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To Uncover a Team's Diversity, Ask Proactive Questions

Too often diversity remains just a word

Questions are enormously powerful tools, but with a twist. Without a doubt, inquiry can power us forward to greater awareness, innovativeness, and advancement. Yet, questions can also hold us back. Careless questions, or those asked by rote, can blind us and keep us from tapping powerful things — including diversity.

The power of questions

It’s funny how often we question purely out of habit and therefore inadvertently fail to consider what the question might accomplish, or perhaps preclude. Take a question I’m asked surprisingly often, “So, what are you?” It’s akin to “What do you do?” but more revealing. The question gets asked when someone learns of my multiple professional roles as strategy advisor, author, founder, columnist, coach, etc. Hence: What are you? and also, Which are you? More habitual than deliberate, the question seeks to pinpoint. It suggests that being more than one thing, or lacking a proper hierarchy for one’s roles, somehow breaks the rules. What rules, exactly? The rules we sometimes choose, but just as often simply fall into line behind when we don’t think about a question and its power. Rather than choose a powerful question, we seek an efficient answer — to make things familiar, to not have to think. You may not like how it sounds, but the truth is we actually use such rules to limit diversity. 

Diversity. Once a word that flitted on the edges of work conversations, diversity now takes center stage in nearly every discussion about strategy, brand, competitiveness, well-being or leadership in today’s workplace. Too often, however, it remains just a word, and as such, an underutilized key to success. Part of the challenge faced in embracing diversity is that we are trained to lean away from it, not diversity so much as disruption, difference, feared conflict and change. Our typical choice of questions reflects this — we most often ask seeking confirmation and brevity, not range or change. 

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