How Good Managers Lead a Diverse Team at Work -The Muse

Whether you’re established and experienced or a total newbie, managing a team isn’t easy.

You have one team member who responds really well to constructive criticism, while another needs feedback phrased in a gentler way. You have one employee who prefers to communicate via email, while another thinks one-on-one chats are more productive. One of your direct reports is always jumping up to contribute to whatever conversation is at hand, while another is typically found hanging back and doing more listening than speaking.

Yes, your team is made up of a huge variety of personalities, preferences, and communication styles. But, you’re only one person, and you’re the one in charge of them all.

Needing to successfully oversee such an array of employees can easily have you spread a little thin. So, I connected with Andee Harris, Chief Engagement Officer at HighGround, to find out what managers can do to better lead a diverse team—without feeling like they’re being pulled in 18 different directions.

1. Develop Emotional Intelligence

Emotional intelligence—put simply, your ability to recognize your own and other people’s emotions—is an important skill in your professional life. But, it’s increasingly crucial when you’re charged with managing a team.

“Emotional intelligence is so important for managers, but it hasn’t always been stressed as much,” explains Harris.

Think about it this way: Your employees might not always be forthcoming with their questions, concerns, and problems. Not everybody is a straightforward communicator, and needing to approach a boss can be intimidating—which inspires many people to just keep things to themselves.

As a manager, you’ll be a much stronger leader (and example for your other team members!) if you’re able to read between the lines and pick up on cues—rather than waiting for everything to be explicitly stated.

2. Seek to Understand Your Employees

On a similar note, it’s important that you work to understand your team members on a deeper level. Every single one of them has different skills, weaknesses, and things that motivate them. Knowing what those are and leveraging them will help you manage in a way that suits your direct reports best.

Alright, so how do you go about figuring this out? Dissecting and understanding your different employees can often feel like assembling IKEA furniture—complicated and overwhelming. However, Harris recommends utilizing a formal strengths finder assessment as part of your employee onboarding process.

“You get the opportunity to understand the strengths of your employees, as well as how to coach them better,” Harris says, “If they’re having trouble with a role, for example, knowing who they are and what’s important to them will help you lead them better.”

“You also need to understand what’s going to make them feel threatened,” she continues, “For example, I’d never make a more introverted employee present something in front of the team without adequate notice.”

“There isn’t a one-size-fits-all management style,” she adds, “Personalization is so important.”