If you are in supervision for any length of time you will find out that team members personal beliefs often impact the work place. It doesn’t matter what belief you hold, it impacts your behavior and therefore impacts the team that you are on. It can quickly become a complicated matter for any supervisor and I strongly recommend that you connect with your HR rep when a question arises as the legal ramifications can get really tricky. This blog is not to discuss specific issues but rather discuss how the TPS theory applies to how a supervisor is to handle different backgrounds.
One place that I worked with actually changed the terminology from diversity to inclusiveness. To me, this really made a statement. Inclusiveness means to take everyone’s differences and include them into the organization. This can be challenging but it really is rewarding. If we as leaders look at all the differences among our team members and highlight the best things that they can offer our team, we will have a dynamic team. However, if we “stereotype” and cast off people because of a belief that we have, we often end up with a team made up of “like minded” people that will often see things in a very narrow tunnel. Being inclusive of our diverse team members will make our teams have a open minded vision loaded with creativity.
The first challenge as a leader that you must face is your own beliefs and opinions. I have never met anyone that doesn’t have any preconceived notions about individuals. Notice, I didn’t say races, I said individuals. You can have two identical twins interviewing to be on your team and one might be outspoken and one shy and it can shape your opinion dramatically. This goes for all differences: race, sex, sexual orientation, education, background, vocabulary, the list goes on and on. As a leader for your organization, you must get over your own “perceptions” and truly look at what the individual can bring to your team. If you can’t, I guarantee that you are going to miss out.
So how does one get over these personal beliefs? I can only offer what I do. The one thing my belief tells me is that I am to help grow and develop talent no matter what. As often has been said, “Hate the sin but love the sinner.” When developing team members that are different from my personal belief, I rely on the fact the expectation for me is to do my best to develop the individuals trusted to me and leave the “judgment” of them to others. This recipe has done amazing things for me. Let me give a basic true life example. I was interviewing internal candidates for a machine operator position. I had a ton of applicants and even before interviewing them I had a preconceived notion on who I was going to hire. Since the machine they were going to be running was a monster, I was looking for a healthy young guy that could scare the chrome off a bumper.
I narrowed the applicants down to about ten people and began interviewing. I then narrowed it down to about five people and brought them in for a team interview which included my manager and a team member that they would be joining. I like doing this because often the previous team member will take the new team member under their wing when they join. Four of the five candidates were what I had in my mind including my “favorite”. They were husky guys that could handle the tough job of running the machine. Imagine my interview teams faces when a perfectly manicured, smartly dressed lady came into the room. I could see them questioning with their eyes as to why we were wasting our time with her.
As the questioning started, they soon realized what I had seen in her. The candidate not only had tons of machine operator experience, she had the greatest attitude towards TPS and teamwork. When she left the room both my manager and team member looked at me and said “she’s the one.” This really surprised me since my favorite was heavily influenced by my manager that had worked with him before. By putting our stereotypes aside, we were able to pick a team member that proved extremely successful and brought a lot to the team. This team member went on to volunteer to be our BBS (Behavior Based Safety) rep as well as bring a ton of great ideas to the table during our daily problem solving.
As I said, this is a basic example. I have had the same experience when dealing with people of diverse cultures, backgrounds and sexual orientation. By looking at what the team member has to offer the team rather than the differences they might share with me, I have been able to build some extremely successful teams. One might ask, how do you get your team members to be as open minded as you need to be. The answer is simple. Set the expectation. You can’t require them to approve of the differences amongst each other but you can demand that they keep their personal opinions outside of the department and work together with all their team mates. You will get challenged on this as a leader, but after you stand up and hold your team members accountable to the expectation you will see a culture shift within your team.
So, how does this tie into TPS? Simple. Whenever you are problem solving TPS teaches us that we need to look at a magnitude of countermeasures to determine the best solution. When choosing our team members we need to do the same thing. How often have you tried to test a countermeasure and heard your team say “that won’t work” only to try it and find out that it works great? The same will happen if you keep an open mind when dealing with diverse people. When people are different, they look at problems differently and will come up with multiple solutions. It could be something as simple as something that they experienced in their up bringing. Bottom line is the more inclusive you are with the differences of your team members, the more successful your team will be.