Tuesday 31 January 2023
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Don’t Just Hire for Diversity

Erica Peitler is an intrepidNOW columnist, and is an accomplished leadership performance coach and high-impact facilitator. She works with Fortune 500 companies as well as CEOs from progressive small to mid-sized and privately held organizations. Her groundbreaking book is Leadership Rigor!

Are You Missing the Bigger Picture?
As a leader today, being politically correct and a good corporate citizen requires hiring a diverse workforce, right? Actually, NO!

Hire for DiversityAs a leadership coach, I invest time with CEO’s and their top teams, facilitating their development and accelerating achievement of performance and productivity excellence. Their primary challenge is not to create a diverse workforce; their challenge is figuring out how to utilize and realize the value of the diverse talents they have!

This is not, by any means, to under estimate the importance of seeking and hiring diverse talent. Having a deep and diverse talent bench is crucial! But finding ways to ensure that those talents are well utilized is often more challenging and where I see leaders fail.

The challenge for leaders is to differentiate between:

  • Diversity Candidates for a Potential Role
  • Diverse Talents of Individuals
  • Inclusion and Utilization of Diverse Talent

Diversity Makes Good Business Sense

There is no question that ensuring you have a workforce that has diversity in its gender, generational and cultural/ethnic representation is good business today. The global nature of business, the fact that nearly 50% of the workforce is made up of working women and the unprecedented presence of 4 generations working side by side in the same workplace represents an external reality that we benefit from when we mirror it internally in our teams/organizations. Without diversity in our talent base, we risk making myopic ‘group think’ decisions which are potentially filled with blind spots. We also risk leaving ourselves vulnerable to not appropriately satisfying the emerging needs of the marketplaces we serve because we do not have the broadest context from which to work.

Tap into the Diverse Talents of Your Team; “The Big 3”

Team and Organizational Leaders know that they need to tap into the talent of their workforce to succeed, but they often struggle with how to achieve it.

The (3) areas you want to be mindful of with respect to your talent are:

  1. Their hardwired personality
  2. Their learning styles
  3. Their experiences to date

1. We are each hardwired with personality preferences. We might be introverted or extroverted, detail oriented or big picture in our focus, objective or subjective in our decision-making, methodical planners, or pressure prompted deliverers of our work products–and even early birds or night owls. The ability to both understand and leverage the strengths of these personality preferences can be the difference between achieving great teamwork and fueling frustration.

2. Today all work requires collaboration. In addition to varying personality preferences, we each have different learning styles. Some of us are auditory learners who listen to get our information. Others are visual learners who prefer to read, to view pictures or flip charts and still others prefer to have practical hands on experiences because we are kinesthetic learners. As leaders, we must be able to communicate in a variety of ways so that we appeal to the diverse learning preferences of our talent bench. Otherwise, we risk not having everyone fully up to speed and ready to go with the information required, slowing down the team and organizational performance.

3. Capitalizing on the complexity of problem solving in today’s business environment requires having a team with diverse skills and capabilities as well as experiences. The power of having performed both staff support roles as well as line operational roles creates a diverse understanding of how an organization works. Likewise, having had the challenge of leading a cross-functional, cross-cultural or matrix based team also provides diverse experiences which can bring insightful perspectives to the table that might not be seen, heard or felt by those who have not walked in those shoes. Respect, learn from and take advantage of your team members’ experiences.

Include and Utilize Diverse Talents

Often, leaders will “side line” talent because they are not engaging enough, demonstrating their drive or stepping up to contribute. But to be effective leaders, we must open the door and invite talent into the process!

Many women claim that in rooms that are dominated by men, they are shut down or not listened to when they speak so they learn to just sit back and observe, often holding back their thoughts. We also know that women leaders tend to utilize more open and collaborative styles, resulting in strong leadership. Research validates that they often produce stronger financial performance. Women leaders tend to engage, include and collaborate to create safe space for their talent, resulting in greater returns for both their teams and for the organization.

To gain the most from our talent we must actively and consciously include them in our business discussions. We must neutralize our “position power”, which may intimidate them, and ensure we are working “peer-to-peer” by asking questions, soliciting their points of view and listening to their thoughts and ideas. The valuable insights they can and will share with us if we create the conditions for an open and safe environment will provide us with the potential for innovation, creativity and strategies that can win in the marketplace.

So stop focusing on just hiring for diversity and start making a conscious effort to get more out of the diverse talents you have by including and utilizing them!


Season 3 of Erica’s leadership development series, Leadership on the Ground, can be found here!


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Erica Peitler is an accomplished leadership performance coach, speaker and high-impact facilitator who creates the conditions for change and growth with her clients so that they can take the evolutionary or transformational steps toward achieving their full potential as individual leaders, high-performing teams, and organizations operating at a level of excellence. Erica was recognized by New Jersey Biz magazine as one of the 50 Best Women in Business in 2013 and in 2014 has been elected to sit on the boards of two large, privately held companies. In 2011-2013, she served as the chair of the University of Connecticut School of Pharmacy board and is a member of the Executive Women of New Jersey (EWNJ) and the Healthcare Women's Business Association (HBA). In addition, she has chaired a Vistage private advisory board and facilitated monthly provocative debate and dialogue with 15 to 18 CEOs.