03 August 2023 |

failing your diverse talent?

By Gabrielle "GB" Blackwell

Do better for your diverse talent

There’s the stats to show how companies with diverse sales teams:

  • Are 36% more profitable than competitors with low diversity
  • Have 45% more growth in market shares
  • Are 70% more likely to reach a new market

There’s also the piece about how Generation Z – those born between 1997 and 2012 – is the fastest-growing and most racially and ethnically diverse generation we’ve seen in the workforce. Soo, managers need to be adept at creating and cultivating inclusive cultures where anyone and everyone can achieve success. 

Yet, companies (and managers) haven’t figured out a way to actually reap the benefits of diverse talent. 

Why? Because top performers from traditionally underrepresented minorities don’t stay at companies that don’t treat them right for very long. (*Cough* 38% of women in revenue are thinking about leaving their job *cough*)

Now, don’t get me wrong – managers cannot fix everything that gets in the way of attracting and retaining diverse talent. 

But, we can play our part by creating spaces and cultures where any and every sales professional can thrive. Here are three things we can do:

  • Create inclusive team values
  • Cultivate space for ideation and experimentation
  • Be great referees

Create inclusive team values

Team values aren’t just things you put on a poster and hang on a wall – they are standards for how your team operates, communicates and behaves. 

To make sure your values are inclusive of everyone on your team, consider doing a team values exercise where everyone shares what they value about a team most. 

To do this exercise, set aside 30-45 min and and have your team think about a team you’ve enjoyed being a part of – whether at school, in sports or at work. Then ask them a few reflection questions:

  • What was it about this team that you enjoyed the most?
  • What characteristics best describe this team?
  • How did your teammates on this team show up or behave that contributed the most to you enjoying being on that team?
  • What, if anything, did the coach or leader of this team do to create a team environment you really enjoyed?

Have each person on your team share their answers while you write down their responses.

Once everyone has shared, ask your team to identify any themes or trends in how everyone responded. If the majority of people on your team call out strong communication as one of the main contributors to what they value most out of a team, that’s probably something to incorporate into your values.

But don’t stop there – look for the ‘outlier’ values too! 

For people who gave answers that were unlike anyone else’s, it’s important to make sure their point of view is taken into consideration. Let’s say someone on your team appreciates having autonomy while the rest of your team appreciates a collaborative approach. It could be easy to bypass their response and just stick with the majority. If you did that, you’d be doing the opposite of inclusive work.

Instead, create space for the group to have a discussion about how to respect this person’s values and what everyone else in the group stands to gain by learning how to operate in a more autonomous environment.

🏀 Assist: It’s not about everyone agreeing to the same things. It’s about accepting where people are and seeing the benefits of the differences. 

Cultivate space for ideation and experimentation

I don’t know about y’all, but one of the easiest ways to turn me off from a manager or an organization is when my ideas get squashed left and right.

It’s demoralizing. 

It’s nerve-racking.

And it sends me into a death spiral of anxiety.

Yet, too often, managers create the conditions for their teams to feel shut up and shut off from the creative juices they need to stay motivated and engaged. 

This happens when sales managers become too focused on:

  • Reps hitting KPIs for the sake of hitting KPIs
  • Reps emulating their manager vs. focusing on their unique strengths
  • Controlling their people vs. empowering their teams

Instead of being a stick in the mud manager, you’ll want to create space for your team to think critically and creatively about their work. 

One easy way to do this is to allocate one team meeting per week that is solely focused on problem solving. For example, on Mondays, present a problem prompt to your team and give your reps 7 minutes to come up with a solution. The problem should be something your reps typically run into – i.e. how to decrease no shows – and once the 7 minutes are up, have everyone share how they’d go about solving that problem.

🏀 Assist: The key here is you as the manager are presenting a problem and asking your team to come up with different solutions. This means you’ll need to hold back on giving your team answers to the question.

Be a great referee

In every game you play, there needs to be ground rules. 

It makes sure we’re all on the same page and no one feels like they’re being cheated. This applies to how you lead your team, too. 

People need to know what’s expected of them behaviorally so they know when they’re in or out of bounds. They also need to trust that you’ll play the part of an unbiased referee should anyone on the team commit a foul.

I can’t stress this enough – it’s just not HR who is responsible for setting and maintaining the rules, it’s you too!

This means you’ll need to step in and call ‘foul’ when someone does something that goes against your team and company values. Sure, there are the most egregious cases such as discriminatory or harassing behavior.

But you also can act as referee for the small moments that mean a lot. For example, in team meetings, consider how you can create space for everyone’s voice to be heard. Maybe this looks like creating a ‘popcorn’ system where once someone’s answered a question, they popcorn it to the next person to answer. 

This can also look like being aware of what someone can uniquely offer to the group. Let’s say you have someone on your team who is typically a bit more reserved and withdrawn in team meetings, but they have an excellent approach to handling objections. If you know they can shine in that area, be the person to call on them in team settings to share about what works for them. 

🏀 Assist: Make sure you’re studied up on what harassment and discrimination looks like in the workplace. Hopefully, your employer will assign you training. But if not, there are free resources you can start off with.

Creating win-win scenarios

If you really want to bring in and keep on diverse talent, you have to do the work to prepare yourself and your team so that everyone feels included. 

If you’re able to do this, your people – not just your diverse talent – can benefit. They’ll feel a greater sense of purpose and belonging. They’ll connect more deeply with their teammates, and also their work.

And, you’ll create the conditions where your team will consistently challenge the status quo, leading to improved performance over time. 

It’s a win-win!