How marketing leaders can make diversity work within their teams

Real change happens when different decisions are made. Learn how embracing diversity leads to better decisions.

Most businesses are coming to understand the importance of a diverse workforce. Diversity has plenty of benefits, but they need to be made real. In marketing, diversity is not just a good thing in itself — it can help create better campaigns, drive revenue and impact growth. 

Marketing teams should focus their efforts on one of the most tangible areas of improvement: decision-making. Real change happens when different decisions are made. In this article, you will learn how embracing diversity leads to better decisions.

A diverse workforce leads to diverse ideas

I believe that what most companies want when they talk about diversity is actually the diversity of thought that is supported by diversity in the workplace. If the same kinds of people make all the decisions, you will end up with stale or tone-deaf ideas.

Look at what happened when companies started releasing ads early in the pandemic. The following video shows how similar many ads were in structure, tone and messaging.

When an organization lacks diversity of thought, they are bound to look and sound like everyone else. Marketing is supposed to be the creative engine of a company, but it can end up feeling like an echo chamber. AI is only likely to make this worse. What will happen when everyone is asking similar questions to the same chatbot? 

This is where diversity in the workplace can help marketing teams innovate. All teams are sitting on a goldmine of ideas but don’t always see them. Perhaps it is because the idea is inside the head of an intern or someone else whose contribution is overlooked. Many teams don’t have a good way of surfacing ideas democratically.

Instead, many teams are stuck making the same mistakes based on their biases and preferences. Diversity of thoughts and inclusion in decision-making allows everyone to contribute in tangible ways. 

Decision-making evolves slowly

Many marketing executives will agree with my description of the status quo above. The next step is taking the necessary steps to change it.

Some diversity advocates push for initiatives that imply significant leadership changes. For most companies, drastic and dramatic ways of making changes will cause more chaos than good. In reality, decision-making evolves slowly over time. Executives have a deep conviction that their job is to make the most critical decisions. That’s what their title and salary reflect.

I always tell executives to expand their expectations to focus on helping their teams make the best decisions possible. They might need to make the final call themselves — for example, on hiring — but they can also work with others to develop and implement ideas.

Executives can start to change how their team makes decisions slowly. They can slowly remove themselves from the day to day and move to more strategic decisions. This will allow a diversity of views to emerge and be heard.

A decision-making matrix for marketing leaders

I created a simple model called the Leadership Decision-Making Matrix based on the work of Victor H. Vroom and Phillip W. Yetton. My model has three types of decisions, and I also created four criteria to determine which one you should choose.

How marketing leaders can make diversity work within their teams

Leaders can make a decision themselves, with others or delegate it completely. There are four factors to consider: 

  • Speed.
  • Conflict of interest.
  • Empowerment.
  • Information. 

Every decision presents you with a variety of options. 

Individual decisions

The first option involves making a decision independently. You may need to gather external information from documents or rely on your internal thoughts. In either case, you will weigh all the evidence and decide on your own. Many leaders believe that all their crucial decisions fall under this category, and they bear the weight of their organization every time they make a decision.

Group decisions

The second option is involving others in the decision-making process. You could ask a colleague or team member for their opinion or formally gather a group to discuss the decision. At the end of the discussion, you can decide for yourself or delegate the responsibility to the group.

Group decisions can foster consensus and ensure key opinions are taken into account. However, depending on the nature of the decision, they can also lead to disastrous outcomes.

This approach is where you can start to make diversity real. It’s no longer just you making all the decisions, but you’re letting others have real input. For example, frontline employees in a hotel will typically know the most common issues guests face. If you’re running a hotel but never asked these employees for their opinion, you would make decisions based on incomplete information. 

Delegating decision-making

The third option involves delegating the decision to others. In this scenario, you completely remove yourself from the decision-making process and support whatever decision is made by those appointed to make it. 

Delegation is essential for executives to maintain a healthy work-life balance, although not enough utilize this strategy. It is also crucial to note that delegation can backfire if the people appointed lack the necessary skills or information to make the right decision.

Choosing your decision-making approach

Making a decision yourself is the fastest, while delegating is often the slowest. Speed can be just as important as getting a decision right. Executives who are overwhelmed tend to make slower decisions as you can imagine.

You can deliberately empower your team members by involving them. Executives must groom the next generation of leaders. You have to give them real power. Allowing them to make certain decisions is one step in that direction.

For others to make decisions — in a group or by themselves — they need the necessary information. Netflix has taken this idea to an extreme by allowing unprecedented access to company information. It’s up to you to decide the level, but it needs to be enough to make important decisions.

Based on these factors, you can decide how to start letting go of decisions. I once worked with a CEO who would micromanage everybody, including myself. He was constantly bouncing between teams and making all the decisions for his team. He was the bottleneck in his company and was overworked.

Diversity of thought means having a diverse team and allowing all group members to have input into decision-making. This is how diversity becomes tangible instead of just well-meaning words on a wall.

Making diversity work for your marketing team

The political nature of some diversity initiatives shouldn’t turn off marketing teams. Focus on tangible ways where you can make diversity work. 

Decisions are the juncture where real change happens. You can debate things, write mantras on a wall and take people through all kinds of training, but if they are making the same decisions as in the past, something isn’t working. Focus on using decisions to realize the value of diversity on your marketing team. 

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About the author

Ruben Ugarte

Ruben Ugarte is the global expert in Decisions, Strategy, and Data and author of the Data Mirage and Bulletproof Decisions. He helps executives at the most innovative medium and large enterprises find their hidden treasures and use them to dramatically boost performance, increase profitability, and make their teams world-class. He has done this across five continents and in three languages. His ideas have helped hundreds of thousands of people make better decisions.