How to truly leverage diversity

Recognize and appreciate differences to maximize diverse workforce

Maximizing the diverse talents of an organization’s workforce is an inclusive, not an exclusive, conversation. Talent will come in all packages — different races, cultures, genders, abilities and sexualities.

This is not to say that all talent is created equally. As detailed in the book First Break All the Rules by Marcus Buckingham and Curt Coffman, polling firm Gallup interviewed more than 80,000 managers to find the secrets of the world’s best managers. No big surprise that these managers know how to leverage diversity by looking at talent. Here are some of their secrets.

Not everyone has the same talent. The manager’s role is to reach inside each employee and release her unique talents into performance.

No one has unlimited talent. Great managers do not believe everyone has unlimited potential. So instead of focusing on how to fix their weaknesses, they play to their strengths.

Focus on fit to the talent. Great managers discover what is unique about each person and then capitalize on it. A key part of their job is to put people into roles that allow them to shine.

Do not treat people equally. Great managers break the Golden Rule by treating every single employee differently.

Differentiate talent. Great managers spend most of their time with their best people. They invest in their best because it is extremely productive to do so and actively destructive to do otherwise.

Truly leveraging diversity is about creating strategies that maximize the diverse talents of the total workforce. Total does not just mean the female workforce, the disabled workforce, the minority workforce or the aboriginal workforce. It means everybody.

Trevor Wilson is author of the book Diversity At Work: The Business Case for Equity. He can be reached at

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