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An abridged version of this article was first published in The Australian newspaper on 4 October 2019.

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Management Tip (4): Discourage YesPeople, Encourage Diversity.

August 9, 2017

Don’t Encourage YesPeople - They Always Agree With You. 

 

If I want my team to perform well and turn out top quality work, I need people who are willing to speak up with alternative views and who let me know when they disagree.

 

However, this means that I must have an attitude that encourages people to speak up and I must not be too proud to take adverse criticism.

 

I'm not going to encourage open dialogue if I greet every suggestion from a team member that doesn't fit with my view of the world with snorts of derision. My staff will soon learn it is better to be a YesPerson and agree with me than to put forward a contrary viewpoint and receive a humiliating put-down! They will let me carry the can when it all goes wrong - which it will - while they think, "I could have told you that would happen!"

 

There is a great temptation when recruiting new members of staff for the person recruiting to pick a person that appears to think like him/herself. They probably look like him/herself, too.

 

Pretty soon such a manager would have a group of people round him or her that have similar backgrounds, ages, genders and all think alike. If they think alike, they probably agree much of the time and they probably all come up with the same ideas. Very harmonious but very narrow-minded. Not good for the organisation.

 

 

Encourage Diversity

 

In the case where people with similar demographics: background, education, gender, hair-colour (grey in my case) and age sit around the table to discuss a problem, the discussion is predictable. When one person comes up with an idea, the others all think, “That’s a good idea, that person must be brilliant because that was just what I was thinking, too!”

 

However, the problem with that group is that the "brilliant" idea was precisely what any one of them could have come up with.

 

What’s required is diversity of thought. People like me generally think like me. So, what is needed is people not like me!

 

Then a more diverse group of people sit around a table, a more diverse set of ideas is available and, often, much better ideas. What I am looking for is someone to come up with an idea that makes me think, "That really is a brilliant idea, I would never have thought of that!”

 

Certainly in the higher echelons of aviation in Australia there aren't enough people from diverse backgrounds: ethnicities, genders, ages, countries, first languages, (dis)abilities and experience.

 

The lack of demographic diversity doesn't help when diverse thinking is needed. And diverse thinking is always better than the alternative.

 

Encourage diversity.

 

 

This article is just my view of the topic at title. Like a lot of people, I’ve done some training in management techniques but there is no substitute for experience. In my case, a bit of trial and error, learning from my mistakes, watching other managers and a little common sense. I hope you found it of interest and assistance. 

 

 

Peter Cromarty

 

 

Peter Cromarty is a former air traffic controller and pilot. He spent 27 years as a safety regulator of ATM/CNS, airspace and aerodromes.

View his Linked In profile.

 

 

 

 

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