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Why You Need Diversity of Thought On Your Team

Have you ever been in a meeting where ideas feel unchallenged and solutions feel stagnant? Your team feels like it’s been running in circles without a solution in sight. Maybe the key you need is diversity of thought. For Deb, a senior operations manager, cultivating a team culture with an emphasis on diversity of thought is her superpower.

Whether it's enjoying a local delicacy or new cultural experience, Deb—an avid traveler, superhero fanatic and thoughtful leader—wants her perspective to be challenged. And it’s that same openness and passion for diversity of thought that makes her team feel included, empowered and inspired each day. But when Deb embarked on an adventure to grow as a leader, she learned a valuable lesson—that becoming her best self meant that as much as she needed to invest in others, she needed to invest in herself too.

What is diversity of thought?

Diversity of thought is the reality that there is more than one way to think about something. It’s understanding that the way each person interprets and interacts with the world is reflective of their unique identity, culture and personal experiences. The greater variation in approaches to problems and unique perspectives, the greater the diversity of thought produced.

Deb believes that as a leader, she needs others to challenge her thoughts to ensure she’s thinking broadly enough. And, being open to diversity of thought is a key component of becoming a great leader. “You’re never going to grow if you don’t consider other perspectives. If it’s always the way you think, you’re going to be very narrow minded in your decisions and in your outcomes.”

Deb’s best advice on creating a culture that embraces diversity of thought? Be open-minded and accepting that there are infinite ways to think about even just one thing—it’s a powerful, empowering and freeing truth.

woman talking about diversity of thought with her team

How can managers cultivate development along with diversity of thought?

One of the many ways Deb invests in her people is by making the most of their development. By setting an example, Deb helps other managers craft meaningful conversations that let their people know where they stand in their professional development—and how far they can go as they grow. Deb offers a few pieces of advice to help other leaders as they think about investing in the development of their teams:

  1. Plan ahead—Make sure you write and review the feedback you’re providing to your team, including examples, ahead of time. If you’re unsure about the feedback you’re providing, that will come across in your conversations with your team. Don’t have powerful, plentiful feedback for your people and the work that they are doing? Seek it out!
  2. Get to the right place—Managing and investing in your team isn’t about “defending” your people, it's about championing the work they’re doing and the successes found along their development journey.
  3. Seek the specific—Make sure you can provide clarity for your people as you talk about their growth journey.
  4. Create context—Offer specific behavioral examples to help your team understand the “why” behind the feedback you are giving them.
  5. Offer opportunities—Reviewing an associate’s work, success and learning over time is a tool to help teams grow, so continue to true back to this as you deliver feedback and find opportunities for future development.

woman discussing diversity of thought on stairs with two men

What does this look like on the team?

Team members that directly report to Deb, feel that their opinions are respected. They feel valued because of Deb’s open-door policy and empowered to express both frustrations, as well as their successes.

When asked about the leadership of his manager, Shane had a lot of great learnings. “One of the things that Deb has helped me understand as a leader and as a collaborator is that there’s a big difference between being negative and being constructive,” Shane mentioned. “Especially when we’re working with so many people across different sites, it’s important to be able to voice your opinion and disagree with people in a way that doesn’t make it personal. It actually helps us finish the project, and finish it better.”

Don’t forget the first step of a good leader. Invest in yourself!

Investing in her own development uncovered Deb’s superhero strength–empowering others to be their best. “If you want to grow as a people leader, make sure you invest in yourself,” Deb shares. Investing in yourself can be done in a multitude of ways. With a plethora of leadership training, conferences, mentorships and peer-groups, investing in yourself is a great way to ensure investment in others. Knowing yourself, and making sure you understand your own perspective can greatly help on your diversity of thought journey. And, through training offered by Capital One, Deb found one great way to invest in growing her own leadership skills.

woman explaining diversity of thought to a team member

How Capital One supports leaders

“I’m really excited about where we’ve come as an organization in training. We need strong leaders to be able to understand, coach and motivate, as well as be authentic with their teams,” says Deb.

Capital One has developed a curriculum for managers dedicated to helping leaders lead in a way that includes, inspires and empowers their teams. For those new to management roles or those who have led teams for several years, this training provides ample investment in individuals as they take on leadership responsibilities.

Deb knows well that there is no handbook or guideline for all scenarios and interactions she may face as a leader. There are millions of perspectives that exist–in the best way. But, there may be a not-so secret ingredient. Having a well-trusted network of managers to bounce ideas off, being vulnerable in sharing difficulties in coaching, as well as offering advice and guidance has been a helpful way for Deb to grow in her role in leadership.

This cohort of leaders invested in the mission of empowering others has presented Deb the opportunity to be filled up, so she can pour back out.

Bringing diverse perspectives (aka superpowers!) together

Diversity of thought elevates teams by fostering communication around individual perspectives and creating a posture of thinking that’s beyond yourself. It’s a key ingredient to candid conversation, innovation and execution. Channeling her love for superheroes, Deb makes the perfect closing case, “We’ve got a bunch of superheroes here at Capital One, but we’re only as strong as we are together”.