One of my favorite television shows is the Big Bang Theory. It makes me laugh. For those of you not familiar with it, one of the main protagonists is Sheldon Cooper. The writers have beautifully crafted a character who is an eccentric young genius with a photographic memory. He sees the world through physics and String Theory. He also suffers a myriad of social anxieties including obsessive compulsive disorder and well, a complete lack of basic social skills. As if that weren’t enough, the character embraces every geek stereotype from Doctor Who to Star Trek and is sprinkled with Dungeons and Dragons for good measure.
Sheldon doesn’t understand why others cannot understand what seems simple to him. His friends and colleagues cannot understand why he can’t be a little more human. Underneath the sarcastic humor is a good message – as we travel down the road of life we need each other to expand our knowledge base and become better humans. Sometimes our teachers stand in front of a class and sometimes they stand by our side.
Though I am far from a genius I have come to realize that I’m a bit like Sheldon. Really, everyone is a little bit like Sheldon, minus, of course, the plethora of neuroses. My mind works in numbers via budgets, cost analysis and efficiencies; a law enforcement officer’s mind works in situational analysis and safety; a mechanic thinks in gears, ratios and structural integrity. You get the point. We are all different and sometimes we don’t understand why what is second nature to us, doesn’t make sense to someone else.
It’s easy to dwell on our frustrations when we feel misunderstood. But, if we instead choose to embrace differences, well, that is when remarkable things happen. Something else happens along the way – we learn, we teach, and we become better humans. As much as Sheldon makes me laugh, the thought of a team full of Sheldon’s makes me cry. Here are a few ideas of how to build a diverse group that result in a cohesive and well performing team:
- The right team starts with the right people. Make sure you have all bases covered by including a group that includes all positions. A team comprised entirely of short-stops doesn’t stand much of a chance against a team who has people that are efficient each position. If the mission is creating a social media plan, don’t compile a team of marketing folks. Include all the positions — finance, IT, and management, etc. A group of Sheldons will accomplish nothing.
- Create a common goal and get buy-in from all. The goals of creating a social media campaign designed to educate and engage 80% of constituents with contact once per week are better than saying you would like a larger social media presence. The latter could mean 1,000 hits to one person, 10,000 to another and higher bandwidth and increased expenses to someone else. Come to an agreement and be specific.
- Avoid ‘Group Think’ like the plague. Harmony is nice but to create something amazing you need different viewpoints and opinions. As group leader you need to make sure that an atmosphere of fear in expressing ideas and opinions is avoided.
- Speaking of conflict, encourage healthy discussions but avoid in-fighting and finger pointing. This will kill your team in a second.
- Build trust and respect. A team that learns from each as well as respects others is the foundation for a team that trusts each other. Look out for amazing things to happen here.
- Be a good leader. Nothing can squash a team’s passion and motivation worse than an ineffective leader. This is a whole other topic, but in short, be cool. Don’t belittle any individual or your team as a whole.
Wendy Dutenhoeffer is part of the GovLoop Featured Blogger program, where we feature blog posts by government voices from all across the country (and world!). To see more Featured Blogger posts, click here.