As if there isn’t enough complexity in teams, given the diversity of personalities. Consider the potential dynamic differences, or differentials, that can cause conflict and disruption among team members, one-on-one and collectively. Differentials are differences with the potential to generate misunderstandings, trigger biases, envy, rivalry, and sometimes lead to bullying behaviors. Team leaders need to be conscious of their own reactions and biases related to the differentials which often translate into power conflicts. Although the following list is incomplete and not all relate to you and your team, consciousness matters.
There is a myriad of potential differentials at play: knowledge, skills and experience; social class and culture; philosophical and religious beliefs; polarities; professional philosophy and approach; economic status; demographics (age, gender, generation, race, culture, sexual orientation); personality; motivation and purpose; power; work contexts; horizontal and vertical relationships; and more. And, clearly, many come bundled.
These differential gaps can make or break the effectiveness of the team or organization. Solid leaders anticipate, without assumptions, that the differentials present among team members have the potential to be corrosive and address that potential openly, and as matter-of-fact. The point isn’t that leaders need to surface all the potential differentials and work them through, but to raise team openness to and anticipation of how “otherness” plays out dynamically among team members in the workplace.
My Bridging Differences-Minding the Gap team process seeks to name and make dynamics around differentials explicit (Mind the Gap), address the wounds caused by those differentials (Mend the Gap), and leverage the positive potentials the differentials offer the team going forward toward an agreed upon higher team purpose (Mine the Gap). The team moves beyond a narrow concept of unity to a truer, richer “multiplicity in unity” mindset.