoring relationships and coaching. They actively demonstrated concern for team members growth and well-being. The women readily participated in 360 evaluations, team building activities, and conflict resolution. They were good listeners, discerning, and keenly aware when alignment was missing. They were often very successful at recruiting, training and empowering their future replacements. Women leaders contribute to the effectiveness of a team’s leadership pipeline.
I believe that great leadership ultimately depends on character, and that calling, competency and chemistry are also important for successful teamwork. An unexpected injury – or unforeseen conflict or failure – by one member can dramatically change the dynamics of the whole team. Diverse teams do not ensure automatic success, but in our complex and constantly changing society, I am certain that they are one of our wisest recruiting strategies.
How have you seen women add to your teams?