We all know that well-integrated gender and age diversity creates more innovative teams. But what many do not know: Personality diversity (e.g., values and motivation) influences the effectiveness and creativity of teams over time much more than the surface-level diversity we’re familiar with (age, origin, gender, language). In this case, we’re referring to deep-level diversity or the psychological make-up of teams.

As its name suggests, deep-level diversity includes everything that drives us internally, yet it is difficult to observe on the surface and even more difficult to measure. While gender and age diversity are very easy to quantify (e.g., with the St.Gallen Diversity Benchmarking), how can deeper-level factors such as values or motivation be measured? This is probably also the reason why deep-level diversity is still hardly addressed or measured in practice.

Nevertheless, there are cases that show just how important deep-level diversity can be for the success of a team. In the composition of astronaut teams, for example, deep-level diversity has already played a very important role for many years. Astronaut teams have to work well together under stress over a long period of time. The team is absolutely “mission-critical” for success. There are many valuable lessons to be learned here, which are finding their way more and more into our everyday work. Especially in sales, more diverse teams are better able to react to changing market conditions and customer demands. The method used to examine teams is also used in dealing with customers. Sales conversations are more successful when we know the emotional language of our conversation partners and can react appropriately.

Here are some examples:

Assertive customers usually take very little time, because they want to reach their defined goal particularly quickly and efficiently or make a “good deal”. Here you should put on the hat of the “assistant”, in the sense of: “How can we relieve you of annoying detail work?” Ideally, you present an attractive deal in 30 seconds – that’s all the time you have. If the customer service manager of a telephone provider calls, he or she should briefly discuss the current situation: “You are currently paying 50 francs. I have looked at your subscription and with the ‘Plus’ offer you save 10 francs.” Then the offer with the savings is presented directly. Long sales pitches are undesirable in this case.

On the other hand, there are also people who have a particularly great need for security and control. These people should not be pushed directly to the conclusion in the sales talk. Rather, offer to send them further information so that they can contact you again at a later time to discuss everything in detail.

The list of examples could go on and on. Basically, it is about training employees to deal with different personality types. Conversely, it is also about making diverse teams more responsive to these diverse needs.

Dr. Stephanie Schoss, Director of the Competence Center for Top Teams, has studied several hundred teams and their respective compositions. The focus is on what influence a team composition has on success. As a speaker in the Leading High-Performance Teams program, she will go into more detail about the deep-level diversity method and provide tips on how to organise teams to be more successful.

Learn more about the Leading High-Performance Teams program here.

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Executive School of Management, Technology and Law


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