The Power of Cognitive Diversity to Solve Problems

cognitive diversity

Inclusion & Diversity is a hot topic in today’s business environment that holds the underlying belief that diversity will result in better decisions and outcome. The inherent thinking is that diversity, as embraced in the components of age, gender, and ethnicity, will provide different perspectives, points of view, and approaches that will enhance a company’s ability to solve problems and grow. The concept sounds logical, but surprisingly, research doesn’t support that differences in age, gender, and ethnicity, by itself, contribute to higher team performance. Reynolds and Lewis (2017) found that demographic diversity had no correlation with team performance.

The research found that the highest performing teams had diversity in perspectives and methods of processing information when working with new, uncertain, and complex problems (Reynolds & Lewis, 2017). Referred to as Cognitive Diversity, what the best performing teams had in common were the: (1) ability to leverage existing and generate new knowledge and (2) preference to use their own expertise and put into effect the know-how and ideas of others.

There’s a high positive correlation of cognitive diversity with performance, which is independent of education, culture, and other social conditioning (Reynolds & Lewis, 2017). A person’s cognitive approach is an internal trait that’s hard to identify in the hiring process, so companies typically focus on other attributes. Unfortunately, people have a tendency to bring others aboard who think and express themselves the same way as they do. It’s also not uncommon for those who think and reason differently than the prevailing culture to suppress their different ways of looking at things in order to fit in and be part of the team.

Successful companies encourage cognitive diversity by making it safe for their employees to express their natural cognitive tendencies and authentic selves. With authenticity and leadership as two of my top five core values, I truly believe that servant leaders lead with authenticity and help others lead with theirs as well.

Reference

Reynolds, A., Lewis, D. (2017). Team Solves Problems Faster When They’re More Cognitively Diverse. Harvard Business Review


About the Author: Sandra Dillon is a professional coach with an extensive background in leadership and business consulting. She administers DISC® and Myers-Briggs/MBTI® testing, designs and facilitates workshops, and coaches both individuals and teams. She has a passion to help people be the best versions of themselves. You can learn more about Sandra or engage her as your coach by reaching out to her at coach.sandra.dillon@gmail.com or by visiting her website at www.shinecrossings.com

 

Self-Leadership: Have You Prepared Yourself to Lead?

Sandra Dillon: February 9, 2018


“Leadership” has become the new buzzword with people aspiring to be recognized as a leader either informally or by having leadership positions and titles? People are judged more than ever on their leadership skills. I overhead someone say he didn’t get a management position, because he didn’t have enough leadership skills. He then followed this comment with, “How am I supposed to get leadership skills, if they don’t give me the position?” What some fail to realize is that leadership skills are easily developed and honed without having a title or assigned power. Leadership is about influence, and the first step is preparing yourself to lead well before trying to lead others.

How does one prepare for leadership? The first and probably most important step is self-examination. Most people think they are good at sizing up other people and fail to realize they don’t have the same ability to accurately size up themselves. We use a different leadership-underconstruction2lens to judge ourselves than we do others. People are programmed to see themselves in a more positive light than they are—perhaps this is a design of self-preservation.

When you look in the mirror, what do you think people see? We must get honest with ourselves, so we can work on our deficiencies, play to our strengths, and be the best version of ourselves. If you struggle in trying to see yourself in the way others do and want to take steps toward improving your self-leadership, below are options to help you get that accurate feedback.  [Note: Receiving feedback is hard, even when it’s for our own benefit.]

  1. Ask trusted colleagues, friends, and even family what habits and traits you have that are causing more harm than good. How do these attitudes and behaviors affect your relationships? If you can’t think of any people that you can trust with these questions, what might this say about your leadership?
  2. Review your interactions at work, home, and within your community. After each encounter, critique yourself on what you did well and how you could do better? Identify areas of specific improvement even if incremental. What words could you have shared or action taken that may have resulted in a more favorable outcome for all involved.
  3. What are your strengths and weaknesses? If you have a difficult timing thinking of these, consider taking the Clifton Strength Finders survey.
  4. In your area(s) of weakness, have you made a commitment to improve? Likely a weakness will never become a strength, but can you shore up your weakness so it doesn’t cause undue hardship. If you can’t improve it, can you cover it in a different way such as partnering with someone who has your weakness as a strength?

Leaders know the grave responsibility that comes with leadership and caring for the well-being of those they lead. Leaders are gifted in different ways, and although no leader is perfect, he or she knows his limitations and ensures others get the best of what he or she is capable.


About the Author: Sandra Dillon is a professional coach and consultant with an extensive background in leadership, business development, and sales.  She coaches individuals as well as designs and facilitates workshops.  She has a passion to help organizations engage all their colleagues.  You can learn more about Sandra by visiting her website at www.shinecrossings.com.

Self-leadership: Building a Leadership Foundation

leadership-underconstruction

Leadership Under Construction

Although many would agree that leadership starts with leading yourself well, they want to know, “What are the practical steps I can take to improve my self-leadership?” I would suggest the first step involve a self-evaluation and personal inventory. Achieving clarity on the following questions can help build that solid foundation from which to grow self-leadership:

 

  1. What do I stand for?
  2. What do I value?
  3. What am I good at and what am I not?
  4. Am I following my passion?
  5. Is my personal vision clear?
  6. Am I excited in what I do and whom I do it with?
  7. Am I making decisions that honor everyone?

Bill Hybels (2009) mentions that great leaders embody several key traits. After addressing the “what and how” questions, a deeper dive into personal characteristics will continue that self-leadership inventory.  On a continuum, leaders should ask themselves which traits they hold strongly and which ones they want to develop further?

  1. Integrity
  2. Optimism
  3. Decisiveness
  4. Courage
  5. Wisdom
  6. Emotional authenticity
  7. Commitment to collaboration

The self-evaluation goal is to become self-full, which is to attend to oneself in a way that allows one to lead self and others well.  At times, leaders can extend themselves so far and for so long that they exhaust themselves and are then not able to give others their best.  Therefore, leaders should ask themselves, “Where will I focus my attention and where will I not?” Leaders cannot be all things to all people and should understand their limits. Leaders benefit by scheduling downtime to work on self-leadership and keep themselves energized.

Reference

Hybels, B. (2009). Courageous Leadership. Grand Rapids, MI: Zondervan.


HE21118Davis_07-medAbout the Author: Sandra Dillon is a professional coach and consultant with an extensive background in leadership and business development.  She coaches individuals as well as designs and facilitates workshops.  She has a passion to help organizations engage all its employees.  You can learn more about Sandra by visiting her website at www.shinecrossings.com.