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A great team is built on diversity

  • Published
  • By Stacey Geiger, Chief of Engagements
  • 88th Air Base Wing Public Affairs

WRIGHT-PATTERSON AIR FORCE BASE, Oh -- When I became a supervisor, I had this preconceived idea that once I stepped into my position, a “How to be a great supervisor” handbook would magically fall in my lap and offer everything I needed to know to successfully lead my team.

Aren’t supervisors supposed to know everything?

Boy was I wrong. Along with managing tasks, providing guidance, overseeing personnel and sometimes having to be the one to make those not-so-fun decisions, it is my team members who I learn from every day and shape me into what I hope to be: a great supervisor.   

To become a great supervisor with any successful team, I believe it is my responsibility to make sure that each employee knows they are a valued member and I am here to help them thrive and succeed in their careers.

But it is also my responsibility to make sure I have the right players with the right skills on my team.

During my time at Air Force Materiel Command, I had the honor to work for former commander and first female four-star general, retired Gen. Janet Wolfenbarger. Being in Public Affairs, I was afforded the opportunity to listen to many of her speeches, but there was one in particular that made an impact on me and I always keep those words close:    

“Surround yourself around people who do not look like you, act like you or think like you.” 

Growing up as a military child in the Air Force, I was surrounded by people of so many different races, backgrounds and cultures. I loved how all my friends and their families were so different and unique. I learned to embrace and appreciate people for their individuality, and today, I carry those values with me and how I lead as a supervisor. 

As supervisors, I believe it is our obligation to always make conscious efforts to create diverse teams, as Wolfenbarger stated — where no one thinks, looks or acts like you.  

And let me tell you why. 

I am blessed to have an awesome and diverse team of different ages, backgrounds, races and genders. And because everyone is so unlike each other, every single person can offer a different viewpoint and idea.

Having a diverse team brings creativity and allows you to problem-solve, find solutions and complete projects by thinking outside the box. Having people with different backgrounds means we are all approaching a task differently. Your team can bring new concepts to the table that might end up being a game-changer on how you do business. It gets rid of the “we always did it that way” mentality.

Diversity also builds professional and personal growth for your people. Learning about other’s cultures and backgrounds can open your mind to a new way of thinking. You also learn from each other’s life experiences.

For example, a junior employee could to teach a senior employee how to create a project on a newer software program they are not familiar with, and in turn, that senior employee, who has years of knowledge, can share his or her wealth of experiences.

So supervisors, to be successful, ensure your team is built with an array of people who have vast experiences and backgrounds. You are only as good as your team.

When I look at mine, I think I have a pretty amazing team.