Using A Strengths-based Approach To Embrace the Diversity Within Your Team

– Kate Berg

Look around. Can you find another human that is exactly like you? Sure, you can find someone with similar hair, maybe the same fondness for red sweaters, and perhaps even the same obsession with Star Wars. But you will NOT find someone with exactly your background, your personality, your strengths and skill sets, your exact match physically…not to mention socially, culturally, or economically. Today, many organizations are embracing “strengths-based” practices and approaches to creating an engaging workplace. Strength-based practices are rooted in a social work practice theory that emphasizes people’s self-determination and unique strengths. It is a philosophy and a way of viewing individuals as resourceful and resilient in the face of adversity.[1] When applied beyond the field of social work and towards the workplace, strength-based practice is also referred to as the “strength-based approach”.[2]

Leveraging a strengths-based approach to drive “social inclusion” is the acknowledgement that every person has specific strengths and skills that contribute value, resources and resilience to an organization. Diversity today means creating an environment where the “strength of difference” can be leveraged to increase value in an organization’s products and services.

Developing a corporate culture of inclusion through recognizing the strengths of the members of the team can greatly improve the morale and successful engagement of employees. Four tactics that can help you encourage this type of environment include:

1.  Take the time to become culturally competent about employee’s strengths and background. Before beginning to interact with a specific individual or group, take time to learn about what they consider their strengths as well as understanding their culture, unique perspectives and points of view. . As Stephen Covey says: Seek first to understand.

2.   Prioritize and make time for open communication. Scheduling regular opportunities for open discussion to learn more about your team’s strengths establishes the importance you place on embracing everyone’s strengths. It will also provide an appropriate setting for addressing challenges. By encouraging a constructive collective discussion, employees will feel their concerns are being heard and addressed.

3.  Create clear, anonymous channels for feedback. Not everyone has the strength of candid communication, or the confidence to share information in a group setting. To help overcome fears employees may have with openly sharing their strengths, ideas, or concerns about inclusion, support and provide ways for all people to give feedback or share experiences without fear of reprisal.

4.  Commit to continuous improvement and adaptability. Successful organizations are not okay with standing still. They continually push their teams to improve and accept feedback and use it to grow. Leveraging the strengths of your team to continuously improve and adapt will improve your organization’s ultimate outcomes.

Employees from diverse backgrounds can bring unique strengths and flexibility to fluctuating circumstances and differentiating customer demands by drawing from a large pool of ideas and experiences. While celebrating diversity isn’t the answer to every challenge, abundant evidence now shows that organizations that are able to see, harness, and leverage the strengths and diversity of their teams can create real value.