One of the lessons I have learnt in life that has had a profound impact on my entrepreneurial journey is that of working and relating with diverse people.
As the old saying posits, birds of the same feather fly together, we all have a natural tendency to befriend and associate with people who are like us. For instance, as an employer you may seek to hire aides or employees who share your religious faith, tribe, nationality, political inclination and values in life.
However, in a community or organisation, a team made up of people who are similar in a diverse world makes one of the worst mixes.
Experts agree that most of your personality, views of life, your success and indeed your destiny is largely shaped by significant people around you. Basically, it means if your only associates are people like you, your growth is limited. But if you associate with different people with different views, strengths and orientations, they broaden your life perspective.
Diversity is strength that can catapult any individual or a business to unimaginable heights if used well. As a business leader, you need employees, suppliers, customers and associates with different perspectives, experiences, ages, backgrounds and insights. If well blended, they form a formidable force.
Having a ‘yes’ team that sees things the way you do is the worst liability that can bring down your firm. You need people who contribute and question anything you do or say from different perspectives, may it be moral, social, economic, cultural or other variables.
If your main motivation is profit, you need people who will moderate you so that you can achieve it without sacrificing certain societal values.
Diversity brings creativity and innovation in business. In most cases, there is more than one way of doing things. The more diverse people you have in your team, the more ideas you are likely to generate and consequently different ways of seeing and doing things.
Firms that embrace diversity and non-discriminatory policy are able to attract, hire and retain good employees. It is not easy to get all talents and skills if you focus on your friends, tribe or people who profess your ideologies.
Even if you get them anyway, it does not do good to your reputation as a firm. Customers by default feel at home in a firm that has staff of diverse age, background, gender, culture and so on, unless it is a specialty firm.
Firms that do not foster diversity are founded on fear and stereotypes. They feel that for them to be secure they need to have their own people as their aides and employees. Or they feel whenever they have a position, it is helpful if it goes to one of their own, may it be a relative, a friend, someone from their village, tribe, nationality or race rather than a stranger.
Lack of diversity is a deadly disease that is afflicting many institutions today.
This article was first published in The Business Daily on April 9, 2019.