Bringing diversity of thought to IC

By Helen Deverell

July 27, 2018

We like to bring you some interesting insights from our committee members and this month it's the turn of the wonderful Helen Deverell who shares her thoughts on bringing diversity to IC teams - we hope you enjoy!

I’ve been a member of the CIPR Inside committee for three years. Every year a few people leave and a few more join, and with that the culture of the committee gets a little jolt as we welcome new personalities into the fold.

And we are a mix of personalities. Some are outspoken, others reflect more. Some come up with brilliant ideas, others love getting into the detail of how we’ll deliver them. Many have years of experience, whereas some are much newer to the industry. And we’re a mix of in-house professionals and consultants. So, meetings and WhatsApp group discussions are never boring as we’re not afraid to challenge each other (respectfully of course).

But I think it’s that diverse range of personalities and thought that make the committee work so well. It would be boring and a lot less productive if we all thought the same and were all good at the same things.

And it got me thinking. How much thought do we give to the personality dynamics of our IC teams? Or when we’re thinking up a new idea and want people to bounce it off of – do we subconsciously seek out likeminded people?

This month our #ICBookClub read Quiet by Susan Cain. Susan advocates that a mix of personalities is the recipe for success, ideally understanding each other and bringing out the best in each other. She uses the example of Steve Jobs and Steve Wozniak, co-founders of Apple. Everyone associates Apple with Steve Jobs, he was the visionary, the showman, but it was Steve Wozniak that actually built the first PC. Apple probably wouldn’t be what it is today without either of them. It was their diversity of thought and personality that led them to their success.

Think about your IC team – are you a mix or are you all very similar in your style and approach? Chances are the people in your organisation will be a mix, and to properly support them, you need to be able to understand how different communications may or may not land. I’m not for a second suggesting you need to lose some very valuable team members, but maybe consider other ways to bring in different perspectives – involve colleagues from other departments or take it in turns to play devil’s advocate.

I also think it’s definitely worth considering how we work based on our personalities when dealing with senior stakeholders. One of the sessions at this year’s Big Yak focused on how to coach leaders, and the discussion in the room looked specifically at introverted leaders. Understanding how our leaders think, work and communicate, puts us in a much stronger position to act as a trusted adviser.

Research has found that more diverse organisations and teams are more successful, and that includes personality. So next time you’re recruiting for an IC team member, be conscious that you’re not hiring someone just like you because it makes you more comfortable, but that you genuinely believe they’d be a good fit for the team and will bring a fresh perspective. And when it comes to leaders, remember that one size doesn’t fit all, so tailor your approach to their personality.

I’ll leave you with this quote by Tim Berners Lee, the inventor of the World Wide Web:

“We need diversity of thought in this world to face the new challenges.”

I couldn’t agree more.