Posts Tagged ‘collaboration’

4 Reasons Diversity Creates Teams That Are Mentally Tough

Monday, July 17th, 2017

Diversity was essential when putting together an FBI undercover operation because when I worked with people with different ideas and opinions, it sharpened my thinking.

My squad mates offered great advice on the basics of an investigation. Undercover work, however, requires creativity and strategic planning. I needed to work with people who would challenge my brain to overcome its stale and predictable ways I looked at an issue or project.

A study by McKinsey in 2015 in the public sector came to the same conclusion. Diverse teams were found to be 35% more likely to be successful. Another 2015 study of more than 20,000 firms in 91 countries found that companies with female executives were more profitable.

Many focus on diversity solely as a medley of genders, races, and ethnicity. However, it’s critical to also include differences in experience, age, intelligence, personality, background, and culture. True diversity brings together a team of people who think, feel, and behave differently from one another.

Mental toughness is managing our thoughts, emotions, and behavior in ways that set us up for success. Diverse teams overcome stagnant patterns of ways we think and sharpen performance.

Here are 4 reasons diversity creates teams that are mentally tough:

1. FOCUS ON FACTS

Diverse teams are often a combustible combination of thoughts, emotions, and behavior. Differing opinions can derail a team’s success if they’re not managed properly. This means diversity creates a need to focus on facts.

When teams focus on facts instead of personal differences, members are no longer outsiders. Instead, they unify to interpret the facts in ways that will move the project toward success.

TIP: Refocus the team’s conversations so they discuss available evidence or fact to counter mounting tensions. 

2. BRINGS FRESH INSIGHT

On a homogenous team, people understand each other and collaboration often flows smoothly—to a point. If everyone thinks the same way and says the same thing, is progress really being made?

On a diverse team, friction may be felt which can feel counterproductive at first. Neuroscientist David Rock states that working on diverse teams produces better outcomes precisely because it is harder.

Homogenous teams may feel more effective at first. The real truth is that people with different backgrounds bring new information and insight. Interacting with people who are different forces each team member to prepare better and anticipate alternative viewpoints.

TIP: Diversity forces teams to process information more carefully because they are not homogenous. Teams become mentally tough when they not only search for, but seriously consider, new insight from each team member. This leads to a more vigorous discussion before decisions are made. As a result, more options for problem solving are considered.

3. CHANGES THINKING

I brought in a variety of people to help me organize undercover operations because I needed informational diversity. I brought people together to solve the problem on how to structure an undercover operation against a foreign spy in the United States. Each one brought in different ideas, opinions, and perspectives.

People who are different in experience, culture, gender, age, race, and other areas bring unique information. Often this can change a stale way of thinking. Exposure to diversity can change the way your team thinks.

TIP: Research has shown that it is a good idea to highlight differences because this tends to make those differences be taken seriously by all members of the team. These were the teams that came up with better ideas than homogenous teams. But, only when they were told to listen to, and respect, the perspectives of their teammates.

4. BOOSTS PRODUCTIVITY

A study in 2014 from MIT suggests that having a more diverse set of employees means you also have a more diverse set of skills. This means your team will function more productively. This same study confirms that more diversity meant a better bottom line.

Greater diversity implies a greater spread of experience which can add value and knowledge to a team’s productivity. However, I found that productivity also requires something else—a common goal.

A solid undercover operation requires everyone to have the same goal in mind—recruit a foreign spy. It was this common purpose that unified the diverse members of my team so we could create a proposal that would be successful.

TIP: Expect diverse teams to be more productive and creative but only if a common goal or purpose unifies them.

© 2017 LaRae Quy. All rights reserved.

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Author of “Mental Toughness for Women Leaders: 52 Tips To Recognize and Utilize Your Greatest Strengths” and “Secrets of a Strong Mind.” 

4 Easy Ways To Get Others To Cooperate

Sunday, July 13th, 2014

As an FBI counterintelligence agent, my job was to get others to cooperate. Specifically, foreign spies in the United States to steal propriety economic, defense, or political information. Collaboration - horse & goat

I attempted to persuade the foreign spy to jump ship and work with the FBI instead of their own government. It was a tough sell. If caught and their perfidy discovered, they risked imprisonment, loss of pension, and abandonment by friends and former colleagues.

For 20 years I made my living by learning how to get others to cooperate with me. If it wasn’t a foreign spy, it was supervisors, colleagues, and members of the business community from whom I needed cooperation if I wanted to keep moving ahead in my career.

While the chance of you crossing paths with a foreign spy are minimal, you will encounter investors, financiers, clients, prospects, and other team members you will need to elicit cooperation from if you want to keep your business moving forward.

Here are 4 easy ways you can get others to cooperate:

1. UNDERSTAND THAT COLLABORATION IS NOT OUR FIRST REACTION

Success in most jobs today requires the ability to develop strong collaborative ties with others. Kare Anderson shares a potent reminder in this quote: “Speak sooner to a strong sweet spot of shared interest to strengthen our friendship and generate more opportunities for us.” 

The key word is “sooner”, and here is why:

Our emotional limbic brain system is survival driven. It’s sole purpose is to keep us safe by warning of us potential threats in our environment. Its first reaction to the unknown or the uninvited that shows up in our life is—to run away!

Obviously, not everything that is new or different is a threat to our safety; however, the limbic brain system does not know that. Furthermore, it doesn’t differentiate between events and people. 

In the absence of positive information about an individual you meet, the limbic brain system warns you to distrust that person. This happens subconsciously, before you have time to think about it.

This is why you must move quickly when wanting to get others to cooperate with you so you can alleviate the innate instinct to react negatively. This also explains why icebreakers are so important at workshops when people are meeting each other for the first time.

2. REFLECT WHAT YOU’RE THINKING

The way the brain connects and relates to others is through a series of mirror neurons that light up when we see others perform an action that has specific intent behind it. For example, when we see someone smile in delight, our mirror neurons light up, too, and we smile back. Our brain likes to share the emotion of the person in front of us.

This is why facial expressions are so important when we want to get others to cooperate with us. When we see someone experience an emotion, it activates the same circuits in our brain.

If you want a positive response, show it to the other person. Their mirror neurons will register your emotion and their automatic limbic brain response will not be to move away from you.

Remember, the flight emotional response is always the easiest to arouse, so be careful in what you say and how you say it if you want the other person to get others to cooperate with you.

3. SHARE PERSONAL STORIES

Positive social connections help you perform better on the job. 

Sharing personal stories activates the mirror neurons and deepens connections between people. Not only will these increase the likelihood of meaningful collaboration, but people with good social connections do better at planning, thinking, and regulating emotions.

When we tell stories that have really helped us shape our thinking and way of life, we can have the same effect on others too. According to Uri Hasson, the brains of the person telling a story and those listening to it can synchronize. Not only are the same language processing parts of the brain activated, but the same emotional parts as well. We can plant ideas, thoughts, and emotions in the brain of the listener. 

4. USE THESE TWO WORDS TO DISARM ANY DISAGREEMENT—AT LEAST TEMPORARILY!

Our natural instinct is to become defensive if our point of view is challenged because our limbic brain system is trying to protect us. To others to cooperate with us, it may be necessary to disarm a potential argument or disagreement by simply saying “You’re right.”

This immediately neutralizes the situation by showing respect for the other person’s point of view—even if it does not coincide with your own. Once the other individual is disarmed, you can follow up with something like, “I see how you feel (or think), but here is another way to look at the situation…”

Try role-playing with a friend and ask for their input. Disarm a heated argument with those two words, “You’re right.” Ask your friend if you are coming across the way you want.

I have found that mental toughness often has less to do with being tough than with being emotionally savvy about what is going on in the brain of those around me. I have used these 4 techniques to get people to cooperate with me, but there are many others. 

What would you add to the list?

© 2014 LaRaeQuy. All rights reserved.

Get my FREE 45-Question Mental Toughness Assessment

You can follow me on Twitter, Facebook, AND LinkedIn

Author of “Mental Toughness for Women Leaders: 52 Tips To Recognize and Utilize Your Greatest Strengths” and “Secrets of a Strong Mind.” 

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