Is Diversity a Team Killer?

After comparing carbon footprints for a couple of years – this time to see who has the smaller and not the bigger one (which is quite a new experience for top executives), big companies are now very much into diversity topic.

I will not waist any words or your time to write about the importance of real diversity in the workplace. Simply because there are some authors who are writing about this important topic in a serious and well researched way. As a person who always had better cooperation with women and who hired more women than men during my career in all companies – I can only say that this topic is coming way too late to the stage. And of course, gender diversity is only one issue… It’s a shame it has to be a “topic” still.

My passion is creating amazing teams. For a very selfish reason. I felt so good when I was a member of amazing teams that I want to repeat that experience as much as possible. And results were good as well. On the other hand – when I was not in a good team I felt extremely miserable and demotivated. I guess, nothing different from the majority of people.

But when I started analyzing what the key of my relationship with some of my best associates was – it was not about diversity. Of course, we were different in age, nationality, gender and many other things but we also had one key thing in common. We were self-made people, not coming from very privileged backgrounds and achieving success against all odds.

When I expressed my wish at age 16 to enroll into University of Arts after my 2nd year of high school most people around me thought of it as a joke. Not just because I was very young but because of a false perception that only kids of other artists could ever be accepted there. Only 8 people were accepted per year to the drama and scriptwriting department. I passed first round and professors told me I was talented but very young. And then next year I was there. Among those 8. Against all odds.

Probably due to the fact that I was so proud of my journey of the underdog, I liked so much to work with underdogs later on. Medical nurse becoming media queen, introverted, silent guy with great marketing and communication mind, eccentric magazine editor becoming serious business guy, well raised young man in the world of street-smart backstabbers… And many more examples of people that I had the most amazing working relationship with. They all have one thing in common: they were underdogs and they succeeded. I started loving those types of projects as well. Of course, it was logical that brands like Elle and Cosmopolitan would work on the market, but when we decided to launch Sensa – most people said we were crazy. “It will not last 6 issues” was one of the comments. But it was about the great team of underdogs who did this mission impossible. (Note: Sensa quickly overcame in copy sales all monthly magazines in the company. I can’t comment on the current status since many years has passed, but I would not be surprised if that was still the case).

But this is all possible while you are more or less in the entrepreneurial environment where you have certain influence and you can pick people for your team.

If you go to bigger systems and a really big company, the reality is totally different. In most cases some kind of strange “diversity” will be implemented. Make a team of bad, solid, good and excellent people. If solid becomes good or excellent with your development efforts offer them to other teams because they lack good and excellent. Don’t we all lack good and excellent? Why should I give my best people to other teams that are not capable of developing mostly due to bad leadership and bad selection at the very beginning?

I have mentioned a couple of times in my posts that I believe in the power of good selection. What is not done well in the recruitment process can’t be fully corrected later. You will never create the winning team if it’s wrong from the start. You can create a solid team by putting a lot of leadership efforts and money into expensive trainings and team buildings. But well selected teams don’t need team buildings. They might have retreats to celebrate big successes. Every day is like a team building for them.

And now with this “diversity” hype that is going to be misused and misinterpreted by the majority of big companies people will be forced to compromise even more. Aside from selecting their team members based on different political reasons, now they will have to take people based on the quotas that HQ has to deliver in order to be able to shoot a nice video and present amazing diversity figures at the annual shareholders assembly.

I want to work with people that I want to work with! And I don’t care if they are men or women, black or white, gay or straight, hipsters or red necks… I want to work with them because I feel fantastic every second that we spend together. I want to be inspired by their ideas, by their act, integrity, hard works, the fun they create… That’s the diversity I need!

Of course, that this is easy to say if you are about to create a team of 5 for your advertising agency. It’s definitely very hard to implement it in a huge company in any industry. I’m not a fool. I’ve worked for both kinds of companies. But what if big companies start with small steps by educating their mid management that diversity is not “oh, I have to take this lady we have lack of females in sale”. Big companies can start with small steps. Fire all people who are there to fake diversity. And invest into educating others how they can create real diversity in their own teams. Give leaders the empowerment to be real leaders, not to play silly games in order to hit the diversity KPI’s.

I will continue my efforts to play my game with the teams of underdogs. That’s my thing obviously. If you feel like one, send me a note. You never know what we can achieve in the future.

Cheers to diversity and cheers to underdogs! But real diversity and winning underdogs!

I don’t have a movie recommendation for this weekend, but I recommend some older episodes of The X Factor UK. There are many exciting moments when they put some people together and they create magic and a lot of money.

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