n the 1970s, symphonies were 90 percent male. Were men better musicians?
Orchestras decided to test the hypothesis and create ‘blind’ auditions. Curtains were hung to block the view of the judges. One musician recalled the experience of being led down the hall and entering the curtained room. Great care was taken so that she wasn’t seen coming in or going out and that her heels weren’t heard click clacking.
As a result of orchestras systematically using this method of auditioning over decades, almost half of the musicians chosen are now women. The curtain moved the needle and improved the skillfulness of orchestras, too.
In the past two years, there has been evidence of the enhanced financial, creative, smarter and motivational performance of those teams which are able to bring varied perspectives. It may seem obvious, but the more lenses a team can see through, the more complete the solutions will be.
Because we all have a natural predisposition to hire people who are like us, we need to intentionally create teams that are unlike us. In order to foster cultures where different types of people can be hired and flourish, we need to recognize our own tendencies and then add in the “curtains” that make sense for our companies in order to build the wisest teams.
Sarah Colantonio works at Work Wisdom LLC. - (Submitted photo)
Here are 10 concrete tools to develop high-performing, broad-minded teams:
1. Take the IAT: Harvard’s Implicit Association Test is a straightforward, scientific, free, online and confidential way to learn about unconscious preferences we may hold. Taking the IAT helps us recognize any predispositions we may not realize we have and then take steps to mitigate those tendencies.
2. Institute pay transparency: Studies have found that by allowing pay rates to become public knowledge, pay inequity diminishes quickly. It is wise to understand helpful pre-work and steps for implementation in order to make this move as constructive as possible. There is a continuum of degrees of transparency and moving incrementally may be the wisest move for your company.
3. Neutralize position descriptions when hiring: Unintentional gendered language can unduly influence people from applying for positions that sound either too male-oriented or female-oriented. Go in the other direction and make the descriptions gender-neutral.
4. Use blind hiring software: Serving as the modern-day curtain, there is software that allows us to scrub gender, ethnicity, age, socioeconomic and demographic characteristics out of resumes so that hiring can be more rational and based on talent. Of course, if you are actively seeking candidates in a non-dominant group, this software would be counterproductive.
5. Hold inclusive interviews: By including a breadth of perspectives in the interview process, we can minimize groupthink when evaluating a candidate.
6. Try structured bridge social capital building: Leaders can bring teams together through structured icebreakers or paired topics of discussion to help underrepresented groups share more about themselves to build common ground, likability and emotional connection with the dominant group in the company. These structured opportunities for connection allow people to relate and grow in cohesion.
7. Enact a leveling mentorship program: Consistently, traditionally underrepresented employees had greater success when they were mentored by executives in their fields.
8. Adopt a workplace policy that overrides laws permitting active discrimination against underrepresented professionals: While it is still legal to discriminate against gay workers in Pennsylvania, your company can rise above that policy by adopting a non-discrimination policy to mitigate anti-gay bias.
9. Create an organizational structure that favors fairness: Our organizational charts can determine how much fairness we build into the team. Certain structures favor equity in ideas and improve our ability to generate creative products and get them to market quickly.
10. Shape the built environment with equity in mind: Companies like Hubspot, Google and Pixar have been wise to craft their architecture and interior design to facilitate as much intermingling of different levels of staff as possible. Steve Jobs famously placed the bathrooms at Pixar in the atrium of the building, engineering small talk and connection into the company culture. Successful leaders are attuned to creating physical space that facilitates optimally empowered and generative ideas for the companies' benefit.
Excluding an entire category of talented people, whether based on orientation, gender, religion or race, leaves money on the table. If we don’t harness the collective brilliance of our teams, we’re leaving money on the table. Choosing just a few of these ‘curtains’ to put in place can help your company grow in the direction of a more equitable, motivated, high-performing culture.
Kedren Crosby is president of Work Wisdom LLC, a Lancaster-based firm specializing in organizational culture, communication, collaboration, conflict and coaching. She can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.Sarah Colantonio, who also works at Work Wisdom LLC, focuses on communication and mindfulness. She can be reached at email@example.com. Crosby and Colantonio are co-authors of a new book, “Authentic Communication: 20 Concrete Practices to Enhance Your Communication and Joy.”