Many of your consulting firm’s clients are prioritizing diversity in terms of thinking style, work style, age, cultural background and, of course, race and gender. What about you and your consulting firm—should you increase your diversity too?
The question is more nuanced than you’d think.
Quick note: this article is not about DEI (Diversity, Equity & Inclusion). “Diversity” has become shorthand in modern business parlance for race and gender. Let’s call that “capital D Diversity.” This article is about “lower-case d diversity,” which encompasses a much, much broader range of personal attributes. Perhaps a better term would be “heterogeneity,” but who wants to read an article about that?!
There’s a good argument to be made for assembling a homogeneous team in the early stages of your consulting firm’s growth.
In a small consulting firm, it’s helpful if you and your colleagues think and communicate similarly. You need a team that works well together, “clicks” and trusts each other, and that goal is easier to achieve when everyone feels like they’re cut from the same cloth.
Differences—whether real or perceived, cause conflict.
When you don’t share a background, approach, style and point of view, disagreements are more common and trust is—at the outset—lower.
However, the benefits of a team of dissimilar individuals outweigh the disadvantages, particularly if your consulting firm is dedicated to being Right-Side Up; i.e., client-focused.
Your consulting firm is hired to see what your clients don’t see. Perhaps what they can’t see. To think differently. To bring novel insights and breakthrough applications of proven approaches.
Homogeneous teams are easier on your ideas because an idea that makes sense (“feels right”) to you is likely to make sense to someone who’s much like you.
Yet, clients pay a premium for superior thinking; for ideas and approaches that have emerged from the crucible of critical analysis, and have survived the slings and arrows of skeptics standing at all points of the compass.
Which is why you should push your consulting firm past the discomforts and drawbacks of diversity and embrace a wide range of differences into your consulting teams, project teams and staff.
At your consulting firm, strive to tap into a broad mix in upbringing, thinking style, communication preferences, capabilities, outlook, culture, education and personality, among other traits.
If your consulting firm employs staff, you can search for varied personality styles by using assessments such as Enneagram, DISC and Kolbe. You can also stretch past your comfort zone in terms of geography, language, background and a multitude of other personal attributes.
If your consulting firm is smaller, create a mastermind or join a consulting firm development program with a kaleidoscope of people.
Yes, collaborating with people who are wildly unlike you causes speedbumps and slowdowns in your consulting firm’s work.
However, your consulting firm will generate better outcomes for your clients and, ultimately, become stronger, richer, more vibrant and more profitable when your practice is comprised of a patchwork quilt of contributors.
What other tips do you have for creating (and making the most of) human variety in your consulting firm?
Text and images are © 2023 David A. Fields, all rights reserved.